March 22, 2014


The 8020Info Water Cooler

Highlights from the latest information for managers, leaders and entrepreneurs

1. Four Reasons Your Employees Resist Change

Leaders get excited when promoting change, but often employees resist, being cautious or fearful about what is planned.

“As a pragmatic leader, you need to understand why others resist your ideas,” Samuel Bacharach, a professor at Cornell University, writes in Inc. “In order to successfully lead change, you have to create an environment of safety for those who would support you.”

To do that:

  • Sustain the sense of competency: Tinkering with the team’s mission, culture or work processes alters facets of people’s work activities, and they may worry their competency will be threatened as they need to learn new skills. Address this directly, giving strategies to deal with the new expectations.
  • Reduce the fear of failure: People may fear in the period ahead they will mess up, and that could lead to missing out on a bonus or promotion, or even being fired. Publicly affirm that you recognize learning mistakes will occur and you will be tolerant of them.
  • Ensure the stability of status: Change alters structure, including who people report to and what status they now hold. “You must be sensitive to the subtleties of status. You need to preserve the social status of those who are most affected by your change initiative,” he advises.
  • Make the unfamiliar comfortable: Habits and routines will change, creating discomfort. Try to implement change incrementally, to allow for that, or if you must move quickly ask people for patience.

  2. Time To End Voice Mail

Most people have given up their fountain pens. Faxes are long past their heyday, rarely used. Next on the dinosaur list should be voice mail, argues Michael Schrage, a research fellow at MIT Sloan School’s Center for Digital Business.

“Disconnect enterprise voice mail.  Now.  Be honest — you don’t really want to leave a 90-second message after the beep and you certainly don’t care to listen to one. You’ve got faster, better and friendlier ways to communicate,” he writes on Harvard Business Review Blogs.

Nobody uses voice mail well. Many have abandoned it altogether, announcing to callers they rarely listen to voice mail and encouraging them to email. Truly productive people have calls forwarded to their mobiles where they can visually track who phoned.

Some people say the current system is fine, offering choice. But he argues it just promotes organizational laziness, a refusal to consider the best way to communicate.

“For most organizations, the only people who matter going into voicemail are customers and clients! How smart and customer-centric is that?! Not very. Voicemail’s technical flaws and shortcomings reveal something very important about the customer engagement future. Nobody wants to be put in voicemail anymore and it’s quite likely that customers and clients aren’t listening to your voicemail messages either,” he writes.

As for people within your organization’s firewall, he says it’s long past time to end the futile and time-wasting game of telephone tag. Instead, unplug your voice mail system and discuss how best to operate in the new era.

3. How To Get The Most Out Of Attending A Conference

Many work-related conferences occur in the next few months, before summer vacations begin. Here are some tips from blogger Alison Green on USNews.com:

  • Wear comfortable shoes since you’ll spend a lot of time standing and talking to folks at breaks and walking between sessions and your room.
  • Don’t make non-work plans for the evening. It may seem a good chance to meet longtime friends in the city you are visiting, but lots of networking spills into the evening and you need to be available.
  • Bring snacks in your purse or briefcase to avoid the overpriced and unhealthy convenience food that abounds at conferences.
  • Stay away from alcohol, limiting yourself to at most one or two drinks. If you’re hanging with people in a bar, order a mocktail or seltzer water with lime.
  • When you return to the office, follow up with people you met. Email them to indicate you enjoyed meeting, perhaps referring to what was shared in conversation.

 4. How To Eliminate Distractions

If distractions tend to keep you from doing your best work, one useful technique is to create a consistent quiet time every day when you will focus on work that requires concentration or thought, advises blogger Jonathan Wilson on Dumb Little Man. For him it’s between 5:30am and 7:30am – his peaceful time for creative thinking.

Also, he recommends limiting uninspiring work. You can’t get rid of such assignments totally, but uninspiring work invites you to seek distractions, so conscious limits will improve your productivity. And get sufficient rest, since if you’re tired distractions offer a respite.

