Facilitation

Facilitation

FireFly Facilitation Blog

By Kimberly Douglas 18 Nov, 2015

We’ve been talking about methods for refining and organizing information in order to create an actionable plan. In our last post, we focused on the Decision Matrix. Ideal for helping to weigh ideas based on multiple factors, the process for using the Decision Matrix begins with a group brainstorming session to determine the criteria you’ll use to evaluate ideas. In this post, we’ll move on to the next phase, where that criteria is refined.

  • Discuss and re fine the list of criteria; identify any criteria that must be included or excluded and why.   Reduce the list to those that the team believes are most important for reaching the right solution. Ideally, you won’t use more than five to seven criteria, since there tends to be overlap among them when you start adding more than this number. Also, the more you add, the more it becomes nice to have versus need to have. While voting with sticky dots can be used, first see if you can reach agreement the old-fashioned way—by talking it through. In the end, make sure everyone is very clear on what each criterion means.
  • The team then needs to decide whether each idea will be assessed against these criteria using a rating scale, a simple Yes/No, or a checkmark to indicate the presence or absence of that item for this particular idea. This will obviously impact the wording of the criteria themselves. For example, Low Cost to Implement can be answered with a simple Yes/No or a check mark, while Cost to Implement needs to be rated on a scale. This scale could be as simple as Low, Medium, or High; or you might choose to assign a numerical rating, with the highest number consistently representing best score. Make sure that everyone can verbalize the differences between each of the levels for each of the criterion.
  • The next step involves deciding whether the criteria should be weighted to show the relative importance of each in the   final decision.   This is where the beautiful simplicity of our two-by-two impact/effort grid with its criteria already laid out becomes obvious, and its advantage over the matrix is apparent. There are several approaches you can take to assigning these weightings:
    • Have a general group discussion as to whether anyone believes that some criteria should carry more weight in the decision-making process than others, and why they feel that way.
    • Assign the weights so that items of less importance have a lower number, and those of greater importance have a higher number, keeping in mind that the same weight can be applied to more than one criterion.
    • Test the weighting decisions by turning them into sentences, such as, “If I understand the decision we just made correctly, then we are saying that it is three times more important that we choose the least cost solution over one that has a higher return on investment.” If something doesn’t ring true with the team, fix it now before you actually start applying these weights to real solution options.
    • Another simpler and therefore less refined alternative is to discuss and reach agreement on how to distribute 10 points across the chosen criteria.

Now that you’ve determined your criteria, and you have a system in place for scoring and rating each one, it’s time to start plugging your ideas into the matrix. In our next post, we’ll discuss how to accomplish this, going over the remaining steps in the Decision Matrix process, to show you how to get to your end goal: a plan. Make sure to stick with us, as we continue to show you how to increase your team’s ability to be more effective and collaborative in decision making.

Let’s talk! Reach me by email or phone: 770-989-7030.

By Kimberly Douglas 14 Oct, 2015

We’ve explored using toys to loosen up a meeting, and we’ve discussed ways to loosen up your team, creatively speaking. The first method, which we discussed in our previous post, was Mind Mapping. The second idea-generating tool that I use is Brainwriting.

This process is ideally suited for allowing each person to view the problem from their own unique perspective, and then to encourage them to build on and improve the ideas of others. It can also be very effective when there is a concern that one or more people might dominate the problem-solving session, or that some may be fearful of sharing their ideas in a large group brainstorming session. The anonymity of the ideas and the emphasis on stretching the ideas further and further increases the odds of coming up with . . . well, odd–and potentially very novel–solutions.

Let’s go through how this exercise works:

  1. The problem-solving team–ideally, four to six people–is seated around a table, and each receives a blank sheet of paper.
  2. Everyone writes the agreed-upon problem statement at the top of the paper, and then draws three columns on it. If a team gets stuck on how to write a good specific problem statement, they can use sentence prompts like, “How can we improve…?” or “How do we ensure that…?”
  3. Give the team two minutes to legibly write three ideas–one per column–for addressing the problem. Someone needs to be accountable for setting the timer.
  4. At the end of two minutes, the timekeeper asks everyone to draw a line under their ideas across the whole page, and then pass the paper to the person on their left.
  5. They then set the timer for three minutes this time, giving each team member the chance to read through the ideas and piggyback on the original solutions by writing new ones under the original suggestions.
  6. This process of writing in ideas continues for as many times as there are people around the table, with each instance allowing a little more time (a maximum of five to six minutes per round) since the addition of ideas makes it progressively harder to come up with new solutions. If need be, people can enter a completely new idea instead of building upon one, if they truly are stuck, but this should be a last resort versus a first choice.
  7. There are several choices for next steps at this point. One is to pass the paper one more time (so people aren.t evaluating their own ideas that they just wrote down). Then have everyone read through the entire list of suggestions and select the best ones based on some previously agreed-upon criteria. Another option is to read all of the suggestions aloud, record them on a flip chart, and discuss them openly. While this might be the most equitable approach, ensuring that no ideas are improperly screened out by just one person, it could prove to be a very laborious process to actually have to get through. A third possibility is to post the sheets on the wall or pass them around the table such that each person can read all of the ideas and write in their initials beside the ones they think are most likely to solve the original problem statement.

