It Takes 5 Cs to Spell Success

Go back to basics and take these actions towards success this year.
President & CEO, The Enterprise Group
January 13, 2012

Early in the year, it’s a good idea to go back to basics. Success is an elusive goal these days, both in business and in government. Even when leaders don't accomplish the outcomes they want, they can still move forward and make progress toward those goals.

“Postponed perfection is the enemy of planned progress,” said a wise man. He was right. To make progress toward any goal, a series of C words tell us what's necessary to achieve success: clarity, communication, collaboration, consensus and compromise.


Your purpose, plan and actions must be clear. Clarity, by definition, means “clearness.” That's not the same as practicing “informed misunderstandings,” in which opposing views remain obstacles because they are denied or hidden. So, air out the facts clearly.


Communicate clearly and directly. Some people might not like the direction you're planning as much as others, but you want them on board, too. Communicating through third parties can too easily introduce distortion and other agendas. Talk to each other directly.


A group of people working together to achieve a common goal is collaborating. The power in collaboration is the diversity of ideas and positions brought to bear on the problem or to help achieve the goals. Work together constructively.


Consensus is not the same as unanimous agreement. A group can reach consensus and still have dissenting views. Stakeholders can recognize and state those views, but set them aside in order to make progress. Find consensus wherever you can.


Compromise is not enjoyable, but it's necessary if you're to move forward in the face of dissent. A partial and temporary surrender of the positions people have a stake in doesn't have to mean abandoning the convictions that underlie them. Be willing to compromise to make progress.

Clarity, communication, collaboration, consensus and compromise are critical to success in business, politics and life. Without them, you'll be deadlocked (as our government has been) and fail to achieve much of anything.

Without recognizing these five Cs, you won't achieve meaningful results. Nothing good gets done when animosity grows and becomes yet another barrier to success. The U.S. government suffers from this condition, as do any other governments. Leadership is essential in this kind of intractable situation.

The role of leaders is to break through the impasses, to convert the polarized positions into collaboration so stakeholders find common ground. That can be the basis for enough agreement to allow progress, even if the compromises satisfy few of the parties completely.

Ultimately, if the leaders don't help bring about progress, you can add a sixth C-word to the list: Conflict. When conflict is the only outcome, nothing gets done. Then, everyone suffers from the lack of success.

It’s time to go back to the five Cs to succeed. Communicate directly. Speak clearly. Collaborate to find common ground. Compromise to achieve consensus. Then you can resolve conflicts that seem impossible at least partially and make progress toward limited success.

Perhaps someone should remind the U.S. legislators that the word "congress" is derived from the Latin word meaning, “the act or action of coming together.” It means a coming together of minds, as well as the physical meaning. To do this, put the five Cs together and use them, over and over and over.

It is the only way that people made real progress for centuries.

President & CEO, The Enterprise Group