Goals Vs. Tactics

I liked this saying from someone in the IDF. 


Be “flexible in tactics, but stay fixed on the goals!”


There are many ways to accomplish the same thing. 


And different people have their own approaches. 


As in the lyrics: “You take the high road and I’ll take the low road.”


That’s absolutely okay. 


In fact, that’s one of the strengths and benefits of diversity.


We bring different ways of looking at the world to the table.


Hence, we can bounce fresh ideas off each other and come to a great way forward. 


The main thing is that we focus on our goals and progress to achieve them. 


Be rigid on goals and flexible in tactics. 😉


(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Parking Lot Full of Ideas

So conducting large meetings is not often easy. 


People have their own concepts as to where they’d like the discussion to go.


Yes, agendas help keep the meeting focused. 


And a good facilitator enforces meeting discipline. 


Some people think that any deviation from the agenda is like taken a sudden left turn or driving off the cliff. 


But you don’t want to throw away the baby with the bath water. 


It’s important to jot down good ideas or follow up questions that come out in the discussion even when they are not immediately relevant. 


That’s where the “Parking Lot” comes into play. 


A flip chart or whiteboard to capture the important thoughts for follow up afterwards. 


While parking lots are needed to take certain things off the table immediately in order to focus on accomplishing the meeting’s objectives, they are not junk yards for people’s input. 


Instead, they are a place to park the stray thoughts and then to actively follow up on these after. 


No question is a dumb one, and no idea isn’t worth considering. 


Parking lots can be full of these and they should be parked and then taken for a spin around the neighborhood.  😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Calling An ELMO

So this is an interesting meeting facilitation technique. 


Sometimes people get carried away in meetings either as broken records, spinning wheels, naysayers, or ever with verbal attacks.


In these case, either the facilitator or any of the other participants, can have permission to “call an ELMO.”


What that stands for is:


Enough,

Let’s

Move 

On


When someone at the meeting calls an ELMO the meeting is redirected and focused back to the agenda and meeting objectives.


There are also times, you need a “parking lot” for good ideas that are a little offtrack or for sidebars that you want to come back to later.


At other times, you just need to say, “Let’s take it offline.”


Focused meetings should generate ideas (brainstorm), exchange points of view, surface problems, discuss issues, and make decisions. 


A good meeting leaves people feeling energized, valued, informed, and productive. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Teamwork, There Is No I

Teamwork, There Is No I

I really love this saying–“There is no I in Team.”

A colleague said very astutely, “even though some try to put it in there!”

Teams work best, when everyone does their part and contributes, and no one makes it about their personal agendas, ambitions, and issues.

A team implies a large degree of selflessness where we do what is best for the team and the mission we serve, and we don’t get caught up in personal ego trips.

When people place themselves above the team–and they try to impose that “I” right on in there, then rather than teamwork, we end up with rivalry and conflict.

From my experience, those who try to take the credit for themselves–typically end up exposed for who they really are and without the honor they chase.

But those who give recognition genuinely and generously to others are in turn respected for their contributions to the mission as well as to the team.

Selflessly united as a team we can assuredly succeed, but selfishly divided as just a bunch of I’s, we will most certainly fail. 😉

(Source Graphic: Andy Blumenthal)

Have You Been Voluntold?

Have You Been Voluntold?

Voluntold, it’s a funny word.

A combination of volunteer and told, to do something.

I couldn’t believe that this word is actually in the dictionary and means:

“When one has been volunteered for something by another person. Often against their wishes and desires.” (Reference: Unwords)

“The exact opposite of volunteering. Always used in reference to an unpleasant task to which you have been assigned by your boss.”(Reference: Urban Dictionary)

I’ve seen this used when the boss asks for volunteers for a task or special project. If no one volunteers, then the boss volunteers someone–telling them to do it. They have been voluntold!

One time, I remember a very tense meeting where a boss was presenting his vision for the organization, but at the same time putting down the status quo and everyone in it.

As one point, he asks for a volunteer to help with driving his vision forward (note: no one had bought into it), and no one volunteers.

The boss ask for a volunteer once, twice, and three times at the meeting as the tension rises.

Finally, a hand goes up and someone accepts the task.

He is the bosses new favorite and is told publicly at the meeting that he will be rewarded for “stepping up.”

The truth is he didn’t really step up, but rather succumbed to the pressure to do it.

Another victim of being voluntold.

