May 6, 2018


The 8020Info Water Cooler

  Highlights from the latest information
  for managers, leaders & entrepreneurs



In this issue of the 8020Info Water Cooler we highlight differences between strategy work and other key activities. You’ll also find notes on marketing to lazy learners and “whales”, and how to boost your productivity. Enjoy!


1. Your Strategic Plans Probably Aren’t Strategy (Or Plans)

When consultant Graham Kenny asked at a recent seminar of executives for examples of strategy, the list included “launch a new service,” “review our suitability to the retirement business,” “marketing our products through the right channels,” and “achieve $100m net revenue.”

Those may be worthwhile, but none are strategy. They are actions, or activities, or objectives.

He says even top executives are confused about the difference between objectives, actions and strategy. An objective is something you are trying to achieve that will mark success for your organization. Actions occur at the other end of the spectrum, at the individual level — what people do.

Kenny says the key to strategy involves the positioning of one organization against another — GM against Ford and Toyota, to take a common example.

“An organization exists as part of a system composed of transactions between itself and its key stakeholders such as customers, employees, suppliers and shareholders,” he writes in Harvard Business Review.

“The task of a strategic planning team is to produce positions on these factors that deliver value to the organization’s key stakeholders and meet the objectives of the organization.”

To ensure implementation, a strategic planning team must still identify some actions at a project or program level. Overall, you are designing a system and plans for achieving your intentions that will require adjustment over time.

“Strategic planning is a journey, not a project,” he concludes.


2. Management Of Whales

Whales can be beautiful. They are powerful, mighty and majestic.

They live in the sea, but entrepreneur Seth Godin suggests on his blog they also exist, metaphorically, in our organizational seas.

In online gaming, for example, a whale plays more than the typical player. It’s not unusual for 2% of the player base to account for 95% of usage. At the local gym, all the money is made on the folks who pay and never come. Those who attend the gym regularly and spend five hours a day in the pool or other facilities cost more than could be handled otherwise.

“The management of whales, then, is a delicate balancing act — the people who love you the most [in those situations] are also costing you the most. If you have too many or they take too much from the buffet, your economics are shot,” he notes.

The whale can be the difference between a surplus and loss. The person who eats at your restaurant once a week, paying each time, or sees a play five times is an ideal customer. You want your data to help identify those positive whales.

He stresses there are also whales in word of mouth. Some souls praise your operation to everyone — with authority. “A whale like this is priceless. You can’t bribe someone into becoming a whale, but you can dissuade them and disappoint them merely by not caring enough to notice,” he says.

So manage your whales.


3. Video, Lazy Learners, And Your Organization

Consultant Donald Cooper says most folks these days have become “lazy learners” — we would rather watch than read something. So video, effectively done, can help your organization in several ways. Some examples:

  • Web site: Use video on your web site to coach, inform, powerfully connect and engage with customers and prospects, and to differentiate yourself from competing organizations. “Any web site that doesn’t have a lot of helpful and engaging video is ten years out of date,” he writes in his e-newsletter.
  • Potential employees: Create a video story that shows the full range of your activities to help attract potential employees. Touch on the culture and values, benefit programs, and the career opportunities available.
  • Onboarding and training: Create engaging videos to help a new employee learn what they need to know about the organization in a more engaging way than handing them a stack of written material. “Many aspects of ongoing job training, systems introduction and health and safety training are delivered more effectively through video-on-demand,” he adds.


4. Becoming A Super Connector

Building relationships involves thinking of the other person first. When meeting someone at a networking event, often our first question is, “What do you do?” Author Tim Saunders says on his web site that’s just a convenient screening mechanism to determine if the person is relevant to you.

It’s a question that can be introduced at some point, but he says so-called super connectors ask “What are you working on these days that you are excited about?” or “What’s your wow project?” Their answers will reveal dreams, opportunities and passion projects you can offer to help on, forging a deeper tie.


