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Clearview® Performance Systems brings you ... ® ... a Culture of Results & Engagement®

Here's the next in our series of weekly managerial TIPS (Techniques, Insights, and Practical Solutions)
to help you better engage your team in the activities that lead to higher performance.

CORE Bites Issue #14
(March 5, 2019)

Are You Managing with a 'One-Move-at-a-Time' Philosophy?

I think it would be accurate to say—especially in the busy, outcome-focused work environments we operate in—that it's easy for managers to be drawn into the day-to-day (even minute-to-minute) aspects of the work done by their respective teams. In essence, drawn into the 'weeds' ... into the minutia ... into the more tactical elements of the work. While there are many causal aspects to this phenomenon, one of the primary reasons is that it's COMFORTABLE. We know what to do; we know how to answer questions; we're adept at problem-solving; the explicitness of the task, process or undertaking makes it easy to see, with clarity, what needs to be done. It's comfortable because it's tactical!

What's ironic here (and worthy of note) is how often I hear senior leaders lament that their front-line and middle managers are "too tactical" and "not strategic enough." I don't know how you're interpreting this criticism, but it sure sounds to me like an opportunity exists to counteract this perception! Ready to start?

Whether you play chess or not, how this strategy board game gets played by the pros might help you to think more strategically. A reasonably good chess player can play forward 8-10 game moves during a competitive game. Notice I said "reasonably good chess player" and not a "Grand Master." Just to put it into perspective, a chess Grand Master can visualize the entire game—and what move to play regardless of where each player's sixteen chess pieces end up—because they typically have thousands of chess games memorized.

So, and you need to track with my thinking here, while I'm NOT suggesting that you become a Grand Master strategic thinker in your organization, I am suggesting you need to be thinking more strategically (longer-term). Instead of looking at the 'next move' (or two) on the chessboard (tactical) you need to start thinking 8-10 moves down the board (strategic). Here's a few pointers on how to make that happen ...

High Value Activity (HVA) Action Steps

This week (starting today), look at every (important) decision you're about to make and look at it through an 'Orders-of-Magnitude' lens. Here are a couple of strategies to accomplish this:

  • Adopt a 'Second-Order' Mindset: The ability to think through problems to the second-order is a powerful tool used by strategic thinkers. First-order thinking is fast and easy (which explains why it's so comfortable to use) but it only solves the immediate problem without adequately considering subsequent impacts or consequences. Question: “I'm hungry. What should I eat?” Answer: “Eat a bag of chips.” Conversely, second-order thinkers ask themselves the additional question “And then what?” Using the previous example, this means thinking about the consequences of repeatedly eating bags of chips whenever you're hungry. By asking the second-order question, you're more likely to eat something healthy. So whether your management question has to do with budget, people, resources, customers, or any of the other myriad areas you're responsible for, always ask: “And then what? What are the downstream consequences of this decision?” [Note: This strategy will put you several chess-moves down the board!]
  • Become a 'Gradient' (Grey) Thinker: To become more strategic, we need to become less narrow in our thinking. Most things aren't as simple as good/bad, black/white, right/wrong, or X/Y. But when we're in a tactical mode (Get it done!), we tend to be more myopic and, as a result, more rigid in our thinking. Try adopting the technique used by many debate coaches and focus on understanding the other side of the argument better than your own because truth (and, ultimately, the better long-term solution), usually lies somewhere in between. Remember ... the discomfort of ambiguity is preferable to the certainty of being wrong!

I'd love to hear how these HVAs work for you!

Neil Dempster, PhD, MBA
RESULTant™ and Behavioral Engineer

Quote of the Week

"Change is not a destination, just as hope is not a strategy."

— Rudy Giuliani —