January 27, 2019


The 8020Info Water Cooler

  Highlights from the latest information
  for managers, leaders & entrepreneurs



In this 8020Info Water Cooler we look at how long it takes to develop strategy, questions to help teams succeed, the risk of cyber threats, and two novel brainstorming techniques. Enjoy!


1. You Don’t Crank Out Strategy

When a CEO asked consultant Art Petty “how long will this strategy work take?” he understood it was code for “can we knock it off in an afternoon?”

The short answer, if you share those instincts, is no.

He offers a longer answer in his blog — while the desire for speed is understandable, you need lots of time to consider all the angles and options.

The success of tools like SWOT (analysis of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) and other templates implies that strategy is mechanical. It’s not.

“The work of strategy is some of the most challenging thinking work a firm’s members will do. And truth be told, it’s never really finished. Strategy is a process, not an event, and the work of evaluating, diagnosing, and choosing are never-ending activities,” he notes.

That CEO is leading an exciting, entrepreneurial business with nearly endless options and potential vectors. There is lots he can do and taking time away from the action for merely planning seems stressful.

But in those situations, Petty says, it’s even more critical that the company carve out sufficient time for strategy because it faces too many choices and too many opportunities chasing too few resources.

“Right now, there’s no filter on what to do and what not to do. Every idea seems like a potential winner in isolation,” he says.

So yes, you can start the strategy process in an afternoon. But the work never stops.


2. The Eight Team Roles

Teams are expected to work like magic these days — a healthy way to collaborate and get the work done. But they require some thought to be effective.

Michael Watkins, a professor at IMD and consultant, says a problem arises when leaders try to drive the wrong kind of collaboration on their teams. The result is wasted time and unnecessary frustration.

To help, he outlines these eight possible roles for team members on Harvard Business Review Blogs:

  • Agenda setters, who define and communicate strategic direction and priorities.
  • Integrators, who ensure integration and make tradeoffs across units.
  • Execution drivers, who drive planning, execution and accountability.
  • Talent developers, who attract, assess, develop and retain talent.
  • Diplomats, who build alliances internally and shape the external environment.
  • Role models, who shape the values, behaviour and culture of the organization.
  • Architects, who design and transform the organization.
  • Trailblazers, who foster organizational learning, innovation and adaptation.

Each team will require different arrangements. He suggests writing those eight roles down and estimating the percentage of overall team effort required for each. Then get the team discussing their views, to ensure you’re on the right track and in the end everyone is on the same page.

Also, remember it will change over time, as the organization evolves.

“Teamwork efforts must be tailored to each group and situation. By taking a more limited, focused approach to collaboration, you’ll be able to lead your people much more effectively,” he concludes.


3. Beware Of Cyberattacks Even If You’re Small

Cyberattacks seem like a threat only to the big boys — the largest organizations. But Newman Insurance notes on its web site that, in today’s digital world, any organization connected to the internet is at risk to a cyberattack.

A recent Statistics Canada survey reported that more than one in five Canadian companies were cyberattacked last year.

Third parties can attack or “hack” your system in many ways including:

  • Exploits: Programs that find flaws in your security software.
  • Malware: Software designed to gather information, destroy or encrypt a network.
  • Phishing: Sending emails to employees that include links which, when clicked, allow access to your network or corrupt your system.

The company notes the cost and time required for sending out notifications to those impacted, dealing with possible legal issues, and managing public relations to repair a business reputation can quickly add up.

According to Kaspersky Lab, the average cost of a data breach for a small to medium-sized business in Canada has now increased to $149,000 — up 27% from last year.

So give this some attention before you are attacked.


4. Two Unusual Brainstorming Techniques

Here are two powerful and surprisingly fun brainstorming techniques that consultant Josh Linkner offers on his blog:

  • The World’s First: The only acceptable brainstorming ideas begin with “the world’s first.” If you’re discussing a new product idea, you can’t offer an incremental copycat approach, as is common, but genuinely new possibilities.
  • The Criminal Mastermind: The only acceptable ideas are illegal (to avoid the crime of small thinking, he says). At the end, you reshape the best into legal, ethical, and appropriate solutions.


