This Guest paper was submitted for publication April 25, 2022.
It is copyright to Richard S. Hawkes.
Published here July 2022

Introduction | High Performing Teams 
Break Free of the Swirl | Essential Conversations | Summary

Essential Conversations

The Essential Conversations are:

  1. Activating Purpose — Great teams are animated by purpose. This first conversation involves such critical questions as: Does this team have a leader willing and able to activate a shared team purpose? How will decisions be made in this team? What is the shared purpose of the team?
  2. Driving Focus — Whereas Activating Purpose is all about the structure, format, and shared vision, Driving Focus is about getting clarity around priorities, visualizing the team's work together, and energizing around the goals of the team. This conversation deals with questions including: Are team members focused on a shared transformational journey? Is the destination clear? Have gaps and primary constraints been identified?
  3. Shifting Mindset — Teams must learn to embrace their diversity of perspectives and transform them into a tremendous asset. This means creating agreements to support one another, be accountable, and be coachable. This conversation involves questions such as: Are team members able to bring their best efforts to the team's success? Are they accountable and coachable, giving and receiving feedback? Do they resolve conflicts directly at the source?
  4. Specifying Roles and Capabilities — Individuals and teams, alike, have roles to play in moving the organization forward. Clarifying roles to ensure that everyone knows who is accountable for what, and what perspectives they represent is critical. Questions in this conversation include: Does every key capability and concern in the team's purview have an owner advocate? Are the roles and responsibilities clear? Are creative tensions leveraged?
  5. Streamlining Interdependencies — Teams are not freestanding. They exist in the larger organizational social system, and must optimize cross-functional business processes and pay attention to how they interact with multiple functions, teams, and sometimes even multiple businesses. It's crucial to answer such questions as: What other teams do that we need to align with? Are the points of interdependence within and across teams explicit? Are shared processes and handoffs efficient? Do rewards, and incentives support working as a team?
  6. Aligning Strategies — Change initiatives often start with strategy, but Hawkes argues that prior to strategy, the issues dealt with in the first five conversations must be hammered out. It is then time to focus on questions such as: Is there a strategy and a strategic planning process in place? What is the role of the team in this process? Is the path towards competitive advantage clear?
  7. Implementing Initiatives — "You don't always know what's around the bend in the river until you get there," writes Hawkes. Conversation Seven is about achieving laser focus on the quality and impact of the team's initiatives. Do team members plan and manage programs and projects effectively? Can the team forecast demand and budget their projects? Are there sufficient dashboards for measuring and tracking performance?
Break Free of the Swirl  Break Free of the Swirl

Home | Issacons | PM Glossary | Papers & Books | Max's Musings
Guest Articles | Contact Info | Search My Site | Site Map | Top of Page