Thursday, August 26, 2004

The Law of Expanding Immediacy

"The law of expanding immediacy underlines a great truth of modern business life: Everybody is in the same situation, facing the same kinds of pressures for immediate action, demonstrable short-term results and more work to do than can be done. The more successful businesses and individuals are at managing in shorter-term increments, the more they reinforce and expand the need for it everywhere else.

It also means that the situation is unlikely to change. Just as the networking of everything and everyone has become part of the fabric of business, so too will its effects. And one of those is the need to manage for shorter timeframes. This is neither good nor bad. It just is. And it means that like it or not, everyone is going to need to find new ways not just to get through the long days but also to feel better about how they spend that time. "

(Chuck Martin is syndicated columnist as well as chairman and CEO of NFI Research, a global research firm based in New Hampshire. He lectures around the world, and is a best-selling author of several business books, including his latest Managing for the Short Term )

Does managing for shorter timeframes mean forgetting the long view? Or does it simply mean that we need to pay attention to better execution and act on the big tasks in shorter, doable pieces with the long term goal in mind? Rather than an extensive, fixed long range plan, smart managers clearly define the desired outcome and keep the detail to the short term.

Taking some steps, checking the results, adjusting the course towards the target - hey, what a concept. And at the end of the day, we "get through the long days" (depressing phrase) with energy when we see accomplishments and progress towards the larger goal.

Good project management practices and exemplary communication - coach, watch and make room for people to be successful. And short term tasks are a great way to make sure that everyone knows whats going on.

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Sunday, August 22, 2004

Agility in Adversity- Communicating in Crisis

Duck and cover or learn and grow - your choice!

"It's tempting to try to get out of a jam by whining, pointing fingers or covering up the problem. But such responses undermine your credibility and strength as a leader. Let's take a look at some responses to adversity that you should avoid. An agile response will be speedy, action-oriented and will rally support from your organization for what may involve significant change."
In her article, Agility in Adversity, Patricia Wallington describes the common response to crisis communication - whine, blame and cover up. "It's not fair. It's someone else’s fault! It's not that bad and anyway it's not that big a deal. "Any examples come to mind?

Apart from the obvious loss of credibility when the real situation comes to light as it inevitably does, the focus is kept squarely on the problem. We know (see Writes of Passage - Appreciative Inquiry at Work) that we get more of what we focus on so it should be no surprise that the energy and attention of the public and the organization stays on the problems and in the negative. We look for, and usually find, more problems and cover up or "spin" results in the continuing erosion of credibility, micro-analysis of intentions and the worst possible interpretation of any shreds of fact that emerge. In the absence of believable information we will simply make it up.

Trying to bolt this particular stable door after the horse is gone just makes it worse. Regardless of what is said later about what is being done to correct the situation, no-one is listening inside, or outside, the organization.

Back to Patricia, who recommends starting with a positive attitude to inspire the organization and taking an agile leadership approach with 5 steps to navigate, deal with and recover from the crisis. (Please note, I didn't say "manage it"!). With these steps, she says, you will emerge from adversity in a position of strength.

1. coming or at least name it clearly when it has arrived
2. Think... before you plan. Analyze the situation from multiple perspectives, involve the right people and listen to them. Select from alternatives and plan actions.
3. Tell... as much as you can. Stay calm, accept accountability and inform the people who maybe impacted. Clear and open communication is critical.
4. Do... and don't be distracted. Do what you say you are going to do, if it changes - see step 3.
5. Review... for learning, and as soon as possible. This is not a blame game. Ask for feedback, find root causes - solve systemic problems. It's not enough to make a rule that this can't happen again. What are we doing or not doing that allowed this crisis to develop?

Resilience can be defined as our self righting capacity, our ability as people and as organizations to bounce back stronger after difficult events. See, think, tell, do, review is a way to learn about our organizations and ourselves and grow stronger and more resilient through that knowledge. Don't be tempted to skip the last step.

The story that is told at the end of the day does not have to be
a tale of what went wrong. It could be about how the organization pulled together through the storm and used the crisis to learn and emerged as a better, more authentic place to be.

How do you want to be remembered in your corporate history?

Thoughts sparked by original article
Agility in Adversity - Total Leadership - CIO Magazine Aug 15, 2004

Also see next week – Upgrading the Quality Process. Adding Communication to Plan, Do, Check, Act

If there's more, read it here...

