Leader Volume 8, Number 6
Jacobsen is president of Jacobsen Consulting Group (Sunnyvale, CA;
phone 408.244.6672; email firstname.lastname@example.org), helping
organizations create and implement changes.
The task force
has become a regular part of organizational life.
Task forces are formed to solve multidimensional problems
that require stakeholder buy-in in order to find a solution that
can be implemented.
Some task forces
work well and accomplish their purpose.
Others flounder. Here
are 12 tips to create a productive task force.
Include six to twelve people who understand the issues and
who will have a role in implementing the solution. Complex
problems generally require at least six.
More than twelve can be unwieldy.
Establish a clearly defined purpose for the task force, and
a target time for completion of its task.
Write this on easel pad paper and prominently display it at
each meeting to keep people focused. Clarify the resources and
authority of the task force.
Will it just be recommending, or will it be implementing,
At the first meeting, confirm the purpose of the task
force, and why each member was selected for it.
Ask people to introduce themselves and state:
What they bring and how they can benefit from participation.
What behavior of others on a task force helps bring out the
best in them.
What behavior of others on a task force really annoys them.
4) Ground rules:
Brainstorm ground rules. Then ask people if they can
"live with" them. Work
on them until you have a set that everyone will commit to.
Post them at every meeting.
Review them at the start of each meeting to refresh
people's memory, and at the end, in the meeting review.
Choose an open-minded person with good facilitation skills.
The facilitator's role is to help the task force move
forward. Someone who
is seen as trying to sway the group toward his/her position will
have limited effectiveness.
Each meeting needs an agenda with a set time for each item.
All task force members need input into the agenda.
The agenda should be distributed before a meeting, so
people can prepare for it.
For a task force to achieve its goal, everyone needs to
facilitator is responsible for drawing out people who are reticent
and limiting those who are too talkative.
If someone is repeatedly absent, does not participate, or
asks to drop out, let them leave.
Replace them with someone who will participate and add
Seek creative alternatives. Theres seldom only one
Consensus decisions are typically a task-force goal.
Consensus is not unanimous agreement.
It means that critical stakeholders can "live
with" a decision.
Group dynamics are a key to what a task force can
accomplish. Appoint a
process monitor to observe how the group interacts.
Include a report of his/her observations during the meeting
review to help improve how people relate to each other.
Rotate this role through the group from meeting to meeting.
Save five to ten minutes at the end of a meeting to review
how it went.
How did we do in relation to our ground rules?
What worked well today?
What should we change to have a more effective meeting next
Meeting notes clarify, record and communicate points that
need to be remembered. Appoint
a recorder to write and distribute notes on a timely basis.
When a task force
is composed of the right people, is energized with an important
purpose, and focused in well-run meetings, creative results will