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

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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

Check your pockets for luck!

City ShopperHave you ever pulled a coat or purse you haven’t used for awhile from the closet, only to discover money inside? Even when it’s a small amount, you feel richer. Lucky, even. You can do the same thing with your business.  Whether it’s going back through your idea file (you do have one, don’t you?) or getting together with colleagues to review some back-burner projects, or even meeting with clients to review what’s changed in their agenda or strategy recently, there’s an undiscovered opportunity awaits. We have all sorts of facilitation techniques we use to make these tasks easier and more fun, like the Innovation Game® Me and My Shadow. If you’re not making interesting, useful discoveries to move your business forward, search through some of those “coat pockets” you haven’t looked in for awhile. We’re sure there’s some luck waiting in there somewhere.

Try these steps today to find it:

1. Call a client you haven’t seen recently, and set up some time to observe them while they’re using your product or service.

2. Think back to January and the projects you were going to start but haven’t, then pick one, and get going!

3. Pull out a file on an old sale or project – and see if you can figure out a better way to approach it, knowing what you learned in the process.

Happy discoveries,

Megann and Steve

Build a Community and Grow your Confidence

Are you a product manager who’s experienced conflict, confusion, or even a lack of confidence that you’re going in the right direction? Do you have the title, but you’re not sure what a product manager does (and everyone at your company wants to badge you with a different job description)? These are not uncommon problems. As we’ve been continuing our “repatriation” to the east coast, we’ve made some discoveries in our growing network. One of these is watching how the confidence of individual players grows, as they build their community or ecosystem. It’s like they are learning their habitat, trying what works, and finding out whose ideas and input they can, and should, trust. We’ve seen tremendous momentum in the east coast startup movement, and if these startups are going to become stayups, we need to continue the community-building at the next level.

Our work has always been about helping people or organizations to get a better understanding of customers, and how those customers interact with their products. This means that product managers are often our clients, and just as frequently, our friends. Depending on the location, the product management community may be very well developed and interconnected, or it may barely exist. But our observation is that once the community begins to take shape, product managers become a lot more confident. They reach a point where:

  • They’re ready to take a stand for what their definition of product management is
  • They know where to find other product managers whose learning and solutions are relevant to their context
  • The solutions they recommend are well-grounded in evidence, from a customer-centric perspective
  • Their skills at customer discovery, user experience management, and advocacy on behalf of the client are continuously improving.

Atlantic Canada is full of bright young (and young-at-heart) product managers (whether that’s by title, or by function) who want to change the landscape for the products they’re building and the customers they serve. If you’re interested in growing your community and building your product management toolkit, join us at ProductCamp Atlantic October 25th. 

Look forward to seeing you there,

Megann and Steve

Megann and Steve Willson Medium

Planting the seeds of success

Spring is gradually sneaking up on the east coast of Canada.  One day it’s 10°C and the next it’s snow flurries.  It’s interesting trying to guess what’s coming around the corner.

We are, at Panoptika Central, currently inundated with greenery.  There’s a new garden to be planted and we don’t know what will grow, so we’re trying many different things.

It’s a bit like the start-ups we’ve been following this year through the Dalhousie Faculty of Management.  They are working with an approach we’ve talked about before, the lean canvas.  The principal being that you have an idea, or several; you look at the 9 key dimensions fleshing out your idea; you formulate hypotheses to test your assumptions; and then you test your hypotheses, either validating them, or invalidating them.  Either way, you end up knowing more about your idea and its potential utility.

Then your idea lives or dies by real world conditions, but not after you’ve sunk everything into it!

To use our garden analogy, we could have invested our entire budget into planting potatoes.  We like potatoes; they grow them in Nova Scotia; but will they grow in our garden?  So instead, we have invested in a series of small tests to see what will be the most successful.  Then, having facts to go on, we can pivot in the coming years into things we can grow successfully and that we like.

Maybe we should write a book…Lean Canvas GardeningJ

Here’s to making your personal garden (or idea) grow successfully!

Left…Right…I’m their leader. Which way did they go?

Has the time come to get rid of the Left and Right labels in politics?  Given the recent actions on the part of Nova Scotia’s NDP government…it appears maybe.

To misquote The Who; “and the Party on the left is now the Party on the right.”

It’s supposed to be right-of-centre governments which give grants and tax breaks to private business, but things work differently these days in Nova Scotia.  In recent weeks we have saved a paper mill in Cape Breton,  “stolen” engineering jobs from Calgary, outsourced government IT jobs to IBM, and are now looking at buying back forests from bankrupt Bowater.

And the Irving shipbuilding contract hasn’t even started yet!

Public opinion seems divided as to the benefits of these moves, but it does make for exciting times in the province which, at the time of Confederation, was once the richest corner of the nation.

It’s actually refreshing to see a government sticking their neck out to try and create an atmosphere of sustainable success.  Not all of these scenarios will work out to everyone’s satisfaction, but that’s business!

Here’s to Nova Scotia…land of opportunity!

I’ll Have Another Running a Different Race?

This week’s race at Belmont was a disappointment for a host of people on the I’ll Have Another team – including owner Paul Reddam, trainer Doug O’Neill, and jockey Mario Gutierrez. But there’s a solid business strategy lesson to be had in the retirement of the winner of two jewels in the Triple Crown – the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness.

Sure, it’s possible Reddam’s team could have raced I’ll Have Another on Saturday. They might even have won. It’s easy to say on paper, that you should sacrifice the opportunity for a huge tactical win, in favour of your company’s long-term strategy. But in the modern economy, where the long-term planning horizon grows increasingly shorter, this can be incredibly difficult to achieve. Will you as a manager forfeit a huge, immediate payoff in favour of a long-term goal that may not be achieved until you’re no longer even with the company? Suddenly it doesn’t seem so simple.

The folks backing I’ll Have Another got it right. They decided it wasn’t worth causing undue pain and suffering to the horse. But there’s more. Clearly they thought about the opportunity cost as well. Had they risked running the race, they might not only have lost, but may have injured I’ll Have Another sufficiently to ruin his career as a valuable stud. So maybe I’ll Have Another was just running a different race.

Next time you’re tempted to over-reach your risk tolerance in favour of a potential short-term gain, make sure you’re not just betting on the right horse, but on the right race.

Improving the odds on your business,

Megann & Steve