What is Your COVID-19 Lens? Six Points of View

By Dr. Mary Lippitt, Author Situational Mindsets: Targeting What Matters When It Matters

Our response to the COVID-19 pandemic must be more than a dualistic choice between preventing infection or “opening up” to save the economy. Simple, obvious responses lead to greater failure rather than desired results.

Addressing complex issues requires consideration of multiple factors and contingencies. During the 1918 Spanish Influenza pandemic, early and sustained intervention in cities such as Cleveland ultimately produced a more robust economic recovery when compared with those choosing a limited response.  And “opening up” does not mean that operations will resume.  During the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, Philadelphia shipyard employees refused to return to work even though ship construction was essential to the US effort in World War 1.  Today, some meat packing and retail employees have elected to stay home.  Opening the doors does not guarantee customers will enter.

This pandemic requires granular analysis, not an oversimplified, short-term binary choice.  While it is tempting to “keep things simple,” attractive easy answers are wrong.  We face a complex, interdependent and systemic challenge. Hand wringing over polarized options stifles creative insights necessary for dealing with persistent and pervasive threats.  We must and can do better.

We can expand our understanding, explore options, and direct our decisions using six situational mindsets or lenses.  Dangerous blind spots surface if we overlook one of these perspectives.

  • The inventing lens stresses creativity the need to develop new treatments, medications and vaccines. It seeks innovation synergies to leverage existing resources and practices.
  • The catalyzing lens focuses on demand. It targets the needs of first responders and essential workers, while rapidly responding to hot spots.  It also focuses on enlisting resources to meet obligations.
  • The developing point of view targets infrastructure and policies. It seeks to ensure hospital capacity, procure supplies, issue guidelines, and set goals.  It also clarifies goals, roles and responsibilities for effective execution.
  • The performing mindset examines operational factors. It analyzes patient data, deploys testing, and measures efficacy. It also adjusts staffing and resources to address gaps.
  • The protecting perspective focuses on people, culture, and society. It centers on safety education, providing for basic needs, ensuring compliance, training contact tracers, and recognizing success.  It also fosters trust, confidence, and community support.
  • The challenging mindset identifies emerging needs, tests assumptions, and prepares for future episodes. It also examines the impact of demographic, economic, regulatory, and security challenges.

As Obi-Wan Kenobi told us in Return of the Jedi, “You’re going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.”  When we grapple with all of these aspects, we can pivot from a cavalier ‘either-or’ divisiveness to an informed and respectful search for wise action.  Situational awareness unfogs our creative thinking and enables us to successfully explore the problems we must solve.  What we see on the surface is not all that there is to see.  We must learn to look beyond our basic frames to grasp complex realities, surface different perspectives, and define implementable solutions to meet this challenge.

Dr. Lippitt can be reached at mlippitt@enterprisemgt.com.

Leveraging Mindset to Increase HR Influence

While HR creates, implements and monitors people, processes and culture, HR frequently fails to win support from decision-makers. I know my proposals were often rejected or deferred. I felt stymied since I couldn’t predict what drove the decisions. It spurred me to pivot. I took three steps to improve my influence and my role.

My first step was to accept that logic alone regularly failed to be persuasive. I needed to understand the perspectives and realities of decision-makers. To learn about their priorities, I requested individual interviews with key decision-makers. In a listening mode, I heard their current goals, recent accomplishments, current priorities and decision-making criteria. I ended each meeting by asking what actions HR could take to help them achieve their goals. It opened a constructive dialogue.

The second step was re-defining my role. Instead of identifying myself as an HR leader in a business setting, I adopted the role of a business leader in HR. While this does not seem like a significant move, it broadened my thinking and placed the organization’s health as my top concern. I could do that by using my HR skills.

The final step was to identify current business goals. It was paramount I knew what drove decisions. Only then could I develop proposals that solved pressing business issues that would win support.