In the end, he really didn’t perform much of what he volunteered for–not a surprise, since he never bought into it to begin with.

Sometimes, we do have to ask people to do things, but it shouldn’t be by force or undue pressure.

A leader builds his vision with his team–not for his team–and they move forward together to achieve their unified goals and objectives.

Telling someone to do something, and pretending that they are really volunteering fools no one and achieves nothing accept maybe calling out some pretend accomplishments to go with the pretend volunteers. 😉

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Andrew Huff)

Charting Your Course

Charting Your Course

New article here by Andy Blumenthal in Public CIO Magazine called “Using Enterprise and Personal Architecture To Chart Your Course.”

“As a leader, one of your primary jobs is to bring a coherent, rousing vision and strategy to the organization and execute it to keep the organization relevant — that is enterprise architecture.”

Hope you enjoy!

Andy

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

>From Planning to Practice

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Real planning is hard work. I’m not talking about the traditional—get the management team together, offsite for a few hours or days and spell out a modified mission and vision statement and some basic goals and objectives—this is the typical approach. Rather, I am referring to thinking and planning about the future with a sense of urgency, realism, and genuine impact to the way we do our jobs.

In the traditional approach, the management team is focused on the planning session. They are engaged in the planning for a short duration, but when back in the office, they don’t go back in any meaningful way to either refer to or apply the plan in what they or their employees actually do. The plan in essence defaults to simply a paperwork exercise, an alignment mechanism, a check box for the next audit.

In contrast, in a comprehensive planning approach, the focus is not on the planning session itself, but on the existential threats and opportunities that we can envision that can impact on the organization and what we are going to do about it. We need to look at for example: What are our competitors doing? Are there new product innovations emerging? Are there social and economic trends that will affect how we do business? How is the political and regulatory environment changing? And so on. The important thing is to think through/ work through, the impact analysis and plan accordingly to meet these head-on.

This is similar to a SWOT analysis—where we evaluate our Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats, but it differs in that it extends that analysis portion to story planning (my term), where the results of SWOT are used to imagine and create multifaceted stories or scenarios of what we anticipate will happen and then identify how we will capitalize on the new situation or counter any threats. In other words, we play out the scenario —similar to simulation and modeling—in a safe environment, and evaluate our best course of action, by seeing where the story goes, how the actors behave and react, and introducing new layers of complexity and subtext.

Harvard Business Review (HBR), Jan-Feb 2010, has an article called “Strategy Tools for a Shifting Landscape” by Michael Jacobides that states “in an age when nothing is constant, strategy should be defined by narrative—plots, subplots, and characters—rather than by maps, graphs, and numbers.”

The author proposes the use of “playscripts” (his term), a scenario-based approach for planning, in which—“a narrative that sets out the cast of characters in a business, the way in which they are connected, the rules they observe, the plots and subplots in which they are a part, and how companies create and retain value as the business and the cast changes.

While I too believe in using a qualitative type of planning to help think out and flesh out strategy, I do not agree that we should discard the quantitative and visual analysis—in fact, I think we should embrace it and expand upon it by integrating it into planning itself. This way we optimize the best from both quantitative and qualitative analysis.

While numbers, trends, graphics, and other visuals are important information elements in planning, they are even more potent when added to the “what if” scenarios in a more narrative type of planning. For example, based on recent accident statistics with the car accelerators (a quantifiable and graphical analysis), we may anticipate that a major foreign car company will be conducting a major recall and that the government will be conducting investigations into this company. How will we respond—perhaps, we will we increase our marketing emphasizing our own car safety record and increase production in anticipation of picking up sales from our competitor?

Aside from being robust and plausible, the article recommends that playscripts be:

· Imaginative—“exploring all the opportunities that exist.” I would also extend this to the other relevant element of SWOT and include envisioning possible threats as well.

· Outward-facing—“focus on the links a company has with other entities, the way it connects with them and how others perceive it in the market.” This is critical to take ourselves out of our insular environments and look outside at what is going on and how it will affect us. Of course, we cannot ignore the inner dynamics of our organization, but we must temper it with a realization that we function within a larger eco-system.

To me, the key to planning is to free the employees to explore what is happening in their environment and how they will behave. It is not to regurgitate their functions and what they are working on, but rather to see beyond themselves and their current capabilities and attitudes. Life today is not life tomorrow, and we had better be prepared with open minds, sharpened skills and a broad arsenal to deal with the future that is soon upon us.