It has to be the oldest joke in the book…or at least the oldest joke in the Star Trek enthusiast’s book. How many captains were there in the original Star Trek series? Two (yes really) Captain James T. Kirk and Captain Slog.
I told this joke four times last week. With no laughs. Apart from my own. There’s a message in there for me.
I had the first Face-to-Face meeting of my leadership team in the UK last week and before the overnight dinner I presented a challenge to all attendees – identify an unexpected piece of information about one of your team members…share it with the team in the morning and win a prize.
That night I told everyone that I have watched every Start Trek TV episode…and movie, but no-one seemed to find that ‘unexpected’. I also told them my favourite Star Trek joke (Captain’s log). No-one appeared amused. There was much more interest in discussions about arrests, connections and alternate careers…and this was where the prize went the next day!
My Star Trek story is true…sad though it may seem. But I often tell it to teams when I set this challenge, partly because I may yet win a prize, but also because it allows me to discuss my fixation on decision logs.
Most teams talk about the importance of decision making, or – better yet – improved decision making. Everyone always agrees…but what do we actually mean? Well this is where a team’s decision log – a published and available decision log – can be of immense power. A decision log is simply a list of key decisions made by a team. It includes date, what was agreed, why and who by. It can be amazing what we can learn (we as individuals, we as teams or even we an organization) when we share and keep track of major decisions, what caused to us to make the decision, and the reasons we decided on the resultant actions.
Despite my team’s apparent lack interest in my ‘unexpected piece of information’ I was delighted by how much enthusiasm there was for us sharing a decision log with the wider organisation. Such communication can open up our work to scrutiny and debate; to engagement and challenge; and to influence and ownership.
Any team agreeing that their decision log will be made available internally also sets a tone for their meetings. By definition a ‘decision log’ meeting has to set itself up (attendees, agenda, timings) to make decisions – decisions that make sense and that can be readily communicated. A decision log meeting can have a very different ethos than does – for example – a consensus driven meeting.
Our meeting last week was great fun. It was tiring and full of challenge – ours is an industry full of challenge. We made decisions about 2012 and 2013. We made decisions about focus and priorities. We made decisions about our people and ourselves and our clients. We made decisions about attracting new work. And delivering existing work.
There is no magic bullet – no ‘beam me up scotty’ solution to any of our work situations. Rather we have to roll up our sleeves and apply ourselves. We know what we need to do…and we know we need to do it exquisitely well. And our most important decisions are often what we don’t do as much as they are what we do.
Our logs may well not be full of amazing decisions, but rather we should celebrate that they are full of decisions at all. Moreover we will be delighted and excited when we see the engagement and actions our decisions will encourage.