Monday, July 21, 2008

The three Cs

In Covey's 7 Habits, he shares power and discretion with his son by allowing him to maintain the lawn. Instead of dictating how to do it, the senior Covey establishes an expectation of "Green and Clean," allowing the junior to determine his own method to delivery.

I was inspired by this. I realized the equivalent for me in a policy-reliant organization were the 3 Cs: Concrete, Credible and Compelling.

Concrete: recommendations must be specific, actionable and unequivocably clear. Ambiguity causes problems, so don't be ambiguous in the slightest. You can explicitly state the who, what, where, when and how of implementation. Assuming the reader will know what seems obvious to you is a fatal flaw in recommendations. It may feel patronizing when you write it. I assure you, it's not.

Credible: recommendations must be founded on research and analysis that is trustworthy.

Compelling: The recommendation must be readable and actually able to influence. It's not enough to just be right. You have to sell it, too.

I think this code has been empowering for policy staff. They can clearly see the expectation of what they need to deliver on to be successful. I've seen a marked improvement in recommendation quality since implementing this about a year ago.

This code definitely straightens me out. I still have that impulse on a daily basis to dictate a "better" recommendation than the one presented to me. I force myself to respond based on the 3 Cs. Are the recommendations not concrete enough? Is the background lacking credibility? Is the entire package just not selling?

I respond with feedback that coaches. I present an examination of the effort rather than the outcome. The funny thing is, I'd say four out of five times, the recommendation stays as-is. While I thought I had a better way, when I discuss it on merit, not on conclusion, it rarely changes. The way I'm engaging is allowing the staff person, the person that put in all that thought before it came to me, to bring the right recommendation forward. It's not all that much of a surprise when you think about it. They know my expectation, they're smart and they've had way more time than me to think about it. I really should get out of the way.

It seems so small, but I think establishing expectations and coaching on the mechanics, not the outcome, is the key to fighting the top-down mindset.

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