Kimberly Douglas

Kimberly Douglas

FireFly Facilitation Blog

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 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 08 Nov, 2010

Myth #3: The Lone Creative Genius.

For example let’s take this fellow here – all alone it would appear in his lab. Want want to take a guess as to who this inventor is? (If you give up, look at the big lightbulb over his head for inspiration!)

 That’s right…Thomas Edison!

Many people think of him as a lone creative genius, but even he said   “Genius is 1 % inspiration and 99%....(you fill in the blank)....perspiration."

Let’s just stop and think about that a moment. Although in cartoons we might see something like a light bulb showing up over someone’s head or a bolt of lightning out of the blue – and boom a brilliant idea is born. But that’s not how it works in real life. You have to nurture a brand new idea.

He also said another great quote – that I absolutely love and think can be instructive for all of us…   “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

You might have thought that Edison worked alone ---- developing all those patents, but that’s not the case.

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!

By Kimberly Douglas 16 Sep, 2010

For example let’s take this fellow here – all alone it would appear in his lab. Want want to take a guess as to who this inventor is? (If you give up, look at the big lightbulb over his head for inspiration!)

 That’s right…Thomas Edison!

Many people think of him as a lone creative genius, but even he said “Genius is 1 % inspiration and 99%….(you fill in the blank)….perspiration.”

Let’s just stop and think about that a moment. Although in cartoons we might see something like a light bulb showing up over someone’s head or a bolt of lightning out of the blue – and boom a brilliant idea is born. But that’s not how it works in real life. You have to nurture a brand new idea.

He also said another great quote – that I absolutely love and think can be instructive for all of us… “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

You might have thought that Edison worked alone —- developing all those patents, but that’s not the case.

By Kimberly Douglas 26 Aug, 2010
Why is that? I think there are 3 myths that many of us hold about creativity that keep us from tapping into the true creative potential inside us. Here we go...

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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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