Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Now.. how do I make the RIGHT decision???


Making The Right Decisions

Having detailed a few tools on how to avoid making WRONG decisions or getting blind-sided in my article "A Little Help Deciding". Now, it is worth spending a little time a tool to assist in making the RIGHT decisions.

This tool is valuable in both a personal requirement for decision making, or as a manager/owner of a business creating direction for staff and equipping them to make decisions for the success of your organization.

Scenario One: Personal - each arrow detailed below will represent individual choices and decisions that you face every day in your personal life

Scenario Two: Business - each arrow detailed below represents a staff member and the roles they serve within your organization.

As you follow down through the framework below, you may choose to select either of the Scenarios (above) or both.

The most important step in insuring your decisions are the correct ones, is to talk time, to determine what your overall goal is for your success. This is a critical step and may take minutes to hours to decide. Your goal cannot be a vague  broad scoping one.. ie: want my business to be successful, or I want to be rich. I MUST be very specific and measurable. Rather than wanting your business to be a success, you may want to be much more specific as to what will make it a success. Sell more??  - nope still too vague. Maybe, I want my business to grow 15% and insuring that we have 85% repeat customers and grow my customer base by 15%.
With the personal Scenario, rather than a goal of being rich, you may be much more specific. I want to decrease my spending by 20%, and invest that savings in investments. In two years I want a positive net worth.
Regardless of what you decided your goal to success it - is it so critical that it is narrow in focus, exactly what you want, and achievable. And it need not involve money, ic can be how you want to be perceived  liked, raise your children, or different career choices.

Once you have defined your goal, imagine it in the illustration below at the point of an arrow..

Now this is where it gets interesting, you will be faced (or your staff will be tasked) with many decisions, most common, we assess the choice and make the decision on the circumstances that surround us at the moment. Staff will make decisions based on the small section of the business that they are familiar, often in the dark of other requirements of the company success.. Therefore if we fill in the arrow to your goal, it will probably look like this:

The secret is to attempt to align individual decisions, or staff members - all directed toward your goal. EVERY decision, from what you eat, to what house you buy. In business, every staff member MUST be clearly instructed to ask the following:

Does this [choice] bring me closer to [my goal]? 

If the answer is yes, then it should be seriously considered, if the answer is no, then no matter how tempting, then that is not a direction to follow.

If this exercise is achieved for every decision, or each staff member follows this framework, then coming closer to your objectives will look more like this:

So why does it matter if all of your arrows align towards your goal. Well it is obvious that with every choice moving you towards your objective, then it will be reached much less painfully and significantly faster, and in a business scenario - much cheaper. 

Now lets take a look at grade 6 vector mathematics, to illustrate the efficiency of aligning your decisions and staff.

If you apply 100% of your effort toward one goal, and 100% of your effort towards a different goal. Then your net progress towards success is wasted effort, and you achieve much less that an addition of your two efforts.Or in a business scenario  you have one staff member you are paying for a day of work travelling in one direction, and another in a slightly different direction, you are only getting 1.5 days work and paying for 2. 
In extreme cases, full effort may be made for 2 choices, but counter each other (in respect to your goal) and you have worked hard, to achieve virtually nothing. In business, you may be paying for 2 days work, yet virtually throwing the money away. A real life example of a business case, would be a company deciding on a goal described above - 85% customer retention, 15% addition of new customers and a 15% revenue growth. Accounting decides on a new process that will make their work much easier, and a company at first glance much more efficient. However, the new process is clumsy, complicated for the customer.. resulting in losing customers, and pushing away new clients. Obviously, the decision to implement a new accounting system was not run through the simple question.. "Will changing our accounting system get us closer to our goal of 85% customer retention, 15% new clients, and 15% revenue growth". Expensive step in the wrong direction. This is how it looks like in vector addition. 

Now that you have clearly defined your goal and you hold every decision up to it, facing 2 decisions, applying 100% of your effort to both.. you waste no time, you leap towards your goal. You are not distracted by "fun", or "tempting" decisions that steer you away from your goal. ALL decisions become very simple.. Do they get me closer to my goal.. yes or no.. That easy.
Business, you are paying 2 staff to work 8 hours. Working toward the same goal. you get 16 hours worth of work for your 16 hours of pay. 

For personal decision making - define your goal.. and think of these arrows.
For Business.. as an owner or manager, define your business goals, communicate it clearly and often to ALL staff. and measure, measure, measure the success.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Free puppies rarely end lives, a keyboard and mouse can

"...that doorway is not to the bedroom, but a doorway to the streets"

I am sure by now, most have seen Amanda Todd's video. I suppose that this terrible case is being grouped in with the Cyber Bullying outrage of late, but of course this stalking, threatening, and ultimately life ending situation extends way beyond what most of us consider bullying.

