Archive for May, 2011

Students from around the world list starting the project without clear requirements as their #1 problem. Last week, in a workshop addressing this issue an interesting response surfaced in about a third of the students. In a word, discomfort. Why would this happen when something that benefits the PM and team is being developed? Let’s explore.

Some background about the method will help. It teaches simultaneous development of a scope of work and determination of a possible political path providing a high probability of successful implementation of the proposed scope of work. No small feat, just ask any project manager!

Scope and Politics

Developing scope in a no-scope environment entails using a method developed by the astrophysicist Fritz Zwicky. It is called Morphological Analysis. The short version of how to use it goes something like this: using the variables associated with the project think of all possible scopes in the situation. Go through and eliminate those that have contradictory requirements, e.g., simultaneously tall and short. This will reduce the list of possible scopes dramatically.

Now, switch to game theory. List the stakeholders (players) who can impact the development of the project and its execution. By stakeholder, list the way they are playing their particular game (strategy), and the reward (payoff) they want. Generate a 3 dimensional grid, comprising player, strategy, and payoff. Now the fun begins!

Map the list of possible scopes into the strategies and payoffs.  List the scopes that have the highest probability of surviving the games being played. This typically leaves a very short list of possible scopes. Pick one and start promoting it. Keep the other scopes as possible backups should a shift in plans be needed.

Seems straightforward enough and, for many it was. So why would some attendees experience discomfort?

Fear and Honesty

In her classic book, When Things Fall Apart, Pema Chodron states:

“Fear is a natural reaction to getting closer to the truth.”

In the workshop confusion, discomfort, fear, and some anger arose. The class was paused and a chart session was used to find out what was happening. Students gave a range of responses. Here are a few:

“Looking at gamesmanship so directly pushes on me. I have to go into my unconscious incompetencies and decide what to do about the politics. This is good.”

I made a career-altering decision 8 months ago and things have been tough ever since. This class, though, is validating I made the right decision and will continue implementing it.”

“I work with a nice guy who isn’t pulling his weight. We have the same boss, whom I like, and she wants him to do better but nothing gets done. I am feeling a lot of pressure. This class is getting confusing!”

“Why this game stuff? We have technical work to get done and I just don’t see where politics applies.”

“I don’t see where any of this is relevant! Just how am I supposed to use this?”

That first respondent is very self-aware. She stayed with her discomfort and did quite well with the material. Prima fascia, she would make a good team member. The last respondent left in anger at the next break.

But the other respondents, what about them? There isn’t enough space to go into them right now. Instead, it would be better to close with a list showing a few responses people may choose in a no-scope situation. Having this list may help you profile your own situation and determine how far you could get with a given scope based on the stakeholder population, time, money, and resources present. Here are a few of the possible positions people can take:

  1. Is a natural in this situation and is on board;
  2. Has a fear of dealing with politics and reacts by actively work against the project;
  3. Can see benefit but is afraid to go to those uncomfortable spaces where politics is addressed and stalls;
  4. Is afraid but sees the benefit of pushing on themselves and working through the difficulties and is willing to push through;
  5. Only likes working in defined situations and goes blank in no-scope environments.

Maybe by keeping the above in mind and looking at your own power, authority, time, and resources you can gauge just how far to push with which scope. Ideally, you’ll do reasonably well and live to see another day and manage another project.

Two factors comprise the market potential for any product or service – demand and attachment.  Demand is about quantity – how many people want what you sell.  Attachment is about quality, how much do people want what you sell.

There are some products and services for which there is obvious demand.  For example, almost everyone needs a grocery store, a cell phone and the occasional cup of coffee. Universal demand creates extraordinary opportunity.  But universal demand also spawns burgeoning supply and intense competition.  The harsh reality is, in virtually every sector, supply exceeds demand in a way that isn’t cyclical.  We’ve crashed full speed, head first into a world where we have more stuff to sell than people want to buy.  And yet, a number of companies in highly contested categories are growing dramatically, even exponentially.  How do they do that? What’s their secret?

Attachment

Their secret is attachment.  Attachment is about how much your prospects and customers value the product or service you provide.  It’s about the extent to which you improve their lives.  And at the highest level, it’s about how your product or service defines or supports your customer’s aspiration and self-image.

There are five fundamental value platforms – what you might think of as the five basic reasons that any customer is motivated to make any purchase.  They are:

  • Price/Value
  • Location/Convenience
  • Quality/Functionality
  • Style/Status
  • Experience/Lifestyle

The platforms of Price/Value and Location/Convenience are rational platforms and very seldom create much attachment.  If a Walmart customer discovers that Target has a lower price on laundry detergent this week, that Walmart customer will probably hot-foot it over to Target and load up.  She’s not attached to Walmart, she’s attached to the low price, which is relatively easy to replicate.

