Sailing through your next planning session

We’ve been using the Innovation Games® framework Speedboat for many years to help teams evaluate the anchors holding back their product or company, then develop solutions to cut the anchor chain and propel them forward.  It’s a great, easy to understand metaphor.

We adapted it to use the Sailboat analogy so we could add in the positive aspects of the breezes filling the sails, representing the things which are moving the team or product in moving.  This went down especially well in coastal areas.

Recently we’ve been extending the metaphor to more closely align with the elements of SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) that most managers are used to using.

Our approach using anchors and wind, didn’t differentiate between internal and external factors, so anchors could capture both Threats and Weaknesses, and winds could capture Opportunities and Strengths.

As this seems like a brilliant idea, it must have been done before, right.  Well…it has.

There are two approaches we like, developed by diverse organizations; Black Swan Farming and Paladin Studios.

Black Swan Farming’s approach, which is most similar to our thinking (as it’s also based on Innovation Games) is:

Sailboat Exercise

So you can see the original elements, but they differentiate Storms, or negative wind events, representing Threats and Anchors, which represent Weaknesses or internal barriers.

The Tradewinds are a positive wind, so represent Opportunities, and the sails are the Strengths, as you can set the proper sails for you market, increasing or decreasing as required.

The Paladin Studios model is a bit different, but also easily understandable. Here is their representation:

The Sailboat Metaphor

In this case they extend the metaphor in, perhaps, an even more appropriate way.  As Threats and Opportunities are meant to focus on external elements, they use an Island to represent Opportunities and a Reef to represent Threats.

Their use of the sailboat with it sails representing Strengths and Anchors representing Weaknesses is consistent with the original Innovation Games® Speedboat game, as modified.

So we encourage you to think about how you might use these tools to help move your product, service, team or organization forward.

As always, you can benefit from having a professional facilitator help you with game design and set-up, playing the game, and then post-processing the results.  We’re always willing to help.

Happy sailing!

Steve and Megann

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Collaboration, or the Fine Art of Making Your Own Luck

Collaboration Clover

Where should your product or service go next? What will the next iteration look like? Product managers wrestle with these questions all the time. Sometimes they talk to their colleagues or others within the organization. Perhaps they listen to feedback from channel partners. And if they’re customer-centric, they’re finding ways to listen, observe, and discuss the customer journey. Often these explorations occur separately from one another. It doesn’t have to be that way.

As soon as we disconnect a desired new feature set from real things like production limitations, distribution challenges, or plain old price, we’re only considering part of the story. Taking this approach can mean that you as a product manager are setting each of these groups of stakeholders in opposition, weighing the needs of one against another. Invariably this sets a big weight on your shoulders.

We contend that it’s a weight that doesn’t need to be there. Collaboration is the lucky four-leaf clover that can provide everyone with a solution they can live with – without watering down the final result in some sort of “management by committee” scenario. While this used to involve a lot of expensive, time consuming travel and research, modern collaboration tools and techniques mean it’s much easier to get all these people around the table. Having a chance to explain their rationale, answer the big “why” questions, and see their feedback having an impact during the planning process is much more effective that having to explain why they didn’t get what they want. Moreover, it could even result in an even better approach than any one group had thought of alone.

Imagine investing a little talk time up front to come up with a product that’s truly wanted, efficient to produce, and easier to deliver. If that sounds like the sort of lucky outcome you’ve been looking for, we have the tools that can help.

Collaboration makes it happen,

Megann and Steve

Finding Our Way to “Yes”…

yes-no-maybeYou’re probably familiar with the expression, “Just Say No”. It’s a valid expression, and there are times when it’s exactly the right fit. If you find yourself taking on projects that don’t interest you, or that someone else is foisting off on you because of their own lack of interest, or you’re already overwhelmed, a firm but gentle “no” can come in handy.

Our question is this: if you’re in the latter group, and you’re saying “no” because you’re overwhelmed with other responsibilities, we’d like to ask you to reconsider. You may still say “no”, but before you do, make sure what you’re rejecting isn’t a more important opportunity than one of those current over-commitments.

This month our theme has been all about fresh starts and new beginnings. We’ve set some great goals for ourselves and our business, and we’re focused on delivering more facilitation, which our customers say they need, and coaching, which we’re also asked to do with increasing frequency. What that means is that opportunities sometimes come along that are just where we’d like them to be. But we’re busy. Or they’ll stretch us. Or we’re tired. You understand, we’re sure. So how can we deal with that?

We’re practicing finding our way to “yes”. In fact, to “YES!” or “YES, PLEASE!” There are several actions and behaviours we’ve taken on to make that happen. Hint: we’re a partnership, so we always have someone to help keep to the path we’ve set, so first, do this:

Find yourself an accountability buddy.

Here are some of the things we’ve held each other accountable for, this January, with a few links to help nudge you in the right direction:

  1. If one of us says “no” to an opportunity simply because we’re feeling a bit overloaded with responsibility, the partner helps us decide whether there isn’t something less important we can drop.
  2. When “no” is the answer because the thing is a stretch, we look for pieces or parts of the work that we’ve done before, or similar situations where we’ve already been successful. And remember it’s supposed to be hard if you’re upleveling.
  3. In cases where we’re leaning to “no” because there’s too much uncertainty, we err on the side of “tell me more” before rejecting what might be a big chance, out of hand.
  4. On the occasion when a networking or exploring event presents itself, and we have nothing else scheduled in that timeslot, we default to “yes”.
  5. Given a chance to do something fun that might lead to an opportunity, although we can’t yet see how, “yes” is now our answer.

