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Category: Organizational Activation (Activate)

Transform yourself to transform your organization

Posted by on April 25, 2016 9:38 am

All organizations need to transform in order to grow. When we reach the top of the business curve and business is good, we’re tempted to settle in for the long haul after the hard climb up. We want to get comfortable and we feel confident as we pat ourselves on the back for making it: “Let’s keep doing what we’re doing, because it works!”

Actually, this is the best time to kick ourselves in the butt and say – what’s going to work next?! It’s a great time to build a new strategy, revamp products, or shift the market. It’s also the perfect time to look at yourself as a leader. If you want your organization to transform and grow, you have to carve out the time for your own transformation.

As Carol Dweck talks about in her book “Mindset”, leaders with a “growth mindset” are the ones that successfully grow their companies to greatness:

[These leaders] are constantly trying to improve. They surround themselves with the most able people they can find, they look squarely at their own mistakes and deficiencies, and they ask frankly what skills they and the company will need in the future.

These are the partnerships we love to create with our clients. Helping leaders get real with themselves on what it’s going to take from them to elevate their company to the next level is exciting stuff. As Stanford Graduate School of Business lecturer Mark Leslie pointed out in a recent article, “Vision doesn’t matter if a leader doesn’t have the audacity to pursue it.”

So, why should you enlist the help of an executive coach to assist in your transformation as a business leader? From my experience working with executives, here are just a few ways a coach can help:

1. Time to get real (with yourself). A trusted partner in your leadership growth will help you gain a true understanding of the strengths you need to keep bringing to the table — and the things you need to stop bringing to the table. A coach works with you to tackle those things that may be slowing your growth into manageable actions to work on.

2. Focus, focus, focus. It’s so easy to get caught up in the day to day responsibilities of running a company and lose focus on the big picture of strategic direction. Partnering with a coach helps you transform the way you focus on a daily basis so that you execute a larger vision for your career.

3. Outside eyes. As you push the limits of status quo, having a coach that understands your business, your leadership, and your team will provide you with a fresh set of eyes. The opportunity to bounce new ideas off of a trusted, unbiased third party who has your best interests in mind is invaluable.

Partnering with a coach is not something to be embarrassed or ashamed of. In fact, partnering with a coach is one of the best ways to truly transform yourself. And if you really want to take your business to the next level, your own transformation will be key.

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Giving feedback is not coaching

Posted by on March 7, 2016 1:42 pm
whistle

There’s a general assumption that any interaction with your team in relation to their work is coaching. A successful client call followed up with praise? Coaching. Giving someone direction or “advice” on a project? Coaching. Changing an employee’s unfavorable behavior to be a better fit for the organization? Coaching.

While all of the above is necessary as part of managing and leading people, it’s not actually coaching – it’s feedback. If leaders truly want to lead and transform their teams, coaching is an indispensable tool. A recent Forbes article drives home the purpose of coaching and explains it like this:

 Coaching focuses on helping another person learn in ways that let him or her keep growing afterward. It is based on asking rather than telling, on provoking thought rather than giving directions and on holding a person accountable for his or her goals.

If you’re ready to transform your team, let’s talk about why coaching is key:

1. Coaching focuses on growth and development.

Often feedback is linked directly to an individual’s performance. It offers quick hits of encouragement, advice or correction directly related to their performance of a job. Coaching, on the other hand, focuses on helping an individual grow. Period. However, we want to make sure that the growth of the individual supports the strategic direction of the organization. There is a direct relation between individual development and business results. Coaching looks at long-term development of people that inevitably results in long-term business results.

2. Coaching is based on asking rather than telling.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not a huge fan of people telling me what to do. Feedback often focuseswhistle on telling people what to do more of or less of. Coaching focuses on asking questions – lots of them. Not for YOUR sake – but for the sake of the individual you’re coaching. The art of asking a question and pausing to wait for a response is a craft that takes time to be mastered. This craft is well worth the energy because it’s in the pause that your team member will be able to think, reflect and respond. That’s where the magic happens.

