“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” This often quoted statement has been attributed to a variety of people (including Albert Einstein), but it provides a good motivation to begin your new year.
With the beginning of 2015 many people are thinking about New Year’s resolutions. What do they want to accomplish this year? What do they want to do differently? Even for those who swear off such annual declarations (many of which are only kept for a month or two), most people still take the time to pause and consider what they want to experience in the New Year. Whether or not you advocate setting resolutions, it is important to periodically assess your activities to make sure they’re properly focused to support accomplishing your objectives.
So take an insanity check. This is the time to evaluate your personal, professional and organizational strategies and make the necessary adjustments to ensure not only progress, but attainment of your goals. In what areas are you sticking to the same plan, but expecting different results? What isn’t working…yet? Where are you or your organization struggling? Where are you and others frustrated? Here are several keys to your insanity check.
The change initiatives you have started may take time to build momentum until you actually see visible progress. You’re laying the groundwork for improvement, building a foundation, and driving beliefs and values that will spill over into behavioral changes. You may be personally impatient, or stakeholders may be pushing you for quick results. But make sure your plan is solid and that you’re on track in following it. Stopping or pausing will undermine your momentum and you’ll almost literally have to start over. So keep pushing, and build momentum, your goal is in sight.
Pull The Lever
Identify the critical lever for change and focus on it. This critical lever is at the center of the problem, and supports and reinforces what is not working. Like a house of cards, if you pull it, everything that it supports will collapse, and that may be a good thing. Pulling the lever may require repositioning your team, changing your structure, developing a different strategy, or shifting your own leadership style.
Time is one of the most valuable resources you have, so use it wisely. Rather than succumb to the many demands on your time, control how you spend it by prioritizing those activities that add value to what you’re trying to accomplish. I admit that I can get caught up reading business books and articles that are really interesting, aren’t necessarily relevant to the project that I’m working on. , so I have to refocus myself as well. Determine what activities add the most value; find the ones that are really drivers of significant change, and adjust your time accordingly.
Deeply embedded problems require tough decisions. You must be willing to let go of people, processes, or products that you previously invested in, but now are not providing sufficient return. Further delaying these decisions means that you’re expending and wasting valuable time in areas that won’t payoff. You likely know what you have to do, but you’re avoiding the unpleasantness of doing it. Instead of focusing on the negative, focus on the positive outcomes.
Move your people to positions where they can add more value, or provide a bridge for them to transition outside the organization where they can find a better suited opportunity. If they’re not delivering, they typically know it and are feeling some level of stress related to that. Avoiding the obvious issue only makes the pain worse over time.
Your team or customers will tell you the processes that aren’t working (if you don’t already know it). Set an aggressive and almost impossibly quick timetable by which they need to be fixed or eliminated. Others will thank you for it and be relieved that you finally addressed the problem.
Unprofitable products or services draw resources from the rest of the organization and literally pull others down with it. Think of a rose bush that through careful pruning of dead or unfruitful branches enables the remainder of the bush to receive the necessary nutrients to bloom beautifully. Such products and services may have a legacy with the organization, or be a favorite of some leader, but culling them quickly will add value to the remainder of the organization.
Remember…working harder on a bad plan doesn’t make the plan good. Doing the right thing at the wrong time won’t achieve the desired results. Smart moves at the right time are key to getting what you want.
Picture courtesy of Google Images
Copyright 2014 Priscilla Archangel
In Peter Diamandis’ book, Abundance, he tells the story of the discovery of aluminum. According to the tale, around 2,000 years ago, a goldsmith brought an unusual dinner plate to the court of the Emperor Tiberius. It was made from a shiny, lightweight, bright new metal that was the color of silver. The goldsmith said that he had used a secret formula to extract this new metal from clay. Tiberius was very interested in it because he had a massive amount of gold and silver as a result of his many conquests across Europe. He believed that if this goldsmith helped others to extract this rare new metal from mere clay, it could substantially decrease the value of his fortune. Rather than risk that happening, he had the goldsmith beheaded.
Aluminum did not reappear until around 1825 when once again, a complex process for extracting the metal was discovered. Since then, technology has improved the process so much that the price has been drastically reduced and it is easily available. You see, aluminum itself isn’t rare; it’s the third most plentiful element on earth and represents 8.3% of the weight of the world. There’s an abundance of aluminum, but it was initially scarce due to the difficulty in accessing it.
Abundance Vs. Scarcity
The Emperor Tiberius had a scarcity mindset. He feared loss of position and power from this precious new metal that he knew little about. Individuals with a scarcity mindset focus on lack and insufficiency and therefore make decisions based on what’s best for themselves, even at the expense of others.
Had he known the abundance of aluminum as compared to gold (all the gold that has ever been mined would only fill about one-third of the Washington Monument), he might have made a different decision, and somehow harnessed the power of aluminum for his benefit. Individuals with an abundance mindset focus on having an extremely plentiful supply, more than enough to go around.
This mindset of abundance versus scarcity plays out in other ways in our lives. As we face challenges and opportunities in our work, our mindset will dictate the approach we take and impact the results we achieve. It will dictate whether we are inclusive in our approach to problems in a way that invites cross-functional perspectives, and solicits inputs from others who may not normally be involved in particular issues. Abundance thinking invites new ideas and possibilities. It provides a foundation for innovation and creativity based on a positive outlook for the future; and is the basis for solving many of the difficulties we face today. This mindset drives our behaviors.
