One of these things is not like the others…and confirmation bias will make sure it doesn’t get the job.

confirmation bias part two

According to the HBR, when you only have one non-traditional candidate in your hiring pool, that candidate has zero statistical chance of being hired.

Confirmation Bias Strikes Again.

When a business stalls or encounters serious problems, it is often the very “team” that gave it strength that now is part of the roadblock to creating innovative solutions.  Most businesses tend to hire employees from very similar backgrounds, whether socio-economic, schooling, or even geography.  It can narrow their perspective and also create an effect where there is deadly “group think.”  This is usually thought to be a result of the players being so “comfortable” with each other that they don’t challenge each other’s assumptions, and tend to draw the same conclusions. (Real-life examples of the type of “group think” turnaround featured in the classic “Twelve Angry Men” are rarer than we’d like to believe.)

A recent study published in the Harvard Business Review points out an even more insidious barrier to change, even among those companies that may be trying to diversify their teams.  It’s a long, but fascinating read….and you better have at least two people with a different perspective if you want to turn that jury around.

If there’s only one woman (or ethnically diverse or non-college educated or under-represented “fill in the blank here” candidate) in your candidate pool, there’s statistically almost no chance she’ll be hiredRead it here. The good news? Adding just one other non-traditional  candidate radically increases the statistical probability that a non-traditional candidate will be hired.

We’ve talked about how confirmation bias can limit your ability to correctly identify your problems here and why project teams need diverse viewpoints. Need to see just how homogenous your team is? Grab our “Reading the Terrain” field guide here. The pointed questions will help you view a very familiar place with fresh eyes.

Taking Stock of this Week: How Effective were You?

time management

The year is already one quarter gone, what did you do this week?

It’s Friday. How did you measure up this week?

Did you:

1. Drive revenue?

2. Cut expenses in a way that will allow the business to grow?

3. Solve an ongoing challenge in a way that will allow the team to move forward?

4. Open a new market, test a new product, develop a new strategy for growth?

5. Say no to the things that weren’t working and cross them off your list?

6.Seek out a new perspective or new methodology that might help your team move forward?

7.Hold meetings that were relevant, valuable and not “birthday parties.”

8. Pull the tooth?

9. Look for new talent?

10. Have that uncomfortable conversation you’ve been dreading?

If not, what can you do to make sure that next week you spend your time on the things that really matter? (need some more ideas? try this)

Get your free copy today of “Reading the Terrain” by subscribing in the email box. It will help you have many more effective days!

book by Jeanne Goldie

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How the Election Cycle can Affect Your Success, Even if You’re Not Running for Office

graph of the election cycle's impact on innovation and new product development

Are you trying to sell something to a government agency or contractor? Better know where you are in the election cycle!

Not running for political office this year? Then what does the election cycle have to do with you?

Whether you are a multinational corporation, a lean startup, a tiny mom and pop store, or a non-profit agency (NGO), election cycles can have an impact on everything from funding, regulation and licensing, and sales of your product.

If you’re trying to pitch a business product, service or concept to sell to the government, (or an agency closely related to the government) the timing of your pitch and its position in the election cycle can dramatically affect your success.

“But Jeanne, I don’t sell directly to the government or get government funding, so what are you talking about?” Most people don’t realize how connected to government election cycles their client’s purchasing cycles may be, even if they themselves are not selling to the government. So humor me and follow along.

Who are the decision makers in “The Government?”

The first thing to remember is that in most governments there are several types of employees. There are the elected officials, appointed officials (appointed by the team that won the election) and the “civil servants,” more long-term permanent employees that generally do not change with every election.  Civil servants may, or may not, owe their original position to having been connected to a winning party in the past.  The civil servants have usually been through numerous waves of administration changes which makes them somewhat cautious in their approach to contracting with new services or committing to new projects.

For example, a U. S. state might have a “Tax Commissioner” who actually won an election to get their role. The Tax Commissioner might appoint 1-2 “Deputy Tax Commissioners,” usually close connections or political party allies.  Then there are the actual tax assessors, clerks, accountants, appraisers, evaluators etc. who work for the commission. These are usually permanent employees who do not change with every election. Depending on where you live, however, new openings for these jobs may tend to be filled with allies/friends/relatives of the current ruling political group, so sometimes a great deal of political connection is at play. At other times, there is no connection at all, the person just got their job by applying and having the right skills at the right time.

