I Didn't Know I Was Broken!

I didn't know I was so broke!

by  Cara Parker

didn't know I was so broke! These days, it seems everywhere I turn, someone is trying to "fix" me – whether it's 21 Day Fix that will "fix" my health concerns; Stitch Fix, which will "fix" my wardrobe malfunctions; or Apple Security Fix, which will "fix" hacker threats to my cyber presence.  It seems everywhere I go, someone or some entity is offering a solution to things I care about.  I thought I'd join in. 

In leadership, we are truly always looking for the latest "fix." Leadership, at its core, is about continuous improvement or "fixing."  Here's my opinion:  a lot (if not a majority) of organizational and leadership concerns can by "fixed" by simply having a conversation.  We hear so much about the "art of conversation," or "just get up and talk to the person instead of sending another e-mail."  What I'm talking about has a greater return on investment. Let me give you 2 examples: innovation and performance management.

Innovation:  How much money has your organization spent in trying to think up better processes, improved ways of doing business, or how to solve a problem that has plagued your company for years?  Do you know how to "fix" this?  By talking.  Your employees are your greatest assets for innovation.  By simply getting a few of the right employees in a room, they will talk a mile a minute about how to "make it better around here."  Using good facilitation techniques, you can moderate healthy debates and prioritize the ideas using an impact/effort grid.  Tackle the easy "quick fixes" first.  Next, focus on the harder ones that take longer, are more resource intensive, or take more investigation.

Performance Management (PM): PM does not belong in your Human Resources Office.  It's the responsibility of every manager.  There are 2 sides to performance management – the growth of employees, and then "fixing" the problem employees.   Talking solves both.  PM conversations and coaching should be ongoing, scheduled and intentional conversations – not just a one-time event annually.  Career pathing, succession planning, growth opportunities, and mentoring are conversations best owned by managers.  Imagine a group of managers getting into a room for 2 hours sharing the needs of their divisions and employees. Next, through action-based facilitation, they begin matching up developmental opportunities and problem solving.  It's worth any amount of dollars spent on an "outside consultant."

Instead of thinking we're "broken," we at CPC are more concerned about you leveraging the current resources and assets you already have in order to move toward process improvement.  Take a moment and consider 2 areas you'd like to "fix" and then go facilitate good conversations!

C Parker Consulting, Inc. is an organizational and leadership development firm located in downtown Fredericksburg, Virginia.  We offer facilitation of conversations to "fix" issues that leaders are overwhelmed by.  Our office, The Forum at CPC, provides a great place to parley these discussions.  Check us out at: www.cparkerconsulting.com

Perpetual Movement Toward Your Success!

What Role Do You Play on Your Team?

Ever served on a team and thought, "this is the most dysfunctional group of people, I've ever been in a room with?" (No, I'm not talking about your family!)  I'm talking about teams that just can't seem to get it together.  They seem to have all the necessary tools for success:  They know what their purpose is, they've identified their stakeholders, they are clear on their boundaries, and they may even have an adequate budget and IT tools, yet they still can't get their product/service out the door.

 

The issue is not the tools, it's the fact they may not know how to work together as a team.  It sounds so cliché and as senior leaders, we've all attended leadership trainings to help us be more effective. But… the practicality is that teams need to understand, appreciate and give space for various roles to step up and lead the team when the time is right for their role.

 

Here's an example, let's say it's 4th quarter and you are working on a team that is charged with developing a strategic plan for the next year.  At first, the meetings were dynamic – lots of good ideas and enthusiasm in the room.  Then, as the weekly meetings continued, the energy died and you felt like the team was spinning its wheels, having the same discussions, and not moving any closer to actually putting fingers to keyboard to write the document.  It's not that the project changed or new people came on the team.  It's likely that your team members are feeling unfulfilled. Let's dig deeper.  At first, when the team came together, there was excitement about what next year looked like – lots of brainstorming and idea sharing of what the future could look like.  It was fun.  You probably had people up at the white board drawing out ideas and then "selling" you on their positions.  Did you notice though that some people around the table had a skeptical look on their face, or others may have voiced a "Yeh, but" only to be silenced by the enthusiastic extraverts?  Often, these folks are seen as the naysayers, when what they are really good at is quality-checking ideas against reality. Or some may be scratching their heads because they know they will be responsible for overall implementation and with all the conflicting ideas flying around, they have no idea where to begin, so asking questions helps solidify their understanding.  But, instead, now they have been labeled as, "difficult," a "buzzkill" or "a downer."  Slowly these people disengage, sometimes forming an alliance to undermine the original purpose of the team.

