May 12, 2019


The 8020Info Water Cooler

  Highlights from the latest information
  for managers, leaders & entrepreneurs



In this 8020Info Water Cooler we look at the challenge of managing the pace of change at your organization, ways to map customer experience and service blueprints, improving how you post jobs, the value of being direct, and a model for strategic action — the OODA Loop. Enjoy!


1. The Pace Of Change

When the pace of change in an organization gets too great, problems can arise.  Executive coach Bill Dann notes that the changes might not be executed well, or individuals or groups can succumb to paralysis, unable to handle more.

These days, leaders are expected to never slow down. But on his Professional Growth Systems web site, Dann cautions “leaders and governing boards have a responsibility to get all they can from their resources but they also have a responsibility to assure that individuals and groups don’t blow up because they are being pushed too hard. It is hard to find the tipping point here.”

Watch for:

  • Changes suddenly not being executed well.
  • Individuals ill more than in the past.
  • Turnover increasing.
  • People becoming ill tempered.

He says Toyota has a wonderful expression: “We don’t go fast, but we don’t go back.”

Toronto organizational consultant Andrew Miller says too many organizations think speed is only about moving faster. “That’s simply not true. The best organizations focus on speed optimization. They determine when it is best to speed things up and when it is best to slow things down,” he writes in Entrepreneur.

It’s like a train, with signals along the way that tell the conductor to speed up because another train is catching up or slow down because there is a blockage ahead.

“What are the signals your organization uses to know when to speed up and when to slow down?” he asks.


2. Hold Back On Advice And Ask Questions

Leaders are supposed to ask questions. But often we don’t. Toronto consultant Michael Bungay Stanier says the problem is people have spent a lifetime being rewarded for having the answers rather than asking questions.

That means leaders are haunted by what he calls three “advice monsters”:

  • You have to have the answer.” Instinctively you believe the only way to add value is to have the answer to every question asked of you. If you ponder that for a second, it’s absurd, but that doesn’t mean the belief doesn’t hamper you. At the same time, you know you are expected to coach people, and that means giving advice. He suggests coaching requires “rushing to action and advice-giving a little more slowly.”
  • You have to save them.” That’s another tall order, turning you into the equivalent of a helicopter parent, hovering protectively over your staff. “This is not to say throw your people to the wolves. Part of your job, absolutely, is to have their backs. But that doesn’t mean you don’t let them struggle a little, work hard to figure things out, stretch and grow,” he writes on the Box of Crayons blog.
  • You have to maintain control.” He says this is the most subtle and elusive advice monster.  Sure, you don’t surrender all control. But he stresses the more control you hold on to, the less empowered, engaged, autonomous and self-sufficient those around you will be.

So tame your advice monsters and allow the questioning to happen.


3. Subtlety Can Be Overrated

Managers who sugarcoat their feedback aren’t doing their employees any favours, says consultant Alison Green.

“The reason managers do this, of course, is that they want to be kind, and they feel unkind telling someone directly that they’re doing something wrong and need to change it” she writes on Slate.com.

“It feels nicer to hint and hope the employee gets the message. And it’s true that sometimes hints do work and can help someone save face.”

In particular, managers tend to be particularly afraid to clearly state the one message that’s most crucial for under-performing employees to hear: “If X doesn’t change, we will need to let you go.”

She urges you to become comfortable with such clear, direct language.

“Employees who aren’t meeting expectations deserve the opportunity to hear that message clearly and explicitly, so they don’t have to pick up on hints or read through layers of sugar-coating to figure out how to succeed in their jobs,” she concludes


4. Why You Lack Job Applicants

If you’re finding it difficult to attract job applicants, recruiting expert John Sullivan warns on his web site of these mistakes:

  • Not focusing enough on referrals: You should be getting more than 40% of your hires from employee referrals, so develop a strong program in that area.
  • Job postings written in an ad-hoc manner: Your job postings are likely the first opportunity for prospects to learn about your firm and your job. Differentiate yourself from other employers in an exciting manner.
  • Your job postings are placed ineffectively: Gather data from a sample of prospects to determine specifically where and when they are most likely to actually see a job posting.