At the other end of the spectrum, a Nordstrom’s shopper who is motivated by Style/Status or Experience/Lifestyle is unlikely to darken the door of JC Penney, even if JC Penney has the same item at a lower price.  Style/Status and Experience/Lifestyle are emotional platforms.  They have the potential to invoke powerful feelings and create strong attachment which are almost impossible to replicate.

Effect of Attachment

Let’s think about the effect of attachment in one of the categories with universal demand, grocery stores.  Have you ever met a customer of Trader Joe’s?  They are borderline rabid.  Given half a chance, they’ll regale you (endlessly) of their Trader Joe’s favorites:  Two Buck Chuck, Green Papaya Salad, Mango Butter or Chili Feta.  To say these folks are attached to Trader Joe’s might be the understatement of the century.  And that attachment translates directly into revenue.  Think about this:  According to Fortune Magazine, Trader Joe’s averages $1,750.00 per square foot in sales.  That’s more than double the sales per square foot of competitor, Whole Foods Market.

Now let’s turn our attention ro cell phones.  Ever try to pry an iPhone out of the hands of an Apple fanatic?  That’s attachment in every sense of the word, attachment that has led to astonishing growth for Apple.  Since being released in 2007, well over 100 million iPhones have been sold and Apple has become the most valuable tech company on the planet.

Attachment means your product has become an essential, even indispensable, part of your customer’s life.  When that happens, you have a shot at exponential growth that few can match with, let alone surpass!

In this six part mini-series we have talked about how other people can cause us to feel stressed, how we can recognize their disruptive behaviors and how (and when) we can then get them stopped.  Just remember a few key points:

  • Aggressive people (especially bullies) count on other people’s high threshold for avoiding confrontation.  Bullies grow accustomed to “getting away with” bad behavior, with actions that unnecessarily inconvenience others.  Bullying in schools has become an epidemic and has resulted in tragedies when the victims commit murder or suicide. But even just a little corrective effort, by lots of people, adds up to lots of positive impact.
  • Sometimes, insecurity causes people to overcompensate and cross into aggressive behavior.  But we will leave the issue of “cause” for mental health professionals to address.  Law enforcement officers will tell you that bullies should be confronted early in their “careers”, when their aggressive behavior is first noticed by parents, teachers or the victims.  A society’s tolerance of bad behavior usually lets it get worse because, as with criminals in general, bullies usually just get more aggressive, not less.  Just as petty crimes lead to major crimes, minor bullying and “pushing” behavior in a person can lead to the person developing into an increasingly aggressive person who leaves a bow-wave of stress as they plow through the lives of others.
  • Each society determines what behavior is acceptable and the people of that society then individually and collectively enforce those norms.  Whenever a subset of individuals violates the norms, other people will be at least inconvenienced causing minor stress or perhaps even aggravated causing serious stress and in extreme cases innocent bystanders can be injured or killed.
  • To minimize the stress you feel from others, help them learn more friendly, cooperative behaviors.  We live in North Carolina and our “Southern” politeness and manners on the highway, in lines at restaurants and when shopping are different than those shown by many visitors who come from just a few hours’ drive north.  I often advise my neighbors and friends not to let our Northern visitors’ behaviors cause them undue stress but to instead use the opportunity to gently teach and to demonstrate “proper” manners.  For example, you can say “you are most welcome” when you hold the door open for someone who doesn’t even speak to you as they whip through it.  And you can graciously let drivers out of parking lots and let others merge into your lane in front of you.  You should even move over quickly for an aggressive driver coming up behind you in the left lane, because it is just common sense plus the law requires you to let faster vehicles pass on the left.  The result of all this accommodating behavior will be less stress for all concerned.

So now go practice keeping other people from stressing you out!  In a future post I will show you how to avoid the most dangerous stress of all – – – self-induced stress!

Copyright: Solid Thinking Corporation

Flexible Focus #55: Make Music Find Flow

by William Reed on May 26, 2011

We are blessed in this age to have access to most of the world’s music, to be able to carry it with us, and swim in its high fidelity flow almost whenever we like. This is a remarkable achievement, something akin to time travel.

To take full advantage of this, and to use the power of music to experience flow, there are several things that we need to consider about music, and the way we currently experience it.

What does music mean to you?

