One of my favorite old movies is a 1990 film titled Q&A. In the movie Timothy Hutton plays the role of young district attorney who is trying to prove a case against a corrupt police detective played by Nick Nolte.
A dominant theme in the movie surrounds the title theme–the Q&A, with Nolte asserting on multiple occasions that “If it’s not in the Q&A, then it didn’t happen.” The implication being that unless it is in writing and on the record, it doesn’t matter because it is irrelevant to the situation.
In the years since this movie debuted this Q&A behavior seems to have increasingly crept into day-to-day behavior interesting ways. Sometimes it emerges when someone is speaking and invokes the “off-the-record” qualifier to indicate that they won’t admit that to what they are about to say, but that they are willing to say it if there won’t be any record of them saying it.
So what does this have to do with Credit Union Strategy?
Strategic planning sessions succeed when there is true freedom of speech–when ideas are openly shared, debated, discussed, evaluated, critiqued, argued, supported, criticized, and analyzed before decisions are made.
But like many processes (the making of sausage comes to mind) the end product is much more important than the steps along the way. Put another way, the documentation created during the process (i.e., the Q&A) matters far less than the endpoint of the discussion (i.e., the plan).
Despite this I increasingly see people who want to put everything ‘in the Q&A’ during the planning session–document every utterance, capture every random comment, and create the equivalent of a court recorder’s notes of the process. Some argue that it is important to be able to go back and review the way in which the decision was reached. Others suggest that the ideas have value and need to be preserved for future reference. Others remain quiet, but secretly want to make sure we know who to blame for any negative outcomes in the future.
There is a lot of value in throwing out the things that were created along the way so that the team leaves the planning session ready to focus on the plan instead of having all the ammunition at hand to debate it again.
ACTION ADVICE: Take great notes on the flip charts during the planning session, subject them to discussion, debate, and deliberation, and then make your decisions and define your plan. Then capture the plan, commit to it, and move forward. You’ll see better results and the future debate will focus on the things that need attention as you execute the plan, not on how or why you decided to pursue that particular path.