Christian Force and Shannon Koch inspire their clients to better health and vibrant living at Altera Life. In this episode they share how their Vision of “The Other, Another” guides their thinking, their work and their relationships throughout the community.
Do these 3 things to bring about a multitude of desired behaviors and their benefits to your organization. Many desired behaviors are emergent behaviors. This means we spend too many resources in a narrow lane seeking their improvement. Rather, we can (and must) look to core behaviors and skills that will bring about our desired behaviors. If you desire increased team creativity, collaboration or contribution, or if you seek specific improvements such as Increased Quality in Customer Service, High Impact Meetings or Increased Utilization of Time , are you focused on the proper human and organizational development?
“I’m struggling to find the motivation to go to work in the morning. I get a knot it my stomach as I get closer to the office. At the end of the day, I want to hide. I’m not enjoying my career and I always thought this was my passion.”
Todd Henry, an incredibly inspiring author, shares a simple model for “Creatives”, those who’s work demands they be creative. He presents a model that includes being Prolific, Healthy and Brilliant. Shift, remove, or lessen just one part of that model and the expected outcome (being a Creative) shifts to another outcome (being tired and not healthy for example). Here’s a link to the Accidental Creative podcast covering this topic to learn more.
What I love about this simple, three-part model is that it provides the opportunity to look at the inter-dependency of the parts and how they lead to an emergent “thing.” In the entrepreneurial world, a similar model can help us understand how to “be entrepreneurial.”
As entrepreneurs, we often get so into the weeds we’ve grown, we get distracted from our purpose. If we’re building a widget, we get blinded by the shiny parts and if left unchecked, we can start to think what the widget does is what we ultimately seek. For example, if we build a new high performance electric car, the performance of the car can easily become sweat nectar and lure us into a sense of significant accomplishment. However, have we forgot the real reason we’re building the car? What about our vision to end the world dependency on oil? Oh yeah. So, now, our high performance, $100,000 car seems not so capable of reaching the masses and that means achieving our initial vision is at risk. We just went 0-60 in 2 seconds but got nowhere. (But it was fun 🙂
Following a model of entrepreneurism can help us focus on key aspects of being entrepreneurial. Whether your an entrepreneur by title (i.e., you launched your own business) or you’re an employee with an entrepreneurial spirit, how can a simple model such as this one keep you on track?
Following Todd’s lead, what if you just Build Something that doesn’t do anything predictable? What are you then? And, what are you if you build something that does something awesome but doesn’t result in anything specific? Flip it. What if you spend all your time mapping the results you want, but don’t build something to get you there?
At the far right, let’s change that box to Vision (our future state, our dream). The middle box, make that Mission (what we do every day). The left box, that will be our Capacity (the systems we build to do our work). I made a decision years ago to pursue my entrepreneurial visions and that includes surrounding myself with entrepreneurs in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Every day, I get to unite with entrepreneurial minds in my community. Amazing, local rock stars doing amazing things. Yet, one thing we all often struggle with is the model above. Sometimes we loose sight of the far right as we keep our heads down building the something. When we get that something up and running, and it’s cranking out something, we feel a sense of “doneness.” We can get comfortable. Our vision (far right) can get fuzzy. By using the model as a whole we build a mindset (a perspective) on entrepreneurism that is simple and powerful.
How can this help you in your entrepreneurial efforts?
What drives you? How do you describe your attitudes and prominent behaviors? Are you capable of understanding others, working with those with drivers different from yours? Are you a learner? Can you describe how you think, build ideas and solve problems?
If your response to any of these questions is, “Uhhmmmm…..”, then I have some advice. Invest time in discovering those answers BEFORE joining your organizational visioning work. Harsh? Not at all. Kind. I’m hitting to your backhand here. I learned this by being a tennis player. My friend and doubles partner wasn’t helping me by constantly hitting to my strong forehand. They helped me grow by hitting to my backhand. That’s what friends are for.
Vision work within an organization presents an incredible opportunity to strengthen and grow. This translates into professional and personal benefits for staff and stakeholders as well. New lines of business may be part of the visioning and those bring new customers, new LIFE to an organization.
On the flip side, re-visioning an organization can feel threatening to some. Depending on organizational structure, concern around change and negative impact can be detrimental to the effort. That push-back however is a choice, one driven by ego and a lack of understanding of oneself and others. To the extreme, some can view organizational vision work as a life-and-death struggle. They will do everything they can to keep their position of influence, their jobs and their security.