It might help to consider that question in the light of what music has meant to people over time. Leonardo da Vinci considered the painter to be the representer of visible things, and the musician the representer of invisible things. Leo Tolstoy called music the shorthand of emotion. The Chinese philosopher Mencius said, if the King loves music, it is well with the land. Reading quotes on music gives you a multi-faceted perspective on music, and what a powerful force it can be in our lives.

Can be, because for many it has degenerated into a mere distraction, auditory wallpaper. Music playing in the background is no guarantee that people will listen to or appreciate it. What’s worse is when the music is invasive, poor quality, or advertising masking as music. Lily Tomlin said, “I worry that the person who thought up Muzak may be thinking up something else.”

Music is not a jealous mistress. It invites you to listen deeply, but releases your attention whenever you need to focus on something else. As long as we control the process, this is itself an interesting way to experience flexible focus.

How do you listen to music?

The superficial answer, for superficial listeners, is with your ears. Of course we hear music with our ears, but we can and should listen to music with all of our senses. Our bodies are designed to conduct everything from vibration to emotion, to be superbly in tune with flow.

This is true not only for listening, but even for playing and performing music. Scottish Percussionist Evelyn Glennie is a world class performer, despite the fact that she lost nearly all of her hearing by the age of 12. As a musician, a motivational speaker, and a music educator, her presentation on TED is a remarkable demonstration of the physicality of music.

A good musician listens and plays with the whole body, while a great musician makes music heard and felt with the whole body. By listening deeply to great musicians, which is easier now than ever in history, you can experience what it is like to feel music in your bones, to be moved in your heart.

Another way to access the deeper levels of music is what Michael J. Gelb recommends in his classic bestseller, How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci: Seven Steps to Genius Everyday. The practice of what he calls layered listening involves directly your attention to elements of the music that may have escaped your awareness, the types and timbre of the instruments, the interplay of the musicians, performances of the same music by different musicians. Enter into the non-verbal dimensions of the music and find flow in a journey of discovery that will make you feel as if you are hearing even a familiar piece for the first time.

Improvisation in flow

One way to get inside the mind of a musician is to study the process of how professional musicians approach improvisation, the essence of the ability to make music and find flow.

Kenny Werner is a jazz pianist who has explored the process of creativity and expression in music and life, which he explores in depth in his book, Effortless Mastery: Liberating the Master Musician Within. His approach involves guided meditations with a CD, and while the approach to relaxation is close to conventional hypnosis, he approaches it as an experienced musician, well acquainted with the challenges of playing without thinking, mastery of sound, mastery of the body.

Another approach to improvisation which includes music and encompasses creativity in the art of living is Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art, by Stephen Nachmanovitch. This book will guide you through the process in a more comprehensive way, but ultimately improvisation is something which you learn by experience.

Rather than simply reading these books, you can gain more personal benefit and draw from them what is relevant to you by taking notes as your read on a Mandala Chart. Rather than simply following the author’s train of thought, you can ride along and get off at each station of your own choice, enjoying the parts which are most meaningful to you. Use the Mandala Chart also to write down new ways in which you can make music and find flow through concerts, dance, performance, whatever fits you best. Reading about flow is fun, but certainly secondary to experiencing it. Music is emotion in motion. Take in the scenery and enjoy the ride!

Every organization whether it be for profit or non-profit are in their line of business in order to gain something – it’s most likely in their vision statement. My vision statement, for example is:

The fulfillment of the human spirit through the empowerment of every individual on the planet.

This vision requires an acquisition of fulfillment and personal empowerment.

Gain

Whether to gain access to clean water, acquire political power, or to expand one’s capacity to lead effectively, we are all out to gain.

With the economic turn, the way it’s going, businesses are facing major dilemmas. On the one hand they – the choice-makers are facing potential loss of everything they’ve gained. Too often this drives them to act in ways that will hopefully allow them to not lose anything. Fear too often drives them to act in haste, making choices that may not be in alignment with their original vision. They are afraid. People make interesting choices when they are afraid.

We like to think of ourselves as gainfully employed or engaged, yet few of us want to associate ourselves with words such as greed. However too often we are unconscious of when and how we withhold what we’ve gained out of a fear we aren’t even aware of. Our greediness is often disguised.

On the other hand of the dilemma, there are those companies that are looking at their circumstances not from a fear-based perspective but from one that can benefit many during this time of adversity?

When we start to shift our contexts we see what’s to be gained – not from fear-based greed, but from some place other than fear – generosity.

Less is More

Do you remember the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, in A Christmas Carole? Scrooge’s greed wasn’t limited to money. He was greedy with his heart. We find out why, as we’re given the opportunity to witness specific events in his life that created devastating loneliness and heart break. Because of these events he chose to withhold and be miserly with his gains, which greatly impacted many people.

