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With so many implementers in the world, why do so many action plans not get done?

Implementing as part of your job or routine is very different from implementing something that is new and unusual. Many of the implementers in the world are implementing routine things.   Many of those people are doing implementation jobs and so they go off and do them and they get a good pat on the back for doing them. That’s totally different from implementing something new. It’s way more awkward to implement something new so you’ve got build skills of implementing something new which is very different from implementing something routine.

What too often happens is that good implementers say, “we know how to implement we’re just going to wing it”. So they go in and they wing this new idea and run into all kinds of unforeseen challenges. They often haven’t considered the other person, the person who’s going to take the risk. If you go into your boss and you’re going to ask him to a give you the money or help you do it on something brand new and he doesn’t know any thing about it, you just made this person really worried.   You have to do a very good job of knowing what you are going to tell this person to alleviate the major concerns. The other one is that many people make other plans to implement and they just get busy with other stuff and it gets left on the shelf. We go back to implementing what we like to do versus implementing the very hard stuff – a totally different thing that requires creativity.

We talk about a “wheel within a wheel”. When you’re talking about new ideas if you look at that implementer quadrant, you put a Simplexity wheel in there and it becomes, how might we be very creative on winning acceptance and getting things done? Here is where the creativity is needed – you can’t just walk in and go do it. People are not used to doing that. They’re used to “winging it” and too often don’t see the merits of a careful action plan. “Yeah, we can do that – we do that all the time.” Well they don’t – they think they do – they don’t implement new things.

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Where do teams struggle the most with action planning?

img_1885One area we see most often is leadership. The leader as a facilitator makes things easy for people, he knows the process, leads them through. A good leader is going to make sure the action plan happens when many people might be looking at their watches and want to go.   In all sessions, it’s imperative to leave enough time for action planning. If you have a two-hour meeting, make sure you put in about a half an hour for action planning – don’t leave it for the last 10 minutes!

Another critical area is accountability – getting names down to make sure the people in the room are people who feel their necks are on the line, they have to get something done. Get the names up and involve these people. When the right people are involved get them to say okay, what might be done, how might we do this? Stay with the course going sideways, not going up and down. Another big problem with action planning is that it’s often the first time you get people to commit to something.   This way you really learn what people are really thinking – “I’ve got to put something down but I really know my heart belongs to the other department that I’m in.” It’s so important to really test people’s practicality and really work on / are we working on / are you really committed to what you’re saying? Don’t put something down because you feel you should or you’re really not sure that it’s real what you’re committing to.

Get the calendar out – right in front of you. Everybody’s calendar comes out. OK, what is the next step – have we got that down?   When are we going do it – get that down – everybody writes it out. Can everybody do it? Well, you can’t wait until everybody says yeah I could do it. The saying is – we don’t all have to be there. If we get nine out of ten or eight out of ten, let’s write it down and get moving. What happens next – when is the next one going to be? And those team meetings get nailed down right there, not left up in the air – they’re down and everybody knows that.

The more you can adhere to these two leadership and commitment principles, the better the final action will be. The leader has to be drive the bus – keep pushing and asking is it done, is it done? What can I do to get things going faster? Getting names down and all the little steps that need to be done further drives accountability. If you hit a roadblock, step in, do some fact-finding, use the process to unblock it – roadblock sessions are vital to keep moving some plans forward to implementation. They also get people involved and really excited. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing your hard work result in the action plan getting done.

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Dispelling the myth that creative people are the generators and conceptualizers and not the other side – the optimizers and implementers.

It all goes back to the definition of creativity – we are very firm on not having any definition of creativity. If you ask fifteen different people what animal do they think best illustrates creativity, you’re going to get 15 different answers. Playing this up further, someone likes peacocks because it has got a lot of color – someone else likes raccoons because they can solve problems. There are some people that say, well, there are people who can get things done quickly. We stay away from that.   What we do is we try to educate people, that the creative process is everything and if you’re not going through the creative process, people have different skills in all of them.

Some people are really creative about implementing – it’s a tough job to implement. Some people are especially creative – think about the Apollo Thirteen crew.  It took incredible creativity to solve the problem of getting back to earth with a damaged spacecraft. How about people who can really find ways to elicit new problems from people by asking questions? How about people who are all over the map and looking for new problems to solve? To them the name of the game is finding problems.

So we are very careful – we don’t distinguish between creativity and innovation – it’s a process. It’s a process that requires all four styles and we like to get people feeling good about whichever one they like best.  An advertising agency one said, “It ain’t creative unless its sells.” and that’s one of the best things we’ve learned – you can have lots of ideas but that’s only part of the creative process. Another saying that we really like is, “Creativity is a implemented change.” That’s what creativity is. Unless you’ve done it, you haven’t done anything creative. The poet Keats said, “Nothing is real until it is experienced.” You can talk all you like, you can have all the ideas but it’s not real until you experience it.   Like when you’re running a Simplexity session and you have people experiencing the whole process – now it’s real – now you feel it.

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How do you overcome people who are hesitant to share their ideas?

