The Art of Holiday Facilitation

It is holiday season at the moment and I am on a road trip with my family. A great time to stop and unwind, or so I would have thought. Instead we planned a full itinerary where I could show and tell my young children what I value about New Zealand. This started off OK - for about five minutes - and went downhill in spectacular fashion.

I stewed for three days.

Then I realised that all I need to do is open the door to these new experiences, providing guidance where needed, to watch the joy and learning unfold.

Although I am still learning - This is the true art of facilitation and from where I find my deepest satisfaction.

Personal Sustainability

I have been reflecting on how we sustain our worlds and have come to the realisation that without sustaining our selves that anything we do in our worlds may not last at long as we intend, or end up as waste.

With this in mind I wrote the following piece to contribute to our syndicate vision for our last Leadership New Zealand retreat in November 2014.

Personal Sustainability

I am the one and only,
I make me whole or blow me apart.
My actions determine my environment
I alone choose to be sustainable, connected and whole
I feed my body, my mind and my soul
Every day – I build relationships through honour and humility.
I lament and cry to cleanse, and laugh and play to enrich

Mostly I learn, I learn to teach.

Teaching the next generation and the generations before
A mix of beauty and tragedy played out on a world stage
Raising consciousness, building bridges and feeding the world with aroha.

Holding safety; safety in place, safety in relationship and safety in self.
Breathing the air that is clean, the water that is pure and the food that is of the land.

I hold the wisdom of elders and peers and pass this on freely

This is the legacy I want “for the children of Aotearoa, New Zealand”

What is strategy?

What is strategy? This is a question I started asking myself after a conversation with @mitch_olson yesterday. I searched internally for an answer and came up with my fall-back question set – “Who am I? What do I do? Why does it matter?” drilled into me by Michael G Major at 7o.

Strategy for me falls into the “What do I do?” question. It determines what I do to approach a particular opportunity or challenge. It could be an approach to marketing or an initiative focusing on optimising process, possibly even a change in consciousness, thinking or culture. A strategy needs to be high level enough for people to align their thinking and actions to and, because of this, needs to have universal appeal to its target audience. Strategy opens up a conversation that gives a direction and permission to create a difference.

So, where does “Who am I?” fit with strategy? Who am I forms the emotional, spiritual and intellectual basis for what I do. It is the informer of strategy. “Who am I?” is a question I constantly ask – whether it is on a personal level or at an organisational level. It’s a way of validating that I am passionate about what I do.

How about “Why does it matter?” There is no point in creating strategy without meaning. I do things because they mean something to me. “Why does it matter?” is the real world litmus test for strategy. What I do matters because it needs to align with my core values and beliefs and change things in a way that further strengthen them. Strategy matters because it opens the opportunity to consciously change things that are important us, whether they are monetary, psychosocial or environmental.

So with this in mind, I’m off to re-validate and / or re-determine the New-Clarity strategy, a task that has taken years and may take a few more.

Thanks Mitch and Michael for the inspiration to write this article.

Engagement of Project Sponsors and Business Owners

As a project manager you need to know that all Sponsors and Business Owners want no surprises. Some of them might just not know it.

They are like the leader of a cycling peloton, focused on the direction ahead and pulling the pack behind. When they look around its your eyes they should meet for reassurance.

So how do you get these people to look for you? You do this by making contact in a way that creates a relationship.

Develop a relationship

Sponsors and Business Owners are busy people your job is to decipher the right style, frequency and depth of contact to build this relationship.

You need to do some homework to set these relationships up. Ask yourself, how does this person prefer to engage? Check with colleagues, their peers and their administration staff.

  • What is their style, do they relate better to words, pictures or numbers?
  • What frequency of meeting do they prefer, daily, weekly, or monthly and for how long – 5 minutes, 10 minutes or an hour? 
  • What is the depth of the relationship, is it a phone call, coffee, a meeting or some form of written report?

The most successful projects are where the sponsor is engaged by the project and some form of relationship is formed that empowers them to make the difficult decisions.

Focus on what is needed

Sponsors and Business Owners need your reading on the current and future state of the project. These conversations build trust. They want to reduce risk – removing fear, uncertainty and doubt as much as possible.

Set your difficult conversations up as scenarios using common project constraints. Talk about where your project is and where it needs to get to, use Time, Cost, Quality, Scope and Benefits to tell your risk story. Always give your sponsor and business owner a preferred option.

Nurture the relationship

Once you’ve built a successful Sponsor or Business Owner relationship nurture it, you will need your sponsor and business owner to be your biggest supporters.

There will be times when you meet each other where you may have nothing new to bring to the table. Do it anyway. These are the times when there is space to explore what could be.

