Jan 11 2014

Rivalries are Fleeting

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I’m not sure I hate Georgetown any more.

I was in the room the night that John Thompson told the press that “Manley Field House is officially closed,” right after Sleepy Floyd hit a pair of free throws to beat Syracuse and ended our 57-game home winning streak.  Boy, did I dislike that guy.  And I wasn’t alone.  I rarely missed a Syracuse-Georgetown game on TV over the past 30 years and never failed to be upset when the Hoyas were lucky enough to win or celebrate when they went down to defeat.  I even owned at one point a shirt that said, “My two favorite teams are Syracuse and whoever is playing Georgetown.”

cuse rivalry2When Syracuse announced that it was leaving the Big East for the ACC, I was sad.  I grew up with Boeheim against Louie, Rollie, Thompson (no first name for him).  I said it will never be the same, even though we were joining a great conference.  I grew up a Big East guy…and a Georgetown hater.  It even led to friendly rivalries at work, where you couldn’t turn a corner without bumping into a senior executive with a Georgetown degree.

And now, I sort-of don’t care. I kind-of feel like an ACC guy already.

Syracuse walked over North Carolina this afternoon.  I tweeted earlier in the day that it was Game 1 of what would become a great rivalry (along with Duke).  But I DVR’d the game (because of a high-school basketball practice), although both Max and I turned off our phones to make sure we didn’t accidentally see the score. That rarely happened with Syracuse-Georgetown.

Right now, the joy of victory is not amplified by emotion, like it was in the old days.  Some day perhaps, but it will require a game like that Syracuse-Georgetown game back in 1980 to get the juices flowing.  That’s how a rivalry starts.  And I have to admit I miss it a bit.

Rivalries make life a bit more fun.

Rivalries make life a bit more fun.

Rivalries fuel emotion.  I don’t think there are enough of them in business — either between two competitors fighting tooth and nail or inside the company. There have been times in my career when a “rival” pushed me to be my best, to go beyond the day to day to create something memorable.  AT MBNA, affinity-program competition with First USA led us to change our renewal approach and focus less on chest-pounding and more on what was in it for our groups.  We created a negotiations strategy, a group-visit room that could be customized for a partner visit, and an entirely new way to approach sales proposals.  And won a lot of deals.

These days, your “rivals” just seem to be the people who throw up barriers in your path or fail to respond to e-mails or just won’t make decisions.  The ones who are prone to focus on process over innovation.  You get angry, but it’s more of a deflated feeling than once that motivates you to do better or be better.

The presence of a rival can be a good thing, pushing us to be better. If you’re struggling with motivation, the introduction of a little head-to-head competition can be a great thing. However, rivalries should be handled with care. Guard against obsession and if the presence of that rival isn’t making you better, cut free and focus on your own game.  Think about whether a corporate emphasis on collaboration over execution has dulled your edge, and then look at whether the creation of a rivalry might be a helpful thing.

What about you?  Have you benefited from the existence of a rivalry with either a business competitor or an in-house peer?  How did you keep it positive?


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Dec 31 2013

3 Words for 2014: Discipline, Passion, Change

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I just sat down with Max to talk about his New Year’s Resolutions, which will focus on what my high-school sophomore needs to do to get himself to the next level athletically (e.g., diet, skills) and academically.

My 2013 Three Legged Stool: Discipline, Passion, Change

My 2013 Three Legged Stool: Discipline, Passion, Change

I’m a big believer in the three-legged stool.  Easy to remember, easy to focus on.  We’re going to keep Max to three resolutions and for me, it will be continuing to embrace the Chris Brogan philosophy of  “3 Words,” which are different from resolutions.

Chris (and many others) publish posts this time of year outlining  the “three words that sum up what you want to work actionably on changing/improving in the coming year. It works best when the words are positive in spirit and not negative. ..the idea is to look deeper than a single goal and try to give you an entire mindset to contemplate. The Heath Brothers in their book, Switch, talked about needing three elements to bring about change: a rider (your plans and intents), the elephant (what your mood will do no matter what your plans say), and the path (the environment within which you intend to implement those changes). The concept of the three words is like the path. Think of a word that gives you the HUGE picture, not the small picture.”

