Monday, February 28, 2011

Rain Dances and Change Management

Most improvement efforts have as much impact on company performance as a rain dance has on the weather.

A friend recently asked me to recommend an article on Change Managementt. After a bit of thought, I went with an oldie but goodie from 1992! It's an article from Harvard Business Review entitled Successful Change Programs Begin with Results by Robert H. Schaffer and Harvey A. Thomson. The cartoon is from the article and...well, if you really want to know, click on the link and download the article.

'nuff said!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Which Direction is the Bus Traveling?

Another fun brainteaser!

Click on the arrow, let the  viewer  load, scroll over "More" and click on "Full Screen,
then use the arrow on the bottom to advance the slides.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Solve the Right Problem!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

How Do You Put a Giraffe into a Refrigerator?

This is a fun quiz to stimulate your creative problem solving ability! Scroll down to find the answer beneath each question.

1. How do you put a giraffe into a refrigerator?




Correct answer: Open the refrigerator, put in the giraffe and close the door. (This question tests whether you tend to do simple things in an overly complicated way.)

 2.  How do you put an elephant into a refrigerator?


Wrong Answer : Open the refrigerator, put in the elephant and close the refrigerator.

Correct Answer : Open the refrigerator, take out the giraffe, put in the elephant and close the door. (This tests your ability to think through the repercussions of your actions.) 

3.  The Lion King is hosting an animal conference, all the animals  attend except one. Which animal does not attend?


Correct Answer : The Elephant. The Elephant is in the refrigerator.  (This tests your memory.  OK, even if you did not answer the first three questions, correctly you can surely answer this one.)

4.  There is a river you must cross, but it is inhabited by  crocodiles. How do you manage it?

Correct Answer: You swim across. All the crocodiles are attending the Animal Meeting! (This tests whether you learn quickly from your mistakes.)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Innovation: Got Focus?

In two earlier posts (here and here) I proposed two of three questions executives should ask themselves before embarking on a crusade for innovation.  The third question, which concerns focus, is the topic of this article.

Got Focus?

Let’s start with a simple proposition: ninety percent of all managers lack the requisite focus to successfully implement an innovation initiative.

An article entitled, Beware the Busy Manager, offers important insights into what is going on. For ten years, the authors studied the behavior of busy managers, and their findings are instructive: fully 90% of managers squander their time in all sorts of ineffective activities. A mere 10% of managers spend their time in a committed, purposeful, and reflective manner (i.e., the purposefulness quadrant).

Managers that fall into the other quadrants, by contrast, are usually just spinning their wheels; some procrastinate, others feel no emotional connection to their work (disengaged), and still others are easily distracted from the task at hand. Although they look busy, they lack either the focus or the energy required for making any sort of meaningful change.

 The Bull in the China Shop

By far the largest group of managers found in the study—more than 40%—fell into the distracted quadrant: those well-intentioned, highly energetic but unfocused people who confuse frenetic motion with constructive action. When they’re under pressure, distracted managers feel a desperate need to do something—anything. That makes them as dangerous as the proverbial bull in a china shop.

 Got Credibility?

Which brings us to the bull in the cartoon, he lacks credibility. The poor store clerk is just wasting for the inevitable rampage.

Likewise, it is no wonder that most employees react with groans when management announces, “We’re doing innovation!”  That’s because most managers, and management teams. lack the focus to deliver. “Innovation” becomes just another flavor-of-the-month initiative, another euphemism – from the employees’ point-of-view –for spinning their wheels.

Now ask yourself, am I a focused manager? How about the rest of the management team in my organization? If we announced an innovation initiative, would we have any credibility?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Learning to Create the Future

"Asking members what they want is stifling my ability to make a breakthrough!
"Does asking our members what they want stifle breakthroughs?"

That question was posted recently on the ASAE Executive Listserv. In response, I offer the following excerpt from an Association Management article printed way back in August, 1997!

Learning How to Create the Future

  “Companies that create the future do more than satisfy customers, they constantly amaze them.”
                                                Gary Hamel and C.K. Prahalad,  Competing for the Future

What will it take to constantly amaze your members into the future? That's a question every association executive needs to ask in this era of rising member expectations and increasing competition.

With that in mind, let us explore four lessons, learned from some of the most highly successful and imaginative corporations, that you can apply to your association's strategy-creation process.

Why is it that some organizations are capable of imagining and creating the future while others are forever playing catch up? The future-focused organizations have learned the following lessons.
Lesson 1: Imagination is the master of great strategy, implementation its servant.

