Recently I had John Boyd’s “Observe, Orient, Decide and Act (OODA) Loop” introduced to me. This is a dynamic system of cyclical responses to handling an active and dynamic problem. Its original focus was military applications, but over time it was applied to other areas such as the business world in areas of marketing and product development. The OODA flow sequence allows for a tremendous amount of resetting as more information and intel is gathered. As you would expect from a military application new information is coming at all times and may thwart previous information so that the process should be reset. The goal of the original application was to move so fast and with such precision that you’d get into the action path of your enemy causing their observations, orientation, decisions and actions to be thrown out of focus.
Given that causing others to lose certainty was the key goal, why do we want to evaluate this mechanism for decision making for project management? Because it’s core function is to drive clarity of understanding and decisiveness in action. Our customers may change their minds, they may not know what they need, and we may be getting conflicting messages. As leaders we need to be able to take in context look at our resources and team to deduce what the best decision and resultant actions should be. We’ll be taking the next few days to investigate this flow and make its value clear for project management.
What are the systems you use to integrate changing requirements from customers and product line managers?
Engineering is a funny thing. We demand from design and materials opposite sounding qualities quite often. We’re after Jim Collins’ “and instead of or.” But this requires a very intentional plan, a prepared team (or company) culture, and probably some tolerance for risk.
The thing that stretches various personality types is a tendency to favor one over the other and so you’ll have a Dominant personality that wants rigidity and action, but an Influencer who wants to flex indefinitely and not have anything with structure (that’s my tendency). The goal of being both in management really isn’t the goal, the real goal is the balance between the two.
The two offer the benefit of a firm structure that can handle an earthquake. I’m building a guitar and the top wood needs to have flexible resonance and the bracing (that you can’t see from the outside) for rigid structure and frequency transfer. That way when you strike the guitar’s body percussively you get the pop off a drum, but when you cause the strings to vibrate you can have a long sustaining chord. this is non-trivial, but it’s produced by trial and error and testing and experience.
A manager’s job is to push his team forward into the frontier with the supplies of a rigid planner and the resilience of a seasoned veteran who has learned to reset when something unexpected comes up. This surprise may be a new opportunity that was greater than the one you were planning on being willing to let go of.
Entropy, it’s all around us. It kicks us in the shins all day long. Entropy is the default. We’re falling apart, we’re missing things, we’re letting our plates tilt just a bit to let stuff fall off of them while we look away from where we’re going. It kinda sucks. I spoke to one manager who mentioned that he’d gone on vacation and returned to discover entropy had kicked in where he left off. And then I spoke to another and another.
The default often has gaps because it isn’t thought through thoroughly. It leaves us wanting more coverage, completion, and closure. The default costs us in time, money, and stress more often than not because training hasn’t been done, the training isn’t the culture and the culture has not carried the standard.
But what can save us from this default-based entropy? What will change our training? What will change our culture? Deliberately managing.
Doing the deliberate, thought out, thing will lead to more excellence more often. It will change culture, it will change the way we make choices because it will have an influencial principle or rule gating what is the better choice from the lesser choice.
Don’t go with the default, champion the deliberate!
What are you letting slide that you can change in the next 48 hours?
When we the last time you met someone who changed your mind? When was the last time you changed someone else’s mind? Just Listen is probably the book I’ve bought the most copies of and re-read the most times. I can’t recommend it enough. The reason is this: the book gives you very practical tips on influencing others through helping them feel heard, valuable, and understood.
Take the time to read or listen to this book because it will change your approach to 1-on-1’s, it will change personal relationships, it will challenge you to think about how well you listen to others so that they feel a connection (Law 10 from The 21 Irrefutable Laws).
Do you need someone to help you fix a situation, get a project done, or deliver a presentation? It can happen withat a comm and and contology approach, but it might be painfl and low quality. You can get their buy in with the personalized techniques presented in this book that will help draw people to you and up trust, which we all know we need on teams. This is what I would consider a “glue” book. It ties together through useful tools and techniques the principles you know you need to apply in all areas of your life.
If you’ve ever been on a team and scratched your head as to why it sucked so bad when everyone on the team was good individually – or almost everyone was good, but that one jerk who needed to re-evaluate their personal agrandizement quotient – then you’ve probably faced The Five Dysfunctions of a Team head on. Patrick Lencioni writes in a fiction/parable format about the key elements of a team that is individually made up of stars, but collectively a black hole of suck. He identifies key issues that are wrong with teams starting with trust. Reading this short novel was sometimes awkward thinking how much of the problem was personally relevant and familiar.
The Five Dysfunctions are as follows:
The dysfunction of lack of trust
The dysfunction of lack of healthy conflict
The dysfunction of lack of commitment
The dysfunction of lack of accountability
The dysfunction of inattention to results
These dysfunctions build on top of one another so the team in the book is walked through building trust to lead to a place for the sub-sequent dysfunctions to be dismantled. Ideally progress within the team will lead to higher functioning.