 

Knowing the strengths of your team members can help set the stage better, allow for brainstorming in the initial stages of the project and then allow the project to come to conclusion minimizing conflict.

 

Fast forward a few more meetings…Let's say, Buzzkill Bob has finally been able to speak up, ask his questions, and is now coming to the meeting with a full blown task list and time line that will allow this strategic plan to be written.  He's excited and so are the colleagues that early on had asked quality questions and sought out additional information.  As he begins presenting "how" the team will write the plan, those early on visionaries start scowling.  They are suddenly feeling locked in to something they were originally just sharing ideas on.  Now, they begin to slink back in their chair wide-eyed in trying to make sense of the connection between their brainchild and this very structured project plan with task lists, assignments, time tables, budgets, etc.  Meanwhile, others are hanging on every word and meticulously adding in the details to get the job accomplished.

 Once can easily see how conflict can arise.

 Here's a different scenario:  A meeting is called with key business leaders with a goal to write a new strategic plan for the organization within 3 months.  At the first welcome meeting, the goals are outlined, budget factors, resources, and overall expectations of the product are clearly defined – just as before.  AND…in addition to all the business factors, each person in aware and can articulate their strengths, allowable weaknesses, and how they will best contribute to the team. These assets are stated up front so there are no surprises to responses during meeting discussions.  For example, the people who are great at ideas are needed early on to help solve difficult problems or brainstorm creative solutions.  Those that are not naturally creative should not be critical, but can take some nuggets of the generated ideas, gather more information, test it out, and formulate an implementation plan.  At the plan stage, those creatives, should not become frustrated with all the details, but they should recognize the strengths of those that can bring their ideas to life!

 

When teams recognize and appreciate each other's strengths and more importantly, give each other space to succeed, creative products can be delivered on time, within budget and with the highest of quality all the while creating a positive environment where team members are contributing, supporting each other and thriving!

 

Sound too good to be true?  It's not.  It's totally doable and is the premise of Belbin Team Roles.  Cara Parker is an accredited consultant to work with teams to maximize their performance using Belbin Team Role Theory coupled with her Project Management Professional Certification.  To inspire your team, contact her directly at 540.623.7454 or check out her website at: www.cparkerconsulting.com.

 

Are you serving on a high performing team?

Adopted from: Turning Point Consulting and The Grove Internationa

Most of us have been part of a successful team.  A few of us have been, at some point, part of high-performing team.  This is actually when members feel synergy and a sense of excitement in working together toward a common goal with great results. Members actually care about the success of their teammates, are clear about their goals, and know their specific purpose while serving on the team.   But here's the crux - high performing teams don't automatically exist, but rather are formed and developed through a process over time. In other words, developing a high performing team is an intentional act. And it takes time. 

 

That's what I like about the Drexler Sibbet's High Performing Teams Model – it identifies seven stages that each team must go through in order to be high performing.  Yes, let me say it again – it is seven stages and every team has to honor each and every stage.  You may be saying, "We have scarce resources – time being one of them – and we don't have the time to spend on seven stages!" I say, "You don't have the time not to spend." The hard truth is that without initiating the necessary time and space focused on your team, your project will not succeed. Period.

 

So, here it is – Drexler/Sibbet's seven stages.  (They are really quite simple and clear):

 

  1. Orient your team members to determine who's who and the role they serve on the team.  Establish your team's identity.
  2. Build trust based in forthrightness and reliability resulting in mutual regard for each other.
  3. Clarify the team's goal by articulating a shared vision and clearly state assumptions about the tasks.
  4. Gain commitment by assigning the right roles to the right people, allocating support where needed, clearly state boundaries articulating how the team makes decisions.
  5. Implement!  This is the fun stage where all the planning pays off.  (And OBTW, if stages 1-4 are in place, implementation is never as hard as you originally thought.)
  6. Rock the high performance.  This stage is marked by the team's high trust evidenced by the ease of flexibility and change when necessary.  Expectations are surpassed on deliverables.
  7. Renew the team.  Don't forget reward and recognition.  The team needs to be re-energized.  Revel in success, learn from mistakes, and actively prepare for a new cycle of action!