If an organization wishes to create the future, it must begin by imagining compelling ways to amaze its customers. Then, and only then, should it ask, How will we do this? What are the details of implementation?

At first glance, this may seem a risky or unscientific approach. After all, doesn't an organization need to assess its current resources and capabilities before determining what it can do in the future? The history of strategy and marketing offers many excellent illustrations of why this isn't the case. Consider Henry, Ford. Ask yourself, Which did Ford imagine first - the assembly line or the Model T, the means or the end?

Most people mistakenly believe that Ford first invented the former, which enabled him to create the latter. Actually, it was the other way around. Ford's invention of the assembly line was the direct result of his imaginative desire to produce an affordable automobile. In short, Ford knew what needed to be done before he knew how the deed would be accomplished.

In his 1923 book entitled My Life and Work, Ford discussed a "broad scientific approach" that forces people to dig for unimagined solutions. He said, "Our policy is to reduce the price, extend the operations, and improve the article. You will notice that the reduction of price comes first. . . . Therefore we first reduce the price to a point where we believe more sales will result. Then we go ahead and try to make the prices. . . . The more usual way is to take the costs and then determine the price, and although that method may be scientific in the narrow sense, it is not scientific in the broad sense, because what earthly use is it to know the cost if it tells you yon cannot manufacture at a price at which the article can be sold? . . . One of the ways of discovering [emphasis added] . . . is to name a price so low as to force everybody in the place to the highest point of efficiency. . . . We make more discoveries concerning manufacturing and selling under this forced method than by any method of leisurely investigation."

Great strategy, therefore, is about discovering that which is possible but previously unseen, and then searching for the means to turn it into a real-life, value-producing product or service.

Lesson 2: When it comes to creating value, imagination wins out over forecasting and prediction.

The art of creating the future is more about uncovering evolving customer needs than about forecasting trends or building scenarios. This is not a particularly mysterious process, but it does require the right kind of information and the proper use of that information.

The right information is derived from a relentless search for cues about how the future will unfold. This search involves analyzing trends and competition, tracking emerging technologies and management techniques, and gathering insights from market research and customer contacts.
While gathering this information, it is important to remember that forecasting and scenario building are tools and not the end points of activities. For example, 15 years ago all the major automobile companies had access to data about the trends facing families and could have crafted reasonably accurate future scenarios or predictions about the hectic pace of life that was emerging. But it was Chrysler that went beyond mere forecasting to asking, If that's what life will be like for many families, what future options do we have for creating value? Their imaginative answer: the minivan.

Lesson 3: Ambitious goals act as catalysts.

Creating the future is an enormous task and is only worth doing if you have a goal that makes a meaningful difference in the lives members, staff, and volunteers. In this way, strategy becomes more than a blueprint, it becomes a source of ambition and a catalyst for action. Henry Ford's ambition to make a meaningful difference was captured in the phrase, "Put a car in every garage." Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart, motivated his employees to provide "rock-bottom prices to rural Americans."

Lesson 4: Don't listen to the naysayers.
Inventing the future can be scary work. No matter how brilliant and sound your ideas, there will always be naysayers. The following quotes remind us that many of the great ideas of the past were initially discounted or scorned: 
"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers." – Thomas Watson, Chairman of IBM, 1943
"The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a 'C,' the idea must be feasible." - A Yale University management professor in response to Fred Smith's paper proposing reliable overnight delivery service; Smith went on to found Federal Express

"If I had thought about it, I wouldn't have done the experiment. The literature was full of examples that said you can't do this." - Spencer Silver on the work that led to the unique adhesives for 3-M "Post-It" notepads.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Innovation and the Need to Instill Courage

"Any feedback yet about the Innovation Initiative?"

In an earlier post, I proposed the first of three questions executives should ask themselves before embarking on a crusade for innovation.  The second question, which concerns courage, is the topic of this article.

Right off the bat, let’s acknowledge the reaction portrayed in the cartoon is a bit extreme, but it illustrates an important point: “innovation wannabes” need to realize there will be resistance and sometimes sabotage in response to their efforts. As a result, uncertainty and even self-doubt inevitably sets in.

A Lesson from W. Edwards Deming

"Massive training is required to instill the courage to break with tradition.”

This quote is from W. Edwards Deming, one of the fathers of Total Quality Management (TQM). For all his attention to the statistical aspects of quality management, Deming was equally forthright in calling out the need for instilling courage.

