Posts Tagged ‘Commitments’

Time For a Change #22: Putting Time on Your Side!

by William Reed on August 9, 2012

The Game of Go originated 2500 years ago in Ancient China as a strategy game in which players alternately place white and black stones on the cross points of lines on the board, in an effort to encircle and capture both stones and territory. Strategy is a matter of both calculation and intuition. The rules are simple, the strategy not so. The game favors the player who takes the long view, and players places stones strategically far enough apart to build bridges, that later in the game connect groups and surround the opponent’s stones like a net. Less experienced players overbuild to secure small corners and sections, only to choke on their own over-saturation. The term used by Go players is securing breathing space. Time is on the side of the strategic player.

The game can be a metaphor for how you play the stones in your life, how you secure breathing space in your domain. The first thing in playing your resources is to realize how lucky you are to have opportunities to be in the game in the first place. It is staggering to consider the circumstances of all of your ancestors meeting, reproducing, and surviving, each one of them laying the foundations of your birth and existence. And yet here you are! That is worth remembering once in a while when you think about how to best use and leverage your time.

Time for a Change

Reading through inspirational quotes on change, its remarkable how often the emphasis is on taking a chance. Wayne Gretzy said, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take.” Another word that comes up often is courage. Walt Disney said, “All our dreams can come true – if we have the courage to pursue them.” Another recurring theme is the importance of getting started! A proverb has it that “The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now.”

So what are you waiting for? Opportunity knocks once, not twice. If you want to create change the best time, often the only time to act is now.

Some people say that time flies, but this is partly a reflection on missed opportunity. The chance shoots past before you can catch it. Another perspective is that time flows like a river. It can carry you along or sweep you away, depending on how you navigate it.

It is remarkable how people are able to find time for that which is important to them. This is called making time, as opposed to killing or wasting time. The point is that no matter how busy you are, you do have time on your hands. Twenty-four hours of it, every day of your life.

Perspectives on Timing and Timelines

It is helpful to gain a flexible perspective on time, rather than just attempting to schedule it in the conventional way. The Japanese characters for 呼吸 (kokyū) have the meaning of both breathing and timing. This probably originates in the way in which people coordinate their efforts to lift a heavy object, or use their breathing to coordinate body movements in sport or dance.

Timing is a matter of rhythm too. It is easier to move with the beat in music than against it. Rhythm creates its own energy. Soldiers are taught to break step crossing a wooden bridge, so that the rhythm of marching doesn’t set up a dangerous sway that can cause the bridge to collapse.

Synchronicity is the simultaneous occurrence of seemingly related events that have no apparent causal relation, a coincidence in time. Things are more deeply connected than we may realize. The Ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus said that, “Hidden connections are stronger than obvious ones.”

Whereas timing, rhythm, and synchronicity relate more to occurrences in the present, it can also be useful to look at past events on a timeline. Beedocs is brilliant software for the Mac OS X which enables you to plot events in your life, or in history on a 3D timeline. Even if you don’t have a Mac, it is worth watching the tutorials and videos on the site showing how events look plotted in 3D on a diagonal wall.

It is interesting to look at historical timelines, although they only provide a thin slice of linear events of a particular type, like a musical score for one instrument. Timelines showing parallel or simultaneous events in different areas are more interesting, like an orchestral musical score for many instruments.

Time Out

Our lives are so ruled by calendars and clocks that we may feel lost without them! They are useful and necessary for conducting life in a society that depends on coordinating schedules. However, be sure to take time out in your personal life to take breaks, cat naps to refresh and reset, and time away from your desk or computer to mingle with people or enjoy nature. The cost of not doing this is finding yourself out of time and off track, wondering where it all went.

The Power of Ritual

If you want to get results over time, there is power in perseverance, and in the repetition of ritual. Albert Einstein said that,“The most powerful force in the universe is compound interest.” This is an analogy for the way in which results magnify through repetition. Our days are marked by the repeating cycles of the sun and moon, and what a difference when this is reinforced with the repetition of rituals.

I explored The Power of Ritual in a series of blog posts at Here you can read about the power of Wax On Wax Off, Master Miyagi’s ritual for Daniel in The Karate Kid, as well as the power of perseverance in achieving mastery in music and the martial arts.

Download a PDF summary of this article in a TIMES MANDALA, and use it to review and refresh your view of time as force which is on your side, a multiplier of your resources, and a fascinating phenomenon in life.

Success takes us to difficult places. Imagine getting the big promotion and finding the engineer from hell heading the department from which you need cooperation. A flood of feelings can surface – rage, fear, anxiety, going blank, etc. What to do?

First, let me say it is best to avoid trying to get the feeling to go away. Embrace it. Why is that? First of all, it will only intensify if you fight it. Second, in that intensity you can lose yourself and cause havoc to occur. Let’s explore.

The feeling can stem from a number of things. This blog is limited to one source, which has to do with an aspect of the weaker part of psyche. So why bother with this weak part? Shouldn’t one just add to strengths and push through? You can but there is an issue with this when taken to an extreme. A strength taken too far leads to weakness based on a one-dimensional approach to everything. Many people take this approach. Look at it realistically, though. You’ve probably worked with someone like this. Can you recall the feelings you had when around this person? Why should others feel any different about you if you try acting similarly?