“It’s difficult to have fun or to achieve concentration when your ego is engaged in what it thinks is a life-and-death struggle.”
These ego-driven struggles are the result of not knowing yourself to the degree needed to take part in organizational development AT THIS TIME. I would NEVER suggest someone could NEVER take part in this work. But, there are those who are not ready at given times. How do you figure out where you stand?
#1 Get help! For years, I’ve helped organizations and teams build vision and conduct mission-driven work. I’ve learned that the struggles they experienced were almost 100% related to team members not knowing themselves and others. That’s why I launched my new line of assessments to help organizations provide a resource for staff. If you or your organization needs help, let me know. Spending just a few minutes to complete an assessment is an incredible professional development opportunity.
#2 Separate Personal from Organization Granted, attaining an “Organization Over Self” mindset can be life-changing and hard. But, it will allow your energies to become part of something larger than what you can accomplish on your own. Being part of an organization is not about getting YOUR way and forcing others to follow. It’s about joining forces with others to do something BIG, something BOLD, something meaningful beyond you.
#3 Trust the System Organizational vision work that is based on Systems Thinking is critical to building a meaningful vision. Systems Thinking is PERSPECTIVAL which means it is inclusive of taking many points of view and seeing things through different lenses. But, it is not about compromises. Compromising a vision means the vision is the result of everyone losing something and giving in to individual needs. To trust the system of building a new vision, check your ego at the door and become part of the process. Learn, be open and participate.
All three of these points are based on knowing yourself and others. Of course, admitting you don’t know yourself requires a certain amount of knowing yourself. So to start, just ask yourself the questions in the opening paragraph and plot a course of action. Begin with #1 above. When you do, you’ll become part of an amazing vision experience for your organization that will change your work and life.
Any time I have the opportunity to lead a crowd on an educational journey, I remind myself….If I DON’T get them THINKING about the information we explore, they won’t build new knowledge. And, if they aren’t building new knowledge, they aren’t learning. And, my job is to help people learn.
Crowd-based learning is INCREDIBLY powerful. Why? Because it harness these two formulas. So, that was my approach this week when I lead a session titled “Entrepreneurism is a WORKFORCE Issue.” My goal was to have the crowd build a model of an Entrepreneurial Mindset and then align that model with current needs of employers (to build a strong workforce). With over 50 people in a small room, they went about building a model. Yesterday, I roughly pulled together their thoughts.
It isn’t pretty, but it is powerful. Yesterday, I wrote this article on RISK. The group felt rather strongly that embracing, taking, accepting RISK was an attitude entrepreneurs exhibited. That was just one of the attitudes that bubbled to the top of their work. Others include:
Energetic, Driven Approach
Creative and Innovative Thinking
These attitudes and ways of thinking lead to the behaviors that wrap up into what this group thought of as describing an Entrepreneur. And, I agree. This collection of attitudes, this MINDSET, exhibits what an entrepreneur is (much better than any definition of an entrepreneur). And, the important take-a-way is the one hour journey we took together to build this mindset model.
My last request of the group was “Now, look at wall and remove any item you don’t believe employers want in employees today.” No one moved. There was a rather audible “ah ha” moment. Our effort to build and understand the entrepreneurial mindset with the crowd lead to a level of learning and understanding much deeper than the attendees thought was going to take place in that one hour session. And, they have themselves to congratulate for it.
Yesterday, I had the privilege of presenting a workshop on “Entrepreneurism is a WORKFORCE Issue” for the 35th Pennsylvania Workforce Development Association Annual Conference in Hershey PA. With 55 attendees, the energy in the room was high and ideas flowed freely. Thanks to everyone who attended for your contribution.
While there were many powerful conversational moments – those Ah Ha! moments, one of the most compelling was on RISK. The workshop centered around how an entrepreneurial mindset IS what today’s employers are seeking and desire of their employees. I broke the audience into team as we journeyed toward this way of thinking and explored attitudes and behaviors of entrepreneurially minded people. Part of the exercise to build this mindset with the attendees was to make distinctions between someone labeled an “Entrepreneur” vs someone described as having “Entrepreneurial Spirit.” Most of the teams included RISK to describe an “Entrepreneur.”