The above quote nicely frames the two-fold challenge facing “innovation wannabes.” First, it is intensely personal. If you want to be an innovation champion, be prepared to face the inevitable nay saying that calls into question your judgment and your choice of priorities. Second, you must fully prepare and support the “troops” as they use innovation to break with tradition.  

The question for Innovation Wannabes
“Do we have a process for innovation?” or “Does my leadership style foster creativity?” are often the types of questions heard when discussing this topic. These inquiries, however, seem inadequate to the challenge at hand; they do not directly address what is required of individuals who are trying to “break with tradition.” And this is the point Deming was constantly trying to communicate.

Without a doubt, innovation requires courage. Heck, there’s no way around it! So, if you’re serious about innovation, you need to ask yourself, “Do I have the courage to lead this initiative and, in so doing, do I have what it takes to instill courage in others?”

‘nuff said!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Egypt: another "not in my lifetime!" moment

As I watched the events unfold in Egypt, and Tunisia before that, it reminded me of an article I wrote for Association Management magazine.  I had attended an ASAE Foundation event featuring Peter Uberroth, who chaired the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Committee and served as baseball commissioner. He spoke about a visit to West Germany in the fall of 1989. He was part of a group that had the opportunity to meet the head of state, Helmut Kohl. During that meeting someone asked, "Will the Berlin Wall ever come down?" The prime minister replied, "Yes, but not in my lifetime." Three weeks later, on November 9, the wall came down.

After the recent events in Egypt, what other “not in my lifetime" events should we anticipate?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Lesson in Creative Problem Solving

Once again the subject of Innovation is making the rounds and there is a lot of serious and somber discussion taking place. I would like to add a bit of levity to make an extremely important point about creative problem solving: it requires flexible thinking and the constant search for alternative solutions.

Enjoy the story and learn!

Subject: Physics Exam

The following concerns a question in a physics degree exam at the University of Copenhagen:   "Describe how to determine the height of a skyscraper with a barometer."
One student replied: "You tie a long piece of string to the neck of the barometer, then  lower the barometer from the roof of the skyscraper to the ground. The length of the string plus the length of the barometer will equal the height of the building."

This highly original answer so incensed the examiner that the student was failed immediately. The student appealed on the grounds that his answer was indisputably correct, and the university appointed an  independent arbiter to decide the case.

The arbiter judged that the answer was indeed correct, but did not display any noticeable knowledge of physics. To resolve the problem it was decided to call the student in and allow him six minutes in which to provide a verbal answer that showed at least a minimal familiarity with  the basic principles of physics. For five minutes the student sat in silence, forehead creased in thought. The arbiter reminded him that time was running out, to which the student replied that he had several extremely relevant answers, but couldn't make up his mind which to use.

On being advised to hurry up the student replied as follows:

"Firstly, you could take the barometer up to the roof of the skyscraper, drop it over the edge, and measure the time it takes to reach the ground. The height of the building can then be worked out from the formula H = 0.5g x t squared. But bad luck on the barometer."
"Or if the sun is shining you could measure the height of the barometer, then set it on end and measure the length of its shadow. Then you measure the length of the skyscraper's shadow, and thereafter it is a simple matter of proportional arithmetic to work out the height of the skyscraper.

"But if you wanted to be highly scientific about it, you could tie a short piece of string to the barometer and swing it like a pendulum, first at ground level and then on the roof of the skyscraper. The height is worked out by the difference in the gravitational restoring force T=2pi sqr root (l /g).
"Or if the skyscraper has an outside emergency staircase, it would be easier to walk up it and mark off the height of the skyscraper in barometer lengths, then add them up." "If you merely wanted to be boring and orthodox about it, of course, you could use the barometer to measure the air pressure on the roof of the skyscraper and on the ground, and convert the difference in millibars into feet to give the height of the building.

"But since we are constantly being exhorted to exercise independence of mind and apply scientific methods, undoubtedly the best way would be to knock on the janitor's door and say to him 'If you would like a nice new barometer, I will give you this one if you tell me the height of this skyscraper'."
The student was Niels Bohr, the only Dane to win the Nobel Prize for Physics.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Motivation Begins Before You Hire

At the recent ASAE Idea Swap, there was a session on building and motivating teams. I would like to propose that motivation begins before you hire; it begins with how you describe and advertise the job opening. 

A "Food for Thought" Exercise

Peruse a variety of job openings listed on ASAE (or other sources). Then evaluate the ads based on two criteria:
  1. How powerfully does the ad appeal to an individual’s intrinsic motivations?
  2. How powerfully does the ad appeal to the type of individual who thrives on teamwork?
Now look at the chart below. How many ads deserve to be listed in the upper right hand quadrant? What about the job ads your organization posts?

