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.

Rolling out your Plan for World Domination? Do this first!

bullhorn to deliver messages to employees

Is your plan brilliant? Not if they don’t hear it. Three things to consider when delivering a new plan to your team.

Eureka! You’ve done it! You figured out the master plan to explode your team’s revenues, destroy the competition, and single-handedly catapult your company to the head of the Fortune 500 list. But before you roll it out to the troops, here are three things to figure out first! (Details, details,  I know. Clearly I am a killjoy.)

The HOW:

What tool(s) will you use to deliver your brilliant plan? First, consider what you know about your team (henchmen/evil co-conspirators/devoted followers– feel free to select the description that applies to your bunch):

  • Are they readers? Note, I am not asking if they can read, (although in some audiences that is a very important question), I am asking if reading is their first choice for learning new information. Hint: if your team would prefer to listen to “The One Minute Manager” or “Who Moved My Cheese?” on an MP3, they aren’t readers.
  • If they are readers, do you need to sum up the whole idea in 3 bullet points or deliver the plan complete with a story-type framework and pictures? Do they just read “above the fold” (i.e. preview pane only) in an email?
  • Not big readers?  Can you record it in a podcast type format? Or create a video? (Don’t just read from a powerpoint if you create a video, make it interesting, after all, world domination is on the line here!)
  • Do they need an in-person meeting for the information to penetrate? (And will you need to confiscate all of the blackberries, cell phones and technical devices at this meeting?)
  • Will a webinar work? If you use a webinar, will the team multitask throughout the webinar and miss the most salient points? (See below for a Jeanne’s formula of the vector at which the quantity of multitasking during webinars obliterates any and all value of the information being presented).
  • Any special considerations? Need to accommodate an international team and reduce all “slang” and idiomatic language? (Much harder than it may seem.  Go back through these first few bullets and eliminate the American idiomatic language. Good. Now do it again. One more time. Nope, still got some in there.)

The WHO?

Give serious thought to who is the best person to deliver your message. Internal? External? Peer? Computer generated Hologram of a dead celebrity? Consider your options:

  • Should it be delivered by a trainer? Or would it be better to bring an “outsider” in the form of a consultant or third party in to deliver the message? What about having peers or respected colleagues roll it to their teams? Some of the best change teams have influential team members become subject matter experts in key areas of the change plan and help deliver that information from the team. They then become the “go to” people for the team as the team works through the change. This helps the entire team “own” the outcomes right away, and work together through difficulties.
  • If the message will take more than 30 minutes to deliver, consider using multiple presenters, if only to vary the type of voice and to keep the team awake. It is the rare individual who is fascinating for more than 20 minutes (ever notice that TED talks are short? And those folks are pretty darn fascinating).
  • If the message is vital to the ongoing success of the team’s mission, of such critical nature that life as the team knows it is about to change, make sure you rehearse that delivery several times. (Back to those TED talks folks, you do know they rehearse it right? And that they work with consultants to help them with their delivery when they make it to the “big” conference?) If possible, get some non-team members to critique it (spouses, kids and friends in other fields come in handy here) to punch some holes in it. They may not know all the technical terms but they will know when you’re boring, vague, or delivering bravado without substance. Try teenagers who are not feeling too kindly towards you at the moment. They will not pull their punches.

The FOLLOW UP:

And now that you’ve laid out your brilliant plan…

vector of listening vs absorption in a presentation

You will have a “need for speed” if laying out your master plan in a room full of multitasking listeners!

  1. How are you going to make sure that the team begins to act on what they learned? Ending a rousing presentation with “Go Forth and Conquer” is good, but not if they forget to “Conquer” because they stopped off at the 2:1 Happy Hour immediately afterwards.
  2. Is there a follow up plan to reinforce the plan within smaller groups/teams in the coming months?
  3. Is there a way to measure the participation of different sub groups in the plan? If the work flow goes Team A to Team B to Team C, nothing may be coming out of Team C but it may be because Team B isn’t playing by the new rules. Figure out how you’ll check for effectiveness.
  4. Did you plan any sort of recognition or public acclaim for those who embrace the plan and drive results? Better yet did you get the “buy in” of a few highly respected, key team members to visibly model the behaviors you’re looking for before you even rolled the plan? (For advice on who you want, read this.) You want to make sure the thought leaders and star players are on board because if the only people following the new plan are your “weaker” players, this sort of recognition will backfire.
book by Jeanne Goldie

Speed Read an Organization with our Easy Guide

Even if your plan doesn’t quite resemble world domination, you still want to work out these key items before you roll out any major changes to your team.  Need to know what else to consider before changing things up at the office? Read our 10.5 rules on turnaround here.  If you’d like our free guide, Reading the Terrain which helps you “speed read” an organization, just sign up for our weekly newsletter.

