Decisions, Decisions series – 6 of 7 – WRAP – Prepare to be Worng (:~))

In the first of the series, I shared my two favorite decision-making frameworks, Cynefin for deciding what type of decision you are making and WRAP to walk through a process to make an optimal decision.  This is the sixth in the series and fourth on WRAP – Prepare to be Wrong.

It is inevitable.  We are going to be wrong. Especially if we are looking to scale our companies or grow ourselves.  You have to try new things, push the envelope, stretch outside of your comfort zone which leads to messing up now and again.  Here are some great ideas from the Heath brothers about preparing to be wrong from their book Decisive.

The mission: To avoid being overconfident about the way our decisions will unfold and, instead, taking the opportunity to plan for both good and bad potential scenarios.

Core Ideas: The most important tools to keep in mind

  • Bookend the future.
  • Run a pre-mortem and pre-parade.
  • Use a safety factor.
  • Create a “realistic job preview.”
  • Set a tripwire.
  • Use “pattern-matching” tripwires.

Here are a few examples from the list above.

Run a pre-mortem and pre-parade. Run a pre-mortem for your decision: It’s a year from now and the decision was a disaster. Why did it fail? (Note that if you’re doing the pre-mortem with colleagues, don’t share answers until everyone has brainstormed on their own.) Then, later, run a pre-parade: It’s a year from now and our decision is a huge success. How did we do it? Make sure to consider these negative and positive bookends separately—that will help you surface more of the relevant issues on each pole.

Set a tripwire. Imagine that your organization is someday used as an example of the “frog who doesn’t jump out of the pot of boiling water” cliché. You got stuck in a slowly changing environment that eventually killed you. If that were true, why would it be? What industry forces do you need to keep an eye on? Can you encourage your team to set the right tripwires?

Use a safety factor. People tend to be overconfident. They think their plans will go more smoothly—and unfold more quickly—than usually happens. Probe to see if they can prepare to be wrong by giving themselves a buffer. Can they build in some extra slack in the schedule? Can they keep some powder dry in their budget in case things go wrong?

Enjoy this great video (7 mins) from Daniel Kahneman illustrating the Planning Fallacy (and pre-mortem) which shows how we can be overconfident even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

You can’t go wrong by spending a few hours thinking about how to make your business better. Join me on May 21st in Boston for my Taking the guesswork out of Growth 4-hour workshop.  Click here to register.

Be Exceptional!

Bill  – Certified Growth Coach
(bill@catalystgrowthadvisors.comwww.catalystgrowthadvisors.com)
MA COMPANIES ONLY – Ask me how your state may help pay for my leadership coaching services.  For MA companies, click here to see if you qualify for 50% (or more) off my workshop and annual fees.

Decisions, Decisions Series (5 of 7) WRAP framework – Attain Some Distance

In the first of the series, I shared my two favorite decision-making frameworks, Cynefin for deciding what type of decision you are making and WRAP to walk through a process to make an optimal decision.  This is the fifth in the series and third on WRAP – Attain Some Distance.  There will be two more to close out the series over the coming weeks.

Attain Some Distance

It is said that ideas are like children, none are so wonderful as our own. Emotional attachment is inevitable in the creation process.  For instance, if you write for a living, you are taught to put a first draft down on paper and then put it away for a while. This allows you to look at what you wrote with fresh eyes putting the emotional attachment far enough in the past. This typically helps to improve the end product.  The same can be said about decision making.  It is often important to put some time between you and the final decision to let the initial emotions fade away. 

In their book, Decisive, the Heath brothers provide us with some tips and tricks to find ways to do this in order to optimize our key decisions.

The mission: To resist the disrupting influence of short-term emotion and ensure that you make a decision based on your core priorities

Core Ideas: The most important tools to keep in mind

  • If you’re agonizing, gather more options or information.
  • Try 10/10/10.
  • Fight the “status quo bias” (mere exposure + loss aversion).
  • Shift perspectives to gain distance.
  • Identify and enshrine your core priorities.
  • Go on the offensive against lesser priorities.

Here is a little more detail on my favorites.  Please download the workbook for more information.

Try 10/10/10. Attain some distance by talking through a 10/10/10 analysis with a friend. This will force you to label the short-term and long- term implications of your decisions, with the benefit of an outsider’s perspective on your decision. (Also, it can often be clarifying just to hear how your logic sounds when it comes out of your mouth …).

