Posts Tagged ‘organization’

Resilience Engineering #16: Hammering out a Schedule

by Gary Monti on October 4, 2011

Nailing down a schedule is one of the biggest project challenges there is. Even when you get it right things can happen in the environment that destabilize scheduling efforts. In a previous blog, Resilience Engineering #12: Party Time, the FRAM (Functional Resonance Accident Model) model was introduced as a way to provide rich contextual information for task definition and establishing a link between tasks. The phrase, “hammering out a schedule,” aptly implies the effort it takes to get one’s project house in order and determine who will do what and when.

Presently I am working with a client who wants a scheduling system. Before that can be done there is a lot of political house cleaning needed, which is the current focus of work. The hook being used to get them to stop gossiping and put that time and energy into work is shown in the diagram below.

What we have here is a FRAM diagram. The goal is to show the dynamics at play and how they can be mapped out for a given situation. Each hexagon is a function. The attributes for each function are:

  • I (Input). Raw material or the output of a previous task needed to execute the activity.
  • O (Output). The measurable deliverable from the activity.
  • P (Preconditions). Environmental and contextual considerations which are needed for success to occur, e.g., “clear requirements,” is a precondition for “task generation” to be effective.
  • R (Resources). Classic project management resources, e.g., people, tools, etc.
  • T (Time). This can be either classic duration, e.g., two effort hours, or calendar time, e.g., one evening.
  • C (Control). The parameters for setting acceptance criteria as well as process requirements that insure an adequate job is done.

The focus with the client is on the variable “preconditions.” It is an eye-opening exercise when looked at from the perspective of where the organization needs to be in order to support execution of a task.

The short version of this is 4-5 months of organizational work is needed before credible scheduling of the first task can begin. This is a group of engineers, technicians, accountants, sales people, and management having to do the touchy-feely work needed to communicate clearly and simply with committed support and follow-up.

Instead of “Hammering Out A Schedule,” it might have been better to title this “Hammering Out A Company.” Just to get to where a single task can be scheduled with high reliability it will be performed adequately within time and budget constraints almost the entire company is being profiled psychologically. Why? They can’t talk. They are technical experts. They can yell, they can be passive aggressive, they can be fearful, they can be greedy but they are very unskilled at understanding each other and are afraid of being honest and trusting.

We are making progress. It is stressful. They are uncomfortable. They are looking at those dark places from which strange noises emanate (better know as bitching and gossiping) and deciding what to do. All this before a single task can be scheduled with confidence.

Hammering out a schedule is hard work but well worth the effort. They are starting to see the benefits of putting energies into getting things done as a team rather than pointing fingers.

The court is out as to whether or not success will occur. This work reaches all the way into the Board Room. If they make it, though, they’ll be able to schedule a task and rely on the forecast. They’ll be able to go home and say, “I DID something constructive today and it feels good.”

Gary Monti PMI presentation croppedThrough his firm, Center for Managing Change, Gary Monti has over 30 years experience providing change- and project management services internationally. He works at the nexus between strategy, business case, project-, process-, and people management. Service modalities include consulting, teaching, mentoring, and speaking. Credentials include PMP number 14 (Project Management Institute®), Myers-Briggs Type Indicator certification, and accreditation in the Cynefin methodology. Gary can be reached at gwmonti@mac.com or through Twitter at @garymonti
Share

Remember in Star Wars when Yoda said something to the effect that “There is no ‘Try’, only ‘Do’”?  Well I guess if you have supernatural powers and a light saber then that might be true.  But on THIS planet, there is often a lot more trying then actually doing!  In fact business experts say unless you are failing periodically, you aren’t trying hard enough.  So setting lofty goals is a good thing, right?

Yes but failing a lot may earn you a reputation for not delivering on your promises.  The more I talk with people in business about what qualities they want to see in their employees, the more I hear the phrase “Do what you say you will do”.  From engineering staffs to marketing teams, making things happen – - – key things and minor things – - – seems to be an increasingly important ability when HR departments look at potential hires.  How do you do this?

How do you build a reputation for Reliability?