You will generally not get a “quick sale” when you’re selling to the government sector. If you have one meeting to pitch your product and you get an immediate “Yes!”, you’re either sitting down with the President/Prime Minister/Grand Poobah or you’re having a meeting with the wrong person and will be getting a call saying there’s been a “bump in the road” as soon as they get back to the office and tell someone what they promised.

Why is this? Because the number one question on everyone’s mind in a government role, one which often directly or indirectly colors their actions, decisions, and plans, is:

“Who will be in charge, NEXT YEAR?”

Take a look at the infographic above. Election cycles can vary, here in the U.S. most last from 2-6 years, but in other countries the timing may vary. Unless you live in an absolute dictatorship, you probably have some variation on this cycle, but the phases I’ll be talking about tend to be the same. (The US tends to be a two political party system but in other countries you may see coalitions form the “ruling” party, or multi-party systems.)

Here’s how the cycle works:

1. A new party takes office. During this first phase, the newly elected officials will be making appointments to the senior level positions. In a national election, this may take the form of appointments to national cabinet positions, followed by those appointees making leadership appointments at  regional and local levels. If you are trying to pitch your product at this time, it may be a frustrating period of “no decision” despite having many meetings or discussions with various department heads.  Consider the possibility that they are “auditioning” your idea, hearing you out to see if your idea might be worth pitching higher up the “food chain” once they have a clear idea of the priorities of the new officials.

2. The next phase is a period of high activity, purchasing, and innovation. This is the time period after the appointments have been made, and the goals and priorities of the new administration are going to be executed. If your product serves those goals in a way that can advance the work of the administration, this is the best time to have it gain traction. This is the time when many purchasing decisions will be made, and many government contracts are awarded for services, funding, grants etc.

3. Phase 3 is the pre-election period. This generally takes place about a year before the next election. At this point, every project, plan and purchasing contract is re-evaluated to see if they will help or threaten the ruling party’s chances of getting back into office. Projects and products that advance the goals of the administration and have measurable benefits will generally be expanded or promoted. Projects and products with a high chance of public perception of failure will be cut back or hidden from view. If you are pitching a product that has any possibility of public failure, one that requires a long time to drive measurable results, or is very costly, it is highly unlikely that it will be adopted at this time. Generally this is a time of scaling back, with high focus on certain key activities, and low adaption of new partners, products or processes. There are rare exceptions to this, they are usually tied to exceptional events, such as a terrorist act, a natural or man-made disaster or an economic crisis of extraordinary proportions, such as the one that began in 2007. If you are pitching something new at this time, you may encounter a similar feeling as we saw in phase one, “lots of meetings, no decision.”  You may have a great deal of difficulty even getting the meeting. Just prior to, and during this period, it is not unusual to see many appointed department heads depart for the private sector, able to use their expertise to negotiate a lucrative package with corporations that do business with the government. If your product or service is at all controversial, this is NOT the time it will get taken on.

4. It’s Election day again! At this point we enter one of three phases (I like to call it the gray zone).

  • Possibility one: This is the “Lame Duck” scenario. The current party or coalition is NOT reelected. Nothing will get done, and there will not be any major expenditures until the new team takes office.
  • Possibility two: Current Party is re-elected with the same leader. Thee will be some changes of appointees as many will opt to move to the private sector or to think tanks, and there may be a slight refocus of priorities based on discoveries made during the election period.
  • Possibility three: Current party is re-elected but with a new person at the top. Go back to the beginning of phase one.

As you can see, the timing of your approach can greatly affect the speed of your success. Remember when I mentioned that even if YOU don’t sell directly to the government your clients might? If you run an office supply store and a large portion of your customers are receiving government subsidies for their work, ebb and flow in election cycles can really affect your sales. You may not even realize how many of your customers are direct government suppliers, or one step away from the government. In this case, the office supply store owner is one step away.  His/her declining sales may affect his suppliers, truckers or even his/her ability to pay rent. On the other hand, a new government regulation requiring every government file to be in a purple folder will spur a spike of purple folder sales that might just get that office supply store owner a nice tropical vacation this year.