Or as a successful project manager I met recently says: “be truthful, meet regularly and never cancel” .

The Importance of Building Emotional Connections

I had the privilege early on in my project management career of working with an excellent Program Director whose name escapes me, let’s call him David. David’s career prior to entering the commercial world was under the sea for six months at a time as the XO of a nuclear submarine. This experience brought a certain decisiveness and disregard for space that often saw David squeeze meetings of up to 20 people in his six by ten foot office.

David was far from a sergeant major type and a number of my peers took him as being an ineffective director. His management style could easily be regarded as relaxed. We wouldn’t see David for days on end only for him to come wandering into the program office unannounced, stand in a strategic position, and deliver a quick and effective joke. He would then wander off leaving us in stitches.

It wasn’t until a few years later that I realised what David was doing when he delivered his jokes to us. He was using humour to gauge and at times boost the morale of his program office. His jokes also served another purpose: to keep the door between David’s governance function and his reports firmly open. We all knew that if a problem was big enough then we could bring it to David for a considered hearing.

The use of humour in this office created the opportunity for a productive emotional release that encouraged the building of coherent team structures in a positive way.

I have learnt a lot from David about considering and building emotional connections within my teams and with decision makers that I still use today. The result of building these connections is solid teams that are purposeful and engaged to achieve the end goal. Of course, this approach is one of a number of approaches we use as effective managers to deliver the required result although we often neglect it to our detriment.

It only takes a well-timed smile or joke to turn a person’s world around.

How do you and your teams promote emotional connections in your work environments? Feel free to post a text or photo response.

Behaviours of Goal Driven Organisations

What makes organisations set goals and work towards achieving them? More likely than not it’s the same drive that makes you do the same thing. In this blog I’ll unpack the top behaviours of goal driven organisations and provide a behaviour based checklist for you and your organisation to use.

What are the top behaviours displayed by goal driven organisations: knowing where they are headed, communicating what their future looks like, bringing people along for the ride, capitalising on established trust, rewarding progress?  In my experience its all of the above.

I often marvel at organisations that know where they are headed and wonder what I can do be more involved. They fill a behavioural need I have as a human to become an active participant in something I believe in. Like all small boys of my age I needed to be an astronaut. All because an organisation knew where they were headed, displayed a need I could relate to and captured the public imagination with that heading. So much so that this need still holds currency decades later. For the lucky ones among us following this need in themselves has resulted in a fulfilling vocation, career or recreation activity shaping that heading.

Organisations that are good at communicating what their future looks like are bellwethers of public sentiment.  They lead the way by driving expectation and building a swell of support for what they are intending to do. Most likely you are currently waiting for something to arrive from your favourite organisation rather than accept what is currently available. Buying into these visions not only drives behaviours of expectation, that manifest in future loyalty, it also guarantees interest in current offerings as people like me and you wait until the future becomes reality before investing. Guaranteeing a continued market presence.

The most successful goal driven organisations are household names, that’s because they’ve mastered the behaviour of bringing you along for the ride. Take a look around you I’m sure there are examples in your immediate reach.  Did you go to the local hardware store to replace that handle on your drawer or did you go to a hardware super store?  I went to the hardware super store because I’m on board with the message that they have everything that I will need at a good price. Our relationship is pragmatic,  not  personal, which is right on message with the organisation strategy. It pervades the customer experience, supply chain and economics.

When we trust someone or something it takes a shock to break that trust. Organisations demonstrating behaviours capitalising on established trust relationships are perceived as part of the fabric of our lives. A car manufacturer recently advertised that it built its own raw material processing plant in a bid to capitalise on progress toward achieving its goal of a purer raw material. The focus of the advertising was that it that did not trust the quality of raw material from its suppliers so took control and makes better cars as a result. This advertising not only went a long way to strengthening trust in this car manufacturers end product, it also damaged my trust in its competition and their supplier relationships. This approach engenders further trust in a market where quality is a key selling point.

Do you take the opportunity to reward yourself when you’ve achieved a goal? Goal directed organisations make a point of rewarding progress. These organisations have to measure progress to reward it. They make effective use of information and have a finger on their market’s economic and social pulse. When have you been rewarded as a contributor, as an investor? Were the rewards directly relatable to achieving a goal?  What did the rewards relate to?  I recently watched a movie where a frequent flyer was so locked in to achieving the goal of elite flier status that he made it his top priority. Now that is brand loyalty. Chances are, like me, you are a member of one or more airline loyalty programs. Hooked by the goal of a higher status or more privilege based on the number of miles you fly or the number of points earned on contributing purchases. Rewarding progress promotes an internal leadership focus on the team / product delivery and an external focus of benchmarking against the competition.

After all, what’s the use of winning against all odds if you don’t set a reward for doing so?