  1. Be very reluctant to agree to do things in the first place.  Since your word is your bond, don’t give your word easily.  Instead of saying “I’ll make so-and-so happen by the end of next month” when you have no idea how you’ll actually make that happen, say instead “I’ll push hard to make that happen and it depends on our ability to get X and Y here parts in time” or just say “That is high risk but we will try it.”
  2. Be an ACE – - – Always Control Expectations.  If a task is going to be especially difficult make sure key people know it, for two main reasons:  a) You want them to know that the probability of success is low so they are not automatically counting on your success and are, instead, preparing back-up plans b) you may need resources in order to be successful and they can help you get them.

 Here is how you DON’T build a solid reputation for reliably making things happen:

  1. You don’t cherry-pick only those jobs that you know you can do, finding ways to reject/avoid all the others.  This will get you branded as a primadonna interested more in your corporate image than in the work of the enterprise.
  2. And you don’t play the blame game, finding ways to blame other people (coworkers, managers, suppliers, etc.) time after time when you are unable to complete assigned tasks on time.

As a boss, if people on your team are signing up for tough jobs and then unable to complete them on time, a process (or several) is probably broken.  Your forecasting process for sales may be unrealistic; your supply chain might be unreliable and impacting your deliverables; your project managers are not properly assessing risks and developing work-around plans.  Whatever is causing the problem, get a Tiger Team to tackle it.  They should dig until they find the root causes, no matter how politically painful, and then provide you with options and a recommendation to fix the problem.  This has the additional benefits of forcing people to adopt a mindset of continuous improvement, helping teams become more self-directed and showing everyone that management wants solutions brought to the table whenever a problem surfaces.  Find a problem?  Good.  Bring some possible solutions (options for management) and a recommendation.  That last point, making a recommendation, forces people to take a stand and suggest a course of action.  Such assertive action, taking a public stand on something, builds character.   Managers always watch to see who does this – - – they are almost always the future managers and leaders for the enterprise.

Copyright: Solid Thinking Corporation

Mack McKinneyMack McKinney is on a personal crusade to eliminate conflict and stress in our lives. Mack’s mantra is “People treat you like you TRAIN them to treat you!” His company Solid Thinking Corporation teaches creativity, concept development, relationship management and high-performance project leadership to major US corporations and the US government
Share

Over the last three years, I’ve asked hundreds of business owners this question:

What’s Been Harder in Your Business Than You Expected?

More than 95% of the time, the answer was immediate and unequivocal:

The People!

Jason Colleen owns Colleen Concrete and when I interviewed him he employed about 50 people.  Jason’s response to the question captured the essence of what I heard over and over again.  He said,

“I didn’t expect so many headaches to come from the employees.  Every little problem they have somehow becomes my problem.  People are just so high maintenance.”

Dealing with employees seems to be a universal challenge.  The truth is, people have issues and the more employees you have, the more issues you have.  But there’s another truth as well, and that is:

Great Companies Grow One Person at a Time

Or more precisely, great companies grow one great person at a time.  One of the things I’ve discovered in my own business and in the experience of the owners I’ve interviewed is that you can’t stack enough good people up to make a great one.  Good simply isn’t good enough.  Great people are far more likely than good people to do three things on a consistent basis:

  1. Initiate: Fundamentally, initiative is thought or action that is not prompted by others.  It’s the ability to assess independently and the willingness to take charge before others do.  The soul of initiative is an intensely active engagement – engagement with the company, client, problem or opportunity.  Initiative requires thought, which as Henry Ford said, is probably the hardest work we do.
  2. Stretch: Stretch is about setting your sights higher, much higher, than what seems reasonably achievable. Unless there is a critical mass of people in your company that are willing to reach for incredible, you’ll never achieve incredible.  When you stretch, even if you fall a bit short of incredible, you will inevitably wind up doing better than you would have if you didn’t stretch.
  3. Grow: Employees usually have an expectation that you’ll pay them more next year than you paid them this year.  But why would you?  The only logical reason would be that they contribute more next year than they did this year.  Great employees get that.  They’re always looking for ways to make themselves more valuable.  They improve their skills; they learn how to use new tools; they take classes to expand their knowledge.

That’s what great people look like.  Now, I’m not saying these great people won’t also have some issues.  But if I have to deal with people issues, I’d prefer to be dealing with the issues of highly productive contributors as opposed to the issues of the mediocre, uninspired or disengaged.

