A Disappearing Art: Surfacing and Testing Assumptions

download (31)ASSUMPTIONS: WHAT ARE THEY?

Webster’s 1828 Dictionary describes an assumption as: The act of taking for granted, or supposing a thing without proof; supposition

Assumptions are sometimes a little difficult to understand, but they’re a daily part of every person’s life.

WHERE DO WE MAKE ASSUMPTIONS?

Every decision made by a human being is bedded in assumptions, it has to be. Here are some common, everyday decision areas with their assumptions:

Machinery: We assume that the coffee maker will work, the car will start, the airplane will actually leave the ground – you get the idea.

Travel: To most of us travel is a part of any normal day. We assume that a certain route will be the shortest, that traffic will be at certain levels, that travel times can be predicted. Our decision on our route is based on assumptions from these areas.

Situations: Things get sticky here. We make assumptions about how situations will unfold or continue to unfold based on the decision facing us. Business and organizational strategies are heavily grounded in assumptions made here.

Relationships: Assumptions made within relationships will have drastic results on the ongoing health

Why Are Organisations So Bad At This?

download (32)One of the key points which comes out from a lot of research about learning (and from my own experience) is that people’s attitude towards what they are meant to learn makes a huge difference to how well they learn it.

If people are in a positive state of mind, if they are:

  • curious
  • interested
  • excited
  • energised

and if they can see the personal benefits of learning, then they will learn far more easily. For a start, they will pay more attention, which is a crucial first step towards learning and remembering anything.

On the other hand, if they turn up for a training course feeling:

  • tired
  • indifferent
  • resistant
  • unclear
  • sceptical
  • anxious

and doubtful about the purpose of being there, they will be less likely to listen, learn and remember.

And yet, that’s exactly how many people feel when they come to a training session.

Because their organisations have put virtually no effort into getting them into a positive state. Organisations often spend huge amounts of money providing training for people but put virtually no time or effort into getting them into a state where they can make the most of that training.

It doesn’t take a lot to get

Secrets of Adaptable Leaders

download (30)Why do some companies consistently outperform their peers? When companies that face identical circumstances are compared, one variable stands out among the winners- leadership quality. The best leaders are able to effectively influence three determinants of organizational performance-adaptation, efficiency, and human resources.

Adaptation involves changes made to cope with external threats and to exploit opportunities created by new technology, changing markets, and the shifting needs and expectations of customers. The ability to adapt becomes even more important when the external environment is turbulent and uncertain, yet it’s often more difficult the larger the size of an organization.

Here are seven things leaders can do to better manage change and ensure their companies are able to adapt amid uncertainty.

Start With a Culture That Rewards Change

The many difficulties involved in fostering adaptation in large organizations make it essential to have a culture with firmly embedded values and beliefs that support innovation and change. Relevant values include flexibility, continuous improvement, initiative, and a quest for excellence.

Instead of viewing adaptation as an infrequent reaction to dramatic, one- time events, it is better to view it as a continuous process

5 Ways to Boost Accountability In Your Organization

images (9)“By making your employees more accountable, you make your organization more productive.”

Those words from famed General Electric CEO Jack Welch still ring true today.

Holding people accountable for results is the foundation of an organization’s performance; it’s management 101. Yet it appears there is a gap between knowing and doing.

Why do some organizations succeed at instilling accountability as a core element of their culture and others fall short? What can leaders do to create a culture of accountability? Our research on top performing companies identified five actions that have the greatest impact on an organization’s ability to build a culture of accountability and achieve results.

1. Translate Strategy into Specific Objectives.

Beyond developing a shared picture of the company’s strategic direction it is necessary to clarify priorities and translate these into specific department goals. This increases the likelihood that implementation plans will be targeted toward high impact outcomes. In addition, clear department goals facilitate goal-setting at the individual level, which enhances accountability.

2. Coordinate Actions Across Levels and Work Units and Follow Up on Progress.

Coordinating and monitoring activity is a critical aspect of execution and is

A Good Quality Management System Can Help an Organisation Immensely

download (26)One of the primary things that help an organisation to become better and more effective is having a good quality management system in place. It is a process that helps to review and keep in check all the operations that are being carried out in the organisation. These include the likes of keeping a tab on the products and services of the business, reviewing the various ongoing activities, etc.

Therefore, it can be understood that a quality management system is quite important for any business – especially if it is a medium sized enterprise, as it paves the way for growth and development of the organisation.