Since complexity, uncertainty and change rapidly altered business drivers, I needed a way to analyze fluctuating priorities. I applied a framework of six different goals or mindsets to discern critical objectives. The categories and definitions are:

  • The Inventing mindset targets the development of new ideas, products and creating new internal synergies and innovation.
  • The Catalyzing mindset focuses on meeting customer requirements, keeping existing customers, building the brand and besting the competition.
  • The Developing mindset seeks a robust infrastructure, effective policies, integrated systems and goal alignment.
  • The Performing mindset concentrates on improving process improvement, quality, productivity, cycle time and profit margins.
  • The Protecting mindset prioritizes an agile culture, developing talent, enhancing teaming, improving collaboration and fostering engagement.
  • The Challenging mindset targets sharing best practices, recognizing emerging trends, validating operational assumptions and seeking new alliances to ensure future success.

This goal-oriented framework clarified what drove decision-makers and enabled me to include their goals in my proposals. Combining goals was relatively easy, and the practice developed trust and established me as a valued team member.

However, goals are not static. Consider how quickly the coronavirus has impacted decision making. Therefore, it was essential to check for change. Using the chart below, I stayed in alignment with decision-makers.

Discovering ways to blend business and HR goals requires some creative thinking, but it delivers superior results. Let me illustrate some examples by mindset.

The Inventing mindset 

Instead of the typical wishlist suggestion program, a new approach centered on quarterly presentations to upper management with the caveat that each presenter must provide a full cost and consequences analysis. This had the added advantage of giving immediate feedback on whether the suggestions were accepted, rejected or needed additional information. This approach substantially increased the quality, quantity and approval rate of suggestions.

The Catalyzing mindset 

Call center training was revamped to ensure that key points were obtained and shared during the first call. As a result, customer satisfaction increased. Another program updated the reward and commission structure to align it more closely with existing strategic goals. A new sales training program was developed to foster consultative sales methods.

The Developing priority mindset

New promotional criteria required demonstrating effective coaching and change implementation. An innovative onboarding process incorporated business knowledge to support a cross-functional orientation.

The Performing mindset

An expanded dashboard with additional in-process metrics spotted issues and successes quickly. Exit interview data was shared in an annual report, which successfully identified areas for improvement. Multiple small improvements surfaced when team leaders asked employees to make a two-percent improvement. While the request was small, the results were significant.

The Protecting mindset

A rapidly expanding firm addressed major talent shortages by developing an internal program of training, coaching and shadowing that provided the needed talent. Improving the transfer of training resulted from team-based training. Intact teams attended a training session where they identified a desired change and developed a change execution plan. Team proposals were then presented to management for approval. Resistance to change evaporated since the team ‘owned’ the initiative.

The Challenging mindset

Recommendation for new structures and policies improved the track records for mergers and acquisitions. Also, best practices were identified, shared, and recognized. Team leaders were encouraged to ask, “what should we start doing and what should we stop doing” to discover opportunities.

As these examples illustrate, HR touches the whole organization and frequently is the only function that monitors performance across the entire organization. HR is uniquely positioned to promote both macro and micro contributions. Shifting into a trusted business partner role does not require an advanced degree, it stems from collecting data, recognizing priorities and formulating novel initiatives. It is up to us to pivot into a trusted business partner role and improve organizational outcomes.

Published with permission from  https://blog.hrps.org/

About Author:

DR. MARY LIPPITT  https://www.enterprisemgt.com

Dr. Mary Lippitt is an award-winning author of “Brilliant or Blunder: 6 Ways Leaders Navigate Uncertainty, Opportunity, and Complexity.” She founded Enterprise Management Ltd. in 1984 to provide leaders with practical and effective solutions to navigate the modern business climate using situational mastery. Dr. Lippitt is a thought leader and speaker on executing change, optimal leadership, and situational analysis. She currently teaches in the MBA program at the University of South Florida. Mary is also the author of Situational Mindsets: Targeting What Matters When It Matters.

Women Who Created their Future

The movie Hidden Figures introduced us to Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson, who were human computers at NASA. The film captures Katherine Johnson’s dedication and creativity as she enhanced trajectory analysis for Alan Shepard’s flight. Her success led John Glenn to insist that she verify the newly installed computer projections before his flight. She lifted her career as well as the rockets.

