Archive for the ‘Trust’ Category

When is it innovation theater?

When you go to the cinema or the playhouse you go you see a show. The show may be funny, it may be sad, it may be thought-provoking, it may be beautiful, and it may take your mind off your problems for a couple of hours; but it’s not real.  Sure, the storyline is good, but it came from someone’s imagination.  And because it’s a story, it doesn’t have to bound by reality. Sure, the choreography is catchy, but it’s designed for effect. Yes, the cinematography paints a good picture, but it’s contrived. And, yes, the actors are good, but they’re actors. What you see isn’t real. What you see is theater.

If you are asked to focus on the innovation process, that’s theater.  Innovation doesn’t care about process; it cares about delivering novel customer value. The process isn’t most important, the output is. When there’s an extreme focus on the process that usually means an extreme focus on the output of the process would be embarrassing.

If you are tasked to calculate the net present value of the project hopper, that’s theater. With innovation, there’s no partial credit for projects you’re not working on. None. The value of the projects in the hopper is zero. The song about the value of the project hopper is nothing more than a catchy melody performed to make sure the audience doesn’t ask about the feeble collection of projects you are working on. And, assigning a value to the stagnant project hopper is a creative storyline crafted to hide the fact you have too many projects you’re not working on.

If you are asked to create high-level metrics and fancy pie charts, that’s innovation theater.  Process metrics and pie charts don’t pay the bills. Here’s innovation’s script for paying the bills: complete amazing projects, launch amazing products, and sell a boatload.  Full stop.  If your innovation script is different than that, ball it up and throw it away along with its producer.

If the lame projects aren’t stopped so better ones can start, if people aren’t moved off stale projects onto amazing ones, if the same old teams are charged with the innovation mandate, if new leaders aren’t added, if the teams are measured just like last year, that’s innovation theater. How many mundane projects have you stopped? How many amazing projects have you started? How many new leaders have you added? How many new teams have you formed? How will you measure your teams differently? How do you feel about all that?

If a return on investment (ROI) calculation is the gating criterion before starting an amazing project, that’s innovation theater.  Projects that could create a new product family with a fundamentally different value proposition for a whole new customer segment cannot be assigned an ROI because no one has experience in this new domain. Any ROI will be a guess and that’s why innovation is governed by judgment and not ROI.  Innovation is unpredictable which makes an ROI is impossible to predict. And if your innovation process squeezes judgment out of the storyline, that’s a tell-tale sign of innovation theater.

If the specifications are fixed, the resources are fixed, and the completion date is fixed, that’s innovation theater.  Since it can be innovation only when there’s novelty, and since novelty comes with uncertainty, without flexibility in specs, resources, or time, it’s innovation theater.

If the work doesn’t require trust, it’s innovation theater. If trust is not required it’s because the work has been done before, and if that’s the case, it’s not innovation.

If you know it will work, it’s innovation theater.  Innovation and certainty cannot coexist.

If a steering team is involved, it’s innovation theater.  Consensus cannot spawn innovation.

If more than one person in charge, it’s innovation theater.  With innovation, there’s no place for compromise.

And what to do when you realize you’re playing a part in your company’s innovation theater? Well, I’ll save that for another time.

“Large clay theatrical mask, Romisch-Germanisches Museum, Cologne” by Following Hadrian is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Regardless of the question, trust is the answer.

If you want to make a difference, build trust.

 

If you want to build trust, do a project together.

If you want to build more trust, help the team do work they think is impossible.

If you want to build more trust, contribute to the project in the background.

If you want to build more trust, actively give credit to others.

If you want to build more trust, deny your involvement.

 

If you want to create change, build trust.

 

If you want to build trust, be patient.

If you want to build more trust, be more patient.

If you want to build more trust, check your ego at the door so you can be even more patient.

 

If you want to have influence, build trust.

 

If you want to build trust, do something for others.

If you want to build more trust, do something for others that keeps them out of trouble.

If you want to build more trust, do something for others that comes at your expense.

If you want to build more trust, do it all behind the scenes.

If you want to build more trust, plead ignorance.

 

If you want the next project to be successful, build trust.

 

If you want to build trust, deliver what you promise.

If you want to build more trust, deliver more than you promise.

