Optimising your ‘end of year’ review for maximum impact

Optimising your ‘end of year’ review for maximum impact

Late November is the time when many of us are reflecting on our progress for the year and updating our stakeholders.

This can be fraught, particularly in an increasingly cost-constrained environment. Many recent working session stories have had a cost theme, as have many of the stories I have been working on with my corporate clients.

In that light I wanted to share one critical idea to focus on when preparing your next progress report.

Prioritising impact over activity is ever more important in these increasingly cost-constrained times. Let me explain what I mean.

Saying ‘we have been busy' is rarely enough. Providing a list of things you and your team have completed over the past period is the easy way out and only marginally useful. Even when the list is well-grouped, it is rarely insightful. It can also be overwhelming and just says ‘we have been busy'.

I once worked with the head of projects at a global car company and she asked me why her CFO never responded to the weekly update email he requested.

When I reviewed it I could see why.

She had listed literally 100 project tasks that had been worked on, categorised by area, without offering any insight as to how these linked to the overall objectives.

Saying ‘we are on track' is better. Our Traffic Light pattern helps you tell a straightforward good news story. You can say ‘all is well' and then back that up using a classic time-ordered structure. It works from past to present and then future by beginning with what has been done, moving on to what is currently in train and then what is planned.

This at least offers stakeholders comfort to know that they have nothing to worry about. This can be sufficient, but is not always so, especially in times of heightened attention to costs.

Saying ‘we have delivered X value' is better still. You can tweak Traffic Light a few ways to achieve this.

  1. Order by project area. Instead of ordering the ideas by time, you could outline how much you have achieved in each project area. The difference here is that you would say, ‘we delivered xyz results' rather than ‘we completed abc activities'
  2. Order by impact. Another way to structure the supporting points is to explain where you have delivered the greatest impact first, then move to moderate then to the least.


Explaining how your team could deliver more impact is best. This requires you to take a step back and look for opportunities to optimise your ways of working within your area as well stepping outside that area to focus on your purpose.

If you reflect on the reason why your program of work exists and ask whether your priorities and activity are still the best way to achieve that goal, you may find some gems. Here are some questions you might ask:

  1. Are the boundaries or constraints that we believed to be in place at the start of this program still relevant?
  2. Has anything changed outside our area that would render some of our work either more or less useful, and so deserve to be reprioritised?
  3. Could we work in parallel rather than in sequence to deliver more quickly?
  4. Are we gold plating for the sake of technical perfection rather than value?
  5. Do we have capacity to support another critical area of the business? (Dangerous, I know … but potentially value adding all the same!)


I offer these as thought starters rather than a complete list of questions. If you have seen others in play that are not here, let me know and I can share them in next week's email.

I hope that helps. More next week.

Kind regards,
Davina

PS We have now uploaded two new podcasts into the portal that are not yet available anywhere else. Check them out … I think you’ll enjoy them. 

E3 – Baking Learning & Growth into BAU alongside Agile Ways of Working

E3 – Baking Learning & Growth into BAU alongside Agile Ways of Working

Cutting Through

Helping experts
engage ‘outsiders'
in complex ideas

Damien discusses his strategy for engaging 7Eleven in a new Agile-aligned learning strategy.

He shares his experience in engaging the leadership as well as the organisation in this new approach to learning and growth. This includes

  • How Agile offers natural opportunities to ‘bake learning in' to the BAU operating rhythm (which you can do even if you are not adopting Agile ways of working)
  • How to engage up, down and sideways to be confident your idea is ‘sold' before you pitch it
  • How he demonstrates the business value of learning

Timestamps 

0:00 – Introduction 

1:10 – How the Agile model works 

3:38 – The challenge of changing how a business looks at learning and skill development 

11:26 – Selling the idea of ‘baked in’ learning rather than a ‘tick and flick' approach 

22:54 – The importance of creating a pitch that ties together business outcomes and learning  

27:43 – Laying the groundwork before taking the pitch to SLT 

33:16 – Novel ways of influencing and engaging leaders in learning 

39:06 – Damien’s final tips for pitching a new way of approaching learning within a business 

RESOURCES

  1.  Access the details of the books Damien mentioned in the episode notes >>
  2. Connect with Damien on LinkedIn here
E2 – Richard Medcalf – Making Time For Strategy

E2 – Richard Medcalf – Making Time For Strategy

Cutting Through

Helping experts
engage ‘outsiders'
in complex ideas

Do you struggle to find time to think at work?

In this episode, Richard shares ideas to help ‘cut through' with our diaries so we have time to think.

Although he primarily focuses on strategy, the overlap for communication is clear.

He offers ideas to help you ‘cut through' with your diary so you have time to think.

 

Timestamps

0:00 – Introduction  

1:43 – Why we need to make time for Strategy  

3:56  – How the ‘Infinity trap‘ is holding you back  

7:05 – Viewing strategic time as the indicator of future success  

13:19 – Focusing on reinventing how you work, not just increasing productivity  

16:39 – Taking the first steps towards increasing your strategic time 

 

RESOURCES

  1.  Listen to Richard's podcast Impact Multiplier CEO here
  2. Connect with Richard on LinkedIn here
Political Trade-offs

Political Trade-offs

 

Have you been in a position where you must implement a solution that you disagree with?

This is the situation Anya found herself in recently, which set up a great discussion around trade-offs, politics and what to do when your CEO is one of your objectors.

In tonight’s working session we helped Anya craft a story that has some useful lessons.

