Tuesday, 24 March 2020

A Simple Framework for Managing the Unknown

Leaders struggle the most when they are faced with the unknown because they can’t rely on their experience to make decisions. They lack a tested map to guide them through new and complex situations like the one we are facing now.

Some leaders default to quick responses, ignoring the measured decision-making process they use in more familiar situations. I knew a leader who provided assurances to employees without the data to support them. He jeopardized long-term credibility for the short-term appearance of control.  When this happens, speed of action trumps pragmatic assessment, encouraging “gut feel” intuition or wishful thinking to guide their actions. Both approaches are highly risky and dangerous.

Leaders who make the best decisions adopt a process to evaluate a new situation. Each step helps build a framework for information gathering, issue identification, alternative generation and selection. There are four actions I have seen leaders use the most.

Assess the level of importance
This consideration provides context to the situation by determining its relevance to organizational goals and the strategies to achieve them. How does this situation impact our ability to achieve our goals? Without answering this question, everything urgent appears to be important.

Define what information is required
Specifying what data is needed to make a decision helps define the situation. Determining what information exists and what needs sourcing is the first step to building a fact base to use in creating and testing options. It also demonstrates that leaders are taking concrete actions to move forward.

Identify sources of expertise (internal and external) 
Leaders who know people with insights and knowledge about similar situations is the next best thing to having it themselves. Identifying these resources and speaking with them builds understanding, identifies options and pros and cons for each. Often, people outside the industry hold the best information and experience.

Consider organizational implications of different courses of action
Capabilities and culture are important considerations when assessing options. What will work well in one organization may not work well in another. Considering options through these lenses can predict how successful they will be if implemented. 

Combining these actions creates a simple framework for managing unknown situations. It allows leaders to quickly determine the importance of the decision; the information required for making it; sources of experience to tap into; and internal considerations that will impact each option’s effectiveness.

Managing the unknown has become ‘business as usual’ for most leaders and is a must-have capability. Building a simple framework around a new situation is the best preparation to address it, one that will help leaders now and in the future.


Thursday, 2 January 2020

What 3 words will help you achieve your goals in 2020?

You can learn a lot from taking stock of the past year and setting goals for the next one. Through retrospection, realization and aspiration, you can build the skill of goal achievement.

have been using Chris Brogan's "My Three Words" approach to annual planning and evaluation for seven years. After choosing your goals for the year, you select three words that will guide your mindsets, actions and behaviour toward attaining them. At the end of the year, you assess how effective each word was in keeping you on track toward success.

My primary goal for 2019 was to finish the first draft of my second book. The words I choose to guide me were leapspace and determined.

Leap was my prompt to take risks and not play it safe. The premise and format of my book are nontraditional, and I didn't want to compromise on my concept. I would rather receive criticism for something true to my vision than praise for something ordinary. Leap helped me make decisions that aligned with my ambition, some that were out of my comfort zone.

Space was my guide for managing my calendar. I needed to balance work and writing. Every consulting assignment I committed to would mean less time to write, but each would provide new insights on how to lead change. The balance between writing and consulting felt right for 2019, although clients’ needs influenced my calendar more than the space I intended for them.
Determined was my trigger word to exhibit drive, perseverance and tenacity. When barriers appeared, I pushed through them. I also used this word as a mantra: “you are determined, do it.” Determined played a similar role to leap. In hindsight, a different word might have been more helpful.

When I moved to a new office in September, I neglected to transfer my three words Post-It note on my monitor. Without visual reminders, leapspace and determined lost a lot of their power. They became vague notions instead of concrete productivity tools. I won’t let this happen again.

My three words for 2019 helped me stay focussed on my goal when I used them. I will work on using my new words consistently this year.

My primary goal for 2020 is to finish my book. Once I have completed my first draft, I will progress to the editing and publishing phases. This is my launch year!

The three words to guide me to success are precisionforward and enjoy.

Precision will direct the quality of my writing. Given my chosen format, I must make every word count and delete the ones that don't. I will need to cull some chapters to reach my target length. Precision will be a factor in selecting the ones to be cut. It will also direct how I communicate about the book. I must be clear and concise to get noticed.

Forward is about making continual progress. There is no time to stall or rest if I am going to be successful. Regardless of setbacks and delays, I must keep moving forward. As long as I do so, I will achieve my goal.

Enjoy is a new type of word for me. It’s a reminder that your path can be as fulfilling and pleasurable as your destination. Achieving a goal without being conscious of how you did it loses part of its value. Self-awareness leads to improvement.

I feel inspired by my new three words posted on my monitor. Now it’s time to put them to work. What three words will guide you to achieve your 2020 goals? There is no time to waste.