“I want my staff to have entrepreneurial spirit, but I don’t want them taking RISKS.”
“I want my staff to have entrepreneurial spirit, but I don’t want them taking RISKS” one attendee shared. I’m so glad this conversation took place. I knew a positive workshop atmosphere is in place when another attendee added, “But what about calculated risk?” So we dove deeper. What does “calculated risk” mean? We discussed viability with consideration to available resources and proper use of those resources, risk compared to change (or sameness), innovation and creativity. When the question of RISK first came up, some groups removed their RISK sticky note from their list of characteristics of those with entrepreneurial spirit. After we deconstructed the idea of risk, teams proudly put that RISK sticky back on the wall.
Our mental models of what entrepreneurial spirit is are everything regarding how we value those traits as ways to grow organizations and improve workforce development. The conversation moved into framing clarity around RISK. I asked the attendees if they’ve used a simple question in interviews. “Are you a risk taker?” Head nods confirmed. Having spent time in discussion, the group was primed to understand why that question wasn’t aligned with an organizational entrepreneurial spirit mindset. The question leads candidates down a rabbit hole. “Do they want me to be a risk taker? Maybe they DON’T want risk takers on their team?” Risk taking is an organizational decision. Interviews need to set clear expectations on how the organization views RISK and what they are looking for. I shared a simple shift in questioning technique. If an organization desires risk takers, how could we shift the question? For example, “When presented with an action you consider a risk, how would you evaluate the level of risk and communicate your ideas to your team or supervisor?” This question clearly lays out the expectation that an organization is seeking someone who approached risk as a valuable skill.
As the workshop continued, the attendees responded positively to the Model of an Entrepreneur which demonstrates Entrepreneurs assess viability (consider risks and risk mediation). There are many references in literature to entrepreneurs assuming the RISK of their ideas. Generally, references center around how an entrepreneur makes decisions that many consider high risk in order to pursue their ideas. For example, an entrepreneur may leave the security of their full-time job to start their business, or they may empty their life’s savings with no guarantee of return on their investment. That is what most of us think about when we think of RISK in regards to entrepreneurism.
On our employee teams however, we generally don’t want staff taking RISKY actions, actions that would put people or our organization at risk (reputation, regulation, safety, etc.). But, we do need staff that look at RISK through an entrepreneurial lens. Organizational change, shifts in markets, new design directions, customer-base departures, and others. These activities bring about RISK that when assessed can have considerable value when weighed against not taking them on. We need employee based teams capable and willing to take on risks so that we avoid RISKY actions.
The entrepreneurial mindset is a powerful tool for existing organizations. Entrepreneurism is a workforce issue. The skillset and mindset of those with an entrepreneurial spirit is needed and must be fostered within K-12 education through professional development programs within organizations. Is that a RISK? Yes. It means we have to shift our thinking that entrepreneurial spirit is only for those wiling to be an entrepreneur and take on their dreams alone. These mindsets are complex and simple definitions leave us down. Its time to interrogate our own biases and build our entrepreneurial workforce within our organizations.
There was a rather awful experiment in the 1950’s performed by Curt Richter using domesticated rats. The rats were placed in a container of water. They began swimming. The time it took them to drown was recorded. The experiment was repeated but the rats were removed from the water just before they went under. They were dried off and allowed to rest. Then, they were returned to the water. This group swam for hours and hours. Much longer than the group that drowned. The difference? Hope.
Most of us would agree, the power of HOPE is an incredible force. It keeps us alive when many things fail. Hope can be a beacon of light, a source of strength. For the rats in the second group, it provided survival. Survival, by most definitions is a great thing. But, it can also derail organizational thinking, kill vision-mission work and devalue strategy.
Organizations with a legacy are particularly susceptible to counting on hope to survive and lead them into the next fiscal year. Over time, they build a list of strong “hopeful happenings” they begin to look forward to. For example, a non-profit that ends its year with a few thousand dollars in its account feels hope. That happening, ending with a little bit of cash, is like being taken out of the water for a rest. The organization gets removed from the struggles of swimming in their work. That swimming becomes drowning over time. But, just before they go under, they get removed, dried off to rest. The horrible feeling of ALMOST drowning fades a bit as they rest. The struggles seem distant now and start to feel oddly comfortable. A mindset of “well, at least we know what to expect” creeps into the team. To compound that, other “hopeful happenings” pile on. A congratulatory handshake from a board member on staying afloat, a business cycle shift and relaxed pace, a repeat donor donation. Hope builds, but sameness, survival occurs. But, remember, that sameness means at a point in the near future, everyone will return to the water, start swimming and start to drown again.