Let team members try to combine ideas from one or more pages to come up with an exponentially better idea. Avoid the tyranny of the “either/or”, searching instead for solutions that incorporate”both/and”. It may be a good idea to hang on to these sheets for a while after the session. You never can tell when someone might get an inspiration overnight or in the shower. They might need a reminder of the idea they saw that prompted their creative thinking.

Now, how do you evaluate all of these ideas and select the ones that you want to action plan? You need a way to pull all that creativity together and make it actionable. In our next post, we’ll discuss two great tools for making this happen: the Impact versus Effort Grid and the Decision Matrix.

In the meantime, let’s talk! 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 14 Sep, 2015

Now that your team’s ideas have been thoroughly evaluated, you’ve reached the final step of your process. It's now time to reach an agreement on what will be implemented, and what needs to be discussed and clarified. Congratulations! You’re well on your way to solving your original problem.

To begin, ask the analytical members of your team to help everyone test the solutions they’ve come up with, to make sure they’ll solved the original problem. Let your organized team members lead the charge by engaging the team in the development of action steps for executing these ideas by asking questions.

Beware   - you might get some groaning from those who love the creative brainstorming part but not the detailed planning; remind them that the great ideas we just developed won’t get fully executed if we don’t do the hard planning work now. Some questions you might ask include:

  • What does success look like at the end of full implementation for each idea?
  • Where are we currently with this problem?
  • What are the major steps to get from current to future state?
  • Who needs to be accountable for each one?
  • What are the due dates?

It’s best if you create these timelines and major milestones while the team is still present at the session. IT’s also a good idea to keep the planning timeframe short- about 90 days. That is about as far into the future as most teams can see. (One exception to this is for very large-scale change initiatives.) You don’t need to outline each detailed activity step at this time; that is up to the individual to create a more complete project plan later .But do spend at least a few minutes troubleshooting the plan by asking such questions as:

  • What are the most difficult, complex, or sensitive aspects of our plan?
  • What organizational or technical blocks and barriers could we run into?
  • Have we incorporated some good change management principles into our plan?

During the large-group debrief, ask each solution implementation sub team to walk through each of the major steps, while the others listen for interdependencies, gaps, and redundancies. They can also help the team to stress test or troubleshoot the plan. I warn you that by this stage most teams are very excited and want to plan very aggressively by choosing many ideas, short time frames, and front-loading them for the first 30 days. Help them to temper their fervor with reality testing, but not enthusiasm busting. This public announcement of the team’s intentions is a great way to build commitment to the plan and to help each hold the other accountable for living up to their deadlines.

Last, reach agreement on how to check progress and course correct. These progress reports should include the activities that have been implemented, the results achieved, and any remaining items with corresponding expected completion dates. The leader and the team need to take a positive, action-learning approach to dealing with failure. Were the dates too aggressive? Did we meet unexpected obstacles? Should we revisit some of the ideas that didn’t make the cut to see if they might work instead?

The team needs the leader’s support the most at times like this. Remember to celebrate the successes and be tolerant of intelligent mistakes, but not delays or errors due to such things as a lack of collaboration or a lack of commitment to execution. Keep the creative spark alive and it will light a fire under future problem-solving.

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

By Kimberly Douglas 02 Sep, 2015

In our previous posts, we’ve been talking brainstorming, and how to do it effectively. We discussed how to inspire ideas, and hold a round robin discussion to share them, gathering ideas onto a flip chart. But once you’ve collected ideas and listed them on a flip chart, what happens next?

Give each person three to five sticky dots (or more dots per person for more choices). Numbering the ideas and asking each person to write the number of their choice on the dot itself before they go place it on the list is a simple way to prevent groupthink. You know what I mean—when   people get up to place their dots, and change their mind to go with the herd. If the voting is close, then the team should spend the necessary time discussing the various alternatives to see if they can combine them to develop stronger solutions that can satisfy all parties.

