Archives for January 2014

We Screwed Up.

public relations disasters

When the pressure is on, how will you respond?

A person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.” Tim Ferris

For those of you who may have seen the U.S. news in the past few days you probably heard of Georgia’s disastrous response to 2-3 inches (6.35cm) of snowfall that quickly turned to ice. Thousands of residents of the Atlanta metropolitan area attempted to leave work at the same time to go pick up children at school and outrace the ice.

The result?  Trucks, cars and buses collided, blocking roads and highways rendering them impassable. Over 994 accidents were reported in the first 12 hours of the storm and many more minor ones occurred throughout the night. Commutes of 3 miles (4.82 km) stretched to 5 hours and 25 mile (40.23km) commutes became 24 hour ordeals. A baby was born on a highway, hundreds had to abandon their cars and walk for miles to get home after they ran out of gasoline.

Next was the parade of government officials trying to explain the uncoordinated response and chaos. The styles ranged from smooth to horribly awkward, and they were mercilessly skewered on twitter and social media. Some were in the awkward position of being blamed for jobs they were not responsible for but as leaders, would be held accountable for anyway. Others were openly hostile. As time went on, some leaders clearly got “off” the public relations scripting they had been prepped with while others clung to it like a lifeline, long after it stopped making any sense. Leaders of nearby counties most likely breathed a sigh of relief when they realized that the Mayor of the City of Atlanta (a small fraction of the Atlanta metro area) would be taking the majority of the heat publicly for the disaster.

One of the hardest things to do in public is to admit you are wrong. With the advances in social media and technology, it’s entirely possible that you can claim you’ve fixed something only to have live pictures scrolling alongside you on screen proving the opposite.

How do YOU handle admitting to a mistake?

The Uncomfortable Conversations series on 52weekturnaround gives you the tools to have the difficult conversations that you encounter as a change agent. See the series here.

book by Jeanne Goldie

Speed Read an Organization with our Easy Guide

Thinking about making a move? Size up your Corporate Landscape or any other company you may be thinking of moving to by using our free guide, Reading the Terrain. Get your copy today by putting your email address in the subscription box at right. And no, we won’t spam you, you’ll just get our weekly update of articles.

Is this it? The Mid-level Manager’s Lament

 

getting out of business trap

Feeling boxed in? You can fix that.

I was talking last week with someone I met via an article I posted on LinkedIn. I liked him immediately. Why? He took a risk, contacting a total stranger to have a conversation about connections and change.  We talked for 30 minutes about how people get stuck mid-career, and why change projects can be instrumental in turning that “stuckness” around, either within the organization you work for or outside of it.

It’s easy to feel trapped mid-career. You’re good at what you do. You have a decent title. A good team, or maybe they’re only an okay team, but they don’t make you crazy. You make pretty good money. And you have kids, parents, spouses and others dependent on you staying that course and keeping that money coming in.  The “golden handcuff” syndrome.

You may try to move up through the ranks, but we all know the funnel narrows towards the top. The promotions don’t come as fast as they do when you’re good, and you’re younger.  And maybe when that opening at the top comes up, you don’t fit the management “flavor of the month” that year. They’re moving towards a more numeric based environment and your brand is the “people” guy. Or vice versa. Or maybe you’re not in the central core business, but you do a great job that lets everyone else get their stuff done. You’re the greatest at it, but they just don’t know what to do with you next because there’s not an obvious career path in the organization. And if they move you, your replacement may not be as easy to work with. So you clock in another year.

Problem is, your resume starts to look pretty stagnant after a while. But the kids need college tuition or your mother-in-law moves in because early Alzheimer’s disease is setting in. And the cuffs tighten. And if the company blew up tomorrow, where would you go?

You need to be an aspirin or a vitamin, not a cog in the machine.

That’s why I love projects. Projects help other see you in a new light, and expose you to new opportunities. I started working on the types of change management projects we talk about at www.52weekturnaround.com early in my career, using them as a way to meet people and learn new career skills that have allowed me to work in many wildly different fields. Lots of times I “made up” the project and assigned it to myself, just to get something started. Now people hand me projects and say, “Can you fix this?”

