Shrinking Elephants: CIA Exercise

Micaela Shaw
2 min readNov 3, 2020

Do you ever find the same problems coming up in peer 1:1s? They feel so important yet somehow become taboo in larger team meetings.

Or you think the team is aligned on strategy but little shots of doubt keep springing up in tactical conversation.

Control Influence Accept is one of my favorite leadership team techniques for getting a group to call out the elephants in the room and shrink them down to size.

The exercise starts with a broad question designed to expose doubts. Example: Thinking about our strategy for next year, what is going to keep us from succeeding?

Participants take 10 minutes to write out on post-it notes (or digital cards like Trello,) all the issues they see.

The facilitator takes a moment to group the cards into themes or duplicate issues. Then the group goes 1 by 1 through the cards.

The group is then asked to choose a location for the card. Is this something the group can control? Is this something the group can influence? Is this something the group has to accept?

Once each card is sorted, the group goes back through each group.

For control, the group assigns to each issue to a person to present a proposed action by a certain date in the next 3 months.

For influence, the group assigns each issue to a person to monitor and provide updates on the issue within 6 months.

For accept, the group agrees to accept each issue and not surface the issues as roadblocks for the next ~12 months.

This exercise is designed to help the team work on the most important and actionable problems first and achieve alignment.