March 26, 2017


The 8020Info Water Cooler

  Highlights from the latest information
  for managers, leaders & entrepreneurs


In this Water Cooler we touch on the interdependence of strategic variables, levels of delegation, ways to freshen meetings, learning as adults, and our ever-popular Zingers. Enjoy.


1. A Better Way To Set Strategic Priorities

When attacking any strategic initiative, three interdependent variables are essential: Objectives, resources, and timing.

“You can’t produce the desired effect of a project without precise objectives, ample resources, and a reasonable time frame. If you push or pull on one leg of this triangle, you must adjust the others,” Derek Lidow, who teaches entrepreneurship, innovation and creativity at Princeton University, writes in Harvard Business Review.

Resources are the most important, allowing an objective to be accomplished within a set time. In allocating resources to priorities he recommends distinguishing which of the following categories your priorities fall into:

  • Critical: An objective that must be accomplished within a specified amount of time, no matter what. If the objective is set and the timing is nonnegotiable, then the only element you can manipulate is resources — money, people and equipment.
  • Important: An effort that can have a significant positive impact on performance. For these initiatives usually you will view the resources as fixed, leaving the variable to be either time or the objective.
  • Desirable: This is lower level, usually with time and resources variable. “The organization desires an outcome but cannot absolutely commit specific resources over any specifiable time period,” he says.

Usually to ensure a critical priority is achieved you will be shifting resources that might have gone to desirable priorities. In planning, identify which category each priority fits and then address the tensions between the appropriate objectives, resources, and time for each project.


2. The Seven Levels Of Delegation

Too often delegation is viewed as all-or-nothing: You have the power and act, or you hand that off to a subordinate. But consultant Jurgen Appelo has developed a variegated model, with seven different types of delegation:

  • Tell: Leader decides, no discussion
  • Sell: Leader decides and convinces
  • Consult: Leader seeks input and decides
  • Agree: Leader and group decide together
  • Advise: Leader suggests, others decide
  • Inquire: Others decide, inform leader
  • Delegate: Others decide, no discussion

In considering that model, executive coach Ed Batista says leaders must watch their tendency to prefer certainty in decision-making and the resulting reluctance to cede decision-making authority.

“Leaders often feel some discomfort or resistance when they initially consider alternatives to centralized decision-making. It’s simpler and more comforting to make the decisions themselves and instruct others to carry them out,” he writes on his blog. Thus, the leader needs the self-awareness to address any discomfort getting in the way.

He notes that abandoning authority doesn’t mean just delegating the decisions to others and stepping away. Leaders will often need to influence the team, convincing them of something, soliciting candid opinion, or engaging them in meaningful discussion. But the leader’s power could scuttle such attempts.

“People don’t like following orders they disagree with, but they hate participating in a phony consensus-building process to rubber-stamp the leader’s original preference. The key here for the leader is developing the ability to truly influence others, rather than merely extracting compliance,” he advises.


3. What Do Your Customers Not Want To Do?

Grocery store sales of prepared foods continue to soar. That’s an example, says Toronto marketing consultant Donald Cooper, of finding things your customers aren’t willing — or can’t do — for themselves, and taking on the task for them.

It’s all around us. He notes businesses that sell seed and fertilizer to farmers have agronomists to handle soil testing for those customers to determine which seed and fertilizer will work best for them. One garage stores off-season tires for customers, at a fee — a win-win situation.

“The question here is how could you add value and increase revenue by doing for your customers what they don’t have the time, skill or desire to do for themselves?  How could you help them to choose, process, control, service, store, resell or recycle what you sell?” he writes in his blog.

It’s worth talking with customers, watching them use products or services, and considering that big, potentially lucrative, question.


4. Don’t Fade Near The Finish Line

As athletes near the finish line, they should invest a full effort. But often the leaders will let up, victory in sight. And that can happen in your office as well.

Journalist Ross Kelly reports on ChiefExecutive.net that a study found people asked to recall colours in a competition spent less time memorizing if they felt they were ahead.

“In a business context, the findings suggest that it’s possible to spend a little too much time instilling a sense of pride in employees by heralding company progress, especially when they’re working toward a goal like selling more products,” he writes.

Instead, compare your front-running position to some other higher standard, such as performance in a previous year or a competitor’s performance.