 

So, what stage is your team in?  I hope you are working your way through each stage in order to produce an effective and timely product or service.  But if not, that's ok.  Drexler/Sibbet makes it easy to diagnose the behaviors you don't want and turn them into behaviors you do want within each stage.

Cara Parker is a consultant who works with teams to maximize their performance. Drexler/Sibbet Model is one of the many great tools in her tool kit that helps diagnose team's successes and challenges.  To inspire your team, contact her directly at 540.623.7454 or check out her website at: www.cparkerconsulting.com.

 

Advice to women business owners

One of CParker Consulting, Inc. (CPC)'s hallmark's training is "Time Flies; Principles of Time Management." The irony about the term time management is that we cannot manage time.  There are 60 minutes in a hour/24 hours in a day/7 days in a week…you get the picture.  However, we can manage our tasks and our self. 

 

As the owner of a woman owned, small business focused on leadership development and strategic planning, I sometimes feel like my time is not my own. I've developed a few tips for managing time – uhum –managing tasks and myself - that that goes beyond Outlook and Daytimers. I hope this helps other small business women owners as well.

 

  1. Quickly identify the root causes of poor task/self management. Ask yourself the following diagnostic questions:
    1. Am I the right person for the job?  If no, hand off the task promptly!
    2. Do I need additional training to get the job done well? If yes, then enroll in a course.
    3. Am I letting others dictate my schedule? If yes, then set better boundaries with colleagues, clients, family, friends, etc.
    4. Am I in a transition?  As a business owner, you should always be in transition you seek new growth opportunities. Therefore, embrace it. Outline a plan to get the transitional tasks complete and stick to the plan!
    5. Are you a perfectionist?  If yes, know when to lower your standards. Sometimes the task has to be perfect, sometimes 80% perfection is enough to be successful.
    6. Are you afraid structure will stifle your creative juices?  If yes, own your creativity. It's what makes a business owner tick, but put some structure around it with schedules and communication to ensure your creativity can be implemented by those who work with you.

      (Adapted from Julie Morgenstern, "Time Management from the Inside Out")
  2. Write a personal strategic plan.  You spend so much time pouring over your business strategy, do the same thing for yourself!  Develop 4 goals max, that you can implement over the next year. A few ideas for goal categories include: Professional Development, Financial, Wellness, Family,Community, and Recreation.
  3. Work-life balance is a misnomer for women business owners – work and life go hand in hand. It is about being intentional to set priorities for a given period of time.  The reality is that sometimes, "work" must get the priority and sometimes, "life" must be the priority.  Tip: Embrace technology to help with this.  I love the fact that I can have a family day at the amusement park, disengage for 20 minutes periodically to check e-mail and connect with the business, then get right back onto the roller coasters. Similarly, when work is the priority, having Skype, Lync, or Face-time keeps me connected to the family on overnight travels.
  4. Take care of yourself.  Remember, you have lots to do and lots of people depend on you.  Your well being is just as important!  Take time to make and keep wellness check-ups with your doctor, eat healthy, exercise and get your 8 hours sleep.  I also recommend connecting with your spirituality.  It will help keep you grounded, focused, and maintain perspective in your busyness.

Cara Parker is owner of CParker Consulting, Inc. in Fredericksburg, Virginia where she manages The Forum @ CPC – a "forum" for training, development, strategic planning, and good conversation.  She is the mother of 2 very active boys! www.cparkerconsulting.co

CPC Delivers High Performance University to Marine Corps Systems Command

AREA FIRM CHOSEN TO DEVELOP NEW PROGRAM FOR MARINE CORPS

 

CParker Consulting, Inc. develops six month High Performance University to improve systems for modern battle space.

 

 

Fredericksburg, VA - CParker Consulting, Inc. delivered a new High Performance University (HPU) curriculum February 2012, on behalf of its customer, the Marine Corps Systems Command (MARCORSYSCOM) in Quantico, Virginia.  The program is being kicked off to help MARCORSYSCOM Competency-Aligned Teams fully live their mission, providing Marines and civilian Marines improved systems for the modern battle space in a faster, more efficient manner.

