The Art Of Storytelling

13 02 2018

Storytelling is the essential human activity. The harder the situation, the more essential it is.                Tim O´Brien

“The symbol; The New One Minute Manager’s symbol is intended to remind each of us to take a minute out of our day to look into the faces of the people we lead and manage. And to realize that they are our most important resources”.

This book really caught my eye as it is written in such a simple and easily understandable way through storytelling.

Throughout the story the authors reveal three very practical secrets; One Minute Goal, One Minute Praising’s, and One Minute Re-Directs, which they call the new, third secret.

This book will help organizations find new ways to adapt and prosper as well as find meaning in our work by giving us inspiration. It is based on studies on behavioral sciences and medicine which support why these methods are of great success.

Ken Blanchard, one of the two authors of this book, is considered a highly influential leadership expert who has co-authored 60 books, including “Raving Fans” and “Gung Ho!” (With Sheldon Bowles).

The second author, Spencer Johnson, is admired as both a leader and an author, and is maybe best known for writing the bestselling book “Who Moved My Cheese ?” He is also seen as an expert on finding simple, effective solutions to complex subjects and problems.

To make this book interesting, the authors are telling us a story about a bright young man searching for a special kind of manager who could lead and manage in todays rapidly changing world.

The young man wants to find a manager that can both encourage the people and make the organization successful and profitable. He had already spoken to many managers who had tried to deal with this rapidly changing world; executives, government, administrators, entrepreneurs and so on.

He wasn’t always pleased with what he saw according to how people manage people. He had witnessed ‘tough’ managers where the organisations seemed to win at the expense of the people.

Some of the managers thought they were good managers while some thought otherwise. The young man asked brief and interesting questions to the managers in their offices. He wanted to know what kind of managers they thought they were. The answers varied only slightly, when he heard their pride in their voices. Some of the answers would be; “I’m a bottom-line manager. “I keep on top of the situation !”. “Hard-nosed”. “Realistic”. “Profit-minded”.

Authors; “They said they had always managed that way and saw no reason to change. He heard the pride in their voices and their interest in the results”.

On the other hand the young man had heard about managers who had succeeded with their people and lost with their organizations. These kind of managers said; “I’m a participative manager”. “Supportive”. “Considerate”. “Humanistic”. Authors; “They also said they had always managed that way and saw no reason to change. He heard the pride in their voices and their interest in people. But he was disturbed. It was as though most managers in the world were still managing the way they had always done and were primarily interested either in results or in people”.

The young man describes the autocratic manager and the democratic manager. The autocratic is described as result oriented, and the democratic as interested in their people. “The young man thought each of these types-the ‘tough’ autocratic and the ‘nice’ democrat was only partially effective. It’s like being half a manager he thought”.

The story continues with the young man still searching in hope of finding the effective manager, but he almost gave up searching, thinking that he would never find this mythical person. He had however, heard some rumours about a special manager that people liked to work for and that produced great results.

He wanted to check this amazing manager out for himself, and, to make a long story short, he finally met him. During their meeting the young man asked the manager many questions about his managing style, and was impressed by all the interesting answers. The amazing manager described himself as the ‘New One Minute Manager’. He used this nickname because both him and his staff had found new ways to great results in a shorter amount of time. The young man spoke to the rest of the manager’s team and had interesting conversations with them as well. He learned a lot.

Among other things, he learned about the three secrets to One Minute Management; One Minute Goals, One Minute Praising’s and One Minute Re-Directs.

One Minute Goals: “Make it clear what the goals are. Show what good behaviour looks like. Put each goal on one page. Quickly review goals frequently. Encourage people to notice what they’re doing, and see if it matches their goals. If not, urge them to change what they’re doing and win.

One Minute Praising’s: “Praise the behavior. Do it soon, be specific. Say how good you feel about it. Pause to let people feel good too. Encourage them to keep up the good work.”

