When it comes to making well-rounded business decisions, a little bit of schizophrenia goes a long way. If you work on your own or need to make decisions on your own, schizophrenic considerations might make things a little easier ..and possibly more effective.
This morning, I have been faced with a lot of planning decisions. There I was, lost in my agenda, trying to decide how to use the limited time available in the year ahead. As I went through my planning, I was automatically making choices based on one unique variable: “Revenue”. Fortunately for me, my wife caught me at it and asked: “What are you doing? Are you only playing ‘Chief Financial Officer’ today?”
Working by myself. I am in fact responsible for all roles, decisions and types of work: HR, finance, business development, sales, innovation… If I get stuck in one of them, it is always to the detriment of another.
If I were working in a company, there would be a management board to make decisions; if I was on a project team, we might decide together. Everyone would come with their own “2 cents”, defending their own territory and striving to achieve their own goals. If the team is good, the company or project does well.
Why not use the same principles for your own work? Or if you work alone, like me, for your own company?
When faced with a decision to make, first list all the different points-of-view (or thinking hats) from which you might see things.
Today, I have decided to approach planning from the following points of view:
- “Financial” – Which choices will maximise my revenue for 2013?
- “HR” – What will develop my strengths and talents as a worker?
- “Business Development” – What will help me find and develop new clients, products and services?
- “Employee Satisfaction” – What will make me uber-happy in my job?
- “Customer Service” – What will give my existing customers the best experience?
- “Family” – What will get me home more, picking up the kids from school?
For each of those points-of-view, do your usual contemplative behaviour or try some of these techniques:
- List your positive and negative reactions to the options
- List potential outcomes of the options you are contemplating
- Take a walk
- Use some kind of numbering scale to rate options
- Phone a friend, ask Twitter or consult a group LinkedIn
- Research on the Internet
- Try one of these “30 Ideas on How to Make A Difficult Decision” from @TinyBuddha
How you actually choose will not be changed doing all of the above. But your decision will be more informed and more rounded. More schizophrenic. And the potential outcome may be quite different to just doing “more of the same”. Try it. See what happens.
Want some more ideas?
- See my post on “10 Ideas to Make The Best of SWOT Analysis”
- See my post on “How to Make (Group) Decisions”
- Follow me on Twitter
Thanks for reading
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I’ve already written 2 posts about SWOT questions and SWOT process. Read them first. This post delivers a few more cool questions for discovering opportunities. I heard these at the Innovation Cocktails meeting organised by @karpusj last year in Brussels….
4 commercial questions
2 other questions for any process
Voila! Simple, to the point…
This is about how to get it wrong!
4 simple ideas to keep in mind….
Not taking time to think things through
When I ask people how I should best get ready for an IronMan, they always reply “Train”. But in my working schedule, I don’t have time and if I DID train, it would surely lead to divorce and that would make every even harder (for the IronMan) …as well as decidely less nice.
I know training is not the answer here because I’ve done my SWOT and I have been thinking about my position. I am tackling first-things-first (liberating time by improving business …. THEN training)
Stubbornly sticking to the plan or just never reassessing your position
Strategic thinking is not something that happens once a year. By definition, it is about linking your current position to a mission. Since your current position is ever-changing, this means that strategic thinking and action must be a dynamic process, rather than just setting a bunch of rules to apply in any situation in the coming 1,2,3 years.
Not thinking things through before acting
I see a lot of great promises made in training rooms by people about how they are going to tackle leadership and teamwork situations. On paper it looks really good.
Then I give them a task to work on. As soon as I do, everyone forgets what they said about “taking the time to assess position” and “assigning roles based on competences” and “creatively looking for new resources”. They just start doing stuff. One of the biggest tips for strategic action I can think of simply to SLOW DOWN.
Not seeing and seizing opportunities when they are there
One of the by-products of not slowing down is that you don’t tend to see things for what they are. The more quickly we treat our situation-assessment, the more likely we are to just filter all the new information through our existing ego-filters and come to the same conclusions as usual. To be really strategic, its important to look at things from different angles and be open-minded. In this way, we are likely to see a lot more opportunities.
