Moving Beyond Violent Agreement

Are your content groups in violent agreement with your strategy and getting nowhere?

Last week, as I was facilitating a strategy session with one of my clients, I was fascinated by the way various groups approached the strategy we were considering.

  • The content team suggested that the company needed a new platform, which would support a new customer experience with a new name and which would be managed as an independent entity.
  • The brand marketing team said, “Yes, but the content has to conform to the brand guidelines.”
  • The technology team, in turn, urged the marketing team to implement the CMS as a separate project.

For a half hour, the conversation went around and around, with each group becoming more and more insistent, more and more eager to be heard. It was time for a break.

During the break, as we were pouring coffee, the VP of marketing asked me what I thought about the discussion and how they might remedy the disconnections. I said, “What disconnections? Everybody is in violent agreement on the strategy. They just don’t seem to realize it.” I outlined the basic strategy that I’d heard.

Nuances aside, the whole team was aligned on the strategy.

I see this often when I bring together cross-functional teams to collaborate on strategy. We get so used to friction and defending our agendas that we fail to notice the significant elements of agreement.

Sometimes the situation is downright comical. We hear the IT gal say, “We can’t release this until next month.” Then the demand-generation manager cuts in and says, “Well, we need it by February 9” – in six weeks. There’s no disagreement. But it sure sounds like one.

To take this dynamic to its ludicrous extreme, it’s as if people are saying, “Oh yeah? Well, you’re right!” “Oh yeah? Well, YOU’RE right!”

More often, the failure to notice agreement is subtle. The conversation is punctuated with phrases like “Let me clarify…” or “What we really think is…” at which point people proceed not to clarify but to reinforce their agenda or argue for their views.

Unfortunately, these kinds of meetings can result in the opposite of their intent. Everybody comes out feeling that things got settled, saying, “Okay, we’ve identified all the challenges, so now we’ll move ahead.” Yet the agreement was violent. The pervasive tone was one of debate, of opposing sides one-upping each other.

Nothing got decided. So nothing gets done.

A facilitator – someone with no stake in the collaboration – can help. This person listens for the agreement and points it out, acknowledging any conflicts along the way. The mere presence of someone who can listen in this way may determine whether or not a perfectly good strategy ever translates into action.

I hope we can all agree on that.

Robert Rose
Chief Strategy Officer at The Content Advisory
As the Chief Strategy Officer of The Content Advisory, the exclusive education and consulting group of The Content Marketing Institute, Robert develops content and customer experience strategies for large enterprises such as The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Oracle, McCormick Spices, Capital One, and UPS.

Robert’s book, Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing was called “a call to arms and a self-help guide for creating the experiences that consumers will fall in love with.” For the last three years, he’s co-hosted the podcast This Old Marketing, with Joe Pulizzi. It’s frequently a top 20 marketing podcast on iTunes and is downloaded more than a million times every year, in 100 countries around the world.
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Author: Robert Rose
As the Chief Strategy Officer of The Content Advisory, the exclusive education and consulting group of The Content Marketing Institute, Robert develops content and customer experience strategies for large enterprises such as The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Oracle, McCormick Spices, Capital One, and UPS. Robert’s book, Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing was called “a call to arms and a self-help guide for creating the experiences that consumers will fall in love with.” For the last three years, he’s co-hosted the podcast This Old Marketing, with Joe Pulizzi. It’s frequently a top 20 marketing podcast on iTunes and is downloaded more than a million times every year, in 100 countries around the world.