What else do you think you need to consider? share your thoughts in the comment section. Or feel free to share your plan for world domination and we’ll critique it.

Is your “Confirmation Bias” Backing you into a Corner?

are your confirmation biases blinding you?

Confirmation Bias + Misplaced focus = Epic Failure

Confirmation Bias is a common phenomenon where humans view large quantities of evidence and choose to give greater weight (or even all the weight) to those items that support their theories. Think of it as a recipe for disaster:

Confirmation bias + Excess focus on the areas we know best (regardless of their importance)Epic Failures a.k.a. Projects that consume a ton of energy and yield little in the way of results.

In her recent book, “The Upside of Down” Megan McArdle gives two great examples of “confirmation bias”, one dealing with the “Truthers” who claim the 9/11 bombings were a secret government project and the other example an examination of how different groups view the reasons for the recent financial crisis, each “team” selecting the evidence that support their theory and rejecting other bits of evidence.

Lately it has become easier and easier for all of us to ignore or reject information that runs contrary to our internal views. Depending on your politics you can select a news channel that will then present the news in a slant that will endlessly confirm your world view. Any dissenting opinions will be cut off, minimized or mocked.  The speed at which an internet based news society disseminates information also allows for a minimum of in-depth journalism, much less fact checking.

Unfortunately we do that inside of the business world as well. Labels such as “negative,” “nit-picky” or “impractical” can be accurate, but they can also be used to ignore dissent, or worse yet, critical red flags. As a business leader, if you’re committed to doing great things, you need to be open to listening to your critics. There may be a nugget of gold in there.

Years ago I worked at a dot com. After working there for several months, I was told we’d be launching free websites for real estate agents, then charging for them at some distant later point. Having come from an accounting background I asked some questions about the timing of the future revenues vs. the cost of extending the free sites for an indefinite time. I remember being told very clearly (and somewhat condescendingly,) that I “didn’t understand the model.” I went home that evening, questioning myself, my brain, even my ability to function in a changing world. I ran the numbers, researched other similar models, and calculated the rough costs of the tens of thousands of dollars I knew that the company was spending each day. (Our “burn rate” was to the tune of about 500K per week). I decided I was simply “not getting it” clearly a dinosaur unprepared for the new world of the internet based business model. I was 33 years old and a dinosaur.

I was wrong. I understood the model. The company, however, did not. They shut down 8 months later, having been unable to convert the “business model” into a sustainable business fast enough. The investors were unwilling to provide any more funds as well. They apparently didn’t understand the “business model” either.

As you create your plan, your vision, listen to the dissenters. Ask questions, probe for why. Punch holes in your own plan. Play devil’s advocate and picture a model that operates on entirely different assumptions than the model you chose. Why is your model more valid? Where are your confirmation biases? When you’ve uncovered them, and examined the dissenting evidence and factored it into the model, that’s when you’re ready to begin!

Need some more ideas on how to make sure your project is ready to go? Start here.

Worried about your blind spots? Read this.

Afraid you aren’t seeing the bubble you live in? Try this.

book by Jeanne Goldie

Speed Read an Organization with our Easy Guide

A great way to see all the moving parts in an organization is to review the lists of questions found in our free field guide. It’s free, simply sign up for our weekly newsletter (and no we won’t spam you or drive you nuts with crazy emails. We sent our a digest one time a week of relevant articles. That’s it.) There’s a box either at the right or just below this for you to sign up. And you’ll get your free guide right away.

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 Afraid of Being Seen?

hand emerging from behind red theatre curtain

“All the world is a stage.” Are you hiding behind the curtain?

