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How do you handle project management issues when there’s a perceived problem with a client or internal customer that:

  1. You didn’t create,
  2. They did,
  3. But they think or claim you did create it?

Talking with one of our business owner coaching clients recently, he (let’s call him “John” for convenience) ran into this exact project management situation. His client called frantically saying the company president was upset over something John’s firm had done.

While the situation was bothersome and problematic, it wasn’t as big a deal as the company president made it out to be. And while John had precipitated the situation through his work for the client, the problem stemmed from his client not providing sufficient information for John’s firm to perform successfully.

Project Management Issues: A Turd on the Table Strategy

Table-Anger

Photo by: dommy.de | Source: photocase.com

Back to the original question: How do you handle this kind of project management situation – whether with a client or an internal customer?

The option John was considering when he called me was to apologize, rectify the situation as best possible, and wait to see whether he lost his biggest client.

I suggested a better project management technique was to employ a “we have a turd on the table” strategy.

He asked, “WHAT in the world is a ‘turd on the table’ strategy?”

I told him while it wasn’t smart to make his client appear culpable, there was no reason for John to fall on the sword and take full blame for a situation that arose through the client’s inattention and lack of active participation in an important process.

Instead, I suggested John act as if there was a turd on the table by acknowledging:

  • There’s a problem
  • Everyone wants to get rid of the problem
  • It really doesn’t matter right now how the problem got there.

The important project management outcome was getting it off the table and keeping it off the table in the future.

Instead of a mea culpa (or even a mea maxima culpa) and agonizing over losing a huge account, John crafted a couple of page response plan.

The project management plan went much lighter on the sword falling than he’d planned. Instead, it focused on two key sets of project management steps:

  • The first set of steps placed the current situation in the correct context along with appropriate tactics to rectify the minimal negative impact it had.
  • The more important set of project management steps spelled out a plan on what both he AND his client needed to do differently to follow the process they had not been following which led to this situation.

And what happened?

The client appreciated the strategic project management response, reviewed it internally for a few days, and John kept the account with the agreement to the proposed process changes. Success!

Do you ever need quick input on strategy and project management techniques?

No matter where you are globally, The Brainzooming Group is available to provide one-on-one  consultation such as we did with John. If you need a strategic sounding board to develop, vet, and improve ideas and strategies, we can help you quickly achieve the same type of success John did. All it takes is an email or phone call for us to get started. – Mike Brown

 

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The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

 

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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15

Is your organization lacking innovative ideas? Does it seem as if your employees are deficient in creative thinking skills?

If so, how frequently do you hear these phrases around your organization?

  1. It’s not my idea
  2. We’ve never thought of that before
  3. We don’t know how to do that
  4. Things are crazy busy right now
  5. We don’t have the right people on board
  6. It seems like it may get us in trouble
  7. We’ve done something similar before
  8. People could think it’s a boondoggle
  9. That will stretch us too thin
  10. I don’t see how we can pull it off
  11. Nobody in our industry has ever done anything like that
  12. They’re better at it than we are
  13. I don’t know anything about that
  14. We’ve got too many initiatives going on
  15. It’s too new for our market
  16. We already doing too much in that area
  17. They’re not expecting anyone to do that
  18. Our salespeople have too many things to sell already
  19. I know what the forecast numbers say
  20. It seems like such a small deal
  21. We’re already trying something else
  22. It seems too late to do anything about it
  23. We’ve never done anything about this
  24. I don’t understand why that’s necessary
  25. No customers are asking for that
  26. It seems impossible to pull off
  27. It’s not in the budget
  28. It seems like overkill
  29. We don’t have time for that

All these phrases could end with a period. A period is final. A period is definitive. A period says, “We’re done here,” like nobody’s business.

When you put a period at the end of any of these phrases, you are blocking potentially innovative ideas others are trying to share.

Making a change to this doesn’t require major creative thinking skills though.

If you really want to stimulate innovative ideas, instead of a period, put a comma after each of these phrases followed by, “but it could be a great idea.”