 

HPU is one of several components of the MARCORSYSCOM Team Improvement Program, which objective is to support the completion of MARCORSYSCOM’s transition into a Competency-Aligned Organization (CAO).  Other elements of the MARCORSYSCOM Team Improvement Program include CAO Chartering, where teams build their roadmap, and the future Team Leadership in a CAO Environment course, which will use active, modern teaching methods to engage team leaders CAO success principles for leading the workforce.

 

“HPU provides teams with a new understanding of team processes characterized by high performance, effective team functioning, and an ability to monitor and self-correct,” said Cara Parker, CEO of CParker Consulting. “High Performance University is a six-month program designed to assist newly-chartered Integrated Product Teams and other support teams develop the necessary skills to promote cohesiveness and a unified sense of mission that keeps goals and objectives in front of the team after the initial enthusiasm of chartering wears off and daily routine settles in.”

 

The HPU program is centered on helping teams to understand the tenets of what creates an environment of High Performance, and the role they play in its creation.  HPU helps teams to establish and monitor effective team processes in the areas such as shared participation, decision making, problem solving, and conflict management.  Throughout the course, the team’s charter is used as a lens through which to focus the lessons learned, helping teams to ensure that their processes and goals are in alignment with the objectives they have laid out for themselves.

 

The planned curriculum for HPU is broken into two major parts.  The core curriculum, comprising the first four months, focuses on bedrock topics that are essential for all teams.  During this phase the current state of the team is assessed, and tools such as Team Behavior Roles Identification are employed to give everyone a better sense of who is on the team, and how they can best contribute.  Topics covered as part of the core curriculum include advanced sessions on setting goals and norms, problem definition, and stakeholder analysis.  Capping the core curriculum is a session on conflict resolution within the team, as well as a simulation that will allow the team to break out into smaller units and put these critical skills to use in a safe environment.

 

Understanding that every team is different, the last two months of the program consist of electives.  About a dozen additional topics are made available that the group can choose from to suit their particular needs and environment.  Elective topics include virtual teaming, risk management, creating team culture, and how to have productive meetings.

 

“High Performance University mirrors true university principles,” says Dr. Gail Funke, CParker Consulting’s project manager and former Dean of the Federal Executive Institute, “with its focus on classroom rigor and in-depth application between sessions, HPU is a multi-media workshop that includes assessments, simulations, and group coaching that allow teams to perform at a higher level with increased productivity, improved team dynamics and output.” Key contributors were Dr. Funke and Paul Baptist, M.Ed.

Founded in 2008 CParker Consulting helps clients prepare for and adapt to new organizational development challenges using a systematic, customized approach, providing facilitation, curriculum design, strategic planning, and workforce development for corporate, government, non-profit, and educational customers.

The Error of Our Ways.

A recent report indicates that over 85% of large companies devote significant resources to strategic planning.

If such a high percentage of companies are heavily engaged in strategic planning, why are so many still saddled with bad strategies or no strategies? Where do these organizations, many of which have enormous resources and experience in this area, go wrong?

Maximize your chances for success by asking yourself these key questions as you prepare for your own strategic planning process:

When do you do your strategic planning?

If the calendar dictates when you do strategic planning then you’re probably not as connected to your market or your customers as you should be.

 

For many companies, the annual retreat is the time and place for strategic planning. But all too often this is just a feel good exercise that provides the corporate version of the refrigerator pictures that adorn the kitchens of families with small children.

 

I’m not suggesting that annual reviews are bad (although quarterlies make a great deal more sense). Rather, I am suggesting that good strategic planning reviews are deliberately scheduled.  Great strategic planning occurs as an on-going event and is agile enough to respond to new opportunities and market trends.

Why are you developing a strategic plan?

At the core of a good strategic plan is a problem.

 

Your problem may be a new challenge from your competition, shifts in the regulatory environment, or a new technology that threatens obsolescence. The key to a successful strategic plan is to start with the problem.

 

Often you'll read corporate strategies that say things like “we plan to grow by acquisition” or “our strategy is to vertically integrate.”

 

Pretty words, but absent a clear understanding the problem the strategy is designed to solve, such top-down corporate marching orders may not be strategic at all.

Is your plan executable?

If your strategy really does address a problem, then it should include the tactics; i.e. the executables by which you will successfully implement the strategy.