5. Zingers

  • Use creative perspectives: At your next brainstorming meeting, consultant Michael Kerr suggests “role-storming” — having participants look at an issue from a different person’s perspective. (Source:  Humor At Work E-zine)
  • Amplify the positives: You aren’t fit to lead if your greatest strength is pointing out weakness, says trainer Dan Rockwell. (Source: Leadership Freak)
  • Visuals help tolerance: People are more tolerant of minor tech usability issues if they find the interface visually appealing. (Source: Nielsen Norman Group)
  • Time zone scheduler: If you’re working across time zones around the globe, consider the World Clock Meeting Planner, an online tool to find the most convenient times to connect.
  • Get better daily: Every day, try to get a little better at something, says consultant Wally Block. The evening before, select what you intend to work at and write it on an index card or in your mobile. Then look at it several times the following day to remind yourself of the goal.  (Source: Three Star Leadership)


6.  Q&A With 8020Info:

     Rejuvenate Your Meetings

Question:  Our team meetings have become a bit dull and perfunctory — how might we engage participants more effectively?

8020Info Associate Matthew J. Wood responds:

In a world where attention spans are getting shorter, it’s increasingly difficult to keep participants engaged, off phones and on topic. If you’re facilitating a meeting, it should be a top priority to find ways to ensure they are involved and retaining information.

So, how do you do this?

Sally Hogshead, author of How to Fascinate, suggests we can design more engaging experiences through use of her seven archetypes. In your meetings, you might consider the role of:

  • Power – Allow the participants to control part of the experience and easily initiate discussions, giving them more meaningful involvement and takeaways.
  • Passion – People are far less likely to forget emotional content than objective facts. Build emotional connections through personal stories and vivid descriptions.
  • Innovation – When people experience something new, they are more likely to remember it and tell others. Make the planning experience fun for your team. Tweak the norms and deliver your session in an unexpected format.
  • Trust – Innovation may not work with all groups. Sometimes it’s best to go with what has worked in the past and build trust by repeating a familiar format.
  • Alert to Precision – Using passion and emotion can work with some groups and scenarios, but not all. When delivering a complex analysis of a problem, focus on impressing with crisp analysis and high-impact charts or graphics.
  • Prestige – Find a way to over-deliver in just one area and set a new standard. If you manage to exceed their expectations, you will increase their perceived value of the experience.
  • Mystique – Curiosity is one of the most powerful motivators and heightens the desire to learn. Hint at what’s to come, but don’t give it all away. Get participants hooked and keep them involved.

With insight into the types of participants on your team, you can select the best combination of these ideas to host more engaging meetings.


7.  From Our Water Cooler:

     Adult Learning & Change

Your school days may be well behind you, but times of transition and change make it a necessity to learn new things as an adult.

In Learn Better, author and education researcher Ulrich Boser says the most common ways we try to memorize information are ineffective.

When learning new material, for example, adults may re-read and highlight content, but Boser says that skimming the material is particularly ineffective. “It makes you feel better. You feel comfortable with the material, but you don’t really know the material.”

In an interview with The Atlantic, he says we need to learn to shift our ways of thinking to solve new problems:  “If you want to learn to become a car mechanic, you want to learn the reasoning abilities of a car mechanic … you want to learn the systems, or the analogies, of the relationships between things in a certain field and how they interact with each other.”

Other tips:

  • Feedback: It’s valuable to receive feedback close to the time you perform a task, especially when it requires you to come up with your own answers first. Wrong guesses help make the correct answer more meaningful.
  • Forgetting: People underestimate how much they forget, and evidence over many years shows it happens at a very regular rate. Software is now available to help pace learning with your forgetting curve.
  • Reflecting: Don’t underestimate the role that reflection and deliberation can play in learning. Boser says it can be more effective than practice itself, so schedule time for it.
  • Explaining: He recommends taking time to quiz yourself, or explain things — to yourself or to others.

“You’re explaining why things might be interconnected, and why they matter, and the meaningful distinctions between them… you have to think about what is confusing about something, and how you’d explain that in a simpler way, and so that makes you shift the way you’re thinking about a certain topic.”

Like change, learning is supposed to be at least a little bit difficult — it makes the memory work more. “Doing things that are a little more difficult, that require you to really make connections, is a better way to learn.”


8020Info helps strategy teams think better together as they develop and effectively implement research / stakeholder consultations, strategic plans, change and marketing communications. We would be pleased to discuss your needs and welcome enquiries.


8.  Closing Thought

“Life is 10% what happens to me, and 90% how I react to it.”

Charles Swindoll