Implementation | The Brainzooming Group - Part 250 – page 250
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Something happens to take you off plan. Sometimes it can’t be avoided…the first time.

But how do you avoid getting your plan derailed a second or third time? One way is by revisiting an implementation effort that went awry and addressing questions such as those below, turning the answers into lessons that you and your team can use in the future to guide your actions:

  • What happened to cause these implementation effort problems?
  • What was the root cause – really?
  • Was there a backup implementation strategy in place? Yes or No? Did the backup implementation strategy fail as well?
  • What were the indicators that there would be a problem? Did we notice or ignore them? Will the signals likely be there next time in a comparable situation?
  • Was available information not gathered or processed?
  • How did we deal with missing information?
  • In what ways might the implementation effort differ next time?
  • If we think it was “bad luck,” how do we create “good luck” in the future?

These few questions will go a long way toward providing a foundation to improve your performance next time. For an insightful, more in-depth look at various types of mistakes and the personal perspective and processes to address them, check out this essay from Scott Berkun. And while you’re doing so, poke around on his website. I just started, and it looks like there are a lot of cool ideas to discover!

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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Today is Leap Day, an extra day on the calendar. Use it well, because there are no guarantees on how long our important relationships will last, whether they’re in our business or personal lives. So take advantage of every opportunity daily to grow the people around you and to learn from them in turn.

Ask yourself several questions. Are you giving enough of yourself to these important people? Can you see your positive influence on them? Have you helped prepare them to pass on to others the lessons you’ve shared? Do these people know how much they mean to you? Are you ready to let them go?

To judge whether you are doing this successfully or not, try this. Imagine one of your most important relationships is drawing to a close, but you get one extra day with that person. Would you do anything differently on that special day? If the answer is yes, you have some more giving to do.

One of my most important business relationships isn’t ending today, but it is certainly entering a new phase as someone who is a wonderful friend and a tremendously talented and important member of the team takes the leap to the next exciting phase of her career.

And as sad as this type of transition can be, it’s among the most gratifying things in business to see some of the very special, talented researchers I’ve worked with go on to be so successful in their careers. As that group grows by one today, they all make me so proud to have learned from them and to have been a part of their professional growth.

P.S. To learn directly from one of them, check out next Friday’s blog with our first guest blogger, as Brad Barash at Decision Insight throws up some ideas on communicating research more effectively.

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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There’s a great article by Dan and Chip Heath in this month’s Fast Company about the value of simple, straight forward checklists to improve performance. It’s a reminder of the value of checklists as strategic tools to help ensure that you’re thinking through both routine and new situations in structured ways. Problems on a recent trip underscored that point along with the realization that effective checklists don’t always have to be written.

During a “major winter weather event” (KC television weather jargon for “snow”), I was monitoring the weather by looking out the window and watching The Weather Channel. I was unaware that our airport had been closed for hours until my traveling companion called to ask when I was going to the airport and what my alternatives were.

It was suddenly essential to develop a checklist to evaluate viable options so that our trip didn’t fall apart. The resulting checklist works in many instances where a plan looks as if it’s in jeopardy of not succeeding:

  • Identify critical plan priorities that can’t be compromised. (We had to arrive Sunday night; all else could be adjusted on the road.)
  • Increase flexibility / options right away to be able to still achieve the priorities. (That meant downsizing my checked bag to a carry-on in 5 minutes and getting to the airport ASAP to have the opportunity to make more flight options.)
  • Secure access to the necessary information flow. (We determined that on the ground info was our best source – first at the counter, then at the gate.)
  • Develop likely scenarios and their implications. (Since it was an airport-wide delay, we had to get as early a flight as possible, while being prepared to catch the latest connecting flight possible.)
  • Secure the resources to operate in the most likely scenarios. (Our important resources were charged phones, water and food to take along, and each other – splitting up & teaming as necessary to get to the front of the customer service line ASAP.)

The end result? We made it on an earlier scheduled flight that left an hour after our original plane was supposed to depart. Our 2-hour Chicago layover was consumed by the delay; we walked off the plane in Chicago and went right to our original connecting flight. We had food because we’d planned ahead, so it wasn’t a big deal to miss eating at Midway. We arrived only 15 minutes late vs. the prospect of arriving 5 hours late. And the checklist made all the difference!

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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I had a fascinating lunch recently with Jay Liebenguth who hosts two business-oriented radio programs on KCTE-1510 AM in Kansas City. Jay is also involved with LEGO SERIOUS PLAY ™, a very cool approach to teambuilding and innovation that centers on people working with LEGOS to express the stories and possibilities that they see within an organization. As Jay described facilitating the process, he mentioned that in many cases, this technique helps give a voice to people who might otherwise have difficulty communicating the depth of their feelings or perceptions of a situation.

His comment triggered me to draw the cartoon in the upper right on the tablecloth (don’t worry, it was a paper tablecloth). While there are a number of posts on this blog about finding your best thinking style, we haven’t addressed identifying your best communication style, so here’s a quick thought on the topic.