A modern day example of behaviors that support an abundance mindset is WeWork, a four year old company that provides co-working office space, primarily targeted at startups and younger companies who want (and need) heavy interaction. They lease large blocks of office space and subdivide it into smaller parcels; then charge monthly memberships to businesses who want to work, network and share ideas in a collaborative environment. All office services are provided and planned activities enable them to pitch ideas, gain business from one another, and share advice. The founders, Adam Neumann and Miguel McKelvey, each grew up in communal living (in Israel and Eugene, OR respectively) and thus saw the value of a shared and collaborative environment.
With 31 locations, 15,000+ members and estimated gross earnings of $150 million this year, they have a current valuation of $1.5 billion, with plans to grow 3 to 4 times that size over the next year. In short, there’s a heavy demand (and a waiting list) for this type of working environment. And the companies that rent this space recognize that collaborating and sharing increases their value.
As we consider our U.S. Thanksgiving celebrations over the past week, hopefully this has been a time of reflecting on the abundance in our lives. It also provides an opportunity to enhance our perspective on where we exhibit abundance or scarcity in our mindset and behaviors. It’s not simply about accumulation of financial reserves, friends, or material goods. It’s the way we approach life and behave.
Abundance is driven by a mindset of considering future possibilities.
Scarcity is driven by mindset of complacency with the current state.
Abundance suggests sharing because there will always be enough to go around.
Scarcity suggests hoarding what you have.
Abundance mindsets look for creative opportunities to integrate with the work of others.
Scarcity mindsets believe there is little opportunity for improvement on their work.
Abundance thinkers focus on adding value to others first, and thus add value to themselves.
Scarcity thinkers focus on promoting oneself first, and thus overlook the value of others.
So be abundant in your mindset.
Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler. www.Abundancethebook.com
Read the story of WeWork in Forbes Magazine here.
Steve Ballmer has a new lease on life. After more than three decades at Microsoft as employee number 30, he retired as CEO in February 2014 and is looking toward the future. He’s also number 18 on Forbes’ list of wealthiest Americans with $22.5 billion, so he discussed his plans for the future with George Anders for that magazine’s recent issue.
First, Ballmer’s purchase of the Los Angeles Clippers earlier this year will take a large chunk of his time. This was the third time he tried to purchase an NBA team. Many believe he overpaid for the opportunity, but it aligns well with his love of the sport, and focuses him in an entirely different direction. Second, though he’s no longer involved with the company, as the largest individual Microsoft shareholder (333 million shares!), he will continue to closely monitor his investment. He’s also using his vast experience to teach MBA students at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. This is part of evaluating his legacy as they analyze the successes and failures of his former company.
Finally, and more importantly, he and his wife are researching how to use their formidable wealth to positively impact society through philanthropy. He’s surrounding himself with a group of advisors to understand issues and problems around the world as he formulates his next steps in this arena. Ballmer’s legendary energy level, evidenced whenever he met with employees at Microsoft, and with Clippers fans at his first game as owner, seems at an all-time high as looks toward the future. He’s making a shift and strategically reinventing himself.
Ballmer’s exit from Microsoft came at a time when investors were calling for change. Given the pressures on new product development and revenues, it was time for a shift in the company. He had reached a senior level of professional maturity and accomplishment, and it was time to look for the next shift in his own life. But Ballmer is just one example of the many people who reach that point. Granted 99.99% of the people aren’t quite as rich or accomplished, but nonetheless are similarly passionate about their past and their future, and find a time in life where they need a shift…a strategic reinvention.
IBM is facing a similar pivotal moment. In their 2014 third quarter earnings release, CEO Virginia Rometty acknowledged a need to reinvent the company just twenty years after their strategic shift from hardware, to software and computer services. Now after revenues have declined for the 10th straight quarter, those business lines are lagging and the company is admitting they will miss an earnings target. Some describe it as an “old technology company” that needs to quickly move into cloud computing. And while opinions may vary, they are obviously in need of a shift…a strategic reinvention.
Making a shift or strategic reinvention is characterized by several phases.
Discomfort – When individual or organizational results are no longer as favorable, and the tried and true strategies to improve them don’t work, this is a warning signal. There may be an uneasiness that the environment is changing, stakeholders want different outcomes, and competitive requirements are fluctuating. The ability to develop plans to meet future needs becomes more difficult as the environment lacks clarity. This is like shifting gears in a vehicle with an automatic transmission where there’s a momentary pause in the speed of the vehicle, but the ultimate benefit is that it can move faster once the shifting is complete.
Direction – Strategic reinvention requires thoughtful evaluation of where you want to go, what you want to become, and whether you have the resources to get there. It requires careful assessment of the competitive environment, the financial requirements, the skillset of your team, the time required for change, and future perspective. This requires a level of resolve by the leader(s) to make tough decisions unencumbered by the past, to head in the right direction.
Destination – After a strategic reinvention, where you end up will look different from where you were. The people who were with you in the past, may not follow you into the future because they don’t want to, or are not capable of making the shift; they’re not invested in the change. Your destination can represent a fresh start, a new beginning, a different approach to how you add value to others. It’s important to take advantage of the momentum you gather along the way and carefully construct the environment crucial to your success.
Winds of Change
Former Intel CEO Andy Grove’s book, Only the Paranoid Survive, makes the point that we all need to expose ourselves to the winds of change. These winds at some point will require us to shift gears, and experience a strategic reinvention, so that we can move further faster. It’s rarely easy. Often a coach, advisor or consultant with specific expertise in the area of focus can help to guide you on the pathway, to help as you shift gears. Steve Ballmer seems to be finding his pace and enjoying the process. Microsoft, IBM and other organizations similarly positioned will be pushed forward by less patient stakeholders. Ultimately all of us will reach a point where we need to shift. How will you handle it?
Read the Forbes story on Steve Ballmer here.
Read the Wall Street Journal story on IBM here.