Everyone knows some people can be hesitant to share an idea for fear of losing creative authorship or don’t want to collaborate because they want their idea to be recognized as their own.  Simplexity Thinking  smashes through this roadblock.  By the time you finish ideating, nobody knows whose idea it was in the first place. There’s so much work on building during divergence – the key statement is: “I’d like to build on that idea – I’d like to build on that idea.” You don’t have several people throwing up ideas willy-nilly all over, they’re done one at a time, we listen to each other and we build and so you build on this and you build on that – a new idea pops out and by the time you’ve built and built, you’ve got such different ideas, and such better ideas. We have research that shows that it’s always good to extend effort. It’s better to spend twenty minutes than ten, it’s better to spend forty because very often the best ideas turn up at the end. Why? Because you’re building on early ideas and building and building so there’s an excitement that starts coming up as you hear a good idea and you build on it and make it better and you twist it and turn it.

The other way it happens is during the convergence – during the telescoping. You pick what you think are some of the best ideas but you realize we don’t really know all about them. You start the second stage that is clarification and understanding. Five different people picked this idea. Why did you pick it? You hear different reasons why people picked it. You hear different interpretations of the idea and now you start building some more and you say that gives me another idea and out pops another idea and by the time you finish and pick, nobody really is sure whose idea it was – we all had a hand in building it.   So it’s a tremendous team builder in the right sense, we don’t just slap each other on the back – we worked together and we’re so proud of the fact that we came up with really great ideas.

Another way is crediting an idea.  Not only do I like to build on an idea, I like to build on “George’s” idea so I’m giving credit to George whose idea I’m building on. Those two are really great factors so there’s a lot of skill that can be learned and can be used by team members who can work and love to solve problems because they’re helping each other.

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How do you convince a problem owner to go through the Simplexity process to solve their problem?

If you are a person who sees the need and you would like someone to participate, it’s the power of the pre-consult that prevails. If you’ve got someone and you want that person to participate because you believe in it – the key is to ask the owner to sit down with you for an hour or two to do a pre-consult. You may not call it that but it’s the idea of just experiencing the process and helping the owner figure out – get a better definition of what he/she is really trying to accomplish. You’re just trying to help the owner – you’re not going to solve anything but just get a better handle on what the problem is so it’s a service to that person to really define or frame the problem well. At the same time the owner is going to experience the methodology you’re going to use giving you high hope, and a high track record they’ll relax with it and like it.

Another thing we do a lot is to ask the owner to go online and do the Basadur profile to get a feeling of how the process works – something we call “the thin edge of the wedge”. And so if the owner is willing to spend a little time with you to help define the problem and at the same time experience the process, it’s a great way to give it a try. One of our mantras is that if you can get a pre-consult with an owner, nine times out of ten they’ll be willing to go through the process with the team.

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Can the owner of the problem participate in workshops?

IMG_0696YES – the owner is your key person. The owner knows more about the problem than anybody else. If you don’t have an owner don’t do the session. It all revolves around the owner – all we’re trying to do is help. This person(s) knows everything and a good owner is one who is going to be very forthcoming –  he/she will not only answer questions, they often give even more information that nobody asked for, so the owner is critical. The only thing the owner can’t do – lead the session.  An owner cannot lead the session – these two roles must be separate.

One of the biggest problems people deal with are bad meetings. When we ask people how many of them have been in a meeting which was total waste of time, all hands go up.   When we start asking why – what are some of the things that go wrong? Usually the answer is there was no accountability – nobody in that group was accountable. Why in the world would you have a meeting without someone totally accountable? The only reason for having a meeting is to solve a problem that is verbatim – solve a problem, get from A to B.  There is no other reason for wasting people’s time. You have to have an owner involved – someone who’s willing to do something – where the whole subject and the objective of the meeting comes. As participants, our job is to help our owner get into action going all the way to step 8 – action.

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Sometimes you don’t have to know much to be right on target

In gaining acceptance, matching what you are offering to what the listener is looking for is a fool-proof way to success.

This may be difficult because we have all been taught to provide solutions. It requires a mind wrenching shift from trying to provide the right solution to trying to define the right problem.

But how do you know what the listener is really looking for? Especially if they themselves may not know…and are looking for you to lead them.

It is so much easier if you let the listener lead you to where you should go before attempting to push them onto some idea or solution you are “selling”.

This means asking the right questions. If you ask your customer “what do you want?”, you will likely receive answers limited only to solutions they believe you already can do.

Instead, try switching to questions that probe for the underlying problems that might be lurking in behind the request. By asking “Why might you want to?” and “What’s stopping you from…?” frequently to further clarify objectives and hold backs (which may be hidden beneath the surface). These revelations can open much more room for creativity, many new ideas and options. By practicing, “reversing your field”, this will improve your skills in problem defining and framing and let the solutions fall into place.

Minsight : Next chance you get, try engaging your customer in conversation about the challenges they are facing in their work. We call this fact finding . Listen carefully, clarifying as you go, and begin working together to agree on some interesting “How might we .?“ challenges . Only then let the conversation flow toward some optional ways forward you might be able to help with. Let us know how well it worked.

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