They were a new team, with a leader new to the organization. They desperately needed to agree on the priorities for their organization. red10 ‘s Gavin Simpson shares a way of rapidly aligning on strategic priorities for a team.

The Situation

It was a new team coming together from three previous functions, with the leader and several of the team completely new to the organisation. We had a day and half together to launch the new team.

There was lots of energy to get the issues on the table and resolve them.

The new leader wanted to build her understanding of the current state, the team wanted to delve in to detail and share their different perspectives with the new leader and solve all of the issues. There was competition for attention paying out in the room.

It became clear this was going to take a long time, it was draining and in 1.5 days it would not lead to alignment and an energised sense of team, probably quite the opposite. Getting this team together face to face again soon would not be an option – this was a very senior globally dispersed team.

I called time-out and proposed that we could keep going on drilling down in to all the issues of today or we could focus on the future, what it looked like and how to get there, and then decide on the importance of these issues.

I asked them to vote; point one way for continuing and the other for being future focused. It was a gamble. The team voted 100% to look to the future. It was remarkable.

This is where Vision, Purpose and Must Wins come into their own, to build an ambitious and aligned team.

Creating alignment and energy for the future

The Purpose of the Organisation needs to be clear, compelling and consequential, and what we mean by this is it needs to have a 50:50 chance of being achieved.

The Vision is what it will look and feel like when this collective endeavour is achieved.

The Must Wins are the strategic priorities needed to get there.

Why create Must Wins?

A typical military strategy to take an island is to capture the high ground, as then you control all of the ground around it.

There’s always lots of potential hills to capture, though, leaving the question: which hills are you going to fight for and which are you going to leave?

In their book Must Win Battles, Peter Killing and Thomas Malnight, argue that there will be strategic advantages of just some of hills, and that to win the war, you need to pick which hills you Must Win, trusting that when you win just those hills, you win all of them by default.

You can take this analogy further, and decide whether you want:

  1. To allow skirmishes to happen, but agree that we will drop everything to focus on a Must Win
  2. To ban skirmishes, so that every bit of energy and ammunition is saved for each Must Win.

Months of Pre-work?

Surely days and months of strategic analysis is required to define an organization’s strategic priorities?

We agree that strategically informed leaders are needed for this to work, yet we’ve found that you can trust senior leaders to have already processed all the data they need by the time they reach the offsite. And we’ve always found that this is better than organisations stuck from a lack of alignment and collaboration.

Running a collaborative and inclusive process with a team to shape Must Wins – for instance using our Controlled Clusters approach – creates energy, alignment and ownership. It’s also the making of collaborative sub teams that work across the organisation to implement.

Could you ask each member of your leadership team, individually, what the 3-5 strategic priorities are for your organisation? You may be surprised by the level of divergence. You may also be surprised to find that they are they being driven from silos, or worse: not driven at all.

The term Must Win is important. In itself, it creates energy and focus for sponsorship, prioritisation and action from the senior team and organisation. We encourage teams to work on a handful of 3-5 as a maximum.

Back to the team…

We established the Vision and Purpose first and the team noted the level of alignment. The Must Wins were created from this and we whittled them down to 5. The energy lifted, we scoped the Must Wins in sub teams and agreed them all in plenary.

We ended the meeting with a warm sense of team. People reflected on the passion in the team, the fact that the passion had to be focused and that they had needed to go through the difficult start to get to here. A beautiful description of a team coming together.

Could this be of use to you?

If you would like to learn more about any of red10 ‘s Team Tools or talk about our team coaching approach, then please contact us to find out more about how we work with teams to help them develop their effectiveness.

Real examples of red10 ‘s 9 Dimensions