Tag Archives: planning

Speed Kills.

9 Sep

Faster is not always better. Speed chess isn’t great chess. Great isn’t the point. It’s fast. Watch them obsess over the clock…double and triple tapping to be sure.

“If you want to make me twice as smart and helpful, give me 10 minutes notice that we’re going to meet and what about.” This was my plea to a leader I worked with. He would drop in to discuss strategy for important and complex topics on a moments notice. This almost always caught me highly focused on another topic and made it difficult to switch gears and offer the quality of help that I expect of myself. It seemed as though everything was being dealt with as a crisis out of habit and preference rather than necessity and each topic was discussed and planned for individually and not as a system – or at least utilizing the same resources.

Tony Schwartz’s “why don’t we act in our own interest?” brought this all back to me. While the blog is familiar, the synthesis was new. The level of proactivity vs. reactivity that we focus our efforts and resources towards causes us to think differently, ultimately changing the interests (i.e., need or problem) we work to fulfill. We intuitively apply this, but it seems we don’t rationally consider how the time-focus of a planning effort changes how the mind works and impacts outcomes.

…we don’t make a connection between our current behavior and its future consequences. As Muhammad Yunus, the Bangladeshi economist, put it, “Leaders don’t have time for the future because they’re too busy with the present.”

We’re familiar with the fight or flight instincts that are triggered in response to threat. We physiologically become dumber under these circumstances as blood leaves our brain towards our extremities to support the fighting or fleeing activities. I had not, however, considered that such a condition is created when we work on things that are of great urgency and perhaps importance. In my experience, importance becomes less clear with greater urgency and pressure. When we are fixated on short-term interests we make “dumb” decisions relative to our long-term interests. If we do this long-enough, we may not even be clear on what our long-term interests are. When we allow the focus of our efforts to be too urgent, it’s like bad ergonomics – the cumulative effects hurt you over time because you’re doing it wrong. You’re using parts of your brain intended for mere survival.

Time Matrix for prioritization

The good news is while we may “lack vision” or “have no strategy,” it’s likely as much a matter of process and not ability. This isn’t a new idea. It’s FranklinCovey’s Habit 1 – Be Proactive. When we work on things that are important and not urgent, we make better decisions because we literally plan differently and serve greater interests and values. The bad news is the environment always wins.

Do you reward crisis managers more than those who consistently deliver to plan and implement in a way that integrates?

Do you find yourself inflating the level of urgency of tasks (or procrastinating) because, if you’re honest with yourself, you prefer a crisis?

Are you bothered by the ambiguity of the not urgent but fundamentally important?


Five Questions to Reflect

12 Feb

Build reflection into your processes to increase learning and improvement. Use these simple questions to facilitate an actionable planning session:

What is my (our) role and purpose?

What am I (are we) doing well that should continue or even do more of?

What am I (are we) doing that requires improvement?

What should I (we) start doing?

What should I (we) stop doing?

Expected results:

  • everyone learns something
  • innovative ideas are developed as people play off each others contribution (aka Catchball)
  • plans are better aligned
  • the team is more engaged in and committed to the plans that are made (and question the leaders’ awareness of what’s really going on much less)

Some Practical tips, should you try it:

  1. The goal is learning – the tone should be set by the leader. Prime the group with an idea of your own for each of the questions. Express your value for the activity and the good you expect to come from it. Praise some things that others are doing well, point out something under your own control you recognize needs improvement, an opportunity you’d like to see the group capitalize on, etc. Some of the leaders I’ve helped thought it was best to leave the team to work on the exercise and then return after 90 – 120 minutes to discuss their ideas.
  2. As a facilitator, I find it works well to project a document for recording notes and summarizing key points for each question. The participants reading the idea seems to stimulate more questions, clarification and conversation as they see the ideas summarized.
  3. End the session with a recap and summary of the key points and any agreements made. I have found it effective to ask members of the team to lead this.

More broadly, discussions with the word “review” in the title (also, debriefs) should honor this same reflective intent. The idea – there are lessons here that should guide our future plans and actions. Don’t limit your conversation to only the misses and opportunities. Ask, why are we experiencing the success we are having and how do we make sure it continues?

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