The first time I posted one of my 52 Week Turnaround articles on Facebook my hand trembled the whole time. Because my personal Facebook page was connected to people I had known for years. I had visions of people stumbling across posts, complete with scathing comments. (Not to mention the endless funky spam comments — What is it with sex companies trying to hide posts with headers about hockey jerseys? ) Most especially I imagined my ex-husband, ex-boyfriends, high school friends, and college acquaintances, all doubling over in laughter as they read. And not in a good way.

A few of whom are probably shaking their heads as they read this going “Seriously? Jeanne’s afraid of nothing, except slugs, so what the hell is she talking about?” Because many of them know me as being pretty fearless. I was an AIDS activist in the early 90’s (yes, the kind that gets arrested and gets spit on by bigots at demonstrations), worked in a famously dangerous public housing authority (where shootings were common and my car was rocked the first time I drove into one of the projects), and had my life and the lives of my team threatened by a mentally unstable client on the same job. I fought the foster care system.  I’ve held people while they were dying horrible deaths from AIDS and moved drugs from the dead to the living. I’ve faced large, furious public audiences who hated the company or agency I was representing, negotiated with picketers and delivered a lot of bad news to people who weren’t too happy to hear it. I’ve been on TV and radio dozens of times, sometimes on pleasant topics but also representing companies on unpleasant subjects and in difficult situations. A running joke at a company I worked at many years ago was that “There’s only one person with any balls around here and it’s Jeanne.”

Why was this different? All of that bravery was done for someone else’s plan or cause. I delivered an employer’s message (under some pretty rocky circumstances, but still, not Jeanne’s message). I fought for friends and a child who had AIDS (Shirley MacClaine’s “Give my daughter the shot!!!” pales compared to me in a medical standoff) but I wasn’t ill. I executed someone else’s organizational change plan.

But what happens when you put YOU out there, your baby, your business, your dream? There are times when it is easier for me to fight for someone else’s cause than to fight for my own. So I worry. Here’s a sampling of this past month’s worries:

  • If I comment on the divide between men and women in technology and business will I not be able to get hired anywhere ever again, be branded an “agitator”?
  • Is my thinking too superficial? Will the smart people I went to school with be like, “Dear God, how the hell did they ever let Jeanne into college? Clearly it was a clerical error.”
  • How many frigging typos, run on sentences, and/or passive voice sentences did I leave in that article I posted at five this morning before running off to a meeting? (A lot, I guarantee it).
  • What if my book that is coming out gets really sucky reviews? Should I publish under a pseudonym?
  • Are there slugs in Belgium and what are the odds of one of them sliming its way across the podium while I’m presenting? (They didn’t, but I did consider the possibility).

Sometimes, as loud as we may appear, we are still trying to remain invisible. Suzanne Evans, a business coach who specializes in being loud, proud and outspoken talks about “Stepping into Discomfort”, taking risks and being “visible” in her book, The Way you Do Anything is the Way you Do Everything. And when Suzanne talks about being visible, she means warts and all, not a safe “First to volunteer to lead the United Way committee” or post “bland inoffensive business articles on LinkedIn” sort of way.

I particularly loved her quote, “Learn fast that taking up less space and surrounding yourself with people who want to go unnoticed, and stay under the radar won’t get you more business, better clients, or cutting edge marketing ideas. Success takes up space.”

We all know someone at work who’s primary career skill is keeping their head down, making sure to dodge into a safe hole when the lawnmower comes overhead.  And it may even work for them. But at some point, it’s a pretty hollow victory. I’ve taken my chances on being memorable. And so far, it has worked, creating new opportunities, new connections and new experiences.

So here I am.  Visible. Taking up space. Saying what I think, sharing what I know, both good and bad. And YOU need to put yourself out there as well. You didn’t get this far without learning a few things. If nothing else, I know to never follow the Fulton County Rat Poison Lady. And that’s something everyone needs to know.

And yes, I’m posting this on Facebook.

Of course if you would prefer to remain invisible, please feel free to post a comment on exactly how many grammatical errors I have committed in this post. You can do it anonymously, I promise.

book by Jeanne Goldie

Speed Read an Organization with our Easy Guide

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The Sunday Night Dreads: 5 ways to shake them. Starting Today

 

sunday night burnout

Looking forward to Monday?

