Category: Business

What’s the Point?

“An idea turns into a meeting and then it turns into a project. People get brought along, there’s free donuts, there’s a whiteboard and even a conference call.  It feels like you’re doing the work, but at some point, hopefully, someone asks, “what’s the point of this?”  Is it worth doing?  Compared to everything else we could be investing (don’t say ‘spending’) our time on, is this the scariest, most likely to pay off, most important or the best long-term endeavor?  Or are we just doing it because no one had the guts along the way to say STOP.  Are you doing work worth doing, or are you just doing your job?” – Seth Godin

Running A Project & Managing A Project

“If you choose to manage a project, it’s pretty safe. As the manager, you report. You report on what’s happening, you chronicle the results, you are the middleman.  If you choose to run a project, on the other hand, you’re on the hook. It’s an active engagement, bending the status quo to your will, ensuring that you ship.  Running a project requires a level of commitment that’s absent from someone who is managing one. Who would you rather hire, a manager or a runner?” – Seth Godin

Why Change Is So Hard: Self-Control Is Exhaustible

“You hear something a lot about change: People won’t change because they’re too lazy. Well, I’m here to stick up for the lazy people. In fact, I want to argue that what looks like laziness is actually exhaustion. The proof comes from a psychology study that is absolutely fascinating.

So picture this: Students come into a lab. It smells amazing—someone has just baked chocolate-chip cookies. On a table in front of them, there are two bowls. One has the fresh-baked cookies. The other has a bunch of radishes. Some of the students are asked to eat some cookies but no radishes. Others are told to eat radishes but no cookies, and while they sit there, nibbling on rabbit food, the researchers leave the room – which is intended to tempt them and is frankly kind of sadistic. But in the study none of the radish-eaters slipped – they showed admirable self-control. And meanwhile, it probably goes without saying that the people gorging on cookies didn’t experience much temptation.

Then, the two groups are asked to do a second, seemingly unrelated task—basically a kind of logic puzzle where they have to trace out a complicated geometric pattern without raising their pencil. Unbeknownst to them, the puzzle can’t be solved. The scientists are curious how long they’ll persist at a difficult task. So the cookie-eaters try again and again, for an average of 19 minutes, before they give up. But the radish-eaters—they only last an average of 8 minutes. What gives?

The answer may surprise you: They ran out of self-control. Psychologists have discovered that self-control is an exhaustible resource. And I don’t mean self-control only in the sense of turning down cookies or alcohol, I mean a broader sense of self-supervision—any time you’re paying close attention to your actions, like when you’re having a tough conversation or trying to stay focused on a paper you’re writing. This helps to explain why, after a long hard day at the office, we’re more likely to snap at our spouses or have one drink too many—we’ve depleted our self-control.

And here’s why this matters for change: In almost all change situations, you’re substituting new, unfamiliar behaviors for old, comfortable ones, and that burns self-control. Let’s say I present a new morning routine to you that specifies how you’ll shower and brush your teeth. You’ll understand it and you might even agree with my process. But to pull it off, you’ll have to supervise yourself very carefully. Every fiber of your being will want to go back to the old way of doing things. Inevitably, you’ll slip. And if I were uncharitable, I’d see you going back to the old way and I’d say, You’re so lazy. Why can’t you just change?

This brings us back to the point I promised I’d make: That what looks like laziness is often exhaustion. Change wears people out—even well-intentioned people will simply run out of fuel.”


How Do You Measure Effective Readership?

I received this question this afternoon from an association site I belong to.  Below is the answer I responded with on the association site but I want to make sure anyone can add additional thoughts to this topic which is why I am also posting it here (similar to the lemonade stand analogy below).  How would you have answered the question?

Good question, we don’t have a set percentage to gauge success.  My benchmark wouldn’t be a traditional benchmark.  When news articles or internal announcements get more “hits” we assume it is due to what the article pertains to.  We notice that content which isn’t particularly engaging doesn’t get many hits.  Anything from C Level Management, or a major announcement tends to get higher viewership.  Even every day news items may not pertain to everyone.  Furthermore, it just may not interest them.  It is one of those instances where “you can lead an employee to the news story but you can’t make them consume it”.

We may want 100% of our associates reading what we put out but we are finding that isn’t the case and we are looking to move to a subscription and “pushed” communications model.  We are playing with a design that has a top portion of the page what has what is considered “pushed” news and a bottom section which contains what each associate has subscribed to.  Our philosophy is if they have helped decide what they want to see, they will be more inclined to visit the site, or read the content in the email summary.