If you want to build more trust, deliver more than you promise and give the credit to others.

 

If you want deep friendships, build trust.

 

If you want to build trust, give reinforcing feedback.

If you want to build more trust, give reinforcing and correcting feedback in equal amounts.

If you want to build trust, give reinforcing feedback in public and correcting feedback in private.

 

If you want your work to have meaning, build trust.

 

“[1823] Netted Pug (Eupithecia venosata)” by Bennyboymothman is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Goals, goals, goals.

All goals are arbitrary, but some are more arbitrary than others.

When your company treats goals like they’re not arbitrary, welcome to the US industrial complex.

What happens if you meet your year-end goals in June? Can you take off the rest of the year?

What happens if at year-end you meet only your mid-year goals? Can you retroactively declare your goals unreasonable?

What happens if at the start of the year you declare your year-end goals are unreasonable? Can you really know they’re unreasonable?

You can’t know a project’s completion date before the project is defined.  That’s a rule.

Why does the strategic planning process demand due dates for projects that are yet to be defined?

The ideal future state may be ideal, but it will never be real.

When the work hasn’t been done before, you can’t know when you’ll be done.

When you don’t know when the work will be done, any due date will do.

A project’s completion date should be governed by the work content, not someone’s year-end bonus.

Resources and progress are joined at the hip.  You can’t have one without the other.

If you are responsible for the work, you should be responsible for setting the completion date.

Goals are real, but they’re not really real.

“Arbitrary limitations II” by Marcin Wichary is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Do you have a problem?

If it’s your problem, fix it. If it’s not your problem, let someone else fix it.

If you fix someone else’s problem, you prevent the organization from fixing the root cause.

If you see a problem, say something.

If you see a problem, you have an obligation to do something, but not an obligation to fix it.

If someone tries to give you their stinky problem and you don’t accept it, it’s still theirs.

If you think the problem is a symptom of a bigger problem, fixing the small problem doesn’t fix anything.

If someone isn’t solving their problem, maybe they don’t know they have a problem.

If someone you care about has a problem, help them.

If someone you don’t care about has a problem, help them, too.

If you don’t have a problem, there can be no progress.

If you make progress, you likely solved a problem.

If you create the right problem the right way, you presuppose the right solution.

If you create the right problem in the right way, the right people will have to solve it.

If you want to create a compelling solution, shine a light on a compelling problem.

If there’s a big problem but no one wants to admit it, do the work that makes it look like the car crash it is.

If you shine a light on a big problem, the owner of the problem won’t like it.

If you shine a light on a big problem, make sure you’re in a position to help the problem owner.

If you’re not willing to contribute to solving the problem, you have no right to shine a light on it.

If you can’t solve the problem, it’s because you’ve defined it poorly.

Problem definition is problem-solving.

If you don’t have a problem, there’s no problem.

And if there’s no problem, there can be no solution. And that’s a big problem.

If you don’t have a problem, how can you have a solution?

If you want to create the right problem, create one that tugs on the ego.

If you want to shine a light on an ego-threatening problem, make it as compelling as a car crash – skid marks and all.

If shining a light on a problem will make someone look bad, give them an opportunity to own it, and then turn on the lights.

If shining a light on a problem will make someone look bad, so be it.

If it’s not your problem, keep your hands in your pockets or it will become your problem.

But no one can give you their problem without your consent.

If you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t, the problem at hand isn’t your biggest problem.

If you see a problem but it’s not yours to fix, you’re not obliged to fix it, but you are obliged to shine a light on it.

When it comes to problems, when you see something, say something.

But, if shining a light on a big problem is a problem, well, you have a bigger problem.

“No Problem!” by Andy Morffew is licensed under CC BY 2.0

How To Know If You Are Trusted

When you have trust, people tell you the truth.

When you don’t have trust, people tell you what you want to hear.

 

When you have trust, people tell you when others tell you what you want to hear.

When you don’t have trust, people watch others tell you what you want to hear.

 

When you have trust, you can talk about the inconvenient truth.

When you don’t have trust, you can’t.

 

When you have trust, you can ask for something unreasonable and people try to do it.

When you don’t have trust, they don’t.

 

When you have trust, you don’t need organizational power.