To create real change, for yourself or for your company, you have to stick your neck out of your comfort zone. That doesn’t mean doing something wild, or illegal. It means strategically looking at where you are and where you might like to go. What skills do you want to learn? What area is growing in your industry? What other industries use similar skills that you already possess, and what would you need to learn about their world in order to switch industries? What is the one problem in your company that is making everyone crazy? Do you have an idea how to fix it? Who can you have a conversation with that might feel a bit uncomfortable but would help you stretch? Pick a strategic action, one that will solve a real problem or create real change. Avoid busywork.

Crazy things that have happened for me when I went out of my comfort zone strategically

  1. Got the head of a 14,000 person business line as a mentor. By purchasing a United Way benefit ticket. For $75.
  2. Wound up becoming a regular guest personality on a local television station for five years.
  3. Helped open an African American Research Library in Atlanta (if you’re wondering why this is unusual, go take another look at my photo, and couple it with the fact that I grew up in New York).
  4. Moved out of a government job in a public housing authority into the technology sector.
  5. Had an article published in a famous law journal, (I’m not an attorney, nor do I play one on TV).
  6. Am presenting in Brussels (despite speaking no French and no Dutch) on Lean Startups. Want to come? Read about it here. My topic is Anarchy vs. The ACCO clip: Lean Startups in Government Agencies.

But here’s the thing. The wacky stuff doesn’t happen unless you’re prepared AND putting yourself out there. You have to be willing to go outside the box and share what you’re interested in. That doesn’t mean pestering every senior person you meet with “Hi, I want to change jobs, will you mentor me and by the way, know of any job openings or how I can get out of this dead end gig?”  It means having something new and interesting to talk about, that makes you memorable, and allows you to engage with people outside your usual circle. What’s your elevator speech? Has it changed in the last 5 years? In each of the examples above, there’s a bit more to the story. I had been doing my homework, growing myself and working hard at it, that put me in front of the right person at the right time.

Want to start creating some change? Take a look at our resolutions for 2014. Talk to someone in another department at work that you NEVER interact with and find out what challenges they’re dealing with.  Take a look at the elephant in the room and see if you’re the person that can solve it for your company. Look at how other industries, similar to yours, have solved the same type of problems your industry is dealing with. Can you have a conversation with a stranger to find out how they did it and why it worked?

Come to Brussels and hear me speak (along with my co-presenter Carl Danneels who will give a great presentation on Lean Startups in the Corporate world). And share with me some of the wacky things that have happened when you stretched out of your comfort zone, so I can share them with our readers and they can get the courage to stretch.

It’s free

book by Jeanne Goldie

Speed Read an Organization with our Easy Guide

If you need help seeing your current organization with fresh eyes, get a copy of our free booklet, “Reading the Terrain” by filling out your contact info in the box on the right. “Reading the Terrain” is a field guide that asks you tons of questions about what’s going on in your business right now. By answering them, you’ll see where you can add value and where there are pain points.

We send out a newsletter of our most recent articles once a week and will only contact you if something really special comes up. And no, we won’t share your info with anyone.

 

Lean Startups and Intrapreneurship: Brussels 2014

Join us in Brussels!

Applying the Lean Startup Model in Government and Corporations

Applying the Lean Startup Model in Government and Corporations

Learn about navigating the unique challenges and opportunities when creating Lean Startups in Corporate and Government Environments:

Lean Startup for Intrapreneurs!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

18:30 Kickoff

19:00 – 21:00 Presentations and Q&A

Brussels Enterprise Agency (ABE-BAO-BEA) – Free parking!

Avenue du Port 86C, B211- 1000 Brussels, Belgium

Carl Danneels of Plethon and Jeanne Goldie of 52weekturnaround.com will share their expertise on how to navigate the special challenges, responsibilities and politics when working in an existing corporate or government structure. Understand how to apply the Lean model, communicate the vision, measure and valuate results while managing the politics of Intrapreneurship. Please join us for this informative session.

