07 Feb

Want stability in your organization? Move fast. No. Even faster.

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In his book, Thanks For Being Late, Thomas L. Friedman recounts the advice from an Olympic Kayak medalist: To enhance stability in rapids it’s important to move as fast or faster than the current. Every time you rudder or drag your paddle in the water to steer you lose momentum and that makes you more vulnerable to flipping over.

This should be a warning for leaders who believe that they take the safe route when they choose a wait-and-see-attitude when things heat up. I am not promoting that we jump on every band wagon traversing the horizon, and if you know anything about me, you know I’m a plan freak, but keeping up with technology is becoming the single most important competitive edge for companies of any size. When I say keeping up with technology, I include upgrading tools, but it’s the mindset of expecting, managing, and even pushing for even faster change, that I am addressing here.

How often are projects put on hold while you implement the reorg; the new ERP system; the migration to Office 365; the latest acquisition? Stressed? Think about this: If Moore’s Law doesn’t care about your need to find islands of time to get settled in the “new environment” now, how do you think it will feel like in five years or ten? Now imagine that things will change more in the next ten years than they have in the past forty. For many, that’s a reasonable assumption.

The new environment is: move fast now. Ironically, it’s also the old environment. Heraclitus, in about 500 BC. commented, The only constant is change. And so it goes.

But it’s different now. Change is happening so rapidly that we must scrupulously re-examine and adjust our companies’ cultures to not fall into the trap of promoting the idea that change comes in the form of projects; little packages that are neatly planned, executed and integrated. Instead, we should be heralding in a new age of permanent flow. Actually, flow sounds too relaxed. Tsunami?

We still, and forever — mark my words, will need priorities and deadlines, but as technology propels us at greater and greater breakneck speeds, it will become increasingly important that individuals are given more responsibility for judgement and decision making. Steering from the top, as one president will soon learn, is over. An organization fighting to navigate rough waters by attempting to go against nature will, like a kayak, flip over because the uncontrollable flow of technology runs too quickly to navigate top down and trying to slow it or ignore it, as the case may be, only creates instability.

To compensate, organizations will need to better communicate goals and objectives at much faster velocities. More than ever, connecting with company values (not the ones on the wall, but the ones that are supported and referred to on a regular basis in all parts of the organization) will need a resurgence and its function raised to a higher status than is usually the case.

This requires us to not only upgrade communication tools, but also educate and support the soft skills that all too often take a beating around budget time.

What does this mean from a practical standpoint? It means that if you haven’t mapped out your workflows to enable rapid continuous improvements; if you are not becoming flatter as an organization to shorten the distance between the leadership and the ground forces; if you continue to do massive reorgs (waterfall) instead of continuously adjusting (agile); and if you keep pushing off projects based on what your organization can absorb instead of making projects more absorbable, your kayak is going to flip.

We used to say, Embrace change. Today it’s: Don’t stop to embrace change.  The mindset, therefore, should be: Paddle faster when the flow is going too fast. Counterintuitive? Not really. As long as you’ve got a value-based culture, capable direction, great teams, continuous improvement, and your eye on the customer, you’ll still be paddling because inertia will be on your side. The alternative is much worse.

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06 Feb

8 Good Habits For 2015

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Change habits

Change = changing habits

If you want to change anything about yourself, it will require changing one or more habits, and since developing or stopping or changing a habit is so darn difficult, it’s best to focus on one particular habit at a time. Since it is so hard to do this, you will need the proper tool in place. Luckily, that’s just half a sheet of paper.

How:

Pick the easiest habit that you want to improve upon and apply to as many things you can for 30 days.
Print out the label below, cut off the piece you don’t need, then fold and place on a flat service in front of you. Make a new one for each good habit.
Schedule this exercise for the first work-day of each month in your calendar.
Repeat with the next.

Most readers will see familiar faces here. The idea of this exercise is not to nod in agreement that these would be good habits to form; it is to help you choose one habit to work on for an extneded period of time so that you master it and can move on. If you don’t like the idea of taking one month to complete the formation of a habit, you can try two months before going to the next one instead. Even if you focus on just one for three or four months you can’t go wrong. On the other hand, going too quickly increases the risk of not locking in the habit. It’s about retention, not velocity.

1. Avoid “white” or seemingly harmless lies.
You don’t have to tell your wife the truth when she asks you if she looks fat in that dress because our opinions should not always be trusted since they sometimes change over time; but late to an appointment? Don’t blame it on “traffic”. Instead, just apologize. You don’t have to give details. I planned poorly is a hundred times better than risking your integrity by inanely blaming traffic, which will be interpreted by the offended person as poor planning anyway. It’s not about being caught; it’s about the small lies overburdening you over time. Conversely, eliminating white lies incrementally builds up your self-confidence. This is first on the list because it has amazing impact on everything else.

2. Clean up after yourself.
In every way and every situation. Leave the room better than when you found it – always. Keep your desk clean, car, your closet. Perform a Kaizen (change for the better) in your stock room, your kitchen or in one room of the house every month.

3. Finish what you start.
Or at least fully complete parts of it that are usable, and keep track of the rest. That also means not starting things that you can’t finish.

4. Swallow the frog early in the day.
Do the most difficult things of your day in the beginning when you have the most will-power. Research shows that will power is like a muscle. It tires from use, but can also be strengthened.

5. Avoid speaking negatively and avoid others who have the same bad habit.
Complaining is the complete opposite of solving. Stay away from people who nag. After a while it becomes contageous.

6. Do what you promise.
Especially arriving on time. Integrity is the bond you have with all of those within your sphere of influence. Break it and people lose trust and faith in you, which, over time, is very hard to mend. Respect your promises to others and, most importantly, to yourself. If you have too much on your plate, you are breaking promises to yourself. Intervene in advance of failure.

7. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes.
Think about how they will perceive what you are communicating or doing. Without understanding context and perspective we run the risk of losing objectivity; creating problems rather than solving them; and appearing blunt and unsympathetic.

8. Create lots of systems that help you navigate on auto-pilot and give you overview.
There more autopilot best practices you have, the fewer mistakes and stress you will have. These can include calendaring, tasks, projects, shopping, etc. Anything to help you forecast what is around the corner. Don’t worry that it can seem nerdy. No one will ever know unless you have a few too many and gush about all your systems. I didn’t add “Stop drinking too much” to this list, but if the latter occurs…

Three tips to facilitate change:
1. Be consistent: Consistency is the mother of habit. The brain needs consistency in order to carve out those neuro-pathways that build in your ability to go on auto-pilot. The more consistent you are, the less you have to think and try.

2. Small is always better than big when starting a new habit: Get good at filtering out all your dreams and desires and go for things that are easily achievable until you build a consistent track record.

3. Simplify, simplify, simplify. ‘nuff said.

Remember that the objective here is to go slow. Pick just one to start with and keep the reminder on your desk, refrigerator or your bathroom mirror – or make several copies and post them for everyone to see them. Who won’t benefit from that?
I honestly don’t expect everyone to print out the reminders; only the ones who are ready for the challenge. But I can nearly guarantee that if you don’t actually print out the reminders, this will have been a slightly interesting and thoroughly forgotten exercise in just moments. A lost opportunity.
Print it now!

Download your sheet

 

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