If you have the ability it would be great to show percent viewing the news story but also the number of comments and how well the story was rated.  I’d personally be much more interested in that data as opposed to knowing an article was clicked or accessed.  It would also be great to have analytics on how long they were on the page and site (time wise).  If you have 1,000 employees and you are able to get all 1,000 to click a 5,000 word article but on average they only stay on that page for 10 seconds, I’d consider that an opportunity.

I’m trying to change our culture but I know it isn’t easy.  Currently I would say we only focus on content consumption but I want to get us to where we also focus on opinions and ratings of the content.  I’m trying to make it so we think of ourselves as a lemonade stand.  We, the Communications Group push out lots of lemonade.  If the lemonade doesn’t have enough sugar in it nobody will want to drink it.  If we put our lemonade on the wrong side of town we make it too tough for them to find us so we opened several lemonade stands (one on our Intranet and one via email like yourself).

If we sell the lemonade and only focus on how much we sell, as opposed to what people think of it, we won’t grow our lemonade business.  Sales and number of product sold is important but I’d take one customer who pays $1 for my lemonade and gives me feedback to 10 customers who each pay a dollar ($10 total) who drink my lemonade yet don’t give me feedback to improve my product long term.  The lemonade stand that focuses on getting the most customers to their stand may be able to attract lots of customers, but the lemonade stand that focuses on what the customers think of their product will be the stand likely to stay open the longest…and make the most money.  Not sure if that analogy works but it was fun to try.

It is also almost like a one sided conversation if we only focus on analytics.  If I do all of the talking, and you aren’t allowed to talk back, how valuable is that for you and the organization?  My benchmark would be anything that can show you are providing engaging content that inspires enterprise collaboration and knowledge sharing.  For instance an article with 10 replies/comments that is rated highly is of more importance to me from a benchmarking perspective than one that is accessed more often.  Great question, that is what I am thinking is the best benchmark but I’d imagine others may find other analytics more useful.

The 22 Minute Meeting

Scott sent this to me a few days ago and I finally got a chance to watch it tonight.  I did enjoy it and am guilty of taking my laptop and phone everywhere I go because most meetings aren’t productive so I disagree with those two rules.  Nicole Steinbeck says: “Meetings can be a huge productivity & time suck. So what if you took out all of the stupid, wasteful stuff and left only the useful parts?”  Below is a summary of her talk by Scott Berkun (but as he reminds us, all credit goes to Nicole).

  1. Schedule a 22 minute meeting – Who decided meetings should be 30 or 60 minutes? What data is this based on? None. 30 and 60 minute meetings leave no time to get between meetings, and assumes, on average, people need an hour to sort things out. Certainly not all meetings can be run in 22 minutes, but many can, so we’d all be better off if the default time were small, not large.
  2. Have a goal based agenda – Having an agenda at all would be a plus in most meetings. Writing it on the whiteboard, earns double pluses, since then everyone has a constant reminder of what the meeting is supposed to achieve.
  3. Send required readings 3 days beforehand – The burden is on the organizer to make this small enough that people actually do it. Never ever allow a meeting to be “lets all read the documents together and penalize anyone diligent enough to do their homework”. (note: I think 24 hours is plenty).
  4. Start on time – How often does this happen? Almost never. Part of the problem is Outlook and all schedule programs don’t have space between meetings. By 2pm there is a day’s worth of meeting time debt. 22 minutes ensures plenty of travel/buffer time between meetings.
  5. Stand up – Reminds everyone the goal isn’t to elaborate or be supplemental (See Scrum standing meetings). Make your point, make your requests, or keep quiet. If there is a disagreement, say so, but handle resolving it outside of the meeting.
  6. No laptops, but presenters and note takes. If you’re promised 22 minutes, and it’s all good stuff, you don’t need a secondary thing to be doing while you pretend to be listening. One person taking notes, and one person presenting if necessary.
  7. No phones, no exceptions – see above.
  8. Focus! Note off topic comments. If you have an agenda, someone has to police it and this burden is on whoever called the meeting. Tangents are ok, provided they are short. The meeting organizer has to table tangents and arguments that go too far from the agenda.
  9. Send notes ASAP – With 22 minutes, there should be time, post meeting, for the organizer to send out notes and action items before the next meeting begins.

>> Download Nicole’s 22 Minute Meeting Poster