The moment of truth is approaching. And yet the uncertainty around what form Brexit will take remains. The Brexit negotiation team in its current incarnation has attracted criticism for lacking both common purpose and strong team leadership, branded at times as chaotic and incoherent. As the UK muddles its way toward the next phase of the negotiations, Theresa May should take the opportunity to carry out a rigorous assessment of her Brexit negotiating team. Is now the time to look further afield, and draw on British businesses for the right expertise?
The complex nature of the Brexit discussions means that the chances of a straightforward negotiation process were always slim, as is the case with any complex negotiations. But it’s hard to escape the notion that these have been exacerbated by the UKs negotiating team themselves, according to a leaked paper setting out the private views of European official. By learning lessons from the performance over the past year and identifying the key challenges for the next phase of talks, the issues are possible to overcome.
Common purpose is key in the Brexit negotiations, providing companies and teams alike with an underlying drive and direction. Setting goals ensures that everyone understands what the common purpose is and what they are working towards. When the goals have been defined, they can then develop a deeper understanding of the effects of tactical decisions and how they play against the strategic goals. If the Brexit team clearly understands what they are trying to accomplish it will provide a greater rationale for all decisions.
Behind every great leader is a great team, but also behind every great team is a great leader. A leader’s role fundamentally is to look up and outwards, scanning the horizon to find opportunities and identify threats early. They must also create an environment where the organisation can adapt quickly, make decisions quickly, and reset direction quickly. This is currently not happening. Those companies that have enjoyed success over a sustained period invariably have leadership teams that aren’t afraid to make a change to suit business strategy and performance. It’s up to Theresa May to step back and decide whether her team truly have what it takes to continue on in the Brexit discussions.
In this instance, the team needs to have a broad array of skills and the key to this is not restricting the talent pool to a narrowly defined list of available members. While politicians have an important skill-set, these should be enhanced by experts from the world of business and finance. Using the right people in the right roles will ultimately deliver the right outcomes.
From strategic point of view, the Brexit negotiation team should be made up of:
- MPs who have an understanding of the political playing field.
- Business leaders who have merged and demerged organisations, giving them an understanding of the importance of communication and clarity.
- Strong minded people and financial strategists who have been parachuted into organisations to turn them around.
- Arbitration experts used to complex separation including during company administration.
Time is running out for arranging a transition deal and if a decision isn’t made soon it might be too late. Eventually they will have to come to an agreement, but will it be the best deal for this country? While the Prime Minister can do little to influence the internal discussions of the EU27, making sure the UK has the best team at the table will go a long way to delivering a successful outcome.
Chris Roberts is the practice director of Accelerating Experience.