Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Strategy Questions

For those of you dealing with strategic thinking, brainstorming, project planning, etc.. this is a quick 10 minute braindump I did on questions that came to mind when I was asked- it's a little rough and in no particular order- but maybe it is helpful- any that you would add?

1. What are we trying to accomplish? What's the problem/un-met need?

2. Who are we doing this for? Do they really care about what we're setting out to do? Is there really a customer base for this? Is it a large enough need that justifies our investment of time, money, people?

3. Is this realistic, can this actually work, or is it "idealistic", looks good on paper but people won't respond to this or it just isn't practical?

4. Who on our team will be needed? Are they excited about it? What will they have to let go to take this on?

5. What additional resources/people/staff will we need to make this happen? Is the implementation team set?

6. Who is running point? At the end of the day, someone has to drive this and make the calls- who is it? Do they understand the target objectives, are they energized by it?

7. How will we measure success, what are the benchmarks along the way to know we're on track or need to change course?

8. Can we "test" our strategy in any way before launching fully into the plan?

9. What are the unknowns? Do we know what we don't know?

10. What other support will be needed/leveraged from the company/ministry? (Communications, marketing, legal, sales)

11. Has a timeline been established with tasks for each phase of the timeline? Who is the point person running the task/project management.... is that person in place to have specific deliverable steps identified, scheduled, executed, tested, and approved?

12. What are potential curve balls, deal-breakers to watch for? What are the IF this, THEN that scenarios to be aware of... initial Plan A's or Plan B's?

13. How long can we financially afford to carry out this plan? What is the payback?

14. What are the quality objectives? Is the standard of excellence being met? How will we know?

15. How will we measure our customer's response? What is the win? What adds value? What could/will that look like? Are we creating fans?

16. Is everyone on the team aware of their specific roles, priorities, timelines, and who they need to be communicating with?

Friday, February 22, 2008

Can you get Excited?

I woke up this morning, walked into the kitchen, and found Emmi and Easton (9 and 7 years old) genuinely jazzed about the fact they had a chance to win a trip to "LA"... They were packing these Jell-O's into their lunches. They had anticipation...excitement... they were jumping up and down... Me? (First thought.... Easton said we're going to "LA"... that's funny... he said "LA"... second thought... "You're not going to win... the odds are ridiculous".... (luckily I only thought it)... third thought.... "Marketers.... how dare they try to dupe my kids... maybe I should use this as a 'teaching' moment on the capitalistic bombardment they need prepare themselves for in life"... again, thankfully I said nothing... I smiled and said, "That's cool! Maybe you'll win!" Then I was informed that I made the cut of who the four people that would go to LA if we won... thanks Easton...

It has changed my day- I went to the gym thinking- why don't I get that excitement like when I was a kid? I spend a lot of thought time in trying to be prepared for worst-case scenarios (especially at work/management), I've been let down in the past, I've had failures.. - I think it's programmed me to be without "spikes" on the excitement chart in my life. (My Finnish heritage may have a little to do with it as well...) Thanks to Emmi and Easton this morning... they helped re-program my day to decide to be excited and live today with anticipation.... How about you?
My wife can get excited... this is Kem in an elevator at the Indiana Pacer's game two days ago... I'm thinking about buying a mascot outfit... (by the way, pay no attention to the creepy, Matrix-like reflection of the dude in the mirror)... he's actually a nice guy...
Here's me excited.... I know... take it easy... contain yourself....

Sunday, February 17, 2008

My Action Items- Life Refocused...

Below are my notes from whiteboard, feet pointing exercise today- most of this would simply be long and irrelevant to you, however, maybe the bold categories would be helpful in your process and intentional living.... a few things:
  • In doing this in past, I've tried to completely dump my boat and change too much... For me I've found it better to have clear, bite-sized chunks to work on- little changes in multiple categories...

  • My productivity and energy drops in a hurry after 12 hours in a day- I need to allow for downtime (usually 8-10 PM on weekdays) and chunks on the weekends...

  • It's helped me to work to create "overlap" in my purposes.. for instance, I try to combine exercise or golf with spending time with my kids or friends- I may write dramas related to workplace issues and attach to this blog, etc...

