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Pop Business Culture and Building Consensus

by Kevin Dwyer

In my family I am the resident dag. I don’t know the latest pop stars, I prefer not to watch 'reality' TV shows, unless it is sport, and I don’t really care what is considered in or out of fashion.

It is not that I don’t listen to music or watch television; I just prefer to be entertained by talented people, not the product of an advertising and media sausage factory. It is now even difficult in Australia to find a news programme or a current affairs programme which has a high degree of journalistic integrity.

Pop culture leaves me cold. The provision of products and services that are popular is great marketing. I really appreciate the way in which organisations and individuals can find the switch that makes a product or service popular. What I don’t like is the lack of thinking that is behind the decisions of purchasers when buying some products and services.

Politics has always had a strong element of pop culture about it. To some, it is the only way of being elected. The numbers of true leaders we remember are few; the ones who made the unpopular decisions because it was the right thing to do. Not the kind of 'right' that comes from being an ideologue, but the 'right' that comes from an understanding of history and the psychology of fellow human beings.

In many countries advertising with all of its ability to deceive is being used in elections and by day to day government between elections. The use of lawyer’s language is increasing. Carefully selected words are used, which when examined briefly have a given meaning. When examined in retrospect the words were clearly chosen only to exclude a specific meaning.

For example, 'There has been no proposal put forward and no one from my department has discussed any agreement', translated at a later date meant, 'We have signed a memorandum of understanding and we are using contractors to thrash out the final agreement'.

Pop culture has, unfortunately, merged seamlessly with business. The language of business is afflicted by popular affectations and acronyms which business leaders do not really understand. Yet CEOs, Managing Directors, General Managers and the long list of alternative titles talk about implementing concepts such as 'Best Practice', 'Competence Based Training' and 'Balanced Scorecards' when all they know is the basic concept. If one of their employees had such a poor knowledge of one of their products and services they would send them for remedial training.

Pop business culture follows fashion. An example which comes to mind is the millennium bug. In the US, companies abandoned good risk management processes and spent a sum in the order of one hundred billion dollars from 1995 to January 1, 2000, assessing, fixing and building contingencies for an apocalypse which did not occur. Not because of the expenditure, but because, although the impact was clearly catastrophic, the probability was not well understood.

The internet hype that followed shortly after was another good example. Businesses abandoned good market analysis and planning in order to catch a bandwagon where to lose 'first mover advantage' was seen as a death knell to existing robust businesses.

Pop business culture manifests itself in ways other than a poor understanding of what work is really involved in implementing popular business concepts.

Consensus building is popular in business now. However it is not done well. Consensus, of a form, is reached, but decisions are not made. Decisions in business have consequences at least for defined outcomes, timing, resource requirements, cost, behaviour skills and knowledge requirements and accountability.

Consensus tends to be defined as everyone agreeing. The decision making meeting sets out to achieve 'agreement' without a process and starting from entrenched positions. Without a process the meeting meanders, stutters and decisions are postponed as more meetings are organised to get to consensus.

Consensus is usually better regarded as a decision that all can live with and support. Steps in a consensus process include:

Define the issue: not always easy as people tend not to listen and don’t have data to accurately define the real issue

Suggest alternatives: an easier task

Reduce the list of alternatives to a manageable number: using multi-voting or paired comparison analysis

Discuss the remaining alternatives: with data and subject matter experts available and including the consequences for defined outcomes, timing, etc.

Determine the criteria to evaluate alternatives: it’s a good idea to have an eye firmly fixed on the goal of the organisation here

Vote:

Discuss: discuss the disagreements and don’t forget the consequences

Vote again:

Discuss the outcome of the vote: include the consequences.

Can everyone live with the decision? If yes, you have consensus. If no, look for other alternatives.

Building consensus is good. Following an increasingly pop business culture is not.


Kevin Dwyer may be contacted at http://www.changefactory.com.au kevin.dwyer@changefactory.com.au

Kevin is the founder of Change Factory, a company which helps organisations who do not like their business outomes get better outcomes through changing people's behaviour. To find out more about Change Factory and see more articles visit http://www.changefactory.com.au



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Sep-28-2016



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