A comma says there are nuances to explore, possibilities to consider, and more ideas to come.

If one of your organizational goals is developing more innovative ideas this year, implement this simplest of creative thinking skills. You can even click this graphic, print it out, and put it up around your office.

We-Create-Innovative-Ideas-Brainzooming

How simple is that? – Mike Brown

 

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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14

Keys-NashvilleIf you are seeking meeting space outside a traditional office, you know the traditional options are Starbucks, Panera, or some local coffee shop. Those are okay places, but they’re typically crawling with people and you smell like coffee when you leave.

So what are other viable no-cost meeting space options for work at home professionals?

Yesterday, Barrett and I wound up meeting at a secondary food court in a mall for a change in venue. It was open, quiet, and very pleasant – if you ignored the major butt crack moment on the women cleaning the window at Loft.

10 Meeting Spaces for Work at Home Professionals Other than Starbucks

Our great meeting experience at the mall prompted this top ten list of informal meeting spaces. All are low or no-cost, low-traffic, easily accessible, and typically smell free!

1. Hotel Lobbies

Lobbies, especially for convention-oriented hotels, are great for finding open meeting areas. They work well for extended meetings since you do not look conspicuous as freeloaders amid the routine convention traffic.

2. Libraries

Library card holders can generally get access to community and study rooms with whiteboards and doors you can close for some privacy.

3. Self-Serve Restaurants at Off Hours

Check self-serve restaurants with good Wi-Fi as prime locations for off hours meetings. With a self-serve place, you can typically linger longer since wait staff aren’t trying to move you along. Increasingly, grocery stores are an option in this category.

4. Museums

Lobbies, restaurants, and galleries inside museums can all be strong creative meeting space options. An annual membership may get you free parking, food and beverage discounts, and access to a dedicated meeting room.

5. Multi-tenant office building lobbies

Major office buildings often have plenty of accessible room in the lobby that works for informal meet and greets. If this is a route you want to go, scout the location ahead of time to see how it will work before booking a meeting.

6. Convention centers

A metro convention center generally features a variety of readily available small lobbies and gathering areas if the venue is open and not completely filled with conventioneers.

7. Universities

If you can get past the pesky parking issues, universities offer multiple meeting spots, including lobbies, restaurants, conference facilities, and dedicated meeting rooms.

8. Outdoor spaces

This option obviously depends on where you are, but who didn’t want to go have class outside in school? It’s still a decent option for grown up business meetings.

9. Friends with Offices

Not exactly “friends with benefits,” but friends with offices might let you use them for an occasional meeting, perhaps with a trade-out for something you can do for them in return.

10. Presentation Rooms after Presentations

Presentation meeting rooms are often booked longer than the presentation to allow for clean-up time. If you’re at an event, check with the meeting organizer to see if you can have an informal meeting immediately after a session is over.

Where else do work at home professionals find alternative meeting spaces?

I’d love to add your ideas to the list. Where do you find great meeting spaces that make you smell like a Starbucks three hours later? – Mike Brown

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“How strong is my organization’s social media strategy?”

9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy

Is your social media implementation working as well as it can? In less than 60 minutes with the new FREE Brainzooming ebook “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy,” you’ll have a precise answer to this question.

Any executive can make a thorough yet rapid evaluation of nine different dimensions of their social media strategies with these nine diagnostics. Download Your Free Copy of “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy.”

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Hays-KSI was back home in Western Kansas for the third time in a month this past week.

Time to share a few thoughts, Larry King style, from these road trips:

Strategic Thinking on Relationships

I tend to think I hug people fairly readily, but based on recent experience, that’s not the case. Nevertheless, a hug is wonderful to solidify what might be a loose bond with someone . . . By the time there’s three people in a car, you have a resident expert on most topics within arm’s reach . . . If we think there are meaningless events and moments in our lives, it’s only because we haven’t figured out (or been open to learning) how to use them for a bigger purpose yet.