Jack-Hayhow Jack Hayhow is Chief Executive Servant of Opus Communications in Kansas City. Opus provides tools and techniques to help business owners build their business. Jack is also the author of two highly acclaimed business books, The Wisdom of the Flying Pig: Guidance and Inspiration for Managers and Leaders and, Breaking Through the Barrier: What Companies That Grow Do Differently
Share

Can a business create profitability based on kindness? Sure, why not?

The Dali Lama says if nothing else practice kindness. This must be a very powerful practice, so just what does it entail?

I googled the word kindness and here are a few words that showed up as synonyms: Accommodation, benevolence, compassion, courtesy, forgivingness, friendliness, generosity, gentleness, goodness, goodwill, grace, graciousness, helpfulness, humanity, perceptiveness, sensibility, sensitivity, service, tolerance, understanding and warmth. Who wouldn’t want to be part of an organization that practiced kindness? As I read each one of these words I could feel a heartfulness present: a quality of being mindful of the wholeness of the organization and all of its members. Each organization has a heart, just as each individual has heart. We forget this fact. We forget our own heart too. An act of kindness reminds us to be mindful of the essential nature of life that beats within us all.

In my google search, the words that came up as antonyms for kindness were: complaisance, compliance, deference, obligingness. These words reflected a different quality – not one that generates heartfulness. To me they reflect a stand for doing the minimum of what’s required by the organization. They reflect an attitude of resistance to participate or engage. “I’m not committed enough to shift my stand or position. I don’t want to and you can’t make me.” What is underlying this stand for complaisance and compliance?

Every one of us in a business environment are there for personal gain first and foremost. Only as a secondary intention are we there to fulfill the vision and mission of the organization itself.  If it were any other way we would set aside our judgments and interpretations, our fears and needs, our resistance and other survival strategies for the best interest of everyone associated with this organization. We would act in alignment with the highest good and the highest truth of ourselves, which is always in the alignment with the highest good of everyone and, believe it or not, every organization. The fact is that we just aren’t that committed.

Though we say we are committed to serving our organization, generally we aren’t committed enough to shift our personal perspective in order to move beyond compliance and complaisance. What are we committed to?

I suspect many of us have a hit list – those people at work who we wish would disappear, with whom we avoid eye contact and conversation. It may be those about whom we gossip or complain. We may even perform passive-aggressive or passive-resistant maneuvers in order to sabotage their success or fulfillment. I’m always curious about what we gain from other people’s demise.

Taking on a practice of kindness, just as a practice, will reveal underlying motives. Bubbles of emotions begin to surface that often feel uncomfortable. It’s not uncommon for anger, frustration and sadness to arise. Attached to each of these emotions is a thought that is harbored in the recesses of your mind; a belief, a judgment or interpretation that is confronted by just the smallest act of kindness. I’m always fascinated by this process, and though it is often uncomfortable I encourage the exploration, discovering what’s interfering with kindness, compassion, generosity, graciousness. What do you have to lose? Funny, isn’t it, that we think we have something to lose by being kind.

Kindness makes good economic sense. Research shows that good business and profitability comes down to creating good relationships. Good relationships require so many of the words that relate to and include kindness. How are you doing kindness or how are you being kindness. Too often doing kindness is a transparent, inauthentic manipulation, and personal gain is its motive.

Authentic kindness – what’s the motive?

My work is grounded in authentic, engaged connection. When I am grounded in this I enjoy being myself and quite often find more to enjoy in the other. I suspend judgment about who they are, their status, what I can gain from the relationship and remain in the moment authentically engaged and connected.

Kindness, like compassion, is sometimes really challenging to practice, however when doing so we can make a huge difference in our own capacity to be relaxed, open, free of stress and pressures. It contributes to our level of happiness and enjoyment. There is nothing to lose and everything to gain by just being kind. It’s funny how it works that way.