Dorothy Vaughan was the first female supervisor at NASA. She earned her position by developing new skills and training her staff when their jobs were threatened by the introduction of an IBM computer. Seeing the writing on the wall, she conducted computer program classes to keep them ahead of the technology curve.

We must learn from these women, especially since the pace of change has grown exponentially since the 1960s. Women must continually update their skills and demonstrate their value. Career development alternatives you could consider include

  • Staying alert to external trends and internal realities. What if you were a professional driver? How would drones, driverless cars, cashier-less stores, and automation mean for your job?
  • Leveraging trends in your organization. Is greater specialization or general managerial skills increasingly important? What accomplishments have recently earned promotions? How can you contribute to critical goals?
  • Developing mentors outside your chain of command offers you a sounding board and career insights. They can guide your next steps.
  • Displaying initiative and creativity increases visibility while also expanding your skillset. Many women become executive after introducing a new line of business.
  • Building a professional network. Join your professional association to stay up to date. In addition, professional associations gain early identification of job openings.
  • Crafting a developmental plan. Record your goals and specific milestones to increase the rate of follow-through. Share your interests and plans with your manager.
  • Collecting honest feedback and suggestions. Every one of us can improve when we learn about our potential blind spots. It demonstrates that you are interested in advancing your career.
  • Attending conferences, seminars, and workshops. Valuable technical nuggets can be gained, and, at the same time, you can expand your network.
  • Learning from your mistakes. The only failure in life is to make the same mistake twice. Take time to reflect on professional and personal setbacks to discover new strategies for handling the issue in the future.
  • Allocating time for strategic thinking. While turmoil frequently consumes our time and energy, we must devote time to finding the right career direction.

What are you doing to develop your career opportunities? Our careers are not set in stone. Opportunities abound, enabling us to create our desired career path.

Dr. Mary Lippitt,  an award-winning author, consultant, and speaker, founded Enterprise Management Ltd. to help leaders with critical analysis.  Her new book, Situational Mindsets:  Targeting What Matters When It Matters was published last year with a Foreword from Daivd Covey. She can be reached at mlippitt@enterprisemgt.com or https://www.linkedin.com/in/marylippitt/

 

 

The Problem with Problem Solving

We have a choice. We can target what is going wrong in our organization or what is going right.  Many leaders, assuming that only a minor correction is needed,  concentrate on fixing problems. After all, putting out a fire produces a benefit, and it also generates recognition for the successful “firefighter.”  However, in reality, problem solving merely adjusts the status quo. In our dynamic world tweaks cannot keep pace with the market or opportunities. G K Chesterton captured this choice when he wrote: “What is wrong is that we do not ask what is right.”

Significant advances are not generated by fixing problems.  It confines our concentration, rather than amplifying it.  And the practice might focus on the wrong issue or result in an inappropriate solution.  It certainly accentuates the problem may assign blame to a person or unit.  Problem solving does rarely results in leap forward, since it is goal oriented and deadline focused.

Suitcase problem solving solutions centered on durability and constraints.  Confining thinking to those constraints would never surface the idea of adding two wheels, and later four, to the standard suitcase.  I am not advocating ending the practice problem solving, we need it. But it should not be celebrated as a pinnacle practice.  We need to support thinking that goes beyond the ordinary whether those thoughts occur in the office or in the shower.  We must do the right thing instead of doing things right.

About Author:

Dr. Mary Lippitt,  an award-winning author, consultant, and speaker, founded Enterprise Management Ltd. to help leaders with critical analysis.  Her new book, Situational Mindsets:  Targeting What Matters When It Matters was published last year with a Foreword from Daivd Covey. She can be reached at mlippitt@enterprisemgt.com or https://www.linkedin.com/in/marylippitt/

 

Your Best Career Path: Tiger Woods or Thomas Edison

I am not a golfer, but I know that Tiger Woods started playing the game as a toddler with his father as his coach.  Malcolm Gladwell capturedhis career in his book Outliers: The Story of Success, to support the premise thattrue mastery requires 10,000 hoursof practice. The importance of extended dedication to specializationwas bolstered by references to Bill Gates, the Beatles, and Robert Oppenheimer.  The take-away was that excellence sprang from a prolonged and specialized dedication.