Going into 2013, my words were Publish (a repeat from 2012), Legacy, and Now. Although I had some real successes, I don’t think I did a good job integrating that mindset (except for the fact perhaps that I obsessed a lot about my failure — or inability — to bring about the change).  I had some success building and implementing a social-media content strategy that focused less on ego metrics (Impressions and Likes) and more on being helpful (more on that in a near-future post).  I dropped 30+ pounds.  And I began asking (and sharing) a question — Is the Juice Worth the Squeeze? — that resonated with teammates and business partners.  And yet, I don’t feel that I gained significant traction, in part because I didn’t always change gears when the answer to the Juice question was no.

But it’s a new year and a new opportunity.  Here are this year’s words.  They are more actionable and less squishy and I’m optimistic that I’ll be in a different frame of mind as I update this in 12 months.

Discipline:  This is bigger in scope than Publish.  I need to post more often (but only content that matters), strengthen relationships more deliberately (particularly on LinkedIn), share more tweets, and perhaps most important, prioritize more effectively.  My To Do list in 2013 was huge. While I consistently got my “check marks,” I didn’t always focus on the most important things. I’ve already implemented a Brogan OMFG suggestion — my Daily To Do list only has five items on it so improve my focus.

Passion:  In many ways, the professional and personal challenges I’ve faced this year have been deflating. Human speed bumps at work have made it far more difficult to “leap out of bed, ready to face the day’s challenges” than at any other time in my life.  The key to success with this word is finding interesting projects that will engage me and make a difference in people’s lives (and being more patient during the Execution phase). It could mean being deliberate about experiencing different things (e.g., books, music) and incorporating them into my life.  There’s no metrics attached to this one, beyond how I feel in the morning when I wake up.

Change:  There’s an old story about a frog and scorpion trying to cross a raging river.  The frog, who can’t see the shore over the waves, is reluctant to carry the scorpion out of fear he’ll be killed.  The scorpion points out that if he kills the frog, he dies too.  Halfway across the stream, the frog feels a sting and, as he starts to go under, asks the scorpion why.  “Because it’s my nature,” says the scorpion.

My nature is to be the bulldog to the point where I sometimes seem to seek or embrace conflict within a corporate culture that doesn’t.  I’m impatient with people who hide behind process or bring dozens of people into an initiative to avoid taking responsibility for the decision or for execution.  I have to change (or perhaps) tweak my approach if I want to be happy.

Change in this context means patience — more deep breaths or waiting until the next day to hit Send on that e-mail. It means finding an environment that embraces the creative process (innovation) and celebrates aggressive execution. It likely requires a move away from being a “support partner” and a return to a leadership role.  It may require a change in this “leopard’s spots.” Perhaps it’s doing something completely different.  We’ll see.

Those are my three words.  What are yours?

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Dec 30 2013

Good Read: Perfecting Your Pitch by Ron Shapiro

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Practice What You Want to Preach is key to a successful negotiation.

Practice What You Want to Preach is key to success in the Propose phase of a negotiation.

One of the best pieces of negotiating advice I ever got came from Ron Shapiro prior to a two-day seminar with MBNA executives.  “Practice what you want to preach,” he said to me.  It’s advice that has stuck with me for more than a decade.

I was a bit surprised that I didn’t see that phrase in Ron’s new book, Perfecting Your PItch.

Perfecting Your Pitch feels a bit like a sequel to his acclaimed The Power of Nice.  And like a lot of sequels, I don’t think it’s as strong as the original.

There are certainly some useful pieces — the cornerstone of the book is the three-legged stool that drives his other books (e.g., the three P’s of Prepare, Probe, and Propose in the first book).  In this case, it’s the “Three D’s” of Draft, Devil’s Advocate, and Deliver — and they’re certainly a strong mnemonic device for a reader.

