Welcome to another edition of the Monday Morning Meeting: your weekly collection of Filament news, tools you can use, and interesting ideas that will help you think differently about your week ahead.
FILAMENTAL THINKING: BUILDING A QUESTION-DRIVEN STRATEGY
In the last month, we’ve been working with a few customers on a new strategy model designed to be more adaptive than the traditional “set-it-and-forget-it” five-year strategy. It’s early in this work for us, but because we’re not afraid of sharing our “shitty” first drafts, I wanted to give you a sneak peek at how our Question-Driven Strategy (TM) model works:
An organization’s Question-Driven Strategy is built around 3-5 Transformative Questions (TQs) that, if answered well, will drive the organization to extraordinary results.
A good Transformative Question never has a single answer but is designed to generate hundreds — if not thousands — of potential ideas, experiments, pilots, projects, and (ultimately) initiatives from people across the organization.
Each TQ is “owned” by a team with three key responsibilities:
Translate the question so every part of the organization can answer it. For some, the question may remain in its original form, but for others, the question may need to be “right-sized” so it better connects to the work some do or the influence they wield.
Once the question fits each team, help them complete this statement: “We’ll know our team is answering this question well when we ….”
Manage the various experiments and pilots across the organization and let leadership know what’s happening where (we’ll share a dashboard for this soon).
The organization’s leadership is tasked with different responsibilities, including:
Ensuring that everyone knows why it is important to answer the TQ well.
Creating the rule book so each part of the organization knows what they can do (and spend) in their efforts to answer each question.
Watching (but not interfering in) the experiments and pilots, and then deciding which pilots become funded projects and which projects become well-funded initiatives.
Identifying and tracking organization-wide metrics for each question.
But why not ask dozens of questions? The small number of questions is necessary for two reasons:
First, because everyone in your organization should know its TQs (and to paraphrase Syndrome from The Incredibles, “if every question is transformative, then none of them are”), and
Second, because the entire organization won’t work on them all at once, but rather focus their entire attention to finding better answers for one TQ at a time. With four questions, you might focus on one each quarter and with five, you might think in 10-week chunks.
Every year, the initial stakeholder group reconvenes and revisits each question. Some questions will be evergreen while others might fall off the list to make room for more important ones.
We know we’ve got a ton of work to do on this, but we’ve built all the tools and the methodologies for the first Question Design Summit. If you’d like to be a guinea pig (for a discount, of course), let us know.
Finally caught up on my reading this week, so I have lots of links to share. I hope you enjoy them all — or at least find one or two that help you this week!
Can an organization have too many “good” ideas? Perhaps:
The “innovation funnel” where a lot of ideas are whittled down to a precious few — should contain two major filtering stages: one where you get rid of the bad ideas and then another where you toss the good ideas that aren’t quite good enough to justify a thinner spread of resources, a greater diffusion of focus, and possibly a more complex customer experience.
Before you default to the belief that a meeting is the best place to make a decision, remember that meetings are hard:
Meetings are inherently risky enterprises, mobs in waiting, more susceptible to passions, pieties, persuasion, and manipulation of all kinds and degrees than are the individuals who participate in them. Meetings begin with the same risk of injury as a motor vehicle containing a steering wheel at each passenger seat.
This cartoon of the Four Horsemen of the Brainstorm from Marketoonist couldn’t be more perfect.
We often use the Fibonacci Sequence to help “price” experiments because the gaps between the numbers — especially as they get bigger — force hard choices. That’s why I really love this insight on ranking opportunities (and rating job candidates) from Kyle Maynard in Tim Ferriss’ Tribe of Mentors book:
My biggest shift came after listening to a successful CEO talk about his philosophy for hiring people. When his company grew and he ran out of time to interview people himself, he had his employees rate new candidates on a 1–10 scale. The only stipulation was they couldn’t choose 7. It immediately dawned on me how many invitations I was receiving that I would rate as a 7—speeches, weddings, coffees, even dates. If I thought something was a 7, there was a good chance I felt obligated to do it. But if I have to decide between a 6 or an 8, it’s a lot easier to quickly determine whether or not I should even consider it.
Seth tells us to Open the Cookies:
Put a bag of cookies in the break room and it might sit for days. Open the bag and leave it out, and within an hour, all the cookies will be gone.
We are happy to take a tiny slice off the thing that’s being shared, but we hesitate to open the bag. The same is true with all of the initiatives in our culture. Design, movements and ideas are all trapped, waiting to be opened, and then the rest of us will happily pile on.
Open the bag.
Such a great icebreaker from Rob Walker’s Art of Noticing newsletter:
Imagine you could devote a year to researching someone’s biography. Who would your subject be?
If you’re trying tof igure out the futue, look to the past. in this compelling essay, author Morgan Housel looks at Three Big Things that are shaping our future — and all have roots in WWII.
Good advice from Julia Galef:
When something goes badly, I don’t automatically assume I did something wrong. Instead I ask myself, “What policy was I following that produced this bad outcome, and do I still expect that policy to give the best results overall, occasional bad outcomes notwithstanding?” If yes, then carry on!
Next time you’re preparing for a one-on-one with someone who reports to you, don’t ask “How can I help you?” Ask one of these things instead (and here’s why):
Asking “How can I help you?” puts a burden on the employee. You’re asking your direct report to do the heavy lifting of figure out how you should be doing your job better as a leader. There are plenty of better questions you can ask – questions that, no doubt, require a little more thought ahead of time to come up with. For example instead of asking, “How can I help you?” try asking:
What do you find challenging about my management style
What aspect of my work do you think I can do a better job?
Do you think I’ve been a little micromanaging with how I’ve been following up on projects?
Have I not been as cognizant of reasonable timelines, like I should have?
Would you like more or less direction from me? Why/why not?
What’s a recent situation you wish you handled differently? What would you change?
When have you been annoyed, peeved, or bothered by me and something I’ve done?
Could I be doing a better job outlining the vision and direction for where we’re headed?
Am I giving you enough information to do your job well?
One of the reasons we’ll occasionally do a “Stupid Idea Wall” in our meetings:
Not all ideas are good. These include yours. If you have a “great idea” that everyone thinks is stupid, don’t push it. The others will also have stupid ideas. If you’re pushy about yours, they’ll be pushy about theirs and you’re just going to get into an impasse. If the idea is really good, maybe it’s just in the wrong place. Bring it up later…. maybe they’ll like it next month.
Finally, don’t forget to play.
“I think what I like most about listening is that I disappear.” — Gordon Hempton
“Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could; Some blunders and absurdities crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Don’t undertake a project unless it is manifestly important and nearly impossible.” — Edwin Land
“Instead of buying your children all the things you never had, you should teach them all the things you were never taught. Material wears out but knowledge stays.” — Bruce Lee
“Never let the guy with the broom decide how many elephants can be in the parade.” — Merlin Mann
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