Guaranteeing our Work as Leaders

By Bob McGannon on June 10, 2014

A daunting concept has been rattling in my mind recently…and it has been rattling loud enough for me to restart this Intelligent Disobedience blog. I look forward to sharing and hearing your thoughts on these entries that I intend to post on a regular basis!

We fully expect a guarantee for the work we receive from a plumber, electrician, or our automobile mechanic. However, guaranteeing our work as organizational leaders is not something we hear about – nor even contemplate – very often.

On the one hand, my brain is screaming out – but the circumstances are different! We have minimal control of the environment in which we work to deliver outcomes. In contrast, a plumber has very few variables out of his control, and can quickly and easily test his results and adjust things as required.

But, my mind keeps ticking over…on the other hand, what if we DID have control of the organizational environment variables or we could pose a set of conditions that – if they were established and remained in place – would inspire us as leaders to guarantee successful outcomes? What would those conditions look like?

Well, here is my first pass at what the conditions would have to be to consider this “unconsiderable” risk:

  • A sponsor with a stake in the game, the authority to bring and keep resources on an initiative, the funding to sustain the organization appropriately and the time to provide regular support and guidance;
  • An “all cards on the table” truth environment where issues and risks could be discussed openly without hidden agendas clouding the situation;
  • Documented and agreed upon outcome priorities and success criteria, clearly summarized in 100 words or less (rather than embedded throughout an 85 page “strategic plan.”) These would have to be signed off by all major stakeholders including senior managers, customers and representative end users of the outcomes;
  • Skills in the team, with experience in the business or technology area required to produce the desired outcome(s);
  • Enthusiastic “change champions”, at a 15:1 ratio to those affected by the changes brought about by the initiative;
  • The ability to produce outcomes every 90 days to ensure the requirements and results do not become “stale or outdated” over time;
  • The ability to reassess all of the above conditions every 45-60 days to ensure the “guarantee” would remain in place.

Maybe I am painting a picture of “leadership heaven” here…but I can say this: whenever I am asked to deliver an outcome, I usually work on establishing these criteria before I reach for the computer and launch an initiative. And when I can get a reasonable picture of these criteria– the organizational outcomes are consistently good.

And if your organization cannot meet all of the criteria, you can have a meaningful conversation with your manager about the risks your activities will bear – and you just might get a few more things to get you closer to a “work guarantee” situation.

So what conditions have I missed that prevent us from issuing a “work guarantee”? I look forward to your thoughts!

Intelligent Disobedience Leadership provides workshops, coaching and consulting with a focus on courageous leadership. We can help you and your teams establish and leverage a community of practice in intelligent disobedience to achieve better outcomes. For further information, email us at 

Bob McGannon

Director at Intelligent Disobedience Leadership

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