“Let’s get a few smart people together in one room to figure this out.”
If only it were that easy.
Getting people together is a start, but are they the right people to solve the specific problem? A skilled facilitator can help guide people down the right path. However, game-changing results tend to happen only when the people at the table have something at stake.
What’s the right number of people to have at the table? The fewest number of people that you need to create the change you desire. Any more than that and it will be difficult for people to align with others and have productive conversations. There are too many distractions from people that are not fully vested in the process or the organization. As a leader, it’s important to be aware of this as you start any kind of change effort or new initiative.
When inviting people to participate in a group where the expectation is to produce results, I find it helpful to ask people to state why they want to get involved and what resources they bring to the table. A track record of producing results is helpful, but not a top priority. I’m more interested in a person’s internal drive and the time, skills, and perspective that they can contribute.
When you are expecting people to create something new, you need them to be able to get out of their comfort zone at times to see problems from multiple angles. This is tough to do if you have people that don’t want to be there in the first place.
I find the Pareto Principle to be a useful tool to help understand how many people are making an impact on an organization. I look for 20% of a given population to be the people that are making an impact. Does that ring true with your team?
Before beginning a new project where you expect people to pitch in and help out, think carefully about what you want to achieve, what success looks like, and how you might measure this.
How you answer those questions will help shape the kind of team you need to create to accomplish the task. The answers can be used as guidelines to direct your change efforts.
The challenge with casting a wide net for volunteers without adequately screening them is that you’ll spend more time corralling people than on the task at hand.