Your Busy Program is Running You

This is a message to leaders everywhere. Perhaps you lead a major corporation, a startup, a non-profit, a small business, or a government agency; it really doesn’t matter, the message is all the same.

Signs that you are moving too fast - delightability - experience design blueprintEnough! We’ve all been running the busy program, or rather, the busy program has been running us. It’s a bit like driving down the highway, but going too fast to read the signs passing you by. The symptoms vary but may look like: vacations become working vacations; you’re never “off” the clock; there is no time to relax and even in your “idle” time your busy planning your busy time.

The trouble is these “highway signs” you can’t read in your life as your forging full speed ahead are actually opportunities passing you by. One sign that you missed might have said, BIGGEST INNOVATION OPPORTUNITY. Another might say YOUR DAUGHTER NEEDS YOU. Most people never slow down, in order to speed up, that is until they have a personal crisis. For some, that might be a heart attack, death of a loved one, cancer, divorce, or the recognition that your family no longer recognizes you.

It’s time to WAKE UP! You can choose to stop running the busy program at any time. You don’t need a crisis to have a new consciousness.

“It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?” Henry David Thoreau

Ask yourself what would you do if you had 10 or 20% more capacity? And what about those you lead and interact with. What if each of them had 10 or 20% more capacity?
What if that capacity were used to be creative, what would that look like in your organization? What if that additional capacity were put to use solving those persistent, nagging, seemingly unsolvable “wicked” problems. What if that capacity were nobly
consumed to live a more healthy lifestyle, or to be more balanced between work and family or personal life? Imagine the kids and Fido seeing more of mom or dad. What if each person WASN’T doing 2 or 3 jobs? What would that mean for your organization? For each of your employee’s experience? For your customer’s experience? What about for the economy?

As you return from this Sunday, whether that was an Easter Sunday for you, or any other Sunday, ask yourself, what if? But, then as soon as you are done asking, do something about it; for you and for those that around you. Chances are, if you are running the busy program, you never saw this message, at least not until somebody that cared, forwarded this  post to you.

image of Greg-Olson-Managing Director of Delightability and author of Experience Design BLUEPRINT

Greg Olson is a business coach to leaders and the author of The Experience Design BLUEPRINT:
Recipes for Happier Customers and Healthier Organizations. Chapters in the book that pertain to this blog post include Chapter 8: The Promise Delivery System and Chapter 14: The World of Work has Changed. Read it on Kindle or any device using the free Kindle Reader application.

Would You Have the Courage to Sound the Alarm at Pearl Harbor or in Your Organization?

Would You Have the Courage to Sound the Alarm?
Did you feel that? Something just changed. There it is again. You see it that time? OK, so you missed it this time, but will you sense it next time? And, if you do, will you do anything about it?

Sometimes a failure to confront reality has no impact. Time innocently advances and things seem to go on as normal. After all, you don’t see the thing that you’re not looking for. And, if it isn’t noisy or disturbing enough, it doesn’t punish you for not noticing.

Lessons from Pearl Harbor
This wasn’t the case on the morning of December 7, 1941 at Opana Point, Hawaii. Here at 7:02 in the morning, privates Joseph L. Lockard and George Elliot had been monitoring the mobile radar unit and noticed a large blip, more like a curtain, on the radar screen. When George reported what they believed to be approaching aircraft, to the information center at Fort Shafter, the United States Army Pacific headquarters, they were assured “not to worry.” The large blip on the new radar was reasoned by the commanding officer, lieutenant Kermit Tyler, to be Army B-17 Flying Fortress bombers that were scheduled to arrive that morning. But, Tyler’s prediction was deathly wrong as Pearl Harbor was under siege less than one hour later.

Some of the lessons of the Attack on Pearl Harbor are resoundingly clear:

  • Early warning systems can alert you to trouble, but only if you trust what you are are sensing
  • The chain of command can sometimes prevent the truth from surfacing
  • Consequences of inaction can be debilitating and devastating

You don’t have to be in the military for these lessons to apply.

Is your organization making these mistakes?

  • Your organization ignores warning signs and stories shared by employees, customers, and partners. Some people may be labeled as “alarmists”.
  • Your culture restricts or retards the flow of information across functional areas as well as up and down levels of the organization
  • Decisions made are protected and unable to be changed or even informed
  • As the world outside your organization continues to morph, your company further solidifies its inside-out viewpoint; the strategy drifts from a marketplace reality

Signs of decay within the organization
An organization that makes these mistakes can lose market share to more courageous and thoughtful brands that listen and attempt to understand customers. When customers defect it’s rarely about price. People give allegiance to brands that better understand them and deliver customer experiences aimed to win hearts and minds not just profits. But, perhaps as bad, when leadership and the culture within a company commit these offenses the organization becomes crippled and is unable to effectively collaborate across the silos it has created. Information even if it is seen is not absorbed into the knowledge of the organization. There is no rally around the truth. Competitive attacks occur and with greater frequency and intensity and employees further disengage. Problems seem too big to solve and outside of their domain or department. The cycle seems to get worse with each new plan, new launch and new initiative. Customers and employees suffer, but so does the overall health of the organization. When this happens you’ve built a lumpy snowball.