5. Zingers

  • Manage Your Email Urge:  You can close your email program to make it more difficult to turn to when bored or anxious about missing out on the latest info. (Source: TimeManagementNinja)
  • Change It Up:  Research shows attention spans start lagging after 10 minutes, so when designing event programming and virtual meetings, consultant Andrea Driessen recommends changing the way in which information is presented five to six times per hour — from spoken word, to a video, to a peer-to-peer exercise and back to spoken word, for example. (Source: PublicWords)
  • Who Is On First?  Radio ad campaigns built around banter between memorable characters never lose their charm says consultant Roy H. Williams. (Source: MondayMorningMemo)
  • The Cultural Chasm:  The esprit de corps that drives start-up employees to happily burn the midnight oil to build the next big thing hits a rough spot for 70% of new companies in years three or four, regardless of how happy the team was before.
    David Niu and Mark Roberge, authors of The Sales Acceleration Formula, call it the “cultural chasm” and, if the companies get through it, a marked cultural rebound occurs in years five and six, although not returning to the “honeymoon” of the early days. (Source: Harvard Business Review)
  • Who Makes The Choice?  Blogger James Clear says the “chosen ones” — best-selling authors, successful business owners, elite athletes — are successful first and foremost because, when they hit hard times and felt like a failure, they bet on themselves. They essentially were chosen by themselves. (Source: JamesClear.Com)


6. The Model:  The OODA Loop  

Created by military strategist and fighter pilot John Boyd, the OODA Loop (Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act) can be applied to give a strategic advantage in anything from business and cybersecurity to military and sports strategy.

This model for learning and adaptation uses agility and responsiveness to win in uncertain environments and conditions. It can apply at both a personal and organizational level — here is how it works:

  • Observe: The first step is to observe. This is more than just seeing — it is observing the entire situation. This requires you to look at not just your own situation, but also your opponent’s situation, and the environment.
  • Orient: Orientation is viewed as the most important part of the OODA Loop since it shapes the way we observe, the way we decide, and the way we act. The decision-maker needs to understand his or her own genetics, cultural heritage and past experiences before analyzing all of the observations made.
    “The goal of the orientation phase is to find mismatches: errors in your previous judgement or in the judgement of others.”
  • Decide: The decision stage is the transition from observing and orienting into acting. In an organization, this stage would require meetings and discussions to adjust their strategy based on the new orientation.
  • Act: Acting is carrying out the decision. It doesn’t end there though —those actions lead to more information that begins the next cycle of observation.

As Boyd said: “In order to win, we should operate at a faster tempo or rhythm than our adversaries—or, better yet, get inside the adversary’s Observation-Orientation-Decision-Action time cycle or loop.”

To learn more about the OODA Loop, you might also read this post by Taylor Pearson.


7. Around Our Water Cooler:
    Mapping Client Experiences

In our practice we see more and more organizations taking time to deeply understand their client’s journey through interactions and experiences with them.

These reviews may be prompted by changes in the operating environment or the introduction of a new interactive technology that must be built on crystal-clear understanding of the customer.

Mappings (sometimes called visualizations) can be useful tools when you need to bring a team of people together around a project goal and/or probe user needs, behaviours, or the components of a service process.

In Mapping Methods Compared: A Cheat Sheet, designer Sarah Gibbons from the Nielsen Norman Group takes you through empathy maps, customer journey maps, experience maps and service blueprints:

  • Empathy Maps help team members understand the user’s mindset (what they say, think, feel and do), a technique that can be useful at the beginning of any design process.
  • Customer Journey Mapping will study a specific type of customer’s interactions with your product, program or service and traces the steps (and pain points) they go through to achieve their goals. The map covers phases/stages, actions, thoughts and mindsets/emotions.
  • Experience Mapping visualizes the entire end-to-end experience a “generic” person goes through but not tied to a specific program, service or product — it is similar to customer journey mapping, but applies more generally across the various user types you serve and programs offered.
  • Service Blueprinting maps the relationships between different components — people, processes and physical/digital tools or “props” used to serve the customer. Blueprinting is an ideal approach for mapping experiences that cross multiple channels and touchpoints, or require a cross-functional effort (that is, coordination of multiple teams).

The process of creating a map forces a team conversation and leads to a better aligned mental model. As Gibbons notes, the map can then be used with your team, organization, or partners to communicate an understanding of your user or service, forming the basis for decision-making as the team moves forward.


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


8. Closing Thought 

“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”

— Harry S. Truman