Creativity and Innovation

Creativity and Innovation

FireFly Facilitation Blog

By Kimberly Douglas 20 Jun, 2016

Vision without execution is hallucination.”     Thomas Edison

Did you know that one of the reasons the population of fireflies appears to be diminishing is because of ambient light or “light pollution”? There are too many distractions. All these other bright lights keep fireflies from performing at their best. How similar and true for the people on our own teams, if we don’t have a common vision of success to focus our time, attention, and resources.

Scarcity of resources—both human and financial—demands that we focus our efforts. If you’re scheduling an annual planning meeting in the coming weeks, you’re probably aware that the value of strategic planning is not only deciding what you   will   do, but also deciding what you will   not   do. When done well, strategic   focusing   can be one of the most exciting and effective team development tools available to a leader.

There is a well-known saying: “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.”     I have found that the most effective teams are exceptionally clear on two things—where they are going and how they must work together to get there. In taking hundreds of teams through the strategic focusing process, I have found this metaphor to resonate with people:

 

The road we are on is our   mission .     If this organization ceased to exist, what would the world lose?  

  • The mountain in the distance is our   vision for success . Three years into the future, how will we know if we have been successful in living up to our mission?

Mile markers are the   key milestones . How will we measure our progress against the vision and course-correct if needed?

  • The guard rails are our   guiding principles . How will we commit to work with each other to reach that mountain?

Next post...the top 5 ways my approach to strategic planning has changed over the last 10 years.

By Kimberly Douglas 06 Jun, 2016

While it's true you might not be able to compose like Mozart or paint like Monet, don't you think you have a little bit of creativity within you?

What about that time you moved into a new role and had to develop a process to address a particular business challenge?  And what if you customize a process you created at another company – but apply it differently at your new company? Doesn’t that fit our more expansive definition of creativity?

When I work with teams to discover their untapped creative potential, I often ask them to remember back to a time in their youth. For me, I showed early signs of my love of facilitation when I was 8. I loved directing plays in our garage with all the neighborhood kids (at least those that were younger and shorter than I was). It was fun bringing together a diverse group of kids, convincing then to play together nicely, and having a successful outcome (a play that we could perform for our parents).   I didn't need to be the star of the play - it was more fun for me to be behind the scenes, making things happen.

And so now I will ask you...when you were younger, what came easily to you? Maybe you even got a nickname for it. What is your own unique brand of creativity? How could you apply that natural talent to some personal or professional challenge facing you today?

By Kimberly Douglas 24 May, 2016

Innovation….when you hear this word, what comes to mind? When I pose this question to a group, I often hear "Apple", "Something new", or similar response.

If you look it up in a standard dictionary, like Websters or American Heritage, the definition is simple and straightforward: "the introduction of something new." If, however, you look it up in Business Dictionary.com, you get a very different result: "The process by which an idea or invention is translated into a good or service for which people will pay.  To be called an innovation, an idea must be replicable at an economical cost and must satisfy a specific need."

The "regular" person’s definition is so much better and more freeing than the business minded one. I call this the difference between innovation with a little “i” – innovation for everyone – and innovation with a big “I” that stands up to the very tough scrutiny of the business world.   We wonder why we see innovation as a slogan by top execs instead of something that actually gets done. How do you know if something is going to make money unless you give it a chance? In many companies we cut new ideas off at the knees because we can’t see right off how it can possibly be profitable.

Let me tell you the story of Alexander Fleming. It's 1928 and apparently Dr. Fleming is a pretty messy scientist. One day he's cleaning out the petri dishes he had been using to grow bacteria.  Something catches his eye. Something had contaminated one of the staph cultures – in fact it had killed the bacteria.

Do you know what he had discovered – penicillin --- by accident! "When I woke up just after dawn on September 28, 1928, I certainly didn't plan to revolutionize all medicine by discovering the world's first antibiotic, or bacteria killer," Fleming would later say, "But I guess that was exactly what I did."

A huge success, right? Wrong! There were so many difficulties associated with producing penicillin in mass quantities, it would be another 12 years before the world realized what he had created. We need the broader definition of innovation...so that we can celebrate the learning…not just the end result.