Related to this topic:

1 Lean Startups in Government agencies 

2. Presentation on Lean startups in Government agencies: YouTube 1, You Tube 2, You tube 3.

3. What does a Government Shutdown mean for you? What if the government is your biggest customer?

4. Are you selling what they need to hear? Be sure you’re pitching what the government needs at the right time!

5. Need some great questions to ask to help you size up any business environment? Go here. And get your FREE COPY today!

book by Jeanne Goldie

Speed Read an Organization with our Easy Guide

What are YOUR tips on pitching the government on a business idea or project? Share in the comments section.

 

 

 

Are you Settling?

If you settle too often you might as well quit swinging

What’s your batting average? When was the last time you swung for the fences?

There are times when only a “duct tape” fix will do. You may not have the resources to do things exactly as you wanted or planned.  It may have to wait. But at what point do you need to insist on doing things YOUR way?

If you are ALWAYS settling, and your products or projects are becoming something you wouldn’t really want to put your name on, or can’t imagine talking about if asked to describe any career highlights in the last year or so, it’s time to do a self-inventory.

1. Are you settling to get something truly more important done?

2. Are you settling just once, or does it happen every time?

3. How important are the details you are compromising on?

I realize this might sound contradictory to the advice to consider a minimum viable project, but being an effective change manager means you try to hit a delicate balance that ultimately, moves the team forward. Holding out for perfection at all times gets you nowhere, but compromising into an endless series of “meh” results also will get you nowhere.

“Sometimes you win, Sometimes you lose, Sometimes, it rains” Bull Durham.

What’s your batting average? Are you winning? Are you losing? Bunting? When was your last home run? If you’re losing more than you’re winning, it may be time to change your approach. Or at least your batting stance.

Pick your pitch and connect. Hard. Get the free steak (but put your headphones on if you’re watching in the office! )

book by Jeanne Goldie

Speed Read an Organization with our Easy Guide

If you can’t figure out why you’re losing, maybe you need to look at your company and your place in it with fresh eyes. Get our free guide to Reading the Terrain and do a deep dive on what’s going on.

 

5 dumb things people do when they try to change the workplace. Especially # 2

  1. Choose your actions carefully when you are the replacement for a weak leader

    Try to avoid these bad approaches!

    Constantly talk about how another company does “it” (i.e. whatever change is being made). Google may be great, Joe’s Ribs up the street may be dandy as well, but if all your points of reference as to why the company should change refers to how one other company is doing whatever you do, eventually people will tune you out, and the less polite will suggest you go work there, preferably immediately. If you are using other companies as a reference point, make sure to vary your examples and also be aware of your own company’s particular strengths. And if your reference point is a defunct company, make sure the item or behavior you’re proposing to adopt was not a key reason for the company’s demise.

  2. Place too much weight on their business unit’s corner of the world vs. its relative importance to the overall company success. It’s great to play to your strengths, its also good to streamline and perfect processes under your control. However if your area of expertise is only delivering .5% of the bottom line and all of your change plans aren’t likely to significantly change that, don’t expect the whole company to change to accommodate your plans.
  3. Insist on leading a change project because it was your idea.  Yes, it’s important to get credit for your good ideas. Unfortunately you may not have the skills and connections yet to lead the whole change. Don’t sulk if you don’t get to lead the charge. Ask for a position on the team, just don’t expect to be the chief.
  4. Expect the change plan to remain exactly as first envisioned. Tweaks, detours, roadblocks and Version’s 2.0, 5.0 and 6.0 are to be expected.
  5. Ignore the “unwritten rules” of the prevailing culture. If the team is predominantly highly competitive, slightly hyperactive people, they’re not going to sit through too many “talk through our feelings” sessions. If the team is a group of highly sensitive, keenly attuned to human behavior, social work type professionals, you won’t turn them into sales people overnight. Don’t take the company’s written values statements at face value, look at its actions, its people and its internal culture before mapping out your plan.
book by Jeanne Goldie

Speed Read an Organization with our Easy Guide

Need some more things to consider before creating your plan? Read our 10 rules of turnaround. Want to make sure you’re identifying the “unwritten rules” of your workplace? Get our free field guide to ask yourself the right questions.