5.  Zingers

  • Mobilize up, left and right:  Research suggests the ability to mobilize colleagues (mobilizing “sideways”) accounts for 22% of an individual’s impact on their business.  Mobilizing upwards  (managing the boss) explains 23% of their business impact. (Source: Marketing Week)
  • Daily referrals add up:  If you ask for one referral a day, that’s about 250 a year, notes consultant Alan Weiss. If half prove valuable, that’s 125, and if half of those turn out to be responsive to your approach, you are dealing with 62 new clients. (Source: Alan’s Blog)
  • Autonomy pays off:  The importance of autonomy in jobs shone through again in a study of how specific workers’ contracts should be. Nine different experiments suggest that workers whose contracts contained more general language spent more time on their tasks, generated more original ideas, and were more likely to cooperate with others. They were also more likely to return for future work with the same employer, all results attributed to autonomy. (Source: Professor Michael Roberto’s Blog)
  • External change grabs attention:  Don’t kick off a sales presentation by talking about your product, your investors, your clients, or anything about yourself. Instead, name a big, relevant change in the world. Consultant Andy Raskin says that grabs attention and gets prospects to open up about how the shift affects (even scares) them and where they see opportunities. (Source: Medium.com)
  • Stay on message:  When John Lilly, a partner at venture capitalist Greylock Partners, started in business he would get bored saying the same thing to his team members every day. So he would change it a bit. But then everyone had a different idea of what he thought. The lesson was that it’s critical to have a simple message and say it the same way over and over (and over) again. (Source: The New York Times)


6. Q&A With 8020Info:
    Boost Your Productivity

Question:   Some of my colleagues seem unusually productive. How can I boost my own productivity without working significantly longer hours?


8020Info President & CEO Rob Wood responds:

There are so many great sources of advice on personal and team productivity, but you might look first at the traits of super-productive people identified in a study by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman:

  • Set stretch goals:  Projects that push beyond your comfort zone will encourage you to pick up your pace and eliminate all distractions.
  • Show consistency:  The Zenger/Folkman study found the most productive people were consistently productive — the work did not seem to ebb and flow. It had a steady cadence and rhythm.
  • Have knowledge and technical expertise:  When you know what you’re doing, you don’t have to sacrifice quality for speed. (But don’t hesitate to ask for help when needed.) Work intentionally to expand your expertise and acquire new skills.
  • Drive for results:  The study found it helps to have a great desire to accomplish results sooner and quicker, check something off the to-do list, and beat your own best performance record.
  • Anticipate and solve problems:  The most productive people are great problem-solvers. They anticipate roadblocks and work on solutions in advance to avoid them. (Social psychologists call this mental contrasting — thinking about what you want to achieve and what might get in the way of achieving it.)
  • Take initiative:  The hardest part of getting a job done is starting. The most productive people start quickly and don’t wait to be told to begin.
  • Be collaborative:  In today’s complex work environment, very little gets done by someone acting alone. Everything is highly interdependent, so it’s important to be highly collaborative and work well with others.

I have also found it important and valuable to align habits with goals (as Shane Parrish explains on his Farnam Street blog), manage the more emotional components of dealing with change, and maintain focus using the minimalist’s trick of learning to say no.

Super-productive people achieve heights of performance that are multiples above average. Practising some of these tips will help you get there too.


7.  Around Our Water Cooler:
    Fluid Governance Focus

We’ve written previously about the different types of roles that may be a board’s prime focus. Recently a non-profit client reminded us that the emphasis can (and should) evolve with changing organizational circumstances. They told their story this way:

When the organization was founded 50 years ago, it didn’t have an established role or mission in their community. So, initially, the board focused on its generative role: making sense of needs in their community and questions facing the organization, identifying what future problems were likely to emerge, and learning about different approaches to address gaps in services.

In time, the board shifted into more of a strategic role focused on planning choices — determining what services they would provide and how best to do so. Later in their history, times got tough, regulations and funding models changed, and management upheaval forced them to focus exclusively on their fiduciary role as trustees — stewarding their mission, organization and resources to survive.

The cycle continues:  they’ve now moved beyond those difficulties, and have shifted back into more of a strategic role, with emphasis on planning and setting priorities.

A board doesn’t need to stick with just one role forever — adjust your focus as circumstances change. For some tips, take a look at Creating More Strategic Boards where we discuss fiduciary, strategic and generative roles for boards and tips on becoming more strategic.

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8020Info helps senior teams develop, clarify and build consensus behind their strategic priorities. Our services support research / stakeholder consultations, strategic planning processes, change and marketing communications. We would be pleased to discuss your needs and welcome enquiries.


8. Closing Thought 

“Champions get up when they can’t.”

— Jack Dempsey