This is a great time to remind everyone to keep a both/and mind-set versus either/or. You can ask members of the team to actually make the case for the benefits of the idea they don’t support, which is a wonderful way of helping them to see the strengths of the other idea, and thus making it easier to build upon or improve. It can also be very beneficial to get the input and feedback from the broader group if there were several problem-solving teams working concurrently. It’s also worthwhile to consider using the more elaborate evaluation tools presented in the next chapter. Whatever the final choices may be, try to be as clear and specific as possible about the solution. You can even use examples if that would help to clarify what is meant.

The team leader and those who have strong interpersonal skills have a critical role to play throughout the creative problem-solving process. They need to make sure that everyone is staying engaged along the way and promoting an open environment. You might even want to call for a process check to ask people how things are progressing from their perspective - are they feeling engaged? Is everyone remaining receptive and actively listening to each other’s ideas? It’s better to know in the midst of the session if some are not feeling engaged than to find out later when it comes time to execute the ideas that they have no desire to commit to the chosen solutions. Everyone’s voice must continue to be heard in order for the best ideas to continue to come forward. Losing one team member’s participation means losing their viewpoint. Make it safe for them to contribute their ideas. Keep the conflict productive, and remember— creative abrasion. Discourage people from making such creativity killer statements as: “That will never work.” “We’ve tried that before, and it didn’t work.” “That’s a good idea, but ...”

Remember to seek the third way, not only your way or my way. How do you make that happen? Ask people to take on the role of another key stakeholder (such as a key customer or the CEO) and brainstorm ideas from that perspective. Explore alternative scenarios, and ask questions like, “If this works as planned, what do you see as the end result?” or “What is the worst thing that could happen if we tried it?” Make implicit assumptions explicit. Ask people to restate what they understand other positions to be. Remember to balance advocacy (arguing for your own position) with inquiry (seeking to understand another’s).

In our next post, we’ll discuss what should happen after the ideas have been thoroughly evaluated. The final step of the process, reaching an agreement on what will be implemented, will be discussed and clarified. Once you’ve reached the final step, you’re well on your way to solving your original problem.

By Kimberly Douglas 05 Aug, 2015

As we pointed out in our last post, part of being a leader is teaching your team the value of speaking up. This can be tricky, because people are often unsure of the value of their input, and nervous about the team’s reactions to their opinions. Nevertheless, you need to somehow convey to your team the value of speaking up. You have to make it clear that you don’t mind having your ideas challenged, and will not punish those who step forward with different opinions, even on those subjects nearest to your heart.

It’s important to set as a ground rule: “Speak so you can be heard.” This simply means addressing others with respect, in order to avoid unnecessary, defensive reactions that might shut an open mind. You can also publicly acknowledge those employees who have volunteered innovative ideas, or cite times that your mind was changed by a member of the team; however, try to do this without playing favorites. Deciding what problems to tackle first can be an issue in and of itself. It’s a good idea to select early-on the ones that are low-hanging fruit type of problems; in other words, those that are most familiar and annoying to employees and may require focused effort, but that don’t require much money or a long planning cycle. Begin with the problems that will garner a high return on your investment of limited time and effort. The team needs to solve a few problems early and implement the solutions before tackling the toughest and longest-standing issues. Instead of the team leader deciding which topics to address, I recommend that people bring one problem to resolve from their own area, as well as one that crosses functional team areas.

Another place to find potential problems to solve is the team dashboard of results. Where is the team falling short of the target? Where are we not hitting our numbers or goals? This is a great way to make the session very meaningful and engaging for everyone. On the other hand, one of the first problems you might want to tackle is to identify ways to promote greater creativity. It’s a good idea to send out information in advance of the session to get everyone’s creative juices flowing and build up excitement for what they will be working on as a team before they even arrive. This can also be a great way to make sure that everyone has at least a foundational knowledgebase to be able to actively engage in the discussion.

Be careful that you don’t slant the discussion or the search for solutions by what you select to share in advance. If there is a significant chance that this will happen, don’t send out anything prior to the session. People will feel more engaged if they get the chance to select the problems on which to work, versus receiving these issues as an assignment. I call this voting with your feet when working with a group. Choosing the problems in advance, then allowing each team member to select one that especially resonates with them is a great way to engage them. And don’t assume that everyone who works on a problem needs to fully understand the issue’s entire background to be effective. In fact, sometimes the team members without preconceived notions about what will and won’t work, who aren’t fully versed on how things work now or the challenges and barriers currently at play, make some of the best members of a problem-solving team. The problem-solving or opportunity-finding process should be kept fairly simple. In our next post we’ll discuss an easy way to do this.