3. Coaching holds a person accountable for his or her goals.

The coach works together with the employee to set meaningful goals that align their success with business results. Part of creating the goals is identifying the specific behaviors for meeting those goals. The role of the coach is not just to encourage, but to check in regularly with a rhythm of accountability to make sure the employee stays on track. We talk a lot about rhythm of accountability here at inVision and it truly is the biggest success tool in goal execution. It’s this regular check in that differentiates coaching from feedback. Feedback is usually “in the moment” and happens in no regular rhythm.

4. Coaching is based on trust.

Trust is the foundational work of an effective coaching relationship. The individual being coached must trust that your intentions in the coaching process are focused on their development, and that your gain from this relationship is first and foremost their achievement of their goals. This takes a lot of thought and self-awareness on the part of the leader. Building a trusting relationship takes time, effort and genuine interest.

Surrounding yourself with growing, passionate employees is the quickest way to get sustainable business results. Coaching employees to recognize their own opportunities and drive towards their own goals is a rewarding process as a leader.

The greatness of a leader is measured by the achievements of the led.  This is the ultimate test of his effectiveness.

Gen. Omar Bradley

There’s a general assumption that any interaction with your team in relation to their work is coaching. A successful client call followed up with praise? Coaching. Giving someone direction or “advice” on a project? Coaching. Changing an employee’s unfavorable behavior to be a better fit for the organization? Coaching.

While all of the above is necessary as part of managing and leading people, it’s not actually coaching – it’s feedback. If leaders truly want to lead and transform their teams, coaching is an indispensable tool.

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Learning to dance to the rhythm of accountability

Posted by on February 16, 2016 10:17 am
Dancing_Footprints

Prior to joining inVision, I had never participated in a strategic planning session. The 2015-16 session marked my second year (you can read about the process here). In a nutshell, during the session we develop the organization’s overall direction for the coming year. We develop objectives that address each goal, and action plans follow. Each team member takes a piece of the plan, putting their name on it and assuming responsibility for it. That doesn’t mean that it’s up to you alone to accomplish it; it means that you have ultimate ownership over that objective and responsibility to make sure it’s completed successfully.

We’ve talked in various blog posts about the importance of setting the rhythm of accountability as part of the strategic plan. Basically, the rhythm ensures that the plan is kept top of mind and doesn’t lose out to competing priorities during the year. During our monthly and quarterly meetings, we provide updates to our team members on our part of the plan. We put it all on the table – the milestones and challenges, the progress and delays.Dancing_Footprints

What happened during this month’s meeting was a first for me. Why, you ask? Because I had to let my team know that I hadn’t made any progress on my portion of our strategic plan. Talk about humbling. My other priorities (which we call the “daily whirlwind of activity”) had won out. I had let myself slip into that whirlwind, and it wasn’t until the days leading up to our monthly meeting that I realized that I hadn’t stepped out of it to focus on the strategic plan.

So with my admission out in the open, the time had come to step up and formulate a plan to get things back on track. I sat down with Wendy, my manager, to refocus and develop a clear set of actions to move the plan forward and hit the deadlines I had set for myself.

My point in all of this? In this case, our rhythm of accountability did exactly what it’s designed to do: it pulled me from the whirlwind, forced me to face the fact that I hadn’t made any progress on my plan, and motivated me to get back on track with actionable items I could start tackling right away. Sometimes it’s tough to stay on top of everything; but the key is to step back, assess the situation, and take action. My original deadlines are still in place; now, it’s a matter of refocusing and getting down to work. Lesson learned.

 

 

Prior to joining inVision, I had never participated in a strategic planning session. The 2015-16 session marked my second year (you can read about the process here). In a nutshell, during the session we develop the organization’s overall direction for the coming year. We develop objectives that address each goal, and action plans follow. Each team member takes a piece of the plan, putting their name on it and assuming responsibility for it. That doesn’t mean that it’s up to you alone to accomplish it; it means that you have ultimate ownership over that objective and responsibility to make sure it’s completed successfully.