A common phenomenon for many corporate and non-profit professionals is the “Sunday Night Dreads”. A combination of burnout, frustration, fear and a sinking feeling in your stomach, it occurs when you dread going back to work on Monday. And you know you’ve hit rock bottom when the “Sunday Night Dreads” morph into the “Saturday mid-afternoon blues” or even worse, the “Saturday Ten A.M. slump.” The “Dreads” are usually temporarily cured with large quantities of television viewing, the addictive substance of your choice (from chocolate to the hard stuff), some form of antacid and a healthy sprinkling of denial until morning rolls around. But what if that’s not working anymore? Here’s a hint, it never was working. What can you do about it?

1. Change your Venue.

Sometimes it’s just time to go. Pick up stakes and get the heck out. That means replacing the dread time with resume building / networking / “asking for a conversation” time with people who are in an industry or job role that gets you excited again. Better yet, assign some time on Saturday morning to do this so you can rest easy on Sunday night with a few conversations scheduled for the following week. But before you go, read on, because sometimes your junk will just follow you to the next venue.

2. Build a Better set of Allies.

Current thinking is that you (and your income) are the average of the five people you surround yourself with the most. Your five may be co-workers, friends, drinking buddies or your family but it could be time to upgrade. I don’t recommend ditching your spouse and kids (they can get kind of sensitive about that) but it may be time to change who you socialize with. Who is doing what you want to do? How did they get there? Petulant answers like “Their father was the CEO and he bought them a position” get you nowhere, pick a different person and don’t be so quick to dismiss everyone as “not worthy”. What do they do in their day that is materially different than how you spend your time in a day? Look at your team members who also appear to be successful and very different from you. Is there something they’re doing you might be willing to try? Get to know them and see if you have some common ground. If your current set of allies is only, and perhaps with the best of intentions, reinforcing your “stuck” feeling, you need to expand your horizons. One of my most motivational moments ever was when I realized that a colleague I considered a moron was making significantly more income than I was. My normal default would be to decry the “unfairness” of it all, topped off with a soothing declaration of what a much better human being I am. Instead, I simply resolved that if that “moron” could make that kind of income, I could do much better than she/he did. And the following year I did.

3. Change One Thing this Week.

And another next week. Can you change just one small thing this week on how you spend your time or who you talk to? Maybe change the way you deal with difficult conversations at work. If you normally dodge them, confront them head on (some suggestions here). Can you take a walk/run/workout for 30 minutes? And can you listen to a TED Talk or business book during that time? Can you set aside 15 minutes to talk to someone different at work, perhaps in a different business line or with a different background?   Make one small change this week, one that takes 30 minutes or less. And then keep building on it each week. There’s some science showing that a series of small “micro” changes can actually lead to more lasting success than massive “overnight” changes. Take 2 minutes right now to write down that tiny change you’ll make this week. And stick it on a post it and look at it on Sunday night. And then do it Monday morning. And stick a reminder in your calendar for Wednesday to make sure you followed through.

4. Throw Yourself into Something Totally New, and a little Strange, that you may Suck at.

We tend to stay in one set of activities or line of learning. If we’re athletic we do sports, watch sports and coach sports. Academically inclined? They know you at the local library, Amazon Book delivery has your number and PBS counts on you for every pledge drive. What if you were to do something you were NOT likely to excel at on your first try? I’m all for playing to your strengths, and believe that 95% of the time you should, but to shake up your thinking you need to have “beginner’s brain” in one aspect of your life. If you’re an engineer take a public speaking class (maybe you’re great at public speaking, if you are, how do you feel about modern dance?). Do something that your friends, tribe, allies would say “Well that’s about the last thing I’d expect him/her to do”  Try Tai chi, play an instrument, join a Table Tennis league, learn a computer programming language, learn Tagalog. Try something where you are Rank Amateur and do it in a setting that involves other people. It will have you talking and engaging with people you normally don’t interact with and “wake up” your brain to other possibilities you haven’t considered. In a tiny way it changes the “Story of You.”  You are now a chemical engineer who also is a dancer. A marketer who is learning computer programming. A top performing salesman who speaks Tagalog.  Open your brain, change your story and see where it leads. And talk to the people you meet while you’re learning. You may find that one of them is the connection you need to start your next career adventure.