One Minute Re-Direct: “Re-clarify and agree on goals. Confirm what happened. Describe the mistake soon. Say how concerned you feel. Pause to let people feel their own concern. Tell them they’re better than the mistake, and you value them. When its over, its over.”

Towards the end of the story, the curious young man finds himself becoming a One Minute Manager. He was great at it because he led and managed by example, not because he thought or talked in a certain manner. He managed in simple ways, through the three secrets of one minute management, and by asking brief, but important questions. He was honest, he worked hard, all while laughing and enjoying himself.

The story ends with the young man being contacted by a young woman, who, much like himself many years ago, wants to ask him about his managing style. Just like in real life, this shows the importance of passing on our lessons and knowledge.  (Ref. The New One Minute Manger, by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson)

As shown through this book, a good story engage people and is a great way to learn and share experiences and knowledge.

This book is not the only good example on the importance of storytelling in organizations. Another great storyteller is the guru Robert McKee. He is a highly sought after lecturer, internationally. He has spent the last three decades of his life being an educator and a mentor to everything from screenwriters, to poets, to directors all over the globe. He is called “the Aristotle of our time” because of his insight into the substance, style, structure and principles of the grand art of stories. He says; “Storytelling has to be true”. This short, yet so profound quote explains the simple truth of storytelling, it always has to be true.

McKee; “Good story means something worth telling that the world wants to hear”. He makes us aware that finding a good story is a lonely task. And even though we might love great stories with inspiring characters and a worlds full of passion and bliss, this isn’t enough. The goal has to be a good story well told.

Good stories are important inspirational sources for people, it could for example be implemented in knowledge sharing or you can gain new wisdom from them. People can recognize episodes from stories and they can draw their own pictures from them. (Ref. Storytelling from my blog)

From his article in Harvard Business Review, Joseph Grenny writes about great storytelling. Grenny; “Most storytelling is brief. It involves using concrete examples that reframe a moment by personifying human consequences. People’s feelings about their work are only partly about the work itself. They are equally, if not more so, about how they frame their work. do they see it as empty compliance? Or do they see it as sacred duty? If you change the frame you change the feeling. And nothing changes frames faster than a story.” (Ref. Harvard Business Review, Great Storytelling Connects Employees to Their work, by Joseph Grenny)

Paul J. Zak says in another article from Harvard Business Review, that many business people have discovered the power of storytelling in organizations, and in a practical sense. Author; “Many of us know from Joseph Campbell’s work that enduring stories tend to share a dramatic arc in which a character struggles and eventually finds heretofore unknown abilities and uses these to triumph over adversity; my work shows that the brain is highly attracted to this story style”. (Ref. Harvard Business Review, Why Your Brain Loves Good Storytelling, by Paul J. Zak)

Zak, tells us that storytelling is a great tool to use if you want to motivate, persuade or be remembered. You start with a story of human struggle which eventually end with triumph. Zak; “It will capture peoples hearts-by first attracting their brains”.

To finish this article, I will leave with a quote from the man that says it best, McKee:

Write every day, line by line, page by page, hour by hour. Do this despite fear. For above all else, beyond imagination and skill, what the world asks of you is courage to risk rejection, ridicule and failure. As you follow the quest for stories told with meaning and beauty, study thoughtfully but write boldly. Then, like the hero of the fable, your dance will dazzle the world”.

Author; Inger Lise E Greger, MSc in Change Management





How Companies Can Manage Complexity in an Increasingly Complex World.

16 12 2017

Courage is grace under pressure.            Ernest Hemingway

In todays business the competition is harder and the customers are more demanding than ever. Which means that you have to work harder in all ways. Innovation and creativity is needed as well as long working days if you want to survive.

Yves Morieux, has written the article; Six Ways to Get People to Solve Problems Without You. ‘In complicated organisations, managers spend 40% of their time writing reports and 30% to 60% of it in meetings’. Author; “Companies clearly need a better way to manage complexity. In our work with clients and in our research, we believe, we’ve found a different and far more effective approach”. The author is talking about creating an environment where employees can work with one another and be creative together on too complex challenges. “This approach leads to organisations that ably address numerous fluid and contradictory requirements without structural and procedural complicatedness”.