As the headline notes, I think this is a Good Read — not a Must Read like some of the other books I’ve written about in these pages.  I was a bit disappointed by how he characterized the development of the Objection Planner and the larger role that the affinity executives at MBNA played in its creation.

I would have also liked to see Ron and Jeff spend a bit more time on what I think was the most important piece of the Objection Planner as it relates to the pitch.  Ron tells his students to pause and ask questions when the objection is raised to ensure you are answering the REAL objection and not responding to what you THINK is the issue — and thereby raising new issues that the other person didn’t even have.   Assuming is a particular danger if you’re dealing with common objections, and asking questions helps ensure you limit your response to the real issues.

As always, Ron’s case studies are terrific and relevant.  In terms of how I’ll use this book in the future, I’ll probably go back and review the Three D’s periodically and hope that I will have the discipline to pull it down off the shelf if I run into one of the individual examples that make up the bulk of the book.

In addition, reading this book led me to go back and start re-reading The Power of Nice, which for my money is the best book on the topic written to date.

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Dec 02 2013

Supercharge Twitter Chat execution with Eventbrite

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Using Eventbrite may be a good way to dip your toe in the water with Twitter Chats.

Using Eventbrite may be a good way to dip your toe in the water with Twitter Chats.

Twitter Chats can be scary for companies that have some angst around social media.

What if a “hater” shows up and trashes your brand? What if NOBODY shows up, or even worse, if people show up but there’s no engagement?

We’ve have gotten pretty good attendance and pretty good engagement (sharing) from the dozen or so chats we’ve run over the past year.  We’ve created guardrails to make our risk and compliance teams more comfortable with this tactic.  We’ve attracted influencers as both panelists and participants. But we knew we could do better.

We decided to hold a “live” chat at the recent Money2020 payments conference, with a panel and audience over breakfast and (hopefully) an audience elsewhere.  But this was going to be in Las Vegas at 7:30 am on Day Four of a conference that had a big party on Night Three.  That’s asking for trouble.  An execution strategy involving a couple of promotional tweets and an e-mail invite to the conference attendees might not get it done.

So we turned to Eventbrite, a leading online ticketing service that allows users to create, promote, and manage events online, to test ways to lock down attendees early on.

  • There was no cost to set up our invitation.
  • We could create a customized event page that allowed users to register for in-person or online event attendance and find out more information about the event (including featured panelists) and the questions we planned to ask.
  • We shared our Eventbrite link through bank-owned channels, as did the conference and individual panelists, driving additional attendance
  • Calendar integration allowed users to add the event to their Outlook, Yahoo, Google, or iCal calendars.
  • Social integration allowed attendees to share their attendance on Facebook and Twitter.

We received nearly 200 RSVPs, which raised the comfort level of some of our more skeptical senior leaders. Interestingly, we ended up with just about the same number of RSVPs as we had participants…and we now have a pretty good list of interested people to whom we can promote our next Mobile chat, regardless of whether they actually attended.

Going forward, we have the opportunity to try some other things.

  • Start promotion earlier, thanks to the calendaring feature, and perhaps send updates prior to the event.
  • Identify influencers for promotion of or involvement in future events — and perhaps develop stronger influencer relationships by hosting influencer-specific events on private event pages..
  • Build lists for specific topics, testing different things to ask for (e.g., Twitter handles, e-mail addresses).
  • Send out post-event surveys for attendees to provide feedback.
  • Reinforce the content by sending out a post-event chat transcript.
  • Determine what types of events drive the most engagement.
  • Get input on potential questions.

Twitter Chats are not always a big part of the social-media toolbox.  Eventbrite may be a way to make execution and promotion a lot easier and more efficient…and drive greater engagement.

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Jun 08 2013

Assumption Test: How honest are NYC cabbies?