10/10/10 is the process of thinking through how you might feel about this decision in 10 days, 10 months and 10 years.  What impact might it have over those timeframes?

Identify and enshrine your core priorities. Karen Douglas, a business consultant who owns her own firm, found herself with an overly packed calendar so she adopted a rule to assess new opportunities: “If it’s not a ‘Hell yes!”, it’s a ‘No.’” Is there a rule that would remind you of your priorities? (A person who moved to a new town without a good social network might adopt the exact opposite rule: “If it’s not a ‘Hell no!’, it’s a ‘Yes.’”)

Do you have Core Values and Priorities?  Do you use them every day to help make decisions?  Are your Priorities SMART?  (I like to add an additional A re: Authority – Do you have the authority to carry out this priority?)

Identify and enshrine your core priorities. Do a forensics analysis of your calendar. What would the outside investigator conclude about your core priorities? If you don’t think you’d be satisfied with the forensic analysis, ask yourself: Which activities can I stop doing to free up more time for what’s important?

These last two are ones I often use with clients especially when it comes to Core Purpose and BHAG discussions for the first of the two.  Reviewing your calendaring can be a sobering event.  There are those that think you can tell what is truly important to a person by analyzing his/her calendar and credit card statements.  Actions speak louder that words.  Below is an exchange between father and son that illustrates this beautifully.

SON: “Daddy, may I ask you a question?”
DAD: “Yeah sure, what is it?”
SON: “Daddy, how much do you make an hour?”
DAD: “That’s really none of your business. Why do you ask?”
SON: “I just want to know. Please tell me, how much do you make an hour?”
DAD: “If you must know, I make $100 an hour.”
SON: “Oh. (With his head down).
SON: “Daddy, can I please borrow $50?”
DAD: “REALLY?! If you’re asking to borrow money for some silly toy or game, you can just march yourself straight to your room to think about why you’re being so selfish. I work hard everyday to provide for this family, and this is the thanks I get?”


The little boy went quietly to his room and shut the door. So, the dad went to his son’s door and opened it.

DAD: “Are you asleep, son?”
SON: “No daddy, I’m awake”.
DAD: “I’ve been thinking, and maybe I was too hard on you earlier. It’s been a long day and I took out my aggravation on you. Here’s the $50 you asked for.” The little boy sat straight up, smiling.
SON: “Oh, thank you daddy!” Son pulls crumbled bills from pillow
DAD: “Why do you want more money if you already have some?”
SON: “Because I didn’t have enough, but now I do. Daddy, I have $100 now. Can I buy an hour of your time? Please come home early tomorrow. I would like to have dinner with you.”

This could have been a story about a team member or a treasured business partner or any number of people whose relationship you value but have prioritized, many times unwittingly through inaction, as less important. It also could have been a task or initiative you are not getting to because the minutia of the day or the minute becomes the priority instead.

Decisions we make have, minimally, one other side.  By choosing to do something, we are also choosing to not do other things by default. By attaining some distance, we can better understand the ripples – short term and long term – of this decision.

Next post is the final in the WRAP framework – Prepare to be Wrong.  This should be fun as we all LOVE being wrong.

Be Exceptional!

Bill  – Certified Growth Coach
(bill@catalystgrowthadvisors.comwww.catalystgrowthadvisors.com)

MA COMPANIES ONLY – Ask me how your state may help pay for my leadership coaching services.  For MA companies, click here to see if you qualify for 50% (or more) off my fees.

Decisions, Decisions series (4 of 7) – WRAP – Reality test assumptions

In the first of the series, I shared my two favorite decision-making frameworks, Cynefin for deciding what type of decision you are making and WRAP to walk through a process to make an optimal decision.  This is the fourth in the series and second on WRAP – Reality Test your Assumptions.

To reality test our assumptions, we must assess our options.  One key impediment to seeing clearly is what neuroscience calls confirmation bias.  This bias leads us to collect skewed, self-serving information. To combat this bias, we can ask disconfirming questions (e.g., What problems does our product/service have? or, What holes do we have in our strategy? or What is our biggest barrier to success?). We can spark constructive disagreement and, whenever appropriate, we should “ooch” – conduct small experiments to teach us more. Why predict when you can know?