What it does bring to light, is the fact that our homes are no longer a place of safety, protection from the evils of those who wish to do us harm. We are all very well conditioned from the age of learning to understand spoken word, not to take candy from strangers, never get in a strangers vehicle (regardless of the reason), never let a stranger touch you. JUST SAY NO and run! It is like a mantra, that has been repeated thousands  of times to us as we find freedom of bike rides around the block alone, ventures to the playground a few blocks away, a walk to the store. The image is like a Norman Rockwell painting of a mother or father, bent over looking a child in the eye, with a pointed finger, reviewing the rules about strangers as the child is anxious to get out to find some freedom out of the safety of their home.

These doorway warnings were effective, as I recall personally, very clearly - swinging on a swing set . keeping an eye out for strangers, slow moving cars, men walking alone.. we were all well conditioned to these dangers.

As adults, I am sure our children are now equally tattooed with these warnings. It is easy to play the role that you parents played. Our children today are just as aware of the rules of staying safe around strangers in the park. But today - our children leave the dooryard with an iPhone in their pocket, and more often than not, visiting a friend to sit in front of a laptop computer screen. A true note of irony, is that often we supply our children with phones so we can be a call away from any danger they may face in the outside world.

What Norman Rockwell would never paint, is the image of a mother or father, bent over - eye to eye, instructing their children at the doorway of their children's bedrooms, of the dangers of strangers lurking behind a few clicks of a computer keyboard and internet access. Debatable I am sure, but personally, I feel children are in much more danger in front of a webcam, than climbing monkey bars in a park.

Any parent would panic to discover their son/daughter deep in conversation with a middle aged man alone on a playground or at a mall. I expect that this would be a rare occurrence anyway, as our children know full well not to let this happen.

So, why, why, why, are children/teens not tattooed with the dangers that lurk on their home computer? If you are reading this blog, you are obviously computer literate enough for me not to have to ramble on with the tools that predators.. and even worse, soon to be predators use to gain the trust and confidence of our children. Predators are not just the typical old creepy man with high-speed internet access into his darkened basement. Sure, there are predators that used to be the men that cruised playgrounds, and have just changed their tools of the trade to include the much easier internet to lure. But now there are peers, ex-girl/boy friends, young men and women are now able to freely communicate with our children for despicable motives.

I expect that as our children begin their experience with computers, we explain how there are bad people out there on the internet.. so be careful. But we would never limit a warming as dismissive as this if they were off to spend their first time at a park, or their first solo walk to the store.

The internet experience is so completely different (obviously).. a young girl would never be approached by an acquaintance on a walk to the store, be talked into exposing themselves, have a photo taken and that photo is held like blackmail against them with threat that the photo will be reprinted a thousand times and mailed to everyone they know. But on the internet this is a five minute chat, a click of a button.. and it is done. Is this form danger as clearly detailed to our children as the danger of a tinted window van with a driver offering free puppies???

It is a sad state, but until, the REAL and complete threats of the internet are repeated as many times, and monitored as much as strangers in the park.. we will have many more horror stories like Amanda Todd's repeated over and over again.

So, as your daughter, giggling along with her friends zip off to the bedroom to play on the computer.. maybe imagine that doorway is not to the bedroom, but a doorway to the outdoors, to the streets, where you cannot see their every activity and keep them safe. Do they have all of the tools to know what they should and should not do?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Little Help Deciding

“How do I avoid getting blind-sided??”

Twenty years in management roles has given me opportunity to live in an environment of endless decisions, daily issues to solve, mixed in with business altering change requirements. Within these two decades, I have managed commodity based sales and delivery; service based deliveries, as well as managing human resources and finance.

As a function of my roles, I have had opportunity to attend many training formal sessions. Most notably, courses on Conflict Management, Solution Selling, Relationship Building, Time Management, Project Management, Process improvement, and Positive Thinking. Additionally, a long list of business management sessions helped me shape my management style.

However, the session I found most rewarding and provided me tools to success, is the twenty year long training program... it is named. “Real life management experience”.

With all of these educational experiences, I enjoy the exercise of throwing all of the formal training and real life experience into a mixing bowl, and build a model that has a proven track record of success.

My attending formal training sessions, I meet with scepticism, and the real world generally proves that this scepticism is well deserved. I am not suggesting for a moment that formal management education is worthless. But without exception, concepts, rules, processes detailed in these sessions, appear to have been developed in a vacuum, well outside of the real business world.

