Posts Tagged ‘evidence’

Seek Inspiration!

November 19, 2015

authenticstamp

People inspire and sometimes, disappoint. I’ve been especially touched by these examples*:

  • A seasoned foundation executive who eschews misuse of power, develops new talent and prefers evidence to gossip. She shows me quiet confidence.
  • A couple who saw my need and quickly offered to share their home. They show me generosity.
  • A vibrant corporate retiree deeply informed by the chaos of war he experienced at a too-young age. This man  consistently offers kindness, insight, tolerance, wisdom and vision that transcends the urgent now. He encourages me to consider multiple perspectives.
  • A capable professional and fierce mother who fought relentlessly to develop a unique treatment that saved her child’s life. She shows me endurance.
  • An experienced civic leader with terrific inter-personal skills and great respect for others closes his notes with “peace.” He offers me calm in choppy waters.
  • A gracious lady recalls a deep misunderstanding that decades ago broke a vibrant relationship and sent her regrets. She demonstrates integrity.
  • A random victim of a merciless beating who was left for dead and endured years of difficult rehabilitation to simply walk and talk again. This man has  forgiven those who hurt him and altered his life. Now, he provides savvy advice, kind encouragement and important leadership to his family, church and community. He shows me resilience.
  • A  principled lawyer challenges corruption. She demonstrates resolve by speaking truth to power.

Costly Disappointments

With sadness, I could share a long rift of situations where people have deeply disappointed. People with ignorant, rigid, inflexible perspectives that play “keep away,” discard others and are self-absorbed. Those who provide examples of insecure and fearful actions that exclude talented, ethical resources. Those who manipulate, deceive and support unjust practices that assure the status quo and perpetuate politics. People who assure their friends get big favors. On any given workday, we each see and live these disappointments. These attitudes and actions represent enormous opportunity cost.

Internal Compass

We know authentic leaders make choices that inspire. They are learners, not knowers. They assure that power serves: others and those most vulnerable. They rebound. These characteristics are what endure and what engenders credibility. These features attract others. These are the people who support progress. It’s this conduct that supports high functioning partnerships, teams, coalitions and networks.

The attitudes and behaviors we can most influence are our own. Authentic leaders are driven by an internal compass that reflects key values. Although I make mistakes, I know my intentions: competence, candor, courage and compassion.

Who inspires you?

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 *This post recognizes, with gratitude, MS, Ks, TSK, KA, TP, TC, PJW, TM.

 

Constructive Contributions

July 17, 2014

monalisa

The critique or “crit” is a core activity in the Yale School of Art as well as other arts programs nationwide. This process happens in “the pool” if you are a student in the Photography Department and in “the pit” if you are in Painting and Printmaking. These are both spaces below the regular main floor which can exaggerate the emotional sense of an inspection.

Prompt Progress

An art student typically sits for nearly an hour while faculty and other students discuss their work. At the core of this process is intentionally constructive honesty. The objective: help the learner understand the distance between intentions and effect. It is supportive feedback that reframes effort and prompts developmental progress.

The crit provides vital wisdom for several reasons: it offers value from experience the student has not had and it reflects multiple sources. Critiques or feedback can have huge value in advancing our effectiveness if our own fragile egos don’t preclude progress. It works best when we have a learner attitude – regardless of age, stage or title.

Dialogic Review

With senior staff at a huge (multi-billion $) funder, we recently used a similar process. In what we call a “mark up,” models of program plans are the focus of experienced subject matter experts. In a facilitated review, the planned work is presented and considered against a rubric. Participants ask questions and express opinion about assumptions, barriers, facilitators, evidence and the relationship between the selected activities, inputs, and intended results. It is thoughtful and fun. It produces important dialogue as well as vital changes in the material.

Using a “mark up” or “crit” as a regular process can have great yield. Mature professionals welcome multiple perspectives. Then, they sort out what is valid and reliable. Ultimately, what’s produced is far better than the first draft. Constructive comment is a gift in any team or organization. Consider it an important way to adapt and retool your plans.

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

Great Plans Adjust

January 6, 2012

“The only thing we know about the future,” said Peter Drucker, a renowned management advisor, “is that it’s going to be different.”

This gives some important weight to thoughtful alteration and re-calibration. It’s very important to plan well from the start – but just as important to implement with care by adjusting along the way.

The world changes fast. It feels like the pace of change increases month-to-month. And scale grows exponentially, too. The “waves” are choppier. For example, the new normal in stock market swings isn’t a few dozen points in a day but 2-400 points. How can any plan be adequate, let alone savvy, when months pass from planning to action?

 David Kord Murray (a Silicon Valley innovation guru and former NASA staff) recommends a “fusion” of “strategic planning and tactical execution.” He advocates for adaptive management. We concur.