Food will be provided. Admission is Free.

The Speakers:

 

Carl Danneels

Carl DanneelsCarl is manager of Plethon, a company established in 2003, offering Integral project and portfolio management services to customers in different industry sectors.

He is a bridge builder across cultures and management paradigms and a strong supporter of sustainable/agile project management approaches (focusing on self-organisation & emergent order rather than top-down control). He is a board Member of the Agile Consortium Belgium and a former Board Member of PMI Belgium. Update: Carl’s Presentation

Jeanne Goldie

Jeanne GoldieJeanne is a startup and turnaround strategist for businesses, the person hired when a business wants to fix something that’s broken or create something entirely new. For the past fourteen years she has worked in the Financial Services industry leading organizational strategy after doing similar work in the tech, government and non-profit sectors.

Jeanne shares her insights at 52weekturnaround.com, a website that helps teams reevaluate, restructure and rebrand their current trajectory using strategic change management. Gathering the best resources, coaches, and advice the site helps readers see challenges with fresh eyes and deliver real-life solutions.  Update: Jeanne’s presentation.

Need More Information?

Contact Jeanne here

 

book by Jeanne Goldie

Speed Read an Organization with our Easy Guide

Thinking about making a move in your organization? Size up your Corporate Landscape or any other company you may be thinking of moving to by using our free guide, Reading the Terrain. Get your copy today by putting your email address in the subscription box at right. And no, we won’t spam you, you’ll just get our weekly update of articles.

Managing Great Expectations

failed projects, managing expectations

Sometimes there’s not much to celebrate!

Most change projects are wrapped in great expectations. They are designed to increase revenue, clients or efficiency, or stop the bleeding of expenses or resources. Not only are the projects expected to create change, but individual team members working on the project will usually have some career expectations tied to their participation, even if its just gaining notice for their work.

And yet, most projects don’t progress in a straight line. A+B+C does not always yield instant success. And sometimes what is created is an entirely different animal than the one you expected to create. The Lean Methodology is entirely based on this idea, that you will experiment, test with the public, and “pivot” your approach to design a product or project that meets the needs of the market. Groupon, the daily coupon site, started as an online activism platform called “The Point”, which was a failure and is now a publicly traded company which deals in discounted consumer goods and services.

Most projects in a corporate or government setting are not as easy to “pivot” based on the traditions, bureaucracies and politics involved, but its not unusual for a project to still become something very different from the original vision.

And some projects fail. Failures are sometimes hidden in a cloud of smoke, mirrors, shiny objects, beautiful press packages and discussions of the learning curve as a project quietly disappears. Others are very public disasters.

Pundits provide us with any number of pithy quotes to handle the great expectations of change, “Under promise and Over Deliver.” “I didn’t fail the test, I just found 100 ways to do it wrong” and “if you align your expectations with reality you will never be disappointed.” How you handle those expectations, both when things are going well, and when they are going very badly, is part of the skill you bring as a change leader.

Some projects will fail. Some will fail spectacularly. Others will have small pieces that work or sections that can be salvaged and repurposed but if you do this repeatedly, it’s important to understand that you will, indeed, fail at some point. And it won’t be fun. And sometimes a failure is just the jumping off place to a new adventure.

“Everything will be okay in the End, And if it’s not okay, it’s not the End.”

book by Jeanne Goldie

Speed Read an Organization with our Easy Guide

Thinking about making a move? Size up your Corporate Landscape or any other company you may be thinking of moving to by using our free guide, Reading the Terrain. Get your copy today by putting your email address in the subscription box at right. And no, we won’t spam you, you’ll just get our weekly update of articles.

Uncomfortable Conversation #3: Requesting Privileges, Staff Time or Resources You’re Not “Entitled” To Have

begging employee

This is NOT the way you want to ask.

The Situation:

Your Project needs resources from other teams, including staff time, technology resources and/or the ability to bypass normal approval procedures in order to advance your project.

