We all have good ideas. The hard part is making them happen.
Here are the three tips with the biggest impact:
Be strategic, not tactical. The biggest mistake most managers make is that they spend their days and nights focusing on tactics when they really need to think about strategy. Tactics are important. They relate to the details, the fine-grain specifics to execute against a tight deadline. But strategy asks whether the milestones being created are the right ones. In the case of one System Integration business in the north of England, teams were overweight with technical project managers and lacked strategic thinkers who could prioritise what mattered. The results were hundreds of milestones that related to product launches details and documentations, without an overall picture of which products were the most important to customers. Strategy is all about making trade-offs. In a world where you can’t do everything, what are the one or two things you really need to focus on?
Talk about the red. In most organizations, managers spent their time sitting in steering committees hearing about how great things are going. That’s a waste of time. Talking about “red” is nearly always a more useful conversation than talking about “green”. In the same business with system integrator, I talked with senior executives, but I realized this meant changing the culture around failure. People were so afraid about losing their job that they weren’t able to do their job properly. When senior leadership started normalizing failure, employees felt more comfortable flagging when things were going off track –and working out how to fix them. Let’s be clear: it can be pretty demoralizing talking about failure all the time. Senior leaders need to know how to thank people who use their time well, and focus on the things that matter –especially the bad news.
Have leading, not lagging, indicators. Red is good. But amber is much better. Many managers aren’t able to tell their bosses if a project is off target, over budget, or past schedule until it has actually happened. Far more useful is to have lead indicators. These are triggers built into project plans so that managers have foresight into what’s going wrong as it’s happening. The key thing here is to focus on goals that really matter. If budget savings are what you care about, create lead indicators that phase in incremental savings. If being on schedule is the highest priority, create lead indicators that focus on completion to deadlines. In a cost-savings program in a major mining company, one manager built an intricate plan that culminated in big-buck savings in the final milestone. That’s no good. Much better is to break this final milestone into mini steps. Building good lead indicators means thinking about what really matters and giving that issue sufficient visibility.
We all want to be effective in our organizations. But ask yourself: are your current tools working? Following these three principles is a good step towards turning good ideas to great execution.
Before discussing the differences between descriptive and inferential statistics, we must first be familiar with two important concepts in social science statistics: population and sample. A population is the total set of individuals, groups, objects, or events that the researcher is studying. For example, if we were studying employment patterns of recent UK college graduates, our population would likely be defined as every college student who graduated within the past one year from any college across the United Kingdom.
A sample is a relatively small subset of people, objects, groups, or events, that is selected from the population. Instead of surveying every recent college graduate in the United Kingdom, which would cost a great deal of time and money, we could instead select a sample of recent graduates, which would then be used to generalize the findings to the larger population.
Descriptive statistics includes statistical procedures that we use to describe the population we are studying. The data could be collected from either a sample or a population, but the results help us organize and describe data. Descriptive statistics can only be used to describe the group that is being studying. That is, the results cannot be generalized to any larger group.
Descriptive statistics are useful and serviceable if you do not need to extend your results to any larger group. However, much of social sciences tend to include studies that give us “universal” truths about segments of the population, such as all parents, all women, all victims, etc.
Frequency distributions, measures of central tendency (mean, median, and mode), and graphs like pie charts and bar charts that describe the data are all examples of descriptive statistics.
Inferential statistics is concerned with making predictions or inferences about a population from observations and analyses of a sample. That is, we can take the results of an analysis using a sample and can generalize it to the larger population that the sample represents. In order to do this, however, it is imperative that the sample is representative of the group to which it is being generalized.
To address this issue of generalization, we have tests of significance. A Chi-square or T-test, for example, can tell us the probability that the results of our analysis on the sample are representative of the population that the sample represents. In other words, these tests of significance tell us the probability that the results of the analysis could have occurred by chance when there is no relationship at all between the variables we studied in the population we studied.
Examples of inferential statistics include linear regression analyses, logistic regression analyses,ANOVA, correlation analyses, structural equation modeling, and survival analysis, to name a few.
Frankfort-Nachmias, C. & Leon-Guerrero, A. (2006). Social Statistics for a Diverse Society. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press.
Lack of clarity about what needs to be done is one of today’s worst ongoing workplace practices. When dealing with this from bosses and peers alike:
Ask: “How do you define success?” Never leave a meeting or take on an assignment until you have clarity on this. If the company or your boss is constantly fuzzy on this, make a pain in the ass of yourself until you get clarity. (If you don’t, don’t blame anyone else for all the challenges that follow!)
Ask: “Can you help me prioritize?” Everybody expects everything done right away. Yet that’s impossible! Keep going back to your boss until you get the top three things that have to be done that day or that week.
Ask: “What’s the most important takeaway?” Everybody is good at communicating everything. Few are good at clarifying the one thing that matters most. Every meeting, every exchange — keep pressing for the most important takeaway until you get it.
2. Model Clarity
Ghandi is quoted as saying, “Be the change you want to see.” That applies here. Every meeting, every exchange — make sure you communicate clear and concise answers to the three questions above.
Deep clarity really does shake things up. In a world filled with overload, clutter and crap, the radical successes we cite always work hard to be simple and clear.
