Group Justification – Don’t forget this step

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We just finished the 115th U.S. Open in golf. In this national championship we celebrate the best golfers in the world and traditionally test their skills with a difficult course set up in a very tough way. A dark side of the golf fan appreciates the highly skilled professionals struggling like we do. At least for one week each year.

The United States Golf Association (USGA) controls the tournament and selects the venue. There was a huge departure this year and the course became the story.

They chose a relatively new course (opened for play on June 23, 2007) west of Tacoma, WA called Chambers Bay. The site was a former sand-and-gravel pit along the Puget Sound. It has a great story of sustainability, reclaiming wasted land and using principles to reduce water usage.

OK, great story. The course underscores ideas the USGA believes in and wants to support. This is where group justification occurs.

Then the decision, made years ago, is put to the test of public scrutiny. Players hated it and spoke out loudly. Putts were bouncing off line. The course looked horrible on TV. There is only one tree. The fans couldn’t even walk the course. Many were injured, broken arms, etc.

It was a risk. The USGA took it. Arguably it didn’t work out so well.

USGA officials became defensive regarding the criticism. They did a lot of selling. The television broadcast knows where it’s bread is buttered and talked up the course. It was uncomfortable.

Get Everyone on Board

Chambers Bay as a selection on paper could be made to be a great story at a high level. I’m sure someone made a proposal and worked it through the USGA structure. At this stage how closely do we look at the details? A decision was made. Then, group justification and everyone got on board.

We see this in our businesses all the time. A decision is made. There is some sense to it. Then we ask people to get on board. Implied in that request is that your people suspend their resistance and whether they believe it or not, toe the company line.

Yes, we want everyone on the same page. We want consistent support and leadership for the idea. A challenge: Can we influence people so that they are genuinely on board instead of being on board via edict?

The important step that is missed in the interest of time or lack of understanding is the reconciliation time needed for those who are ordered to get on board.

This has to happen early. We need to hear the resistance. If it’s valid you need to re-engineer to accommodate. This is cheaper the earlier you begin.

If the resistance is based in misunderstanding, record how you re-explain because others will have the same misunderstanding.

Done and Done Right are two different things.

We use a variety of tools to assist with this exploration and journey as we lead change. Please let me know if you’d like some ideas. The key is to think about embracing resistance, analyzing and benefiting from that resistance in the face of the desire for action.

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Jim Canterucci

I don't know everything. But I want to. The focus of our firm, Transition Management Advisors, is to develop leadership capabilities to create a championship culture, generate innovation, and successfully lead the resulting changes.

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On June 23, 2015
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