Career Limiting Approaches (i.e. what not to do):

  • Hope someone will psychically divine that you need some additional resources.
  • Come up with a duct tape solution without even trying to ask for what you need. (Been there, done that, it’s never good!)
  • Threaten a senior executive with blackmail photos of their less than stellar moments at the corporate holiday party if they don’t give up the goods.
  • Send a younger staffer in with the request figuring if it all goes wrong you can disclaim any knowledge of the request. Definitely don’t try this with the interns, they will give you up almost immediately.

What you need to be prepared with:

1. Clear list of Needs: “I will need X hours of technology’s time in order to create the beta test of the new user interface.” “I will need the assistance of facilities to evaluate the projected space. Based on the usual timetable it will require 8 hours of their time.” “I need two members of the operations team to participate on weekly team calls which last for about two hours. They will also need to do some research after each call which we estimate as a total commitment of three hours per week.”

Do the research beforehand to find out the normal turn times that each resource would need. If you’re asking for financial resources, make sure  you have detailed bids (formal or informal, depending on where you work) that will give an accurate representation of the costs. “If you’re asking for expedited approval process for your other project requests, explain why you need the bypass.  You may want to commit these to paper if there are multiple asks. but make sure it is a clear visual, preferably one page, not a 300 page document.

2. The specifics of “why” you need the items in #1. Before you make this request, have another project team member punch holes in your request, to help you make it sharper, particularly if its a complex request. You need your “E.F. Hutton” or Historian for this job. Don’t know who they are? Read about them here.

3. The benefits of your project to any resources you are commandeering. Be sure to include these if they exist. For example: “Tech support gets 400 questions per month on this issue. We’re asking for their time commitment now which will free them up in the future.”

4. If you are requesting additional resources because of an earlier miscalculation on your part, acknowledge the miscalculation in clear, non-judgmental language. You may also want to read this first.

5. Avoid drama. Extreme language such as “There’s no way we can get this project done if I don’t get Joe’s team to cooperate and they aren’t cooperating.” isn’t going to help. Take emotion out of the request. Aim for a clear, objective tone.

6. What is your specific ask for support in terms of getting those resources? Do you need an email sent? Does your sponsor need to hold a meeting with the departments involved? Do you need an authorized signer ability for up to a certain amount?  Have a recommendation but be aware that a different path may be chosen. If there is a significant reason to choose a particular path, mention it in your ask.  But be sure to take the emotion out of it. “I feel that many of the department heads are bombarded with requests weekly for their resources, which is why I think it would be best to have an email coming from you authorizing the staff time” vs. “Look, ain’t no way, no how, that freaking product modeling team is going to help me unless the big cheese orders them to, because they would rather die than cooperate with anyone around here.”

7. Have a fallback plan. Some people will say to never waver off the big ask, but you may not have that luxury if a “no” means the end of your project. Is there an alternative scenario that gets you part of what you need, and will advance the project to a point where the benefit of getting the rest of what you need will be obvious?

8. Consider the “style” of your delivery. Watch your body language, project assurance. If you need some advice on the power of an open stance when asking for something check out this TED talk. If you need to consider the pacing, delivery style and words you choose, read this. Are you presenting to one person or a committee or a board? You’ll need to change your style to meet the situation. Whatever you do, don’t look like the guy in the picture. That’s an automatic “no.”

Having the Conversation:

1. Start with the compelling reason for your project in the first place. Don’t assume everyone knows why the project is in place. Even if they do, restate it. Give a very brief update on where you are in the project.

2. State your list of needs from item 1 above. State any benefits to the resources you are asking for.

3. Wait and keep quiet. (aka known in the negotiation biz as STFU).

4. They’ve got objections?  Use the information from item 2 to answer the questions.

What to expect:

1. Yes: Always great if you get a win the first time out. If you get one, make sure you send a brief, mini-update on the project’s progress on a regular basis to those who granted what you wanted and acknowledge their assistance in it.