David Epstein’s book Range:  Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized Worldcounters that premise.  He proposes diverse experience and a broad knowledgebase produce excellence.  He supports this with the careers of Thomas Edison, Charles Darwin, Leonardo Da Vinci, and Winston Churchill, all of whom leverage multiple knowledge and interests into stellar careers. Current examples include new medical devices that sprang from merging engineering and medicine just as fusing mathematics and the stock market generated new trading algorithms.

These books raise serious questions for coaches:

  • Is specialization essential to excellence or does it lead tonarrow thinking?
  • Does a generalist background yield a jack of all trades and a master of none?
  • Does the path to success depend on the environment, industry or organization?

Over my 30 years of experience, I have found that no one can offer a guaranteedcareer path.A one size fits all formula does not exist.  Career success for specialization appears in law enforcement, research, sports, medicine, engineering,technical vocations, and relatively stable industries.And at the same time, generalistsexcel in small businesses; strategy focused roles;dynamic industries;and creative endeavors.

Career planning requiresa broad lens.  It may be that lateral career moves are wiser than waiting for the next step up the linear career ladder, that following in the footsteps of former success stories may not be safe, that both specialization and generalist backgrounds offer rewards, and that switching career trajectories may not be terminal.

I think the message from both books is not to limit your options or ambitions.  The “right career” is one where you can take pride in your impact and continue to learn.

About Author:

Dr. Mary Lippitt,  an award-winning author, consultant, and speaker, founded Enterprise Management Ltd. to help leaders with critical analysis.  Her new book, Situational Mindsets:  Targeting What Matters When It Matters was published last year with a Foreword from Daivd Covey. She can be reached at mlippitt@enterprisemgt.com or https://www.linkedin.com/in/marylippitt/

 

Bridging Silos

BRIDGING SILOS

When you think of silos, do corn and grain come to mind? Or that self-serving department at work that won’t cooperate with anyone. It’s tempting to create our own silo in response. But that just increases the toxicity. Instead, we must bridge these silos and create common ground.

 

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Boosting your mental agility and critical thinking

Large amounts of data and rapid change increase the need to think critically and adjust to new realities.

Will Rogers reminds us that “even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” While stagnation is dangerous, finding the path forward can be challenging. Mental agility, situational awareness and sound judgment are essential to addressing probable, pervasive and problematic change.

The rapid rate of change has led CEOs to identify critical thinking, judgment and innovation as essential to their future success. In today’s complex world, no individual has all the answers, but a person can ask the right questions and evaluate responses.

Mental agility — the ability to recognize what has happened, what is currently happening and what could happen in the future — requires an open, inquisitive mind. And that openness must be combined with a critical analysis of all relevant information to discern how to leverage opportunities in the short and long term. Mental agility and critical thinking close the ubiquitous gap between what we think we know and what we need to know. They prevent missteps and blunders.

Mental agility and critical thinking do not require an elevated IQ, advanced degree, lofty position or specific personal style. They do require a dedicated willingness to:

  • Test existing assumptions that may have changed based on dynamic environments
  • Check for potential distortions or bias, including level of effort and confirmation bias
  • Solicit and respect multiple points of view

Adopting an open mind means actively seeking information, considering alternatives, and selecting a viable and valuable goal. With multiple variables affecting any decision, a comprehensive framework is indispensable in collecting pertinent information. Knowing it all prevents risking it all.

Consider the purchase of a car. Decision factors include price, warranty, miles per gallon, cost of insurance, features, size, lease or purchase, color, style, type of gas required, cost of maintenance, towing capacity and dealer location. This list may appear lengthy, but compared with the factors involved in organizational success, it is quite small.

