Posts Tagged ‘decisions’

Smart(er) Measures

July 1, 2015

math

Which of these challenges is most important to solve: teen pregnancy, hunger, diabetes, or drunk driving?

Where should we focus time and money to improve lives and our communities?

Just as sports and commerce have been recast by data, the health field is leading the way for different mental models that help us calculate value in the social sector. In the US last year, more than 600,000 people died from heart disease while about 75,000 died from diabetes. Does that make heart disease eight times worse than diabetes?

We’re well aware death is inevitable. Still, many conditions aren’t terminal but very costly for individuals and society. In fact, the non-fatal conditions account for the vast majority of health costs. With this rationale, health economists have created new measures. One is a unit identified as “disability-adjusted life years” or DALYs. DALYs calculate the years of healthy life. A DALY is generated by identifying the years of life lost when a person dies (compared with a projected average without the condition). Then, the total years lived with a disability are tallied. A DALY is generated based on estimates of how nonfatal conditions detract from perfect health.

Using this new measurement unit, one can rank health problems. For example, in 2012, scientists reported 200,000 more deaths by lung cancer than traffic accidents worldwide. But, when calculated in DALYs, road injuries are far worse. Most lung cancer deaths are among older folks. Those who tend to die in car accidents with frequency are young – in their 20s and 30s. Importantly, road injuries cause about 40 times more disabilities when people survive them. Should we invest in anti-smoking or road safety campaigns?

Mexico has moved to this kind of analysis for treatments. Now, childhood cancer treatments and emergency care for car accidents are high priorities. Australia has also used DALYs to focus on childhood obesity and other issues. The application of DALYs in the US identifies low back pain, depression and anxiety as enormous health concerns. They generate substantial costs because of prevalence along with significant pain and suffering.

New statistics offer different and valuable viewpoints. They can threaten the status quo. Capable leaders use them to support change and progress. DALYs are a great example of how, with new measures, we can enable rational decisions. Isn’t that smarter? In fact, it can affect how we live and die.

Lisa Wyatt, Ed.D. is chief strategy officer and managing partner in Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See: www.pwkinc.com

Red Flags for Managing Better

October 2, 2014

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Managers lead, supervise, mentor and motivate others. Their skills and knowledge have huge influence in your organization’s effectiveness. Minimizing workplace stress, supporting productivity and high performance in your organization requires capable management.

What does poor management look like? To avoid it, and to support talent development, it’s helpful to recognize misbehavior.

This list of seven  general symptoms below isn’t exhaustive, but can signal when feedback, training, further education or changing staff is necessary. In this post and my next, I  describe behaviors and a  “red flag” in bold face copy.

1. When asked about a colleague’s new title and responsibilities eyes roll. An unprompted extensive review of a senior executive’s incompetence. Comments on (or participation in) a workplace romance between staff – one supervising the other. Gossip about or sponsorship of an unqualified friend  who “got in” as a new hire. This behavior kills morale and pollutes culture. Red flag: Focused on and feeds politics.

2. Berating, belittling, threatening and irate stream of consciousness comments to subordinates or colleagues. This way of communicating generates interpersonal friction and resentment. Red flag: Abrasive communication.

3. Unwilling to distribute responsibilities and develop others. Controlling all assignments and micro-managing others is  a sure way to demoralize staff. Red flag: Won’t delegate.

4. Grabs credit and blames others. Rarely shows interest or interaction with staff or colleagues but spends nearly all their time with a boss or those at the top of the organization chart. Red flag: Only manages up.

5. Operating one step from disaster and running from fire to fire is exhausting and unnecessary. Priorities, goals, and time management are crucial to guide others. Red flag: Little or no anticipation.

6. Collects informatin but acts paralyzed. The manager won’t take action or own choices. Wishy-washy avoidance earns little or no respect from team members. Red flag: No ownership and indecisive.

7. Hubris and self-absorption are both  unattractive and toxic to learning. They also preclude managing a team or function that involves others. Few or no questions. Red flag:Knows everything.

