The Snapshot

snapshotIt’s another gorgeous day and the volcanoes with their snow-covered peaks are magnificent against the blue sky. Who wouldn’t want to capture the sight with a snapshot? The thing is, many attempts over time never seem to capture what I’m actually seeing. Even with zooming in, the perspective is off. The slight haze makes the sky seem not quite as brilliant and a bit grainy. The snapshot doesn’t capture the splendor of nature in front of me.

The days I want to take pictures of the scenery are the one or two days out of weeks where the weather is nice – not indicative of the trends in the weather. Capturing the right snapshot of a business is tough too. Many times KPIs or reports are developed that don’t reflect what is actually going on in the company, and can be at a point in time rather than a trend. How are you making sure you capture what is really going on in your company?

When incentives are not aligned

incentive alignmentA friend was describing a situation in his business. The region is struggling with a 50% vacancy rate – a real issue given that it is a service business. Just getting enough staff to meet contractual obligations is time consuming and difficult. So when the head of business development talked about the need to expand the business, he about fell over. They can’t meet the current obligations, how can they possibly grow? I asked if the business development head is incentivized based on growth in the region, the answer was yes. No wonder! The incentives were not aligned, so sales was out drumming up business while operations was struggling to keep up. It was a fantastic reminder to ensure that all parties are incentivized to row in the same direction to make the business successful. How do you ensure incentives are designed in a way that you get the results you want?

Making It Work

Making it workThe snow and ice kept the bulk of the people away for the day. The unusual quiet presented an opportunity to talk, not something that was typically possible given the busy nature of her work. And what a gift it was. She talked about her retirement that is close at hand and reflected upon her life. Forty-three years with her husband. She smiled when she spoke of their adventures together, the trips they had taken, the struggles they had shared. The pride was evident in her smile when she spoke of raising their son. It wasn’t easy – they didn’t have much money at the time. She worked during the day and her husband worked at night so they could make it work. And she was clearly proud of how her son turned out, the grandchild they now have and the road ahead that she and her husband will share in retirement. They took stock of what they had and they made it work.

Its funny how life sometimes unfolds in a way that requires dedication and commitment to making it work. These situations play out time and again in work and in life. People assess the approaches available and figure out how to make it work. Are you using all of the tools in your arsenal to make it work?

The Bull in the China Shop

bull in china shopShe has been crashing around for about a week now. The huge plastic cone was a necessity after surgery. And while she is used to wearing it now, my yellow lab hasn’t become accustomed to the additional space needed to navigate the house. The scrape of the plastic against the wall as she runs around a corner, or the brute force of pushing the cone through the door before it is all the way open has become common place. Luckily, there has been only one casualty – a vase fell over from one particular exuberant collision with a table.

It has been hard not to imagine a bull in a china shop as she crashes around from one place to another. It is not intentional, it is her nature. She doesn’t realize the damage she is doing, she is just trying to navigate the space using the same approach as the past, not recognizing the need to change her approach given her new reality.

By now, you may be thinking about a person you have encountered at some point in the past. The bull in the china shop. The intentions may be good, but the damage is real. Highlighting the issues in a way that allows the person to save face, while understanding the impact of their actions is important. How do you handle the bull in the china shop in your organization?

The Plan

Business PlanIts that time of the year. For some, it is wrapped up. For others, it is still in the works. The Plan. It is the thing that consumes enormous amounts of time in many organizations, with no real return for the effort put in. In others, there is absolutely no thought at all. In too few, it is a thoughtful, efficient process that gives the organization the right level of focus on achieving key objectives in the coming year.

Over the years, my thinking on the most effective approach to planning has shifted away from the annual plan in favor of a five-quarter rolling forecast. By keeping an eye on the markets and continuing to evolve based on new information, the organization is utilizing the best forward looking information (and history) to achieve objectives. That doesn’t mean flopping around in the wind. It means executing against long range objectives based on current market conditions. How does your organization approach planning? Are you as effective as you can be?

What are you missing by not looking around?

what are you missing?What a stunning day! The rain finally disappeared after what seemed like an eternity. The sky was bright blue and the rain left behind a stunning green landscape. How could I not take my dog out for a long walk on a day like today? We wandered through the WSU Vancouver campus. The brick buildings framed a snow capped Mt. St. Helens in the distance. Mt. Hood framed by tall trees and rolling grass was stunning from the other end. It was surprising to see how many people were missing the stunning sight by focusing on their phones. For me, it was the highlight of the day. I loved the sights and my wandering mind came up with a number of ideas for my business.

This type of situation happens frequently in business. People become so focused on the task of the moment and miss the larger picture around, or don’t have space to think and innovate. How are you creating an environment in your business where people have the time to see the larger picture and innovate?

You Said What?

you said what?We were in a meeting discussing a critical issue. It was clearly a turning point. Or was it? After a lengthy discussion, the meeting wrapped up. It was clear to me that we were headed a new direction. Curious what my counterpart thought, I asked his perspective. His perspective was no change, things would continue on the same path. So, how could we walk away with such different take aways from the same meeting? The challenge is people filter based on their experiences and expectations, assumptions and hopes. Without a clear wrap up to a conversation, it is easy to walk away with different perspectives on what is next. As a result, actions may not align with what was expected, creating confusion down the line. How do you wrap up meetings to create clarity for the path forward?

Showing Up

showing upYears ago, a conversation grew around getting involved in an industry association. Money had been going out the door for years with no seeming return. After a few calls and discussions, the value provided was quite high. The problem was, people had changed in the company I worked for, connections were lost, and no one was showing up. Once we got involved – and started showing up – the relationship grew and blossomed. There was huge value involved on both sides. But, it took a bit of showing up on both sides to develop the relationship and see the importance on both ends.

Whether it is in business or in life, showing up is critical to forming and maintaining relationships. It involves being present – not just physically, but intellectually. In fact, you don’t always need to be physically present as long as a connection is maintained in a way that satisfies all parties. How are you showing up?

Death by A Thousand Cuts

Change Is A Good Thing ConceptA friend was recounting a story they had read recently. It was a study about a couple of kids who set up a lemonade stand with discount pricing to attract customers. Lemonade for $1. However, everything was priced individually. The cup, the straw, the lemonade, the ice, the umbrella, etc. The customer didn’t know about the pricing until the total was provided, then was shocked at the $20 glass of lemonade. The customer had no idea that for each yes, the bill would skyrocket. By the end, it was like death by a thousand cuts and the potential customer would walk away because it was just too much.

This type of situation occurs regularly in business when change is being made. Changes and requirements keep coming – so much so, that the mountain gets so high and people get overwhelmed and walk away. The trick is to make the bulk of the changes quickly and move into the new normal, avoiding death by a thousand cuts. How do you avoid death by a thousand cuts in your organization?

Are Your Efforts Getting Noticed?

make a differenceAfter a recent meeting, I was coming around the bend to visit a social/athletic club in town when I saw a large group of volunteers from the club picking up trash to keep the neighborhood clean. The group wears red vests and does volunteer work regularly in the community – its all part of being a good neighbor. I asked one of the folks who was volunteering if they thought people in the community know about this effort. He shrugged his shoulders said “not sure” and walked off.

It’s amazing how many people put effort into making the experience of others better with the efforts many times going unnoticed. Sometimes it is because it is the wrong effort and value isn’t being recognized. Other times people just don’t know it is going on. Are your efforts getting the results you expected?