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NYC taxi cabSo what do you think would happen if you left your phone on the seat of a NYC cab in the middle of the day?

I had the same thought when it happened to me.  Time to buy a new phone and start the painful process of downloading all my favorite applications.

It happened a few weeks ago to me.  It was my personal phone and i set it it down while I paid the fare.  Got out of the cab and immediately realized what I had done.  Pulled out my work phone and called my iPhone.  The driver did not respond to my SportsCenter-themed ringtone.  Strike One.

Pulled out the receipt to find the cabbie’s medallion number.  Made a few calls and got connected to the garage.  Dispatcher was clearly busy but said he’d call the driver.  No answer.  Strike Two.

Got on the phone with AT&T and shut down the phone.  Twenty minutes had passed and I was desperately hoping the driver or his next passenger hadn’t already gone through the phone since I’m a moron and didn’t have my password protection activated.

Went inside to the conference and found that the other 11 people at my table had lost their phones in cabs — some more than once.  Feeling less like an idiot but that’s about it.

But here’s the amazing thing.  Every single one had gotten their phones back — some more than once.

Small glimmer of hope building.

Returned home later that day with no iPhone.  Looked up replacement prices that night.  Not happy. Got a call from my wife while I was at work the next day. She had gotten a call from someone saying he had the phone.  Called the number he left and found that he had gone into my contacts list and found my home number.  Made arrangements to have the cabbie drop off the phone with a friend.  Left $30 with the front desk (and, no, I don’t really know if that’s an amount that will deter him from being honest the next time).

The point is I now have  a different view of NYC in general and NYC cab drivers in particular.  I’ve told this story a few times and surprised everyone I’ve shared it with.

It’s good to test your assumptions every now and then.  And not just in times of trouble.  Do it proactively.  You might be surprised.

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Mar 17 2013

Must Read: Decisive by Chip and Dan Heath

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“When a company can’t seem to get its strategy straight, it’s often because of a reluctance to make truly hard choices.  It is natural to want to keep options open as long as possible, rather than closing off possibilities by making explicit choices.  But it is only through making and acting on choices that you can win.  Yes, clear, tough choices force your hand and confine you to a path.  But they also free you to focus on what matters.”  

— Playing to Win by A.G. Lafley and Roger Martin (2013)

Decisive by Dan and Chip HeathI saw this quote as I was finishing Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work  (affiliate link to Amazon).  It’s the newest book from Chip and Dan Heath (Made to Stick and Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard.),  and I suspect Lafley and Martin would agree that leaders who are reluctant to make those truly hard choices will find Decisive a Must Read.

The Heaths — Chip’s a professor at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business and Dan’s a senior fellow at Duke’s Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship — open by laying out what they describe as the “four villains of decision-making: narrow framing, the confirmation bias, short-term emotion, and overconfidence in the outcome.”  I might argue that “fear” of making a decision during times of great change or challenge could also have made the list but that’s a quibble.

But these are authors whose names alone are reason for me to read a book, blog post, or article.  In a world flooded with business books these days, how do I define a great one?

  • Stories that resonate (i.e., memorable and sticky)
  • A few concepts that you can latch onto and turn into a habit.
  • Takeaways that can be crystallized into a one-page summary sheet or business card and shared with teammates. BTW, read to the end and check out a great offer for people who pre-order the book.

The structure of Decisive builds on Made to Stick and Switch, with the welcome enhancement of end-of-chapter summaries. The framework is laid out efficiently in the first chapter.  Why should I read the book and what am I going to get out of it?  The answer is the “WRAP” process, defined as:

  • Widen Your Options.
  • Reality-Test Your Assumptions
  • Attain Distance Before Deciding
  • Prepare to Be Wrong

The Ah-Ha moment for me came with the statement that “the goal of the WRAP process is not to neutralize emotion…all we can aspire to do with the WRAP process is to help you make decisions that are good for you.