The Choice is Yours

Ask yourself which scenario leads to more productive and effective teams: 
Scenario One: You hire individuals who “can do the job.” Once they are on staff, you hope you can motivate them to work in a team.
Scenario Two: You hire individuals who are gung-ho to do their job and thrive on teamwork.
 The choice is yours!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

A Few Good Ideas

There is an interesting discussion about innovation taking place over at The Hourglass Blog, hosted by Eric Lanke and Jamie Notter. In addition, a useful dialogue has broken out between them and Jeff DeCagna of Principled Innovation.

Eric and Jamie have offered three questions that association executives can use to determine the innovation readiness of their associations associations:

1. Does your leadership embrace innovation as one of the strategies necessary to achieve your goals?
2. Do you have a defined process for how innovation will function in your association?
3. Is that process working?
Starting with this post, I will propose the first of three alternative questions executives should ask themselves before embarking on that "innovation thing."

Lessons from the Innovation University program

A few years ago, I had the privilege of participating in the Innovation University Program. It brought together a select group of change agents from non-competing companies who gathered each quarter to visit innovative companies and explore ways to apply these lessons in their own organizations. Visits included companies such as Coca-Cola, Interface Carpet as well as several companies in Lima, Peru.

Those visits brought me face-to-face with a number of remarkable people; leaders who had the passion and tenacity to make innovation a living, breathing, results-producing force in their organizations.

The lesson I learned: innovation isn’t about processes or concepts or theories, it is about the people who champions it. How they behave, how they treat other people and how they respond to challenges, obstacles, failures and opportunities is the engine that drives the Innovation Train.

But first, a story about a “problem plagued” CEO

Let’s consider the story of a ‘problem plagued” Fortune 500 CEO.  One day he complained to friend, “I spend all my time dealing with people’s problems and complaints. No one ever brings my new and exciting ideas.”

The friend asked, “Let’s say I work at your company and I come to you with a problem or a complaint, what happens?”

CEO:  “Well, we sit down and talk. I gather the facts; we discuss options and try to figure out a way to deal with the problem.”

Friend: “That’s very good. Now what happens if I come to you with a great new idea?”

The CEO paused, looking a bit flummoxed. “Gee, um…I’m not sure.”

The friend observed, “So let me get this straight: if I bring a problem to you, I will get a lot of your time and attention. If I come to you with a new idea, you don’t know how to respond?”

The CEO nodded his sadly, “Yes.”

A Few Good Ideas

Now comes the fun part! We’re going to imagine the above dialogue as part of an exciting new movie. It’s called A Few Good Ideas and it’s loosely based on that classic, A Few Good Men with Jack Nicholson and Tom Cruise. Here’s how the exciting confrontation plays out:

The first question you need ask yourself, "Can I handle a new idea?"

I hope I have made my point: if you don’t how to respond when someone brings you a new idea (i.e., “you can’t handle a new idea!”), you aren’t ready to launch an innovation initiative in your organization. The leaders I witness during my Innovation University visits thrived whenever people brought them ideas. They knew how to have a productive and encouraging conversation and how to act as a guide and even the muse.

Are you ready to do that?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Don't Tell Me Membership is Everyone's Business!

In my previous post, I jokingly asked how Tony Soprano might engage the entire staff of your association in the cause of membership. In the interest of building harmonious relationships between the Membership Department and other departments, I would like to offer the following brainstorming exercise…

It’s called the “Don’t sell me _____, sell me ____!” exercise.  Begin by considering the following list:

Don't sell me clothes…...…....Sell me attractiveness

Don't sell me sneakers……….Sell me "airtime"

Don't sell me books………….Sell me knowledge

Don't sell me a lobotomy……..Sell me peace of mind

(FYI:  This if from Jumpstart Your Marketing Brain by Doug Hall)

The idea is to consider the real benefit or motivation for a product or service from the customer’s point-of-view. It is a powerful approach and one you can use inside your association to further the cause of membership.

So let us modify the exercise to make it more relevant for a Membership Director. Imagine you’re having a conversation with someone from your Conventions Department. You’re trying to explain that “membership is everyone’s business” and he responds, “don’t tell me that, tell _____!” What does he need to hear from you? What will make the concept of “membership” relevant to him and his staff?

You can repeat this exercise for other departments:

The beauty of this exercise is that it helps you to think about membership from the perspectives of others, and that will make it easier to win their support. Good luck!