If any of these signals are present in  your workplace, take corrective action. Consistently provide explicit instructions on the right attitudes and actions. And, most important, model  expectations daily. (See the following post for more common red flags!)

Lisa Wyatt, Ed.D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See: www.pwkinc.com

 

 

Strategy: A Two-Step Dance

September 25, 2014

Very little planned change in any organization, community or individual occurs without strategy. It’s a core competence that requires deliberate attention. Far too often, it shows up in  a simplistic process at the annual retreat. Sometimes it is implicit and embedded in conversations about routine functions.

But, great managers know that strategy is the map that provides direction to daily decisions and actions. Once talent and capital are in hand, strategy is job 1. It has  just two steps and both are critical.

 

strat2x2

The matrix above offers a quick way to think about the two steps. Strategy formulation and execution are equally important. One without the other has little value. When both are sound then there’s “a  good chance” of securing intended progress. When one or both are flawed, we can explain deficits in progress and bad results.

Accountability provides the “glue” for any effort that relies on strategy to improve and perform. It makes both steps relevant by specifying individual and shared ownership. In any organization, accountability occurs through relationships and structures that review performance. Formal and informal reviews specify expectations, competencies, attributes and results among participants. Without accountability –  wander, squander, delays, decline and failure are likely. With it, the “dance” can deliver value.

When assessing your program or organization’s progress, look carefully at formulation and execution. Ensure there are explicit high-quality processes for both, along with robust accountability.

(For lots more on strategy, see past tinker posts, like: Ten Good Strategy Questions-July 2010, Avoid Strategy Sabotage-October 2012, Great Plans Adjust-June 2012)

Lisa Wyatt, Ed.D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See: www.pwkinc.com

Reduce Decision Anxiety

August 26, 2013

coffee

Amazon.com  offers more than 25 million book titles. Baskin Robbins used to boast 31 flavors, then they sold 100. Cold Stone Creamery claims 11.5 million ways to have “your” ice cream. Starbucks has identified 87,000 drink combinations.

These appeals to personalization may work well in marketing consumer goods. But, the vast range of variation can also overwhelm. Do you, your colleagues or teams ever feel swamped?

The volume of data and options involved in efforts to create strategies, generate forecasts, prepare communications, support evaluation or other common functions makes getting to decisions tough sledding. Research has shown too many choices generates significant anxiety. In fact, it creates pressure, frustration, and paralysis.

Coping With  Volume

Creating an environment for success means support for decision-making. Coping with information overload is an important responsibility for managing and leading. To start, ask these questions:

  • What are the priorities this decision must satisfy?
  • What can I do to simplify the information I have and need?
  • What are the patterns in data?
  • How might the data be categorized?

When faced with complexity, try these three actions:

  • At the start, reduce the total number of alternatives
  • Identify, understand and explain variation among alternatives
  • Engage expert review and recommendations to offer perspective

These questions and actions help focus the “infolanche” we face in our work.  Help your team  manage frustration and make great choices.

Lisa Wyatt, Ed.D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See: www.pwkinc.com

Avoid Strategy Sabotage

October 22, 2012

A primary challenge in strategy development is anticipating the future – correctly. It’s a tall order. Strategy creates public and private value. It’s central to every organization and team.

Determining the actions most likely to secure your intended results employs strategic planning. Creating strategy, for a program or entire organization, generally requires a series of explicit steps. While a routine function, the process of strategy development offers plenty of opportunity for error.

In this list, I’ve noted the most common “sins.” Consider these as you guard against missteps and improve the quality of your strategy development.

1. Failure to know where you are now. Clarity about your current situation is essential if you are pointing towards a new target. Strategy has everything to do with decisions about the optimal route for the outcome you intend. If you don’t know the current situation then you have no good data on how to create forward action. Shaky ground isn’t equal to a solid foundation – so it’s vital to get this part right.

2. Difficulty in detecting patterns. Your “read” of the context and forecast for the future is important to analysis, interpretation and application. Seeing patterns and anticipating new ones are vital to strategy development. Testing whether others “see” things the same or different and knowing why is a good idea.