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Communication is more than words

High performing organizations understand the critical role of communication in their pursuit of organizational excellence. They also understand that communication is a great deal more than simply using the right words. Norpac Controls, Envision Financial and Canada Post all get it writes Carol Sutton, principal of CJS Communications. They understand that '...key performance indicators lie not in the quality of communications' outputs, but in the relationship among people - the ability to provide the right information, at the right time, to the right people, to get the job done to everyone's professional and personal satisfaction. In other words, organizations do not communicate by words alone; it is through our deeds - our behaviours - that we communicate those things that are truly important to the organization.'

Read Carol's complete article at

and join her on for the BCCQ Insights Series Workshop Not By Words Alone! September 15, 2004

Details and brochure at or register online now at

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Friday, August 20, 2004

Appreciative Inquiry at Work

There is a working definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Intuitively most people understand that if they want a different result they need to do different things. So why do we stick with the mindset that says if we just try a little harder, do it faster, add more people we will be successful?

What we need, as Einstein said, is a different kind of thinking to that which created the situation in the first place.

Have you ever been drawn into one of those conversations about what’s wrong with life and found as the talk continued that you became more and more de-energized and depressed? Why is it that when you talk to other people you leave with a renewed energy? Why do some of those workplace initiatives seem such hard work and others progress with increasing commitment and vitality?Recently, my daughter came home from a work place meeting where they had completed a “what to stop, what to start, what to continue” exercise. She commented on the “what to stops”, and how they had turned them into “what to starts” because that was more positive and helped them build on what they wanted to achieve. Although we talk about the joys and sorrows of the workplace, she is not familiar with the psychology, research and expertise behind Appreciative Inquiry. She just knows that when you focus on what you want, instead of what you do not want, you are on your way to getting it.

Roots of Appreciative Inquiry

David Cooperrider and Suresh Srivastva, at Case Western Reserve University, developed the idea of Appreciative Inquiry through research in medicine, education and psychology into the connection between image and action. Appreciative Inquiry (AI) focuses on what happens when people are at their best. In contrast to the current trend of deficit thinking, the AI process seeks what gives positive life to a situation or an organization. With the knowledge that the energy flows to what we think about, we can chose to see a series of problems to be fixed or a vision of the preferred future.The appreciative approach owes more to the thinking of the new sciences than the traditional Newtonian rules that are the basis of many of our past practices. The Newtonian approach is a search for a simpler model that reduces information to its smallest components, explains all, and provides predictability. Quantum Physics and the new sciences (like Chaos Theory, Complexity Theory and the Theory of Self-Organizing Systems) are based on an acceptance of the complexity of the world, the idea that we can exist “not knowing” and live with unpredictability. Instead of “seeing is believing” and reductionism, the new sciences are more concerned with wholeness and connectivity and a mind broadening “I’ll see it when I believe it”.

Appreciative Inquiry (AI) engages people in creating and sustaining transformational change. AI uses the power of positive questions to draw on their peak experiences and shift the focus and energy to the strengths and possibilities in an organization. The five stage AI process (define, discover, dream, design, destiny) leads participants to uncover their vision and take action to create it.

Major organizations are using AI to build capacity, change culture, maximize operations and deliver to the bottom lines. They use it to shape strategic alliances and corporate turnarounds and apply it to common internal practices such as strategic planning, performance management, process improvement and team development. More than a methodology, AI is a powerful, practical and proven tool that empowers the imagination and generates innovation, creativity, participation and commitment.Try this. The next time you are in a problem solving kind of situation ask “tell me about a time when it worked well?” and afterwards, if you need to, ask “what can we do this time to build on that success?” I say ‘if you need to’ because the power of telling the story usually shifts the group to answer this question anyway. The energy rises, ideas flow, solutions emerge.

Believe it – you’ll see it. Let me know!

Watch for posts to follow on the AI process, theory, principles and the appreciative approach

Workshop information:
BC Centre for Quality, Insights Series

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Sunday, August 15, 2004

Wander around Vancouver - a little west coast magic for the soul

And if life is a little too busy right now take a stroll around Vancouver
with words and music.

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Saturday, August 14, 2004

An odd blogger

Finally, here I am with my first blog.

What a journey for a mainframer programmer from the early 70's (360 Assembler if anyone still knows what that is) through PCs and laptops to being a technical rookie once more. Life is learning! I have spent the last two hours trying to figure out how to upload a photo and yes it's easy - once you know how. For some us - show us a way to make it difficult and we will take it!

This blog is for musings and now and again a call to action. We live in interesting times - a blessing, not a curse - and yet we so rarely take the time to think, talk, share and create ideas together. I hope that as this blog takes form, we can hang out together and confront some big ideas.

The outcomes of learning are unpredictable as each of us makes meaning from our own unique perspective. Lets shake up our dusty assumptions of what has to be and take a positive step towards a desirable future.

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Across to the Island Posted by Hello

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