Early in my consulting career I had an opportunity to lead a Strategic Planning engagement for a large utility. After what our organization thought were two successful years of success, the client sponsor, the Chief Financial Officer, invited me to dinner. We had established a solid business relationship and had shared lunch and several rounds of golf together; but, he had never invited me to dinner. I thought we were in real trouble.

After dinner, the CFO shared with me his belief that while he was confident his company needed to continue with the Strategic Planning effort, he was less than satisfied with the results that had been achieved over the last several years. His message was clear; he wanted me to lead the effort again for the next year. A key difference was that he wanted the team to be a combination of three of his people and three of our consultants. In the past two years, the plan had always been completed by a team of our external consultants led by me.

The Next Planning Session

Once the CFO and I agreed to the team members, we completed the new Strategic Plan. Since this final product was done under the umbrellas of our consulting organization, I was obligated to send the draft of our final plan to the firm’s partner for his review and comments. His feedback was clear — the new plan was OK but not great.

After several long conversations with the partner, I gained his approval to deliver the Strategic Plan to the client with minimal changes. Less than four months later, I received a call from the CFO who insisted I join him for lunch so he could update me. During lunch it was clear that he was ecstatic. His words were along the lines of, “Richard, you won’t believe it. We have about half of our strategies implemented and we are well on our way to our best year in a long time!”

The Equation for Success

It was clear to me that the morale of this story is best explained in an equation from Robert Zawaki’s work, The Mature Data Processing Organization, and it speaks to the benefit of facilitation. That equation is:

ED = RD x CD

And what Zawaki explains is that an Effective Decision is equal to the Right Decision times the Commitment to the Decision. The next time you or your executive team is about to developing a strategic plan or make a key decision, think about the benefit of buy-in. In other words are you best served with a 100% right decision with little commitment or an 80% right decision with 80% commitment?

With almost twenty years of providing facilitation services and facilitated training to our clients, we are committed to the benefits of facilitation and the importance of buy-in. We know it works.


For more information on this facilitation training technique and others, please check out The Effective Facilitator.