The Curse of the Lumpy Snowball applies to you whether you are an army of 10 or 10,000 or more. No organization is immune, not the government, small or large business, non-profit, budding entrepreneur or neighborhood association in your community.

In my book, The Experience Design BLUEPRINT: Recipes for Creating Happier Customers and Healthier Organizations, I introduce the Promise Delivery System, a visible closed loop system that revolves around an intended audience and includes four major components:

  1. Develop Strategy
  2. Produce & Deliver
  3. Insights & Validation
  4. Apply Learning

Among other things, the promise delivery system shows how to adjust your strategy based on changing conditions, so your organization’s promises can meet and exceed your audiences’ expectations. Making the organization’s promise delivery system visible helps people to collectively stay on track, employees to be more engaged and know how ideas fit, and to understand how to improve the organization, its offerings, and how it communicates.

With a fully functioning promise delivery system all of the organizations’s stakeholders become the collective everyday intelligence that prevents the need to sound the alarm or declare a state of emergency.

About the Author

image of Greg-Olson-Managing Director of Delightability and author of Experience Design BLUEPRINT

Gregory Olson is a consultant, speaker, and author of The Experience Design BLUEPRINT: Recipes for Creating Happier Customers and Healthier Organizations.

Connect with Greg on Linkedin, Facebook, or Twitter.

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Exercises and mental models in the book will build your confidence and competence in envisioning better possibilities and then making them come true, whether you are working alone or alongside a team. Chapters in the book that especially pertain to this post include:

  • Chapter 1: What Makes and Experience?
  • Chapter 6: Aiming for Remarkable, Unbroken, and Generous Design
  • Chapter 8: The Promise Delivery System
  • Chapter 11: Barriers to Innovation and Overcoming the Wall

See a book summary. Read the book reviews on Amazon. Read The Experience Design Blueprint on Kindle or any device using the free Kindle Reader application or read the full color print edition.  Already read it? Please connect and let me know.

Are You an Idea Asset or an Idea Liability?

We do it with food and wine. We also do it with relationships.

We test ideas for value. Sometimes we do this as though we are on autopilot. We’ve all tasted food before committing to consume the entire meal, or sniffed and sipped before imbibing fully in a glass of unfamiliar wine.

But, sometimes in business, in government, and our organizations of all shapes and sizes we forget that we naturally test ideas.

In the confines of our organizations we often act differently than we do “in the wild.” After all, we have departments, hierarchies, biases, tenure, and a culture that isn’t solely our own. Most likely, it evolved and was never intentionally or thoughtfully designed. Our tolerance or intolerance rather, in that environment, changes.

Also, in our own life, we are inherently engaged. This isn’t necessarily the case in the workplace or volunteer space. Employee engagement is down and active disengagement is on the rise. If you work with others, picture this for those around you. That spells increasing trouble for being tolerant, embracing ideas, moving forward and innovation culture in general.

You may see the signs. You may be guilty yourself. We shut down the idea that may come at the wrong time or look unfamiliar. It’s as though we are saying of the new, “Oh no, I don’t drink, or eat, or do anything that you might be offering actually.”

We also shut down ideas that shift us slightly from our comfortable spaces. If the idea comes from outside or the new kid on the block we may especially disfavor it.

Sometimes, we don’t shut the idea down so much as we let it wither on the vine, like forgotten fruit. Avoiding the conversation, avoiding the vote,  avoiding … period. It has the same result, namely no chance to be tested for value, no chance for progress.

Chances are, you have some ideas that are worth exploring. You’ve likely had past ideas fall victim to the filibuster of life. But, you’ll have more ideas. I hope they’ll get fair treatment.

Chances are also, that your current colleagues or one that you’ll meet for the first time soon, will have what could be the best idea ever. I hope you’ll really HEAR it.

As you head into the new month and new year, reflect on your own behavior. Choose to be an idea asset not an idea liability. Have the courage and tolerance to help explore, nudge along, develop, and breath life into budding ideas, no matter their sources, so that the benefits of good ideas may be felt in the real world. And, if the idea tested proves not valuable today, well, you’ll have something to morph, put on ice, or draw inspiration from. At the very least, you’ll have a story of collaboration to share over your next meal or sip of wine.