5. Zingers

  • Be Specific About Delays:  Customers are commonly told that a product won’t be ready for X weeks. That puts a negative spin on their purchase, sounding distant and vague, says customer service consultant Jeff Mowatt. Instead, you might say, “I can offer delivery to you on the morning of February 18 or afternoon of February 19 — which is better for you?” That choice sounds more positive and gives customers a sense of control. (Source: Jeff Mowatt’s 30-second trusted advisor tip)
  • To-Do Lists Skip Priorities:  To-do lists allow us to avoid the important. Aytekin Tank,  CEO of JotForm, says that, in the race to finish tasks and get to the bottom of the list, we find there is no bottom. Instead we should choose priorities. (Source: Jotform blog)
  • Introvert Energy:  If you’re an introvert, identify the types of interactions that energize you. For example, says marketing expert Susan Gunelius, if in-person networking isn’t your thing, social media might give you a perfect place to build your brand from the comfort of your desk. (Source: Women on Business)
  • The Downside’s Upside:  Which do you believe: The clothing store that says “we have the biggest selection, the highest quality, the best service and the lowest prices” or the one that says, “Sure, we’re expensive but looking good costs money; how good do you want to look?” The second wins out because of transparency. Customers won’t believe the upside until you admit the downside, says advertising consultant Roy H. Williams. (Source: Monday Morning Memo)
  • Find Your Metric:  Improve your personal productivity by choosing a metric to gauge performance, says productivity coach Matt Plummer. For him it was hours worked but for you it might be something else. Then track data on the metric, set goals to improve, and run experiments to see what influences the metric. (Source: Harvard Business Review)


6. The List: Questions For A New Team

When you take over a new team – from the inside or the outside – get people talking at the first meeting. Blogger Clair Lew suggests asking two to four probing thoughtful questions from this list for that meeting and subsequent one-on-ones:

  • What do you want to change in this team?
  • What do you not want to change in this team?
  • What’s typically been taboo to talk about in the past? What have you been nervous to bring up?
  • What looming concerns or apprehension might you have?
  • What’s been the most frustrating thing you have encountered with the team lately?
  • Where do you see the biggest opportunity for improvement with the team?
  • How do you prefer to receive feedback? (Verbal, written, in-person?) How do you prefer to give feedback? (Verbal, written, in-person?)
  • What’s been the most motivating project you’ve worked on all year? With whom? And why?
  • What excites and energizes you about the company?
  • What are you most grateful for in being a part of this organization?
  • What do you think has been a big obstacle to progress?
  • What do you wish was communicated to you more often?
  • When have you felt micromanaged? When have you felt like you’ve needed more support?
  • Who’s the best boss you’ve ever had and why? The worst boss you’ve ever had and why?
  • What was the best team experience for you? The worst team experience?
  • How do you like to be shown gratitude?
  • How often would you like to set up a standing one-on-one or check- in meeting? Every week? Biweekly? Once a month? Once a quarter?


7. Around Our Water Cooler:
Don’t Give Up Too Early

Sometimes you notice a pattern when a certain type of situation pops up in rapid succession. This month we’ve noted instances when clients across very different sectors were inclined to give up their objectives too early, when their plans first hit a roadblock.

When a pathway to your goal seems closed to you, take a moment to explore other ways to achieve it before you give up. There may be another way. Two examples:

An Unpredictable Future:  This factor stymies organizations as they cope with rapid change, chaos in their operating environment, or planning for a future they simply can’t predict. Non-profits or municipalities trying to predict future government funding policy would be one good example.

But you still have options when you can’t predict the future lay of the land:

  • Make plans that protect the downside — batten down the hatches. Build in margin or a “war chest”. And if your worst fears don’t materialize, be ready to pursue the upside.
  • Trim your organization to become more nimble and adaptive. Use potential future scenarios to test how ready you are to respond and make plans to shore up any weak points in resources, expertise, culture or structure.
  • Consider what might be the best or right thing to do — no matter what. Often a best strategy works in a variety of potential situations, regardless of how things turn out. As they say, a diet good for a diabetic is good for almost everyone. Enhancing communications, partnerships, culture and efficiencies will support progress in most situations, challenging or not.

Lack Of Options:  In this example, an organization wanted to convene their annual all-staff retreat but their preferred venue wasn’t available on the date required. They looked at holding their sessions on alternate dates, but it just wasn’t viable. Their initial impulse was to cancel the project.

Rather than give up, though, they decided to revisit their assumptions. What other venues might work? How might they adjust their format for other locations, yet make the retreat even better? They found a superior option.

Remember a tip from FBI hostage negotiator Chris Voss: Be prepared for an outcome better than what you had in mind going in.

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8020Info helps senior leadership teams and boards develop, clarify and build consensus behind 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 

“Meetings are indispensable when you don’t want to do anything”.

— John Kenneth Galbraith


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