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Execution is about LIVING the plan, not communicating it

Posted by on February 8, 2016 11:49 am

Too often, senior leaders start the year with a big town hall meeting to ‘present’ the organization’s strategic plan, if they share it at all.  They give a state of the union address and summarize the high level strategies and objectives. When the meeting is finished, executives feel good that they have shared the plan and everyone is now accountable for executing and attaining success. It sounds great, but it isn’t reality.

The truth is that the vast majority of employees leave those meetings more confused than when they arrived. The strategies are at such a high level that employees don’t know what they do to contribute, so many, while appreciative of the break from their day jobs, don’t leave the meeting engaged in driving the plan.

But what if we could change that? What if we could take those high level strategies and objectives and help people see how their roles contribute every day?  What if we could, in our regular interactions with employees, reinforce how they make a difference? That, my friends, is how we drive execution.

As an executive, I used to love the start of a new year. My favourite week to work was the one between Christmas and New Year’s as it gave me a lot of time to reflect and get ready for what was ahead. I would invest two days on setting the course for my team and determining how to drive execution of our strategic plan and key objectives. I know, it seems like a lot of time, but I have learned that investing the time up front makes life easier in the long run.

So…what did I do for those two days? It’s simple. I put myself in the shoes of my direct reports and figured out how their work contributed to the success of the plan, particularly those whose roles were further removed from the high level objectives being targeted.

An example: let’s say a company wanted to strategically improve its ability to retain and build existing customer relationships. They want to measure progress by showing a 10% improvement in their annual customer satisfaction scores year over year.

Of course we can see how those two elements link.  The question is, even if we communicate this to our teams, do they know what to do to get the 10% improvement? The answer is, not likely; particularly if they work in a function that is removed from customer service.

What if I’m the HR Leader? Without more conversation, it is easy for folks in indirect roles like this to disengage; customer service is someone else’s issue in the organization, not mine. If we want to achieve aggressive strategic plans, we need everyone in our organization working towards key objectives.

For some it is easy to see how they can impact the metric (ex. front line customer service staff), but for others, they need the link established for them. Let’s look at the HR Leader. By reducing hire times, and hiring for the right skills, the HR Leader can contribute to the customer service goal. Ongoing conversations help develop the direct link between what we are asking the leader to accomplish and the strategic plans for the organization.

Why do these conversations drive execution?

  • People want to work on things that matter.  If employees understand how the work they do contributes to the overall objective, they are more likely to engage and commit to reaching that result.
  • Objectives are measurable. Because we can measure progress, we can monitor progress. We can recognize strong performance and jump in quickly if things go off track.
  • Scope creep is minimized. Through the year, it is inevitable that employees will be asked to take on new projects.  Ongoing dialogue ensures a balance between strategic objectives and “day job” responsibilities.
  • Performance management becomes easier. Setting clear expectations at the beginning of the year means that we get commitment on the work to be done and we can better monitor progress throughout the year. We provide appropriate feedback early, leading to better communication and fewer surprises when it comes to coaching and year end reviews.

If you really want to get results, invest a bit of time in having regular conversations with your staff that makes the strategic plan real to them. I guarantee you the investment will pay off in spades and you will be that much closer to achieving your strategic plan.

 

Too often, senior leaders start the year with a big town hall meeting to ‘present’ the organization’s strategic plan, if they share it at all.  They give a state of the union address and summarize the high level strategies and objectives. When the meeting is finished, executives feel good that they have shared the plan and everyone is now accountable for executing and attaining success. It sounds great, but it isn’t reality.

The truth is that the vast majority of employees leave those meetings more confused than when they arrived. The strategies are at such a high level that employees don’t know what they do to contribute, so many, while appreciative of the break from their day jobs, don’t leave the meeting engaged in driving the plan.

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Relying on high performers to drive your strategy execution? Think again.

Posted by on January 26, 2016 9:51 am
goal speedometer

Leadership teams are under a lot of pressure to do more with less and get more impressive results with fewer resources. Traditionally, leadership creates a strategic plan, talks about the plans around the executive table, and relies on the people in their organizations to help reach the goals. Most organizations treat the performance management system as the driver to reach the strategic goals.