Broaden your thinking about what communication is. Don’t limit your perspective to simply writing a report or delivering a presentation. Think about communication as transferring information – knowledge, perceptions, feelings, emotions, talents, joys, accomplishments. And these can be transferred among people in a myriad of ways.

Making this switch will ideally open up your thinking about your best communication style. It may be making really cool cartoon character cakes for your kids. It may be sewing or pop culture or photography. Could be genealogy, collecting bobbleheads, or even building things with LEGOS.

The point (and the challenge) is to consider how you communicate well in potentially non-traditional formats and bring the passion and skill you have in those areas into your business communication. It may take some creative thought; it may take some courage. But be assured, the benefits of incorporating your strongest communication styles into more parts of your life will far outweigh the effort or risk!

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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Here’s a link to a very beneficial marketing strategy article appearing recently on Arkansasbusiness.com. It’s by Jim Karrh, Ph.D. who is senior vice president of Advantage Communications Inc. in Little Rock. I met Jim this past November when he was a speaker and honorary chairman of The CMO Summit.

In this article, Jim focuses the breadth of marketing strategy literature on a set of “Super Six” questions addressing direction, segments, markets, products, and competitors that you can use as a check-up on your brand’s current strategies.

For the rest of his 2008 columns, Jim will focus on tactics to carry out successful strategies. To keep up to date with his thinking, add Jim’s column to your reader: http://www.arkansasbusiness.com/rss/karrh.aspx

Thanks Jim for the great questions!

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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Dear Abby & Ann Landers are no longer with us, but there are scads of other advice columns in print & electronic media to help people through relationship challenges. Since much of their advice for personal situations can be applied to business relationships, over the next several Wednesdays, we’ll let them do our work for us in the Change Your Character exercise.
This week, it’s brainstorming starters for building stronger relationships – generate at least 3 relationship building ideas for your business situation from each piece of advice:
  • Make the best possible first impression–be friendly & well dressed with a positive attitude.
  • Be yourself & pay attention to your instincts.
  • Spend time together to get to know each other.
  • Ask questions. Don’t just talk about yourself. Keep the conversation light.
  • Be attentive to the other person and don’t talk on your cell phone.
  • Be honest.
  • Go the extra mile to make the other person comfortable.
  • Thank the other person for spending time together.

So if you have some new business relationships to build, this should help you get some fresh ideas. And if you’ve got a first date lined up for Valentine’s Day tomorrow, you can also benefit. Just make sure that you don’t apply the ideas from the former situation to the latter – that would be a problem!

Check out a compilation of “Change Your Character” creative thinking exercises and information on its use.  – 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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It’s beneficial to determine the vital steps and questions behind a successful project so you can repeat them in the future. If a project doesn’t end as planned, it’s also important to figure out what was missed so you don’t have to re-learn a mistake. I’ve been doing a post mortem for a recent project and finding two frustrating lessons.

Both tie to an unexpected twist near the project’s end. The non-technical team (that would include me) was surprised by an unanticipated outcome that fell short of expectations. Our technically-oriented teammates, closely involved in the project’s design, were also surprised – surprised that we hadn’t clearly seen the (obvious to them, unexpected to us) detail in all the drawings and plans we’d reviewed for weeks.

So what happened?

In retrospect, the critical detail was in the drawings, but it was lost in a misperception of foreground & background. We (the non-techs) were looking at familiar & prominent images in the drawings, so the unfamiliar (and less prominent) detail moved deep into the background of our visual perception.
To compound matters, the non-techs drove a significant design change before the project’s start. Its ripple effects magnified the detail we’d missed once the project neared completion. Because we couldn’t perceive the detail, we didn’t realize our decision didn’t make sense. And since the techs couldn’t perceive that we weren’t visualizing the decision’s implications, they weren’t prompted to say it didn’t make sense.

The first lesson then is that there probably wasn’t any clear way to avoid the disconnect. Since neither group could perceive the potential problem, neither was able to ask a clarifying question or make a mid-course correction. I don’t think I’ve run into a situation quite like this previously. I’ll be more sensitive to this possibility in the future when working with a very proficient technical group, although I’ll still be without a great question that could confirm everyone’s perceptions.

The second lesson? Much of my consternation about the project’s outcome took place just before its completion. While that’s usually a good time to view a project and correct last minute issues, it clearly wasn’t in this case. When everything was done fifteen hours later, the previous day’s glaring problem was barely noticeable within the finished project. The final steps re-oriented my foreground / background perception, allowing the problematic detail to fade into the background once more.

Short story, here are the lessons learned:

  1. Sometimes there’s no way to perceive a potential problem to head it off, and
  2. Sometimes reviewing a project before it’s completed creates more problems than it fixes.

While these certainly seem like valuable lessons, I HATE them both. So if you can figure out better lessons than these, ones that actually involve fixing something rather than simply waiting around to see what happens, let me know. I’d appreciate it!

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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