Situation

For almost five years, this big city daily newspaper was regularly behind in its deliveries. It was embarrassing. It caused frustration among management and resulted in loss of customers. For some years efforts had been made to “clean it up,” but the problem still persisted.

Action

The management group met to address the issue and, guided by a facilitator, applied the CCCC methods to reach a resolution. As the group was discussing the “critical mass” of individuals that would make up the task force, a name was raised, dropped, raised again, but always mumbled. “I think I hear you mentioning the name Charlie. Is he part of the ‘critical mass’?” the facilitator asked.

“Well,” replied the CFO, “by your formula he would be, but it makes no sense. Besides you don’t know Charlie.” They explained that Charlie, while part of management, was really outside the group, a lone ranger, hated meetings, was snarly in disposition, but otherwise quite valuable at his job.

“Then perhaps, since he’s part of the critical mass, you should include Charlie,” the facilitator offered. “No,” someone countered, “if there’s anyone NOT to include, it’s Charlie.”

“Let’s get away from Charlie’s personality for a minute,” suggested the guide. “We have a simple question to answer here. Is Charlie part of the critical mass as we defined it a few minutes ago, or is he not? This requires a yes or no answer only. It is not a debate. So can I hear ‘yes’ or ‘no’?”

“Well, ‘yes’, but you don’t know Charlie.”

“I will make it even simpler for you. If you have the critical mass, you will be able to resolve the issue. If you do not have the critical mass you will NOT solve the problem. And that is totally predictable–100% predictable. Regardless of Charlie’s disposition, if the answer is ‘yes,’ he must be included. If it is ‘no,’ strike him off the list.”

‘Okay, let’s add Charlie to the list; but we don’t think you really understand.”

A week later the facilitator returned to the group and asked how the meeting with Charlie had gone. They explained that Charlie sat at the table, arms folded, with a scowl on his face. As a practice in the office, nobody had invited Charlie to meetings. He actually thought he was at this one to be sacked. As the meeting progressed, and after a lengthy silence on his part, Charlie began to speak on the details of which he was the expert. Then he noticed that nobody contradicted his comments, he was always fully heard, he was never interrupted, no one seemed to dominate the meeting, and no “hidden agenda” was apparent. He contributed more. After a few hours the group arrived at a solution.

The Results

Signs of delivery improvements showed within the week. By six weeks, the delivery problem was non-existent. A return on time invested, was estimated at well over 100:1. A huge, five-year-old thorn in the side of the organization had been removed. (And Charlie’s involvement with the management group was greatly improved.)

 

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