What "discoveries" - no matter how small and seemingly insignificant - have you made recently? What can you find to celebrate – not just the end result but what you learned from it – and how you can apply those learnings?

By Kimberly Douglas 15 Apr, 2016

We’ve been discussing   Impact   versus   Effort , and in our last post, we talked about how well it works when all of the ideas that need to be evaluated are already written on sticky notes. Now we’ll talk about how to use the notes to organize the ideas you’ve generated. It’s a good idea to ask a neutral party to conduct the discussion and posting of each idea in whichever quadrant the team feels is most reflective of that ideas impact and effort to execute. The next best option is to mix up all of the ideas and divide them equally among the participants, with each person leading the discussion and placement on the flip chart for the notes they are holding.

What you don’t want to have is someone with an agenda leading the discussion and forcing consensus on what they feel is the right box for each idea. That’s almost as bad as having each person lead the discussion for their own ideas they just worked so hard to create. Who wants to put your own baby in that dreaded fourth box? The easiest approach is to use sticky notes. This allows everyone greater flexibility to move ideas as people begin to get more consistent, and sometimes harsher or more lenient, in their assessment of impact and effort.

A less attractive approach is to write and number all of the ideas on a flip chart, and then write the numbers in the agreed-upon box after discussion. Unless you happen to have some whiteout handy, this can begin to look pretty messy as the team refines their opinions about what warrants placing an idea in each box. It can also be difficult to remember what each number stands for, thereby forcing people to keep going back and forth between the list of ideas flip chart and the impact/effort flip chart and lose their flow of thought.

Two other words of caution: First, some people will be tempted to start combining ideas, saying, “Well, they’re pretty much the same thing.” They may like order, fewer choices, and less work. Any collapsing of ideas needs to be done very carefully. Again, this works best with sticky notes (if everyone agrees) by placing the notes for two ideas that are truly the same directly on top of each other. This creates a great visual effect as well; you can really start to see some of the more frequently mentioned ideas much more easily.

It is perfectly acceptable to tailor the criteria that you are using to your own needs or situation. You could replace impact/effort with important/urgent, cost/value, or two other measures of your own choosing. It is very important to spend a few minutes up front, before any idea placement decisions are made, making sure that everyone has a clear idea about what these standards mean.

For example, impact refers to what achieving this goal or solving this problem would mean to the team, department, or overall organization. When determining the effort required to successfully implement an idea, the problem-solving team should consider everything from dollars spent on new technology to dollars spent on allocation of people resources, from changes in individual human behaviors to changes in the entire culture of the organization. Agreeing upon the criteria’s meaning early, before the discussions even begin, will enable you to avoid a lot of needless, unproductive debate later on.

The Impact versus Effort chart works well because of its simplicity, but sometimes you need a process that works with more complicated issues. In that case, you may need more rigorous and standardized measures. That’s when the DecisionMatrix comes into play. In our next post, we’ll discuss the DecisionMatrix, and how to make it work for your team.

Want to chat before next week’s post? Reach me by email or phone: 770-989-7030.

By Kimberly Douglas 11 Apr, 2016

 I recently had the opportunity to lead a book club discussion on this fantastic guide to innovation, Change By Design   by Tim Brown, CEO of renowned design firm IDEO and guru of the next wave of innovation… “design thinking” . Below are some key excerpts you can check out to see if you want to read the whole book – or just get by with these cliff notes!

What is design thinking?

“An approach to innovation that is powerful, effective, and broadly accessible, that can be integrated into all aspects of business and society, and that individuals and teams can use to generate breakthrough ideas that are implemented and that therefore have an impact.”

  Why do we need it?

“As the center of economic activity in the developing world shifts inexorably from industrial manufacturing to knowledge creation and service delivery, innovation has become nothing less that a survival strategy. It is moreover no longer limited to the introduction of new physical products but includes new sorts of processes, services, interactions, entertainment forms, and ways of communicating and collaborating.”

  How does it work?

    “The continuum of innovation is best thought of as a system of overlapping spaces rather than a sequence of orderly steps. We can think of them as inspiration, the problem or opportunity that motivates the search for solutions; ideation, the process of generating, developing, and testing ideas; and implementation, the path that leads from the project room to market.”