  • I live in Microsoft Outlook, I am going to take this list and put it as a "free" calendar item that will pop-up once a week- I can keep my goals in front of me and stay on target. Additionally, I'll be scheduling one on one breakfasts with the kids in a monthly rotation...

  • Because I'm flawed and things happen- not everything works the way I would like, but this gets me much closer to my snapshot of purpose at this point in my life..

How about you? What has help you focus on purpose and priorities?

White Board Life Plan Notes February 17, 2008

Need to find a mentor, not sure who at this point- maybe to meet monthly?
Bible reading/Journal

ACTION ITEM: Overlap time with RL to include Bible study and discussion 4 AM's per week
Need to be in relationship with a mentor again- who ???

Schedule and plan our monthly date nights

ACTION ITEM: Put in my weekly Outlook Life Goal reminders and view to make sure this is on schedule

Schedule one on one time
Kid’s sports activity planning- Easton baseball?
One on one breakfast time

ACTION ITEM: Rotate Emmi and Easton every other month for a one-on-one breakfast before school- Erin every other month at Wings Put in OUTLOOK Life Goal view

Coming up General Management/Operations

ACTION ITEMS: Intentional discussions with CS on eventual role and maintaining alignment to overall company goals and plan

Begin meeting monthly with Admin to build relationship and more overlap

Continue with Help Desk launch and oversite-

Work/STACKED (side business I try to do as little as possible in)

Streamline inventory management
Need production help
JM- more management?
DB's role?

Find someone who can handle weekly production 5-20 hours per week
Either sell or simplify- must continue to be contained-
Move more management responsibility to JM

Blog writing/video?
BHAG: Eventually be part in writing/creating a movie

Incorporate short videos into blog- add value, stretch drama experience
Create white space and think time for potential movie ideas- review with potential collaborators- there has to be a valid purpose and “why” we would do it- need a story..

Money Management
Missing $500 Building Pmt- complete by 4-15-08
Continue to save for new vehicle Goal $5,000 by 7-1-08

Continue with current saving plan- all unexpected/bonus income to these goals

Time Wasters:

STACKED general labor, need to watch time- this is not in my core purpose

What Am I Going to Do that’s New/Forced Change/Learning?

Learn basic video creation/editing- minimal quality (You Tube-ish) for now- Set-up meeting with Jeff Petersen for initial discussion - Produce first videos by 4-1-08 Tie into blog..

What I Enjoy:
Business/leadership topics/reading

What are my talents?
Organizational/Business Management
Big Picture View/Visionary

Who’s On My Board/Should Be?
Kem - Wife
JH (need to get back in rotation)
Future Spiritual Mentor
CS- Work- professional
Add 1-2 people

ACTION ITEM: Get in contact with JH for lunch- catch-up and discuss

Look for other potential maximers to overlap with-

Other People in my life right now:
(Insert Your List here)

Out of Balance
Time with RL- needs to be “redeemed” and overlap created
Workout/sleep still pushing
I feel like I run out of energy/time in a day…

Other Notes/Thoughts:
Overly idealistic is a “pull”- get a big list of wants but can water-down effectiveness
12 productive hours a day
Overlapping purposes/leverage your purpose
More transparent life- less duality- blog & board?

My Feb 17th 2008 Whiteboard

STEP 1: Get all my thoughts out organized by category on Whiteboard...... (this is from today)

Action Steps in Red.....

Step 2: Create a Word Doc with content from the whiteboard, a little cleaner copy. I saved this on my computer in it's own "Life Whiteboard" folder... I want to be able to track where I was, where I went, and where I hope to go.... I put this in my Leadership folder on the blog- this is part of my "self-leadership".

Step 3: Create action steps, plan, and goal dates..... Because the board is a little rough- I'll post my categories and action items soon....

Which Way Are Your Feet Pointed???

For those who go to Granger Community Church, we've heard again and again.... and again... to the point of rolling our eyes, and again... "which way are your feet pointed? If you take steps a particular direction, you'll eventually end up over there..." I love Mark Beeson, he's one of the top three leaders in my life.

