Strategies fail more often than they succeed. Occasionally it’s because they are stupid strategies. Most of the times the cause is a lack of clarity – a lack of specificity about where you are headed, how you will get there, and what must change. Consider these examples of typical failures: (more…)
While flying back to Boston after business in Chicago this week, I was admiring the fields and trees far below sporting that wonderful spring green. The sun was shining. It looked like a lovely day.
Then the pilot came on and announced that we were cruising above 31,000 feet and the temperature outside was 2 degrees below zero.
The contrast between that spring feeling and his announcement was a shock. That we could be in such a different place while flying over springtime just didn’t seem possible in that moment. Of course, I wasn’t surprised, once jolted from my reverie.
But it made me think of all the times people get lost in their assumptions every day. Assumptions more important than the weather. Assumptions about people and their intentions. Assumptions about the causes of problems while leaping to irrelevant solutions. Assumptions about objectives while arguing alternatives. Assumptions about communication when talking without listening. (more…)
When my parents died, their wills suggested an onerous process for dividing belongings among 5 siblings. But at least they provided a process!
They also indicated we were welcome to come up with a better process, if we so desired. My parents, who probably had something to do with my clarity(!), clearly knew the importance of having a process!
As executrix, I gladly proposed a better process. Being me, I’m pretty sure I would have done so regardless of whether or not it was my responsibility.
So I wrote up a simple process, explained it to all siblings, asked for opinions, and then got their signatures to confirm agreement before anyone began claiming anything.
The process worked smoothly. Success depended only on the thought invested by each sibling into their desires and needs. Everyone left with a combination of cherished and practical items.
There was one opportunity for dissension, however. (more…)
Most well run organizations are pretty good at creating what I call “Organizational Clarity.” They have strategic priorities and annual goals. They have job descriptions, policies, rules, and training programs. They have well-defined and documented production processes. They also have well-defined management systems that control things like performance reviews, budgeting, approval processes, and projects. All told, these constitute a yeoman’s effort to create:
- Clear purpose,
- Clear roles, and
- Clear process
– the three keys to productive, effective, committed employees. The resulting structure and controls are essential for allowing growing and shifting numbers of people to work together effectively.
But there’s a problem with this: It doesn’t help employees get through their average work day. (more…)
In last month’s Clear Thoughts, I suggested an exercise that I hope you tried. The exercise was to pick a typical item off a meeting agenda and then compete in pairs for two minutes to see who can brainstorm the longest list of possible directions the conversation could go given that topic.
When I do this exercise in workshops, the idea is initially met with bewilderment, but it doesn’t last. The winning pair usually comes up with about twenty different directions. By the time we collect all the non-overlapping ideas from the other pairs, the total is typically three dozen topics.
So what is the point of this exercise? Before you read on, maybe you want to stop and draw your own conclusions. If you come up with conclusions I don’t list, I’d love to hear about them.
Ready For My List?
Are you crazy busy? Do you have way too much to do?
Here are a dozen reasons why you need to STOP IT!
1. There are only 24 hours in a day and you can’t change that.
2. Most of the items on your list are never going to get done so why kid yourself.
3. People are tired of hearing you complain about having too much to do.
4. You are not going to suddenly become five times as productive tomorrow.
5. “Not enough time” and “Too much to do” are victim words. You don’t want to be a victim!
Remember what it was like to get your first eyeglasses?
Or the revelation provided regularly when the eye doctor replaces the blurry eye chart with stunning clarity by sliding that big old refractor in front of your eyes?
My mother thought the world looked better when she couldn’t see all the depressing details. The rest of us love crystal clear vision. At least I think so!
But what’s interesting is that until you visit the eye doctor and suddenly see with a new level of clarity, you don’t know what you’ve been missing. There is no way of knowing how blurry your world is. Most people see what they see and pretty much assume they see what everybody else sees.
The purpose of annual reviews is ostensibly to improve performance, right?
Then why don’t they? Why do managers and employees alike dread them? And why on earth do they happen only once a year?
I can think of only one performance review I ever had in decades working in Corporate America that actually helped me improve. That taught me something about myself that I didn’t know. That accomplished something other than:
Email consumes approximately 23% of the average employee’s workday. Or put another way, a typical employee sends and receives 112 messages each day. And the vast majority of that email is internal. This means the average employee is spending almost two hours a day writing messages that create no value for which customers are willing to pay.
But here is the good news. It doesn’t have to be this way. Internal email is entirely within the control of the company. You don’t have to waste all that time!
If you cut that 23% in half, which is totally possible, that’s like increasing the size of your workforce by more than 10%. Alternatively, it would allow each employee to go home an hour earlier. How can you not take such an opportunity seriously? (more…)
I tell my clients they must put an end to informing each other.
Because inform is a treadmill verb. And like other treadmill verbs, such as report and review, it has no destination. There is no way to know when you are done. It is an open invitation to talk on and on with no particular outcome in mind. It leaves people listening, assuming they are listening at all, for nothing in particular. Thus, it accomplishes little, encourages smart phone tinkering, and leaves most people bored and disengaged.