3. Lack of choice points. A clear specification of issues and their perceived implications are vital in strategy development. Framing both the challenges which impede progress and the context which will catalyze motion are critical to decisions about forward actions.

4. Unwillingness to acknowledge bias. We all have opinions and perspectives based on prior experience and training. How deeply these are held and whether we can accommodate and explore new mental models affects the discussions and review of strategy. Being aware of bias can mitigate it.

5. Absence of actionable measures. A few and the right measures are important as touchstones for determining progress. To inform decisions or actions, measurement must be part of any strategy. It provides feedback data to confirm existing direction and to indicate necessary course corrections. Winston Churchill said it.” However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.”

6. Reluctance to review capacity. It’s possible to desire a new outcome, but the potential for achieving it relies heavily on what assets your program or organization has in hand for execution. Do you have the skillful talent integral to the work ahead as well along with the financial resources and time to make results a real possibility? An “internal audit” will surface both needs and assumptions about organization/team capacity that are key to strategy success.

7. Inadequate engagement. Who participates in strategy development matters a lot. It’s also vital to the subsequent socialization and implementation of strategy. Be sure dissent and minority opinions are aired to “kick” strategy. Careful consideration should be given to who participates and when in your process.

Lisa Wyatt, Ed. D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillip Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See : www.pwkinc.com.

Lessons From The Bread Guy

August 12, 2012

Whole grain or white ?

If you don’t eat there – it’s likely you’ve seen the Panera Bread name. Ron Shaich is the founder, chairman and co-CEO. He’s running an immensely popular chain of bakery-cafes. It’s a growing business and trend-setter in “quick casual” dining. I think he’s a fascinating manager-leader with lessons to share.

Why?

People: The Weighted Factor

While his first and early interest was profit — his primary one, now, is people. He believes how they are organized and work together mean everything to organization performance. This guy tells applicants in interviews they have a shared objective: value.  How can the individual and the employer provide mutual value to each other? He considers the interview an important chance to relax traditional exchanges and identify the intersection of an individual’s skills with their potential to make a contribution.

Key to the Panera Bread culture is a rule: no jerks.  Shaich says that his “no jerk” rule started out as a more precise anatomical reference but has been sanitized. As important, he focuses his team on  tangled, tough work with optimism and mastery. He welcomes complex challenges because tackling them yields a competitive advantage. He reasons:  if the work is simple, then any other organization can do it well, too.

Delivery & Discovery Muscles

In a recent New York Times interview, Shaich offers insights on an effective organization.  He says how work gets done is the “delivery muscle.’” Shaich calls improvement and innovation efforts the “discovery muscle.” While the delivery muscle is feels safe, analytic and rational, he believes it frequently overwhelms strategies and related decisions. He thinks this muscle can encourage disconnected roles and functions internally.

He believes companies and other organizations often err because the discovery muscle is under-developed . The discovery muscle sees new patterns and approaches. It represents getting ahead of current thinking and leaps of faith that trust instinct and pursue risk. The discovery muscle forces focus on the whole organization and responsive action with a forward view.

Learning Requires Inquiry

Shaich considers his style a combination of both directed and adaptive. He is consistently reflective. In his own words: “I am constantly asking about everything – what works and what doesn’t.”  The Panera recipe is successful. In short, it looks like this: great talent, mastery, lots of questions, and balanced muscles.

This leader is a learner who discovers and delivers.

Lisa Wyatt, Ed. D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillip Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See : www.pwkinc.com

10 Good Questions on Strategy

July 30, 2012

We all face external factors that change fast, frequently and unpredictably. Regardless of sector, work is intensely dynamic. Are your strategy development and related planning processes responsive enough?

Re-tool and Refine

Strategy marshals the resources and actions that enable an organization to secure intended results. Strategy is crucial to the decisions that guide any program or organization. More and more, experts suggest the effort on strategy should equal that spent on operations. Getting strategy “right” matters a lot.

