unintended consequences

Are unintended consequences derailing your good ideas?

Malcolm Gladwell recently shared things he has been thinking about and testing. One in particular caught my attention. Driverless cars. His theory is that people fear walking out in front of cars because they won’t be seen and will be hit. But in the future, driverless cars will be programmed to stop when people walk in front of them. As a result, what has been touted as a more efficient way to commute will come to a grinding halt because people will no longer follow the rules and will walk across roads and highways at will.

Unintended consequences happen all the time from great and well-meaning ideas. What unintended consequences are coming from your ideas?

you said what?

What? Why now?

About a week ago, I went to the grocery store. And there was a big change in the parking lot. All of the prime parking spots were changed to order online and pick up here. And they were all empty. It was strange. Through the entire pandemic, home delivery and order online and pickup were not an option at this store.

So, why now? After a year and a half of not having the option when vaccine coverage is getting better every day and we are on the verge of having restrictions lifted? And why make customers walk further to get to the store when they could have put the pickup location in a different spot without impacting so many people? And why not give customers the information about how to find and use the service?

Businesses make changes all the times. Sometimes they are obvious and sometimes not. The change sticks when people are better off. When their life is easier.

Are your customers wondering why?

are you asking for what you want

Are you asking for what you want?

My dog has figured out how to get what she wants. In the morning, she positions herself at the top of the stairs, blocking the path down. It’s clear what she wants by her positioning. She wants me to scratch that spot on her back right above her tail. And she just stands there smiling, getting her scratches until she is done and runs downstairs.

Many years ago, someone shared their perspective with me: The most you will ever get is what you ask for. Whether in business or in life, are you asking for what you want?

failure vs learning

How are you scheduling important things in your business?

Friday. For many people, it is the day to wrap up work and get ready for the weekend. Often times, brain power and focus start to drop off. Thoughts start drifting toward how time will be spent over the weekend. And that’s why I was so surprised to see a company scheduling important training on Fridays. Not only is attention waning, but people had no opportunity to implement what they learned before time off, leading to a high probability the learning will be lost.

Important stuff should be prioritized earlier in the week. Not first thing on Monday, because people won’t be able to focus if they have a pile of work that needs to be cleared. Tuesday or Wednesday is best because people are fresh, ideas can be implemented and people can clear their desk before leaving for the weekend.

How are you scheduling important things in your business?

remember those who have fallen to give us our freedom

Memorial Day

Today is Memorial Day in the United States. A holiday created to honor and remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving in the military. For some, the day is marked by visiting cemeteries or sharing stories about those who are no longer with us. And for others, it is a day off work spent with family and friends.

The thing about holidays and celebrations is they are deeply meaningful to those who have a personal connection. For those who don’t have any personal connection, it tends to be just another day. Thus, the need to share the importance and meaning of the day and build bridges to create personal meaning for everyone.

you said what?

How well are you framing your questions and asks?

“Where are you?” he asked as we started our first meeting over Zoom. I’ve been asked that a lot and it is usually about where I am in my house. So I answered “my dining room.” And that’s not at all what he meant. He wanted to know where in the country I was.

It’s so easy to misinterpret what someone is saying because of the lens we wear. And that’s the challenge in leadership. Being clear and giving context to questions or asks makes all the difference in getting the response or output we are looking for. How well are you framing your questions and asks?

are you using the right tools?

Are you using the right tools?

For a lot of years, the annual ritual for planting my garden starts with using a hoe to turn up the dirt and amending the soil, mixing the nutrients and the turned up dirt with a shovel. The practice got the job done, but was not efficient. This year, my neighbor lent me her rototiller. What a difference the right tool makes! Not only was it faster, but it did a better job.  Not just a little better job, a significantly better job.

The same happens all the time in business. People use tools that work, but aren’t designed to do the job quickly or effectively. Having the right tools can make all the difference in how quickly work gets done. And how much the people doing the job enjoy it. Do you have the right tools in your business?

problems get tossed over the wall because it is easier that way

Problems get tossed over the wall because it is easier that way

Every week, the yard crews come through the neighborhood on different days and mow, trim and blow. Each crew uses roughly the same technique, ending with blowing leaves and trimmings along fence lines. But the cloud of leaves, trimmings and dust doesn’t just stay on one side of the fence. Some of it ends up on the other side. The tossing of stuff over the fence happens as part of the job because there is no attempt to keep it contained to one side. And at times, a little makes it over the wall and at other times, a lot makes it over the wall.

The same thing happens every day in business. People go through their day tossing problems over the wall. Sometimes they are small. Other times they are large. It happens because it is easier to let the problem migrate somewhere else than to contain it and fix it. And the situation will continue until someone steps in and resolves to start fixing issues and stop throwing them over the fence.

risk measurement and management

How are you ensuring you don’t skip mitigation measures when risks arise?

The woman was just past the entrance inside of the store. And then it happened. She had a sneezing fit. And as one sneeze after another came, she removed her mask. It is a natural reaction. But the mask is a risk mitigation measure meant to protect others.

Those same sort of natural inclinations to remove mitigation measures happen all the time in business. Risks can be infrequent, but highly impactful if they happen. But mitigation responses are designed with the expectation that people will think through all of the mitigation options when risks arise. And they fail because right at the moment the mitigation measures are most needed, instincts and experience kick in. And the mitigation measures designed for the moment are forgotten or overlooked.

How are you ensuring you don’t skip mitigation measures when risks arise?

Are you rebalancing?

Are you looking at your organization for balance and adjusting when necessary?

I recently took a flower arranging class. It was a lot of fun creating something where nothing existed before. As the class worked to create the arrangement step by step, the instructor cautioned us that the tulips would continue to grow. And the lilies would open up and take lots of space. Both instructions were giving us advice to choose the height and placement for what was to come.

She wasn’t kidding! The tulips grew four or five inches, while I thought they might grow two. And the lilies opened up, covering half the arrangement. As a result, the arrangement ended up out of balance after a few days with the tulips out running the rest of the arrangement and the lilies covering many of the other flowers.

The same thing happens in building out organizations. Some people and departments start outpacing the rest of the organization. And other departments and people take over, not allowing others to be seen and reach their potential. Even if you know it is coming, the best laid plans don’t always work. That means it is imperative to watch for it and continually rebalance so the organization and people operate in harmony. When was the last time you rebalanced?