The Experience Design BLUEPRINT by Greg Olson book cover imageTo see contrasting stories between how a large mobile operator and a regional hotel and restaurant chain handle ideas in their respective innovation cultures, check out my book, “The Experience Design BLUEPRINT: Recipes for Creating Happier Customers and Healthier Organizations.

See the Book and Author Summary PDF or visit my author page on Amazon.

 

When Your Organization Becomes a Leaky Boat?

Boats in Port of Everett by Greg Olson from DelightabilityWhether you are the chief executive officer or the newest and lowest ranking employee, you’re often faced (like right now) with a leaky boat. You have a choice to make.

If you are the chief, then you can delegate or trust that others will take care of the problem. You can get involved directly. You can ignore the problem, because you have more pressing matters to attend. Or, you can empower your people to take care of this leak and all future leaks. But, do your people even care?

With employee engagement low and sinking lower, employees have choices to make, too. As an employee, you can abandon the boat. You can choose to fix the leak, even though it might not be your job or the responsibility of your department. You can wait for the boat to fix itself or hope that someone else will. This bystander effect has long since been proven in experiments that most people will simply wait for others to take action; the more people present, the more inaction. You may also choose to ask somebody else to fix the leaky boat. But, chances are, as an employee, you probably don’t care all that much since it isn’t really your boat to fix. Simply put, you aren’t that committed to this boat.

In times of natural disaster people from different walks of life can more easily shed their biases, titles, and beliefs in order to cooperate toward mutual survival and comfort. We need to be able to get to the same level of cooperation in the workplace, short of an actual disaster. The world of work has changed. There has been a flight to values. Too high of a percentage of the people I interviewed for my recent book, changed jobs before my book completed. Organizations continue to shed people like dirty gym clothes and employees, conditioned by the new normal, have recognized that the number of people looking out for their interests can be counted on one finger. So, at the first sign of smoother waters elsewhere, they head for another boat.

If you want to increase engagement and build a better innovation neighborhood inside your organization, then you’ll need new mental models and new conversations. You won’t accomplish much with a leaky boat. For far less than the price of your next non-productive meeting you can pick up a copy of my latest book, the Experience Design BLUEPRINT: Recipes for Creating Happier Customers and Healthier Organizations.

You can read the The Experience Design BLUEPRINT book by Greg Olson shown across screensKindle formatted book on nearly any screen, even in a browser, using the free Kindle Reader Apps. Even if you cherry picked only a few of the 56 recipes and 25 examples to learn by and apply to your business, you’d be well ahead of where you are today. Learn how to be more like bees, and less like raccoons. Discuss how you can emulate a better neighborhood. Make your Promise Delivery System visible. Intentionally design the experiences of internal customers so that together, you can win the hearts and minds of external customers.

Be courageous and start a new conversation; to benefit yourself, your people, your customers, and ultimately the entire organization. Tomorrow there will be new leaks; I promise you that. I only hope you’ll be prepared to handle them.

image of Greg-Olson-Managing Director of Delightability and author of Experience Design BLUEPRINTGreg Olson is the author of The Experience Design BLUEPRINT: Recipes for Creating Happier Customers and Healthier Organizations. See the Book and Author Summary PDF or find the book on Amazon.

Abandoned Shopping Carts Litter the Landscape in Anytown USA

Here are a few photos of abandoned shopping carts seen around town.  This urban blight was in the Seattle area but this could be Anytown, USA or beyond. Kroger, QFC, Safeway, Bartells – no one store is immune and the problem is worsening. Bus stops, apartment homes, retirement homes, sidewalks, bike trails, parking lots, and dumpster areas seem to be the favorite dropping off stations.

See the related post: When Metric Fail: It is Time to Change the Conversation

about the author

Gregory Olson’s latest book is L’ impossi preneurs: A Hopeful Journey Through Tomorrow, a light-hearted and deadly serious book about a brighter future where we live more meaningful lives, governments invest in people and sustainable progress, and technology serves humans. Greg also authored The Experience Design Blueprint, a book about designing better experiences and then making them come true.

image of Greg-Olson-Managing Director of Delightability and author of Experience Design BLUEPRINTGregory Olson founded strategy and design firm Delightability, LLC. with the belief that if you delight customers then success will follow. He believes that we all have the potential to do better, as individuals, organizations, and communities, but sometimes we need a little help.  Gregory also serves as a volunteer board member for Oikocredit Northwest, a support association for social and impact investor, Oikocredit International.