    “The willing and even enthusiastic acceptance of competing constraints is the foundation of design thinking. The first stage of the design process is often about discovering which constraints are important and establishing a framework for evaluating them. Constraints can best be visualized as a series of overlapping criteria for successful ideas: feasibility (what is functionally possible within the foreseeable future); viability (what is likely to become part of a sustainable business model); and desirability (what makes sense to people and for people).”

    “The classic starting point of any design project is the brief…a set of mental constraints that gives the project team a framework from which to begin, benchmarks by which they can measure progress, and a set of objectives to be realized: price point, available technology, market segment, and so on…The clarity, direction, and limits of a well-defined project are vital to sustaining a high level of creative energy.”

    “The tools of the design thinker – getting out into the world to be inspired by people, using prototyping to learn with our hands, creating stories to share our ideas, joining forces with people from other disciplines – and ways of deepening what we know and widening the impact of what we do.”

  Who excels at it?

“There is a popular saying around IDEO that ‘all of us are smarter than any of us’…To operate within an interdisciplinary environment, an individual needs to have strengths in two dimensions – the ‘T-shaped’ person…On the vertical axis, every member of the team needs to possess a depth of skill that allows him or her to make tangible contributions to the outcome….Design thinkers cross the ‘T’…people with the capacity and – just as important – the disposition for collaboration across disciplines. In the end, this ability is what distinguishes the merely multidisciplinary team from a truly interdisciplinary one…There is a collective ownership of ideas and everybody takes responsibility for them.”

 

What cultural environment is needed?

“To be creative, a place does not need to be crazy, kooky, and located in northern California. What   is   a prerequisite is an environment – social but also spatial – in which people know they can experiment, take risks, and explore the full range of their faculties.”

 

What are the benefits to the organization?

“There is an important lesson here about the challenges of shifting from a culture of hierarchy and efficiency to one of risk taking and exploration. Those who navigate this transition successfully are likely to become more deeply engaged, more highly motivated, and more wildly productive than they ever have before.”

[Two great examples of successful design projects – Bank of America (p. 119+) and Japan’s Cool Biz (p. 127+)

 

Potential Discussion Questions:

  1. What are three highlights from what you read – either things you strongly agreed or disagreed with?
  2. Do you believe it is possible to create a culture of design thinkers? Why or why not?
  3. Are there clients that you think might be ready participants in the introduction of design thinking into their culture?
  4. What would it take to create this culture? How would you approach from a change management perspective?
  5. What do you think would be the greatest challenges you would face? How would you overcome them?
  6. Do you believe in the business case and need for a new approach to innovation in this next decade?
By Kimberly Douglas 25 Jan, 2016

Are you ready to learn how to facilitate conflict resolution? When teams are having trouble communicating with each other, it can lead to conflict and reduced productivity. Fortunately, there’s an effective communication technique based on the Whole Brain® model and HBDI®, that can help people present information in a way that will result in the intended message and impact. Here’s how it works:

  • Ask the “why” questions.   Why are we here? Why is this important? Give them brief overview of the information you will be presenting. Wherever possible, connect this work to an overarching goal, a long-term strategy, or a broader positive impact on the organization.
  • Next, explain the “what.” Give them the relevant facts, the current status, how you will measure success, or trends analysis data.
  • Tell the team “who.” Now that you have engaged their heads, move to connect with their hearts. Open the floor for questions. If you know what the impact on them personally or other key stakeholders will be, tell them.
  • Ask “how.” Only after you have engaged their heads and their hearts can you engage their feet. This is where you make it very clear what you need the listener to do when they leave here.

Now here is the real kicker. Even though you present this information in the order outlined above, you create your message in the reverse order. You begin with getting very clear in your own mind about what you want them to know, think, feel, and do differently after your presentation. Then you back up and ask yourself, “What would they need to know in order to accomplish that? “ If you can’t answer that question based on what you know about the audience, then this is the time to reach out to others who might know them better. Finally, ask yourself, “How does this link into something bigger and more important that they would care about?”