 

In the mid 1990’s, as part of a growth strategy, Quaker purchased Snapple for $1.7 Billion. They already owned Gatorade, so it was clearly a slam dunk to extend their drink offerings.

 

Or was it?... Snapple had a different distribution network and a different customer base. The implementation failed because the requisite pre-work was never done and problematic issues were never addressed.  Quaker later sold Snapple for $300 million, taking a $1.4 billion loss. Such is the cost of poor strategic decision making.

 

In an interview after the divestiture, the CEO said things might have gone better had someone on the management team been more assertive such as challenging some of the underlying assumptions.  Assumptions like the distribution matched their current model (they sold in bulk to grocery stores, Snapple was typically delivered in refrigerated vehicles to convenience stores.) The pre-work here would have been a truly thorough job of analysis, including customer behaviors. Their product offerings were essentially “mainstream”, Snapple had more of a “cult” following.

 

Who is responsible for strategy in your organization?

Ultimately a strategy is set by the person at the top. Committees may fact-find, management teams may debate and recommend, but any strategy set by a group is inevitably less focused, less compelling and more likely to fail.

 

For an overarching strategy, the responsible person may be the CEO, or it may be a product manager if the strategy is divisional. The point is to make sure the appropriate person is developing and overseeing implementation of the strategy. 

So what does it all mean to you?

This list is not exhaustive, but it is a good starting point to determine whether your process will provide you with a genuine opportunity for successful strategy work.  

 

2013 Strategic Punch List

1. Renew your strategic plan; Include measures.

Financial Goals (remember to give back to community!)

Customer Service

Internal Process

Employee Leadership

Hint:  Review your strategic plan monthly AND keep it simple!

 

2. You know what you think about you! Find out what your customers are saying.

 

3. Conduct an internal climate survey.  Analyze the results to strengthen your team(s).

 

4. Sharpen your Saw.  Outline your quarterly plan for professional development.

 

5. Renew yourself. Have Fun/Enjoy the moment.

CPARKER CONSULTING, INC.’S ACQUISITION LOGISTICS PRODUCT SUPPORT SUBCONTRACT EXPANDED

CParker Consulting, Inc., has received an expansion to its current contract to support Strategic Stakeholder Analysis for Marine Corps Systems Command, Acquisition Logistics Product Support Organization.

 

Quantico, VA—CParker Consulting, Inc. (CPC) has received an expansion to its current contract to support a Strategic Stakeholder Analysis for Marine Corps Systems Command Acquisition Logistics Product Support (ALPS) Organization. CPC is a subcontractor to Engility Corporation and has served the Marine Corps Systems Command in this capacity since 2010.  The joint contract team has received accolades from the Assistant Commander for superb work in support of strategic plan development, facilitating senior leadership trainings, leading chartering sessions, launching employee satisfaction surveys and formalizing the intern program.

 

The expansion of the current contract allows the Engility/CPC team to support ALPS by helping them analyze their strategic stakeholder relationships.  Our team will be providing data analysis, focus group, and interview facilitation, with the intent of helping ALPS identify their stakeholder network and assess how they best provide value to exceed stakeholder expectations and meet their core mission. Ms. Elizabeth Scott, from CPC is leading the effort.  "It's such an honor to work with a team that is so mission focused. By focusing on how to add value they are impacting not just their work units but the Marines on the ground."

 

Cara Parker, President/CEO of CPC states, “We are proud to be asked to support this work by Engility.  Our partnership with Engility Corporation, expertise in analytics, coupled with our ALPS knowledge and experience gives us an advantage that we can add immediate value out of the start gate! We are excited about this support area.”

 

Founded in 2008, CParker Consulting, Inc. helps clients prepare for and adapt to new organizational development challenges using a systematic, customized approach, providing facilitation, curriculum design, strategic planning, and workforce development for corporate, government, non-profit, and educational customers.

5 Characteristics of Inspiring Vision and Mission Statements

Author: Cara G. Parker, President/CEO of C Parker Consulting, Inc.