5. Zingers

  • Graffiti Praise: Show appreciation to a co-worker with some positive graffiti on a whiteboard in your workplace praising them. You might start a trend. (Source: OCTanner.com)
  • It’s Just Task & Deadline: Is your To-Do list wearing you down because it’s too complicated? Productivity consultant Ann Gomez says there are some great To-Do tools and apps, but many have far too many bells and whistles. All you really need is to focus on the task and the deadline. (Source: ClearConcept.ca)
  • Think First: Consultant Wally Bock urges you to think before you make another rule. Think before you add a “but” to any praise. Think before you expect any plan to work without any unforeseen problems. Think before you speak when you’re angry. Think before you come to a decision without verifying facts or hearing other opinions. Think before you put off acting to gather more data. And finally, think before you commit to any action when your head and heart are out of sync. (Source: Three Star Leadership Blog)
  • Your Heart’s Not So Hidden: The biggest fallacy that some leaders subscribe to, according to consultant Lolly Daskal, is that intimacy has no place in leadership or business. They fear that if they allow their true selves to be revealed to others they will lose respect, importance, or power. But life has a way of exposing us even if we don’t want to be revealed – everything you say and do is revelatory – and any leader who has not had their heart touched is leading from a hidden heart. (Source: LollyDaskal.com)
  • Mining Our Mistakes: Consider writing a failure resume. It may sound unappealing, but Stanford creativity expert Tina Seelig says we need to own our mistakes if we are to learn and improve. (Source: Professor Michael Roberto’s Blog)

6. Q&A with 8020Info:  Structuring Project Information

Question:  We’re pulling together a lot of information for the launch of a new project — is there a “best way” to organize or structure all this data?

8020Info President and CEO Rob Wood replies:

The “best” way depends on your intended purpose(s) in using the information. For instance, you may want to use the material to:

  • map the landscape of players, assets and/or gaps (e.g. in a directory or inventory)
  • track relationships and the dynamics of interactions at a system level
  • diagnose problems, identify emerging trends or quantify risks
  • generate information needed to make specific types of decisions
  • monitor the operating environment to flag any changes of interest or concern
  • provide content for communications or to build a case for support


Secondly, you will want to consider who will use the information, how they will access it and what format or type of content might best serve your purpose:

Will you want to read through stories or case studies, or navigate high-level directories that point to detailed “drill down” material? Will you need to consult summary statistics and charts, or query a consolidated database?  Will you want to scan photos or visual maps, inspect colour-coded scoring systems, apply templates or make assessments?


As for structure, your question reminds us of some enduring advice from Richard Saul Wurman, author of Information Anxiety.  As an information architect, he pointed out that there are five ways to structure or organize material:

  • By category (like a department store with different types of merchandize)
  • By time (e.g. for events or financial records, perhaps the key factor is date or time)
  • By location/geography (useful for comparing information from different locales)
  • By continuum (from small to large, cheap to expensive, least to most important)
  • By alphabet (as with a dictionary, useful for large amounts of information when audiences might not understand categories)

Wurman famously reorganized the “yellow pages” for San Francisco restaurants by noting that most people using a telephone directory to find a restaurant were probably from out of town and not familiar with the names of local restaurants – organizing restaurants alphabetically made no sense. Instead he created a hierarchy of listings based on location (what’s nearby?), category (what type of cuisine?) and continuum (e.g. price – ready to break the bank or seeking just a quick, cheap meal?).

You may find it helps to walk through some examples from your project to see which approaches might work best. But your advance effort to consider the dimensions of purpose, access and structure will be more than repaid as you amass volumes of project information and avoid myriad, incompatible or difficult-to-access formats.

7. News From Our Water Cooler:  Speed Mixers

This year many clients have been asking about ways to design their planning sessions so that participants who don’t know each other can quickly establish connections and build relationships for future collaborations.  We have discovered that one of the most popular techniques is what we call a “speed mixer”.

Participants are assigned to small groups (usually about 6-8 participants) and each one gives a one-minute “elevator pitch” on who they are and what they do, or other key points relevant to the work at hand. A little time is left after this lightning round for group members to ask some quick follow-up questions of each other. Then, after 12-15 minutes total, they rotate to the next group.

A group of 25 participants can all meet and brief each other in these speedy small groups in just four rotations, or an hour. Alternatively the rotations can play out over the course of the day in a series of small group sessions.

The key to success is carefully planning the rotations so that participants don’t keep meeting the same colleagues group after group, and to ensure certain types of participants don’t “clump” together (e.g. with all the accountants in one group while all the marketers are in another; or all participants in a group being from the same geographic region instead of being mixed).

Using a formula to structure your rotations can help significantly; you’ll find trying to do it “by hand” or inspection can soon become mind-numbing. But done right, our experience shows, a “speed mixer” is likely to be evaluated as one of the top activities of your planning retreat.


8020Info helps teams develop effective strategic plans, research and marketing communications, and implement them with success. We would be pleased to discuss your needs and welcome enquiries at (613) 542-8020, or by email at watercooler@8020info.com

8. Closing Thought

“It is the loose ends with which men hang themselves.”

— Zelda Fitzgerald