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This blog post has been written as support for homework for participants from my training on “Creating Influence”.
…but the exercise described below is an excellent approach to defining strategic action for any mission you may undertake.
First, let’s describe “strategic action”
How is strategic action different to normal action? It considers one’s current position in close relationship to the mission. In this way, strategic action is focussed on high level priority-driven steps that are more likely to get us to where we want to be.
Example: Suppose I want to complete an IronMan race. I might be inclined to imagine that swim-training is the best action to undertake. But if I first do a good strategic positioning exercise, I might realise that my priority is in fact to first develop my business offer in order to earn more more so that I can liberate more time for training. If I don’t do this, I will have to a) squeeze in training in an already busy schedule and b) end up paying divorce costs due to marital negligence 🙂
Ready to think strategic??
STEP 1: Start by defining your mission
There is no sense in doing a positioning exercise if you don’t know what you are trying to achieve.
Example: If I ask you if I am strong, depending on what objective you imagine me working on, you may come up with completely different answers…
When defining your mission, be sure to use quality goals. Read my other blog post on PERSONAL goal-setting for some starter ideas..
STEP 2: …then assess your current position
One of my favourite tools for doing this remains the SWOT analysis. A good SWOT will give you ideas on recurring themes for improvement. Note: I said a GOOD SWOT !
- Read here for some of my favourite SWOT questions
- …and here for some tips on how to be complete in your general approach to SWOT
Another tool I really like regarding personal influence is the network influence-grid proposed by Jo Owen in his book “How to Influence“. He suggests that for all the people in your network, you need to assess them in terms of whether or not you have a good relationship with them and whether or not they have power (to help you in your mission). A network influence-grid therefore has 4 quadrants…
When the people you know are mapped out in their relevant quadrants, you will better focus on people who are realy useful (top-right) or think about how to better leverage the existing relationships you have to get what you need.
STEP 3: Now, look for priority areas for action
I find that if I have done a good job of assessing my strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, when I look at the results there are recurring and linking themes. These are the things to work on. Don’t worry about action yet, just look at which things seem to come back and back.
For example, in my last SWOT exercise I saw that:
- My network was very complete
- …but that I wasn’t using it well enough
- I have great references for training work
- …but never ask for referrals
- There was an opportunity to better develop my own client base
An obvious priority strategic action: Leverage own network.
STEP 4: When your priorities are clear, plan baby steps
I am finally reading “Getting Things Done” by David Allen right now. One of my clients said it was a great book, but I thought: What else could there be to learn about priority management? In the first 10 pages I had my answer:
Turn unmanageable TO-DO lists into “next concrete action” (baby-steps) lists.
In the scope of our exercise, this means asking 2 questions for each of the priority strategic actions noted previously:
- What would be an ACCEPTABLE outcome?
- What is the NEXT CONCRETE ACTION you need to take?
If you’ve followed the 4 steps ahead, you should have some good ideas to get moving with.
Thanks for reading 🙂
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Having just completed delivery of a 4-day Leadership Training with @KluwerOpleiding (thanks @MiekWouters for the chance to have a small group :-)) I thought I’d share the email stream that built up from me to participants over the 4-days. Loads of references here…
References DAY 1
- Here you can find a list of leadership competences outlined by previous trainees
- Check out the film from Al Gore’s ex-speech writer Dan Pink on the DRIVE wall
- To see a list of ideas from previous trainees on how to bring FLOW into the organisation, click here and click here to see all their references from the FLOW wall
- If you would like to read my thoughts on P.E.R.S.O.N.A.L goal-setting, check this link
- See what google’s VP for HR says about people management skills
- Remember ROWE?
- For book references, check www.shelfari.com/dansteer/shelf
- 7 Habits
Homework / Preparation DAY 2
- Do the exercise found on this web-page
- Have a look at this webpage (wall) http://www.wallwisher.com/wall/leadership-drive – please add something of your own – a reference, link, comment or idea about DRIVE
- Fix 1 SMART objective concerning your development as a leader
References from DAY 2
- Get some more information here about Albert Mehrabian who told us about words, intonation and everything else
- The problem with 1-way communication
- …and 3 tips if you are obliged to do things 1-way
- I told you that you would care about why I see Citroen Xsara Picasso’s everywhere…. read here to see why
- I found this link for some information on seating politics and room dynamics – I’ll let you judge the quality of info…
- For more information about Sun Tzu follow this link. To read “The Art of War”, follow this link – position is the key to strategy!