Sometimes people jump into informing the listeners of the facts, then moving straight to action planning - what the presenter wants them to do about the facts - without making a strong case for why the listener should care. Other people don’t offer the big picture-how the project will help the organization to achieve some larger strategy or goal. Some only share the facts of the current status of the project, assuming that everyone could see what needed to be done about it and who needed to do it. And many people neglect to address how their project impacts the listener personally, what support is needed from them, what questions they had. It’s important to notice how your communication reflects your own thinking and communication style versus reflecting what your listeners need to hear.

One good leadership trait is the ability to be multi-dominant, viewing each topic through multiple lenses. Yet, without a leader like this pushing us, most of us — if left to our own devices —would much prefer to run our presentations by someone who is just like us, thinking and communication style-wise! And so, you get what you’d expect...”It’s beautiful. I wouldn’t change a thing!”

Occasionally people ask me the question, “If I know that I am presenting to a bunch of people who think like I do, do I really need to go through all four quadrants? “ My answer is an unqualified   Yes , for several reasons. First, you can’t assume, based solely on a job title or department name, that you won’t have a whole brain present. Believe me, in over 10 years of debriefing team HBDI profiles, you would be amazed at how much they aren’t like what you think they might be. Second, although you might want to change up the amount of time you spend in each quadrant, the flow still makes sense as it is. Finally, it stretches your thinking to see the situation from all angles, and just might help you to truly have the greater influence you seek.

So, there you have it. How to make the sparks that fly when two departments with different goals, who might be competing for scarce resources, use that creative abrasion to light a fire that ignites an improved environment not only for these two departments, but also for others to follow in their footsteps. Isn’t that the real calling of leadership

By Kimberly Douglas 11 Jan, 2016

When was the last time your team gathered for a purpose other than a regular staff meeting or a budget review? Have you ever gone off-site for a really engaging, exciting, team-building event? This doesn’t mean ropes courses or blindly falling into your teammates’ arms and trusting them to catch you...but, rather, excursions truly create lifelong lessons and connections that you can immediately apply to improve your performance as a team and a business unit. There are many unique and effective ways in which I have seen teams boost their ability to work together—and tap into each member’s creative talents. In the next few posts, we’ll share a few meaningful experiences in which you may find meaning and potential activities for your own team, as well.

One of these events took place in one of the largest divisions of a Fortune 500 consumer products company. After the usual Power Point presentations, things really got exciting. Participants were divided into cross functional groups, with each assigned to visit a different setting to observe how unique teams function. One team went to a jazz club, another to an emergency room, another to a fire station, and the last team went to the San Francisco zoo. The challenge was to go and observe how the team worked together, and to bring what was learned back to the group at large. This involved observing aspects such as how each member fulfilled their individual roles, how they collaborated to get the work done, how they prioritized the work, and what could be applied to the teams.

One big takeaway from this event was that the teams did not all function the same way. It’s an obvious concept when you stop to think about it, yet we don’t always consider the team’s purpose when we picture high-performing teams. We often try to create a one-size-fits-all model for team effectiveness—something that can kill the creativity and vitality of a unique team.

For example, the jazz team found that it was important for the jazz quartet to feel complete freedom to riff off each other. When they were most relaxed, they were most creative. They needed complete trust in the skills and intent of the other members. Once they knew each other and their talents well enough, they could truly jam and play off each other. Even though each person was incredibly talented in their own right, they would willingly and happily give up being the lead to let another step briefly into the limelight, allowing the group to then play off that new path that the star took. But they always synced up on their goal, not only for their own enjoyment, but also to make beautiful, powerful music together.

The jazz team’s experience brings to mind a very moving James Thurber quote: “There are two kinds of light—the glow that illuminates, and the glare that obscures.” Those who glared would not long be welcome in a jazz quartet. In the next post, we’ll discuss the other group findings, relating to their own unique teams. In the meantime, let's talk! Reach me by email or phone: 770-989-7030.

By Kimberly Douglas 16 Dec, 2015
We’ve been talking about organizing data your team generates from brainstorming sessions and other creative processes, and how to use the Decision Matrix to do this. In this post, we’ll wrap up the Decision Matrix process. In fact, we’ll pick up right where we left off, at the point where your team had determined criteria to plug into the Matrix.