From one of my earlier blog posts; Transparency and Leaders Will to Create a Culture of Candor, Warren Bennis, Daniel Coleman and Jim O Toole has some interesting thoughts in terms of being transparent. They say, that leaders who cares about a good culture in their organisations, develop a culture of candor. “Before an organisation can develop a culture of candor, it must examine the cultural rules that currently govern it. Such cultural rules run deep and they typically resist change”.

The authors encourage leaders to take action if they want information to flow freely in the organization, and in that case be the one who sets a good example. Authors; “If leaders regularly demonstrate that they want to hear more than incessant happy talk, and praise those with the courage to articulate unpleasant truths, then the norm will begin to shift toward transparency”.

Because of the importance of this subject, also from one of my earlier blog posts; Human-Biases-In-Organizations, my reference is from an interesting article from Harvard Business Review; Radical Transparency Can Reduce Bias-but Only It it’s Done Right (By Professor Francesca Gino). She refers to Ray Dalio who’s philosophy consists of radical transparency into the company. Here Dalio say; I think the greatest tragedy of mankind is that people have ideas and opinions in their heads but don’t have a process for properly examining these ideas to find out what’s true. That creates a world of distortions. That’s relevant to what we do, and I think it’s relevant to all decision making. So when I say I believe in radical truth and radical transparency, all I mean is we take things that ordinarily people would hide and we put them on the table, particularly mistakes, problems, and weaknesses. We put those on the table, and we look at them together. We don’t hide them.

In this case, Dalio, got reactions from three of his top confidants where they meant that Dalio was hurting the company by being too honest. His action to resolve this problem was to meet employees individually and find a solution through discussions on how to treat one another. His goal was to create a culture of sharing ideas without creating lasting conflict, as well as engaging employees in thoughtful disagreements.

Back to Morieux, where he is talking about six rules. This approach incorporates simple and powerful principles which the author calls smart rules, these rules will help managers to mobilise their subordinates skills and intelligence.

Author; “In and of itself, this complexity is not a bad thing-it brings opportunities as well as challenges. The problem is the way companies attempt to respond to it. To reconcile their many conflicting goals, managers redesign the organizations structure, performance measures, and incentives, trying to align employees behavior with shifting external challenges.

Let’s look at the six rules.

Rule 1: Improve Understanding of What Coworkers Do. The author tells us that people need to understand each other’s work. “the goals and challenges others have to meet, the resources they can draw on, and the constraints under which they operate”. Job descriptions aren’t good enough information for people, you can learn by observing and interacting. The author makes us aware of the importance of managers responsibility that such learning takes place. “Without this shared understanding, people will blame problems on other people’s lack of intelligence or skills, not on the resources and constraints of the organization”.

Rule 2: Reinforce the People Who Are Integrators. Here the author talks about conflicts between front and back offices. The need to standardize processes and work, where front offices has focus on the needs of individual customers. “In almost any unit you will find one or two managers-often from a particular function-who already interact with multiple stakeholders (customers as well as other functions). If you’ve followed the first rule and observed people at work, it will probably be fairly obvious to you who these individuals or groups are. These people can act as integrators, helping teams obtain from others the cooperation needed to deliver more value”.

Rule 3: Expand the Amount of Power Available. People with the least power in an organization often takes most of the burden of the company as well as getting the least credit. “Companies that want to prevent this and increase cooperation need to give these people more power so that they can take the risk of moving out of isolation, trusting others, showing initiative, and being transparent about performance”. By doing this, the firm doesn’t have to take the power away from the other people in the system.

Rule 4: Increase the Need for Reciprocity. Expanding responsibilities of integrators beyonds activities over which they have direct control. “Making their goals richer and more complex will drive them to resolve trade-offs rather than avoid them. But if you measure people only on what they can control, they will shy away from helping with many other problems you need their input on”.

