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3 Reasons to Write it Down Before Action

March 18, 2013 Comments off

pencilLast week was full of surprises.  Teams converged to address a very sticky, emotional and difficult issue.  No surprise, it also involved money, faulty decisions and blame all around. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Due to the complexity of the issues involved, I decided to try to create a factual summary of the past and what led up to the present situation. I presented the timeline to all parties to help us all recast the sequence of events. By trying to remove emotion and script only facts along a timeline, we realized, like a lot of difficult decisions, many people and situations conspired consciously or unconsciously to bring us to where we were.  Reducing the facts to a timeline and having everyone agree on what happened quickly allowed us to move forward with the present challenge.  So, write it down, use the facts and you can gain:

1. Clarity

2. Perspective and

3. Build a reasonable plan going forward

The exercise allowed me to also see there was error with “my team” and “their team” – and once we took responsibility, it opened the door to collectively take responsibility and work together on solving what got us there.  We focused on the problem, not the people.  Try it sometime.

Fix That E Mail Address – Before It’s Too Late

February 27, 2013 Comments off

atsignCredibility, consistency and striving for the correct first impressions.  Then, there’s the little detail about your e mail address.  In the land of godaddy instant websites and e mail combined the ability to link your gmail address to virtually any server; why aren’t we doing that?  Meaning to establish, as start-ups we have at least gone through the motions of creating a small web presence and a decent, credible address name.  Then again, there’s the best and worst, as presented by Fast Company – would you have your taxes done by someone with an e mail address taxplaya at hotmail dot com?  Enjoy.

Inclusive Management, Messaging and Trust

February 8, 2013 Comments off

slide-39-638I recently found a great report – a global study called the Edelman Trust Barometer.  There’s a lot to learn from this report, but the key take aways for me are the following:

  1. A trusting culture requires a dynamic, not “top down” management – here they call it Inclusive Management – and it just doesn’t mean getting people’s opinions.
  2. “Credentialed Experts” are far and away more trusted than CEO’s as communicators.
  3. People (customers and employees) need to hear a message 3 to 5 times from various sources to change behavior or influence their opinion.
  4. CEO’s and Government Officials – Hit the bottom for worldwide trustworthiness in delivering a message

There’s much more to this report and a lot of learning.  Perhaps its time to have your “expert” on staff start delivering your message 3 to 5 times across multiple communication channels to ensure you have a trustworthy image that you can live up to.  In our world of increased transparency, you may not have any option but to have integrity.

Doping and Finance – Similar?

January 31, 2013 Comments off

bikemoneyAfter reading the “Post Lance Future of Doping” by my friend Michael Joyner, I took a moment to realize how similar the entire “doping culture” and drive to win by athletes has a very similar parallel in our corporate world and financial markets.  Especially in light of Armstrong’s interview with Oprah; and Michael’s perspective.

In Michael’s post he uses the statement, “Most people, including journalists, fail to understand that a 1% edge in something like a 10,000m running race means the doper wins by 100m, a huge margin.   This also means that there is no need to use industrial strength doping. ”  This is similar to the fact that most people, including journalists, fail to understand a 1% edge to a hedge fund has a similar huge margin, and a 1% edge to a CEO and his corporate team could mean the difference between a huge and marginal bonus. A tempting incentive to cheat, just a little.

Joyner goes on to say,  “Some argue that all the sports federations, leagues, sponsors and TV networks want is the appearance of clean play and that depending on the situation they intentionally or unintentionally turn a blind eye toward doping.”  As the financial industry grew before it imploded (think just recent history: Arthur Anderson, World Com, Tyco, then think the mortgage crisis),   An entire industry was building around those institutions getting the 1% margin, its difficult to fire a really good customer or client that’s growing like wildfire.

Finally, he makes the point: “Everyone was doping therefore it is “dope or be marginalized”, that is more or less one of the arguments Lance made to Oprah.   Just like the average person and journalist do not understand what 1% is worth, most don’t understand what it is to be immersed in a micro-culture where the only things that matter are the last race or workout or the next race or workout.”  Sound similar to quarterly earnings or investment performance?

I think in the end, we are studying human nature and the ebb and flows of ethical behavior in our society.  Perhaps we should think about studying the core of human behavior and ensuring we parents and educators instill ethical decision making early in our next generation.  We can only hope for a better future, but we are, indeed, human.

