Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Strategic Thinking

I have been in a nicely called training, entitled "Strategic Thinking". I must admit I was a little bit disappointed that it was a "back-to-basics" of management, i.e. Mission (or Statement of Purpose), Vision, Strategies (Initiatives), and Action Plan (I would rather call it an "actionable plan"). But it's a great refresh actually, as we are always so much dragged into the day-to-day operational business, that we hardly remember that we have to set time aside for thinking about the business, and not only performing it.

Of course, you cannot afford to lose the focus on the operational part, as this is core - but you DO have to stop from doing at some points in time, and start THINKING.

And this was the main idea behind the whole training: STRATEGIC THINKING means THINKING. Something that we don't always do, but the biggest strategists and the biggest achievers do often. In your busy calendar, find half a day when you plan to regularly think about your business - and I mean "regularly", like in every few weeks. Take an airplane view, and think about where you want to be, and where you are now, what is stopping you from being there, and how you can overcome the obstacles. Put everything down and build a plan or update your current one.

A few things to keep in mind about the plans, though:
- plans are meant to help you, but they should not be frozen - keep them up to date depending on the changes that occur
- what is relevant today, might be obsolete tomorrow, so always update the plan
- spend enough time in planning, but not too much.

Planning is also one of the most important activities in Project Management as well - in order to achieve the objectives layed out so nicely in the project charter, you have to plan, and continuously update the plan as the project progresses.
Plans are nothing; planning is everything. Dwight D. Eisenhower
When planning for a year, plant corn. When planning for a decade, plant trees. When planning for life, train and educate people. Chinese Proverb
By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail. Benjamin Franklin
All you need is the plan, the road map, and the courage to press on to your destination. Earl Nightingale
If you don't design your own life plan, chances are you'll fall into someone else's plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much. Jim Rohn
A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.George S. Patton
Four steps to achievement: Plan purposefully. Prepare prayerfully. Proceed positively. Pursue persistently. William A. Ward
In the long run, men hit only what they aim at. Therefore, though they should fail immediately, they had better aim at something high. Henry David Thoreau
Setting a goal is not the main thing. It is deciding how you will go about achieving it and staying with that plan. Tom Landry
Always plan ahead. It wasn't raining when Noah built the ark. Richard C. Cushing
Think also about your carefully planned vacation: you know you don't have that much time to waste in your vacation, so you take the time to choose the destination, ways to get there, and activities you want to perform there - all with a great purpose: to make yourself feel great. What stops us from doing the same with our business activities, and with the full personal life?

To help you prepare, here are a few books I have selected to help you:
Strategic Thinking: A Nine Step Approach to Strategy and Leadership for Managers and Marketers
A Sense of Urgency
Leading Change

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Managing people diversity

I've talked some while ago about communication styles in different cultures - but diversity is still on top of my mind even if I speak about people grown in the same culture, working together to a common goal.

Looking at the big picture, you see a team performing at the highest levels. But when drilling down, even in the small teams you can find so many different personalities, so many views about the world or how things should go/be done which is still amazing. You will have a star, or at least someone believing to be a star, or going into that direction. You will have the quiet do-er, sometimes called the silent hero. You can also find the "always complaining", and hopefully you will have an always happy guy (annoying everybody else with a positive attitude).

It's a nice mix, and it's also a great challenge to have. But how do you get to have such a team? Would you like one? How would you manage it?

Well - getting it is really easy: you just hire good professionals that are NOT like you, but can still do a good job. We have a natural tendency to hire people that match our own style, and we do it even without knowing it. They are nice people (of course, because they are just like you), and you get along very well with them. But they will also have the same reactions as you in difficult situations, they will most probably have the same ideas with you, and you will find yourself stuck at times without any solution. Why? Because diversity will also bring a lot of benefits. I will write about them maybe later.

So you changed your recruitment style, and now you have a very diverse team. That you have to manage. Daily. In all situations. Even when you don't know what to do or how to react. And you learn to work with each of them: to smile to the happy guy, to congratulate (and calm down) the star, to push for more recognition of your silent hero... and get good results in all areas of your business, because the team is so diverse.

How do you work with your people? Do you have a project team, or a permanent team? Are there differences in the way you work with your project team?

Incremental development

Incremental development is one technique used in Project Management to progressively develop your project scope and work, while the project is running. So rather than spending a lot of time and effort in the beginning of the project to discover all the requirements, and do all the estimates, and uncover all unknowns, you decide to start with something that allows you to begin working, and then - as project details uncover - you update your project plans accordingly.

Well, here is the great idea: why not use the same technique when developing yourself? Why not use it when coaching and developing your people?

Rather than saying you need to become somebody else in one year, or two years, or more - you can start the transformation today with one first step. You cannot expect that the transformation happens over night - you have to gradually work on you in order to change one thing, then another, and then another... and while experimenting a new style, or applying a new lesson, you will discover at some point: look where I was two months ago, and where I am today! That's progress!

You can start with little things. Let's say you love to talk a lot, but people avoid you, as you tend to occupy the whole bandwidth in a conversation. Start with one small step: whenever you feel like talking, waiting a few seconds and check if somebody else would not like to say something. Only then you can continue - but watch for the reactions of the other, and if they start to feel annoyed, stop - let them assimilate, and then maybe you can continue. It will be very hard in the beginning, but with every day you will become better - until it builds as a skills, rather than something imposed.

Then, you can work on the amount of complaints you raise - if you do it often, you might think: what if, instead of only complaining, I also bring a solution? what if I can change things, so that next time it will work as expected? After a few iterations, it will be less and less difficult to focus on solutions, and it will be very hard to complain, since you already have the solutions at hand.

So now you are a good listener, and a problem solver! And... it took you only a few weeks! Think about the next big thing you want to change, split it into smaller chunks, and work on those... then you will see the effect on the whole!

And who knows - you might be the go-to person for a wider range of issues, and your opinions will now be listened to, and you might even be the next coach for somebody who talks a lot :)

So... don't just say: "I want to be recognized as the best", but work towards this goal - and do this step-by-step.

Do you have other views? Do you think a workshop can truly change you? What makes a difference?

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Why Am I Enjoying Myself Today? (WAIEM)

This was the first lesson in my most recent management training, done under the umbrella of the Gustav Kaser Training International (GKTI): ask yourself every morning why are you enjoying yourself (WAIEM).

It might sound like a dumb question, but... think a little bit: if you had at least one reason to be happy that day, wouldn't you feel better? It could be anything: your baby saying the first word, winning the lottery, one award that one of your employees received, or just because it's a late summer day, with some bright warm sun in the sky.

And... if you can't find a reason to enjoy yourself... just make up one! Think about the challenges of that day, and how you plan to attack them, and the results you expect - you might already feel better just because of that!

So... WAIEM every day, every morning, and during the day. Be happy and smile - and the people around you will also feel the joy. Why? Because happy people are contagious (well, when they are not stepping on your nerves :)).

My suggestion to you: try this for a week, put this on a paper in the morning, and keep the list open during the day - keep adding to it, repeat the reasons, and tell me how it feels!

If you don't like the feeling - blame it on me :)

There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy.
-  Robert Luis Stevenson