January’s nearly over, and we hope you’re moving toward those big goals you set for yourself over the eggnog and fruitcake. We encourage you to find your way to “yes”. And if you need an accountability coach to help you do that, give us a call. Sometimes an investment in yourself is just what you need.

Moving you and your business in the right direction,

Megann and Steve

 

When You’re In The Weeds, Start Weeding!

Dandelion“You reap what you sow.” Are you familiar with that adage? It makes sense, right? Plan in advance. Prepare what you want to achieve. Sow the seeds. And eventually, harvest what you planted. All those self-improvement books must be right. (Right?)

We asked our @Panoptika followers about what they had planted, that they’re harvesting now, and one of our friends at Spring Loaded Technology said they were harvesting weeds. They were being tongue-in-cheek – they’ve really got their act together. Of course, it got us thinking anyway. The weed metaphor was so useful, we had to work on it right away. And when Rick Nason got involved in the conversation, we knew we were onto something.

So what about the things that are growing profusely, that you didn’t sow? How do you deal with behaviours, beliefs, habits, or patterns that have established themselves in your team or organization, that weren’t planted on purpose? That’s where weeding comes in. Just as you can prioritize what’s important to do, you can prioritize what is important not to do. Your weed may be someone else’s beautiful flower, so you need to be intentional as you tidy up your garden. When deciding what to do next, what to get rid of, what to elevate, and how to move forward, we like to use metaphor-based approaches. They’re simple to understand and everyone can understand their common language. Some of our favourites come from our friend and mentor Luke Hohmann, creator of Innovation Games.

What if the weeds seem overwhelming?

  1. Involve the whole team. They need to be involved in figuring out what to reap, what to simply get rid of, and whether some of the crops need to be rotated next time. They’re experts about what’s really going on.
  2. Get help! An outside neutral party like a facilitator comes in handy for keeping the crew on track, managing the weeds that are deep-rooted, and observing patterns that might not be obvious when you live with them every day. (Kind of like having a great gardener come by and help you get things in shape in your own back yard).
  3. While you’re at it, move some things around. Once you clear some of the weeds, it becomes easier to see what needs to be done.

So if what you’re reaping doesn’t seem to be what you sowed, try removing the weeds, and prepare for a more bountiful harvest.

Need help with your business garden? We’re happy to dig in.

Megann and Steve

Time is on Your Side

TimeNever enough time…never enough time. Does that sound familiar? There are lots of reasons you may feel like you don’t have enough time. Some of these include many different client commitments coming together at once, a new project that takes more time to learn than you had anticipated, or life events that have come “out of the blue”.

Here’s the thing: there will always be a certain level of uncertainty or lack of control if you are moving forward into uncharted territory. As much as you would like to have a clear way forward and time to accomplish it all, that may be an unrealistic expectation. So how do you resolve that?

When you think of the things you are trying to fit into your limited time budget, the first thing to firm up are your goals. Then, if we move our uncharted territory analogy forward, think of the control you are trying to gain over time as a map. When you travel between Point A and Point B on a map, you set the destination and look at the route, but there may still be detours or unanticipated changes to your route. What matters most is to make it to Point B. If you can set goals of where you want to be, time may become a bit easier to manage. First, on the map there are many sideroads you can take. Any of them have the potential to move you forward. But once you’ve made a choice that goes in the direction of your Point B, lots of those side roads become irrelevant. Similarly, if you look at your many time commitments and think about your goal, those that aren’t moving you in the direction of your goal should become irrelevant. Yes, it may be frustrating to not be able to do it all. The good news is that to accomplish a limited set of actions, most of which move you toward a goal, is more liberating, less frustrating, and will empower you to set ever-greater goals in your sights.

So even if it seems counter-intuitive when you are running like crazy, take time to set aside enough time to figure out where you want to get, and your journey will become much easier.

On the road, always,

Megann and Steve

For a Fresh Start, Start with a Clean Slate

April is a month of rebirtClean Slateh, renewal, and fresh starts (although as the snow continues to fall in Nova Scotia, it seems that including “spring” in that list may be an overstatement). The first quarter has come and gone, and now you’re either evaluating those great ideas you came up with in January, or you’ve given up hope that they will come to pass. Is it too late for a fresh start?

It’s never too late for a reboot, but for new ideas to take hold, it’s important that they not be crowded out by the same old, same old. That calls for a clean slate. Clean slate thinking allows you to ask the question, “what if we were building this new thing from the ground up, without any of the constraints we experience in our current business?” One technique we like to use is one we apply regularly in our own business. It’s an Innovation Game called Remember the Future. In our adaptation of this game, we imagine the new offering, or activity, or expansion at the height of its success. Then we look back, figuring out all the steps we took to get there, without considering the impacts or effects of what we’re doing now. That lets us really see the possibilities. Then, and only then, do we explore what we would have to change or not do, to make it happen.

This kind of thinking is only possible with an attitude of abundance. Scarcity thinking forces us to hang on to what we have, and to fear what we might have. So clear off your slate, imagine what your business or product could be, and kick that reboot you’ve been toying with into high gear.

Thinking clearly,

Megann and Steve