When you have organizational power, you better have trust.

 

When you have trust, you can violate the rules of success.

When you don’t have trust, you must toe the line.

 

When you have trust, you can go deep into the organization to get things done.

When you don’t have trust, you go to the managers and cross your fingers.

 

When you have trust, cross-organization alignment emerges mysteriously from the mist.

When you don’t have trust, you create a steering team.

 

When you do have trust, the Trust Network does whatever it takes.

When you don’t have trust, people work the rule.

 

When you have trust, you do what’s right.

When you don’t have trust, you do what you’re told.

 

When you have trust, you don’t need a corporate initiative because people do what you ask.

When you don’t have trust, you need a dedicated team to run your corporate initiatives.

 

When you have trust, you don’t need control.

When you don’t have trust, control works until you get tired.

 

When you have trust, productivity soars because people decide what to do and do it.

When you don’t have trust, your bandwidth limits productivity because you make all the decisions.

 

When you have trust, you send a team member to the meeting and empower them to speak for you.

When you don’t have trust, you call the meeting, you do the talking, and everyone else listens.

 

When you have trust, it’s because you’ve earned it.

When you don’t have trust, it’s because you haven’t.

 

If I had to choose between trust and control, I’d choose trust.

Trust is more powerful than control.

 

Image credit — “Hawk Conservancy Trust, Andover” by MarilynJane is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The truth can set you free, but only if you tell it.

 

Your truth is what you see.  Your truth is what you think.  Your truth is what feel.  Your truth is what you say. Your truth is what you do.

 

If you see something, say something.

If no one wants to hear it, that’s on them.

 

If your truth differs from common believe, I want to hear it.

If your truth differs from common believe and no one wants to hear it, that’s troubling.

 

If you don’t speak your truth, that’s on you.

If you speak it and they dismiss it, that’s on them.

 

Your truth is your truth, and no one can take that away from you.

When someone tries to take your truth from you, shame on them.

 

Your truth is your truth. Full stop.

And even if it turns out to be misaligned with how things are, it’s still your responsibility to tell it.

 

If your company makes it difficult for you to speak your truth, you’re still obliged to speak it.

If your company makes it difficult for you to speak your truth, they don’t value you.

 

When your truth turns out to be misaligned with how things are, thank you for telling it.

You’ve provided a valuable perspective that helped us see things more clearly.

 

If you’re striving for your next promotion, it can be difficult to speak your dissenting truth.

If it’s difficult to speak your dissenting truth, instead of promotion, think relocation.

 

If you feel you must yell your dissenting truth, you’re not confident in it.

If you’re confident in your truth and you still feel you must yell it, you have a bigger problem.

 

When you know your truth is standing on bedrock, there’s no need to argue.

When someone argues with your bedrock truth, that’s a problem for them.

 

If you can put your hand over mouth and point to your truth, you have bedrock truth.

When you write a report grounded in bedrock truth, it’s the same as putting your hand over your mouth and pointing to the truth.

 

If you speak your truth and it doesn’t bring about the change you want, sometimes that happens.

And sometimes it brings about its opposite.

 

Your truth doesn’t have to be right to be useful.

But for your truth to be useful, you must be uncompromising with it.

 

You don’t have to know why you believe your truth; you just have to believe it.

It’s not your responsibility to make others believe your truth; it’s your responsibility to tell it.

 

When your truth contradicts success, expect dismissal and disbelief.

When your truth meets with dismissal and disbelief, you may be onto something.

 

Tomorrow’s truth will likely be different than today’s.

But you don’t have a responsibility to be consistent; you have a responsibility to the truth.

 

image credit — “the eyes of truth r always watching u” by TheAlieness GiselaGiardino²³ is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Technical Risk, Market Risk, and Emotional Risk

Technical risk – Will it work?

Market risk – Will they buy it?

Emotional risk – Will people laugh at your crazy idea?

 

Technical risk – Test it in the lab.

Market risk – Test it with the customer.

Emotional risk – Try it with a friend.

 

Technical risk – Define the right test.

Market risk – Define the right customer.

Emotional risk – Define the right friend.

 

Technical risk – Define the minimum acceptable performance criteria.