Organizations confront greater complexity and interdependencies than purchasing a car. One individual’s ability cannot juggle every aspect. Leaders need a system to gather timely, relevant information from multiple sources. Considering six situational mindsets ensures an effective grasp of reality. The following definitions and questions serve as a guide and can be tailored into a checklist for your organization:

  1. Inventing Situational Mindset questions concern innovative products, designs and services: What new features or services can we offer? How can we apply technology in a new way?
  2. Catalyzing Situational Mindset questions assess the level of customer service, market position and competition: What new markets can we explore? What will grow sales? How can we improve customer service?
  3. Developing Situational Mindset questions evaluate system effectiveness, information flow and seamless execution: What will improve cross-functional collaboration? Are our systems effective? What policy alterations will support our goals?
  4. Performing Situational Mindset questions examine quality, cycle time, workflow and return on investment: What deviations should we address? What can we improve? What limits our productivity?
  5. Protecting Situational Mindset questions address staffing levels, retention of key talent, succession planning and engagement: What will improve collaboration? How can we retain key talent? How can our culture become more agile?
  6. Challenging Situational Mindset questions probe trends, assumptions, strategies and opportunities: What new alliances are possible? What new niches should we pursue? What will position us for the future?

These situational mindsets surface what is present, what is within reach and what is around the corner. Their use builds the mental agility and critical thinking essential for organizations to achieve their goals in the midst of change.

Published with permission from SmartBrief.com

About Author:

Mary Lippitt, an award-winning author and speaker, founded Enterprise Management Ltd., an international firm helping leaders deliver results. A leader in the field of organizational effectiveness, she has assisted corporate and government clients in the US and abroad, including Lockheed Martin, Marriott, the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Would You Choose the Red or Blue Pill if you were in the Matrix?

In the film,The Matrix,the main character, Neo,is offered a choice. He could take a red pill representing a desire to live in the real world as a free person or take a blue pill and remain secure in an illusionary world where he could hold on to his established beliefs, practices, and expectations. His choice was change or stability.  It was an either-or choice to be made immediately.

In the movie Neo takes the red pill, rejecting a fabricated world to gain increased awareness and discomfort and the risks that follow.  He elected reality and change over staying in a fictitious world offering predictability and safety.  With only two choices and pressure from Morpheus, encouragement from Trinity, and pursuit by agents he had little time to make this momentous decision.

Organizations today often cast major decisions as either-or options, when, in reality, there are few binary choices.  For example, what if Neo asked if he could take both pills?  What if he asked Morpheus for additional time?  What if he asked if there was a purple pill? With only two polarizing possibilities, he elected not to stay shackled to an impersonal manipulative system and change the matrix.

Leaders today must reject dualistic thinking and apply critical thinking to assess multiple options.  This does not require an advanced degree, membership in Mensa or a lofty title.  The practice merely requires an open mind and a willingness to shift mindsets to address current conditions.  Adopting the practice of probing six situational mindsets enables leaders to discover alternatives and weigh options.  It also engages others, surfaces new information, and creates common ground.  The six mindsets questions cover every organizational aspect.

  • The Inventing Mindset probes options for new products/services, creative designs, and new synergies.
  • The Catalyzing Mindsetfocuses on serving the customer and building the organization’s brand.
  • The Developing Mindset creates seamless infrastructure, integrated systems, and effective polices.
  • The Performing Mindset targets process improvement, quality, workflow efficiencies, and ROI.
  • The Protecting Mindset centers on developing talent, collaboration, agility, and bench strength.
  • The Challenging Mindsetevaluates challenges, trends, risks, and opportunities for sustained success.

These six mindsets combat our natural tendency to rely on past practice, accept only confirming information,jump quickly into action, and tolerate limited alternatives.  We can do better asking questions covering all six mindsets.  A simple mindset checklist will prevent hasty action.

Now some resist the idea of a checklist viewing it as a personal shortcoming.  However, lawyers, doctors, and pilots use them.  The world is too complex and there are too many variables to juggle and weigh complex issues.   If we have to-do lists, grocery lists and digital schedules, we already recognize ourinability to balance all of the information.