Today I'm going through a process when I try to "point my feet"- I pray and I evaluate these questions in relation to God, my wife (Kem), children (Erin, Emmi, Easton), my career/work, my time and money, relationships, and my volunteer ministries:
  • Where do I feel out-of-balance right now? Am I spending more time on some activity or relationship that needs to change?

  • What are my gifts and talents? Am I using them? Could I be doing more with them? Am I using them effectively and thoughtfully?

  • How are my big three relationships right now? God, wife (Kem), and children (Erin, Emmi, Easton)? Am I prioritizing them well? What should I change?

  • Last week, last month... what time was wasted? If I could replace a few hours a week with a different activity? What would/should it be?

  • What's coming up that I need to prepare for?

  • Financially, am I making good decisions with giving, saving, investing, and spending? What goals do we have and how are we doing? (Am I being a good manager?)
  • Health- am I exercising and eating responsibly? Do I need to make any adjustments in my schedule to get the the gym more consistently? Am I getting enough sleep/rest?

  • Drama- How can I improve my skills? What are other ways I can be using this gift?

  • If I had a board of directors for my life? Who would be on it? Who isn't on it now that should be? Am I getting the input, accountability, and feedback I need to best be on purpose?

  • Do I have relationships outside of the "church bubble"? Who are they? Am I being purposeful in those friendships?

  • Am I passing time with my kids or am I being intentional with them? What do I need to adjust?
  • Is my faith growing or going backwards? What changes do I need to make?

I am going to be putting these on my whiteboard at home as I press through this today- From this I can write down my specific goals and begin rescheduling my time and reallocating my money. Typically I do this every six months or so with "tweaks" along the way... what questions would you add?

Pointing our feet is important. What's your plan? Do you write it down? Do you have people in your life you share it with?

Hmm...Give Money or Buy a Flat Screen TV??

This weekend at church we had Dave Ramsey piped in from the 2007 Catalyst event to talk money and about giving. (Quick sidenote, Dave is the best communicator going on money in my opinion.... ) It makes me think of what's really at the core of why people give or don't? I had the privilege to serve with our Financial Freedom team for 4-5 years and met with scores of people struggling in the area of finances... I am strange.... but I love numbers and budgets and personal finance was a great match for me...

Kem and I made a decision in our worst financial state to start giving (tithing), we had done it sporadically but never methodically. At that time, we had over $15,000 in credit card debt, another $10K plus in a consolidation loan, creditors calling, $40K in my business debt, and a car payment around $250 per month. Additionally, we had to contact the church and let them know we wouldn't be fulfilling our building campaign commitment.. ( about feeling like dirt)...that was nearly ten years ago...

Since then some crazy things have happened and we would be a strong advocate for how "giving" will change your life.... God definitely showed up...

One comment made this weekend was "giving will make you less selfish, giving will make life more about others, giving people are more fun to be around..." Mark Beeson talked about his desire to give to God's work is what motivates him to get his personal finances in order so than he CAN give... you can check it out this week at (usually the Monday after the weekend and it's up for one week)

So here's the challenge: "Giving 10% of your income away will positively change your life- your life will be richer, deeper, and have much more meaning". True or false? If people truly, in their gut believed this, wouldn't everyone be doing it? Quick thoughts:
  • Manage (steward) your giving- know where & what it's being used for... it will make you feel even better about your giving- Don't trust what's being done with your money? Skeptical? Find somewhere you CAN trust- don't let that be a cop out-
  • Have your money automatically deducted from your account every week/month/year... it's a lifetime/style decision- treat it like your investment account- it's just better.
  • Put your hands and feet "in" wherever you're giving- deliver food, volunteer, get involved- it's great to know how you're playing a part in changing the world and you-

  • Giving rarely gives "instant gratification"- unexpected bills may come the very next day- When you look in your rearview mirror a year, three years from now- you'll see it...

  • Want that flat screen TV set instead? OK... I want one too.. But let's try to squeeze it in the other 90% we get to manage...

  • On that note...."stuff" just seems to be less important the more I give..

  • Start somewhere... start at 1% with a plan to get to 10%... it's not an all or nothing deal... with each bill that goes away or raise, try to bump it up a step..