 

Are vision and mission statements the same thing?  What's the difference between the two and do I really need both for my organization?  Let's delve into these questions by first highlighting the benefits of having both a vision and mission statement for your organization.  Having both are absolutely necessary in order to set the stage for the rest of your strategic plan.  Explicitly, they form the foundation of your strategy and set the direction for your organization.  More specifically, benefits include: prioritization of budgets, highlights skill gaps in the workforce, forms the basis for decision making and problem solving, focuses marketing/product promotion needs, and supports forecasting for your customer base and financials. 

 

Let's start with vision.  The vision of your organization is your polar star. It's visible throughout your organization and is used as a compass to set direction from all angles within your organization. And just as the polar star has five points – your vision should have five points:

 

  1. Audacious.  In other words – "Go Large!"  Focus on achievement.  Define what success looks like for your organization.
  2. Futuristic: Pull out your old grammar books and look for gerund verbs.  Gerunds are a great beginning.  Many vision statements start with words like, "Creating", "Building," "Moving." Choose your verb carefully though; words matter.  If your vision statement is too general, your audience won't know what you are saying.  If your statement is too specific, it can limit your success.
  3. Clear/Descriptive:  Your statement should be a clear, short statement.  It paints picture of excellence.  Readers should be able to visualize what will be happening in your organization when the vision is fully met. It will be clear what your employees will be talking about around the coffee bar, what your customers are saying standing in front your building, or what your Chief Financial Officer is telling your city mayor!
  4. Time Bound: I recommend setting your vision statement for a three to five year time span.  The world is too volatile to consider any longer.  The days of 10-year strategic plans are gone.  With the technology, political, financial, and global environment, a 10-year forecast is just too long.
  5. Inspirational: Permeate your vision with passion!  Use it to stimulate your employees' creativity and thinking.  Allow it to give meaning to their work by creating a culture of success!  You are headed somewhere big, so set the tone and environment.

     

    Let's switch to mission now. Mission statements come in all shapes and sizes and the good news is you ultimately get to decide the right style for your organization.  The best missions are short, clear, and succinct.  Often a mission is viewed as a summary of your organization. The mission is a proclamation of our organization's purpose.  It usually does not change too much over time. A mission represents something to be accomplished whereas a vision is something to be pursued.

     

    Here are five characteristics for your mission statement:
  1. Succinct: Mission statements should be short and snappy.  Details can be found in the strategic plan.
  2. Memorable: Similar to your organization's logo, it should be easy to recall (another reason to keep it short!).  People should be able to remember the overall intent of it even if they cannot recall the full statement.
  3. Unique: Your statement should not be all encompassing, which will cause it to be too broad and not memorable.  Focus on what it that you strive to do differently – what makes your organization stand out, how you achieve excellence!
  4. Realistic: There's fine line between a realistic idea and wishful thinking. Your mission is not your vision – depicting a perfect future of success, but it is a summary of why you exist and what services you deliver.
  5. Current: Although your mission statement should be written for the long haul, review it periodically to ensure it is current.  As your organization changes in slight direction or does a full 180 shift, your mission should keep up with the organization's shifts. 

 

In closing, vision and mission statements are similar, yet serve very different functions for your employees, customers, and stakeholders.  I challenge you to revisit or write a vision and mission statement as the jumpstart to your strategic plan.  Remember, it's your polar star.  Keep your organization shining!

 

Cara Parker is President/CEO of C Parker Consulting, Inc. in Fredericksburg, Virginia where she manages The Forum @ CPC – a "forum" for strategic planning, leadership training/development, strategic planning, and good conversation.  Check us out at www.cparkerconsulting.com

 

C Parker Consulting's Vision: Developing high performance clients.

 

Solve your Wicked Problems in 5 Steps!

By: Cara G. Parker, President and CEO of C Parker Consulting, Inc. with consultation from Dr. Gail Funke.

 

This is the time of year many of us in the C-Suite engage in planning for the next calendar or next fiscal year.  Often, we get in a room with our esteemed colleagues to map out our next strategic plan or develop the next operating budget and what happens – BAM! - We are faced with a "problem" as we begin to look into our company's future.  And these are typically not just any problems that we in the consulting field call "opportunities" or try to give a positive spin through the appreciative inquiry lens – No, these are WICKED!  These are problems so paradoxical that we see no-way out . These are problems like, "I need to reduce my budget by 30% AND still maintain the 97th percentile in quality customer service scores.

 

That's where these 5 steps some can help.