Analysis, Inclusion, Speed

Old routines, inadequate sensing, biased inputs, erroneous assumptions, poor timing, delays and other complexities in strategy development can severely limit program and organizational potential. Creating a clear, disciplined process for strategy that considers diagnosis to commitment, execution and assessment is fundamental. Better strategy and strategic management values analysis, inclusion and speed.

Strategy Development

Here are ten good questions to use as you retool strategy to improve performance:

  • What outcomes define success for your organization?
  • Who holds responsibility for strategy?
  • What are your key issues, critical decisions, data and uncertainties?
  •  What framework exists for colleagues to inform, develop, implement and revise strategy?
  • How are strategic priorities named and resources allocated?
  • What internal communications are used to effectively express strategy and related plans?
  • How are cross-organizational projects handled?
  • Are savvy, fast decisions made through clear processes to support strategy?
  • How are directors/trustees and partners involved in the development and execution of strategy?
  • How is the implementation of strategy and related plans tracked?

Lisa Wyatt, Ed. D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillip Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See : www.pwkinc.com

Break Throughs Take Will and Capacity

June 17, 2012

Yiannis Boutaris, 70, a successful Greek winemaker has been mayor of Thessaloniki for 18 months. Thessaloniki, Greece, is a sprawling city of 800,000 people on the Aegean Sea. It is second in size only to Athens.

Bankrupt & Corrupt

Boutaris inherited a city on the brink of bankruptcy (nearly $130 million in debt), with outdated laws and regulations, corruption, manufacturing decline and few tourists. His predecessor and 17 colleagues have been indicted – accused of stealing about $38 million.

Under these conditions, pundits gave the new mayor little prospect for success. Bloated municipal employment, inadequate basic services, discord with Turkey, and tangled regulations were all accepted as “normal.” However, this wiry septuagenarian who sports a pierced earring and frequently punctuates his point of view with profanity, knows two fundamental factors vital for change: will and capacity.

Will & Capacity

Will is the practical and political determination to persist. Will endures both obstacles and critics. It prevails. Boutaris advises: “When you propose the slightest change, people say no. If you do it all at once, it is a different thing. Something has to break through.” He adds: “You cannot step back, if you step back you lose.”

Capacity is about the strategic management acumen to make smart, hard choices that enable performance. Capacity reflects knowledge, skills, training and experience. Boutaris has made unpopular but effective decisions about budgets, employees, public policy and external relations. He is changing practices with a focus on different and better.

Whether a community, an organization or individual, will and capacity are requisites for change to occur.

Boutaris is undeterred in his reforms. (For more, see NYT Saturday Profile.) To date he has begun recycling programs, resumed relations with Turkey, grown tourism, and instituted unheard of practices at City Hall: job descriptions, goals and evaluations. He has cut city costs by 30%. One man insists on making his hometown a place of progress and growth.

I bet it happens.

Lisa Wyatt, Ed. D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillip Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See : www.pwkinc.com

Safe & Sound At Work

February 5, 2012

This photo displays the  teamwork that’s essential  to complete a tough job.

Would you risk your life with people at work?

Perhaps more relevant: Is trust or fear most prevalent in your workplace? Are there non-stop “plays” about whose influence will prevail and who you will support?

Safety is a vital issue and key to culture in our organizations. The “safety” I reference has little to do with Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards. It has everything to do with integrity and accountability. About a year ago I read a great interview with Dominic Orr, CEO of Aruba Networks. He talked about one management principle he relies on and its benefits. The principle is intellectual honesty.

Less Politics

Orr has intentionally built a culture which yields a competitive advantage for his organization. This CEO stomps on politics at work. Politics are practically about who gets what. A classic definition is “the acquisition of power.”

Orr considers politics  a distraction that requires great energy to perpetuate and manage. He is very aware of human nature and says politics precludes focus. Without accountability, the challenges of any enterprise can easily be translated to ego that involves defending roles, “territory,” statements or actions.