Ways in which it can help

Here are some of the ways in which QMS can prove to be quite helpful for your organisation.

• Increase in the level of efficiency – QMS aims to increase the efficiency of a business enterprise by reducing meaningless or redundant activities. Thus, it helps a great deal in laying down guidelines for all employees to follow, helping the employees to keep their activities in check, providing proper actions when dealing with training and development

What’s Got Your Goat?

download (29)Some time back my son and I participated in a service project to help a young family clean out a back yard. At one time the yard was a wonderful oasis with a swimming pool, lush garden, and beautiful walkways. The once beautiful oasis was neglected over time and became an overgrown jungle of northwest foliage with its prime resident being thorny blackberry bushes. The blackberry bushes were six feet tall and covered most of the yard. What a prickly mess!

Fortunate for my son and I the homeowner had already cleared out the blackberry bushes prior to us participating in the service project. I asked the homeowner if he hired some goats to do the job. For those of you who may not know, goats are voracious herbivores and can clear out even the toughest blackberry bushes. The homeowner replied that he didn’t use goats but rather used pesticides and lots of manual labor to clear the yard of the blackberry bushes. The job got done, but it took the homeowner a lot of time and energy to clear the yard. This situation

How to Drive Company Growth Part 2: Strategy

download (28)In the last article, we discussed situations that may result in a failure to move the company forward. Even if the business is currently thriving, if you lose sight of the long-term, it may end up causing more harm in the future. Burning through resources will not lead to successful company and a lost leader will not lead to a successful team.

The solution to this problem: small business management. First, let us quickly define small business management as the organization and direction of the different activities that occur within a company. The two aspects of small business management include: strategy and implementation. This article will focus on strategy- what it means and how to develop a successful one for your company. The next article will focus more on implementation.

What is strategy? Strategy is the big picture that your company has developed and is striving towards. As the leader of your company and as such, you want to create an effective strategy and also be able to see it through. A strong leader is able to take action and implement the plans.

The steps to

How to Become a Project Manager: Can You Learn by Watching?

download (27)Going on a formal project management course is a must for an aspiring project manager. However, there are a number of additional approaches you can use to develop your project management skills. Direct experience is often cited as the ultimate teacher and most would agree that this is undoubtedly true. The problem is though, that you may not always be in the ideal position to be gaining direct experience. In this case, a secondary approach can be taken. I call it the ‘watch, analyse and learn’ strategy.

For this approach to be effective, you need to be in a situation where you have the opportunity to observe a project or a number of projects. Typically, there are always projects going on in any business today. This is essentially due to the fast pace at which the business environment is changing. I find that the most ideal situation requires that you are sitting among or very close to where the project activity is occurring. Because of the modern trend of open plan offices, you get to hear some of the chatter between project team

How Simple Is Your Vision? Great! Now Make It Simpler!

download (24)The leader is frustrated. “I don’t know why I’m having such trouble getting the team to buy-in to the company vision! It couldn’t be simpler!”

Then he shows me the company vision. It’s five paragraphs long. It contains sentences like, “To enhance the long-term value of the investment dollars entrusted to us by our shareholders,” and “To consistently strive to improve efficiency and productivity through learning, sharing, and implementing best practices.” It reeks of having been written by a committee-a committee that probably included at least three lawyers.

He wonders why he’s not getting buy-in to the vision? It’s because, contrary to his assertion, it could be simpler. It should be simpler. In fact, it must be simpler. Much, much, much simpler.

I’m going to take you into the deep, dark past. I’m going to take you to the 1960s, and then to the 1980s.

In the 60s, there was a musical group known as the Beatles. You can look them up-they’re on Wikipedia. When they were first starting out, one of the things that drove them was a shared vision, and it was this:

They were going

How to Become a Project Manager – Do You Really Need to Do Formal Training?

download (23)Looking around, I am sure that you have observed good managers and leaders who have little or no formal training. You may feel that you have an inherent ability and have seen others manage in a variety of ways and so are prepared for the job without having to go to project management school.

To some extent, you may be right. After all, isn’t project management or management of any kind just common sense? It’s about organising such that specific outcomes are achieved either operationally or for a specific project and then leading the troops to success. Surely, anyone can organise themselves so as to achieve outcomes. We do it all the time e.g. organise a dinner party, a family holiday or a house move. You know what budget you have for entertaining, holidaying or moving house. You also know what the deadlines are and are able to have the dinner party ready on time or get your family to the airport before the flight.