The book offers interesting stories and statistics to support their template for decision-making.  There’s a nice one-page summary of the basic principles but I do believe that readers will find the book validates some of their existing decision-making strategies and offer some new ideas that they can try.  I kept finding myself comparing their approach to the one that Ron Shapiro takes toward negotiations preparation with co-author Mark Jankowski (first and foremost, in The Power of Nice).

A book like this works best when you try out a strategy and turn it into a habit.  Apply “ooching” to a current decision within 24 hours of reading the book.  Asking yourself what your successor would do or what you’d advise a friend who faces the same decision.  Setting a tripwire to get your attention at the right time.  Doing a premortem to prepare for a bad outcome or a preparade to anticipate a good one. The point is that you need turn only one of the strategies into a habit to make the book a phenomenal value — and I suspect every reader will find a few.

Are there times when the book feels it could have been edited more aggressively?  Perhaps.  But it’s designed to let you skip around (or ahead) if a section isn’t totally grabbing you.  I also liked the suggestions for additional readings that are provided at the end, and thought the Heaths did a nice job of creating a few case studies that show you how to apply the WRAP framework to your own decisions.

There’s no question that this is a great book for people who are empowered to make decisions and those who can influence others, but I asked Dan what you can do if you’re in an organization that struggles to make decisions.

“At a certain point, these issues become less about decision-making and more about culture,” he quickly responded back by e-mail.  “When people have decision-making phobia, as you describe, I almost think the Switch framework is a better fit for thinking about the problem, because it hinges so much on behavior change and herd behavior. I wish there was an easier answer.” (and, yes, that’s another affiliate link to Amazon).

There are no easy answers when it comes to decision-making.  But Decisive makes the process much easier and manageable.

One other quick note.  Even though I received an advance copy, I also pre-ordered it for my Nook because it’s a book I want close by at all times.  The book will be available March 26 but if you pre-order — even if you pre-order an e-book — you’ll get lots of cool stuff, including the one-page summary, some podcasts, a signed bookplate, and the very cool bright-green Decisive Advice Ball pictured on the cover of the book.  Just send a copy of your pre-order receipt to heathpreorder@gmail.com.


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Jan 02 2013

Three Words for 2013: Publish, Legacy, and Now

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Is the Juice Worth the Squeeze?

Is the Juice Worth the Squeeze?

How many people would miss my work if I stopped contributing it?*

That’s the question that’s been nagging at me as I enter 2013 — but I’m approaching it in a positive way.  It was a challenging year; I ran into a lot of roadblocks as I tried to create content that customers would find helpful or answer their questions, as I tried to create processes that would enable us to anticipate and mitigate risk, and as I tried to help my blog and Twitter followers.

It’s time for the annual 3 Words exercise that Chris Brogan created a few years ago.  Here’s his three words for this year and you can easily find what others have chosen like Chris Penn, Mitch Joel, and C.C. Chapman.

Chris describes it as the “three words that sum up what you want to work actionably on changing/improving in the coming year. It works best when the words are positive in spirit and not negative. ..the idea is to look deeper than a single goal and try to give you an entire mindset to contemplate. The Heath Brothers in their book, Switch, talked about needing three elements to bring about change: a rider (your plans and intents), the elephant (what your mood will do no matter what your plans say), and the path (the environment within which you intend to implement those changes). The concept of the three words is like the path. Think of a word that gives you the HUGE picture, not the small picture.”

