I was pleased it came up as I know we had finally arrived at the real challenge and soon to come was the aha moment the team could use to their advantage! Although addressing competing priorities often increase tension in the room, it is exactly this “productive” tension you want, and quite frankly NEED, to overcome competing priorities and other barriers slowing down the project.
This the moment that opens up the opportunity to “influence without authority” and move an initiative forward.
Finding That One Thing
Most initiatives have a common goal. However, while an initiative moves along obstacles surface (i.e. resources, priorities) the team often perceives to be out of their direct control. This is the exact moment to circle back and reconfirm the commitment to the one common objective (Company Success Factors, Dominate Motives, or Pain Points) the project is intended to solve. Realignment will move the initiative forward. However, if the priorities can’t be agreed upon then stop moving forward. It is time to pause and “get the story straight” to run up the ladder.
Get The Story Straight
If the groups still have differing priorities then the next step is to come to consensus on the unified story to share with the leaders of the prospective groups. This powerful step supports all in the room by clarifying priorities and misunderstandings. It also exposes any false assumptions while holding people accountable. People won’t agree on a story that makes them or their group look bad so creating the story helps everyone involved work through the elephant in the room. The story should even contain possible solutions for leadership consideration.
For instance, the agreed upon executive ladder story for conflicting groups may sound like this:
“In the most recent product launch meeting we discovered an obstacle that needs executive alignment. The launch support team needs the product information three weeks prior to the launch date, however, the product team will not have the final messaging until one week before the launch date. Our best two options are 1) to hire contractors and expedite shipping or 2) move out the launch date.” Will you confirm with your peer Ms. Smith, VP of Product, which option you both agree upon. Our next meeting is the following Wednesday, when do you think we can have an answer?
Misaligned priorities cause frustration and derail projects so embrace the elephant in the room by influencing without authority. Re-align the team members around that one thing or agree to get your story straight for then next level! Everyone will be much more satisfied with the outcome.