If we get down to it, there is a big plus to addressing emotional intensity within oneself. It can work when dealing with others, as the following story will show.

The assignment was in Manhattan with an important client. After checking in at the hotel a phone call was placed to the client. None of my support materials had arrived. Panic!

Going to an office supply store the night manager of the printing department was given my copy of the materials. He promised I’d have copies by 7:30 AM the next day. I felt like a winner!

Arriving promptly the next morning at 7:30 there turned out to be no copies. The day manager became “testy,” to say the least.  Rage and panic surged within me. I started escalating with him and use my strength of pushing through in a focused, insistent way to get things done. Before going too far with that approach a question fell out of my mouth, “Does he do this to you often?” The manager stopped dead and asked, “Do what often?”

“You know, promise at night a job that has to be delivered on your shift and then he just goes home without logging the job or starting on it.” He was surprised and his emotions turned on a dime. “Yes, he does this to me all the time. Serving my customers means a lot to me and I am stuck with his messes!”

I asked, “What can we do? I need your help.”

He replied, “What do you need to get through to noon today?” Immediately I selected the bare bones that would get me by until noon and decided to throw myself on the mercy of the client by making the commitment in my mind we would complete the assignment but for just this morning the work would be rearranged a bit. I was able to get to the client’s on time, abridged material in hand, explain the situation and get down to work. The remainder of the print job was not only done by noon but they delivered it free of charge. The next morning I went back and thanked the day manager.


So what was this about? In a word, “Acceptance”. Acceptance of Powerlessness. The night manager had taken the day manager and myself hostage. The unfairness of life was squatting on our heads.

The freedom to act came through the acceptance of the powerlessness and shifting on the spot to empathy with the day manager and answering the question, “What can we do with what we have?”

Those intense feelings that were starting to surge were about not having control. They had a message within them. They were life knocking on the door going, “Hello, time to go a little deeper to get a little stronger!”

I learned a great deal about letting go of emotionality in that split second when the question came out.

Commitments Change Over Time

by Guy Ralfe on February 17, 2010

Making and fulfilling commitments is the only way by which we can accumulate power and produce an identity in the marketplace which to a large part determines our value in the marketplace. Commitments (promises) are such a cornerstone to our lives yet we often pay little attention to how we manage them.

Business is about people making promises and accepting commitments, through conversations of action in their lives. Yes there are loads of conversations that take place around the water cooler, but until they turn into something you care about, those conversations will not be contributing to building your identity and power, most of these are just expressive.

Managing and keeping our commitments is fundamental to our personal business success, first we start by trying to memorize our commitments. But the more complex our requests become we need to seek out tools to help us manage such as calendars, notebooks, software. With even more complexity and number we outgrow our tools and hire PA’s /Assistants to help us. When this is not enough we hire more people to make more commitments on our behalf which then becomes the enterprise organization – the business, our power.

Thankfully the map of a conversation for action was mapped out by Terry Winograd and Fernando Flores back in 1986 in their book Understanding Computers and Cognition.

There are only a set number of possibilities at each stage of a conversation, which would lead you to believe this would be easy. However for a conversation to have been successful it needs to have been fulfilled and produced an assessment of satisfaction for the requester after completion.

This is where I witness the challenge coming into business. Time as always is the culprit, and we as humans living in a world of our own stories, see the world as a reflection of our moods and circumstances at any point in time. No matter how well a request is made and accepted between a requester and supplier, over time both will be in different situations from which to assess the commitment and this can lead to many breakdowns.

It is a bit like taking my child to the toy store and asking him which toy would he chose if he could have one choice. In the aisle that we are in he will find the best toy he can see based on his current criteria and space. With the toy locked under his arm we then move off and walk into the next isle, suddenly the toy will be dropped and a new one snapped up – as his circumstances change.

The point here is that just because you have made a request and received a promise or commitment to fulfill, you have to maintain the story for both parties or commitments will fail. Another point to watch out is that we talk of conversations for ACTION – Actions is what produces satisfactory outcomes, lookout for inconsistencies in actions. Such an example would be a client requesting a tightly managed project however they will not commit to signing a scope document…

Listen for the action, test the speak

by Guy Ralfe on October 8, 2009

 Coordinate ActionHave you noticed how people come out of meetings and they question if someone that they were meeting with understood them or was telling the truth? I hear this often after meetings around negotiation when trying to find common ground or negotiating the way forward on projects. Our “bullshit” senses are triggered when we notice an inconsistency between what is spoken and what is done.

In business today people seem to be busier than ever before. With technology so many more interactions take place on a daily basis than at a lifetime ago. People find themselves in many situations daily where people are making requests and offers to them. Due thought is not always given to each request and the committed response is often based on a mood or a perceived ‘right’ answer just to move on to the next interaction. What people are not doing is thinking about the consequences of these spoken answers. How much time, effort and trust it costs each time the requester and recipient leave with different interpretations and then perform inconsistently with each others’ expectations.

Michel de Montaigne wrote over 400 years ago –

The true mirror of our discourse is the course of our lives.