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

By Kimberly Douglas 05 Mar, 2015

What is your team doing to spark creativity in addressing the critical problems and opportunities it sees? Set aside time for creative problem solving. Pick problems about which people feel passionately. Be specific with the problem; it really will release more creative juices than leaving it wide open. Make it safe to make a suggestion. Get familiar with the creative problem-solving process, using your creativity to improve upon it and make it your own!

Are there tools and techniques that your team should become familiar with and use on a regular basis? Get each person to bring one creativity toy to the next problem-solving session. Try out the mind-mapping tool if you are left-brain oriented, or let the right-brainers give the brain-writing technique a chance. Use the impact/effort grid to aid your next decision; it is an easy and inventive way to ensure the entire team’s collaboration on solving a specific problem. Employ a decision matrix for those tougher, more complex choices.

When was the last time your team got out of the office for a creative excursion? Ask each person to bring one suggestion for an expedition to your next meeting. Go with an open mind, and come back with new ideas. Debrief what you learned and how you can apply it. Make it fun, and you’ll make it happen.

Which department, division, or business unit does your team have the greatest conflict with? And what kind of impact does this conflict have on your business results and theirs? Bring the leaders of the two groups together so that you begin on the same page. Find out what they are held accountable for and how your team can proactively help them to achieve their goals and vice versa. You both might be surprised by what you discover. Then make sure you both make good on your commitments.

Do you see the spark of creativity going on around you, perhaps that others aren’t seeing… yet? Be on the lookout for good things going on around you. Sometimes, you find what you look for. Maybe there are synchronous fireflies in your backyard waiting to be discovered by you. Call them best practices if you prefer; but look for them, share them with your team, adapt them to help all of you to excel.

Do you like being the changer better than changing? Think about how many change initiatives you currently have underway. Be sure that the purpose of each, as well as how it supports the larger organizational strategy, is clear. Communicate your compelling change message over and over, using a variety of vehicles. Use the optimal flow to create it.

Answering the above questions will help to light a fire under yourself and your team, and help you become the light you want to see in the world. Take the first step on the path to change, and simply start where you are. Your life and the life of your team can be different because of the actions you take. On a sheet of paper, write one thing from the list above that you really want to do. Put your creativity to work to figure out how to get it done. Put a due date on it. Share it with one other person that you trust. Hold yourself accountable for achieving it. If you are the leader of a team, be the role model of someone you would want to follow. When you feel the positive reinforcement that one action causes, you will want to do it again.

Start a movement—make it happen! Pay it forward, and you can recapture a lost dream and make a difference in the world. Wondrous things occur when one unselfishly gives to another without thought of how or when repayment will be made. When you give to others, you receive so much more in return. When you find something worthy of remembering, and pass it on to another, it is like the spark of the firefly which magically illuminates a dark night.

Let's talk!  Reach me by email or phone: 770-989-7030.

By Kimberly Douglas 14 Jan, 2015

“What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.” – Crowfoot, great Blackfoot warrior and orator

These were the last words of Crowfoot, and they are as true today as when he breathed his last breath in 1890. We are only on this earth for a relatively short time; no one knows which day may be their last. I have a passion for helping people to find joy and fulfillment in their professional and personal lives, and I truly mean it when I say to them, “Life is too short not to do everything you possibly can to enjoy the life you have now.”

My hope is that you will take these words as a call to action – for you to be the light you want to see in the world. I feel a tremendous sense of urgency to help individuals and team leaders to take a look around at their teammates, co-workers, colleagues, and significant others. What is going on right before you that you have not noticed before? Do you believe you are the only one who wants to find greater meaning and purpose in your daily moments and your life’s work? The odds are that you aren’t alone.

But you must take the risk of believing that it is possible to make a difference, and that you do have it within you to cause a change, even if it is as small a change as that caused by the proverbial wing of a butterfly. For as Mahatma Gandhi once said, “We must become the change we want to see.” You might be the spark that takes hold throughout your organization. There will be many stops on our journey and you will need tools and techniques, which we hope to impart through this blog, to improve your team’s effectiveness.

Do you believe that we all have creativity within us? Do you identify with this new definition of creativity: “To be original . . . to do something no one else would think of.” If so, then take a risk and find your unique creativity—writing, painting, developing a new process, or discovering problems and opportunities that others didn’t know existed. Remember something that made you special as a child. Look for those creative sparks throughout your day, then do something with them. Do you like the idea of a new role of leadership, which no longer relies on command and control, but involves truly leading through inspiration and collaboration? If so, then look at your current behaviors and determine which are helping you to achieve your vision for leadership through engagement, and which are holding you back. Start small, and stick with it. In our next post, we’ll discuss how to find the untapped talent in your team.