5. “If you can’t be with the job you love, love the one you’re with”, by changing it to suit your needs.

What if you could reinvent the place you currently work at to be your dream job? Can you create an entrepreneurial startup inside of the corporate structure? Create a new product or strategy that will increase revenue or reduce costs? Is there a product or project that you, the top salesperson, with an elementary  command of  conversational Tagalog, are the perfect person to take on? Is there a win-win situation where you and your employer can both grow, change and create something entirely new? We’ll be talking a lot about intrapreneurship and reinvention in the next few weeks so subscribe at right to catch the articles.

Got a friend who’s ready to “end it all” every Sunday evening? Do them a favor and forward this article to them. And let me know in the comments what you decided to do this week. (Even it was breaking into the jar of chocolate frosting in the pantry and sticking potato chips in it. Yup, been there, done that. It doesn’t work and it’s pretty disgusting after awhile. But, hey, do what you got to do).

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.

Lean Startups in the Government Sector

lean startups

It’s not easy, but it CAN be done!
Learn what to do and what to avoid!

Brussels, February 2014.  As promised, here’s a copy of the presentation that I delivered in Brussels on February 5th. The videos cover the benefits, challenges and approaches to creating Lean Startups in Government agencies, and also how to find areas of opportunity. I also touch on some successful models of Government Lean projects in the U.S. and the links to those are below. The volume will start almost immediately, so while I’d love to believe you and all your friends are gathered around to watch this presentation…you might want to grab a set of headphones! My fantastic co-presenter Carl Danneels’ presentation on Lean Startups in the Corporate world can be found here. Lean Startups in Government Part 1: Lean Startups in the Government Sector, Part 2: Lean Startups in the Government Sector, Part 3:

Resources for Successful Models:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/can-government-learn-how-to-fail-fast/2013/04/12/9cca9c36-9e07-11e2-a941-a19bce7af755_story.html http://fedscoop.com/radio/government-as-a-startup-with-the-lean-startup-author-eric-ries/ http://www.innovatenycschools.org/ http://www.startuplessonslearned.com/2012/05/lean-government.html http://fedscoop.com/nasa-open-government-team-broadens-focus-to-innovation/ https://www.edsurge.com/n/2013-03-26-the-lean-startup-model-goes-to-school Tennessee State projects: Scott Ritenour,  sritenour ( AT) gmail.com

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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.

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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!

 

 

What can “Breaking Bad” teach us about Organizational Change?

Learn a few lessons from Breaking Bad, in this tongue in cheek article by Richard Lewis, an Organizational Development Consultant in the UK. What can a mild mannered science teacher teach us about employee engagement, brand management and marketing?

Read it here: Breaking Bad’s Management Lessons

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. And no, we won’t spam you, you’ll just get our weekly update of articles.

Steve Simpson and his Unwritten Ground Rules on Meetings

If you’re leading an organization through a complex change you don’t have time for ineffective meetings. If you’re like me you’ve sat through any number of meetings where the majority of the participants are “praying to the blackberry gods” (i.e. hands in lap, frantically typing and head bowed to read messages the entire time). How can you tighten up the focus and read the undercurrents of what’s going on in the room at the same time?

Steve Simpson of Australia has provided some great tips in his series of videos on the Unwritten Ground Rules and specifically how they relate to business meetings. He addresses what you can read into a corporate culture just by observing their meetings, and also gives some key pointers on how to make meetings more effective, while taking an organization’s hidden culture into account.

Enjoy! (hey, if you’re reading this in a cube, put the headphones on BEFORE clicking!)

What’s the most effective strategy you’ve seen for holding effective meetings? How do you keep important meetings on track so that you’ve got something accomplished at the end? Please share in the comments box!

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Speed Read an Organization with our Easy Guide

If you’d like to learn more about reading YOUR organizations culture, get our free guide “Reading the Terrain” by subscribing in the box at right. This guide will provide you with some great questions to ask yourself about multiple aspects of the organizations structure and may show some key details you’re overlooking.  Also check out our 10 Rules to consider before beginning any turnaround plan.

© Jeanne Goldie 2015