 

1.     Solve the Right Problem.  Einstein said, "If I were informed the world was in danger of coming to an end in 60 seconds, I would spend the first 59 seconds formulating the question and the 60th second solving for it.  Essentially, Einstein is saying - make sure you're solving the right problem by focusing on the true concerns and constraints.  Dig deep – often our first reaction is not really the right question to be asking. Ask "why" 5 times.  If we are not answering the right problem, we are wasting energy for something that is not going to produce results. A good problem statement describes an unfavorable condition that prevents a goal or objective from being achieved.  A good problem statement includes: the problem or defect, the magnitude of the event (how often it occurs), the location where it occurs, and how important the problem is (use metrics!).

 

2.     Pinpoint your Stakeholders.  The illustration of "walking a mile in the other person's moccasins" comes to mind here.  With the team you have convened to articulate the problem statement, identify ALL the people, departments, and organizations that are being impacted by the magnitude of the problem.  These stakeholders are the reason we exist.  They come in different shapes, sizes, forms and have just as many diverse needs.  Sample stakeholders include: customers, stockholders, employees, colleagues, distributors, suppliers – and the list continues.  Catalog each set of stakeholders and map the impact the problem is having on them.  Remember, stakeholders have both an interest in the problem and often times the power to influence the outcomes. 

 

3.     Analyze the Issues.  Problems don't occur in a vacuum; often they represent various issues culminating at one time.  We call this, the perfect storm! In this step, your team will analyze all the concerns and issues feeding into the problem statement.  Look at the problem from all angles. Gather data.  Consider:  resources (people, technology, dollars, time), perceptions (stakeholders, leadership, customers, employees), communication needs (internal and external), your culture, the overall environment (strengths, opportunities, and threats) and your organization's current vision, mission, goals and core values.

 

4.     Brainstorm Solutions:  This is the fun part.  Now that you have all the needed data – solve it!  You have the right problem statement written, have identified impacts, the issues are transparent, so go to it!  Creativity counts here.  Brainstorm as many ideas and steps needed to right your problem.  Quantity of ideas count – not quality at first.  Don't do this alone – you need more that just your brainpower.  Next, narrow down the solution(s) to the ones that make the problem not so wicked and scary and develop your plan of attack.

 

5.     Test Your Solution(s): Even our best ideas and solutions need the "gut check."  Once the solution is firm and your plan is in place, test it – experiment with it before you fully launch.  Conduct a focus group with impacted stakeholders and ask them for feedback, undergo a peer review of the idea, talk to a neutral person or trusted colleague, or launch a small pilot to see if the problem shrinks or goes away.  If you're off track, this test phase will save your reputation, your budget, and resources!

 

 

One caution:  these 5 steps are not necessarily consecutive steps.  For example, when you analyze the issues in Step 3, you may find you forgot a stakeholder or that the problem statement needs refined.  When you test your solution, you may need to go back and gather more data to analyze or brainstorm a different solution set.  The bigger issue when using these 5 steps is to ensure each step is conducted and no steps are missed.

 

For more information on Wicked Problem Solving or other organizational matters, watch our "5 Steps in 5 Minutes Whiteboard Session" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ARbtX9NVBSQ or contact Cara Parker.  She can be found at: www.cparkerconsulting.com.

 

CPC Introduces E3

CPC Introduces E3 - a specialized program dedicated to the

EngagementEfficiency and Execution of your meetings.

Meetings come in many forms (personnel, project status, off-sites, training, one-one-ones, crucial conversations, etc.).  Wouldn't it be nice if you walked out of every meeting saying, "Wow, I have clear direction - what a great meeting!"? Often, the opposite is true.  As a business consultant, I mostly hear, "That's 2 hours of my life I'll never get back!"

Today's organizations are experiencing unprecedented challenges, specifically in increased costs, competition, expectations from their workforce, and constrained resources.  Often, these factors working together result in increased responsibilities from employees meaning increased tasks and less time to do them in.  As a result, many companies are simply responding to change rather than finding solutions that are both immediate and sustainable.

One of the best ways to navigate the transition from response to solution is to calibrate the engagement, efficiency, and execution of your meetings.  It sounds so simple, but results show that when meetings are well run using our proprietary E3 methodology, effectiveness propels toward solutions!

E3 Meetings* are founded in the following principles.