Hope is so powerful, it can blind an organization to the power of thinking. An organization that commits to thinking can craft an incredible Vision-Mission and build the systems and capacities to support that Vision-Mission. As part of that work, they can also build strategic thinking skills among stakeholders. That work however can get sidestepped for the work to remain afloat, to depend on Hope, to survive. Hope is comfortable. Scary, but comfortable. Thinking differently, change, is scary, unknown, not comfortable for many.
What can we do?
Know your organizational “hopeful happenings”, expose them for what they are and ensure everyone understands they are a drug with side effects.
Stay close to those who show a strong connection to those “hopeful happenings” and are willing to recruit others to follow them. Work with them. If they can’t join, figure out an exit plan for them.
Keep reminding everyone that hope will return you to a state of “almost drowning” and that will be, as expected, incredibly difficult, stressful, and detrimental to everyone.
Make a distinction between a state of hope and your Vision-Mission, a future state that is special, meaningful, fulfilling and powerful.
Celebrate moments when “hopeful happenings” have been eradicated. When you end the fiscal year with more than just a bit of cash, when your business cycles don’t negatively change as they once did, when you don’t have high staff turn over year over year. Don’t let those changes go unnoticed. Those changes didn’t come about from hope, they were possible because of THINKING.
Don’t build new “hopeful happenings.” Be diligent and continually aware of how hope can creep back into your organization. Create events to spend time measuring how well you’re doing and assign roles to purposely be on the lookout.
This is a big moment. If you’ve been swimming for survival in your organization, you’re out of the water for a bit drying off and resting. You have a choice. Hope will throw you back in, or you can commit to THINKING and changing.
Crack open the PMBOK, the Project Management Book of Knowledge, and you’ll learn a TON about Inputs and Outputs. You’ll learn about creating value for your stakeholders, with differing needs and priorities. And you’ll learn about process. The process of Project Management (PM) often attracts people and more so organizations to the field of study. Have a large effort to accomplish? Look to PM to help…it makes sense. But PM is nothing on its own, it’s the people (us) that make PM live. People build relationships. When we SEE things that relate, we have the potential to take action to foster or prohibit that relationship. That’s what PM is all about.
When we take action to foster a relationship, we see a new reality, an undiscovered pathway toward something larger IF we build on that relationship. If we see harm based on a relationship, we also have the potential to take action to prevent that relationship from growing into an equally, less desired situation. Notice, I haven’t mentioned PM as an effort to manage tasks. There’s a reason for that. While the PMBOK is about the driest read you’ll find, the value in the information is what you do with it. If you can SEE that PM is about building relationships and not tasks, each paragraph can have a profound impact on your work and life.
Why is this distinction, PM as a relationship effort and not a task management effort important?
We too often get stuck on what to do first.
We ask “Where are we?” more than “How are we?”
Here’s a great podcast from Todd Henry with David Allen, author of “Getting Things Done.” They discuss the reality of how difficult it is to identify and act on the first thing we need to do to accomplish a larger effort. If you’ve ever felt stymied when taking on a new project, you’ve been there. That feeling of being trapped behind the “What do I do first”? wall is terrifying. The effort seems SO big that knowing where to start seems impossible. What I’ve learned over the years when creating something out of nothing (a project) is NOT to focus on what I believe are the first tasks, rather, focus on the first relationships that come to mind. Who cares about this project? A human relationship. What systems will be impacted by this project? Technical and/or process relationship. What finances will be changed to address this project? A cash flow relationship. I could go on. The point is, I think about the relationships as a way of helping decide WHAT (a task) needs to happen first. The tasks evolve easily from this effort. Some would say organically. If the tasks aren’t developing, you haven’t thought enough about the relationships. Keep digging, the tasks will come.
