Focused where it is truly needed

To do a job effectively, one must set priorities.  Too many people let their ‘in’ basket set the priorities.  On any given day, unimportant but interesting trivia pass through an office; one must not permit these to monopolize his time.  The human tendency is to while away time with unimportant matters that do not require mental effort or energy.  Since they can be easily resolved, they give a false sense of accomplishment.  The manager must exert self-discipline to ensure that his energy is focused where it is truly needed.” – H. G. Rickover, as quoted by Theodore Rockwell in The Rickover Effect

Leadership attention; it is a real constraint in your organization.

If you want more from your organization, first focus on freeing up leadership attention.

Stop doing pointless tasks just because someone said you must.  Show them why you mustn’t.

Carve out time to think deeply about something.  Schedule a real block of time into your Outlook calendar and refuse to double book the time.  Then, shut the door and think.  It is that simple.

Allow someone else to attend a meeting for you, carry your regards to another group for you, or fill in for you.  They will grow and you will be free to do something else that matters, in effect doubling what you can accomplish.

It’s hard to stop doing the trivial, but it’s not climbing Mt. Everest hard.  It’s more passing up the offer of a cookie in the mid-afternoon.  It’s hard to resist because the temptation is so close and the consequences seem so small, yet there remains a great win in resisting.

Focus where it is truly needed and you will get closer to the organizational (or personal) results you most desire.

Why not try?

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Can you fail less? What actions would you take?

Some authors say at least 60% of change efforts fail to achieve lasting results.

In “Why Process Improvement Projects Go Wrong,” Professor Satya Chokravorty shares how and why a majority of Six Sigma implementations fail.

Professor Chokravorty found:

…that when confronted with increasing stress over time, these programs react in much the same way a metal spring does when it is pulled with increasing force—that is, they progress though “stretching” and “yielding” phases before failing entirely. In engineering, this is known as the “stress-strain curve,” and the length of each stage varies widely by material.

After explaining a typical story of stretching, yielding and failing, Professor Chokravorty provides four actions managers or executives could take to eliminate the failure of the change initiative.

  1. Keep an expert embedded in the change longer.
  2. Tie all team member pay to the success of the change effort.
  3. Teams should have no more than six to nine members and project timelines must be no longer than six to nine weeks.
  4. Executives need to directly participate in team projects not just “support” them.

While, as an engineer who studied stress-strain curves,  I’m entertained to read a business article applying the curves to change management, Professor Chokravorty’s suggested steps to eliminate Six Sigma failures leave me disappointed.

All the actions offered are versions of coercion (e.g., orders, fear of negative consequences, removal of positive consequences) to externally compel someone to change.  I’ve previously defined these as driving people actions.

Why not try driving change instead?

Driving change is choosing a change for yourself and clearing the obstacles for others to internally choose the change too.

Read below the fold for how I’d translate the four actions above into driving change actions.

The Story Continues…

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Introduction to Cynefin

Post Updated (4 January – based on a comment):

On Tuesday, when Steve Holt showed me David Snowden’s Cynefin model, the model intrigued me.   If you’ve read my Motivation Perspective file, you’ll know I love a good model.

Since Tuesday, between parties, other posts and a sledding trip, I’ve been unable to get Cynefin out of my mind.  Unable to do any actual reading on the topic, I used my short burst of time to chase down a few links in the hope that I’ll be able to paw through the info this week.

I’ve found David Snowden, multi-ontology sense making (yes, that term is supposed to scare you on first look), cynefin (a Welsh word)  cognitive edge methods and a wiki too.

If you’re interesting in learning more about Mr. Snowden and his work, you can click through the links above, or find them all neatly stacked at my new Delicious hosted links page.

[Note: For all of you with an Input strength, you’ll love the linking and sharing features at Delicious.]

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