do you know what is going on when you are not around?

What is going on when you are not around?

My rescue dog is reactive toward other dogs, so we go for walks early. Really early. When fewer dogs are around. And often we see things that you wouldn’t when people and cars are around. One recent morning, a pair of coyotes were in the middle of the road, just standing there. Probably hunting. A rather large owl was perched further up the road in a tree hooting. Ducks squawk loudly at the pond. And periodically, a deer can be seen grazing. All these critters are gone as soon as people come out.

The same happens in business. Things happen when you aren’t there. Some of it is creative and positive. Other times it isn’t. What is going on when you aren’t around?

how are people living up to expectations

Is everyone living up to the same expectations?

The local park has a bunch of different trails where people hike and run. Some with dogs, some alone and others on horseback. And while there are signs all over the place for people to “scoop” after their horse, none do. As a result, the trail is covered. But the people with dogs do scoop, even though there are virtually no signs asking them to do so. The expectation is the same.

At work, we often have expectations that are the same across the organization. Some people follow them, while others disregard them and continue on, leaving a divided organization. For a culture to thrive, everyone needs to live up to the same expectations. And leaders need to make sure they do. Organizations with two different sets of rules are doomed to fail. How are you making sure you don’t have them in yours?

how do you get perspective?

How do you get perspective?

When I go for walks in the area, there are frequently hawks and eagles flying above or sitting on power lines or high up in trees. From that height, they get a perspective of what is going on on the ground, and can easily find their prey. From a higher level, they get a broad perspective.

The same is true in business. It is hard to get perspective when you are in the trenches. It’s important to step back and get perspective. How do you step away to get yours?

how do you spot opportunities?

Are you spotting opportunities or challenges?

Deer aren’t typically out in my area. But recently, I noticed one nibbling on a bush off the main path. Most people probably wouldn’t have even noticed it was there because it was on a small path that was mostly obscured by a fence and bushes. As soon as I stopped to take a peek and a picture, it ran off into more densely packed bushes.

In business, there are opportunities and challenges lurking all over the place. The trick is keeping your eyes open to spot them. Is your organization structured to keep an eye open to opportunities or challenges?

how do you assess risk?

How are people self assessing risk in your business?

Every morning I see rabbits all over the place. Some are on their own, while others are in groups. On one particular morning, there was a group of four nibbling on the grass. As I approached, three ran up the hill and into a bush. The fourth ran down the hill, paused and watched me as I walked by.

Everyone has their own perception and tolerance for risk. But in business, that can be problematic if individual tolerance for risk is too permissive or too restrictive. How are you making sure you get the balance you want in your business?

what signals do you have to adjust behavior?

What signals do you have in your business to get people to adjust their behavior?

There’s a pedestrian crossing at the bottom of a hill where cars speed by. Recently, the city put in solar powered speed signs that warn people when they are going to fast. And they are doing the job! As soon as they went in, people started slowing down when the sign started flashing “slow.”

Signals that bring focus to behavior that is not in line with expectations are powerful. What signals do you have in your business to get people to adjust their behavior?

how clear are you about your purpose?

How clear are you about your purpose?

A few weeks ago, I went for a hike by Mt. St. Helens. It’s a popular spot and there were a lot of people there. One woman found a family of chipmunks and was taking pictures. Another family with a 4 month old and a 5 year old were “starting them young.” A local hiking group was out for their weekly hike. And a young man was there to get exercise and was moving faster than everyone else on the trail. They all had different purposes and designed their hike to suit their purpose. And they all seemed to be having a great time.

In business, being clear about the purpose of the company and sticking to it is important to attracting the right people for the business and delivering the promise to customers. How clear are you about your purpose?

how far should it bend before being replaced

How far should it bend before being replaced so it doesn’t break?

Every day about noon, the wind picks up and blows pretty aggressively. On one particular street, the daily gusts have shaped the trees so they are permanently bent sideways from the wind. And in the morning, seeing the trees with their sideway lean causes one to wonder if a different landscape design would have been chosen if the designer knew this would be the outcome.

The same sorts of bending of organizations happens all the time to accommodate the daily flow of business. And eventually, the bending becomes permanent. The question is, do you leave something in place that is not designed to work that way, but has adapted as best it could? Or, do you remove it and put something more functional in its place?

how are you making sure quality issues don't slip through the cracks?

How will you make sure quality defects don’t slip through the cracks?

Last week, I got a new package of toilet paper. The plastic wrap around it felt a little loose. And when I opened the package, I found out why. Clearly there was a manufacturing issue that resulted in one of the rolls being pretty narrow. Something was off in the quality control department and no-one caught it or someone let it through with an obvious issue.

A lot has changed in the last year. But standards in quality and delivery of service today shouldn’t be one of them. People will notice. Do you have processes and systems in place to alert you when something is off? How will you make sure quality defects don’t slip through the cracks?

what symbols are you using?

What symbols are you focused on?

A few weeks ago, we had heat in the Pacific Northwest that got up to 116 degrees Fahrenheit. It scorched bushes and trees, and destroyed fruit crops. The heat only stayed for a couple days, but the damage was done. But, the scorched leaves on bushes and trees are left behind to remind us every day of those brutal days that killed a few hundred people. The memories would fade quickly if not for those visual reminders everywhere.

Businesses have symbols all over the place too. Some of happy times. Some of goals. Others of tough times. What do you want people to focus on? Are those symbols in prominent places to help remind people of the things you would like them to focus on?