Let’s Be Thankful—Where We Are Winning

We post our blog regularly every Thursday.  Since today is Thanksgiving, we thought we’d share some positive and thankful information.  Keep in mind that “information” means to be in formation (ie, akin to work in progress).

Using a Delphi panel and research method over 15 years, the Millennium Project has identified hundreds of indicators of humanity’s progress or regress.  Since you will no doubt be exposed to some of the negative factors reading or listening to the “news”, here are more than one dozen vectors where we are winning, as stipulated in the December 2011 issue of “The Futurist.”

  • Access to clean water (percentage of people with)
  • Adult literacy rate
  • Enrolled in secondary school (percentage of people)
  • GDP per capita
  • GDP per unit of energy consumption
  • HIV prevalence among fifteen to 49 year olds
  • Infant mortality rates
  • Internet access and use
  • Life expectancy
  • People living on USD$1.25 a day (purchasing power parity)
  • Physicians and health care workers per 1,000 people
  • Quantity of countries that have or plan to have nuclear weapons
  • Research and development expenditures (percentage of national budgets)
  • Total debt service in low- and mid-income countries
  • Undernourishment
  • Women in parliamentary governments (percentage of)

Facilitation Skills

The FAST curriculum on Professional Facilitation Skills details the responsibilities and dynamics mentioned above. Remember friends, nobody is smarter than everybody, so consult your FAST Facilitator Reference Manual or attend a FAST professional facilitative leadership training workshop offered around the world (see MG Rush for a current schedule — an excellent way to earn 40 PDUs from PMI, CDUs from IIBA, or CEUs).

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Five Problems with Meetings and What to Do about Them

Ever develop that sense of deja vu about not getting anywhere during a meeting?  Here’s what to do about it.

1.  Lack of clear purpose

All too frequently, meetings are held for the primary benefit of the meeting leader, typically the groups’s executive or project manager.  The session leader has decided in advance to schedule a series of weekly meetings for their own convenience. They anticipate needing the time of others to raise the fog high enough that they can determine what they need to get done over the next week, until the next meeting.

SOLUTION ONE:  Codify the purpose and deliverable of the meeting in twenty-five words or less.  If you are unable to clearly articulate why you are having the meeting and its desired output (ie, “What does ‘done’ look like?”), then you are not prepared to be an effective leader.  If you are the participant, demand a written statement about the purpose, scope, and deliverable of the meeting in advance, or don’t attend.

2.  Unprepared participants

Lack of clear purpose (mentioned above) is the main reason people show up unprepared.  It’s unclear in advance what “showing up prepared” looks like.

SOLUTION  TWO:  Beyond a clearly written statement about the meeting’s purpose, scope, and deliverable, participants need advance understanding about the agenda.  The agenda explains how the meeting will generate results.  Detailed questions determine agenda topics (eg, What are our options?).  Ideally, participants should know the questions to be asked in the meeting before it begins, so that they can attend ready and prepared.

3.  Biased leadership

Nothing will squelch the input of participants faster than a leader who begins to emphasized their personal answer.  Participants will want the leader to expose their entire position before they begin to speak so that they know where they stand, and avoid embarrassment about being “wrong”.

SOLUTION THREE:  Leaders should embrace neutrality.  If they want others’ input and opinions, then ask and listen.  If they don’t want others’ ideas, they shouldn’t have a meeting.  There are more cost effective means for informing and persuading.  Being neutral is like being pregnant, you either are or you’re not—there is no grey area.

4.  Scope creep (strategic and tactical blending)

All too often, meetings dive deep into the weeds (ie, HOW or concrete methods) or challenge the purpose (ie, WHY or ultimate intention).  Nobody wants more meetings, they only want results.

SOLUTION FOUR:  To avoid scope creep in the meeting it is important to have a written statement about the scope (see item number one above).  Then it needs to be policed, so that participants don’t go too deep into the weeds, and that others are not permitted arguing the reason for a project when project approval is beyond the scope of the meeting.  For pertinent strategic issues that are beyond scope of the meeting, capture them in a “Refrigerator” (aka “Parking Lot”) to preserve them until you can meet in a workshop environment and discuss strategic issues, their implications, and what needs to be done about them (recommendations).

5.  Poor or non existent structure

This problem applies both at the meeting level (ie, agenda) and within an agenda step.  Structure provides the method for delivering.  Most leaders are competent at soliciting ideas (ie, creating a list) but are frail during the analysis.

SOLUTION FIVE:  Determine in advance:

  • What are they going to do with the list?
  • How do they categorize?
  • Should they categorize or push on the measurable details?
  • If prioritizing, have they separately identified the criteria?
  • How are they going to lead the group to apply the criteria to the options leading to a prioritized list?

It’s not easy to lead a successful meeting.  No one ever said it was.  Success begins with clear thinking and an understanding about how to avoid the five most common problems with meetings.

Facilitation Skills

The FAST curriculum on Professional Facilitation Skills details the responsibilities and dynamics mentioned above. Remember friends, nobody is smarter than everybody, so consult your FAST Facilitator Reference Manual or attend a FAST professional facilitative leadership training workshop offered around the world (see MG Rush for a current schedule — an excellent way to earn 40 PDUs from PMI, CDUs from IIBA, or CEUs).