So here are my three words for 2013.  There’s a bit of an echo from my 2012 Words, but I think that’s OK unless you’ve decided to make a huge change in direction:

  • Publish.  This is a holdover from last year but reflects a greater understanding of what it takes to do that.  Publishing is not just about the writing process; it’s about getting approval/endorsement.  That may be client or boss approval.  It may be business-partner approval.  Or it may be approval from the Legal/Compliance/Risk people.  I truly believe that the lawyers generally want to say yes and support the business.  But there are people out there who don’t want to be pushed, who aren’t as comfortable in the execution phase as they are in the “talking about it with lots of people” phase.  Publishing in 2013 for me will be about getting past the inertia and convincing people that the potential impact of what I’m working on is bigger than other things they might be working on.  And in those cases where it’s not, moving on rather than pushing back.
  • Legacy:   Full disclosure on that question in the first paragraph: I’ve been thinking about this conceptually for the past month or so, but Seth Godin — as he often does — put my angst into very simple terms.  I turned 53 a few months ago and am starting to think about how people will remember me.  Did something I created make a difference to others?  Am I rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic or am I working on things that truly matter?  For me, legacy will be about prioritization, about taking more time on important projects and less time on the stuff that doesn’t matter as much.  More and more lately, I’ve been asking people, Is the Juice Worth the Squeeze, on different projects.  I think that’s a question that helps determine your Legacy.  For me, Legacy is also a word I’m going to use to help me determine whether I’m in the right role for my skills and passion (i.e., do I leap out of bed in the AM) and how I’m dealing with my wife and kids (i.e., trying to be a better parent and husband).
  • Now.  I can be impatient, particularly if patience may result in a lost opportunity.  But this is more about seizing opportunities — or perhaps recognizing opportunities when they rear their heads.  It’s about letting go of the stuff where the juice isn’t worth the squeeze and just publishing and moving on.  But it’s also about embracing the sales process rather than screaming into the wind.  It’s also about “being present” with my family and about reading all those books I’ve downloaded for my Nook and actually leveraging the great advice.

After I hit Publish on this post — many weeks earlier than I did last year — I’m going to think about Metrics that will go with my three words.  I want to be able to assess my progress, in part to keep me focused on the path.  I sort of “forgot” about my three words at some point in the middle of the year.  My challenge is to keep them front of mind so I can stay on track throughout 2013.

What about you?  What three words are going to drive your 2013 success?

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Dec 09 2012

Why did it take two years to bring CALM to our televisions?

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Why does everything Congress does take so long?

I’ve been having difficulty sleeping lately, so I was particularly irritated about being awakened the other night by a loud noise.  I had fallen asleep in the couch…and the loud noise was a commercial that was more than a few decibels louder than the basketball game I was watching.  I’m not sure whether it was the loudness that woke me up, or the fact that the noise startled the sleeping dog laying next to me and caused him to start barking at the TV.

Beginning this Thursday, I won’t have to worry about ads for products I don’t want waking me up from a winter’s nap.  It will be CALMer in my home, thanks to the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation (CALM) Act, which Congress passed to ban ads from being louder than the TV program they’re interrupting.

The only remaining irritant is that they passed the CALM Act on December 3, 2010.  Why did we lose two years worth of calm, you might ask?  Because first we needed to give the Federal Communications Commission time to regulate volume levels in a manner that has already been embraced by the Advanced Television Systems Committee, an industry group. After the FCC took their year, the affected television providers were given another year to comply, even though they appear to have been OK with the new law — at least as far as I could see in reading articles from back in December 2010.

Most TV networks declined comment at the time, but an ABC spokesman actually gave it a thums-up:   “Shouting usually doesn’t get your point across in discussions, in speakers at the drive-through, or in TV commercials. The key is raising the level of creativity, not the volume,”  said Kevin Brockman.

I might suggest another reason the networks didn’t protest too much:  Many of the shows I watch are on my DVR, and I have no problem skipping the commercials altogether — making my remote the electronic version of a set of earplugs.

I just find it sad that it takes us two years to implement a law that EVERYONE seemed to embrace.  Is it any surprise how difficult it is to get action of the issues that we don’t agree on?

Does this happen at your place of work?  Everyone agrees on a course of action but it still takes weeks or months to implement?  What ways do you have of accelerating the process?


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Nov 19 2012

Why MJ the Dog now calls my house her home

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MJ getting comfortable

We just brought home a pound puppy named MJ (Mary Jane).  We’ve been looking for more than a month — and looking at website photos for much, much longer — with little success until I brought a couple of business principles to the decision.