While there is an element of truth in the fact that some individuals may have an inherent ability, this alone

Can You Control?

download (25)Seems like everyone I know, myself included, wants to control something- and for many of us, control everything. We all know that is impossible (it rains when I don’t want it to… ), but yet persist in trying. Is it all hopeless?

I was in an amazing conference this past week on Being A Leader which included work on neuroscience. I am also in an intensive study program on neuroscience and affecting change in the conversations we have utilizing neuroscience. It is fascinating and I want to share a few things I have discovered.

I had something happen where someone got verbally aggressive toward me (completely unprovoked). I had a physical reaction. I thought to myself “this is not about you” and “there is no real threat, we are in public and he is not going to hurt you”. I noticed as time went on, I was physically holding myself still so as to not ‘get hurt’ or ‘attacked’ again. I had to really work on talking to myself to do this. Then, it happened again and was more aggressive than before. I sat still

Is Your Company Stuck in a Circle of Frustration

images (8)The business alignment process starts with taking three steps. The first step is recognizing when a company is misaligned and not making progress on fixing the problem. Those companies and their unhappy owners are stuck in the Circle of Frustration. Escape is difficult because the owner’s behaviors and decisions keep repeating themselves.

From my experience there are at least three signs of the Circle of Frustration:

1) Repeatedly asking versions of “Why is it so difficult?”

2) Grasping at clichés

3) Circular logic – “When things get better then we can start dealing with the problems.”

Let’s take a closer look at each sign.

Lyrics from ” Why is everything so difficult?”

Every frustrated business owner I have ever worked with has their version of the song, “Why is it so difficult?” Like country music, the different versions of the song have a pattern. Instead of references to lost love, broken pickup trucks, rodeos and beer, the misaligned company song usually references horrible meetings, lost talent, reply all email battles and fighting fires all day every day. Most business owners have asked versions of these questions:

“Why is it so difficult

What Can a Business Coaching Company Do for You?

download (21)Should you consider hiring a business coach to help you further your business, career or even personal life?

People sometimes are weary before hiring a coaching company because they do not know if it is worth the investment. Now this can stem from the uncertainty of future results or the initial investment of crucial time and money. When you are running a company, you do not want to waste your resources. And no business coaching company wants you to. Rather, they want to help you develop skills that are essential to your progression and future business success. Read the information below to better gauge if this seems like the right fit for you.

What exactly can working with a business coaching company do for you?

They can help change the effectiveness and overall work ethic of your employees and teams. The most important part of coaching is that it is about cultivating a true relationship between the individuals, NOT a simple transaction. Interesting data shows how, although coaches are not specifically hired to help with people’s private life, often times, the line between personal and

Creating a FIRST IMPRESSION That Becomes the LASTing One!

download (20)For any product or a brand to get established and become popular, much depends on the first impression it gives to people. Businesses allocate huge budgets towards making their brand/product more and more popular and heartily accepted by the end-users. However, a ‘First Impression’ is the first step towards building a Brand Image – be it a product, service, an organization, or even an individual.

According to many ‘Leadership Skills‘ development experts, a ‘First Impression’ is a notion that is felt when an individual comes into a direct or indirect contact with either another individual, object, place or a situation. The event of a meeting between two sides for matrimonial purposes is the perfect example to be imagined to explain best a ‘First Impression’. No doubt, both sides put up their best foot to the fore!

Such a ‘First’ impression may or may not produce the desired experience of pleasant emotions, may or may not be a lasting one or simply may change over a period of time. Consider a bright business prospect being contacted either in person, on by phone or through an e-Mail.

How Effective Will a Business Coaching Company Be?

download (22)In a previous post regarding business coaching companies, we discussed what such companies can do to help your business. They will work with your business to establish a partnership that will help you reach your goals.

We have established that working with a coach truly does produce results. The next question is: just how effective will it be? Will the results in the future truly offset the current investment?

We understand that only a marginal impact may not be enough to justify hiring a business coach but the International Coaching Federation has research that shows that there are clear benefits that arise for the individual and the company as a whole.

Each individual is unique in terms of skills s/he possesses and how s/he naturally is. Some people are very confident, others great public speakers. Here enters a business coach to present new perspectives and develop these skills.