To support the concepts around a reality test, the following content is from the book, Decisive.

REALITY-TEST YOUR ASSUMPTIONS

expectations-vs-reality-10

The mission: To fight the confirmation bias and ensure that, when you are assessing your options, you are gathering information that you can trust.

Core Ideas: The most important tools to keep in mind

  • Fight the confirmation bias.
  • Spark constructive disagreement.
  • Ask disconfirming questions.
  • Consider the opposite.
  • Make a deliberate mistake.
  • Zoom out: Respect the base rates.
  • Zoom in: Take a close-up.
  • Ooch.

Here are three of the aforementioned in a little more detail.

Ask disconfirming questions. When you ask for advice on your decisions, don’t just ask people “What do you think?” or “Do you like my idea?” Ask disconfirming questions: “What’s the biggest obstacle you see to what I’m trying to do?” “If I failed, why do you think it would be?”. The key is to try to prove the decision wrong. If you are unable to, you may be onto something and you avoid confirmation bias where we see what we want to see and disregard the rest.

Spark constructive disagreement. Can you find someone you trust who will disagree with you? In her study of Silicon Valley firms, Kathy Eisenhardt found that the CEOs who made the quickest, most effective strategic decisions had a senior counselor. The counselor was usually someone who knew the industry well but didn’t have a personal agenda, which meant they could provide unvarnished, trustworthy guidance.

Ooch. Can you get yourself to “ooch” by lowering the barriers? Imagine that you could take a half-day to do something to assess one of your options. (Not talk about it, not think about it, not agonize about it – do something about it.) What could you do? If you had $100 to spend to aid your assessment, how would you spend it?  This lines up with Jim Collins’ approach of shooting bullets first and then cannonballs.  Another example is to offer your time for free to a company that you think you want to work for.

The key is to fight over confidence or hubris when making critical decisions.  We are human and are all susceptible to cognitive biases such as confirmation bias, availability bias, status quo bias among many others.  Research proves that even if you are aware of these biases you still commit them!  This is because the brain is always looking for shortcuts to save energy and it does so without our conscious awareness.

Do a reality check every now and again will help you to build the muscles to avoid or mitigate making poorly thought out decisions.

Next up, Attain some distance…

Be Exceptional!

Bill  – Certified Growth Coach
(bill@catalystgrowthadvisors.comwww.catalystgrowthadvisors.com)
MA COMPANIES ONLY – Ask me how your state may help pay for my leadership coaching services.  For MA companies, click here to see if you qualify for 50% (or more) off my fees.

Decisions, Decisions Series (3 of 7) – WRAP Framework – Widen Your Options

widen (funny)

So far, we have looked at two phases of decision-making illustrated by two decision-making frameworks:

  1. Cynefin framework – Use to decide the type of decision; Simple, Complicated, Complex, Chaotic
  2. WRAP – Use to optimize the decision process.
    • Widen your options
    • Reality test your assumptions
    • Attain distance BEFORE deciding
    • Prepare to be wrong

This post is the second related to the WRAP framework – “W” – Widen Your Options.  Here are the Mission and Core Ideas that were taken from the Decisive workbook from the Heath brothers.

Mission: To break out of a narrow frame and expand the set of options you consider

Core Ideas: The most important tools to keep in mind

  • Expand your options.
  • Consider the opportunity cost.
  • Run the “vanishing options test.”
  • Multitrack – think AND not OR.
  • Toggle between the promotion and prevention mindsets.
  • Find someone who has solved your problem.
  • Try “laddering.”

Below, I offer a bit more depth on a three of these.

widen your optionsThe Heath Brothers share a number of approaches to widen your options, here are a few you can try:

  1. If you are not sure if you have considered all the viable options, you can run the “Vanishing Options” test. That is, assume the option you are currently considering suddenly is no longer viable, ask yourself what you would do instead.  The optimal way to do this with your team is to have each of them write one to two alternatives down and then share individually.  I like to have folks put each idea on a stickie, stick them to a surface, group them by category, name the category and then discuss each grouping.
  2. Find someone else who has solved your problem.  In most cases, someone with the circle of contacts you and your team have access to have run into this problem before.  Also, there may be an analogous problem you have already solved in the past that you can apply here. I recommend the same brainstorming process as above.  You may be surprised what you finally come up with.
  3. Lastly, consider the opportunity cost. People don’t naturally consider their opportunity costs. Ask them, “What’s the next best use of the resources you’re talking about spending?” Force them to push their spotlights around by asking about different domains: For instance, if they’re waffling about whether to spend time and resources on a specific project, ask what other ways they could spend the time and/or money if this upcoming project was not an option.  Once you have come up with a few alternatives, you can determine which of these options is best.