I have bought this book for myself to re-read, I’ve recommended it for others, and I would love for you to tell me what you think, too.
If you’re not sure these principles are for you and your team check out this youtube video of the author. It is at a Catholic event of some sort and contains a small amount of Catholic interjection, but predominantly for uses on the 5 dysfunctions.
Have you ever been caught off guard by behavior of others and realized later that you are doing the same thing? How about driving slower than some traffic in the fast lane? How about discovering you have 11 items in the 10 items express lane? This sort of frustration can lead a tired, grumpy individual to lose their cool and sometimes cause some real anxiety where none was needed.
In dealing with others at various levels instead of getting frustrated get real: tell them you’ve done it, too (assuming you have), turn it into a teachable moment, and steer the in the right direction. It takes a bit of humility, but can really change the dynamic of a situation.
Let’s say that you have figured out what your primary core competency is from the list of 31. That is to say the one that you start with, the one that is innately wired to your person and the lens that you tend to use to drive change in your life. It’s really valuable to get a handle on that, but then you realize that you have thirty or so other competencies that you’re not using at full capacity. There are key steps to getting these under your belt, and the first step is to begin memorization of the competencies. This probably seems tedious, but the reality is that there are very few people out there who can’t memorize given the right technique. I’m not going to tell you how to create a memory palace, but check out Ron White’s intro material [I’ve been through his 30 day course on CD]. With a memory palace you can store information, in sequence, and recall it with relative ease. I’ve used it to memorize The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.
Upon memorizing the core competencies you can begin understanding their use in your day to day interactions with both business, your direct reports, and for personal development. It is worth noting that this can take a lifetime. If you spent a month focusing on each one you’d still take nearly 3 years at which point in time you might need to circle back around and start over because you’d probably have learned enough in the first pass that you’d want to take a second pass and learn more. It is worth noting that competencies that you don’t have under your belt very well may require some time of meditation and pondering to understand their value to you. It may be simple to understand the value of these various competencies, but you want to grasp their personal implications.
After understanding the competencies you’ll want to review the competencies daily. If memorization is not on your current priority list take some time to write them down on a 3X5 notecard to look at during down times or before your day starts. By having them fresh in your mind your neurological framework will literally have an increased likelihood of applying them rather than just hoping you remember them and hoping that you might apply them. Take time to take the information into your conscious thoughts.
After your day make sure you have some time for reflection. This can be great for all sorts of problem solving and stress reduction, but also as a measure to consider how you used the core competencies, how you might not have used the core competencies, and how you plan to use them tomorrow.
Somewhere in the last decade I began learning about the DiSC Personality Model. I first became aware of them through a friend who pointed me to Manager-Tools.com. They’ve got an excellent podcast series on the DiSC framework and my attempt to duplicate it here would be less valuable at present than your listening to the series. Rather than spend time writing about the DiSC model by itself I’d like to share a conversation I had with a friend who has a degree in psychology. I had asked her whether or not the personality models were actually relevant in any way in light of more recent psychological research. I’d hate to recommend folks check out the DiSC model with it being complete rubbish.
As it turns out these systems are effective starting points for learning how to interact with your direct reports and team as a whole. In addition it is recommended by many to do a personality test before hiring on a team member to confirm that they’re aware of their own personality attributes as well as being able to ask specific pre-hiring questions about how they handle their weaknesses. My friend shared about how someone she knew had been asked how he handled not being a heavy data collector and his answer was great: he hired people around him that had that as a strength and worked on allowing their strength to support his weakness.
Using DiSC as a starting point for growth and development and not an excuse for inaction (I was born that way is a lazy personality excuse). Take time to understand these profiles for your own betterment and for greater ability to interact with folks from all walks of life. If you’ve learned another two-factor model for personality evaluation check out this great translator on wikipedia.
I have read a number of books on leadership, and I intend to read many more, but The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership stands out as a great summary list of qualities you want to cultivate in yourself. It was so impressive that I committed the list to memory. The book’s purpose is to give you a list of laws, or attributes, that you need to be aware of, understand their value, and then to encourage you to seek to develop those attributes in yourself. The Laws are:
The Law of the Lid
The Law of Influence
The Law of Process
The Law of Navigation
The Law of Addition
The Law of Solid Ground
The Law of Respect
The Law of Intuition
The Law of Magnetism
The Law of Connection
The Law of the Inner Circle
The Law of Empowerment
The Law of the Picture
The Law of Buy-In
The Law of Victory
The Law of Momentum
The Law of Priorities
The Law of Sacrifice
The Law of Timing
The Law of Explosive Growth
The Law of Legacy
I expect to go into these in more detail in future blog posts because each one has an entire chapter dedicated to it and writing a terse description of each law is probably a hair too terse.
As a leader understanding how to unpack each one of these principles will help you guide your team to excellengce and to help them lead others to excellence. It will build a Leadership Pipeline that can handle the varying demands on each layer because they have a root system that is feeding them, growing them, and allowing them to handle the daily tasks of a leader.