  • Once you ’ve identi fied the criteria and made a decision on how to score and rate each one, write this information along the top of the   flip chart or the sheet of paper. If you’re feeling ambitious, you might even want to enter all of this information into a spreadsheet- you can find templates for this online.
  • Next, list all of the ideas in a single column down the left side of the page.
  • In most situations, the group discusses each idea and reaches an agreement on how to rate it on that particular criterion.Other approaches advocate rating each option or idea on the same criterion at the same time. In this way, the team is better able to compare the various options relative to each other against the same criterion. It can actually be very beneficial, especially in the beginning of the process, for each individual to come up with a rating independently and then to compare scores. This allows each team member to feel more responsible for and take greater care with their initial rating and the rationale for that rating. Sharing these ratings and rationale across the team can create a significant learning experience, if everyone keeps an open mind that their initial perception might not represent the whole story.
  • If it is likely that a dominant personality may overshadow the will of the people, then you could have each individual anonymously complete his or her own score sheet.   You would then tally each of these to arrive at an average. Since the average could significantly misconstrue the true ratings, you would likely want to also track the median score for each one and revisit the items with a sizeable difference between these two measures.
  • Once all of the ratings, check marks, or Yes/Nos have been tallied, and the weightings (if used) appropriately applied, then you can see those ideas or solutions the group thinks have the greatest likelihood for success.   It is not necessary for the score to stand as it is, if the team feels that it can benefit from a discussion of the relative scores.

When the assessment and tally is completed, allow everyone to review the information silently first, jotting down their thoughts about those results with which they strongly disagree. Conduct a large group debriefing to see if you can address and resolve these key points of disagreement or concern. See if reinforcing a both/and mindset to take the best parts of several alternatives helps to shore up some solutions that might have scored high overall, but might be missing some critical pieces that other solutions scored more favorably on.

If you are still having a tough time reaching a decision as to which idea/solution to move forward into the implementation phase, then you might want to consider taking on another person’s perspective-such as the CEO or the customer- and see how that lens might impact the ratings these ideas receive. If all team members are not in full agreement, find a definition of consensus that can be fairly used for making the final decision, such as “I can live with that and support it” or “I believe this is the best decision for the organization at this time, and I will support it.”

Just as fireflies flash in patterns that are recognizable to other fireflies, we also can see when someone is on fire with a new idea, a new project, a new job; it is contagious to others. If the light is strong enough, then we become part of this glow. Remember how creative we were when we were capturing fireflies as children? It was fun to discover new ways to catch them, what to keep them in, and how to keep them from getting out. We felt a greater sense of freedom as children, especially on those warm summer nights when anything felt possible. Try to reconnect with that magical, creative time- even when you are addressing some of the most challenging problems of the team and the business. The more your mind is open to seeing the creative talents of your teammates, the exciting opportunities for improvement, and the new ways of solving problems, the more effective, collaborative, and engaging the work of your team will be.

Want to chat before next week’s post? Reach me by email or phone: 770-989-7030.


By Kimberly Douglas 14 Oct, 2015

In previous posts, we discussed using techniques like MindMapping and Brainwriting to stimulate your team’s creativity and generate ideas. Now it’s time to channel all those great ideas into a viable action plan! How do you pull all that creativity together in an actionable way? We’ve got two very effective techniques to discuss: the Impact versus Effort Grid and the Decision Matrix. In this post, we’ll talk about the   Impact/Effort Grid:


By Kimberly Douglas 07 Oct, 2015

In our last post, we discussed methods of establishing an environment that is conducive to creativity, in order to help your team generate a great deal of ideas in a short period. Now we’ll talk about the first of two techniques that can help further that idea. The Mind Map is geared toward freeing up the left-brain thinkers.

Mind Mapping is an effective individual brainstorming method to encourage all group members to think freely about the same problem at the same time without fear of interruptions, distractions, or the domination by some members of the group. Many of us are used to making lists of all of the things that need to be done, which is a very left-brained approach, and potentially very constricting when it comes to devising new ideas and solutions to a problem. Mind Mapping can be used with great success on a wide range of issues, and can even help when you’re feeling overwhelmed with too much to do and anxious about how to get it all done. There is something very freeing and uplifting about getting all of these issues, distractions, tasks out of your head and on the page in front of you so that you can begin to tackle them.