These are just a few ways to widen your options.  As humans our ideas are like children – none are so wonderful as our own.  That means that we can get irrationally attached to our own ideas that can blind us from considering other options. Confirmation bias is an ever-present danger – we all do it. Sometimes we argue, unwittingly, to defend our ideas versus making sure we explore all viable options to reach our team goals.

Using the WRAP framework is a way to increase your chances of making an optimal decision.  Reality check your options coming next in the series.

Here is a great decision!  Set up a 15-minute conversation to talk about how you can implement a proven system to take the guesswork out of growth (Click here to see a sample one page strategic plan).

Be Exceptional!

Bill  – Certified Premium Scaling Up/Gravitas Impact Coach
(bill@catalystgrowthadvisors.comwww.catalystgrowthadvisors.com)

For MA companies ONLY, as an approved Training and Development provider, Catalyst Growth Advisors can offer you 50% off program fees.  Click here to see if you qualify.

What is the WRAP decision framework (Decision series – 2 of 7)

Now that we have reviewed the Cynefin framework to help us think about what kind of decision we are making to help set proper expectations as to the risks and the steps, please find below a summary of each step in the WRAP decision framework taken from Decisive authored by Dan and Chip Heath to help us with the process of making the decision.

charts-hate-decisions-wait

WIDEN YOUR OPTIONS

Mission: To break out of a narrow frame and expand the set of options you consider

Core Ideas: The most important tools to keep in mind

  • Expand your options.
  • Consider the opportunity cost.
  • Run the “vanishing options test.”
  • Multitrack – think AND not OR.
  • Toggle between the promotion and prevention mindsets.
  • Find someone who has solved your problem.
  • Try “laddering.”

widen your options

REALITY-TEST YOUR ASSUMPTIONS

The mission: To fight the confirmation bias and ensure that, when you are assessing your options, you are gathering information that you can trust.

Core Ideas: The most important tools to keep in mind

  • Fight the confirmation bias.
  • Spark constructive disagreement.
  • Ask disconfirming questions.
  • Consider the opposite.
  • Make a deliberate mistake.
  • Zoom out: Respect the base rates.
  • Zoom in: Take a close-up.
  • Ooch: a combination of “scoot” and “inch”. Apparently, it’s a thing.

ATTAIN SOME DISTANCE BEFORE DECIDING

The mission: To resist the disrupting influence of short-term emotion and ensure that you make a decision based on your core priorities

Core Ideas: The most important tools to keep in mind

  • If you’re agonizing, gather more options or information.
  • Try 10/10/10.
  • Fight the “status quo bias” (mere exposure + loss aversion).
  • Shift perspectives to gain distance.
  • Identify and enshrine your core priorities.
  • Go on the offensive against lesser priorities.

PREPARE TO BE WRONG

The mission: To avoid being overconfident about the way our decisions will unfold and, instead, taking the opportunity to plan for both good and bad potential scenarios.

Core Ideas: The most important tools to keep in mind

  • Bookend the future.
  • Run a premortem and preparade.
  • Use a safety factor.
  • Create a “realistic job preview.”
  • Set a tripwire.
  • Use “pattern-matching” tripwires.

Next week, I will start with the first of four posts to go into more depth into some of the tools mentioned, provide some examples and suggestions on how to use each part of the WRAP decision framework.  I will start with Widen Your Options.

Set up a 15-minute conversation to talk about how you can implement a proven system to take the guesswork out of growth (Click here to see a sample one page strategic plan).

Be Exceptional!

Bill  – Certified Premium Scaling Up/Gravitas Impact Coach
(bill@catalystgrowthadvisors.comwww.catalystgrowthadvisors.com)

For MA companies ONLY, as an approved Training and Development provider, Catalyst Growth Advisors can offer you 50% off program fees.  Click here to see if you qualify.