Market risk – Define the minimum acceptable response from the customer.

Emotional risk – Define the minimum acceptable criticism from your friend.

 

Technical risk – Can you manufacture it?

Market risk – Can you sell it?

Emotional risk – Can you act on your crazy idea?

 

Technical risk – How sure are you that you can manufacture it?

Market risk – How sure are you that you can sell it?

Emotional risk – How sure are you that you can act on your crazy idea?

 

Technical risk – When the VP says it can’t be manufactured, what do you do?

Market risk – When the VP says it can’t be sold, what do you do?

Emotional risk – When the VP says your idea is too crazy, what do you do?

 

Technical risk – When you knew the technical risk was too high, what did you do?

Market risk – When you knew the market risk was too high, what did you do?

Emotional risk – When you knew someone’s emotional risk was going to be too high, what did you do?

 

Technical risk – Can you teach others to reduce technical risk? How about increasing it?

Market risk – Can you teach others to reduce technical risk? How about increasing it?

Emotional risk – Can you teach others to reduce emotional risk? How about increasing it?

 

Technical risk – What does it look like when technical risk is too low? And the consequences?

Market risk – What does it look like when technical risk is too low? And the consequences?

Emotional risk – What does it look like when emotional risk is too low? And the consequences?

 

We are most aware of technical risk and spend most of our time trying to reduce it.  We have the mindset and toolset to reduce it.  We know how to do it.  But we were not taught to recognize when technical risk is too low.  And if we do recognize it’s too low, we don’t know how to articulate the negative consequences. With all this said, market risk is far more dangerous.

We’re unfamiliar with the toolset and mindset to reduce market risk. Where we can change the design, run the test, and reduce technical risk, market risk is not like that.  It’s difficult to understand what drives the customers’ buying decision and it’s difficult to directly (and quickly) change their buying decision. In short, it’s difficult to know what to change so they make a different buying decision.  And if they don’t buy, you don’t sell. And that’s a big problem.  With that said, emotional risk is far more debilitating.

When a culture creates high emotional risk, people keep their best ideas to themselves. They don’t want to be laughed at or ridiculed, so their best ideas don’t see the light of day. The result is a collection of wonderful ideas known only to the underground Trust Network. A culture that creates high emotional risk has insufficient technical and market risk because everyone is afraid of the consequences of doing something new and different.  The result – the company with high emotional risk follows the same old script and does what it did last time.  And this works well, right up until it doesn’t.

Here’s a three-pronged approach that may help.

  1. Continue to reduce technical risk.
  2. Learn to reduce market risk early in a project.
  3. And behave in a way that reduces emotional risk so you’ll have the opportunity to reduce technical and market risk.

Image credit — Shan Sheehan

Why do you go to work?

Why did you go to work today? Did your work bring you meaning? How do you feel about that? Your days are limited. What would it take to slather your work with meaning?

Last week, did you make a difference? Did you make a ruckus?

Would you rather strive for the next job, or would you rather make a difference?

Ten years from now, what will be different because of you? Who will remember? How do you feel about that?

Who stands taller because of you?

Do you want to make a difference or do you want the credit?

Do you care what people think or do you do what’s right?

Do you stand front and center when things go badly? Do you sit quietly in the background when things go well? If you don’t, why don’t you do what it takes to develop young talent?

Have you ever done something that’s right for the company but wrong for your career? If you have, many will remember.

What conditions did you create to help people try new things?

Would you rather make the decision yourself or teach others to make good decisions?

Here’s a rule: If you didn’t make a ruckus, you didn’t make a difference.

Last week, did you go with the flow, or did you generate that much-needed turbulence for those that are too afraid to speak up?

What have you given that will stay with someone for the rest of their life?

Do bring your whole self to the work?

If the right people know what you did, can that be enough for you?

At the end of the day, what is different because of you? More importantly, at the end of the day who is different? Who did you praise? Who did you push? Who did you believe in? Who did you teach? Who did you support? Who did you learn from? Who did you thank? Who did you challenge? Who did empathize with? Who were you truthful with? Who did you share with? Who did you listen to?

And how do you feel about that?