For those who profess to be a Christian, here's a quick link on Bible verses on money I found- God commands it- however, I like acknowledge the fact He wants what's best for me... there must be something to it... (That's a positive spin on it- He says to test Him in this..)

For those who could give a rip about what the Bible says-I still would consider: "Giving 10% of your income away will positively change your life- your life will be richer, deeper, and have much more meaning". Test it for one year and see what happens...

So for me... I guess the flat-screen will wait... but I have a hunch it's going to continue to be worth it...

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Church: "Where's Your Bullseye?"

That church is a cult. Heresy. They let children take communion! Rubuke. That's the church of entertainment. They speak in tongues. They're not filled with the Holy Spirit. That music is of the devil. Rebuke. They're not really saved...... Who says this of the church? It reminds me of a book I read years ago "The Final Quest" by Rick Joyner, a scene set where there's a battle going on, arrows are flying from the ranks of the Enemy, and as the dust clears, it's other Christian's in the front lines shooting arrows at other Christian's. (Which for kicks I googled the book and came up with loads of controversy, articles, rebukes, you name it.... wow.) The point of all this is not about Rick Joyner and whether he's leading people astray or not... it's a question of Church: "Where's Your Bullseye?"

In business, personal discipline, and in life, focus matters. In fact many would say "pick one, maybe two" targets or niches to have the best chance at success. What's your church's target? You pick. One. What's your personal bullseye?

Jesus talked about the two greatest commandments.."Love your neighbor" (Mt. 22:37-39) Call me crazy, but I think that could be a good place to start.

It breaks my heart when I hear someone "trashing" another church and/or denomination. I just think, "we have a world lost in deep weeds, homeless in the streets, children without food, wealthy businessmen who are part of the 'up and out', and this is where we choose to put our bullseye? On the back of another church?" Unfortunately in my life, I've seen that scene in The Final Quest play out time and time again. It's much easier to criticize than to "do".

I believe the Church is the hope of the world. If we could unite, this world would be turned up-side down. What if....
  • We all would commit to encourage and lift up other churches in our communities and celebrate what they are doing for Christ? Stopping any trash-talking or innuendos...

  • Your local churches would come together and families in your area would never be without food again?

  • We the Church assumed 100% responsibility for the social ills in our community and not delegate it to our government?

  • We would move out of our comfort zones and literally befriend and love our neighbors?

  • We just kept it simple?

Church, it's time. Let's take the bullseye off each other and let's change this world with His help...

Monday, February 11, 2008

Stuck in the Middle

Our leaders can be frustrating as expressed well in comments from Michael Gray from an earlier post "Hey Leader Have You Landed". Have you ever been or are you currently stuck in the middle of wanting to add value to your team or organization and leader that is changing his/her vision, your role, not practicing what they preach, unavailable, doesn't seem to be listening, is out-of-touch with his/her team, or seems to be a moving target? Ugh.

Here are five things I think our leaders need from us:
  • They need to be able to trust us. Do we "have their back" when others are talking about them? Are you "for" your leader and want what's best for them? Have you told them privately you're "for" them?

  • Be a champion for the vision. Do you advocate the vision publicly? Are you working hard to be aligned to the vision ahead of you? Have you clarified what the vision is with your leader and understand it?

  • Fill in the gaps. Carrying out any plan will have flaws, holes, and surprises. Are you pointing at the cracks or filling the cracks?

  • Lead yourself well. Are we knocking our role out of the park? Are you distracted with busyness or getting the key objectives completed?

  • Respect their time. When you meet with your leader, are you prepared and pithy? Are you helping carry their load to free their time or adding to the load and putting more on their schedule?

What would you add to this list?

Our leaders are flawed, but if we do these things well, eventually we will have opportunities to "lead up" and in some cases even help shape the vision of our organizations.

But what if that doesn't happen? What if you remain frustrated? If you find yourself complaining at the water cooler, trashing the direction of the company, or crossing your arms thinking "that's not my responsibility".... it may be time for you to move on... We all have bad days but we're not called to be a cancer in our organizations.

For a great next step, I'd recommend The 360 Degree Leader by John Maxwell- it has many great insights in leading up, across, and down.

One favorite quote from the book: "If you do what you can, with what you have, where you are, then God won't leave you where you are, and He will increase what you have."