“Decisions, Decisions” Series – 2 Decision Frameworks (1 of 7)

decisionLeaders have to make a lot of decisions (sometimes too many). Over the next couple of months, I am going to share my two favorite decision-making frameworks – Cynefin (pronounced “kin-ev-in”) from Dave Snowden and WRAP from the Heath Brothers (not the candy guys).

What I have come to believe is that there are three main parts to decision making:

  1. What kind of decision situation are we in? – Simple, Complicated, Complex or Chaotic? (Cynefin)
  2. How do we make the best possible decision considering all of the available information? (WRAP)
  3. How do we know when a decision is complete?

Here is a picture of the Cynefin Framework (Part 1 of 3) which I will talk about in this post:

cynefin-model

Snowden argues that many leaders forget the first step of decision making which is to first figure out what kind of decision you are making.

Let’s start with Simple (lower right, sometimes referred to as Obvious) – This means that there are rules in place, the situation is stable, and the relationship between cause and effect is clear: if you do X, expect Y.

The advice (per the above picture) in such a situation is to establish the facts (“sense”), categorize the facts, then respond by following the rule or applying best practice. Loan-payment processing is a typical example. An employee identifies the problem (for example, a borrower has paid less than required), categorizes it (reviews the loan documents), and responds (follows the terms of the loan).

Next is Complicated. It is similar to Simple except that the relationship between cause and effect is less cut and dried. Knowledge, experience or process may not be found in your company or group.  You must Sense, Analyze and then Respond.   That is, you have to do some investigation and pursue inquiry before you move ahead.

For example, recently, one of my clients decided they needed to decide to move or not as they were running out of space and their lease term was ending (Sense).  It was important for them to be fair to all while maintaining their culture and employee experience to the best of their ability.  I recommended that they look to other companies in their area that had grown and moved who could share their experience and process as a way to help them feel more confident in the decision and the entire moving process and consider multiple options based upon some key criteria (Analyze).  They decided to move as it was the best available option for their longer-term needs (Respond).

The third is Complex – cause and effect can only be deduced in retrospect, and there are no right answers at the outset. This is often the most difficult to navigate and execute as you must Probe, Sense and then Respond.  Being open-minded, asking probing questions and curiosity will serve you well.

The key here is to create a series of “safe to fail” experiments where the results can guide you to the best possible answer (Probe).  I believe that a good example here is making a pricing decision. There are many factors involved. The two most difficult are to determine the true value your customers perceive in your solution and determining if your competitors have done a good job in pricing alternative offerings (usually they have not).  Typically, your best next step is to speak to customers to determine how they value your offering and then conduct a series of experiments to see how your customers react to the price changes (Probe).  The next step is to review the resultant information (Sense) and then make the best determination as to if or how much to modify your price (Respond).

Lastly, is Chaotic – most businesses, thankfully, do not have to deal with this situation.  The key here is to make a decision (Act) quickly that you think best suits the situation (Sense) and then make changes based on the result(s) (Respond).

The best and most popular example I know of to illustrate how important going through this process comes from the Kennedy administration early in his US Presidency.  When comparing the different decision processes he went through on the Bay of Pigs versus the Cuban Missile Crisis, one can see a startling change in the process he used to make a crucial decision. Here is a great summary article that goes into some detail on the differences.

Whether you use Snowden’s framework or some other process, I believe it is important to take the time to think about the type of decision you are making BEFORE you begin the process to make the best possible decision.

Please click here to for a video recorded by Dave Snowden about the Cynefin framework.

Next time, I will review the WRAP framework and begin to go into each of the four steps – one at a time.

  1. Widen your options
  2. Reality test your assumptions
  3. Attain some distance before deciding
  4. Prepare to be wrong

The last part of the three will be an updated version of an old post about Decision Making. This will be coming later in the year as Part 7.

Here is a great decision! Set up a 15-minute conversation to talk about how you can implement a proven system to take the guesswork out of growth (Click here to see a sample one page strategic plan).

Be Exceptional!

Bill  – Certified Premium Scaling Up/Gravitas Impact Coach
(bill@catalystgrowthadvisors.comwww.catalystgrowthadvisors.com)

For MA companies ONLY, as an approved Training and Development provider, Catalyst Growth Advisors can offer you 50% off program fees.  Click here to see if you qualify.