Just need a whole new approach this year? Try this instead.

 

Rule #5: Find your Allies

It takes a village, pick the right villagers to gather their pitchforks and join you!

It takes a village, pick the right villagers to gather their pitchforks and join you!

Every great caper takes a team (see The Sting, Ocean’s Eleven, Trading Places).  There may be someone leading the charge but it takes a village to pull off a victory. Smart change agents make sure they have the right villagers charging by their side. Here’s some to start looking for right now:

  1. EF Hutton: No, not the real E.F. Hutton (he’s deceased, be very, very worried if he shows up). You need the “opinion leader,” a team member with enough gravitas, experience and respect from the other team members that they pay attention when this person speaks.  In his book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, John Maxwell describes in “The Law of E.F. Hutton” that the person who is the “real” leader of the team is most likely not the official leader. When they speak, everyone listens.  Get this person on your side and you’ve won half the war.
  2. The Human Calculator: You know this person. They can calculate it all in their head, run data up, down and sideways and spit it out in record time. They look at data and see patterns others miss, usually saving you a few serious mistakes.  And it’s effortless for them, like breathing.
  3. The Historian: The Historian knows everything that has been tried before and may even know where the bodies were buried. Sometimes this person can be a bit of an Eeyore (“Well Sonny, we tried that in aught eight but it just didn’t fly”). The historian you’re looking for is the one who remembers bits and pieces of systems and research that were built for other projects that just might be useful and knows who worked on those projects.  You slice a great deal of learning curve by talking to people who have tried similar things.
  4. The Top Producer/Chief Rainmaker/Revenue Generating Machine: Often this person will be a contender for the EF Hutton slot but if not, they are a valuable source of feedback on what works and what doesn’t.
  5. The Fixer:  The backbone of many teams. This person can take a statement like “IT says it will take 200 hours to build the interface so they can’t get to it until next year,” roll the situation through their head and come out with “Okay, the platform they’re using in sprocket accounting is nearly the exact thing that we want and they have lots of bandwidth because we really only care about counting widgets here. They also have a student intern this summer, let’s hijack the intern and see if we can copy over the system and have the intern recode the smaller piece that needs to be changed.”  This is also the person that knows that Mary in Customer Service is dying to change her job and move into project management so she’ll volunteer her time for any task or project that might get her closer to that goal. They have lots of people’s cell numbers and can get them to answer day, night or holidays. They usually talk 800 miles per hour and you can see the wheels turning when they do.  They have lots of favors on deposit in the favor bank.  Very handy to have in your corner.
  6. The Front Person: This is your smooth talker. Speaking in perfect “corporate-speak” they are the official face of your change. They need to be well liked, reasonably respected and easily able to talk their way to those at the top of the house.
  7. The Executive Sponsor:  In an ideal world you’ll have an upper level sponsor who stands behind what you’re trying to do. You’ve convinced them of the importance of the plan and they have the will and ability to pull resources from other departments to help jumpstart your plan. They also are the first to back your Front Guy when they’re presenting to the top of the house. If you don’t have an executive sponsor, you will absolutely need to have #4 in your corner.

Draft each one of these players on your team well before you make any public announcements about your planned changes.  It’s usually going to take drinks, lunch or coffee for you to get them on board.  Be prepared to change your plan based on the feedback they give you. Let them punch holes in it and knock it around a bit. You’ll end up with a better plan.

What other team members have you found invaluable when you’re creating a change? Share your suggestions in the comments section.

P.S. If you’ve ever wanted a great explanation of exactly how Billy Ray Valentine and Louis Winthorpe III beat the Duke brothers on the commodities floor in Trading Places listen here.

Want to see all 10 Rules for Beginning a Turnaround? Start here.

book by Jeanne Goldie

Speed Read an Organization with our Easy Guide

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© Jeanne Goldie 2015