APL Colloquium

March 17, 2006

Colloquium Topic: Why Great Leaders Don’t Take Yes For An Answer: Managing For Conflict and Consensus

Leaders hear 'yes' far too often. They don't hear bad news until it's too late. They get groupthink, not reality. They think they've achieved consensus, then find their decisions undermined by colleagues who never really bought in. They become isolated: even high-risk or illegal actions can go unquestioned. It's an enormous problem: for leaders, for teams, for the entire organization. But is it inevitable? Absolutely not! You need to stimulate dissent and debate to improve your decision making; while you keep that conflict constructive, since conflict alone does not produce better decisions and improved results. Leaders need to cultivate debate and simultaneously build consensus. Strong buy-in paves the way to successful execution. The lecture will provide insights into managing teams, mitigating risk, even promoting ethics through effective governance by exploring . How real organizations make real decisions: How the decision process unfolds throughout the organization-not just in the executive suite The five myths of executive decision making: Why they're so dangerous, and how to overcome them How to foster open debate that actually builds long-term consensus: How to achieve "diversity in counsel, unity in command" How to move to closure: overcoming the inability to decide: Avoiding "analysis paralysis" and other pitfalls How to gain the whole-hearted commitment to act: Addressing hidden doubts that could undermine your final decision

Colloquium Speaker: Michael A. Roberto

Dr. Michael A. Roberto is Visiting Associate Professor of Management at New York University's Stern School of Business and formerly a faculty member in the General Management unit at the Harvard Business School. He teaches courses on general management, managerial decision-making, and business strategy. Professor Roberto's research focuses on strategic decision-making processes and senior management teams. More recently, he has studied why catastrophic group or organizational failures happen, such as the Columbia Space Shuttle accident and the 1996 Mount Everest tragedy. His book, Why Great Leaders Don't Take Yes For An Answer: Managing for Conflict and Consensus, was published in June 2005 by Wharton School Publishing. He has published articles based upon his research in the Harvard Business Review, California Management Review, The Leadership Quarterly, Group and Organization Management, and Ivey Business Journal. His 2004 article, "Strategic decision-making processes: Beyond the efficiency-consensus tradeoff" was selected by Emerald Management Reviews as one of the top 50 management articles of 2004, from among 20,000 articles reviewed by that organization in that year. In addition, an article based upon his research earned him the Robert Litschert Best Doctoral Student Paper Award in the year 2000 in the Academy of Management's Business Policy Division. This paper was published in the Academy of Management's Best Paper Proceedings. Over the past few years, Professor Roberto has taught in the leadership development programs at a number of firms including Morgan Stanley, The Home Depot, Mars, Novartis, The World Bank, and Thales. He has also consulted with organizations such as Johnson & Johnson, Lockheed Martin, Corporate Executive Board, and The Advisory Board. Professor Roberto received an A.B. with honors from Harvard College in 1991. He earned an M.B.A. with High Distinction from Harvard Business School in 1995, graduating as a George F. Baker Scholar. He also received his D.B.A. from the Harvard Business School in 2000. While pursuing graduate studies at Harvard, he taught the introductory undergraduate course in economic theory for two years, and won the Allyn Young Prize for Teaching in Economics on each occasion. Prior to his faculty positions, Professor Roberto worked as a financial analyst at General Dynamics Corporation, where he evaluated the company's performance on nuclear submarine programs. In addition, he worked as a project manager at Staples Inc., where he played a role in the company's acquisition integration efforts.