Let’s talk!  Reach me by email or phone: 770-989-7030.

By Kimberly Douglas 17 Nov, 2010

In my fifteen-plus years of facilitating strategic planning and team development sessions for all types of organizations, I have refined my thinking and my process in these five key areas:

  Change #1:   Open it Up

It is more important than ever to get as much involvement as possible from the entire organization. Strategic planning should not be the sole province of the board of directors and a handful of senior staff. The more you can involve—and I mean truly involve—in the  creation  of the plan those who will be accountable for actually  executing  it, the more commitment (as opposed to mere compliance) you will obtain. People like to see their “fingerprints” on something they are being charged with carrying out.

Change #2:   Plan for Less, Get More

Do you still use a five to ten year cycle for your planning horizon? I now recommend that my clients look only two or three years into the future to set their vision. Change is happening much too quickly for there to be accuracy in planning beyond that. There isn’t “visibility,” as you might hear the pundits say. People truly can’t envision a longer future. Twelve months ago, could you—or anyone—have predicted the world we find ourselves in today? Set the vision two to three years out; then couple that with a very concrete, practical action plan for the next twelve months.  

Change #3:   Hone on the Range

Instead of talking about a mountain for the vision, I should really call it a mountain  range . The vision for future success is rarely a singular point in the future.  I used to spend quite a bit of time during and after a strategic planning session working with the board or a sub-committee to refine a mission and/or vision statement that would be “suitable for lamination.” I think it is much more important that everyone in the organization be in agreement  directionally  and less to be in agreement  literally.   I have found that the conversation sparked is more important than the actual statement we developed (which always ended up reading as though it had been created by a committee … because, in fact, it had!).

By Kimberly Douglas 14 Oct, 2010

In my fifteen-plus years of facilitating strategic planning and team development sessions for all types of organizations, I have refined my thinking and my process in these five key areas:

  Change #1:   Open it Up

It is more important than ever to get as much involvement as possible from the entire organization. Strategic planning should not be the sole province of the board of directors and a handful of senior staff. The more you can involve—and I mean truly involve—in the   creation   of the plan those who will be accountable for actually   executing   it, the more commitment (as opposed to mere compliance) you will obtain. People like to see their “fingerprints” on something they are being charged with carrying out.

Change #2:   Plan for Less, Get More

Do you still use a five to ten year cycle for your planning horizon? I now recommend that my clients look only two or three years into the future to set their vision. Change is happening much too quickly for there to be accuracy in planning beyond that. There isn’t “visibility,” as you might hear the pundits say. People truly can’t envision a longer future. Twelve months ago, could you—or anyone—have predicted the world we find ourselves in today? Set the vision two to three years out; then couple that with a very concrete, practical action plan for the next twelve months.  

Change #3:   Hone on the Range

Instead of talking about a mountain for the vision, I should really call it a mountain   range . The vision for future success is rarely a singular point in the future.  I used to spend quite a bit of time during and after a strategic planning session working with the board or a sub-committee to refine a mission and/or vision statement that would be “suitable for lamination.” I think it is much more important that everyone in the organization be in agreement   directionally   and less to be in agreement   literally.   I have found that the conversation sparked is more important than the actual statement we developed (which always ended up reading as though it had been created by a committee … because, in fact, it had!).

Change #4:   Begin at the End

I was trained as a strategic planning consultant to begin with a very clear picture of where you are today.   “How can you effectively plan for the future without the hard, cold reality of your current state?”   some ask. I say that most boards and staff are acutely aware of the difficulties of their current state. My experience has shown that they are better served to think aspirationally first. Now, in almost every case (the exception being when there are extremely divergent views of the current state), I begin with the end in mind, creating the vision for the future. Once this picture is clearly in each person’s mind, I assure you a more targeted, accurate assessment will follow.

Change #5:   Swat the SWOT

This may be heresy in some strategic planning circles, but I have switched from the conventional SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis to the lesser-known but much more effective Force Field Analysis for assessing the current reality. I simply facilitate the identification and discussion of those forces working for and against our success in making this vision a reality. Too often with the SWOT (and I   know   you have all been there), what should have been a healthy dialog denigrated into unhealthy conflict over which box to put something in. Was it a strength or an opportunity? A weakness or a threat?  Instead, through a deeper level of conversation, we found that in fact the same factor could be both positive and negative, and thus we could focus the majority of our attention on how to address it.

By making these changes to your annual strategic planning session, you will develop a plan that gets the whole organization aiming in the same direction and catapults your results to even higher levels of success!

Categories

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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