Rosie KuhnThis article is contributed by Dr. Rosie Kuhn, founder of the Paradigm Shifts Coaching Group, author of Self-Empowerment 101, and creator and facilitator of the Transformational Coaching Training Program. She is a life and business coach to individuals, corporations and executives.
Share

Any worthwhile study of leadership begins with the realization that there is no foolproof formula for success. The “right” way to lead is most often a function of the organization and its people, and therefore highly dependent upon a large combination of stationary and moving parts. Many factors come into play, including the product or service provided by the organization, skill levels and experience of the work teams, organizational environment, and the personal attributes of the firm’s leaders. As these things change over time, good leaders are usually able to adapt by instinctively modifying their styles as required. If there is such a thing as a common denominator for success, it is trust between the workforce and its leadership. But there are many leadership styles that can achieve this result.

Leadership Styles

  1. Visionary Leadership. Simply put, a visionary is one who is able to see beyond that which most people accept as the norm, and is also able to inspire others to share his vision and help him make it a reality. This type of leader is very adept at inspiring others and influencing team members to improve or change. He is emboldened by his vision, often in the face of disagreement or inertia, to lead the way across a new road into sometimes uncharted territory. In doing so, he tends to walk a fine line between the ideal world he envisions and the real world with all of its obstacles and impediments.  History is replete with Visionary leaders: Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, just to name a few. The corporate world has had its share of visionary leaders too. Some of them include Lee Iacocca (former chairman of Chrysler Corporation), Sam Walton (founder of WalMart), and Helmut Panke (former chairman of German auto manufacturer BMW). Modern examples of corporate leaders who have adopted a visionary style are Steve Jobs (Apple) and Sir Richard Branson, whose successes with Virgin Group Ltd. is described here.
  2. Supportive Leadership. This style is characterized by leaders who are able to recognize those situations when people require more support than direction. This type of leader will never hesitate to express sincere appreciation for a job well done or to console an employee who happens to be going through a rough time. Supportive leaders are usually great listeners who also have an uncanny ability to tune in to the emotional signals around them. They make it a point to know their team members well so that they can take an active interest in them. An example of how this leadership style can be very successful is the Hewlett-Packard Corporation. Its co-founder, Bill Hewlett, was noted for genuinely caring about his employees while he was CEO. As part of his executive responsibilities, he regularly walked the floors getting to know his employees and becoming involved with their issues on a daily basis.
  3. Servitude Leadership. Closely aligned to the supportive style is the servitude leadership style. The two are similar in that both of them are characterized by a caring and concerned attitude. However, the servitude style is more action oriented and often has the leaders putting the needs of their subordinates ahead of their own. CEOs who subscribe to this leadership style involve their teams heavily in decision making and very often work hands on alongside their employees to get something done. A good example of the success of this style is Wal-Mart chairman S. Robson Walton, whose overriding mantra is to always listen to employee and customer needs. He has made this philosophy a guiding principle of his billion-dollar enterprise.
  4. Shared Leadership. The idea of a single figure at the top of an organizational hierarchy is no longer a given. This type of structure made a lot of sense when companies were smaller and less complex. But there is a growing trend, particularly in companies whose populations are large enough to rival those of some small nations, to institute a joint leadership arrangement with multiple heavyweights sharing power at the top. This model is often seen in large educational institutions, where the Dean and the President have cognizance over different domains but are both viewed as equal leaders. And to a growing extent, the concept is gaining popularity in the business arena too.

Over the last decade, the corporate world has seen the rapid rise of Google, which ascended to prominence under the direction of an executive management group comprised of three individuals who shared responsibility. Since that time, other companies have adopted a similar business model where company leadership is divided between engineering and sales. This structure has proven successful and has eradicated a lot of the bottlenecks and other problems plaguing extremely large corporations.

Right Leadership Style

So which of these leadership styles guarantees success? The answer is none of them. Anyone looking for a guarantee is looking in the wrong place. There are several approaches which have proven to work very well, but the key is to match the right leadership style to the right company. The sign of a good leader is someone who knows his organization well enough to find that custom fit.

Art-GouldArt Gould is a division manager with Self Storage Company, which operates a group of websites, including a Nashville self-storage locator. Though busy, Art enjoys meeting new people and clients when traveling to sites throughout Tennessee like the Memphis self storage center
Share

Use the Four P’s To Get Your Ideas MOVING:  Be Pleasant, Be Professional, Be (Somewhat) Patient and Promote Like Crazy

Picture this scene:  You are the new person at your office.  You’ve been there a month and a great idea just occurred to you.  This idea will help your group save money and deliver a better product or service.  You describe the idea to your colleagues and they like it.  So you mention it to your boss and she likes it too.  You are now very excited!