Friday, February 8, 2008

Project Void

OK, here's the scenario: You're in the middle of a project with a client and you've hit some snags, maybe you've been swamped with other clients, you're behind, there are too many unknowns and when trying to determine your timeline for delivery, you just don't know. An hour goes by, a half a day, two days... a week..... a void is appearing.

This can be an awkward, tough point in project management. You want to be able to communicate to the client some tangible deliverables, the plan.... anything... but your team is struggling, stressed, they're trying to get their arms around the details, it's spinning..... you're struggling for answers, a shred of anything to give to the client. Ever been there?

Here are some responses I've seen in different people on the team:
  • Hide. Just keep your head down and hopefully we can figure it out before the client either knows about it or says anything. Avoid and act like the void is not there.

  • Pass the Buck. Just be glad it's not my responsibility to talk to the client. Someone else has to deal with the void, not me.

  • Hope. Maybe we'll get lucky, wake up, and realize it was just a bad dream and the void is gone.

The problem is, the void will get filled.... somehow. We can fill it, or worse... the client ends up filling it. When voids appear and communication is paralyzed, it's not uncommon for the client to dictate the timeline and expectation because they're not hearing it from you. "I need this done by a week from Friday", "We need to launch by the end of the month".... then the team scrambles, sometimes frantic, trying to work into the timeline the client had to set. Sound familiar?

The reality of "project void" is pretty normal. It's a time to take a deep breath and press in...

  • It's better to get the opportunity to set expectation of a timeline on your terms rather than have a ticked off client telling you what is going to happen

  • Have the direct, tough conversation with your client- communicate more the more urgent the issue

  • Only promise what you can promise, then deliver.... it's better to update as you know regularly than to guess and miss another deadline-

Excuses and mediocrity is the norm. Not wanting to be the person to have to deal with the client is normal. Add value to yourself, your company/team, and your clients and fill your "project voids".

Weird Cute

When volunteering one weekend, two women were looking at a computer and heard one of them say, "He's weird cute, y'know" and followed it with that little girley smile.

Interesting......Weird cute? What exactly does that mean? I happened to know who they were talking about.... He had:
  • Ratty hair

  • Big Horse Teeth
  • A goofy checkered shirt
  • Big ol' rim glasses

Huh...(I thought) "Him? Really?" I learned something that weekend.... If you're not cute..... shoot for "weird cute"- Men.... we have hope. Call it "Weird Cute for Men" And I'm not just saying it to say it, I'm also a client. I married way over my head.. Here's my "Weird Cute Mug":

Monday, February 4, 2008

Hey Leader, Have you Landed?

Imagine Noah landing (after 40 days of arking) on a mountain top and saying, "Yes, this is what we're going to do, this where we're going to be!" After his team unloads half of the animals, Noah says..."Uh, no, not this mountain, pack em' up, we're going over there!" His team, scratching there heads a bit, comply and go through the daunting task of gathering up all the animals and re-loading them in the ark. They land on the next mountain top and the same thing happens. And again. And again... How many mountain-tops would it take to frustrate the team, even to the point of not even unloading the animals when asked?

In several work places and teams I've been a part of, this is one area leadership or management has struggled. A few thoughts:
  • Is your vision clear, is the game plan mapped out?
  • Are you leaking your vision causing members of your team to act prematurely or move in the wrong direction?
  • How long will it take your team to shut-down and not react to your "plan"- do they simply know to wait because it will change in two weeks anyway? Have they stopped unloading the animals?
  • Are you making parts of your vision/priorities more urgent than they really are? Is this causing your team to hurry up and wait?
  • Has anyone on your team wasted their time on your objectives that simply went away? Does this keep happening?
  • Are you able to tell your team, "I don't know yet, I'll let you know when we're ready" rather than making a hasty decision?

Be clear with your vision. Be committed to your plan. Give your team confidence that you've "landed" and it's "go-time". Whether leading or managing, clear objectives and timelines will help make you someone worth following...... so for your team's sake..... land.

Is Your Spouse SPAM?

Marriage takes a lot of work….

I’m like a spam-filter….. my brain seems to (analyze, analyze, filter, analyze, analyze, filter, filter, hungry, analyze, filter, “how you doing”, analyze) all with saying very little, only as deemed needed….