Is your organisation goal driven? Think about your goal horizons and use this checklist to check in with yourself:

- Your inner drive pulls you toward a vision of what is possible – Your energy attracts people who want to help you. Capitalise on their enthusiasm and keep your eye on achieving your next goal. Beware of time wasters.

- You continually reinforce your message to your target audience Your persistence feeds a familiarity that increases the opportunity for intuitive recollection. People select you because you are comfortable. Sow the right message for the right time and harvest success.

- You’ve proven you can deliver what people need and are expecting to do it again You set goals and achieve them. People find it convenient to trust you and your track record when making decisions. Weigh up ‘doing it for them’ or ‘doing it for me’ periodically.

- You set rewards for when you achieve your goals and take them You meet a goal and rewards are unlocked. People benefit from the achievement of your goals. Resist the temptation to reward yourself for almost getting there.

Smarter Organisations

360 Degree Framework

A framework can be thought of as a structure for attaching objects. It becomes the connector to associate objects that may at first glance seem unconnected. Objects can range on the spectrum from abstract to concrete.  An Architects concept drawing, for example, may not immediately appear connected to a building’s foundation stone – a linear view. The foundation stone is connected to the concept drawing if we take into account the framework required support the creation of a habitable space – a multidimensional view. Adding in factors such as the impact of the users of the habitable space and the maintenance required for the space to reach its expected useful life gives us a more 360 degree view. Complex organisations show the traits noted above – direction, product, safety, users, suppliers, a beginning and an end. Each of these traits has a behaviour and response. It is fair to posit then that complex organisations are viewable and measurable using a 360 degree framework.

A 360 degree framework for complex organisations could be created by utilising the Smart Challenges and Smart Operating behavioural responses noted previously – providing a contextual view of organisational interdependence and independent identity. A matrix may then be applied to create a multidimensional view by intersecting Smart Challenges and Smart Operating. It also stands to reason that mapping the behaviours and responses of the traits noted above into the model would complete a 360 degree framework that succinctly articulates an organisation in a way that is comparable to other organisations.

Now that we’ve defined a 360 degree framework to assess and compare organisations let’s look at the top 25 behaviours of smart organisations in the next post…

Smarter Organisations

Smart Challenges

When we think about challenges our thoughts tend toward pending adversity. It’s a natural response and turns our thinking inwards. Being Smart about these challenges assists in switching us to an outward, more engaging thought process. This opens up the possibility to actively participate in how we manage our interconnectivity with other complex organisations.

Turning thinking outward switches our default position from protection to opportunity. The enduring opportunities for organisations lie in how well these common challenges are addressed. Five key challenges come to the surface if we distil this commonality: Goals, Returns, Innovation, Sustainability and Talent.

Let’s review Smart Challenges in the Ultimate Organisation. There would be no necessity to set Goals, expectation of a Return, need for Innovation, requirement for Sustainability, or Talent to nurture as there would be only one organisation. We’ve discounted this scenario as improbable and have chosen to focus instead on complex organisations.

So, complex organisations interacting with each other display behaviours promoting interdependency. Applying the Smart Challenges to these behaviours brings us closer to being able to measure and compare.  We need to be able to identify and categorise organisational activity on Goals, Returns, Innovation, Sustainability and Talent that gives us a scale to compare against other complex organisations.

Being Smart about challenges introduces mechanisms to measure the interconnected behavioural response.  As we measure complex organisations we build a platform for comparison and improvement.

Smart Operating

How we operate defines us. It shapes the external view of our identity, manifesting as perceived resilience and independence. We subconsciously operate in particular ways to protect our independence and identity whilst responding to our environment. Being smart about operating brings our instinct for survival to a more conscious level. It creates an opportunity to leverage and nourish our environment to build a resilient, independent complex organisation.

Independent organisations come to the fore by consciously leveraging and nourishing the environment. Resilience can be measured by how consciously common operating activities are embraced. Five key operating practices present themselves if we distil this commonality: Focus, Momentum, Competency, Relationships and Results.

Let’s now look again at the Ultimate Organisation, this time using the lens of Smart Operating. There would be a singular Focus, constant Momentum, full Competency, perfect Relationships and consistently excellent Results. Based on the earlier discussions we’ll discount this scenario as improbable and focus instead on Smart Operating in complex organisations which are fallible by their very nature.

As in the exploration above, applying Smart Operating to behaviours promoting independent identity brings us closer to being able to measure and compare. We need to be able to identify and categorise organisational activity on Focus, Momentum, Competency, Relationships and Results that gives us a scale to compare against other complex organisations.

In the next blog we’ll explore how Smart Challenges and Smart Operating contribute to a 360 degree framework for comparing complex organisations.