Adopting the idea won’t cost your group much money and the savings are remarkable, so you would like to get the idea adopted . . . yesterday. . .  immediately.  But nobody else seems to share your sense of urgency.  So what should you do?   Pick one.

  1. Push like Hell.  You probably have enough people believing in the idea already.  Make this your signature cause and get noticed.  Stand out as a change agent and do it now.  If you back down now, people will see you as a quitter.  This would be a bad reputation to get when you just arrived.  Make as much noise as needed to get that idea adopted and senior management will have to notice you!
  2. You are just too new to push ANY idea.  Convince your boss, who knows the group and how to make things happen, to push the idea, hopefully bringing you along.  Organizations fear change anyway, especially if the change is pushed by somebody new like you.  If your boss won’t champion the idea, drop it like a hot potato.
  3. Change jobs. If your group will not act on a great idea that is this OBVIOUS, you will never get them to change.  And if you cannot contribute, why are you working there?  You haven’t been there long enough for the job change to even show up on your resume.  Move on.  These people are dinosaurs and you will never fit in.
  4. Push the idea gently but don’t lose focus on your job and your career.  If you can’t get this idea adopted with gentle, steady persuasion, there must be some other reason(s) for the resistance.  Walk away.  Rethink it.  Repackage it.  Growing in your current job is more important than satisfying your ego.

Before we give you OUR answer, we’ll give you the secret to making things happen at work:  the four P’s – - – Be Pleasant, be Professional, be Patient and Promote.  Do these things and you will get your ideas accepted, guaranteed.  [Unless they are bizarre, aluminum-foil-on-your-head ideas, in which case you need the fifth P – - – Prozac.).

The four P’s are easy to do.

  1. Be Pleasant:  This doesn’t mean you have to suck up to anyone or abandon your deepest principles.  To be pleasant just think “face and back” – - -  Smile whenever you meet or greet people face to face.  Make it look like you are genuinely glad to see them.  Even better, BE genuinely glad to see them. Every time.  With everyone.   And never, ever say anything behind a person’s back that you haven’t already said to their face.  Ever.  And lastly, let others have their say.  This applies to your idea or to any idea or concept or world event or . . . well . .  . anything.  Let other people talk and don’t feel that you have to correct their opposite-from-yours view on the subject.  Practice letting it go. Go reread “Desiderata” and practice it!   Whenever tempted to go nose-to-nose with a real dufus, remember the phrase “Never wrestle with a pig.  You both get dirty but the pig likes it.”
  2. Be Professional:  You were hired to do a job.  Learn to do that job better than anyone on the planet.  And stay focused on that huge task.  Every day.  Be passionate about learning everything there is to know about your job.  (See our previous post about passion titled “Get a Fire going In Your Belly”).  Talk with other inquisitive, curious people about the work you do, why things are done the way they are, what problems existed previously and how they were solved, etc.  Always take the wide view of a situation and ask “what am I missing here?” when tempted to snap at someone.  The PAUSE is a powerful thing and it is sooooo easy to use!  More on that in a future post.

Next week we’ll show you that a little patience is desirable but that too much can be a very bad thing.  We’ll also show how you can promote your idea without becoming that boring/aggravating person everyone avoids at the lunch table

Copyright: Solid Thinking Corp.

Mack McKinneyMack McKinney is on a personal crusade to eliminate conflict and stress in our lives. Mack’s mantra is “People treat you like you TRAIN them to treat you!” His company Solid Thinking Corporation teaches creativity, concept development, relationship management and high-performance project leadership to major US corporations and the US government
Share

Keys to a successful Strategic Planning Process

by Steve Popell on January 5, 2011

The time-tested strategic planning process includes the following elements.