Delays Have Impact

Plans often fail because of poor implementation. The cues and conditions have changed by the time execution occurs. People often focus only on plan fidelity. Beware of inadequate attention to emerging information that affects analysis and should influence subsequent actions. Assumptions and even evidence that informed the initial plan may change – so tactics must, also.

Real-time, what’s vital is we recognize the implications of evolution in context and capabilities. Test your plans now for relevance and cogency…high scores there “win” over obsolescence and incoherence. Superstar athletes do…In hiking, climbing, skiing, and golf it’s vital to plan for the weather and “read” it as you proceed. It means you interpret during the competition and revise initial plans.

Fast Change

Adaptive management is a solution for the fast change we face in all the sectors – private, public and government. In a global knowledge economy, this requires some distinct competencies and experience. Sensing, analysis, interpretation, guiding are key. They can significantly influence resource allocation, integration, alignment and tactics.

Over time, with accountabilities and consequences, it’s possible to learn how to interpret emerging conditions and revise plans which enable success. The ability to demonstrate revision and improvisation are key markers of a strategist who manages well. So is thinking that “sees” top-down and bottom-up implications.

Flex & Twist

Prepare yourself and your team to flex, weave, bob, dance, turn, and twist. These are physical images that reflect adapting. These kinds of moves create Plan B. It’s important to anticipate changing plans as soon as you make them. Rigid may be tempting in conditions of uncertainty, but these days … it rarely gets results.

 –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

Seek Rigorous Evidence

August 27, 2011

Both scurvy and infant crib death offer insights about the value of evidence.

  • In 1747, British naval surgeon James Lind conducted an important experiment. He wanted to find a treatment for scurvy. Scurvy begins with gum disease, progresses to open wounds, internal bleeding and ultimately death. A variety of cures were proposed. Lind selected a dozen sailors from three dozen who suffered with scurvy. To six pairs he provided different treatment. Some were given cider, some oranges and lemons. Since we now know that scurvy is caused by lack of vitamin C, those who ate oranges and lemons recovered. Lind’s trial designed, collected and reviewed evidence.
  • Standard advice, years ago, was to place an infant to sleep in a crib on its stomach. In Baby & Child Care, the famous pediatrician Benjamin Spock advised against putting a baby to sleep on its back. It took almost twenty years to review evidence which conclusively identified the dangers of front-sleeping. Some estimate 60,000 infants died between 1970-88 because of this delay.

Useful Experiments

Good intentions and bad advice can certainly yield disastrous results. The imperative of life and death impact suggests we ought to get faster and far better at experiments that provide rigorous evidence for decisions. The choice about front or back-sleeping infants was never designed or intentional. Parent behavior and death incidents were studied for patterns. But, Lind’s action research did provide different antidotes to sick men.

 Ethical Design

It is strange that arbitrary decisions seem to have little ethical review while designed experiments face severe scrutiny. Yet, it is possible to establish a trial without denying others.

 It is simply a matter of locating an appropriate contrast or control. In early reading skill development research our clients did not deny service to any preschool students –  they simply identified children similar to those who participated in a special, enriched intervention program. This provided the experimental design which ensured claims could be made about the distinct contribution of the enriched intervention.

 Knowing is Not Doing

Despite Lind’s work centuries ago, scurvy is, regrettably, a disease that still affects malnourished people today. Knowing is not the same as doing. Spreading awareness of evidence or  transferring knowledge is an important process that requires time and resources. They are part of the reason that it took a long time for school districts and parents to adopt Kindergarten or for the public adoption of seat belts. Decades after the evidence is in, social marketing is actively promotes awareness about placing infants on their backs to sleep safely.

 Experiments  or “Wander-Squander”

Complex problems we barely understand preclude  making change. Discovery of what works requires experiments. A mindset that actively designs and executes trials is a critical step toward adaptation – a precursor to learning. What experiments are relevant to your work? Are you consistently seeking evidence for your own advice and actions?

Tim Harford, Adapt author, writes: “The alternative to controlled experiments are uncontrolled experiments.” We think this is an accurate description.  At our office we reference the thoughtless, uncoordinated  busyness of many activities as “wander-squander.”  Unfortunately, uncontrolled experiments dominate many work days for most people. And, there’s little or nothing that they teach us. Controlled experiments help us learn what works, what doesn’t and why.

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

So Facts Have A Chance – Lead With Values

June 6, 2011

 

What’s the best way to position change?

  • Connect to emotions through values and beliefs.
  • Support with dynamite facts.
  • Launch with specific and challenging objectives.

Yale studies have shown fictional newspaper headlines score differently with readers depending on resonance with their values.  Dan Kahan calls this “a culture war of fact.” Values and beliefs predispose one to reception of information. Simply put: a rational case is wholly inadequate to drive change.

 The Stubborn Status Quo

People and systems are desperately stubborn about keeping the status quo. Closed minds, preferences, established interests and other factors work hard to keep things the same. Regardless of how “broken,” the familiar is far preferred to new and different. This context is a fundamental reality in change management.

