Updated: Feb 11
Today, we will talk about the subject of how to reach a consensus with stakeholders using a rule called the “golden circle rule”.
1 The importance of reaching a consensus
Reaching a consensus with various stakeholders is very critical for a project’s success. For instance, at the beginning of the project, different stakeholders may have different opinions regarding the success criteria of the project.
At this point, the project manager should reach a consensus with key stakeholders on how to measure and evaluate whether the project is successful or not, which would become a key factor of the project’s success criteria at the end of the project. By understanding the importance of reaching a consensus with stakeholders, here I am going to discuss a thinking method of how to reach consensus with stakeholders.
Here is a practical case that David has been through as a project manager.
The company which David was in was a pharmaceutical company. The company initiated a project called “Video filming for the popularization of medical knowledge” in order to popularize the knowledge and science about medical products. Simply speaking, the project was to film one hundred videos of one hundred different medical doctors introducing or explaining medical knowledge, within one year. Those medical doctors were from hospitals all around the country.
There were two major challenges for David at the time.
The first challenge was how to reach a consensus regarding the project objective. Stakeholders probably had totally different expectations of the final production. Therefore, David had to reach a consensus with key stakeholders on the framework of the final video. Furthermore, consensus also had to be reached regarding the contents of the final video. David’s company was hoping the doctors could mention the advantages of medical products as much as possible, in order to advertise and popularize their medical products. Meanwhile, the doctors wished that they could explain the profession of doctor and hospital to the public through the videos.
The second challenge was how to coordinate one hundred medical doctors from all around the country. David was in a supporting department in his company, which means he was not on the front line and has no direct contact with any medical doctors. It was under that circumstance that he had to find and try to persuade one hundred doctors to film the video.
During the project’s execution, regarding the first challenge, if the challenge was not being handled properly, the direct consequence would be the final product can not be accepted by key stakeholders, which leads to project failure. Regarding the second challenge, if the challenge was not being resolved as soon as possible, the project could not get started. While considering these issues, there is actually a common ground of these two challenges: they both needed David to reach a consensus with various stakeholders.
At that time, David asked and answered himself the following questions.
1. What is the purpose of this video?
Answer: To provide some common medical knowledge to the public in a more vivid and lively way.
2. How to use the final video?
Answer: Release the video on the internet, the targeted viewers are the public.
3. What should be the content of the video?
Answer: That needs to be confirmed by communicating with key stakeholders.
Well, by answering these questions, the project became more clear. First, David decided to use animation with some 3D effects to make the medical knowledge more vivid and more lucid to the public. Second, most of the public people use their smartphone to view the video of the internet, which means they would possibly view the videos in pieces of time. Therefore, David decided that each video should not be longer than 5 minutes. Third, regarding the content, David decided that 80% of the topics should be what online users care about the most, and the left 20% should be what offline users care about. In this way, the videos would be mostly popularized by using the power of mobile internet, meanwhile not totally neglecting the medical knowledge requirements of offline users. After explaining the strategies and methods of what David tried to achieve, luckily both the company and the doctors agreed with David’s opinions.
2 Golden circle rule and its application
The thinking methodology of what David used here, is what we called the “Golden circle rule”. Basically, the golden circle rule is a methodology for achieving a certain goal or resolving a problem. It consists of three steps:
Step one: think about why.
Search for internal reasons or purpose of the issue, which would be the driving force for solving the issue.
Step two: think about how.
Create some methods of achieving the goal of resolving the issue.
Step three: think about the specific outcome.
Clearly sort out the possible results with details, and create the environment for achieving the results.
Now, we can use the same method to resolve the second challenge of the upper case, which is how David did in his project.
How to coordinate with a hundred doctors?
First, think about why David had to communicate with all those doctors about the video project. That’s because those doctors were the main medical knowledge providers to the videos.
Second, how to communicate and coordinate with so many doctors?
As the project manager, David surely could not do that all by himself. The approach that David came up with was to reach out to the sales managers who had direct contact with all the doctors. In this step, the most important thing is to eliminate the barriers between the sales managers and the doctors. David had to think about why should the sales managers help him communicate with all the doctors. In other words, what direct interests and benefits would be brought to sales managers if they engage in the video project. After reaching a consensus with sales managers, David also would have to think about how the sales managers communicate with the doctors and make sure the doctors would dedicate their own time to film the videos.
Third, what are the detailed practical steps? And how to create the environments for the expected results?
In this step, what David did was to make a detailed list of what should the sales managers and the doctors do during the project and prepare all relevant materials, such as the name and specialty of each doctor, detailed processes of the video filming, and additional matters needing attention.
As a result, the scope of the project became much clearer, and the communication with all stakeholders became much smoother. Finally, the project turned into a big success.
In summary, this article introduces the rule of the golden circle and how it can be applied in a practical project case.