P2 tip #6: Argue internally

6 07 2011

The place to have tough conversations is within the project team. On one of my projects, it was likened to the family dinner table: we argue, debate and play devil’s advocate with each other at home, which makes us more articulate, thoughtful and concise out in the world. By arguing internally, we examine all aspects of an issue and make sure we aren’t missing information. We also confirm whether we have good justification for the direction we are headed.

When I say “argue,” I mean challenging each other, asking the hard questions and looking at things from all points of view. I get nervous if everyone is like-minded and a project is on cruise-control to a single solution. It conjures up images of political yes-men who want to please the powerful at the expense of others’ interests and concerns. Instead, I look for healthy, spirited debate within the team to help the project team arrive at better solutions and better decisions.

This also goes to the fact that in a complex project you cannot fear controversy. Embrace controversy to learn more, tackle the hard issues and arrive at better outcomes. It will likely be painful mentally and emotionally during the process, but if you have a clear, transparent process and believe you have obtained good data using reliable methodology, a project team can fairly examine various impacts, trade-offs and consequences to arrive at a solution. You won’t please all the people all the time, but I truly believe that fierce internal debate will result in better decisions.