He insists on (and models) behavior which supports  far more vital concerns. Simply put and publicly stated: “less politics.” Politics, according to Orr, are about ego and defending positions – when humility and exploration that ensures learning serves both relationships and results far better. He “breaks up potential blocks of ice that may become icebergs” in his organization.  Instead, pressure is on clear, crisp expectations and measureable milestones.

Banished Inhibitions

So, what’s his action recipe?  Orr encourages plenty of feedback to preclude any inhibitions about sharing perspective and authentic contributions . He seeks unfiltered and active comment about how he (and others) manage. It is safe for employees to speak up, to contribute and to challenge.

He also freely provides candid, private guidance to employees.  So that staff know energy and attention is on the issue – not the person – emails may include sections that indicate: “start of intellectual honesty moment” and close with “end moment.” Orr tells people to avoid “digging in” on their perspective.

Although individuals are held accountable, far better decisions get made when multiple views get aired and rational criterion applied. An environment that prizes intellectual honesty allows this to happen. It feels safe. It also enables reflection as a routine habit so that both learning and progress occurs. Without the discipline of candor, parallel drama about who’s up and who’s down is fostered and the real work can’t get much attention.

People Trip Sometimes

Recently, the news carried a big story about a cruise ship running aground. “I tripped and fell in the lifeboat,” said the Italian captain who departed a sinking ship prematurely. Obviously, fear and chaos can influence judgment. In this case, the captain probably thought an honest response was too risky. But, his manufactured retort simply garnered more scorn.

All of us are momentarily “stupid” – sometimes. Judgment lapses and in time we feel foolish about a bad choice. The critical issue is how we act next. Disclosure that acknowledges the error, whether caused by emotion, pressure or some other factor, shows humanity. It can endear you to others and build strong bonds.

Seek Mind-Share

Creating a safe culture means there is authentic trust, interdependence and accountability. It is an indicator of a sound organization. The world and our work is so complex we must engage mind-share and commitment at work – not simply time. Leaders who manage well set the example of intellectual honesty. This provides the conditions for people, organizations and communities to soar.

Lisa Wyatt, Ed. D. is a strategy architect and partner in Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See : www.pwkinc.com

Great Questions – Better Strategy

September 18, 2011

Asking great questions is a powerful technique for many reasons.

Because strategy is a fundamental issue in any organization’s performance – asking the right questions can be critical in assessing strengths, confusion and inefficiencies.

Seven Strategy Questions

Harvard professor Charles Williams wrote Seven Strategy Questions: A Simple Approach for Better Execution. Here, I’ve adapted his questions to address multiple sectors.

 1. Who is your organization’s target audience – the primary beneficiary of the value you seek to create?

2. How do organization values influence prioritization of stakeholders?

3. Which performance variables are most influential and are they carefully monitored?

4. What do you signal is in or out with the choices you make?

5. How are you ensuring connections inside your organization with external realities?

6. Is employee commitment to help each other robust?

7. What difficult uncertainties cause persistent, sleepless anxiety for leadership?

Application

If you and others answer these questions – the same – your strategy will be better and shared. Ask them often, as needed, change the answers. Williams has advice about how to ask questions. He suggests questions are:

Posed face-to-face to encourage authentic engagement.

Asked throughout the organization, not just at the top.

Essential tools for functional leaders since they are central to performance.

A vital way to debate what is right, not who is right.

A prompt for new actions.

Question  Avoidance

When it’s not safe or appropriate to ask questions openly, performance suffers. Symptoms can include poor coordination, confusion, redundancy, and low achievement. Communities, organizations and people unwilling or unable to ask questions pose special challenges. This often indicates a lack of accountability. Performance doesn’t matter enough.

We spend lots of time generating questions, thinking about them, seeking answers to them with and for others. They’re central to our enterprise. Questions about strategy are an important feature of a high-performance culture. They can provoke thinking, decisions and action. Welcome them. Learn from them.

Lisa Wyatt Knowlton, Ed. D. is a partner in Phillip Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. She is also an author and  W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. For more, see : www.pwkinc.com


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