Inside organizations, managing change may be explicit or  embedded in other work. As an intentional adaption, change is often focused on efficiency or effectiveness.   Sometimes it’s competencies among sales staff, other times it might mean new processes in logistics and supply, purchasing or a software upgrade. In large organizations this special work is conceived and managed by organization development (OD) or effectiveness (OE) functions.

 People & Emotion

Regardless of the context it always means working with people. It very often requires learning. It also translates to deliberate attention to culture, strategy, and structures. This post brings a gentle reminder: it is never devoid of emotion.

 In your role as a manager and leader, you have special considerations in paving the way for new and different. Citing a clear case of need is logical and necessary. However, research shows that progress is rarely affected by facts alone. Six decades ago Stanford psychologist Leon Festinger wrote “A man with a conviction is a hard man to change. Tell him you disagree and he turns away. Show him facts or figures and he fails to see your point.”

Even when evidence is unequivocal, “motivated reasoning” or pre-existing beliefs skew opinion and behavior far more than facts. An enthusiastic and urgent message that resonates with emotion is powerful.  Positive and negative feelings about others, things and ideas occur far more rapidly (in milliseconds) than our conscious thought. Humans push away perceptions of threat; we pull comforting information close.

 Facts Alone Fail

Have you ever failed with a direct, unadorned attempt to persuade via facts? Sometimes this doesn’t change minds but empowers the current point of view. It can result in wrong views held more tenaciously. This underscores why appeals to (and support for) emotions are essential to convince people to take the journey from their current reality to a new one.

Given the power of prior beliefs, if you want someone to accept new evidence, be sure to offer it in a way that avoids a defensive emotional reaction. So the facts have a chance, lead with values.

  –Lisa Wyatt Knowlton, Ed. D. is a strategy architect and 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.

See : www.pwkinc.com

Sainthood and The Devil’s Advocate

May 8, 2011

 

St. Paul

 

What’s a weighted indicator of great talent? It  is something savvy employers seek and education systems are challenged to teach: critical thinking.

 Observation, Reflection, Reason

When a parent suggests a child consider the kindness of strangers may not be what it first appears – they teach critical thinking. Prompts that help to question assumptions about a nice man who needs “help” to find a lost puppy launches a new way of interpreting cues and context. The disciplined process of actively evaluating information gathered by observation, reflection and reason is critical thinking.

It happens when: 

  • There’s an urgent need to discover why cheese melts on a processing belt,
  • A complex social issue like teen pregnancy  resists intervention, and
  • An educator puzzles over why a student isn’t grasping a new concept. 

People use critical thinking skills to conceptualize, analyze, synthesize and apply alternative remedies to solve problems. An important part of critical thinking is considering the significance of claims. This raises questions like: What explanations are there for this? What else do we need to know? Recognizing unstated values, examining relationships between propositions and pattern detection are also features of critical thinking.

Discard Rote

In a knowledge economy, rote responses are often inadequate. BP Group Chief Executive John Browne, who resigned in the wake of serious criticism about ruthless cost-cutting that may have compromised safety after the Texas City Refinery explosion, said “We need to ask more disagreeable questions.”

“Intellectual disobedience” or critical thinking offers better access to and vital participation in the highly dynamic world we live in now. It is essential to innovation and development. When a person judges, decides, reflects, discerns or assesses conclusions they employ a fluid intelligence.

Don’t confuse critical thinking with criticism. The qualifier of critical as it precedes thinking means importance, central or crucial. Its origin is the ancient Greek, kriterion, which means standards. When understood in the context of a skill or approach, “critical” doesn’t mean disapproval or negative. Critical thinking, in fact, has many very positive and important uses.

Green Light, Red Light

Some cultures promote and foster it far better than others. In a safe work place, critical thinking can happen without penalty. In fact, it is aggressively sought and highly prized in many settings. Critical thinking advances the chance of securing an intended result by taking the initiative to review options.  It’s key to adaptation. 

But, if “pleasing” is de rigeur and “challenge” is not safe, independent thought is often squelched to secure approval. People, organizations, and cultures that focus on a single “right” answer limit knowledge. They also teach a form of obedience that better serves social cohesion (think Stepford Wives).  In contrast, the process of searching can deeply engage the human mind and spirit. 

Quality Assurance

The Catholic Church employs critical thinking. During canonization, the Vatican appoints someone to ensure thorough review of proposed candidates. It was the job of the  Devil’s Advocate to ask hard questions in the process of selecting a new saint. The current reference for the Devil’s Advocate is now Promoter of Justice. Importantly, the questions raised are a quality assurance method!

The capacity to intellectually imagine and explore different ways of thinking and acting is vital to growth. It is essential to manage and lead change.  How can civil society, enterprise, our environment or our world improve without thoughtful reflection or questioning “authority”?

Lisa Wyatt, Ed. D. is a strategy architect and 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. See : www.pwkinc.com


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