Like Scrooge, every one of us experiences, to some degree, loneliness and heartbreak. We experience, like Scrooge the inevitability of abandonment, betrayal and rejection. And, much like Ebenezer, we bury the pain deep inside, distancing ourselves from that pain, which wreaks havoc on the façade we’ve invented. This façade has us look and feel powerful and invulnerable, yet inevitably we find, as Scrooge found that this limits the potential to fulfill our true potential.

Fear is an enormously powerful muscle that is exercised far too frequently; so much so that we are unconscious as to how much it impacts on our choice to enjoy being engaged in the business of doing business. Our fears limit the pleasures of relating, connecting and sharing ourselves and our talents in service of our vision, which inspired us in the first place.

All of us – the Human Race – have the capacity to overcome the adversities of our pasts. Hiding our hearts in a scrooge-like fashion, though, is not the way to do it, but practicing generosity can be.

The Muscle of Generosity

This muscle called generosity is always with us. It just hasn’t had a whole lot of exercise.

Exercising this muscle generates the experience of abundance, openness and allowing, innovation and expansion. Scrooge found this place after his journey with the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future. He came to see that he had nothing to lose and had so much to gain in discarding his lengthy practice of greed.

As the paradigm shifts, we are so much more capable of witnessing our attachments to our gains, our fear of losing what we’ve gained and of finding that through some playful curiosity we can discover other ways to gain without fear of losing what we’ve gained.

Those committed to bringing spirituality into the workplace may feel like they have an uphill battle ahead of them. Simple exercises now will, however generate the necessary strength, courage and wisdom to engage in what’s to come. You will find the shift easy and effortless – trust me!

Just for one day I want you to try something (Maybe for some of us, it will be just an hour or a minute.): Notice opportunities to share a smile. Notice who you are willing to share a smile with, and from whom you withhold a smile. That’s it! That’s the practice.

You’re probably asking: “What’s a smile got to do with generosity?” Good question. I could explain it to you but it wouldn’t be the same as having you experience what happens when you smile. Plus, this practice isn’t about whether you smile more or less. It’s about noticing when you choose to allow yourself to smile and when you choose to withhold a smile. It’s about noticing how you are choosing to choose to smile. This choice-making process underlies so much of your being with fear, with gain and with spirituality.

Notice what it feels like inside you, without judging or assessing yourself. Our actions can be so automatic sometimes that we aren’t even aware of the thoughts or feelings we’re having underneath.

How can we be the generosity we so wish to experience?

I have the following three suggestions:

  1. Smile more often, even when you are challenged by your circumstances;
  2. Notice your desire to complain about anything and everything;
  3. Notice if what you are doing inspires generosity of spirit in your own heart. If it doesn’t inspire generosity of spirit in your own heart, consider doing something else.

Know that each and every one of us comes into our work environment anticipating and hoping that we will experience generosity of spirit from those we engage with during the course of our day. Like Scrooge, many of us don’t have the capacity to even share a smile. Even though it may be disappointing, see if you can share compassion to those who have less capacity to be giving of their hearts. Your compassion may be the most generous gift of the day. You may gain far more from that activity than you ever imagined.

… and of course, your sharing goes a long way, be it through a smile, or through this article. So, do share your experiences via your comments.

Enjoy the Exploration!

Capturing the wisdom of trusted experts pays huge dividends. Its results form a basis for a lessons-learned library that can institutionalize effective and efficient methods for getting work done. An associate of mine, Deb Peluso uses Cognitive Task Analysis (CTA) to capture the wisdom and experience of seasoned people. The method is absolutely fascinating both in terms of setting a frame of mind and in capturing specific information that can become part of an organization’s DNA.

Imagine having a method where you can think out loud with the team to determine how best to attack a problem! This blog provides a small piece of CTA showing how to mine some of the nuggets that may be obvious to the expert but are potentially invisible to others.

Job Dimensions

One of the trickiest parts of solving a problem is trying to determine which solution domain is appropriate. Following is information from Harvesting the Wisdom of Top Performers showing how CTA can help break down how experts go about tackling a problem into various components:

  1. Time Orientation. Understanding how a situation got to where it is now and where it looks to be going in the future;
  2. Systems Thinking. Being able to see the whole as well as the parts and understand the interplay between the parts;
  3. Paying Attention. Seeing the triggers for pending opportunities or threats;
  4. Tricks of the Trade. This is about knowing where the balance point lies between following policies and procedures and taking short cuts;
  5. Innovating. Understanding where improvising is essential;
  6. Self-Awareness. This is akin to self-actualization, i.e., feeding back on oneself and accurately judging one’s performance;
  7. Atypical Situations. Understanding when things are out of the ordinary and deciding what changes are needed based on the degree of variance present;
  8. Misleading Information. This is the 6th sense experts have. The dials, gauges, and reports are all pointing in one direction but the expert senses something is wrong and there’s a need to go in a different direction.