Kem’s like a Pop-up window.. her brain seems to (alert! Task reminder! Edit! Don’t like! Alert! Now! (People magazine) Task Reminder Again! (look a bird)) all while communicating as she thinks.

When the spam filter blocks the pop-up message- that bad. When the spam filter “allows” the pop-up- that good. Working for a technology company and more experience with age should hopefully help me dial-in this program in the future.

If you spouse/significant other was a piece of software, what would he/she be?

Saturday, February 2, 2008

The Buck Stops with...uh.. it doesn't stop...

At your job or on your team, there are objectives and tasks that need to be done. Who owns it? Who's responsible? Over the years I see the same trends appear: Managers/leaders saying the same things that need to get done or are frustrated that things aren't moving and employees that are amazingly adept at not taking the ball or having side-door excuses why it wasn't their responsibility. How can we be better leaders/managers or better followers/employees?

Leading Down (Managers/Leaders):
  • Objectives and tasks need to be clear with specific deadlines

  • Assign one person accountable for the objective getting done
  • Make it easy to come to you if difficulties (hurdles) come up or there are blockers to the task or objective in getting done- "not wanting to bother you" should never be an excuse
  • Remove hurdles as needed- serve your team member(s)

Frustrate your team by having objectives constantly changing or when tasks and deliverables are completed, they have little or no value to the team/organization. In time, they won't want to grab the balls you're handing off...

Leading Across: (Peer to Peer)

  • Rather than only worrying about your world, be aware of the tasks/objectives your other team members are carrying- if there are ways you can tactfully help, do it
  • Be positive, encouraging, and have a "git er done" attitude- model well... Be an advocate of the company/team goals.. It's easy to be like the masses by whining and complaining

  • Lock arms with those struggling/failing, help as you can.. Celebrate others winning... genuinely want their success... your peers need to know you are "for them"

Annoy your peers by offering unsolicited advice every day....... Lose positive influence by rolling your eyes or ripping your leader/manager behind their back ... Everybody wins when all objectives are met...

Leading Up (to the manager/leader)

  • When objectives aren't clear, help clear them up by asking "How are we going to accomplish this?", "Who's going to run point on this?", "When do we need to have this done by?", "How can we/I help?"- Sometimes this is best one and one without an audience, your leader needs to know you're genuinely trying to help and not undermining

  • Assume you need to be the communicator to the leader/manager, don't wait for them to come to you if you need help or pitfalls are appearing

  • Your leader needs to know you're for them... you want them to succeed...

  • When in doubt, fill in the cracks, be the solution, take responsibility

If objectives are clear and timelines are set, just get it done- Don't ask questions that don't need to be asked or take time from your leader that could have been avoided- trying to be "visible" with a bunch of fluff is only giving you the wrong kind of visibility.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Feed Faith or Feed Doubt?

After reading The God Delusion, there are times when I pray at night thinking... "What if I'm praying to nothing? This really would be silly.." This book for me fed "doubt" in my mind.

What would happen if I only read books by Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and Laura Ingraham? In time I may have some pretty strong views on how I view my political issues and how I vote. Equally, what if I only followed, Howard Dean, and James Carville? It's a sobering thought, but I really do begin to become what I have fed.

Our filters are created by what we've fed. What we read, our experiences, where we spend our time and money, and who we hang-out with all feed our minds, opinions, and beliefs. Our ability to "balance" our filters allows us to better understand others and how they've become who they are and what they believe.

The Christian extreme may say, "You've given the enemy a foothold, don't read that garbage, burn those books, don't listen to that music or watch that show..." We can definately feed our faith to an extreme. But would that be like having a diet of only protein and no fruits and vegetables? I think we can learn a lot about the people around us when we can observe their lives asking, "What are they feeding their lives with that has brought them to what they believe?"

It's a delicate balance, preserving faith while trying to understand another's belief.... engaging in critical thinking, intellect, and science vs. faith in what is unknown, immeasurable, and elusive... Jesus said, "Seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you"...

What are you seeking? What doors are you knocking on? What will you feed? Faith or Doubt? Are you balancing well?