This article on LinkedIn reports that in “a public survey carried out by Deloitte, 58% of executives surveyed ‘believe that their current performance management approach drives neither employee engagement nor high performance’.” That’s crazy! If our leaders, the people responsible for driving organizational success, are not seeing tangible business results from an internal process – then why are they doing it?

My answer: Because we’ve been told that if we’re managing the performance of employees – making sure everyone is performing at the right level – then we should reach our organizational goals. If only it were that simple!

Don’t get me wrong – I believe that the right performance management system is an ingredient in creating a system that helps us measure an individual’s progress. However, when it comes to driving the achievement of the goals in an organizational strategic plan, relying solely on performance management to do it is not a sound approach. It’s about activating leaders to clearly articulate the plan and gain buy-in from the rest of the team. We can employ the highest performers in the industry, but if they don’t have radical clarity on “what’s” important and the “why” that drives organization, they’re not going to be doing the right “how”.

However, when we have a team of people operating at their highest level of talent, engagement, and passion, and then we ensure they’re aligned in strategy and direction, we get big results. We drive success and hit our strategic goals. From my experience, there are three key ingredients to executing and activating a strategic plan:goal speedometer

  1. Radical clarity. Be radically clear with your team on what the organization’s strategic goals are. Then be clear about what part of this plan their department is responsible for (assign accountability). Ask them: what goals and actions do we need to include to meet our responsibilities? For example: What actions are they personally responsible for to help their department to reach these goals?
  1. Learn how to coach. How often do you find yourself sitting face to face with your team member and you end up directing or “managing” rather than coaching? Here’s a quick way to tell which one you’re doing: Do a silent self-check in your meeting and ask yourself who’s doing most of the talking. If it’s you – chances are you’re managing or directing. Try asking more questions like “Tell me what you’d do in this situation?” and “What would you do differently next time?” or “What did you learn?” There are a lot of great coaching resources out there, but one of the best ways to learn is to be coached yourself. (Contact us to find out how we can help you by being your executive coach!).
  1. Create accountability. Now that you and your employees know what the expectations are and you feel confident in how to coach them, set up a rhythm of regular coaching sessions. These sessions create accountability to make sure goals stay on track. Here at inVision, we call it “rhythm of accountability”. Weekly, monthly, or quarterly meetings make sure we’re on track to meet our results.

There is a time and a place for traditional performance management systems. But to be innovative, focused, and strategic you need more. The three steps I’ve outlined above can easily be implemented within any organization that has a clear strategic plan. If you don’t have a strategic plan or need help clarifying an existing one, let us know – we’d love to help! If you have some questions on how to execute on the steps above, give us a call – we’ll get you heading in the right direction before the call is over.

 

 

Leadership teams are under a lot of pressure to do more with less and get more impressive results with fewer resources. Traditionally, leadership creates a strategic plan, talks about the plans around the executive table, and relies on the people in their organizations to help reach the goals. Most organizations treat the performance management system as the driver to reach the strategic goals.

This article on LinkedIn reports that in “a public survey carried out by Deloitte, 58% of executives surveyed ‘believe that their current performance management approach drives neither employee engagement nor high performance’.” That’s crazy! If our leaders, the people responsible for driving organizational success, are not seeing tangible business results from an internal process – then why are they doing it?

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Future’s so bright, gotta wear shades

Posted by on January 20, 2016 8:49 am
Sunglasses

We have the best job in the world: we enable leaders and their organizations innovate and transform.

Through our work with so many amazing leaders and their companies, it has become clear that there are three key ingredients for sustained innovation and transformation:Sunglasses

  • Radical clarity of direction of your company and relentless execution towards a common purpose (Navigate)
  • A system that enables innovation with everyone, everywhere, every day (Innovate)
  • Aligned leadership so all are engaged and accountable (Activate)

When we see the great things that our clients are doing, it inspires us to do better and be better. We continue to focus on building our inVision Crew while bringing on board like-minded teammates who want to make a difference and do great things. We have worked together to craft our areas of focus and wanted to share them with you.