In sum, respectfully documenting disagreement can place responsibility where it belongs while also providing one last chance to reverse the decision.

  1. Disagreement can be respectful
  2. Feeling pushed into a taking a poor decision may signal that you are taking on someone else’s responsibility
  3. Communicating your disagreement can put that responsibility back on the decision makers

Disagreement can be respectful

We played around for quite a while to work out how to present this story so that it both gave the leaders what they were insisting upon while explaining the costs of this approach.

We decided to

  • Avoid going in ‘all guns blazing’ and recommending the Clarity solution given it would get the general manager, executive director and CEO offside.
  • Stick with the leaders’ preferred recommendation but help educate them about some areas where they were ill informed. For example, they were conflating ‘on prem Clarity’ and ‘Cloud Clarity’. Their high-cost experiences were based on the on prem version of Clarity being used for project payslips, not the Cloud version Anya preferred to use for project management.

Feeling pushed into a taking a poor decision may signal that you are taking on someone else’s responsibility

Part of the difficulty in crafting a story like this is the emotional frustration that can get in the way. As Anya said, she had expected to sit down over the weekend with a couple of gins and tonic to work out what to say to her leaders.

The reason it felt difficult is that she was feeling the heat of a poor decision that would be costly and time consuming to implement in comparison with her preferred solution.

Laying out the trade-offs for the leaders gave her an opportunity to pass the responsibility for those trade-offs back up the chain to those who were making the decision.

If the reports were costly or late, it would no longer be her problem.

Communicating your disagreement can put that responsibility back on the decision makers (and protect you too)

Leaders are charged with making decisions with the whole organisation in mind, which can lead to unpopular decisions. Sometimes, however, these decisions can also be ill informed simply because they are not close enough to the trade-offs incurred.

This is where a delicate effort to convey those trade-offs while respecting someone’s position is essential to return the responsibility for the costs of a decision to the decision makers.

 

Tonight we took two steps to achieve that. We

  • Balanced curtesy with a directness that meant they could not avoid seeing the cost to the business they were recommending. For example, we edited the so what …
    • From this … Given our existing relationship, I recommend proceeding with Service Now for the 5 PMOs, despite delayed reporting and greater cost when compared against Clarity.
    • To this … I recommend proceeding with Service Now for the 5 PMOs, prioritizing our existing relationships over delayed reporting and greater cost compared against Clarity.
  • Structured the story to compare the two options by factually comparing them to draw out the trade-offs they were making.

I have laid out the storyline below for your use, but do encourage you to check out the recording further down. It was a great conversation.

I hope that helps. More next week.

Davina

A New Influence Framework

A New Influence Framework

One of my colleagues, Louise, has a treasure trove of practical human relations models.

I have her to thank for introducing me to the Bolton and Bolton Work Styles framework we use in the Core Curriculum, for example.

Over coffee last week she shared another one that I think will help you too.

David Rock's SCARF model identifies the key drivers that trigger reward and threat responses, so shaping our ability to influence others. Let me first introduce the model and then offer an example to illustrate how it can be used.

Model – SCARF offers five psychological triggers that can trigger reward and threat responses. Here they are:

S: Status. Withdrawing status can cause stress circuits to light up more than physical pain. Equally, if status is nurtured it can light up reward circuits more than if someone is given a financial prize.

This is why receiving negative feedback can create significant stress. It affects how we perceive others perceive us.

C: Certainty. David suggests that the brain is a certainty creating machine always trying to predict what is going to happen. Great leaders create certainty with clear expectations providing great certainty. This also lights up those reward circuits in the brain.

A: Autonomy. Most of us value having a certain degree of autonomy, control and choice in what we do and how we work. This is why being micromanaged is rarely enjoyable. It may also say a fair bit about why so many employees are reluctant to return to the office full time.

R: Relatedness. Our brains interpret new people as an automatic threat. This reduces once we have a small interaction that moves people into the category of ‘like us' rather than ‘not us' and therefore fearful. He suggests that even small personal interactions can build significant relationship capital.

F: Fairness. He says that a fair exchange activates the reward circuitry, and an unfair exchange triggers the danger response. Being more transparent than you think is ‘really needed' about the reasons behind decisions and how they are fair is key. This triggers the reward circuitry and avoids creating threats.

Example – understanding which two or three drivers most affect us and our stakeholders helps us have greater influence.

David says that all five SCARF ‘drivers' influence us to some degree. The trick is to know which are the dominant drivers for us and our stakeholders.

These dominant drivers help consciously nurture positive relationships and avoid pushing people's buttons.

For example, it is easy to create conflict with someone who has ‘status' and ‘autonomy' as their two primary drivers. All you need to do is say that their work is substandard and to micromanage them toward improvement.

This will ‘trigger' those who prioritise status and autonomy more than those who don't.

It will deliver a primal response that moves them toward a stress state rather than a reward state. This heightens the risk of conflict and reduces our ability to influence that person.

In contrast, inviting someone with status as a dominant driver to improve their work in a way that lifts their status may trigger a reward state. You might, for example, invite them to improve their work before sharing with others.

He suggests that being aware of our own drivers and that of others enables us to build better relationships and so have greater influence.

You can learn more about David and his work at the Neuroleadership Institute here.

I hope that helps. More next week.

Kind regards,
Davina

 

PS – My first podcast episode is now out. Learn more from risk expert Anthony Wilson about how he has successfully engaged decision makers on risk management. His top tip: risk management = change management.

Access the Cutting Through podcast inside the portal in the new podcast tab.