If we adopt an inclusive understanding of our circumstances and choices, we will find more alternatives. May be there was a purple pill option for Neo if he had asked.  What questions should you be asking right now?

About Author:

Dr. Mary Lippitt,  an award-winning author, consultant, and speaker, founded Enterprise Management Ltd. to help leaders with critical analysis.  Her new book, Situational Mindsets:  Targeting What Matters When It Matters was published last year with a Foreword from Daivd Covey. She can be reached at mlippitt@enterprisemgt.com or https://www.linkedin.com/in/marylippitt/

4 Ways to Smash the Barriers to Critical Thinking

Many leaders exhibit a tendency to jump intoaction.  When a problem is identified there must be an immediate response.  There appears to be an ingrained “just do it” mentality on the assumption it will produce results as well as admiration.   What is overlooked is the option for a pause between learning about a situation and responding to it.  The pause enables information gathering and analysis.   It also acknowledges recognizes that no one, no matter how talented, can master the complex issues facing us today.

The practice of gaining input can be called brainstorming, consulting, buzz groups, task teams, or crowdsourcing.  But these work only when they are employed,  when everyone believes they can contribute,  and when everyone feels that it is safe to offer an opinion.

The lack of critical thinking cited in many CEO surveys encouraged me to poll 100 people about the barriers they experience in practicing critical thinking. The results are:

  • 42%  Identified time pressure or the lack of time to consider options
  • 20%  Expressed fear of rejection, ridicule or retribution
  • 20% Replied nothing will happen as a result; They were resigned to accept that status quo
  • 9%   Doubted their ability to add anything important
  • 5%   Feared that it will mean just mean more work for them
  • 4%   Stated that no one required them to think critically

Organizations are wasting valuable human resources if insights and concerns never surface. And reversing the top concerns require only minor adjustments.  Consider implementing one or more the following:

  1. Concerns over time constraints can be overcomeby setting aside 5 to 10 minutes of a staff meeting to explore an idea or ask for an issue that needs attention. It can also be encouraged by reminding staff that preventing problems saves time and effort rather than having to resolve setbacks later.And, the cost of blind spots continues to grow.
  2. Creating a “safe” environment by encouraging and respecting different points of view. Why not start your next staff meeting by asking “what have we learned since our last meeting?”  Another option would be to appoint a rotating “devil’s advocate” who will critically examine proposals and raise issues. This is particularly important whenpotential benefits crowd out a comprehensive examination. The devil advocate can spotlight the need for deeper dive.  In business and physics for every action there is a reaction, and it is important to recognize ramifications before leaping into action.
  3. Every suggestion or proposal deserves a response. Clarification on what was done or why no action was taken must be shared. It showsrespects for the person who offered the suggestion and ensures further engagement.  Additionally, the contributor can learn about factors that can turn an apparent slam dunk into a pitfall.
  4. Build critical thinking confidence through coaching, usingan established checklist, and providingtime to reflect and confer with others. Recognize that not all critical thinking happens instantaneously.  It can require “soak time,”  whether it is in the shower or in the car. Confidence is also boosted when critical thinking is recognized, whether it was implemented or not.  Whatever the outcome, the practice deserves encouragement

Leaders and decision makers must recognize those that think out of the box as well as those that think inside it, and under it.  To paraphrase,Einstein, today’s problems cannot be solved at the same level of thinking that was used to create them. We must expand our thinking practices.

About Author:

Dr. Mary Lippitt,  an award-winning author, consultant, and speaker, founded Enterprise Management Ltd. to help leaders with critical analysis.  Her new book, Situational Mindsets:  Targeting What Matters When It Matters was published last year with a Foreword from Daivd Covey. She can be reached at mlippitt@enterprisemgt.com or https://www.linkedin.com/in/marylippitt/

“Reading this brilliant book was both a pleasure and a gift. Situational Mindsets has not only helped me to analyze my own leadership tendencies and skills, but it caused me to take notice of the changes I need to make within my own organization to gain a competitive advantage in today’s world.”

David M.R. Covey, CEO of SMCOV, Coauthor of Trap Tales