To continue to innovate and transform ourselves at inVision, we’ve chosen the following areas to focus on in 2016:

  • We will continue our quest to enable innovation and transformation by partnering with like-minded companies across Canada;
  • We will launch our brand new execution-focused website, which provides leaders and their teams with a way to track and execute on goals and actions that enable the rhythm of accountability;
  • We are developing a client/partner onboarding program and on-going communication approach to ensure we are 100% aligned to the innovation and transformation goals of our clients;
  • We are developing our very own facilitator training program to ensure that our clients receive the very best training on how to deliver immediate and sustained results.;
  • Innovation Engineering Labs will have numerous updates to assist our clients on their innovation journey.

It is an honour to partner with so many great companies and our entire team looks forward to what lies ahead. Here’s to another year of Doing Great Things! Now time to get those shades out…. and give us a shout if you want to learn more.

 

 

We have the best job in the world: we enable leaders and their organizations innovate and transform.

Through our work with so many amazing leaders and their companies, it has become clear that there are three key ingredients for sustained innovation and transformation:

  • Radical clarity of direction of your company and relentless execution towards a common purpose (Navigate)
  • A system that enables innovation with everyone, everywhere, every day (Innovate)
  • Aligned leadership so all are engaged and accountable (Activate)
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What has a greater impact on organizational growth? Strategy or leadership?

Posted by on November 30, 2015 10:39 am
Strategic-Leadership

“Strategy will not succeed in a void, and leadership often makes the difference between merely reaching for great opportunities and actually realizing their potential.”  – McKinsey Report, Tsun-yan Hsieh and Sara Yik.

I had an interesting conversation a few weeks ago with a senior leader in a successful manufacturing organization. He proudly spoke about the company’s products and employees and beamed as he walked me through the facility, pointing out visual systems, key performance indicators, and lean improvements they have made over the years. He talked of mentoring his next level leaders to improve their confidence and decision making abilities; so much so that his job was a bit ‘boring’ now.

Contrast this with another senior leader in a different organization, different industry, but equally successful. While he also spoke proudly about his organization, customers and employees, he had difficulty identifying what contributed to the organization’s success to date. While the Board and select senior leaders participated in a strategic planning exercise each year, the plan was not shared openly with others in the organization.Strategic-Leadership

Of the two organizations, which is poised for more growth? I would bet my next pay cheque on the first organization over the second — and I’ll tell you why.

In the absence of good leadership, a strategy document becomes an oversized paper weight. Poor leaders don’t understand the value of a strategy. They create one-day strategy workshops so they can say they’ve gone through the planning process. The result is a plan that sits in a binder on the shelf until the next year. The plan quality is generally poor and there is no focus on execution.

In the absence of good strategy, a good leader can build solid relationships with staff. Good leaders recognize that their ability to achieve results rests with the team they are entrusted to lead. They communicate, and more importantly, listen. They set operational goals, measure progress, and hold people accountable to create a foundation of execution. They ask for strategic direction so they can ensure they are working on the right things.

When a good leader is provided a solid strategy, he or she leverages the relationships and the foundation of execution they’ve already established within their team to deliver results. Give that same strategy to a poor leader and he or she will not understand why it exists, how to make it real, or even where to start.

So, how do we build leaders and leadership teams that are ready to get on board with strategy? We select them carefully and then we invest in them – we give them the tools, support, education, and learning opportunities to grow. At inVision we assess senior leadership teams using our Activation Edge products, provide team exercises and, at times, one-on-one coaching, to help leaders develop their potential.

So what has a greater impact on organizational growth? While developing a solid strategic plan is necessary and important, a plan without leadership nets you nothing. I bet on leadership every time.

 

I had an interesting conversation a few weeks ago with a senior leader in a successful manufacturing organization. He proudly spoke about the company’s products and employees and beamed as he walked me through the facility, pointing out visual systems, key performance indicators, and lean improvements they have made over the years. He talked of mentoring his next level leaders to improve their confidence and decision making abilities; so much so that his job was a bit ‘boring’ now.

Contrast this with another senior leader in a different organization, different industry, but equally successful. While he also spoke proudly about his organization, customers and employees, he had difficulty identifying what contributed to the organization’s success to date. While the Board and select senior leaders participated in a strategic planning exercise each year, the plan was not shared openly with others in the organization.