When you’re dealing with a really boisterous person, don’t forget to look for the soft-spoken individual underneath all the bluster. Chances are that individual is in there, but just afraid to be seen . . . In thirty years, and probably less, it’s apparently possible for people to completely lose sight of why they are where they are, how they got there, and what holds them together . . . If you don’t make a practice of it, start making a practice of getting these words out of your mouth: “Could you help me . . . ?” If you ask enough people, someone will want to help you . . . Checking a profile of someone rumored to be cheating with someone else, the ad on the alleged cheater’s online profile page was for detailed info on cheating spouses. Wow! Google even includes rumors in the advertising algorithm!

Experiences that Shape Us

You become what you’ve experienced. There may be ways to fight it, but what you’ve experienced always tugs at you, even in completely unforeseen ways . . . The human capacity for being shitty to others we used to love is incredible and pathetic all rolled into one . . . We all have the power to ignore the fashion statements of others . . . I never knew someone from our student activities group in college took Pat Benatar shopping at a mall the day she performed at our school. I only got to go shopping for a stool for Chet Atkins to sit on when he performed . . . Is there a song like “One of these things is not like the others,” to encourage kids to see similarities instead of differences? If not, somebody needs to write it.

Having a phone that’s decided to quit telling me I have voice mail messages is great for peace and quiet, but crappy for running a business . . . A reader left me an incredibly gracious message saying how thankful she was for the help provided by reading the blog. I want to re-listen to her message every morning for the rest of my life . . . Facebook is the ties that bind . . .What a blessing to learn that things you hoped made an impact on people really did . . . Go ahead and count your blessings instead of sheep . . .There are times when it would be great to be adept at writing fiction instead of focusing on writing blog posts. Sometimes, there’s just nothing like a short story to capture a moment. – Mike Brown

 

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Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative thinking and ideas! For an organizational innovation success boost, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative plans to efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Leave-Mentor-MessageStrategic mentors are incredibly valuable in growing your career and developing your personal prospects in multiple areas of life. If you are fortunate, you will have multiple strategic mentors at various points in your career who are best suited to your current career stage.

That shouldn’t mean, however, that you ever lose touch with someone who has been a high-impact strategic mentor for you.

Even if someone doesn’t play the primary strategic mentor role in your career now, it’s incredibly valuable to remain in close touch over time. Though your relationship may be different, be sure to:

  • Stay connected with a previous strategic mentor because chances are you haven’t tapped all your mentor’s wisdom.
  • Relive the old days because your mentor may remember details, challenges, and successes you’ve forgotten but would do best to remember.
  • Share how you are applying things you learned from your mentor because that’s returning value in exchange for the value you received.
  • Pick up the tab for a meal you share because it’s a small token of appreciation.
  • Go out of your way to respond quickly and perform a favor requested by your mentor because they did the same for you at one point in time.

If you’ve fallen out of a touch with a strategic mentor from earlier in your career, reach out now to get back in touch soon.

A Correction

In a recent post on favorite Brainzooming posts for 2013, I listed guest bloggers who contributed their expertise to the Brainzooming blog. I inadvertently left John Q. Harrington off the list. John is a longtime friend who contributed a number of well-received guest posts last year that I’d invite you to check out!

Sorry for the omission, Q! – Mike Brown

 

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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2014-crazy-busyHere is a prediction for 2014: bosses and client will want even shorter reports and presentations than last year because everyone will be busier and have even shorter attention spans. (In fact, I also predicted on Twitter last night that 2014 will be the global year of even “crazier and busier.”)

But what if the report you are writing is destined to be way longer than your audience’s short attention span will tolerate?

How are you going to make the right decisions about cutting content to experience report shrinkage?

The first step, if it is at all possible, is printing the report you are developing. By printing the report, you can easily change the order of the content and compare alternative versions with and without specific content. This preference for printing and working with hard copy may reflect my age and thinking biases, but I find it much more efficient (and personally satisfying) to turn cutting content into a physical experience.