Last evening I watched Jurassic World for the second time. Actually, a scene in the movie inspired this post. Claire is flying in the helicopter with Mr. Masrani and he turns and asks “How are we doing?” Claire being the stalwart manager she is proceeds to answer “Our year-over-year profits are up, while our visitations remain stagnant.” That wasn’t what Mr. Masrani was asking so he asked her again, “Yes yes, but HOW are we doing? Are the guest and the animals having fun?” Claire stumbles but offers the satisfaction rates of the visitors and explains they don’t have a way to measure if the animals are having fun. Claire, responsible for managing tasks, had become SO focused on the WHAT and the WHERE (status), that she was blind to the “how”, the impact, the feelings, the RELATIONSHIPS. In the end, glossing over those relationships would be the park’s doom. Hopefully, that level of project failure isn’t something we all experiences in our work.
What can we do?
Adopt the mental model that as a PM you are responsible for managing relationships.
Recognize you will oversee tasks, but those tasks should be built around relationships.
Trust that HUMAN relationships are key in all PM efforts.
Use practices and a PM tool that fosters relationships over tasks management. My tool of choice, monday.com
Use practices and tools to create ideas based on relationships. My tool of choice, Plectica.
Develop the skills to explain HOW your project is progressing by using storytelling. (Feel free to email me for information on services and online courses I’ve built with my professional development partner.)
Thanks for reading. If you have questions or additional thoughts, I would love to hear from you.
Mark is CEO and founder of THINK’ID8. THINK’ID8 helps organizations build transformative systems to help grow programs and internal capacities.
Project Based Learning (PBL), Graduation Projects, team, short and long-term projects, these are all common educational frameworks in our K-12 schools. I call them frameworks because they are more than “assignment types.” Yes, students are assigned projects. But, those projects are not isolated activities. They are connected (or should be) to previously acquired knowledge and skills as well as lead toward new knowledge and skills. And, projects are often interdisciplinary. Math is connected to science, science to social studies, social studies to art, and so on. Projects by definition in our K-12 school systems are from my perspective: “Opportunities for students to connect a variety of subject knowledge to build solutions to complex problems.”
Looking at the most popular trend today, PBL, there are several definitions.
“Project Based Learningis a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging and complex question, problem, or challenge.” BIE (https://www.bie.org/about/what_pbl)
The trend is certainly valid. Exposing K-12 students with real-world problems to solve is a fantastic educational framework. In fact, I believe all work students complete should serve as some type of a valuable output to something bigger (more specifically defined than simply getting a good grade or earning a diploma). While we in education space have spent time developing what PBL (and projects overall) should include and provide, more thought is needed in regards to actually managing those projects. Yes, we can guide students through the work for a project using a series of reflection and inquiry questions. But, in order to work on a project OVER TIME, students need a structure to stay on track, communicate progress, share results, and determine project success.
Many may not know that Project Management (PM) is a field of study. PM dependent industries exist across our economy. These industries require highly skilled PMs (those who have earned degrees or are specifically PM certified). I don’t want to trivialize the field of PM study but for K-12 students, there is no need for a complete PM certification program. In fact, I believe use of a good PM tool can meet many of the PM needs for students.
I use DaPulse for all of my client-based work. The more time I spend in this tool, the more I recognize how valuable the tool would be in a K-12 environment. The tool provides a simple to use interface for listing tasks (Work Breakdown Structure), documenting dates (Earliest Start Dates, Earliest Completion Date, and any other customized date), notes (Status, text based updates), people (Responsibility Roles), and more. For each task, a complete communication channel can be created for the team including comments, updates, files and even social media style “reactions.”
Why are these features important? Because they point to the valuable skills we should be spending time addressing as we support students on the PBL journey. If teachers simply added a tool such as DaPulse into the workflow of their PBL opportunities, and explained the core features, students would be exposed to topics including:
Planning: Breaking down complex tasks into a set of actionable, measurable efforts.
Inputs: Assimilating information valuable to the start and ongoing management of the project.
Time Estimation: Determining the efforts to complete the tasks requires thinking about the effort and relating it to efforts the student is familiar with. This requires extrapolation.
Status: Updates require tracking and communication.
Reporting: Developing stories and showcasing data.
Outputs: Showcasing real products.
If these topics are not directly addressed, PBL and projects overall, exist as assignments to be completed and checked off like compliance issues. If a PM tool is used in the classroom, students have a hands-on method of teaching themselves about the value of planning and ultimately results.
Another reason to support growth in PM skills is the direct relationship to possible careers. PM skills are in growing demand. For more information on this topic, please review this report from PMI (The Project Management Institute, the world’s leading PM Organization).
How have you taught PM skills or used a PM tool to benefit your students?