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September 23, 2006

Management Idea #3: Surfacing Ideas

The executive review is a typical scenario at Microsoft. A team wants approval for their plan, so they troop into a conference room and present to their local bigwig. The LB peppers them with questions about what they are doing, then says yea or nay.

The problem with this is that the discussion often boils down to whether the team is planning to do it the way the executive would have done it. That's fine if you think the executive is smarter than the rest of the team combined. But if I were such an executive, I would assume that my brain power applied over a one hour review was less than the collective brainpower of my team applied over weeks or months. Thus, I would not be so interested in the decision as I would be in the process behind the decision. How were ideas collected, which ones were seriously considered, and what were the factors driving the final decision.

More generally, the skill I would want in my team was something I'll call "idea surfacing". You can encapsulate it in the following scenario: "Imagine that there was a problem your team had to solve. One person on the team had a brilliant idea that would solve the problem. Nine other people on the team have ideas they thought were brilliant, but actually weren't. Do you have a process in place to ensure that the one brilliant idea will be discovered, that you won't be distracted by the other nine ideas, that you will act on the brilliant idea, and given that, how long will this process take?"

If I think people can answer that question well, then I won't feel the need to question their decisions too deeply. And if I don't think they can answer that question well, then my extra input in a review isn't going to help much.

Posted by AdamBa at September 23, 2006 09:42 PM

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Now you're getting too deep. Save this one for Adam Barr Inc.

Posted by: OMG at September 24, 2006 01:59 AM

At 2 am in Las Vegas, you think deeeeeeep thoughts.

- adam

Posted by: Adam Barr at September 24, 2006 10:07 AM

What you overlook, is that a large part of an executive overview is to see if the proposed project meets strategic companywide goals. For example, does the proposal help/hinder the unannounced initiative two divisions over. Typically the proposal developers are not equipped to make those kind of decisions, either from lack of info or lack of perspective. Having that info/perspective is what executives are paid to do...

Posted by: Avi at September 28, 2006 05:01 AM