So how does Mind Mapping work? Get out a blank piece of paper and turn it landscape style (horizontally) in front of you. The idea of the blank page can be a little scary, but this tool really works. Write the problem statement in the center of the page and draw a circle around it. This is your central theme. Then, let your mind run free. As an idea occurs to you, draw a line outward from the center circle, write the thought at the end of the line, and draw another circle around it. Does a related idea come out of that one? Simply draw a line from your new circle and write the idea at the end of that line. Got a new train of thought? Pick another spot on the page, jot down your idea, draw a circle around it, and connect with a line to the central theme. Simply jot down ideas as they come to you. Don.t let that analytical logical side of your brain take over—no editing or judging allowed. Keep it free flowing and right-brain-oriented.

Remain relaxed, because there is no right or wrong way to do this.   That is the beauty of this tool. Think of it as emptying your brain of all ideas related to the focused problem statement in front of you. Some mind Mapping experts encourage you to use colors, drawings, symbols, and other visual techniques, but many people prefer the speed and simplicity of a regular pencil. Once you have truly captured all of the ideas on the page, it’s time to step back and allow the left brain to work.

What interrelationships do you see?

Are there some patterns that you hadn ’t noticed before?

Do some ideas rise above the rest as being more creative, actionable, likely to solve the issue?

Have fun with it, and let your natural creative instincts take over. They are there just waiting to be released —almost like   fire flies from the jar!

 

Now that you’ve mastered Mind Mapping, freeing up the left brain thinkers on your team, it’s time to turn your attention to the right brained team members. Brainwriting is a tool that’s perfect for helping to bring focus to the right brain thinkers, allowing them to effectively channel their creativity. In our next post we’ll dig into   Brainwriting   and how to use it. In the meantime, let’s talk! Reach me by email or phone: 770-989-7030.

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FireFly Facilitation Blog

By Kimberly Douglas 31 Aug, 2016

The Grammy-award winning Orpheus Chamber Orchestra wows crowds around the world with virtuoso performances of Stravinsky, Mendelssohn, and Mozart. Garnering prestigious awards (a Grammy in 2001) and accolades (Musical America’s “Ensemble of the Year” in 1998), the New York based orchestra fills the world’s finest concert halls with adoring audiences and the some of the sweetest sounds on earth.

Astonishingly, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra has no conductor! Its 28 members alternate roles and share responsibilities. From guiding rehearsals to interpreting selections, leadership of the group rotates among its musicians.

Thinking about the unusual structure of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra sparked ideas in my mind about the nature of leading teams.

1) Being a leader doesn’t mean that we always have to pick the tune, set the pace, and assign the parts.

In a conductor-less organization, in which leadership and authority are dispersed throughout, creativity abounds. Each member has the freedom to contribute his or her unique talents for the benefit of all. On the contrary, the combined creativity of an organization is blocked when a single leader hoards authority.

2) In the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, no one has a back to the crowd.

Absent of the human barrier, the audience is invited into the midst of the orchestra and can share a more intimate connection with its music. Conversely, an organization with power concentrated too heavily at the top can easily lose sight of its customers. Generally, the most senior leaders have the least frontline interaction with customers. If we, as leaders, don’t make room for the instincts and input of people throughout our teams, then we’ll gradually blind ourselves to the needs of the clients we’re trying to serve.

By Kimberly Douglas 27 Jul, 2016

It’s been said, “Variety is the spice of life,” but for many managers the spiciness of diversity causes heartburn. Leading a team would be much easier if one size fit all. However, the reality for managers involves cleverly tailoring roles, reward structures, and recognition. In doing so, leaders have to balance unique treatment of dissimilar personalities with a uniform application of fairness.

Diversity in the workplace goes much deeper than race, gender, job title, or even daily responsibilities. Leaders have to discover how team members think, what drives them, where their strengths shine, and so on. Leaders light the way by making this kind of inquiry a priority, and by creating the tools and processes that allow people to see one another in a new light.