What we really believe and think at the time is truly expressed in the actions we perform afterward. The good news from this is that humans have been consistent at this for well over 400 years so we can count on it continuing into the future and it will be worth our efforts to improve our skills in this regard, as it will greatly increase the efficiency with which we can execute projects and negotiate agreements aligned with both parties concerns.

Recently I was in a conversation where a client was very dissatisfied about a particular product delivery and they wanted to quit the development project. The supplier also liked the idea of quitting as the fixed price scope had crept out of sight and costs were at three times anticipated with an open punch list still to be contended with. As both parties were about to close and agree to walk away the supplier mentioned that they could have the components uninstalled in an hour, to which the client suddenly gasped out “why do you want to do that?”. While this startled the supplier it quickly became apparent that the spoken commitment by the client was very different from the actions that would have taken place had the conversation ended before the suppliers declaration of action.

This conversation ended well because the supplier declared the consequential action of the request, which avoided what would have been a very tense, and likely costly situation had the supplier just acted as he thought he had agreed.

Here are 5 tips to try in future engagements to build trust, coordination and efficiency:

  • Listen more – the more people speak the more consistent they will speak in terms of their true concerns
  • Repeat the request – when making a request ask the person you have made the request to, to tell you what they heard and/or what actions they plan to take.
  • Ask more questions – about the importance, value, action to be taken from the counterparts perspective
  • Always make an assessment of the moods – lookout for moods of resigned, despair, indifference, overwhelmed
  • Check-in informally – truths are often revealed in different settings and surroundings

There is a lot of posturing and politics in the marketplace, but one thing you can be certain of is that people act for what they truly care about. You don’t see people doing anything they do not care for. So always listen for the action.

Ditch Your Debt. Decide your Destiny!

by guest on June 26, 2009

the constraint of debt Living in debt is convenient as it gives you possibilities and gratification right here and now, but it amazes me that so few people understand what the opposite – debt free living – gives you in terms of opportunities.

Let’s consider how debt makes its way in our personal lives first:

Everyone is so used to borrowing money – first for college, then for a car, then for a condo or a house, and finally that credit card debt to fund the lifestyle (they think) they deserve.  You NEED an iPhone, you NEED a 50” TV, you NEED to eat out 3 times a week and you NEED to go skiing every winter.

Have you ever considered what this choice of debt does to your life and your freedom to choose?

What if you wake up one day and realize that your current job is getting to you?  That you actually don’t enjoy what you’re doing.  That your boss doesn’t support you and your career is going nowhere.  That you loooooong for the weekend and have moved way beyond TGIF and have started calling Thursdays “Little Friday”.

Well, it’s quite clear that you should quit.  That you should be doing something better with your life.  That you should find another job that motivates you and satisfies your ambitions.  The only thing is – you stay put…

You stay in your job because you have to pay the bills.  You cannot afford to take the more interesting job that pays significantly less. It’s then that you realize, that you are caught in a debt trap that now keeps you in a place you don’t want to be because you have lost your degree of freedom. You lost your freedom to choose.

Do you think business is any different?

Do you think it’s easier to make “the right choice” in business if you are always forced to take the route that brings in the most revenue and profit?  And what if you just “know” what the next new thing in your field is going to be but you cannot pursue it because you are busy making the next payment to the bank and you do not have the option to fund this new idea?

Living and operating debt free gives you a huge amount of freedom that should not be neglected.  Only then can you truly decide what you want to do.  Decide where you want to work.   Decide if you want to work on your own.  Decide whom you want to work with…

Ditch your Debt.  Decide your Destiny!

Steen - 167x124This article was contributed by Steen Andersen, President of Maconomy Inc. Maconomy creates Organic Business Solutions for Professional Services Organizations in a way which ensures human as well as financial gain.

You can follow Steen on twitter at @MoellerAndersen

What a Project… Is Not

by Himanshu Jhamb on June 19, 2009

Many a times, I encounter the word ‘Project’ thrown around, rather liberally. I am writing this post in an attempt to dispel certain notions of ‘A Project’. So, in a way, this post is not about what a project is: Rather, it is more about what a Project IS NOT!

Here are 5 things a Project Is not:

1. A task list or something that you do repeatedly day-in and day-out. Example: Generating a weekly report for a customer is not a project (although many would have you think so)

2. Having someone do a task for you. Example: If you delegate someone to prepare a document for you, that is not a project.

3. Thoughtless (or thoughtful, for that matter) activities with no Purpose in mind. Example: Sitting and thinking about your next project, is not a project.

4. Something that you do to ‘Cope-with’ with or ‘React-to’ a situation. Example: Meeting with a group of people at your workplace and talking about how to tackle a difficult customer issue, is not a project.

5. Some work you do that has no relevance towards a commitment you have made. Example: The act of showing up at work and not producing ROI (Return on Investment) for your employer, is not a project.

Projects are created for the purpose of handling new situations, which if left unhandled, would turn into unfavorable situations.

Projects become more and more relevant in the face of rapid changes in the environment because the old ways of doing things no longer produce results that are satisfactory.

More on what “projects” are… in my upcoming post(s).