One of the biggest barriers to making progress in any agri-business is when key decision makers are not ‘on the same page’.
What does being ‘on the same page’ mean? Do any of these examples sound familiar?
- A parent might still hold the cheque-book. This effectively gives them final say on all decisions. While the next generation may have been ‘asked’ to assume responsibility for operations and most day to day decisions, they can never fully take responsibility while they can’t actually execute decisions, nor can they be accountable until they take financial responsibility for their decisions. There is clear misalignment between generations.
- A husband and wife ‘share a desire’ for the husband to be more ‘off the tools’ to help her run the increasingly complex business management. But the husband seems to just want to keep working on the tractor / paddock / irrigation (which he enjoys) because there was only a vague commitment to help her (he actually feels confronted ‘doing business’ and more comfortable in those ‘known roles’).
- Two brothers might conceptually agree on a certain course of action regarding production or business expansion. However when these plans are actually implemented, the results are not as expected – or some of the operational decisions don’t align with the outcomes sought or ‘agreed to’. This is because the ‘agreement’ was never really there in the first place.
- There are multiple decisions makers (such as a group of siblings who have taken over the property) and multiple interested parties (each of their families) who all have different needs and thoughts on how the business should be managed. Some perceive that they aren’t heard as decisions are made, as the more dominant family members and those who ‘talk the loudest’ always seem to get their way.
- The ‘old guard’ (those exiting the business such as older generations) don’t relinquish control, by keeping key information ‘close to their chest’.
What can happen when you’re not on the same page?
We’ve all seen the outcomes, such as:
- People in the business refuse to listen to different points of view
- People don’t or won’t communicate their own views
- There is infighting – with significant and long term hurt and disagreements
- Hidden ‘white-anting’ or undermining of decision making – while on the surface it is ‘all-good’.
When key decision-makers aren’t on the same page, the results include:
- The business limps along, never really making headway (there are no clear objectives that unite everyone). This is extremely common for agribusinesses, where there are multiple stakeholders in the business.
- The ‘train-wreck’ occurs, and there is fallout between the parties due to constant disagreement and inability to incorporate all points of view.
- The potential of the business is unable to be realised – due to poor financial performance, wastage, inefficiencies, ineffective use of personnel and so on.
How to get on the same page?
1. Communication – through an Advisory Board
Fundamentally, this all comes down to communication. Often an appropriate forum or systems are not present to:
- Facilitate effective communication between parties
- Ensure different points of view are taken into account
- Discuss and agree on the action to be taken – and its implications.
This is where a safe, objective setting for communication and decision making is essential. ABDI advocates routine meetings (ideally monthly) such as an Advisory Board meeting, based around:
- A set agenda, covering all aspects of the business, from strategy to operations. This will facilitate discussion on topics that frequently get put in the ‘too-hard basket’, and will ensure others listen to and consider different points of view.
- An ‘around the room’ process – as an agenda item, to ensure all members have a say.
- Outcomes and actions are documented in formal minutes, therefore there is a record of the group’s decision making (including reasons) in case disputes arise or where historic reasoning is valuable.
- Ideally incorporate an independent third party (such as an external chairman of the Advisory Board) who can address difficult topics, mediate discussions in an objective way, and take the heat out of conversations that arise.
More information on setting up an Advisory Board can be found here.
2. Clarify organisational chart and decision making processes
Many agri-businesses don’t have defined organisational charts, detailing who is responsible for what. Creating an organisational chart (even where the same person has multiple responsibilities) helps with defining the decision making processes. They help remove bottlenecks which can arise where one or a couple of key personnel assume responsibility for decision making.
It also makes it clear to everyone in the business who has responsibility for which part of the business, so there can be no ‘cutting someone else’s grass’ by more dominant or controlling parties. This also can build ownership in team members who are required to step up.
Often these ‘department heads’ will report on their respective parts of the business at the Advisory Board meeting.
3. Understand personality types
All team members have differing personality styles, meaning they have different motivators and operate in different ways. For example some are big picture people, others need all the details, some are like diesel engines and work slowly but consistently, others are like F1’s and work in short sharp bursts of productivity. More information on managing team members can be found here.
The first step is to understand that this is REALLY the case, and all team members operate in a different way. The second step is to consider what the other party’s personality style, and therefore their modus operandi is, where there are differences of opinions, or difficult communication.
For example, some people simply like to have their say (loudly and assertively), but then are happy to see other’s points of view aired. Others may need to hear all of the information explained, take time out to have a think, and can then come back with a well thought out plan of attack.
It is often helpful for members of the business’ Management Team to have their personality / behavioural profiling undertaken. ABDI uses the E-Disc Behavioural Profiling process and can explain how best to use this system.
Getting everyone on the same page is absolutely crucial, to ensure everyone is working towards common goals / objectives for the business. This make things more efficient, more streamlined, more profitable, more fun and avoids the risk of the ‘Train Wreck’ scenario.
By focussing on effective communication through a forum such as the Advisory Board, and taking the time to understand other’s motivators, drivers and ways of operating, it is possible for everyone to be aligned and working more effectively together.
Are you looking to get everyone on the same page in your business? Join the Elevate Program.
This is one of several topics covered in Elevate: the Agri-Business Management Program. Find out how to gain confidence in your business decision making, better manage your time and your people, and build practical systems to free you up to focus on growing the business.