Image credit — banoootah_qtr

Mutual Trust, Intuitive Skill, and Center of Emphasis

Mutual Trust. Who do you trust implicitly? And of that shortlist, who trusts you implicitly? You know how they’ll respond. You know what decision they’ll make. And you don’t have to keep tabs on them and you don’t have to manage them. You do your thing and they do theirs and, without coordinating, everything meshes.

When you have mutual trust, you can move at lightning speed. No second-guessing. No hesitation. No debates. Just rapid progress in a favorable direction. Your eyes are their eyes. Their ears are your ears. One person in two bodies.

If I could choose one thing to have, I’d choose mutual trust.

Mutual trust requires shared values. So, choose team members with values that you value. And mutual trust is developed slowly over time as you work together to solve the toughest problems with the fewest resources and the tightest timelines. Without shared values, you can’t have mutual trust. And without joint work on enigmatic problems, you can’t have mutual trust.

Mutual trust is a result. And when your trust-based relationships are more powerful than the formal reporting structure, you’ve arrived.

Intuitive Skill. In today’s world, decisions must be made quickly. And to make good decisions under unreasonable time constraints and far too little data requires implicit knowledge and intuitive skill. Have you read the literature? Have you studied the history? Have you drilled, and drilled, and drilled again? Did you get the best training? Have you honed your philosophy by doing the hard work? Have you done things badly, learned the hard lessons, and embossed those learnings on your soul? Have you done it so many times you know how it will go? Have you done it so many different ways your body knows how it should respond in unfamiliar situations?

If you have to think about it, you don’t yet have intuitive skill.  If you can explain why you know what to do, you don’t have intuitive skill. Make no mistake.  Intuitive skill does not come solely from experience.  It comes from study, from research, from good teachers, and from soul searching.

When your body starts doing the right thing before your brain realizes you’re doing it, you have intuitive skill.  And when you have intuitive skill, you can move at light speed.  When it takes more time to explain your decision than it does to make it, you have intuitive skill.

Center of Mass, Center of Emphasis. Do you focus on one thing for a week at a time? And do you wake up dreaming about it? And do you find yourself telling people that we’ll think about something else when this thing is done? Do you like doing one thing in a row? Do you delay starting until you finish finishing? Do you give yourself (and others) the flexibility to get it done any way they see fit, as long as it gets done? If the answer is yes to all these, you may be skilled in center-of-emphasis thinking.

The trick here is to know what you want to get done, but have the discipline to be flexible on how it gets done.

Here’s a rule.  If you’re the one who decides what to do, you shouldn’t be the one who decides the best way to do it.

Yes, be singularly focused on the objective, but let the boots-on-the-ground circumstances and the context of the moment define the approach. And let the people closest to the problem figure out the best way to solve it because the context is always changing, the territory is always changing, and the local weather is always changing. And the right approach is defined by the specific conditions of the moment.

Build trust and earn it. And repeat. Practice, study, do, and learn. Hone and refine. And repeat. And choose the most important center of emphasis and let the people closest to the problem choose how to solve it. And then build trust and earn it.

This post was inspired by Taylor Pearson and John Boyd, the creator of the OODA loop.

Image credit – Andy Maguire

No Time for the Truth

Company leaders deserve to know the truth, but they can no longer take the time to learn it.

Company leaders are pushed too hard to grow the business and can no longer take the time to listen to all perspectives, no longer take the time to process those perspectives, and no longer take the time to make nuanced decisions. Simply put, company leaders are under too much pressure to grow the business.  It’s unhealthy pressure and it’s too severe.  And it’s not good for the company or the people that work there.

What’s best for the company is to take the time to learn the truth.

Getting to the truth moves things forward.  Sure, you may not see things correctly, but when you say it like you see it, everyone’s understanding gets closer to the truth.  And when you do see things clearly and correctly, saying what you see moves the company’s work in a more profitable direction.  There’s nothing worse than spending time and money to do the work only to learn what someone already knew.

What’s best for the company is to tell the truth as you see it.