Acknowledgement Revisited

The previous two blogs covered Acknowledgement and the Wealth that can be developed by doing it routinely. It was asked, “Who would you pick to acknowledge and why?” The 8 points listed above may provide some guidance. How far would your team go if there were routine feedback and brainstorming sessions guided by the 8 steps listed above? To me, it is a bit mind-boggling!

Budget Season! Time to Start Thinking about 2012

by Matthew Carmen on May 23, 2011

Well here we are in May. 2011 seems to be flying by – the year is almost half over, and in the corporate world you know what that means:

Time to start planning for 2012.

This is that time of the year everyone dislikes. For operations and the overall business, it is essentially time away from what they want to focus on, and for the finance teams, it is that time when they find themselves refereeing battles between operations and business for the finite amount of dollars.  All in all, this time of the year is where the challenges of the year ahead are discussed, strategized around, and hopefully addressed.

The three distinct groups – business, operations, and finance teams, each play a role in ensuring a successful budgeting and planning season.  In the case of the business, each area – whether a business unit, product line or service; needs to have its strategy fully developed by the executive team and communicated to all levels of the business.  By doing this, each person – from the lowest level all the way up – will know:

  • What the corporate strategy is, going forward,
  • How their work will help move the company towards the goal, and
  • It will provide management teams the direction in which to plan programs and projects.

By establishing a clear direction across the board, the business will be able to have conversations with the operational areas (such as IT) to make sure that the needs of the business are top priority for everyone.

No Personal Agendas

In my experiences, which have taken place in each of the three distinct areas, one thing has always been paramount to success, “Don’t come to the negotiations with a personal agenda”.  The more emotion that is brought to the table, the longer and more drawn out the negotiations become, and feelings are hurt at the end of the process.  Many times these feelings carry forward and the working relationships between people, groups and departments can be irreparably harmed.  This definitely does not help the long-term growth of a company.

The IT Operations View

In the case of the IT operations groups, this time of year is typically focused on two major things;

  1. The planning of programs and projects that benefit the business, and
  2. The planning of the IT organization.

In the case of the second point, IT has to weigh the benefits to the business versus the needs of the IT organization.  This means that with a finite amount of budget dollars available, the IT department needs to find the right mix of dollars for the benefit of the business while having enough budget to make sure the IT department is able to do the things it needs to do to ensure the business survives long term.  This internal IT spend will likely include: disaster recovery, continued infrastructure modernization, replacement systems for facilities, server and storage growth and refresh, etc.  These areas of spend need to be voiced to the business and discussions need to take place at this time of year, at times, the business seems to forget that ongoing operations need to be sustained and this costs money. May and June are critical communication months in the budgeting and planning season.  Communicating now means that once the finance team is ready to open the budgeting tool, usually right after the July 4th holiday, the whole budgeting project goes more smoothly.

The Finance Team View

The finance team always hopes for a smooth budget season.  Depending on the work they do in these early stages of the process, this smooth season is possible.  At this time of the year, the finance team needs to make sure that its message is communicated as well.  The finance team needs to make sure that all of the business and operational groups know and understand the process by which the budget will happen, what the key dates are, what the budgeting system will include and what business and operations will need to add to it.  These are all very important, the more the business and operational groups understand about what they are responsible to do at this point and throughout the whole budgeting process, the easier it becomes for everyone.

Another area that the finance team needs to be working on at this point is the final testing for its budgeting system.  Changes to the system from previous years may have been done due to upgraded equipment and upgrades in software functionality.  If a completely new system has been implemented (Hyperion and Cognos-TM1 are the two largest systems currently in use by midsized and large companies), the work becomes even more challenging.  Lastly, on the finance side of the budgeting triangle, training the usage of the system must be planned for.  All planning sessions need to be calendared, and anyone who will use the system including: cost center managers, department managers, executives and financial representation should be included in the training. (Either a complete training on a new system, or in the case of the use of the same system, a refresher course will be needed as well as complete training for new users.)