How to Facilitate Scientists

Recently on a blog, an informal group of mathematicians solved a tough and long-standing mathematics problem in a few weeks.  The virtual session leader (Tom Gowers) used the blog to post ideas and progress, and encouraged others to contribute, expecting many minds to be more powerful than his alone.

Within an hour of his first posting, three people scattered around North America commented, and six weeks later, the problem was solved.  Here is an example of an ever increasing body of scientists who have used networking to solve complex problems and to speed up the delivery of answers and options.

Whether you provide a structured workshop method or online tools to amplify collective intelligence, nobody is smarter than everybody.

Linking scientists together, face-to-face or virtually, can dramatically speed up the rate of discovery.  Empirical evidence shows that more options (ie, discovered) lead to higher quality decisions.  Some argue the results are becoming so profound that life as we know it will fundamentally change over the next few decades.

What the scientists need is method, and effective methods are dependent on neutral facilitation. They also need a deliverable that will not threaten their independent research, findings, and publications.

Corporate wikis emulate an environment of sharing and collaboration. When they fail, it is frequently attributable to weak or non-existent moderation (ie, facilitation).  In your organizational or corporate environments with a shared holarchial sense of purpose, scope, and objectives, facilitation is frequently the only missing ingredient to breakthrough thinking and solutions.

Eventually we’ll come to realize that humanity sits atop our holarchy, and with an effective facilitator and collaborative environment, discover that no problem is too complex to solve.  Keep in mind that there are only three reasons why groups fail:

  1. They don’t have the proper talent,
  2. They don’t have the right attitude (ie, apathetic or don’t care), or
  3. They don’t know how (to succeed as a group)

Our role leads the HOW TO effort.  Combined with an appropriate method, our talented scientists are capable of “Reinventing Discovery:  The New Era of Networked Science” (a new book by Michael Nielsen, a pioneer in the field of quantum computing).

For detailed support, see your FAST Facilitator Reference Manual or attend a FAST Professional Facilitative Leadership training  session offered around the world (see http://www.mgrush.com/ for a current schedule).

How to Facilitate Meeting Results that Stimulate Process and Product Innovation

Innovation provides a significant lifeforce and has become a strategic priority for most companies and organizations.  An IBM poll of fifteen hundred CEOs identified creativity as the number one “leadership competency” of the future.  A new and remarkable discovery is that the ability to generate innovative ideas is not merely a function of the mind, but it is also a function of behaviors.

Compelling ways to develop innovation are found in the Harvard Business Press book entitled “The Innovator’s DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators”.  The work of authors Jeffrey Dyer, Hal Gregersen, and Clayton Christensen emerged from an eight-year collaborative study to uncover the origins of innovation.  They were less concerned with the companies’ strategies and focused on understanding the people responsible for turning creativity into value propositions.

Five skills surfaced from their investigation including one cognitive (ie, genetic) talent and four acquired behaviors.  The cognitive skill is called “associational thinking” or the ability to make connections across seemingly unrelated fields, problems, or ideas. The other four skills are learned (ie, behavioral) and include:

Innovation: Creativity Turned into Cash

• Experimenting

• Networking

• Observing

• Questioning

To our regular readers, perhaps not surprisingly, the required behaviors are virtually identical to the core skills of our professionally trained FAST facilitators.  The researchers discovered that innovators are much more likely to question, observe, network, and experiment than typical executives.  They also discovered that innovative companies are always (ALWAYS) led by innovative leaders.

 “ . . . Innovative people systematically engage in questioning, observing, networking, and experimenting behaviors to spark new ideas.  Similarly, innovative organizations systematically develop processes that encourage questioning, observing, networking, and experimenting by new employees.”

In their discussion of innovative failures, the authors discovered that people did not ask all the right questions . . . thus they emphasize the value of the discovery skill.  In other words, be willing to challenge your people to think clearly.  According to the authors, the behavioral focus found in our facilitative leadership training could pay for the training in a matter of weeks.

Their book also provide details on how to calculate an innovation premium for companies; ie, the proportion of a company’s market value that cannot be accounted for from cash flows of current products or markets.  Investors take note.  This factor alone could pay for the time you took to read this blog, many times over.  The innovation advantage found in our curriculum can be converted into a premium for your organizational value by building the code (ie, DNA) for innovation directly into your people, methods, and guiding philosophies—beginning with a facilitative and collaborative culture.

Become Part of the Solution, Improve Your Facilitation Skills

The FAST curriculum on Professional Facilitation Skills details the responsibilities and dynamics mentioned above. Remember friends, nobody is smarter than everybody, so consult your FAST Facilitator Reference Manual or attend a FAST professional facilitative leadership training workshop offered around the world (see MG Rush for a current schedule — an excellent way to earn 40 PDUs from PMI, CDUs from IIBA, or CEUs).

Daring you to embrace the will, wisdom, and activities that amplify the skills of a facilitative leader.



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