So I am trashing all of my formal training?? not really, because each session, offers a gem or two buried in the content of idealistic theory. To gain real value (which I have) is to tailor concepts, new ideas, and process into actual day to day business decision making.

With this preamble, let’s get on to something of value to you. Decision Making.


The industry standard decision making tool is the SWOT process. Take a peek at the following link for more detailed explanation of the SWOT process. But in brief, it is a document (or framework) that you are required to detail the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. I have no doubt that this is an effective tool in making decisions, however it is a completely UNREALISTIC process in regards to your efforts to manage your time. Significant business altering decisions, or those made by committee (I always chuckle at the oxymoron of the thought of decision by committee).

So, as promised – lets garbage the utopian ideals of formal training, and let’s focus on real life. My primary and proven decision making manta as the first step is … “How do I avoid getting blind-sided .. in other words, how can I prevent a result of my decision to be one that was unexpected or unanticipated. If you take anything away from your reading this.. take away the phrase.. “How do I avoid getting blind-sided ” the rest is easy.

From the smallest of choices I make, to choices that involve tens of thousands of dollars, I approach it with the visual of a tree – your introduction to the problem is the trunk and as you proceed upward, you are faced with more and more branches ending up with large healthy leaves. See these leaves as the outcome of the choices. As you visualize your tree..

Step One – SLOW DOWN.. any decision worth making, is worth taking the time required to make the correct one.. This can mean a 5 minute pause, or a 2 day exercise. A decision made is haste is made at your own peril. And outcomes will always be unexpected.

Step 2 – No blind-sides (this means you need to travel up every branch, and branches of those. Each branch is a different form of decision. You will almost always have a limb in mind that is the correct one. Don’t stop there, travel out that limb, to every branch and examine what the outcome will be. Now step back and travel all of the other limbs.. Follow to the end – to see that a decision that you may not have instinctively thought correct, may in fact have the desired outcome.

Step 3 – Understand that as you approach your decision tree and see the desired result clearly without appropriate thought.. The leaves at a distance, may not belong to the branch that you has assumed of as you are looking at the whole tree.

Wow.. Maybe visualization is not for everyone. In simpler terms, test drive your decision thoroughly. Take time to VERY thoroughly determine, and clearly understand ALL the risks of what could happen along the way of the desired outcome. IE: how will my customers react to this, how will my competitors react?, how will my partners react?, how will my bank react? How will my suppliers react?.. all of these in long term, and short term. It is my experience that decisions are made (with blinders on) to solve a single challenge, without a clear understanding of what other factors it will affect. This is called being blind-sided.

I strongly recommend that you resist the urge to consider the above well thought out decision a completed task and move on. Now, again, taking the time.. Examine outcomes and risks associated with a decision that your instinct considers wrong. You will be surprised that very frequently – this exercise of going against your instincts will in fact be the correct choice. 


Many a talented facilitator will present that it is required that you take the emotion out of decision making. I agree. But that is a ridiculous statement. That is IMPOSSIBLE. We are humans, and we have emotions. Every decision we make WILL be affected by our emotions, regardless what perfect theory may wish. As a personal note, if for any reason we are not affected by emotions in a decision.. WE are not the one to be making those particular decisions. I have been one of those annoying participants in training seminars that vocally contradicts instructors.. I sit in wait for them to announce that emotions cannot be part of the decision making process, I openly protest this irrational statement. I find it insulting and it decreases the credibility of the facilitator.

In fact, emotions certainly get in the way of proper decision making – and most of the times lead us astray from the correct path, and we end up disappointed and our hands full of managing undesired outcomes.

How do we minimize our emotions leading us astray??.. It is the exercise that I have detailed above. After we followed our instincts, examined ALL of the potential risks and outcomes – now we MUST go back and examine the same factors for options that our instincts (emotions) tell us are wrong. By forcing ourselves to go against our instincts as an option to our final decision.. We are minimizing instinct inputs and are looking at all of the choices logically. If need be.. Face the variety of directions of a choice as a cold heartless computer analysing all of the data. This is not removing emotion from the process, it is making you aware that it is affecting it – and awareness of this is your best coping mechanism for the risk of being steered astray buy “gut” feelings.

Finally learn from your mistakes, take the time to understand what happened when you sit, aghast , and in disbelief asking yourself “How in hell did that happen??”. You may find that you did not completely explore the decision tree, and didn't see your present situation on your list of risks.

This approach does not in any way now mean that every decision you make will be the right one. But adhering to it, will guarantee if something goes awry, you will have already known it was a risk, and you accepted that risk as a part of your initial decision making process. 

Have fun!