Two systematic ways to make important decisions*

decision
Recently, one of my favorite clients asked if I knew of any frameworks to help them with their decision making.  They do a great job at making thoughtful decisions but one of the reasons they are one of my favorite clients is that they are always looking to do things better.  The first answer that came to mind is how President Kennedy handled the Cuban Missile Crisis (CMC) very differently from the Bay of Pigs invasion. Of the many that I have read, here is the best article that provides specific steps to show the difference between the decision processes of each.  In short, this is what I believe Kennedy learned and how he created a better decision process framework:
  • Kennedy mostly stayed out of the process until the end so he could remain objective for the final decision.
  • He set up two teams to defend the two best options.
  • Once each team provided the reasoning for its preferred option, he had the teams flip options and argue the other one. The hope was to get the best thinking and to remove the endowment effect so they were less emotionally tied to one option over the other.
  • He then had 2 trusted advisors, who had not yet been involved in the process, poke holes in/challenge each option.
  • Only then, did he hear and challenge the final arguments for both options.
  • He made the final decision with the full support of everyone involved.
In addition to this process, one of my fellow coaches, Bruce Eckfeldt, turned me on to a great book called Smart Choices by John Hammond.  It is an excellent formulaic manual for how to go about making the best possible decisions with the information available.
Most important, the basic starting premise is, first. to make sure you truly understand the problem you are trying to solve.  For example, the late HBS Professor Theodore Levitt is oft-quoted as saying that people do not want a 1/4″ inch drill they want a 1/4″ hole.  One could take this further and ask what do they want the 1/4″ hole for?  They might find out that the person is looking to feed a light cord through it to light up a dim part of a room.
In this scenario, the problem to solve is how do I illuminate a darkened area of a room.  Now that we truly understand the problem.  This problem could be solved without the need of a drill at all.
I find this to be universal in making decisions.  We too often rush to the answer without first truly exploring and thoroughly understanding the problem.
Here is an excerpt from the book on how to get started:
Ten Diagnostic Questions
1.   What’s my decision problem? What, broadly, do I have to decide? What specific decisions do I have to make as a part of the broad decision?
2.   What are my fundamental objectives? Have I asked ‘‘Why’’ enough times to get to my bedrock wants and needs?
3.   What are my alternatives? Can I think of other good ones?
4.   What are the consequences of each alternative in terms of the achievement of each of my objectives? Can any alternatives be safely eliminated?
5.   What are the tradeoffs among my more important objectives? Where do conflicting objectives concern me the most?
6.   Do any uncertainties pose serious problems? If so, which ones? How do they impact consequences?
7.   How much risk am I willing to take? How good and how bad are the various possible consequences? What are ways of reducing my risk?
8.   Have I thought ahead, planning out into the future? Can I reduce my uncertainties by gathering information? What are the potential gains and the costs in time, money, and effort?
9.   Is the decision obvious or pretty clear at this point? What reservations do I have about deciding now? In what ways could the decision be improved by a modest amount of added time and effort?
10. What should I be working on? If the decision isn’t obvious, what do the critical issues appear to be? What facts and opinions would make my job easier?
I hope these hints lead you to better decision making.
For a further look at decision-making, please see a previous post – When is a decision really made? 4 parts, Drucker, 1 part Flynn.
Bill
Certified Scaling Up Coach
Be Exceptional!
* MA companies interested in hiring a leadership coach.  Click here to see if you qualify for 50% off my fees.

When is a decision really made? 4 parts Drucker, 1 part Flynn (1 minute read)

I just finished reading Managing Oneself by Peter Drucker. As with most things Drucker, it was written many years ago and still holds true today; especially one section – when a decision is truly made.

Sometimes, we make a decision and wonder why it has not been carried out fully and/or are surprised by the result or lack thereof. It could be that we have not also identified the following:

  1. The name of the person accountable for carrying it out;
  2. The deadline;
  3. The names of the people who will be affected by the decision and therefore have to know about, understand, and approve it—or at least not be strongly opposed to it
  4. And the names of the people who have to be informed of the decision, even if they are not directly affected by it.
  5. The leading and lagging indicators (a.k.a., KPIs, metrics, OKRs…) to be able to know how to measure the success of the decision and its impact.*

(I have a useful link on my website to a Who, What, When document (No. 11) – a simple tool that helps address some of the above.)