  • Understand everyone’s needs.  Early on, we gave each family member veto power over the decision.  This did not work out well.  What did work out was asking each person what was most important to them (e.g., playfulness, size, willingness to snuggle).  The big decision was pound puppy (or, as my daughter called it, “saving one from imminent death”) vs rescue dog (where we’d know more about the dog).  We then asked the “adoption counselor” which of the shelter’s dogs fit the overall profile.  That helped us get to the best blend of dog rather than giving veto power to irrational children.  Believe it or not, this happens a lot in business too, particularly in the communications world.
  • Limit the options.  It irritated me while we were there but the SPCA limited the number of dogs that we could get to know in one visit.  As a credit-card marketer, we constantly reminded ourselves that “choice suppresses.”  I really wanted to look at “one more dog” but all it was going to do was delay the decision and mean that we’d have to go home and debate the decision for another night, with no surety that MJ would be there in the AM.  So that led to…
  • Pull the trigger.  My wife is very analytical; I’m more inclined to say yes when most of my objectives are met if I’ve helped the other people meet theirs.  I’m not particularly patient, which is a weakness, but I’ve been watching my wife and the two children who aren’t in college agonize over pictures, debate profiles, and create computer backgrounds for their favorites for long enough that some of those favorites were adopted before we ever got in.  Lisa was wavering tonight…until I just said, “we’re taking her.”  I wasn’t emotionally attached to the last dog; everyone loved MJ.  They’re all REALLY happy, and that’s what’s important to me.  Although MJ has marked her territory twice since getting home, Lisa is genuinely glad I just made the call so we can move on to the next phase of new-dog ownership: Protecting Thanksgiving Dinner from a dog that can reach the counter on his hind legs.
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Aug 11 2012

Collaboration Without Accountability is a Train Wreck

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I keep running into people who are frustrated by what I call the Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen phenomenon.

It happens when you’re working on a project where you start with a reasonable number of team members, but then the meeting invites start getting forwarded, multiple people from the same group start joining, and everyone thinks they have veto power over the final product, no matter how minor their role (or the role of their LOB).

The challenge comes when you start getting edits to Version 3 when the team is on Version 6; when issues that have been put to bed get resurrected by people who didn’t show up at the meeting where they were originally resolved; and when you get changes that don’t make the document better and it’s clear that it’s just a case where the suggestion is only because “it’s just not the way I’d have said it.”

With that in mind, here are four suggestions for driving accountability around collaboration and avoiding the inevitable train wreck that happens when you find yourself herding cats rather than making change happen.

  • Stay Focused on Your Objective.  What are you trying to accomplish?  Are you keeping your lens focused firmly on customer needs?  Lots of great ideas may come up during your large-group meetings (particularly in the five minutes it takes everyone to arrive in person or by phone at the appointed time — but that’s something for a different post), but if they aren’t firmly on task, put them in a “parking lot” and let someone else run that meeting.
  • Use the “Just Say No” Approach.  When you send out a draft, let people know that failure to respond constitutes approval.  Put that in bold.  Put a Reply By flag on the document and set up Read receipts. You need to be careful about trying to impose that on the decision-makers but you can certainly use it with those who don’t really have skin in the game.
  • Prioritize Feedback.  As George Orwell wrote in Animal Farm, everyone is equal but some are more equal than others.  Respecting everyone’s feedback doesn’t mean you have to incorporate all of it.  With a large group you’re just as likely to get bad feedback as good.  Consider it all.  Confirm with others if someone’s edits feel like they’re coming out of left field — or if they improve the product.  And reject the stuff that’s going to derail the train.
  • Keep the Pen.  Bad things can happen when you give up control of the presentation or document to someone else.  Do what you can to keep control.
How about you?  What do you do to avoid large-group collaboration derailing timely execution of the assignment?


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