 

 

 

 

3 Doors of Change: a Model for Sustainable Change

The lack of success and outright failure of change initiatives has caused us to design a sustainable and effective model for change. Though change doesn’t happen without people, our experience shows us that many leaders jump from decision to implementation, skipping the critical step of gaining alignment of the people who will carry the burden.

image of 3 Doors of Change Model from DelightabilityOur human centric change model embraces people; we call it the 3 Doors of Change. Think of successful change initiatives having to pass through each of the 3 doors in order for the change to take hold and make a lasting impact. Getting through door number 1 is easy and involves making a decision, crafting a vision or a plan. Here is where organizations often invest time and resources into making a better, more informed decision.

Door number 3 is implementation. It is here where plans are put to the test. The mechanical performance of actions are performed to get the desired results. The execution police are relentless in keeping us on task even though we may have lost site of what we were doing, or the original purpose behind it. The belief that employees or volunteers blindly adhere to whatever has been decided may be a hangover from the industrial age and era of specialization where people were thought of as efficient assembly line workers, chunking out whatever the factory boss had configured the line to do.

But, most of us don’t work in factories. And, even fewer workers today have a sense of duty to whoever is barking orders.

So, why is it that we still act like we work in factories? Because institutions and organizations are slow to change save for the rare organization that crafts new rules and norms. HR, Training and Development departments, and leaders are seldom well versed in psychology, campaign design, and shaping human behavior. Think of your current organization and all of the organizations that you’ve worked with and for. How much did you learn about getting other people on board your train? That is exactly what is needed for successful change and the subject of door number 2, alignment.

Door number 2 is the pathway to sustainable change. Here is where activities and campaigns help to on-board,  inform, and empower people to participate. As members of teams and participants to others’ plans, we crave to be heard and to be ready for what is asked of us. Visit any social network or a highly functioning team and you’ll witness this in droves.

image of Big Picture with 3 Doors of change model from Delightability shown
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The Big Idea Toolkit has this change model built in. The path on the Big Picture is intentionally a “z” shape. At first, when you make a decision and move through door number 1 you feel like you are moving forward. But, then you feel like you are going backwards when trying to gain alignment. Time seem to slow d o w n while your working through alignment. After gaining alignment, you’re moving forward again. These feelings of moving forward then backward and forward again are reinforced by the blue z shaped path on the Big Picture.

image of Alignment door number 2 from 3 Doors of Change - DelightabilityTeams that skip door number 2, jumping to implementation too quickly, eventually return to gain alignment of the rest of the people that will carry out the change. Think of changes you’ve been apart of or witnessed. It IS very possible that change occurs quickly, effortlessly, and even invisibly  But, for this to happen you’ll have to include attributes that help with door number 2, alignment. In the best of cases, you’ll have a high alignment-word density in your change initiative. Alignment words to consider include: valued, inclusion, expression, respect, participation, secure, authentic, credible, relevant, focused, incremental, clarity, easy, purpose, destination, community, sharing, and payoff.

Change efforts needn’t be top town or driven by legislation. No boss told you to put yourself on Facebook or LinkedIn or begin text messaging yet, you did all of those.

If you want to make a bigger impact for yourself and others you’ll need to pay attention to the 3 Doors of Change. You’ll look less like a politician, lawmaker, or bureaucrat and more like an 21st century change master that aligns people to make great things happen. And, in a lopsided world rife with ailments we could all use more greatness.

Please share your experiences around alignment with teams? What are some of the tactics you have successfully used or others have used on you? Comment here, on Facebook, twitter, or email Greg Olson

Imagine that your Employees Were Really Engaged

slice of delight o meter infographic for delighting customers
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According to the Deloitte Center for the Edge study in 2009, only 1 in 5 employees are passionate about their jobs.

Imagine the untapped potential that exists in the remaining 4/5 of your employee population. What if you could harness their potential and put it to good use, creating value for your customers and for your organization.

I’ll bet you could improve communications, innovative your Continue reading “Imagine that your Employees Were Really Engaged”

Want a better Bottom Line, Deliver a better Customer Experience

Hindsight is 20/20.

fire fighting- crisis management -organizational readiness- Delightability

How many of us kick ourselves for not purchasing a boatload of Apple stock a few years back? We tend to put off taking actions, not because we don’t see the upside potential, but because we’re busy fighting fires. Here is a tip you can bank on. Happy customers are your only source of long-term revenue for your organization. Our recent economic downturn has compounded the problem; organizations responded by cutting budgets and by diverting attention inward. You may be kicking yourself down the road when Continue reading “Want a better Bottom Line, Deliver a better Customer Experience”