Directors' Dilemmas by Patrick Dunne
The "win-win" scenario might have become a rather cliched concept of late, but it's no less desirable for that. Sadly, win-win scenarios are elusive beasts, says Paul Donovan.
Directors are far more familiar with win-lose situations, in which they have to walk a tightrope between pain and gain, or even with lose-lose situations, in which they must choose the lesser of two evils. The success they bring to their jobs can hinge upon the way they deal with the dilemmas that confront them.
For IT directors looking to raise their stock and their credibility, and hence widen their sphere of influence around the business, learning to deal swiftly and decisively with the problems that arise is essential.
Enter Patrick Dunne. In Directors' Dilemmas, Dunne has tapped all the managerial experience he has gained working for venture capital company 3i to provide a template for dealing with quandaries in the workplace.
Dunne begins by assessing the sorts of day-to-day dilemmas that face company directors. These range from matters of business process, to the interpersonal problems involved in coping with the jungle of personalities that populate the upper tiers of management.
From there, Dunne goes on to outline a coherent methodology for dealing with dilemmas.
The first step is to assess exactly what the dilemma is, and how it has arisen. Are personality clashes to blame? Or is it money or changing circumstance that is the root cause? Dunne advocates stepping back and observing a dilemma before making a judgement.
The next question to ask yourself is, "How am I going to decide what to do?" This will depend upon the way in which the dilemma is manifesting itself. Will a consensual approach be appropriate? Or should you opt for "autocratic clarity"?
Dunne warns of the perils of the former approach which, he says, is "more likely to become an endless debate, with the clarity over whose decision it really is, lost in the process". Your next challenge is to decide upon a course of action. For this, you will have to rely upon your judgement - though first you must ensure you have the sort of mandate you need to resolve the dilemma.
Dunne recommends "waiting for and then seizing that ideal moment when the atmosphere of the situation is just right to make the required intervention or when the circumstances prevail to make a decision easiest to bring into effect. Prevarication must be justifiable. It is also important, he says, to make like a chess player, and plan ahead.
Communicating your decision is the final part of the process of achieving a successful dilemma resolution.
This depends on "understanding the audiences you want to get your messages across to", and "being clear about your messages".
After outlining the way to approach dilemmas, Dunne applies his three-stage action plan to over 20 situations that could occur in business, providing hard examples for readers to follow.
This was first published in April 2000