  • Vision (3-5 years)
  • Mission (3-5 years)
  • Long-Range Goals (3-5 years)
  • Short-Term Objectives (next 12 months)
  • Task Assignments (to accomplish the Short-Term Objectives)
  • Action Items (What do we do Tuesday?)
  • Follow-up (to compare actual performance with plan)

Some give short shrift to the Vision and Mission as “touchy-feely” and somehow remote from daily operations.  This is a mistake.  In fact, developing a clear Vision and Mission, and communicating the same to all employees, can play a critical role in the company’s future success.

The Vision

Any worthwhile strategic planning process must begin with your Vision for the company at some specific date in the future.  What will be your company’s identity?  When customers, suppliers or professionals hear your company’s name, what image do you want them to conjure up?  What overriding quality do you want front of mind?  In other words: Who is this company?  Here are a few examples of vision statements that speak to this identity question.  Note that none of these statements says anything specific about what the company does for a living or about the customer base.

  1. We make the defense of the U.S. homeland stronger and more flexible.
  2. We help our clients’ teams to function more cohesively and effectively.
  3. We improve the quality of health care in America.
  4. We make transit passengers safer.

When your employees fully understand (intellectually and viscerally) your company’s Vision, they will be able to see how optimum performance in their individual jobs will contribute to the fulfillment of that vision.  This connection is critical for long-term job satisfaction, high achievement and career track progress.

When an outsider sees and understands the Vision, the first question that comes to mind is “How do they do that?”  This is where the Mission comes in.

The Mission Statement

The Mission statement describes your company’s function in concrete terms.   Using the same examples, here is a group of Mission statements that address the question “What does this company do, and for whom?”

  1. We train dogs to assist Customs inspectors to locate drugs and explosives.
  2. We deliver workshops to privately held companies on verbal and written communication, listening skills and teamwork.
  3. We make timely delivery of top-quality components to medical instrumentation OEMs.
  4. We manufacture shatter-proof glass for public transit vehicles.

Marrying the Vision and Mission statements is essential, because it helps to get across to your employees how truly important each of their jobs is in the grand scheme of things.  For example, these dog trainers are obviously in support of the drug and explosive interdiction business.  But, interdiction is a means, not an end.  The end is that we are all safer in this country.

In this example, you want your employee to make the connection that “If I do my job really well, I will be saving lives. I may never know the names or, even, the home towns of those I save, but they will be alive because of me/”  If your strategic planning group crafts meaningful Vision and Mission statements, you will create an environment in which this kind of connection will be a small step, not a leap.

Good luck!


PhotoPopell This article has been contributed by Steven D. Popell. Steve has been a general management consultant since 1970. Steve is a Certified Management Consultant, business valuation expert, and inventor of ExiTrak®- a process designed to assist the privately-held company owner/manager to build an attractive strategic acquisition candidate

Share

The most recent post discussed the structure of a Stock Appreciation Rights Program as part of your ongoing effort to retain and motivate key employees, and as alternative to issuing equity.  The principal advantages of the SAR program are:

  1. It provides a clear connection between financial reward and the success of the company.
  2. It encourages cooperation among individuals and groups, because everyone will benefit financially if the company prospers.
  3. The vesting schedule encourages and directly rewards longevity.
  4. The company repurchases non-vested shares for zero dollars.
  5. When the company repurchases vested shares, 100% of the repurchase price is tax deductible.

As we indicated in the last post, an SAR program provides little in the way of immediate reward.  For some individuals, such as “hunter” salespeople, the lack of short-term feedback can be a demotivator.  This shortcoming can be remedied by an effective cash bonus program.

There is one cardinal rule for designing any cash compensation program; namely, reward the employee for success in areas in which s/he has a significant amount of control or, at least, considerable influence.  Financial accountability is critical, and that means the capacity to carve out in numbers the results of your employee’s efforts.

Let’s say, for example, that your company manufactures a number of products which carry a wide range of Gross Margin as a percent of sales.  Among those product lines that generate comparable unit volume, your sales force should emphasize sales of the high Gross Margin products, and you should reward those who are successful in this effort.  Specifically, the bonus plan must reward both Gross Margin dollars and Gross Margin percentages.