7 Questions to Experience Report Shrinkage

Beyond readying a physical or virtual version of your report, these seven questions will help you make decisions to achieve report shrinkage:

  1. Based on your previous history of positive and negative reactions to content with this audience, what can you get away with removing?
  2. If you don’t have previous experience with this audience, are there other comparable situations you can reference to identify what to eliminate?
  3. Can you create a reference or link to content you’re not including so if there’s interest in it, you can reference it on the fly?
  4. Does each piece of content you’re planning to keep disproportionately contribute to the short list of information the client needs to know, understand, or believe to take the desired actions?
  5. Can you combine content that’s similar but not exactly the same to create higher impact in the presentation?
  6. Have you duplicated content as the deck has moved through multiple authors and iterations?
  7. Are you to the point of cutting things that make you wince when you cut them? If not, you definitely have more content to cut.

We used these questions recently to get a forty-page report down to fourteen pages, just under the fifteen pages the client could reportedly handle!

Are you predicting more report shrinkage in 2014?

Do you buy our report shrinkage prediction for 2014? And if you do, what strategic thinking and actions are you going to do about it?  – Mike Brown

 

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The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Returns-Line

Photo by: Tom Jenkins (Tech Guy Tom)

Perceptions about something that’s given and received don’t always match up between the giver and the receiver.

This can happen not only in traditional gift giving situations, but it can occur in group and team settings where individuals are sharing and receiving creative ideas. One team member’s self-perceived extreme creativity can become a team leader’s nightmare when the ideas take hold even though they don’t fit what the team’s strategic objectives.

How can you minimize the awkwardness when this giving and receiving mismatch happens in a group setting with creative ideas?

Try applying these six creative thinking skills adapted from ideas for more successful gift giving and receiving to improve how creative ideas are shared and applied for everyone’s benefit.

3 Creative Thinking Skills for Sharing Creative Ideas

If you are sharing creative ideas, think about these three points.

1. Ask strategic questions ahead of time

Invest time and effort to understand what types of creative ideas are needed and expected. That doesn’t mean you have to be a creative order taker, but at least gain some idea of what creative expression will have the most significant impact.

2. Start with subtle creative ideas

This is definitely a personal preference to start subtle. If you’re not sure how or where your creativity might be used, it could be better to offer your initial creative ideas in bite-sized chunks. Unless extreme creativity is expected from the start, consider playing it close to the creative vest on the first go around.

3. Don’t over-explain creative ideas to fill silence

If you sense the creative ideas you’re introducing to the team aren’t resonating, the first instinct can be to fill any awkward silence with explaining. While that might make you feel better, it can also make it more difficult for the team to adapt and move forward with your creative ideas. Try sitting back and providing room to react without any further creative help.

3 Creative Thinking Skills for Receiving Creative Ideas

If you’re on the receiving end of creative ideas from others, make sure you’re receiving them in the best fashion possible.

1. Expect and plan for creative mismatches

If team members are familiar to one another, the team leader likely has a sense of which team members will offer creative ideas that are too big, too narrow, or too something else to work right away. A team leader can anticipate this and plan for how to handle creative ideas that don’t match up with the team’s immediate task.

2. Before anything else, express appreciation and gratitude

Step one when receiving off-the-mark creative ideas from a team member is expressing appreciation before judging. Find something to celebrate, praise, or comment on positively. If nothing else, say something innocuous and open-ended so you don’t disaffect a team member who may be very sincere, but just a bit off with their creativity.

3. Try incorporating the creativity in some recognizable way

Even if the creative ideas offered aren’t going to address your immediate needs, look for ways to give them some visibility as the team’s effort progresses. Try to use some aspect of them so the originator experiences a sense of contributing to the team’s progress.

The Gift of Creative Thinking Skills

It’s relatively easy to return a white elephant gift you receive for Christmas. You can’t return creative ideas though. That’s where these suggestions provide a path to taking advantage of even the oddball creative gifts that come your way! – Mike Brown

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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