2. A Punt. Person or committee you’re asking requests time to “study” the request. This may be their normal response or it may be a hedge or delaying tactic. Hopefully you know their style well enough to choose which option to do next:

a. Thank them and ask when you can expect to hear their decision.

b. Calmly restate the benefit of the project, touch on how the resources could help and ask if they have any concerns you haven’t addressed. Make sure you’re projecting assurance (see #8 above, again!) when you do this.

c. If your requestee is a chronic “waffler” by nature, and normally never commits in the hope that things will iron out on their own accord, you will need a different close. Try slightly reversing b.  “Joe, I know you’re concerned that the technology team is overloaded right now, but let me show you exactly how this will actually save them time within the next two months.” Pause a beat. “Joe, this is a good thing, and I need your commitment to make this into a great thing, and a great win for you.”

3. Denied. This is another time where you need to know your audience. Is the “no” coming from a situation that has nothing to do with you or your project? (Read “Why your Project isn’t Getting any Love” to help identify some reasons). Or is the no truly directed at, and solely about, you and/or your project? If so, ask again about concerns or objections, and try to address them. You then have two possibilities:

a. Ask about their overall commitment to this project, is it truly a resource crunch or lack of faith in the project? (Remember, take the emotion out of this question. You are solving a business problem here, not a referendum on your personal worth. And if the response is a referendum on your personal worth, i.e. they hate you, and not your project, read this and run!).

b. Offer the fallback position from #7 in the preparation section. Be sure to state if the fallback position will require narrowing the scope or results of your project.

 How have YOU successfully gotten results when you asked for something you or your team were not entitled to have? Please share in the comments section!  (and if involved sending the intern in with the office holiday pictures I  really don’t want to know, but I do salute you!)

Tim Ferris believes that “A person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.” The Uncomfortable Conversations series on 52weekturnaround gives you the tools to have the difficult conversations that you encounter as a change agent. See the series here.

book by Jeanne Goldie

Speed Read an Organization with our Easy Guide

A Field Guide to Help You Speed Read the Corporate Landscape.

Some great questions to ask yourself and your team about your group’s previous adventures in change are in our Free guide: Reading the Terrain – A Short Field Guide to Understanding the Organizational Landscape. You can get it just for subscribing in the box at right. We don’t share your contact info with anyone else, and you’ll get free updates when this site adds new content. And no, we won’t send the interns to your offices!

 

 

15 Things to Do Differently this Year.

moving forward in the new year

Onward and Upward in 2014!

How will you make sure that you create a real impact with your efforts this year? Most of us spend the majority of our waking hours working or thinking about work. What will you do differently this year to make your results commensurate with your efforts?

Will you have an Uncomfortable Conversation you’ve been putting off?

Will you stick your head out of your foxhole and look at the big picture?

Or just step outside your bubble?

Are you going to figure out how to tell a better story about your efforts?

Are you going to persuade the powers that be to give your project some love?

Are you going to figure out how to fund your project by working on business development?

Learn a few lessons from Breaking Bad’s  Walter White?

Deal with those cost overruns?

Will you approach your next project differently?

Change your brand?

Kill a sacred cow?

Help your team avoid bouncing back to their set points?

See what’s really going on in the meeting?

Glue it together with some duct tape?

Are you going to say “That’s enough, I’m done here?” and move on to another project?

Remember, if all else fails, truly great teams always can figure out how to bury the bodies. And whatever you do, don’t ever stand between a crowd and the Fulton County Rat Poison Lady!

Whatever you do, we’ll be here to help you figure out how to get it done, and how to have a laugh or two while doing it.

As for me I’m looking forward to presenting on lean startups in Brussels next month, the publication of the first book in the 52 week turnaround series and continuing to meet all of you, and talk about the challenges and fun of creating change in organizations. Thanks for your emails, comments, re-tweets and support. I love hearing from you. Keep it coming.

 

book by Jeanne Goldie

Speed Read an Organization with our Easy Guide

P.S. If you haven’t already downloaded our free Field Guide, you’re missing out. See your workplace from a multiple of perspectives, which will help you create a great strategy to create change. Sign up for our newsletter in the box on the right and you’ll get a link to your copy. And we wont bombard you with email or share your info with anyone.

 

 

© Jeanne Goldie 2015