E1:  Engagement:  Each member in the room has a role and is a contributor. Using role management, E3 finds the best way to engage with each member based on his or her behavioral and communication styles.  Our strategists are skilled at ensuring everyone has a voice and is heard with respect. 

Solution:  Meetings are interesting with attendees actively participating.  Everyone's input is heard getting to buy-in!

Sample Tools: Role Assessment, Business rules, Pre-meeting Vision, Big Picture Orientation

E2:  Efficiency: Meetings must have purpose and an outcome.  Organizations cannot afford to use constrained resources to dialogue without conclusion or results.  In E3, participants come to meetings understanding the agenda, intent, and their role of contribution.  E3 facilitators utilize a cadre of tools to come to quick decisions while allowing focused time to analyze options.

Solution:  Understanding the purpose of the meeting and the value of 3rd party facilitation.  Outcomes based in analysis using the appropriate decision making tools and techniques.  Embracing virtual team members and use of media.

Sample Tools: Use of Virtual media, Meeting framework, Discovery, Graphic facilitation, Decision Making Matrix, Mind Maps, Process Maps

E3:  Execution: Individuals and participants need to leave meetings embracing decisions, with clear direction, tasks, and knowledge.  E3 methodology holds participants accountable for solutions with clear sustainable goals for execution and solutions.

Solution:  Sustainable results through action plans and RACI charts. Decision follow- through.

Sample Tools: Living Action Targets, Accountability Rubric, Product, Sustainable Tip Sheet

The result is simple - your organization operates better with CPC helping to propel your organization toward results!

Note the term "Meeting" has a broad meaning within E3. "Meetings" include personnel, project status, off-sites, training, one-one-ones, crucial conversations, etc.   

I didn't know I was so broke!

didn't know I was so broke! These days, it seems everywhere I turn, someone is trying to "fix" me – whether it's 21 Day Fix that will "fix" my health concerns; Stitch Fix, which will "fix" my wardrobe malfunctions; or Apple Security Fix, which will "fix" hacker threats to my cyber presence.  It seems everywhere I go, someone or some entity is offering a solution to things I care about.  I thought I'd join in. 

 

In leadership, we are truly always looking for the latest "fix." Leadership, at its core, is about continuous improvement or "fixing."  Here's my opinion:  a lot (if not a majority) of organizational and leadership concerns can by "fixed" by simply having a conversation.  We hear so much about the "art of conversation," or "just get up and talk to the person instead of sending another e-mail."  What I'm talking about has a greater return on investment. Let me give you 2 examples: innovation and performance management.

 

Innovation:  How much money has your organization spent in trying to think up better processes, improved ways of doing business, or how to solve a problem that has plagued your company for years?  Do you know how to "fix" this?  By talking.  Your employees are your greatest assets for innovation.  By simply getting a few of the right employees in a room, they will talk a mile a minute about how to "make it better around here."  Using good facilitation techniques, you can moderate healthy debates and prioritize the ideas using an impact/effort grid.  Tackle the easy "quick fixes" first.  Next, focus on the harder ones that take longer, are more resource intensive, or take more investigation.

 

Performance Management (PM): PM does not belong in your Human Resources Office.  It's the responsibility of every manager.  There are 2 sides to performance management – the growth of employees, and then "fixing" the problem employees.   Talking solves both.  PM conversations and coaching should be ongoing, scheduled and intentional conversations – not just a one-time event annually.  Career pathing, succession planning, growth opportunities, and mentoring are conversations best owned by managers.  Imagine a group of managers getting into a room for 2 hours sharing the needs of their divisions and employees. Next, through action-based facilitation, they begin matching up developmental opportunities and problem solving.  It's worth any amount of dollars spent on an "outside consultant."

 

Instead of thinking we're "broke," we at CPC are more concerned about you leveraging the current resources and assets you already have in order to move toward process improvement.  Take a moment and consider 2 areas you'd like to "fix" and then go facilitate good conversations!

 

C Parker Consulting, Inc. is an organizational and leadership development firm located in downtown Fredericksburg, Virginia.  We offer facilitation of conversations to "fix" issues that leaders are overwhelmed by.  Our office, The Forum at CPC, provides a great place to parley these discussions.  Check us out at: www.cparkerconsulting.com

Perpetual Movement Toward Your Success!