I woke this morning, looked around to see. This new normal is emerging, funny that today looks a lot like yesterday and I anticipate that tomorrow will look a lot like today.
Five months into this journey, things have changed. And, our ability to react, nay respond, nay adapt depends not on the surrounding circumstances, but on us.
What have you learned in the past five months, not about the world around, but what have you learned about yourself?
I let others conjecture the path of COVID-19, AND a couple of things are clearer. My focus is not on the pandemic, but your business-model-response to shifting circumstances.
- The heat of summer in the northern hemisphere will reduce the ability of the virus to survive, creating a seasonal impact. This does not appear to be true.
- There will be waves of contagion. I don’t know if we are in the second wave or the lingering impact of the first wave. Does it matter? There will be more waves.
- Hope against hope, there will not be a vaccine until early next year.
Those business models that survive will be those who adapt to reality.
- Find a market with a business need, set out to solve it.
- Test the solution to be adequate and understand its value in the market.
- Determine if the cost of the solution is less than the market value (profit).
- Determine if the market is large enough (enough profitable transactions) to build a business.
- Determine the next adaptation required to sustain the business model.
This begs the question of innovation and creativity. What is the agility of your organization?
As we wait, what are the possibilities? What are the uncertainties? Ambiguities? And what do we bet on?
- We look for things we hope for.
- We look for things that drive our optimism.
- We look for things we like to see.
- We look for data that supports our wishes.
- We look for data that confirms our suspicions.
- We look for data that supports our own bias.
Reality always wins.
Do not be mislead by hope, what we like, our wishes, suspicions and bias. It is too easy to be lead astray. Most managers I work with are optimists. It is a valid way to see the world, AND there are other possibilities.
What is the worst that can possibly happen?
Prepare to accept the worst-case scenario.
Work to improve on the worst outcome which you have mentally agreed to accept.
I suggest these are not mutually exclusive AND we can hold two simultaneous thoughts that appear to contradict. The intersection of worst outcome and the position of optimism may provide the guidance we seek. It will ALWAYS be better than the worst outcome.
Improve on the worst outcome comes from Dale Carnegie, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.
“Sometimes, during the day, I feel like I am lost,” Miriam lamented.
“How so?” I asked
“Things just seem off-balance. I don’t know if it’s the circumstance we are in, with all the changes, or if it’s me?”
“It’s easy to see the circumstances that have changed. And, part of it is you,” I nodded.
“So, it is me?”
I continued to nod, “Yep. Think about the moment you feel off-kilter, what happens?”
“I am just about to do something, out of instinct, then I have to second-guess, is this what I should really be doing, right now?”
“So, you have a habit that is breaking, at least in question?”
It was Miriam’s turn to nod. “And, breaking a habit feels off-balance. Habits are supposed to help me take consistent action. And, now I am not so sure the next action is right?”
“Miriam, it’s normal, welcome to the world of professional growth.”
“I feel a bit overwhelmed,” admitted Melissa. “There are so many things that can go wrong on this project, and I’m just not sure if I can manage it all.”
“You are right,” I replied. “You cannot manage every detail. Success consists of the execution of a hundred things, most of which cannot be managed.”
“Most things we accomplish as managers consist of process and systems with elements that can be measured and managed. But that is only part of the story. Success also requires elements like focused attention, cooperation with team members and commitment to the result. Those are elements, difficult to measure, but more importantly, almost impossible to manage. You cannot manage focus, cooperation and commitment. This is the people side of management, and people don’t want to be managed.”
Melissa was silent, thinking. “The people side is more difficult than the process side, and maybe more important. I think I would take a mediocre process with some fired up people, over a spectacular process with a poor attitude.”
Negative thoughts are unconscious. We don’t have to think about having negative thoughts, they just arrive. The primal brain is always on the lookout for bad stuff. Its constant question – is this experience going to kill me. Your primal brain cannot distinguish between fact and fiction, that’s why we cry in movies. Your primal brain is always subject to hi-jack.
Positive thoughts require conscious activity. I often ask the question, what good happened today? People struggle to respond. No part of your brain is on the lookout for good news.
Unless you train your brain to look for good news. And, you have to train it long enough for it to become a habit. And, that habit can be easily broken the next time your primal brain gets hijacked.
So, thank your primal brain for sharing, then get on with the good stuff.
In my last post, A Level of Competence, I ended with an unspoken question.
What habits do you have that support your success? I am curious to hear from you, so post a comment or reply by email. I will collect, manicure and re-post.
Here are two of my habits.
- Each morning, I fix a cup of coffee, and spend 60-90 minutes writing. This is where the blog comes from, as well as email correspondence with other thought leaders.
- When I drive an automobile, I do NOT listen to the radio, only podcasts or I simply drive and think.
What are your habits?
As we enter this holiday weekend here in the United States, and as Dorian bears down on my home state of Florida, best wishes for a safe return next week to the world of management. For now, stay safe, play hard, recharge. Management Blog will return Wed, September 4. -Tom
“Hey, how is it going?” I asked. It seemed an innocent question.
“Oh, man, it’s rough. Our biggest competitor just lured away our Project Manager. The price of raw materials is going through the roof. We had a glitch in our computer system last week. I don’t know. I guess things are okay,” replied Marshall.
I stopped in my tracks. On the surface, it seemed like small talk. An innocent question. A little commiserating.
But words mean something. You are what you think. The only way I can tell what you are thinking is to listen to the words that you use. How do you describe yourself? How do you describe what is happening around you?
You are what you think. What you say is who you are. But take it one step further.
What you say is who you will become. How you describe yourself is who you will become. How you describe the world around you, is the world you are destined to live in.
“Hey, how is it going?”
How will you respond?
The best measure of performance is performance. – Lee Thayer
Fitness. A team can have all the necessary elements, but if they don’t have fitness, they will not be able to pull off the strategy. My colleagues get that blank stare when I talk physical fitness. The eyes glance from side to side. “He’s not talking about… being fat, is he?”
If the project calls for a ten hour day, can you work it and then go home with enough energy to be with your family? No way, unless you are in shape. Yes, physical fitness, exercise and nutrition.
And mental fitness.
- Create four alternative solutions to every question, to make sure we include unlikely possibilities.
- Create an argument for the other side when this side seems so obvious.
- Pull the team together for fifteen minutes to make sure we “check-in” before we make a major decision.
- Discipline – use a consistent mental process for problem solving and decision making.
- Discipline – focus on a single task until it is complete.
- Discipline – follow-up on due date projects.
- Discipline – have the difficult conversation when it is easy to avoid the confrontation.
Physical discipline and mental discipline go together, critical for execution. Most companies do a fair job of planning and organizing. But effectiveness is all about execution, physical and mental discipline. I will take a mediocre plan well executed, anytime, over a great plan that is poorly executed. Where does your team stand on the fitness scale?