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Be the spark that enables your team

Posted by on November 23, 2015 8:32 am
match 2

“I’ve always thought it was my job to be the spark and the gasoline for my team, but now I realize that it’s actually not.”

A really great leader said this to me during a conversation last week. It’s been bouncing around in my head ever since. A simple concept at first, but stop and think about it: How many leaders feel the pressure of being both the “spark” and the “gasoline” in their organizations?

The original focus of our conversation was around getting a sales team pumped up to face another quarter after a particularly difficult month. My leader-friend was talking about the need to spark some energy in his team at their monthly meeting. He had a plan for the spark, but he felt a weight around how to be the fuel to keep that fire burning in them.match 2

This is common among leaders. Bearing the weight of determining and communicating WHAT is important (the spark) and also HOW it will be accomplished (the gasoline) quickly becomes overwhelming for any leader. If projects stall when the leader isn’t around to constantly fuel them, enablement (or the lack thereof) is often the cause.

inVision CEO John Ferris has taught me that it’s the leader’s job to determine WHAT is important; it’s the team’s job to determine HOW to achieve it. In the past I would have thought this to be one of those great quotes that sounds like a solid philosophy but nearly impossible to implement in reality. This is where Innovation Engineering comes into play for me.

After attending Innovation Engineering College at the end of October, on my way to becoming a certified Innovation Engineering Black Belt, I realized that I had finally found a system that would allow leaders a process to gain radical clarity on what was important and enable their people to successfully come up with and deliver the results. IE provides a freedom within the framework, enabling leaders to set the spark and step back as the team’s fuel of innovation, creativity, and commercialization transforms the organization.

To truly enable our teams to be their own source of energy, innovation, and action, we have to draw them into the process of determining the HOW. Through the process of Innovation Engineering, the leader can focus on being the spark that ignites the team, while the team becomes responsible for keeping that momentum going. The energy is shared between the leader and their team, and real growth is the result.

 

 

“I’ve always thought it was my job to be the spark and the gasoline for my team, but now I realize that it’s actually not.”

A really great leader said this to me during a conversation last week. It’s been bouncing around in my head ever since. A simple concept at first, but stop and think about it: How many leaders feel the pressure of being both the “spark” and the “gasoline” in their organizations?

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Blame it on my upbringing

Posted by on June 12, 2015 8:30 am
Orange Equal Sign - Business Strategy - Business Strategy Execution - Innovation Engineering - Winnipeg MB Canada

Colleen Abdoulah is an inspirational and thought provoking former CEO with an authentic personality and the courage to do things differently at WOW! Communications in the U.S. I had the opportunity to interact with her and attend her keynote at the recent AME/CME Lean Conference in Winnipeg and was inspired, entertained, and challenged.

What I would like you to note in my story above is that not once in my description did I label her as a ‘female CEO’ or ‘woman leader’. To me, I admire her for her character, convictions and accomplishments…not her gender.Orange Equal Sign - Business Strategy - Business Strategy Execution - Innovation Engineering - Winnipeg MB Canada

Don’t get me wrong: I fully appreciate, respect and am grateful for all of the women before me (and even now!) that took the hard knocks and fought the battle that now gives me the opportunities and freedom to follow my own dreams and passions.

I also appreciate the men who had the courage to walk alongside them in that same fight.

There are many women that I admire, and many that I don’t. I can say the same for men. I don’t consider myself a “women’s libber” (again, see above for my appreciation for those that are), but I do consider myself an “equalist”. I don’t care if you are a man, woman, white, black, or purple, I don’t care about your sexual orientation or your age….but I do care if you are treated fairly and with respect.

I blame it on my upbringing. I had parents who believed in raising strong citizens, guided by character and ethics, making decisions boldly based on values and ‘the right thing’, and having a work ethic worthy of an honest day’s pay. In our family there was one son and four daughters….and the lessons were the same for all of us. I was raised by a man who married a woman who was his equal, and they built a life and a business as partners. The worked together and they played together, and set a great example for their family. What a gift.