Plan Ahead for Success

Just like most endeavors, the more work that is put into the early phases of the annual planning exercise, the easier it become to achieve success.  The easier the complete budgeting process is, the less evasive to all areas involved it is.  Remember, for most people involved, the budget process is an addition to their “regular” job.  Remember, throughout the whole process, nothing is personal, it is all about moving the business forward…the right way.  Lastly, there are professionals, like myself, that can help with anything from questions to process and system integration.  We are here to help and make your business grow.

Have you ever been taken advantage of by a stranger who cuts in front of you in line and you wished you had spoken up?  Have there been times when someone else’s behavior was driving you crazy but you didn’t have the courage to speak to them about it?  Well here are some tips for doing just that – – – confronting someone about their behavior and doing it in a way that stands the best possible chance of getting them to change what they are doing without them getting angry at you.  At this point we assume that you have already decided that confronting the person is not inherently dangerous and that their behavior is sufficiently bothersome that you have decided to mention it to them.  Intervening now has three parts:

  • Getting their attention
  • Establishing some rapport and
  • Telling them what you want them to do.

At the office, talking with a direct report (employee) about changing their behavior can be a formal HR-related issue and it deserves some preparation and forethought – – – After all these are your coworkers and you are about to ask them to change their behavior.  But whether the person is a direct report or a peer, you’ll want to meet in a private place where both of you can speak openly. And HOW you ask for that meeting actually impacts the tone of the subsequent conversation.  Assuming you are not the person’s supervisor, try one of these ice breakers:

  • Could I ask a favor? I’d like to pick you brain on a problem I am having. Could we chat somewhere quiet for 5 minutes?
  • I need your advice on something.  Could we have a coffee this afternoon?
  • You seem to genuinely care about our organization and the people here.  So here is some constructive criticism that will make you even more effective with your peers.

Once you are in the private office meeting, these openings are often effective:

  • I think you are a sensitive, caring person.  But one behavior you sometimes exhibit when under stress is actually causing your coworkers some major stress.
  • You are doing something that is upsetting your colleagues, and I don’t believe you even realize you are doing it.
  • Have you noticed how upset other people get when you . . .
  • And the most powerful change-inducing phrase ever: When you [insert the other person’s troublesome behavior here], it makes me feel [insert how you feel here]. An example would be When you make snide comments about me behind my back, it makes me feel that you don’t appreciate the long hours and hard work I do here. It is powerful because it is unassailable.  Other people cannot argue with it because you are only saying how you personally feel.  And it is an expression of fact.  Plus you are not actually asking them to change their behavior (yet).  This is a very powerful technique and should be used with care.

Not Intentional

Bear in mind that, when confronting stress-generating people, you always want to give them the benefit of the doubt.  You want to choose your initial words based on the seriousness of the offense committed by the other person.  I always just assume people don’t wrong me intentionally; they are usually just in La La Land and are not paying attention. Example: The lady who cuts in front of you in the bank line may have thought you were completing a deposit slip and weren’t even ready to see the teller.  After all you were writing on something.  So be as polite as possible when you confront her as she walks past you, headed to the teller.  Smile and say softly “Sorry, I think I am next in line”.

The opposite end of the behavior spectrum is the person who allows a small child to cross a busy parking lot alone, weaving between stopped cars – – – now that requires some strong and immediate intervention because a life is in danger.

The three steps

Step 1 – Getting their attention:  Here are time-tested opening lines arranged from most polite to most confrontational.

  • Could I ask a favor?
  • This is going to sound weird but could you please . . .
  • My daughter used to cry just like yours, and for no apparent reason.  You might try . . .
  • On the airplane or train: Excuse me.  I think that is my seat.
  • Something odd just happened . . .
  • Actually, there is a line here – – – we are all waiting for the kiosk
  • Whoa buddy.  There is already a line here.
  • We all need to keep an eye on children so they stay safe.  Did you know your toddler daughter was crossing this line of traffic between stopped cars, all alone?
  • I don’t think you realize what you just did!  What were you thinking?
  • You could have killed someone with that move just now, sir!
  • PLEASE DON’T DO THAT!

Steps 2 and 3.

Establishing rapport and asking for a change in behavior.  These two steps are often very closely related and can happen almost in the same sentence.  Savvy conversationalists also call this “moving the conversation sideways” and then asking for the change.  You are trying to get the other person to become a little sympathetic to your needs, which makes them MUCH more likely to change what they are doing that is causing you stress.