All of us have good intentions but all of us are doing at least two jobs. And it’s especially difficult for company leaders, whose responsibility is to develop the broadest perspective.  Trouble is, to develop that broad perspective sometime comes at the expense of digging into the details. Perfectly understandable, as that’s the nature of their work. But subject matter experts (SMEs) must take the time to dig into the details because that’s the nature of their work. SMEs have an obligation to think things through, communicate clearly, and stick to their guns.  When asked broad questions, good SMEs go down to bedrock and give detailed answers. And when asked hypotheticals, good SMEs don’t speculate outside their domain of confidence. And when asked why-didn’t-you’s, good SMEs answer with what they did and why they did it.

Regardless of the question, the best SMEs always tell the truth.

SMEs know when the project is behind. And they know the answer that everyone thinks will get the project get back on schedule. And the know the truth as they see it. And when there’s a mismatch between the answer that might get the project back on schedule and the truth as they see it, they must say it like they see it.  Yes, it costs a lot of money when the project is delayed, but telling the truth is the fastest route to commercialization. In the short term, it’s easier to give the answer that everyone thinks will get things back on track. But truth is, it’s not faster because the truth comes out in the end.  You can’t defy the physics and you can’t transcend the fundamentals.  You must respect the truth. The Universe doesn’t care if the truth is inconvenient.  In the end, the Universe makes sure the truth carries the day.

We’re all busy.  And we all have jobs to do. But it’s always the best to take the time to understand the details, respect the physics, and stay true to the fundamentals.

When there’s a tough decision, understand the fundamentals and the decision will find you.

When there’s disagreement, take the time to understand the physics, even the organizational kind. And the right decision will meet you where you are.

When the road gets rocky, ask your best SMEs what to do, and do that.

When it comes to making good decisions, sometimes slower is faster.

Image credit — Dennis Jarvis

Effectiveness at the Expense of Efficiency

Efficiency is a simple measurement – output divided by resources needed to achieve it. How much did you get done and how many people did you need to do it? What was the return on the investment? How much money did you make relative to how much you had to invest? We have efficiency measurements for just about everything. We are an efficiency-based society.

It’s easy to create a metric for efficiency. Figure out the output you can measure and divide it by the resources you think you used to achieve it. While a metric like this is easy to calculate, it likely won’t provide a good answer to what we think is the only question worth asking– how do we increase efficiency?

Problem 1. The resources you think are used to produce the output aren’t the only resources you used to generate the output.  There are many resources that contributed to the output that you did not measure. And not only that, you don’t know how much those resources actually cost.  You can try the tricky trick of fully burdened cost, where the labor rate is loaded with an overhead percentage.  But that’s, well, nothing more than an artifact of a contrived accounting system. You can do some other stuff like calculate the opportunity cost of deploying those resources on other projects. I’m not sure what that will get you, but it won’t get you the actual cost of achieving the output you think you achieved.

Problem 2. We don’t measure what’s important or meaningful.  We measure what’s easy to measure.  And that’s a big problem because you end up beating yourself about the head and shoulders trying to improve something that is easy to measure but not all that meaningful. The biggest problem here is local optimization.  You want something easy to measure so you cull out a small fraction of a larger process and increase the output of that small part of the process.  The thing is, your customer doesn’t care about the efficiency of that small piece of that process.  And, improving that small piece likely doesn’t do anything for the output of the total process.  If more products aren’t leaving the factory, you didn’t do anything.

Problem 3. Productivity isn’t all that important. What’s important is effectiveness.  If you are highly efficient at the wrong thing, you may be efficient, but you’re also ineffective. If you launch a product in a highly efficient way and no one buys it, your efficiency numbers may be off the charts, but your effectiveness numbers are in the toilet.

We have very few metrics on effectiveness.  But here are some questions a good effectiveness metric should help you answer.

  • Did we work on the right projects?
  • Did we make good decisions?
  • Did we put the right people on the projects?
  • Did we do what we said we’d do?
  • After the project, is the team excited to do a follow-on project?
  • Did our customers benefit from our work?
  • Do our partners want to work with us again?
  • Did we set ourselves up to do our work better next time?
  • Did we grow our young talent?
  • Did we have fun?
  • Do more people like to work at our company?
  • Have we developed more trust-based relationships over the last year?
  • Have we been more transparent with our workforce this year?

If I had a choice between efficiency and effectiveness, I’d choose effectiveness.

Image credit – Bruce Tuten

Mike Shipulski Mike Shipulski
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