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Alignment with a Stop Light?


You've worked hard to come up with a great plan that will make things easier, remove frustrations, and even save time for everyone. You're proud of it. It's thorough. It's researched. You've consulted people with more experience in this area. You've taken criticism. You've been vulnerable. Now it's time for the big meeting to unveil it. You're excited. Even a bit nervous.

It's your turn on the agenda and...

Your excitement is met with a mild, lukewarm reception from the team. What happened? You spoke with most of these people to develop the plan and now that it's real (not just a rumor) they seem undecided. Did you waste all that time, effort, and energy?

We've all felt this way. And it's hard not to be a bit defensive in these situations.

Deep breath.

Getting everyone to agree 100% on any plan, strategy, or initiative rarely happens...if ever. We often go for total consensus. When this happens we're likely setting ourselves up for future problems that delay or derail the new plan. Consensus shouldn't be the goal. Alignment should be!

To have alignment among team members we must have everyone's voice. To give it they must feel safe enough to share how they really think otherwise they'll go along to get along. The environment matters and we're all responsible. It's not on any single person it's IN all of us to get this right!

Here are some thoughts on how to improve Psychological Safety on your team!

The Stop Light Tool

Here's a simple way to help include everyone in the decision-making process. After presenting any plan, strategy, or initiative, have each team member give their "light" and quick comments using the following guide...

  • Green = they have no issues & agree with proceeding
  • Yellow = they have an issue & a suggestion to help
  • Red = they have an issue & no ideas or suggestions to help

Preference vs Requirement

Remembering this framing can help remove some personal bias in the decision-making process. Quick story...

Phil Jackson, the hall-of-fame NBA coach was once asked about one of his players on the Chicago Bulls. He was asked if he minded what hair color Dennis Rodman had. Coach Jackson replied that it was Dennis' preference what hair color he chose but it was a requirement he plays defense and rebound. It might not be what hair color Coach Jackson would choose but he honored his player's preferences. The requirements are not negotiable so he focused on coaching his players to be great at those. Hair color didn't have an impact on their winning games but rebounding did.

Focus on the requirements of the decision you're trying to make!

∇ Caution

If you get engagement from all team members and replies are "green" take a pause. Provide some new context for the plan and re-state your intention for leaning on this decision-making process. Then go around the room again.

No plan survives first contact when implemented. Working out as many issues as possible will give the plan (and team) the best chance for success out of the gate!

EXTRA: Balanced Scorecard

This is another popular tool used by organizations to achieve alignment. Find out more about this method HERE!

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This technology is supported in part by New Technologies for Agriculture Extension grant no. 2020-41595-30123 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture and membership funding. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the content are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. For more information, please visit You can view the terms of useat

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