Start with a foundation

An engineer, an architect, plumber, electrician, roofer, painter, and interior decorator form a committee to build a house.

They spend 8 hours deciding where to dig foundations before they quit in frustration and spend the rest of the year avoiding each other as they pass in the hall. Collaboration can exist without consensus, and yet often in professional meetings we reach for both.

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I recently mentioned to a colleague that one of the best things I’ve learned from volunteering on committees was how to mitigate the dips that make being awesome a higher climb.

One of those dips is failure to start with focus. Any project you work on, any committee you are involved in, will benefit from a foundation to build ideas on. In her book Quiet, Susan Cain states brainstorming is a difficult way to stimulate creativity, a comment I can appreciate after seeing results of public idea creation.

Know your goal

Setting a goal – even a soft one – is essential to creating a foundation that a team can build on. The goal is the big idea that translates a vision to action, and can evolve as the committee grows. An example, if your soft goal is to run across Canada, the hard goal might be:

  • Run 20km/day for 250 days
  • Have 5 people run 20km/day for 50 days
  • Have 250 people run 20km on 1 day

The goal can change and still be effective, it’s the foundation that is the most important to getting stuff done.

Foundation is focus

Ideas are not in short supply, which is why we need to separate ideas in two categories:

  • Foundational Ideas: These may be based more in strategy, although can also be tactics
  • Building Ideas: These are typically tactics, to execute against the foundational ideas

It is foundational ideas that need to be clarified and communicated to others. If flying from Toronto to New York is the goal, then our foundational ideas are:

  • Plane or helicopter
  • Commercial or Passenger
  • One-Way or Return

These foundational ideas are essential to working effectively to your planned goal.confused

There is certainly a place for foundational idea generation to be approached as a team although the majority of committees and projects find foundational idea generation the biggest rut that will hurt, or hinder progress.

Foundational ideas can come from one, or sourced by many, the key is to start group conversations from them as opposed to them.

Know your team

We all have strengths. Painters paint, plumbers plumb. A painter may have an interesting take on how to lay drywall from years of watching it done (and hiding mistakes) although it’s not what they know best.

To succeed when working with others on a committee or project, all group members must understand what they can best contribute towards the goal, so they can align their talents with actions that work off a foundational set of rules.

Start with a Foundation.

Tim Rhodes

Tim works proudly with TD Bank Group, he is the creator and curator of this project (500 Lessons). Having just moved across the country to Toronto, he is looking for new community volunteering opportunities!

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The opinions and articles shared on this site by Tim are entirely his own unless otherwise credited, and are not representative of TD's views, position, strategies, or opinions.

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