Assessment

Mindfulness and Business: Coulda Woulda Shoulda

It's a week, now, since the beginning of this year - and, frankly, even a Martian who landed in the Western Hemisphere (and parts of the rest of the world, too) would know it must be the New Year simply based on the number of advertisements for weight-loss and exercise that now riddle every form of media we have.

It's time to lose weight.
It's time to exercise.
It's time to lose weight and exercise.

And, oh, by the way, they say, you've probably already lost sight of those New Year's Resolutions you made...to lose weight and exercise...and we have the answer!

No, they don't. But you do.

And, just so you know, it's not about the resolutions. It's about being mindful about what you're doing as you're doing it.

I'm going to be talking a lot about mindfulness in this blog with the help of my friend and yours, Dr. Leon Lessinger. The Leadership Quantified Experts will be writing about it from their perspectives, too. Because it's time that we all bring a new level of presence and consciousness to the decisions we're making and the actions we're taking. (BTW, the weight loss and exercise industries are hoping you do exactly the opposite. That's the only way their business model succeeds.)

Okay. So. Mindfulness. Sounds good - or not. Sounds woo-woo - or not. What it is - always - is practical. So, let's start with how to identify the indicators that you've not been mindful in the past. (Because that's going to change now.)

Think back over the past 6-18 months and identify all the "Coulda Woulda Shoulda" experiences you had. These are the ones where, after the fact (no matter how short or long a time period) you say to yourself:
  • We could have done that after all, or
  • We should have done this instead, or
  • We would have done that, but....
Any or all of those - individually or in any combination - are your indicators that you were not being fully present when making the decision you made...particularly when, even as you're making the decision, you know you coulda/shoulda/woulda gone the other way. But you didn't.

Over my years working with executives around the world and in different languages, the two most common versions sounded like this (usually in a 2 am phone call):
"Leslie, you're not going to like what I did, but..."
or
"Leslie, you were absolutely right. I should have..."
In both cases, the origin was the same - they knew they were not making the optimal decision even as they were making it. The only difference between the two was when we talked about it (i.e., immediately or long after the associated actions were taken).

Which brings us to an important point: Regrets are not the same as mindfulness.

Regrets occur after the fact. Mindfulness occurs in real-time. In the present. As you're making the decisions you need to make.

That's why doing a Coulda/Woulda/Shoulda Retrospective Analysis is so important. What you're trying to figure out are the situations that lead you to make decisions that you later regret.

That way, you've got the best insider information possible. You know your habits and trends. You also know the habits, trends...and fears...of your team that lead to the after-the-fact regrets expressed.

So, starting now - because you're being mindful and present - look at the decisions you're making...both small and large...and, before finalizing them and either taking or assigning action, identify whether there are any Coulda/Shoulda/Wouldas that you know will arise later. (You may not want to admit it - but you know them. Now.)

Then, take the actions necessary. You'll find that your own and your business's productivity and success accelerate faster than you could ever have imagined.

Business and Politics: Avoiding Your Organization's Fiscal Cliffs

One of my areas of expertise is tracking how business and politics intersect in the ways they operate - and, most importantly, what we can learn from both. Over the years, I've written strategy papers on the subject as well as having advised senior members of United Kingdom political parties on how business strategy can be applied to create political party success.

With all that's been going on in US politics recently, I've decided to begin posting on the subject - only in this case, focusing on what business can learn from how politics operates, at its best and at its worst.

There are important strategic, operational and profit-related lessons to be learned and applied to your business, so, no matter where you live or what your political affiliation might be, put it aside and just look at the process.

I'll look forward to your thoughts and comments.
*****
On January 1st, 2013, a few minutes after 11 pm, the United States House of Representatives voted to accept the Senate's bill (approved some 21 hours earlier) averting the so-called "Fiscal Cliff."

As markets around the world opened for their first trading day of the new year, they upheld the conventional wisdom that a global economic catastrophe was averted. Markets and futures were immediately up and could well stay that way. At least until the already known next 'cliff' occurs in two to three months.

So, good for Congress. They did their job. They saved the world. For the moment.

They should also be ashamed of themselves.

The reason why they deserve real scorn is because it was this exact same Congress that agreed to the "cliff" in the first place. That was in December, 2010.

Twenty-five months ago.

Why did they create the cliff? The logic was that it would motivate the elected officials to work together to solve the debt and deficit problems the US is facing.

From then until now - while those twenty-five months passed with the cliff always looming - they weren't willing to do what needed to be done for their own country as well as those world markets and economies. Right up until the last minute - and only then because it was the last minute.

Okay, so that's the politics of it. What does this have to do with you?

Like it or not...admit it or not...but you have your version of a cliff playing out in your organization on a regular basis.

It's those things that you and your employees at every level see and know and recognize out on the horizon that you'll take care of later. Some day. Soon. You're sure of it.

Only those 'things' - both little and big - grow to outrageous proportions the closer they get to whatever time limit within which you're working.

Maybe it's when your customer needs an order filled. Or you've got a new product or service launch that needs that one more thing to make sure everything goes smoothly. Or there's an expert you know you're going to need to hire to make sure that the strategy you're currently working has a chance in hell of actually succeeding.

It's anything that escalates from knowledge to emergency - simply because you or someone in your organization let it get that far.

And it gets worse.

You may well have someone you trust who has made a success of their career swooping in at the last moment to save the day.

That's all well and good when the emergency is a true emergency - not a manufactured one. If it's the latter, then whoever is playing 'hero' is anything but. In fact that person - man or woman - is the equivalent of an organizational sociopath...allowing that particular cliff to loom and get ever closer for their own purposes, frankly, not caring how it might impact others.

Including you and your business.

Because if the 'thing' escalates far enough for long enough - at least to suit your local sociopath - even with a save, you'll lose your reputation as a trusted provider. There go the orders, customers and jobs. And there goes your business.

So, as this year begins, spend some time on your own and with your leadership team to:
  1. Take a look back over the past six to eighteen months
  2. Identify those situations that escalated into crises
  3. Determine how those crises occurred (real or manufactured)
  4. Define how long in advance the problems were known
  5. Determine in each case how long it took to get from knowledge to action
  6. Specify the outcomes in each case - including but not limited to impact on operating costs, revenues, profits, customer relations, market share, reputation, etc.
  7. Identify the specific functional areas and their respective managers/team members involved in each crisis
  8. Determine whether there is a trend of occurrences by any of the people or functions involved.
As well, if you have a Lean initiative going, take the time to review the teams' measures to identify any trends from the data that show highly risky levels of variation in your processes.

Once you have the information in hand - as uncomfortable as it might be - you'll know what to do. Do it. While you still have the time.

Because the biggest difference between business and politics is that the politicians who took the US to the edge of the fiscal cliff have at least two years before there is a remote possibility of being held responsible and accountable.

For business...for your business...you don't have that luxury. 

Figure out your cliffs now - and then manage your organization so that you're designed never to get close to them again.