Judy Dobles, General Management Consulting


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  • Many times when teams work on solving challenges, ideas are put forward that can be polar opposites in many ways. As a result the team divides and cannot create a workable solution. As a leader, the way forward lies in finding a middle path between opposites.

    As a member of over 15 leadership teams during my career I have experienced times when teams were divided over certain issues and required actions. The differences can be summarized as follows: more control, less control; in-source, out-source; centralize, de-centralize; include more people, include fewer people; skill required, skill not required and more policies, less policies. Although there was validity to each side of the issue, you can see they were polar opposites. As a result the teams found themselves unable to move forward due to lack of agreement.

    At this point, let’s recall the story of Goldilocks. Goldilocks finds the all the items of Baby Bear – much too small, she finds all the items of the Papa Bear – much too big. Then looking at Mama Bear’s items – she finds they are just right. Use your imagination and consider the analogy to business. Goldilocks found a workable solution in the middle; one that was just right. In business, a leader can assist a team to find the right answer by blending and balancing two opposing points of view.

    Let me share an example. At one point, Travel and Expense Accounting reported to me. In my company there were 8,000 travelers, which resulted in many expense reports every year. The process was audited annually. During a visual inspection of perhaps 1,000 expense reports, one report with an inappropriate expense of $100 was found. As a result the audit department stated that it was mandatory that all expense reports be reviewed by the Travel and Expense Accounting group, of roughly 2 people. Our company had automated the entire expense report processing and required the supervisor’s signature prior to payment. Our supervisors did a pretty good job in “policing” the expenses. Expenses from the air carriers and AMEX pre-populated the expense report. Exception reporting software was also used. Although we knew errors would never be 100% eliminated, we knew they were minimal.

    The recommendation of the auditors would have required that we hire additional people. However, we knew that the cost of the salaries would exceed the savings of “inappropriate expenses”.

    Theoretically, the audit recommendation was correct. However, practically it made no sense. In the end, the middle ground agreed to was that bi-annually we would send out a gentle reminder note to all supervisors regarding their responsibilities relative to checking and approving expense reports. This made a lot of sense since you have new people joining the company and individual’s becoming supervisors during the year, who may not get the training needed.

    In summary, my role was to work with the internal auditors, Travel and Expense Accounting and Controllers to come up with a workable solution that everyone could agree to. When you recognize the validity of everyone’s point of view, you can help the team find a solution that is “just right”.

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