Citizen of the World Guides
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chapter 26
major challenges / task forces

At some point in time, you and your TEAM are likely to be confronted by a significant challenge, threat or opportunity of some complexity outside of the normal course of daily business. Rather than attempt to deal with it on your own, the best approach is usually to draw together a group of people to collaborate in determining “the best answer”.
Depending on the magnitude of the issue and the people resources available, consider forming a one-time task force to deal with this project. Recruit as its “project leader” the individual on your TEAM who is best at working with different people. With the project leader, jointly select the appropriate people to serve on the task force, seeking diversity of backgrounds, experience and perspectives. TEAMS that have an equal number of females and males invariably perform better than ones that do not.
Be creative in coming up with a code name for this project that captures everyone’s attention. Pick one that is short, catchy and fun.
While the task force members will be doing most of the work, instruct the project leader to seek ways to solicit ideas and help from all your TEAM members on an ongoing basis so that everyone has an opportunity to contribute to the success of the project. Also, ask the project leader to distribute brief progress reports to the others on your TEAM at regular intervals.
Call a meeting of your entire TEAM, describe the challenge and explain that you believe the best way to arrive at the solution is through a task force chaired by the project leader you selected. Say that you will be using such task forces from time to time and that different people will usually be asked to participate in them, depending on the issue. Announce the code name of the project.
With the project leader, agree on the definition of the challenge and attempt to state it succinctly in writing. Jointly decide on the task force’s objectives, the steps to be taken by the task force in broad terms, the timelines for performing them, and the deadline for arriving at both a recommendation and an implementation plan. Stress the need for creative, out-of-the-box, unconventional thinking and solutions, including those that utilize the Internet.
At the first meeting of the task force, the project leader should present the written definition of the challenge and describe the task force’s objectives and timelines. Jointly, the task force should also decide on when is the best time to meet. The project leader’s primary role is to be a democratic facilitator and to attempt to keep the task force on track and meeting its timelines with the greatest possible sense of urgency.
For most projects of this magnitude, the task force should start by preparing a critical path chart or process map that lays out the sequence of the action and steps to be taken, their timelines, and the individuals responsible for completing them. The project leader should update this chart or map for each meeting of the task force.
Encourage the task force to contact successful organizations in other fields to learn how they approached similar challenges. Arrange for the task force to go on field trips to see these companies in action. Ask everyone on the task force to keep an open mind about using new methods and practices.
In developing answers to complex issues, remember the saying that “perfect is often the enemy of good”. Caution the project leader that, in many cases, it is counterproductive to seek the absolutely perfect, all-encompassing solution. Invariably, you lack the time to do so and it is rarely necessary.
When the task force has completed its work, ask the project leader to have the other task force members present their recommendations and implementation plan to you. If you agree with these findings, consider asking the task force to present them to your entire work group as well as to members of upper management. Sometimes, however, you may need to ask the task force to rethink certain parts of their findings before making a group presentation. Ideally, everyone on the task force should participate in such presentations.
The second-last step in using task forces is to ask the task force to conduct a summary postmortem wrap-up session covering the lessons that were learned from this experience. The first such task force will inevitably be a learning experience for everyone involved. You need to know what to do differently when you decide to deploy your next task force.
The last step is to hold a fun event for the members of the task force to express your appreciation for all of their extra efforts. Give everyone a special memento of some kind and get a group photo of the task force. Write appropriate thank-you letters to the project leader and other task force members.
The benefits of using a task force for this purpose is to attack big issues with your best people in an intense manner over the shortest possible time period. Having a task force concentrate all of its attention mightily on the issue at hand is usually the fastest route to the best solution.


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