- Check out Charlene Li’s book “Open Leadership” which discusses the key issue of giving up control when allowing people more freedom
Homework in preparation for DAY 3
- Think of a problem you have (professional or personal). This will be used in day 3. You will be asked to state your problem and ask for help…
- Think of a difficult communication situation or difficult person you have had to deal with (personal or professional)
Here are the references from training DAY 3
- “Coaching for Performance” by Sir John Whitmore for more info on how and why to use the GROW model
- Check out my blog-post of my favourite SWOT questions (used during reality/options assessment of GROW) and tips on how to use SWOT
- 10 things you can learn from David Brent about performance evaluations
- 2 additional references about performance evaluations
- Meritocratic performance management systems: A short article on how some people feel about it
- Another idea on performance evaluation process: APOP (Annual Piece of Paper)
- Here you can find some info on PAC ego-states
- Book references can always be found on http://www.shelfari.com/dansteer/shelf
- Coaching for Performance
- TA Today
Homework in preparation for DAY 4
- Prepare a 1 minute presentation of yourself – anything is fine, we just need some data to use for a feedback exercise, so no stress!
- Please think about additional topics to cover in group coaching session in the afternoon of Day 4
References DAY 4
- Here you can get a lot more information about Jef Staes and Red-Monkeys
- Read this blog page for notes on what leaders can do to bring change to the organisation
- Read what Dummies has to say about giving feedback
- Read about logical levels – interesting to use in coaching..?
Hope this was interesting
Leave a comment!
The first step to doing SWOT well is asking good questions. Don’t know what questions to ask? Read this post.
SWOT is a great and simple tool for analysing your current position in order to define strategic action. In this post, I first outline the meaning of strategic action and then list 21 of my favourite SWOT questions to help you with your own SWOT analysis.
Creating strategic action starts with knowing your position
According to Sun Tzu, the Chinese military general who penned “The Art of War”, understanding your current position is the key to creating good strategy. According to Stephen R Covey in “The 7 habits of highly effective people”, if you don’t begin with the end in mind (define a clear mission) it is not possible to understand your current position and therefore not possible to put first things first and create strategic action and priority-based action. Linking these ideas to the usage of SWOT, we can say that you cannot know your strengths (for example) unless they are measured in relationship to some goal, mission or objective. When asking “How strong am I?” we must first ask “For what?”
So – if you want to use the following SWOT questions to analyse your position, start by defining your mission well. If you’ve already done that, read on and answer each of these questions, thinking of your mission statement at each moment…
- What makes you better than others (for this mission)?
- What actions do you do well?
- What are your competences? What knowledge, skills and attitude do you have that can help you?
- What do other people say you do well?
- Why should you of all people undertake this mission?
- What could you improve in order to achieve this mission?
- In what ways are you not efficient?
- What don’t you do well?
- Where are you incompetent? What knowledge, skills and attitude are you missing?
- What should you avoid doing?
- Why shouldn’t you undertake this mission?
- What real opportunities are present today?
- What is going on around you that seems to be useful?
- From which recurring tendencies can you profit and how?
- What could be done today that isn’t being done?
- What is missing on the market?
- Who can support you and how?
- What are the negative tendencies in play today?
- What obstacles do you face in your mission right now?
- Who might cause you problems in the future and how?
- What is the competition doing that might cause difficulties for you?
Not enough? Read my other post: 6 more cool SWOT questions to identify opportunities
When I do a SWOT, I like to take a little time alone to get started, but then try nonetheless to include others later on (my wife, peers, a team I am working with). Here are 2 more references to help you do a great SWOT:
- Remember the Johari window: Other people may have insights on you and your environment that you don’t.
- 10 ideas to make the best of SWOT analysis
Once the initial SWOT is done, it’s time to start thinking about actions, solutions, priorities etc…
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