We have designed a number of sales compensation programs over the past 40 years, with particular emphasis on this very principle.  The beauty of this idea is that, if the salesperson increases the proportion of high Gross Margin business, while maintaining constant sales volume, s/he will benefit twice. First, Gross Margin dollars will increase because the Gross Margin percentage is higher on constant sales.  Second, s/he will get a bigger slice of those Gross Margin dollars.   So, the salesperson will get a bigger slice of a bigger pie.  Now, that’s motivation!

Stock Appreciation Rights programs and cash bonus programs are not mutually exclusive.  Quite the contrary, they can be companions that address the need to motivate the employee in the short run and encourage both strategic thinking and longevity.

Good luck!


PhotoPopell This article has been contributed by Steven D. Popell. Steve has been a general management consultant since 1970. Steve is a Certified Management Consultant, business valuation expert, and inventor of ExiTrak®- a process designed to assist the privately-held company owner/manager to build an attractive strategic acquisition candidate

Share

The trap of entertainment!

by Himanshu Jhamb on September 6, 2010

On a recent business trip to New York, I was presented with a unique opportunity in a most unexpected way. I was going through my day like clockwork – attending client calls, leading my team through the initial stages of a big project & in and out of meetings – when a colleague of mine came into my office and started talking about leadership. The conversation started with my colleague sharing his opinions about how leadership had been assumed in the past (in our organization), rather than earned… and soon went further into other undesirable facets of the company that had plagued the organization.

Before I knew it, the conversation took a bit of a negative turn where I observed myself contributing to it as well by going over the undesirable past events… like they mattered! I have been in these conversations in the past… they happen all around us; in our homes, in businesses and even in hair cutting salons! I have, inadvertently, been an active participant in these conversations for hours together and in the end, always come out feeling a little “better”, but there has always been an accompanying feeling that something still wasn’t right.

I boil down this feeling to the nature of “complaints”, especially the ones that are repeated. It is important to notice that whenever we complain about the same thing repeatedly, without attempting to change the way we act – we are usually getting some “juice” from our complaint – which is, in a very weird way, ENTERTAINING, to us. What’s worse is, this is something we humans get simply hooked to! … And this, my friends, is what I call The Trap of Entertainment.

Think about it – Have you ever caught yourself in an argument that started with a complaint, lasted more than 30 minutes and you forgot what you were arguing about … while you still continued to argue? Why did you do that? There is some Entertainment you are getting from the situation – it’s important to note that though this might be entertaining, it is dangerously so. Why? Because the consequences are usually not so entertaining!

How does one get out of it?

So, given that it is natural to get into this, how does one go about getting out of this? Here are 4 questions that would help:

  • What can we learn from the past mistakes so that the same situations do not happen again?
  • What can we do NOW to make sure that the complaint we have of others in the past – Others do not have that same complaint of us in the future?
  • How can I make a positive difference to the other person’s life RIGHT NOW, in this conversation?
  • How can I provide VALUE to this conversation without getting sucked into sharing my opinions about the past events?

Avoid the entertainment trap by guiding your conversations with others with the help of these four questions and see how things start turning up for you… and share how it goes for you!

Himanshu JhambThis article was contributed by Himanshu Jhamb, co-founder of ActiveGarage and co-author of #PROJECT MANAGEMENT tweet. You can follow Himanshu on Twitter at himjhamb.
Share

Look at the image of black squares in rows and columns, and count how many black spots you see. While there appear to be many, in fact there are none. When we focus on the figure, we easily ignore the ground. In this optical illusion, the intersections appear to be sprinkled with black dots, which pop in and out and shift about the image with a dizzying effect, purely as a figment of our imagination.

If you calmly focus on any one of the white dots, you can clearly see that it is white, and that the black and grey dots are an illusion. If you focus on the central white dot, and gradually let your field of peripheral vision expand, you may be able to see an expanded range of dots as they are white, without any flickering dots on the screen. This is a challenging shift in focus, because it requires you to see comprehensively the big picture, the details, and the relationships all at the same time.

Easy to get lost in business

The lack of comprehensive vision causes confusion. This happens to many people who enter the world of business. Whether you are an executive or someone on a career path, if you don’t know where you are and where you are going, you may easily find yourself lost in the cross winds.