Additional tip: Know, Feel, Do…Fast! Everyone you communicate with wants three things as fast and as simply as possible:
• “What’s the one thing you want me to know?”• “Connect with me emotionally. What’s the one thing you want me to feel?”• “What’s the one thing you want me to do?”
Continually convey those three things and you will be cited for awesome clarity.
3. Do It Anyway. Stop Listening to “No”
It’s better to ask for forgiveness than to ask permission. It’s time to live this to the max.
Yes, if you work within a bureaucratic bog, this may be scary. But you have no choice. The world is moving faster than your boss. Every successful leader I’ve ever worked with or interviewed has said that they followed this approach long before it was politically safe for them to do so.
4. Think Epic. Be Epic.
Audacity matters. Incrementalism (as in playing it safe) is death.
We are in an era of continuous personal disruption. Social-media guru Chris Brogan said it best: “There is no solid ground anymore.” That means you have to go bold to find new ground.
Every leader and company and product that we celebrate today made a bold move long before it was safe to do so. Start thinking and being bolder. Now.
Which leads to the most challenging of all ways to shake things up…
5. Disrupt Yourself
You are capable of so much more than you are doing right now.
And yet, if you are like so many of us, you suffer from Pogo Syndrome — named for the 1940s cartoon character who uttered: We have met the enemy and he is us.
The biggest and boldest and best way to shake things up at work is to disrupt yourself. Unlearn faster. Change your assumptions faster. Focus more on being resilient and adapting than on creating stability. Be an insatiable learner.
Start there and you will truly be a disruptive hero — to those you work with, to those who love you, and to yourself.
Bill Jensen’s new book, “Disrupt! Think Epic. Be Epic,” is based on interviews with 100 disruptive heroes. He blogs at simplerwork.com.
I'm often asked: "What should our leaders actually do in a Lean culture"? People want to know specific actions to guide their activities. They want a "recipe" to follow. Some folks want to wave a magic wand that suddenly transforms everything. Wouldn't it be great if anything were so easy?
In reality, Lean has to be lived, felt, breathed, seen, and experienced. It must be reinforced by senior leaders who walk the walk and set high expectations for team members. When I was at Sony, the Japanese trainers commonly used the word "go see." At first, this sounded like the kind of directions we were given as kids in school, but when I thought more deeply about it, I realized they were speaking about particular behaviors. Behaviors and actions that created good habits, developed the character of team members, and fostered a learning culture.
So when I am asked about leadership and responsibility, I reply that lean leadership is a way of doing business, not simply a process to "think" through or try on for size. I call this idea (which really is a way to remember key behaviors and actions) "GTS4" (GTS to the fourth power)". What does it mean? Here are the four steps involved in the GTS thinking process:
Go to See → Grasp the Situation → Get to Solution → Get to Standard = GTS4The starting point for any lean thinking activity (and the beginning of the PDCA process) is Go To See (GTS), also known as Go To the Source (GTS). This habit is hard to develop, since we tend to rely on assumptions formed from our experience or from what someone has told us. My Japanese trainers would often say, "Please! Go Looking!" They may have known just a minimal amount of English, but we always knew what they meant. When I visit the gemba with clients they usually struggle to answer my questions because they lack the facts—the measurable data to work with. Instead, they have assumptions. It is only when we GO SEE and talk with the people who do the work every day that we can uncover the truth of what is really going on. Why GTS4? Going to see is just the beginning. Once we GO SEE, we must then Grasp The Situation. We do this by asking the right questions! Let's start with the three most essential questions a company and its leaders (at every level) should be asking themselves:
The first question is aimed at defining the ideal state, or standard. The second question defines your current state. Consider your problem as the gap between these two conditions. This type of "thinking" is really the first step in framing a problem in the Plan-Do-Check-Action (PDCA) process. In this clarifying the problem step, it is essential that you have a measurable "gap". This enables the problem owner to see a measurable difference once the process is defined, root cause(s) found, and countermeasure(s) implemented. So the answers to these two questions should always be quantified! For example, this visual shows the Ideal-Current-Gap:
This gives us a $21 gap we can begin to break down and ask more questions about!
Most companies I work with (even ones you'd think should know!) can't answer those three questions. As a result they have difficulty framing a problem as a simple gap between what should be happening and what is actually happening because the measurability just isn't being tracked at the process.
I was trained with this thinking at Sony, so these questions feel natural to me. But helping others develop this kind of thinking is a challenge. Too many leaders are too busy running around trying to fight fires or make fixes based on loose assumptions. This type of problem solving is weak at best, and surely not repeatable for long-term sustainability.
The next GTS is to Get to the Solution. If you have properly grasped the situation then this leads you to ask further questions like: What are the processes that address the gap? Then we look for the places, blocks, bottlenecks or "points of occurrences" within processes that help us understand root causes and finally, countermeasures. As mentioned above, this is PDCA. If we are able to complete this process by practicing the last GTS, and our countermeasures are effective, then we want to proceed to the fourth and final step: Get to Standard.
Knowing what to do as a leader can feel like an unwieldy question. But consider GTS4. It's not easy, but it is fairly simple. The challenge is less a matter of being lean than it is asking ourselves if we are really practicing lean thinking—a way of thinking that starts by going to see, grasping the situation, getting to a solution, and ultimately, getting to a standard. It won't feel natural at first, but it can be learned!