I am not perfect, but I am working hard to be a great example for my daughter…and my son. I am confident each of them will do bigger and better things in their lifetime that I have ever accomplished, and I will be cheering them on. Equally.

As Ms Abdoulah said in her keynote, men and women need each other to lead at our best. The diversity makes us better.

Colleen Abdoulah is an inspirational and thought provoking former CEO with an authentic personality and the courage to do things differently at WOW! Communications in the U.S. I had the opportunity to interact with her and attend her keynote at the recent AME/CME Lean Conference in Winnipeg and was inspired, entertained, and challenged.

What I would like you to note in my story above is that not once in my description did I label her as a ‘female CEO’ or ‘woman leader’. To me, I admire her for her character, convictions and accomplishments…not her gender.

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This matrix is real

Posted by on June 5, 2015 8:30 am
Urgency vs Importance - Business Strategy - Business Strategy Execution - Innovation Engineering - Winnipeg MB Canada

I learned a lot during my years of university — how to research, challenge, write, reason, and analyze. Looking back though, I don’t think I knew how to prioritize; not effectively, anyway. Usually, I would make a list of the tasks at hand, sorted according to due date and how much work I still had to do on them. It worked alright, but I still felt overwhelmed at times and I didn’t know why. I had my list of priorities — but why was I rushed? Why was I scrambling? It turns out I had good intentions, but the wrong method. Working at inVision has changed the way I work. I work smarter now because I know how to prioritize.

I was introduced to the “Urgency/Importance Matrix” (also called the “Eisenhower Matrix” and popularized in Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People) about a year ago when I first joined inVision. As a team, we used it in our strategy session while discussing the projects we wanted to complete in the coming year. I could see the usefulness in that situation — with so many initiatives on the go and even more that we wanted to launch, using the matrix to figure out which projects were truly a priority (and which ones weren’t) was an exercise in reality. It turns out that if it was useful in that situation, it was indispensable to me personally.

Fast forward to a month ago. As they say, necessity is the mother of invention. I didn’t invent the U/I matrix, but in the midst of my busiest time since I started with inVision, I needed it desperately. When Wendy Ferris (inVision Edge Partner) suggested that I make my own matrix and post it on the wall by my desk to help me get a better handle on the tasks at hand, I decided she was absolutely right.

Urgency vs Importance - Business Strategy - Business Strategy Execution - Innovation Engineering - Winnipeg MB CanadaIt’s very easy to use and wow, is it ever effective. Take a large piece of paper and draw a graph — the vertical access is labelled “Urgency”, and the horizontal access is “Importance”. Split the graph into four equally sized quadrants. For each task or project on the go, write it on a sticky note. Then (and here’s the key) – evaluate each task based on the matrix. Ask yourself: how important is this? And then: How urgent is this? The tasks placed in the lower left quadrant are low priority; the tasks in the upper right are highest priority — those are the ones that are both important and urgent. You get the idea.

To have a visual of all of the projects that I have on the go is invaluable — not only to me, but to my teammates! At a glance, everyone knows what I’m working on and how “full” my plate is. When I have something new to work on, it goes up on the matrix. It helps to set expectations and realistic deadlines, and already, I can’t imagine working without it.

At the end of the day, it’s all about working smarter. The U/I matrix isn’t rocket science, but it has changed the way I go about my day. I have truly prioritized my projects (I don’t use a list anymore) and I think I’m more successful because of it. A simple tool, yes; but a huge win for me, my productivity, and the team. Now if only I had learned this a few years ago…

I learned a lot during my years of university — how to research, challenge, write, reason, and analyze. Looking back though, I don’t think I knew how to prioritize; not effectively, anyway. Usually, I would make a list of the tasks at hand, sorted according to due date and how much work I still had to do on them. It worked alright, but I still felt overwhelmed at times and I didn’t know why. I had my list of priorities — but why was I rushed? Why was I scrambling? It turns out I had good intentions, but the wrong method. Working at inVision has changed the way I work. I work smarter now because I know how to prioritize.

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