Another bit of useful guidance Drucker gives is to review the decision periodically setting the review schedule up front. This way you can make corrections well in advance if necessary.

Here is to making great decisions and correcting them quickly when they turn out to be not as great as originally thought.

Thanks for reading.

Be Exceptional!

To learn more about building your own One Page Strategic Plan visit https://catalystgrowthadvisors.com or contact me at  bill@catalystgrowthadvisors.com.

If you found this post useful, please like, comment and/or share with others.

*My addition to Drucker’s list

6 lies that stand between you and success

In his 2013 book, The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results , Gary Keller reminds us of how often we get in our own way to reaching our potential. Beliefs we have either adopted or that society foists upon us or conventional wisdom dictates or that no longer work for us act like a false ceiling. They keep us from realizing our fullest capacity.  Here are the six lies:

  1. Everything Matters Equally
  2. Multitasking
  3. A Disciplined Life
  4. Willpower Is Always on Will Call
  5. A Balanced Life
  6. Big Is Bad

Everything Matters Equally

In a previous blog post, I spoke of the success of Richard Koch, one of the most successful investors of our time. He has written several books. One of which is a treatise on the 80/20 rule and how applying it has helped him to have a 50% hit rate on his investments. Keller speaks of similar impact by not treating everything the same since everything and everyone are not the same. Most of the meaningful results are generated by a few decisions, actions, and/or people.

Those of us who figure out what The One Thing tend to drive the bulk of the progress and success in our business are usually the ones that succeed beyond expectations. Here is an example I came across last night while watching The Founder about Ray Kroc:

Kroc visited the McDonald’s hamburger stand in San Bernadino because they ordered an unprecedented 8 Multi-Mixers (milkshake mixers) to keep up with growing demand. Kroc drove half way across the country to meet them since this was such an unusual order.  Over dinner, Mac and Dick McDonald told Kroc how they figured out how to run a highly productive restaurant. One discovery was that 87% of their profit came from three menu items – hamburgers, french fries, and soft drinks. They soon cut the menu down to just 9 items from 27.

The other key breakthrough was speed. They redesigned their facility so they could deliver a consistent and delicious meal experience in 30 seconds versus 30 minutes. We call this an X-factor in Gazelles.

A combination of a few meaningful changes made a huge difference, was recognized by Kroc and became the largest and most famous restaurant chain in the world within a relatively short amount of time.

Multitasking

How good of a multitasker are you?  Trick question.  If you think you are a multi-tasker, you are lying to yourself – unless you count chewing gum and walking or breathing and writing. Science has long proved that the human brain can only focus on one thing at a time.

There are many examples of new drivers (and experienced drivers) placing focused attention to their phone and absent-mindedly taking their foot off the brake while at a stop light.  Many drive into the car in front of them as they realize too late that they are moving.  The reason is that the human brain can only focus deeply on one thing at a time. This is why practice pickpockets are so good at their chosen field.  Those of us who think they are multitasking are actually doing “rapid context switching”.  While it seems like you are getting more done, the process is actually less productive over time since it takes us up to twenty minutes to fully re-engage in the previous task.

Bottom line: Don’t multitask, you can’t do it. Here is a video to show you a real-life driving test from National Geographic. Spoiler alert: this self-professed multitasker fails miserably.

A disciplined life

Conventional wisdom says that disciplined people that live disciplined lives are the most successful. As with most conventional wisdom, this does not hold up.

The key to success is to be disciplined at the right time. A great example is Michael Phelps. He is considered a success by many standards. However, he is arguably not someone that has lived a disciplined life. His life has been chronicled publicly showing how his ADHD got him in trouble many times over many years. His Olympic coach, Bob Bowman, noted that Michael could often be found next to the lifeguard chair due unruly behavior at the pool.  His kindergarten teacher stated how he has no focus, can’t sit still and can’t be quiet.

Phelps eventually practiced what is called selective discipline. He focused on one thing – training. He spent 365 days/year in the pool channeling his energy into one endeavor. This focus also spilled over into other parts of his life. Later in Phelps’ career, Bowman was quoted saying that Phelps’ discipline was his strongest attribute. The same guy who made him stand next to the lifeguard chair years earlier!

