Ask

Ask Questions
ASK

Ask and you shall receive.
Ask the right questions.
All you can do is ask.
Noting wrong in asking.
Ask to clarify your assumptions.
Ask to make it crystal clear.
Reduce your confusions by asking your ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ now.
The list could go on. Important is to ‘ASK’ a question – to yourself, your team members, your community and this world. Very rarely will you get YOUR questions answered without ASKING. >>

Don’t be rude, talk in a common language

I recently watched a movie called “Water for Elephants”.

A circus owner buys an elephant and expects the elephant to behave and obey his order in and outside of the ring. The circus owner makes the elephant part of his show and orders her around. The elephant does not obey the orders, the owner pokes her harshly with bull horn before she runs out of the ring. The owner is angry and then beats her badly with the bull horn. She is badly wounded and in a lot of pain. This is when, accidentally the “Hero” of the show discovers that the elephant does not understand English but was previously trained in another language. From there on, the story was sorted out and kind of had a happy ending.

Getty Images - http://www.gettyimages.com/detail/515020333
Getty Images – http://www.gettyimages.com/detail/515020333

This reminded me of various situations that I have witnessed where people are not talking in the same language – i.e. common intentions, perspectives or common understanding that both parties would appreciate. From this point onwards, most situations go downhill, even if it was for a short while.

The key lesson – talk in a language that the other person/team would understand. See the world from her perspective first before putting down a proposal of mutual benefit. When selling a solution, see the problem from a customer’s angle and then propose a mutually beneficial solution. The sale will certainly become easier then before. Before blaming or punishing a child, put yourself in that child’s shoes and think why he/she did what was done. This could lead a different conversation all together. As a project manager try to wear the glasses that a developer wears to see the challenge/world through her eyes and why something is taking longer than it should. May be, this will allow you to come up with a better solution and improve your relationship with that developer too!

Open up your network – Don’t be scared

Open up your network to your friends and acquaintances. Sharing is caring. Don’t be scared about the fact that your friends will get better deal than you. This will mostly improve your credibility from both the parties you are connecting. You will get a chance to learn from this experience. If the connection allows someone to get a new job, solve someone’s burning problem or help someone to start a long desired project – you will receive a lot of blessings no matter how long it takes for them to arrive. The law that says “Give to get” applies here too.

Usefulness of data

We are used to gathering data, businesses do and so do governments. This garbaged data is not much useful by itself but only by mining it with a specific focus – a purpose. This data is only useful if it is used and merely just collecting it does not make it any useful but might cost you hundred of thousands of dollar in storage costs.

So look at your systems. What data are you gathering and what can you use it for? Will you use it at all? How can this data help you serve customers better by creating an even better product? What is the expiry date of data that you are collecting?

Managing Change

Dealing with Change/Transformation Programs for organisations I am constantly managing change and dealing with change.

Here are some of my take aways for managing change:

  1. Almost everybody is scared of change, even people dealing with change on a regular basis. Everyone has their own comfort zone and managing change is about expanding the horizons this comfort zone. Explore ways to expand this.
  2. Management and Leadership teams should re-inforce again and again and yet “again” that change is good and the only way to move forward. Only change is constant and the way to future success.
  3. Link change with opportunities and excitement and remove/eliminate team and individual fears of how it will impact them. Change is implemented for a brighter future. Explore and talk about their future often.
  4. Get the leaders on your side. Even better get end-users on your side first.
  5. Empower people to ask questions.
  6. Leaders need to be firm on their stance on change. It is either “Change” way or take the “High” way approach. Negativity and people hanging onto status quo can be a massive impediment in implementing change.
  7. Managing change is just not a leader’s role. Empower individuals to be change champions and to be change advocates.
  8. Strengthen the change muscle of individuals, teams, business units and organisation.
  9. Implement appropriate and engaging training to the right people at the right time.
  10. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Worse news must be communicated before good news. Link good stories to the upcoming and future possibilities.
  11. Don’t forget to smile.

Making task completion a social activity

Today, I came across Complete app – a Twitter/Facebook like service for task completion. Using the app, we can create tasks that we want to complete, mark it private or public and get tasks to completion. Having tasks out in open will create accountability and friends and other visitors can assist us in getting the task done. A simple idea that can do miracles. Friends can provide feedback, validation, encouragement, hint us on their experiences and potential pitfalls.

I find the idea very powerful. We all create tasks and lists which most times are “for my eyes only” and hidden away from the rest of the world. Our task/lists tell a lot about us. Using social media we can try to control how we are perceived but our task lists most times can tell a naked story. Having publicly shared tasks, we can truly demonstrate what we value individually and how we add value in other people’s lives by assisting them.

The app itself is in early days and have a long way to go. But I don’t see why we can’t run our own social experiments in sharing personal tasks and allow others to monitor the progress and be willing to learn from their experiences. This will just make the journey for completing the task easier. A lot of people are already doing this by participating in #WOL [Working Out Loud] forums. Some of us might been doing this for a while in work based environments using several ways, e.g. agile walls.

What one experiment would you start today that will see you sharing your task publicly and committing to it? For me, it will be writing 5 blog posts this week.

Build your ideas bank

Few days back I wrote about collecting ideas but focusing on one (or very few) ideas or projects at a time. I got few messages agreeing and some that did not. Couple even went to say that “Ideas are dime a dozen.” OK, may be or may be not. I don’t know as I have never bought ideas for a dime!

I have always maintained an ideas note – what I call it my “Ideas Bank”. Initially I used to jot only the ideas that were relevant to what I was doing or what I wanted to focus on and was very picky of what I added to my ideas bank. Initially the intention was to capture my ideas (my moments of brightness) so I could select them on the future and potentially use them and execute them when the time is right.

Then late last year I read few tweets about strengthening the ideas muscle (tweets that I should have saved but did not). This got me thinking of expanding the scope of my ideas bank. A bit more research and it made sense to strengthen the ideas muscle and give it a regular exercise. Very recently, I have started to jot ideas of all sorts. Things that may or may not be of any use to me at this given time. Over time (consider time frame in years) this should serve me atleast two purpose, 1) I should improve my problem solving/solution finding skills, 2) I will have this massive collection of ideas, some of which can be applied to a problem that I or others have at hand.

So you may want to focus on one task at a time but don’t let this stop you from building up your “Ideas Bank”.  You never know what future problems you might be solving today in your notes! Go strengthen your ideas muscle.

Smile please

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If you do one thing this week – make a decision to smile more. Laugh more. Smile when looking at yourself in the morning. Smile at a stranger. Smile in a meeting. Make it a personal resolution to smile at least 4 times for each waking hour. Once done see for yourself how much difference did it make.