The flickering mentality leads to a pursuit of short-term profits without regard for consequences. Large organizations and governments which engage in short-sighted or greedy behavior can wreak havoc on the economy and the environment. The pursuit of the flickering dot mirage creates stress, and over time the process tends to chew people up and spit them out.

Itoh Motoshige, Professor of Economics at the University of Tokyo, says that to understand economies today we need a flexible focus, the ability to shift appropriately from the bird’s eye Macro view, to the insect’s eye Micro view for detail, and to the fish’s eye for changes and interrelationships. This is precisely the power of the Mandala Chart, which enables you to shift perspective and focus with ease.

A world of opportunity

The Mandala Chart can help us regain our bearings by seeing our business comprehensively, and what role we want to play within it. It also helps us refocus on the interfaces and spaces between things and people. Because the majority of people are too busy pursuing the mirage to really recognize reality, this is where the opportunities are.

What is typically presented as a good opportunity in business, is often actually an opportunity to be part of somebody else’s business plan. Most of these so-called opportunities are so easy to duplicate, that they lead right to the red ocean of competition for slight edge advantages and dwindling profit margins. If customers are unable to distinguish between brands or quality, they will naturally gravitate to the lowest cost option.

True opportunities are never obvious, because they exist in the spaces between. They represent the world of possibilities and new combinations, and come to life when an entrepreneur or enterprise recognizes and fully engages their potential. This is why so much innovation happens at the leading edge of technology, through interdisciplinary collaboration at the edges, and through networking and mastermind groups.

An ancient principle

The Principle of Comprehensiveness is the second of eight principles in the Framework of Wisdom for the Mandala Chart. Two concepts which help define it have roots in Buddhism, particularly the branch of Esoteric Buddhism which introduced the Mandala to Japan.

(), meaning empty as the sky, which in fact is full of stars, galaxies, and infinite possibilities. In Japanese painting, architecture, traditional and martial arts, space is a powerful entity. It is also an essential idea in Buddhism, often mistranslated as emptiness, but more accurately representing the infinite potential of that which is without form. The realization of this potential depends on the second concept, which is how you engage with this potential.

(en), meaning edge or relationship, which can also mean the opportunity which is abundant in the intersections where people and ideas meet. It may also be thought of as the present moment and space, which is where the past transforms into the future. Think of how often things have developed according to the people you met and the decisions you made at the time. Yet this is an ongoing process, not a final verdict.

The Mandala itself has roots in India, Tibet, China, and Japan, where it was introduced in the 9th Century by a Buddhist Priest named 空海 (Kūkai). From the sixty-four frame (8×8) structure of the Diamond World Mandala, a National Treasure from 9th Century Japan, it is easy to see the roots of the Mandala Chart. The imagery used then represented the iconography of Esoteric Buddhism, as a graphical way of looking at the Buddhist universe with flexible focus.

Back to business

How then do you apply this to business? Once you understand the importance of flexible focus, once you learn how to look at things comprehensively, then you need to fix your eight compass points for business, and place them in the framework of the Mandala Chart.

How you determine those points depends a great deal on your type of business, your role in the business, and the field on which you play. To get you started, try downloading the PDF template Refocus Your Business, which gives you eight coordinates likely to apply to any business:

  1. Mission
  2. Current Projects
  3. Profit Plan
  4. Markets & Products
  5. Organization
  6. Human Resources
  7. Meetings & Communication
  8. Management Strategy.

Jot down some key words for each which apply to your business, and spend some time trying to see your business comprehensively, looking for new opportunities in the spaces between, for new ways to connect and integrate each of these elements.

The next time you find yourself getting tired, confused, or stressed by your job or business, look at your Mandala Chart. See if you can take your mind off of the flickering dots illusion, and refocus on the substantial opportunities that exist in the spaces between. Be sure to write your insights down. What you discover will calm your mind and benefit your business.

William ReedWilliam Reed specializes in applying practical wisdom from Japanese and Asian culture to solving the problems of modern business and living. He is the author of the Flexible Focus column on Active Garage, the syndicated column Creative Career Path and the book A Zoom Lens for Your life. William is also a Representative Director and Co-Founder of EMC QUEST Corporation, which provides Coaching for Communication and Change, World Class Speaking™, and Accelerated Action with GOALSCAPE™.
Share