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In business we are focused on producing results. Unsurprisingly as it’s the results that keep our stakeholders happy.  Whether we call them results, outcomes, deliverables or an MVP they’re all a type of destination.  Whilst the destination gets all of the attention, the departure hardly gets a mention.  Surprisingly, as  getting to a common destination is a lot easier if you’re all leaving from the same location.  Are we missing something by not placing higher value on the departure point?

Renowned business transformation expert Dr Peter Fuda argues the case for the departure.  “I used to think the real challenge was getting executives to agree on the vision but the real issue is the departure point.  Sales thinks we are leaving from Paris and HR thinks we are leaving from the jungles of Africa.”

One area where the departure is often forgotten but particularly important is in the humble business meeting.  Arguably the most common tool used in business and a fundamental building block in any change.  Can you recall the number of times when you’ve been in a meeting where you’ve little idea what the meeting was about, yet you’re hurtling forward toward some outcome?

In the rush to go forward we go backward 

It’s risky to assume that people turning up to a meeting are all on the same page. Think about the number of issues you are dealing with at any given point in time.  Then multiply that by the number of attendees in the meeting.  All the more reason to spend time on getting things clear before diving into what you’ve visualised as the important part.  The trap is deciding to rush or drop the meeting “preamble” we miss the critical launch pad, the context.

Go backward to go forward 

Context is the departure point.  When we take time to define and understand the context, the journey is usually a smoother and faster one.  Be prepared however to go back even further as the context provided may be not be agreed .  You may need to explore the assumptions that are being made as context is typically based on someone’s interpretation of events which may not align with yours or others in the room.  The importance of a clear departure point is directly proportional to the number of people involved in the discussion. The larger the audience, the more time should be allowed for scene setting and elaboration.

Driving change is much easier if you’re setting off from the same location. The trouble is, in our haste we forget this when we try to rush the outcome.  The irony is that we’ll likely succeed in delaying what we tried to fast track.  If you feel like you’re spinning your wheels in a meeting or in another part of your transformation journey, remember, context is king.  Check your departure point – it may help you get to your destination sooner.

This blog was inspired by the book, Leadership Transformed, by Dr Peter Fuda

 

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Procrastination, over-engineering and analysis-paralysis are unfortunately common productivity sapping behaviours.  They are variations of a common theme – perfecting.  Do you ever find yourself stuck trying to write the “perfect” email or presentation?  Have you been in work meetings collaborating toward an important deadline but find yourselves stuck debating trivial details?  Do you feel like you should be more productive and less stressed?  If this sounds familiar then try the Power of 7.

It was not that long ago that perfection was a noble aspiration.  Many of our parents espoused it and passed it on to us in different ways.  As a kid my father would often say, “if you going to do something, do it properly”.  Dad is definitely a 10/10 sort of guy.  However, fast forward to our age of disruption and perfection is no longer in vogue.  Today agility is the new black supported by its fail-fast-succeed-sooner mantra to help guide the way for new practitioners.  Unfortunately for many of us, perfecting is hard-wired and a difficult habit to break, especially when we are under pressure.  A new mental model is needed to shift from perfecting to agile thinking.

Unfortunately, old perfecting habits die hard, especially in our fast-paced business environments where it often feels like everything needs to be bigger, better, faster.  The age of disruption is here and our lives are becoming more digital.  In this fast-paced world the future feels less certain.  In high pressure work environments people often perfect as a survival mechanism.  Whatever the cause it is not helpful – perfecting kills productivity.

But how can you to stop perfecting?  Try an approach I call The Power of 7.  It’s a way to catch yourself perfecting when you should be delivering.  7 is simply the process of creating a trigger to ask yourself if you’re aiming for a 10/10 when you should be aiming for a more pragmatic goal, like a 7.  For example, in work situations I’ve seen teams getting stuck in the weeds and miss the big picture, putting important deadlines at risk.  Asking the team to pause, reflect and aim for a solid 7/10 has helped on numerous occasions.  It helps them see the negative effect the perfecting is causing, provides alignment to a common goal and kick-starts momentum.  I’ve seen 7 work in another high stress environment – personal study.  During a particular semester, whilst sitting for a series of exams I found that the harder I prepared and the more I worried I was about achieving a high score, the worse my results were.  Changing my approach and writing a 7 on my notepad prior to each exam helped me stay calm.  It help me to avoid over-thinking / second-guessing myself.  Not only did my results improve but the whole process was less stressful.

7 is a metaphor for a stop-reflect-prioritise cycle that can help break unproductive personal or team behaviour.  The trick is to create a trigger that will allow you or your team to check-in and reflect on the situation.  These types of triggers work because they reduce cognitive load.  They provide you with time and space to allow your brain to stop thrashing – when you’re trying to do everything but achieve little, or worse, going backwards.  Having used 7 on many occasions, I’ve enjoyed seeing it help reduce stress levels, improve team dynamics and improve productivity.  In situations where you feel like your stress levels are high and productivity low, try the power of 7.

It doesn’t matter how you use “7”.  You can write a 7 on a notepad as I do, or roll-your-own trigger for when you feel stuck.  Whichever way you use it, calling out for a 7/10 may help you stop thrashing and start delivering.

Busy Disease

Busy Disease is a term to describe the negative side effects of hurried decisions in the workplace.  It’s what happens when we struggle to keep up with our heavy workload – we race to meet our deadlines and hit our KPI’s.  In the rush to get through all the tasks on our to-do list, we look for the fastest route possible. The question is, what is all this rushing costing us? When we unconscioulsy tradeoff outcome for speed it often results in poor choices or poor quality. For example, if you’ve ever asked yourself at work; “why are we having this same problem again?” then you’ve experienced Busy Disease.

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