  • This has been the day from Hell.  I am exhausted.  Could I ask you to put those heavy groceries in my minivan right there please?
  • To the policeman who just pulled you over: This day has been unbelievable.  I am late for work for the second day in a row.  What did I do wrong, officer?
  • To the spouse: Honey, my job is draining me.  Even you said you have never seen me look this exhausted.  Could we talk about some ways that we can share the household chores so I can have a little energy left for the kids and for you each night?
  • To the loud mouth in the restaurant booth behind you:  This is our first night out of the house in a month.  Could you lower your voice please so we can enjoy a quiet dinner?
  • You seem like a nice person.  Could you please . . .
  • Had a rough day?  Me too.  But can you turn down that music just a little, please?  Thanks man.
  • Our ears are ringing! Can you please take your child outside until she stops screaming?  Thanks.

In this five-part series we have examined how we can get the people around us, the people in our workplace, family, circle of friends and even strangers, to stop causing us unnecessary stress.  Next week we will conclude this mini-series on stress reduction and offer some final advice on persistently driving the unhealthy stress out of your daily life.

Copyright: Solid Thinking Corporation

Flexible Focus #54: Modeling Your Business

by William Reed on May 19, 2011

In search of a Toolbox

We have looked at the power of the 2×2 Matrix, as well as how to gain additional degrees of freedom with the 3×3 Matrix of the Mandala Chart. Any kind of Matrix can be useful, because it helps you compare variables that interact with each other, and it puts everything on a single screen. This gives you the vital element of perspective, something that is easy to lose when you are caught up in the fray. In business, this can spell the difference between success and failure.

Now there is another kind of Matrix which enables you to map out and test proven business model concepts, not only by seeing the parts in relation to the whole, but also with the ability to run interactive simulations and projections with numbers. Introducing The Business Model Toolbox for iPad.

Even if you don’t have an iPad, the Business Model Generation book can guide you through the process, with beautiful illustrations and real world examples of successful business models in action. This book is a remarkable innovation in itself, having been co-authored by 470 strategy practitioners from 45 countries. Ordinarily it would be nearly impossible to integrate that much diversity into a single package, but this book is held together by a highly integrated visual design, and the fact that the contributors speak from real world experience.

Their methodology is practiced by companies such as Ericsson, 3M, and Deloitte, and the book is available in 18 languages. It is positioned as a handbook for visionaries, game changers and challengers, and the communication savvy of the core team behind the project is self-evident in both the book and the website navigation.

Telling Your Story with Prescience

Guy Kawasaki is the founder and managing director of Garage Technology Ventures, a seed-stage and early-stage venture capital fund, and a best selling author whose successful books include The Art of the Start, and Enchantment: the Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions. I interviewed Guy Kawasaki on video for the iPad Creators Club, and in that interview asked Guy, of all of the factors that go into evaluating a business model as a venture capitalist, which factor carried the greatest weight. He said that it was 90% in the story behind the business model. He added that we all know that the numbers are made up, but you cannot fake the level of passion, belief, and commitment that is either evident or missing in the story itself.

Nevertheless, the power of story in business is more than just the power of narration or stage presence. The story must be delivered with the skills of an actor, but it must be grounded in the perspective of the strategist, and this is where Business Model Generation can make the difference.

Think of it as the power to see there before you can be there. Prescience is the knowledge of things before they exist or happen, foreknowledge, foresight. Surely it must seem as magic to those who lack this ability, and often it is the experts, blinded by their own knowledge, who have the least prescience! This is laughably evident in just reading a few of the bad predictions by the leading experts of their day, in nearly every field that has been touched by technology. And what field has not been radically altered by technology?

If the numbers are fabricated, and the experts totally off the mark, then how can we develop some degree of prescience? How can we navigate through this unpredictable world, without falling for superstitious fallacies, or succumbing to the hypnotic mantras of the latest guru?

As a reader of this column, you know by now that reality is not fixed as it appears to be, and that with flexible focus, you not only can see more, but you can actually create more. It is ancient wisdom that comes back to remind us that we are co-creators of our own reality, that the sky is not empty.

Nevertheless, to help others see the dimensions and qualities of our vision, indeed to be able to perceive these things ourselves, we need the help of tools which help us to make the invisible visible, and the impossible possible.

Vision is not enough. We need resources and collaborative support to make things happen, and that will not happen without prescience and a powerful story behind it.

Knowing that you don’t Know

One reason why the experts are so often lacking in prescience is that they think that they know. The beginning of wisdom is knowing that you don’t know, having a beginner’s mind. In the classic book of informal talks on Zen Meditation and Practice, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki says, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities. In the expert’s mind there are few.”

One of Socrates’ most famous sayings was, “I only know that I know nothing.” This is the beginning of knowledge, because it drives the spirit of inquiry, the quest for knowledge that is behind the question. The Matrix is the flexible container that begs to be filled, the toolbox that supports our vision.