Here’s a practical application to illuminate diversity on your team and reap benefits from it.

At the close of a week, gather your team together. Give each person ten minutes to make two lists:

 

List #1 - Three work activities from the past week that felt draining or tedious.

 

List #2 - Three job activities from the past week that felt enjoyable and invigorating.

Do not discuss the lists as a group; simply collect them after the ten minutes are over. Repeat the exercise each week for a month.

 

At the month’s close, convene a team meeting. During the meeting, assign each person to share one recurring activity they enjoy and do well. Also, have them talk about one regular activity they dislike and find draining.

This simple exercise will bring awareness of the various strengths and weaknesses on your team. Over the course of the meeting you may want to reshuffle a few tasks or open avenues for team members to volunteer their strengths in new ways.

By Kimberly Douglas 13 Jul, 2016

When archers draw a bow, they’re far more accurate when they zero in on the bull’s-eye than when they broadly aim to hit the target.

 The same applies in golf. When players concentrate on landing the ball at a specific spot near the pin, their shots are more precise than when they target the green in general.

What’s true for archery and golf translates to strategic planning as well. The sharper your focus is, then the smaller your margin for error will be when you execute. Put simply, “Aim small; miss small.”

What can you do practically to shrink the scope of your goals so that you’re laser focused?

If everything is important…then nothing is. Identify the three strategic priorities for you team. Don’t get bogged down on specific verbiage, but make sure everyone agrees with and can articulate your strategic priorities.

Knowing what not to do   can be just as important as knowing where you’re going. What distractions will tempt you to veer from your strategic priorities? Dialog about them, and list them. Instill in your team that these activities are taboo.

Decide upon metrics. What is unmeasured goes undone. Set your criteria for success. Don’t feel constrained by numbers—qualitative goals have every bit as much merit as quantitative ones. However, make sure your metrics are simple and concrete.

Track performance together. Evaluating results as a team provides instant accountability—no one wants to look bad in front of peers. Also, talking through results helps you to decipher problems or opportunities buried beneath the facts and figures.

By Kimberly Douglas 04 Jul, 2016

Everyone has the ability to be creative—if you broaden your concept of what creativity means, and if you know how to tap into it. My experience with hundreds of groups leads me to be able to say, with confidence, that at their core, great teams are comprised of creative, committed individuals who are using their best efforts to reach a common goal.

In fact, teams that solve problems and tackle challenges together have a special bond that’s not often found in other groups. And they don’t see these challenges as drudgery or something outside the scope of their work; they view it as the excitement and fun of being a part of a team.

 Think of the members of the team of which you are currently a member or a leader. Would   creative   and   committed   be the words you would use to describe each one of them?

By Kimberly Douglas 20 Jun, 2016

Vision without execution is hallucination.”     Thomas Edison

Did you know that one of the reasons the population of fireflies appears to be diminishing is because of ambient light or “light pollution”? There are too many distractions. All these other bright lights keep fireflies from performing at their best. How similar and true for the people on our own teams, if we don’t have a common vision of success to focus our time, attention, and resources.

Scarcity of resources—both human and financial—demands that we focus our efforts. If you’re scheduling an annual planning meeting in the coming weeks, you’re probably aware that the value of strategic planning is not only deciding what you   will   do, but also deciding what you will   not   do. When done well, strategic   focusing   can be one of the most exciting and effective team development tools available to a leader.

There is a well-known saying: “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.”     I have found that the most effective teams are exceptionally clear on two things—where they are going and how they must work together to get there. In taking hundreds of teams through the strategic focusing process, I have found this metaphor to resonate with people:

 

The road we are on is our   mission .     If this organization ceased to exist, what would the world lose?  

  • The mountain in the distance is our   vision for success . Three years into the future, how will we know if we have been successful in living up to our mission?

Mile markers are the   key milestones . How will we measure our progress against the vision and course-correct if needed?

  • The guard rails are our   guiding principles . How will we commit to work with each other to reach that mountain?

Next post...the top 5 ways my approach to strategic planning has changed over the last 10 years.

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