Individuals that have gone through different programs have commented saying that it presented them with a better understanding of who they are as a person- where they feel confident and what they need to work on. Just to

What To Do When Your Boss Is Younger Than You Are

download (19)What have you always pictured your boss looking like? If you are anything like me, you’ve always pictured them as a grumpy old man. Or a grumpy old woman if you want to get all modern. However, there is one thing that I’ve never really pictured my boss as being – younger than I am! However, this is starting to happen. Firms are starting to put Gen-X folks into senior management positions. What should you do if this happens to when you are in the CIO position?

What’s Going On?

So just exactly how did you end up having the CIO job, but working for someone who is younger than you are? It turns out that one of those natural generational shifts is currently underway. The baby boomers who have been running things are now starting to reach retirement age. What this means for firms is that they are starting to replace their leaving senior management with members of the next generation: Gen-X. The Gen-X’ers were born between 1965 and 1980. This switch is happening at a lot of firms that you may recognize: McDonalds,

I Gotta Know

download (18)I love to learn. I read voraciously, always have since I was a little girl. I pay attention to people, to things in the world, to what is happening. I was raised by parents who valued learning, and I adopted their philosophy. You might be thinking- that is great, so what? Here is the thing, the drive to know can also be limiting.

I am so driven to know that when I make a mistake, I get upset with myself. I am much better about it after years of practice but it is still an unconscious automatic reaction to my mistakes (I am OK with other’s mistakes, as long as they fess up and fix them!). I am limited because I don’t like open-ended questions, and I stop discovering as soon as I have ‘the’ answer.

I am really committed to empowering people and especially women. I have this notion that we, together, can end the gender gap both in pay and influence, in my lifetime. Everything seems aligned for this- it is a hot topic. And I am still committed to that.

However, when I

Why Aren’t Our Networks Staying Up

download (17)Does anyone besides me remember the phone system? You could be just about anywhere in the world at any time and you could pick up a phone, call someone, and your call would go right through. The Plain Old Telephone System (POTS) just worked. Now nothing is ever perfect and the POTS wasn’t perfect either, but it was 99.999% perfect which meant that it only didn’t work for about 5 minutes per year. Clearly, despite the importance of information technology, the networks that we’re designing and building today don’t work anywhere this reliably. Why not?

Network Outages Seem To Be A Part Of Life

Back in the day, when the phone network was “the network”, an outage was a big deal. It got stories written about it in papers and people talked about it on TV. The reason that it was such a big deal was because it didn’t happen very often. Things have certainly changed. In the first half of 2015 alone the NYSE halted trading because of a technical glitch and United Airlines had to ground all of their airlines because of

5 Steps To Better Relationships With Your Subordinates

download (16)How can you make your business team more productive? Today’s employees aren’t drones stuck in cubicles like a Dilbert cartoon. Your subordinates live in a social media world and expect personal engagement. Here are 5 ways to better relationships with your subordinates:

Know Yourself

The first step is to connect more deeply with your inner self and to use that self-realization as the basis for your leadership. Connecting to your callings, and learning to love and trust your intuition gives you confidence. When you act from fear and doubt, you won’t motivate anyone else to support organizational change; however, when you are sure of yourself, you inspire your subordinates to trust you.

Know Your Subordinates

Research shows that the most effective leaders have a high emotional intelligence, meaning they understand people and can read their thoughts and feelings. One way to become better at emotional intuition is to get to know your subordinates. Spend time with them and find out about their families, their interests outside of work, and their particular fears, strengths, and dreams. As you build personal relationships with subordinates they will develop trust in

5 Ways to Make Transparency Work With KPIs

images (7)There’s a glass wall between the waiting room and the workshop at the windscreen shop where I took my new car to have its – you guessed it – windscreen replaced last week. I could watch the whole process, if I wanted, while sipping as many espressos as I fancied.

Clearly, they aren’t afraid of their customers seeing how things happen “backstage”. They have nothing to hide. I wonder if that’s because:

    1. They clearly care about their customers. They gave plenty of time to help me understand what would happen to my precious new car, and to explain exactly what I should expect with an aftermarket windscreen compared to the factory one. No question was too silly for them to answer with care.

 

    1. They have defined processes. Staff moved through each step, from when I entered the reception to when I drove off, with proficiency and ease. It meant they had the bandwidth to be friendly and courteous in each interaction.

 

    1. They promised what they know they can deliver. The promise to me was completion in 2 hours, but the delivery was only 90 minutes. My expectations