As the Paradigm Shifts #F: Fear

by Rosie Kuhn on May 18, 2011

The current paradigm within which we are deeply rooted and that is ingrained in every cell of our body is cultivated solely around fear-based thinking. Research shows that 70% of our thoughts are precipitated from fear. Imagine that! How did we come to reside in such an environment permeated with a pervasive and automatic trigger to think fear-based thoughts? Is there another way? Do we have a choice in the matter?

In the previous blog I distinguished essence-based thinking from fear-based thinking. We have a knowing, without a shadow of a doubt, that we are something far beyond the fear-based reality within which we are immersed. At the same time, there is a field or paradigm that corrupts this knowing fragmenting it into millions of tiny particles that then reflects back to us in mere instances the brilliance and radiant beings that we are.

History of war and persecution for thinking and being different than what is prescribed by political and religious dogma reminds us that we are not immune to the horrible things that human beings can do to one another. We remember and imagine what it has been like to be subjected to such treatment. And, the same time we may be living it, unconscious of the pervasiveness of it within our everyday life.

Notice Your Thoughts

Imagine heading to work. You in your car, on the train or bus and you’re sensing some anxiety, resistance or something that isn’t peaceful. If you were to just notice for a moments the thoughts running through your mind that is the catalyst for these feelings, what would you notice? If researchers are right and 70% of what you are thinking is negative and fear-based, what environment are you creating inside your head as you prepare to engage with the work, the people and the environment? Are these thoughts and bodily sensations preparing you for a day of peaceful, fun and creative interactions, or are they preparing you to do battle with yourself and everything that confronts you? Are these thoughts memories of what occurred in the past? Are they worries about what may unfold, or are you thinking about what you might say or would like to say to someone who is really bugging you?

So much of what is occurring in our brains are random firings of impulses that have become habitual in nature. Honestly, we have no clue as to how many programs are running concurrently in our brain. Some of them are essential and some of them are just a form of masturbation, stimulating endorphin and adrenaline that make us feel good about ourselves, and at the same time allow us to distract ourselves from feeling bad about ourselves.

Say STOP!

As long as we are in this game of focusing on maintaining what we’ve gained, avoiding loss of any sort, and ignoring the choice-making process that keeps us playing the same strategies over and over again, winning will never be the outcome. It isn’t even a possibility because we’ve limited our capacity to think beyond the fear-based paradigm.

Einstein’s words come to mind.

“We can’t solve problems with the same thinking that created them”.

There’s a practice I’ve been working with for years. When I catch myself thinking thoughts that are not serving my essence-self, which desires peace, clarity of purpose and fulfillment, I just say STOP! A couple of curious things showed up when I first started this practice. First, that part of me that wanted to think all of the “what if’s and shoulda’s and coulda’s; it didn’t stop. It went right on blabbering. Much like an unruly child, my mind had learned it didn’t need to respond to my demand that it stop. I had to become more insistent before it would even consider listening to me. And…

I realized too that when that unruly part of me stopped creating thoughts that contributed to, well essentially nothing, what showed up was fear. I found myself fearful of not having fear-based thoughts! I experienced a great deal of fear when I insisted my mind take a break. I didn’t know who I was when I stopped thinking.

Questions to Ask Yourself

In the workplace, we are constantly bombarded with circumstances that require an incredible amount of attention. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • What’s the degree of quality you are bringing and is it in alignment with what you are wanting for yourself and your business?
  • Is fearful, anxious, antagonistic or resistance the foundation upon which you want your actions to come from when engaged with customers, clients and all of those with whom you interact?
  • What commitment is underlying this come-from?

For me, I come from anxious, worried and disempowered when I’m committed to staying in an old story of a helpless, powerless, victim. I have to ask myself frequently; am I really committed to that story? I then have to give myself an alternative – that to which I know I’m committed – empowered, engaged and empowering of others.

Yes, I too sit in the dilemma of what to choose – my fear based commitments or my essence-based commitments. More effortlessly than ever before, I’m able to take action in alignment with my choice to grow myself and my work from my essence-based truth.

Shifting the Paradigm

Shifting our paradigm requires each of us to be willing to perceive our reality through lenses that reflect the positive attributes of our reality, making that the 70% of our thinking process. This in itself would make such an incredibly profound contribution to our work environment, not to mention to our family, friends and the world at large.

Consider being curious about your thoughts and emotions. Notice that your emotions are just energy that is generated by your thoughts. Shift your thoughts and your emotional state will shift immediately. I know it’s a lot to ask, however, I believe you are ready to step into the question. Enjoy the journey!