2013 Habits – Do With Discipline

January 12, 2013 Comments off

megaphoneRecently, I was working with a start-up on developing a reporting template to update their investors and Board to ensure their stakeholders were well informed.  It is so important to ensure the communication channel is open to any stakeholder in your business.  It is surprising how many businesses start with the greatest of intentions, have a great opening salvo of communication and then drift off into only communicating when you have to – Annual Meetings, needing money, etc.

It is almost as if business leaders think their stakeholders absorb their business activity by osmosis.  Then, when they do need something, they are frustrated to learn their audience is far from ready to take action because they are struggling to absorb what has happened since the last update.

Stakeholder communication is critical, but not required – until you need something.  Think about making it a habit to communicate and solicit feedback on your progress, on a regular basis.  I guarantee it will help when you need help.

Be Thankful for your 2012/2013 Challenges!

November 20, 2012 Comments off

Lift-off of the Dnepr launch vehicle

It’s Thanksgiving week.  In addition to faith, friends, family, and health, I am grateful I started this blog habit.  I have been introduced to a variety of interesting people and I am thankful for my regular readers and creative exchanges that have resulted.

Today, Dr. Michael Joyner posted his case for optimism about the future.  In it he lists the following challenges from 1968/1969 that, at the time we thought were “unsolvable”

  • The Berlin Wall.
  • The Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia to suppress a movement calling for minimal levels of free expression.
  • George Wallace, an avowed racist, ran for President and got 13.5% percent of the vote.
  • Career choices available to women were extremely limited, and opportunities for women and girls to participate in things like competitive sports were minimal.
  • Rivers like the Cuyahoga near Cleveland were so polluted they sometimes caught on fire.
  • China and India were economic basket cases.
  • North Vietnam invaded South Vietnam during Tet.
  • Places like Tucson (where I grew up) were surrounded by intercontinental ballistic missile silos.  Air raid sirens were tested at regular intervals in case we needed to be warned of an impending nuclear attack.
  • The Red Sox had still not won the World Series after trading Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1918 – the so-called Curse of the Bambino.

So, as we look at next year in building our strategic plans or think about the world our children will live in the future, we might want to put our challenges in perspective of human progress.  It might be time to express gratitude and next week, let’s find something big to solve!

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Three Steps to Know you are Pointed Toward a Successful Initiative

November 12, 2012 Comments off
Steps

Steps (Photo credit: susanvg)

In the last post, I spoke about Passionate Certainty, how do you know your passion and direction align.  Further, how do you take steps to develop an initiative personally or professionally?  To select an initiative, it takes thought and planning to ensure you are pointing your team in the right direction.  There are many layers below these steps, but they are, by nature simple.

  1. Assess – review as much information as possible.  In the start-up world its called market validation.  Who’s in the business, why, is this idea/initiative solving a real problem that people are willing to pay money for?  Does this initiative align with your company’s vision/mission (or your own?).  If you moved forward, what would you consider to be a success metric(s)?
  2. Analyze – drill your assessment into measurable metrics.  It could be features/benefits of the product, customer or expert reviews, or other quantitative or qualitative measures. The important part is to go through the exercise.  Write it up and report it to your team or a reliable peer or expert.  See if it makes sense when you say it out loud and you truly have an initiative that creates value in the mind of your audience.
  3. Act – Go out into the market.  See other products/services in action.  Talk to experts, ask questions.  If you have a demonstration item to present, have them look at it.  If not see if you can assess what your initiative can do to improve productivity or profits.  Do it on a small scale, measure it and determine if you can scale it.

One you “act” make sure it is on a very small scale, measure your success and go back to #1 before you decide to scale the idea.  Did it achieve your objectives, profitably (in your personal world, did it satisfy you and align with your beliefs system?).  If so, we are ready to move to Diligent Pursuit.  If not, a failure at this level is a success. Few resources were spent, and either a pivot strategy was developed, or you agreed to abandon the initiative in pursuit of a more attractive opportunity.

In completing a business development strategy, following these steps ensured our message aligned with our customers.  We assessed the market and its perceptions, analyzed our target customers and acted through interviews to ensure we it our target.  It works with concepts like marketing and products that serve customer needs.

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