Have you ever been in a meeting and heard, “What we need to do is X”?
No doubt, you’ve found yourself at the next one wondering as a group why that thing didn’t get done. What we have here, is a failure to communicate... effectively. The passion is there, but it lacks the necessary precision.
More often than not, though, the “We need to…" call to action falls short. Not because the person making it doesn’t want it to get done. Or because the other people in the room don’t see the value. Responsibilities are unclear. What should be everyone’s job becomes no one’s job.
As a consequence, what “we needed to do” tends not to get done. Instead, at the next meeting, there’s a continued frustration that the task hasn’t been done. Perhaps fingers are pointed. Maybe there’s some rolling of eyes. Regardless of the manifestation, nothing healthy comes from a lack of clear direction.
Worse than the organizational friction this lack of direction causes, though, is the lack of progress that results. When mission-critical tasks are left up to the Culture of We - where pronouncements are made, and not carried through - the mission may fail. Certainly, if success does happen, it will not have happened as effectively or as efficiently as it could have otherwise.
What You Can Do
The most effective way to combat the Culture of We is to demonstrate effective leadership. This is done as a continuation of the typical “What we need to do is…” statement. Rather than completing the statement with the task to be performed, conclude with what the speaker is going to do, in this context (and try to be specific). For example: “What we need to do is build a better widget, and I’m going to ask 20 of our most loyal customers what we should improve."
Every person on a project can choose to take the same stance. The shift to clear responsibilities can be helped by anyone. When a pronouncement for We is made, step up: “To support our effort to build a better widget, I’m going to research new materials we might use."
And this doesn’t just apply to companies. If you’re running a group of any kind or for any purpose, this same thinking can be very powerful in helping you to get things done. Don’t let important tasks be left up to ambiguous entities. Get specific, break things down, and share the load.