The key to discipline according to Keller is to be disciplined long enough to create a habit. He cites a study at the University College of London that showed that the average amount of time to create a habit is 66 days. If you are having trouble sticking with something it is most likely that it is not yer a habit.  Give it a try for a couple of months and see what happens.

Willpower is always on will call

“Where there is a will, there is a way.” Lie!

Many of you have probably heard of The Marshmallow Test.

The issue is that willpower has a limited battery life. We consume energy when we use willpower to not do something we really want to do. If we do not replenish that energy by eating well, sleeping enough, exercising regularly, it becomes harder and harder to resist. Here is an excerpt from The ONE Thing citing a Standford study:

Stanford University professor Baba Shiv’s research shows just how fleeting our willpower can be. He divided 165 undergraduate students into two groups and asked them to memorize either a two-digit or a seven digit number. Both tasks were well within the average person’s cognitive abilities, and they could take as much time as they needed. When they were ready, students would then go to another room where they would recall the number. Along the way, they were offered a snack for participating in the study. The two choices were chocolate cake or a bowl of fruit salad— guilty pleasure or healthy treat. Here’s the kicker: students asked to memorize the seven-digit number were nearly twice as likely to choose cake. This tiny extra cognitive load was just enough to prevent a prudent choice.

A balanced life

Making sure you live a balanced life is another myth that comes with the best of intentions. The problem is that if you try to attend to all things equally well, you will do nothing that well at all.

The key is to figure out what matters most and make sure you spend your time focusing on that first. Once that is satisfied, you can move back toward the middle or beyond the middle to the other side of the ledger – work and family, for instance, are on opposite sides.  The key is to counterbalance all the important areas of your life.

I heard Alan Mulally (CEO Boeing and Ford) speak recently and he was asked how he balances work and family. He said that he does not. He sees it all as one thing – life.  While he was busy turning around Ford and his daughter had an event that was in the middle of the day, he left work and attended the event as his daughter (and family)  were and are his priority. He may then find time in the evening to do some work when the opportunity presents itself as he had many people’s livelihoods relying on his ability to turn Ford around.

Keller writes the following: Start leading a counterbalanced life. Let the right things take precedence when they should and get to the rest when you can. An extraordinary life is a counterbalancing act.

Big is Bad

Few of us really know our limits or what we can truly accomplish if we focus our energies in the right areas at the right time.  Here is a great video example from Alan Fine, author of You Already Know How to Be Great, that illustrates the point.

Being growth-minded can lead to extraordinary results. It actually changes our brain wiring and helps us to accomplish wonderful things. There is a study that Carol Dweck cites in her book Growth Mindset. Here is her TED talk on the subject:

When thinking big, most fear failure which is real and compelling. I listen to a podcast called Startup and it is rife with fear of failure stories. The founders that are interviewed constantly talk about how they made promises and strive to live up to them so they do not let others down. One founder was most concerned with what her mother thought when the business was reaching a critical decision point.  She was likely going to lose her mother’s money but even worse was her fear that her mother would be disappointed in her. Growing up, she recalls always being successful at what she set out to do.  This was the first big thing in her life where she was likely not going to succeed and she was not looking forward to telling her mother.

The conversation with her mother went very differently than she thought. Her mother was proud of her for trying, glad that she took the risk and learned so much from it. There was no talk of disappointment. Sometimes what we fear most is all in our heads.

To avoid the fear of failure many compensate by setting their sites low so they can succeed but miss out on extraordinary results. Here are some suggestions from Keller to think about when you find yourself in this situation:

  1. Think big – If your first thought is 10, think about ways to make it 20 or 100.
  2. Think “different” – The way to be so much better than anyone else is to find ways that clearly set you apart.  Think Dyson, Apple, Next, Google, Facebook.
  3. Act bold – Come up with ways to be a breakout success.  Test all the ways you can think of to do so and pick the one that looks like it will work the best.
  4. Redefine failure – Failure is not lack of achievement.  It is not learning from that lack of achievement and applying it to the next challenge.

Pick one of these and focus on it in the next few weeks and see what happens. Please write to me and let me know how it went.

Good luck!

Be Exceptional!

(catalystgrowthadvisors.com; bill@catalystgrowthadvisors.com)

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