Rule 5: Make Employees Feel the Shadow of the Future. Author; “People are more likely to feel the shadow of the future if if you bring the future closer”. People who are involved in a long term project will be out when the project is completed. They are moved to another job or location. “They won’t be affected by the consequences of the actions they take, the trade-offs they make, or how well they cooperate”.

Rule 6: Put the Blame on the Uncooperative. Author; “Some activities involve such a long time lag between cause and effect (for example, in some research and development efforts) that it’s impossible to set up direct feedback loops that expose people to the consequences of their actions”.

I hope you find this interesting reading and learn something from it, I did.

Dealing with complexity is an inefficient and unnecessary waste of time, attention and mental energy. There is never any justification for things being complex when they could be simple.              Edward de Bono

Author, Inger Lise E Greger, Master of Science in Change Management




How Good Is Your Company at Problem Solving ?

11 12 2017

If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.       Abraham Maslow

When challenged with new problems, we often tend to figure out what the problems are instead of actually solving them. It seems that we get stuck and confused in such challenging situations.

From this interesting article; “Are You Solving the Right Problems ?“, Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg, has through his research on corporate innovation together with his colleague Paddy Miller, spent close to 10 years working with and studying reframing, first of all in the context of organisational change.

Wedell-Wedellsborg; “It has been 40 years since Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Jacob Gretzels empirically demonstrated the central role of problem framing in creativity. Thinkers from Albert Einstein to Peter Drucker have emphasised the importance of properly diagnosing your problems. So why do organisations still struggle to get it right ?

The author explains us that people often finds themselves digging deeper into the problems they’re already defined, instead of arriving at another diagnosis which of course may be helpful, but creative solutions is very often coming from an alternative way and definitions of your problem. Author; ” Note that the initial framing of the problem is not necessarily wrong. Installing a new lift would probably work. The point of refraiming is not to find the ‘real problem’ but rather to see if there is a better one to solve”.

The solution to this problem is according Wedellsborg, a new approach, where he includes the form of seven practices where you successfully can reframe the problems as well as finding creative solutions. Author; “The practise I outline here can be used in one of two ways, depending on how much control you have over the situation. One way is to methodically apply all seven to the problem. That can be done in about 30 minutes, and it has the benefit of familiarising everyone with the method”.

The other way is when you don’t control the situation, it all depends on how much time is available. For example if you meet a colleague in the hall-way and you only have limited time for him/her to help rethink a problem, then you choose the most appropriate and suitable of the one or two practices. Author; ” Five minutes may sound like too little time to even describe a problem, much less reframe it. But surprisingly, I have found that such short interventions often are  sufficient to kick-start new thinking – and once in a while they can trigger an aha moment and radically shift your view of a problem”.

Proximity to your own problems can easily mislead you to get lost in the weeds. Feeling unwell or sick is often seen as a problem. We then visit the doctor to figure out what’s wrong. To do this, the doctor investigates to find a solution or treatment to the problem. On the other hand, if you choose to stay home, you can complain and wonder why you’re sick, but it will not change the fact that you’re still sick.

Author; “Proximity to your own problems can make it easy to get lost in the weeds, endlessly ruminating about why a colleague, a spouse, or your children won’t listen. Sometimes all you need is someone to suggest, well, could the trouble be that you are bad at listening to them ?

Here the author outlines seven practices for effective reframing: 1. Establish legitimacy, 2. Bring outsiders into the discussion, 3. Get people’s definitions in writing, 4. Ask what’s missing, 5. Consider multiple categories, 6. Analyse positive exceptions, 7. Question the objective.

Establish legitimacy. The author tells us to establish legitimacy within the group and here you are creating the space needed for conversations.

Bring outsiders into the discussion. Bringing outsiders view and perspective can in this situation be instrumental in the rethinking process of a problem. In this process you look for boundary, then you choose someone who will speak freely, and the last one; expect input, not solutions.

Get people’s definitions in writing. Author; “For instance, a management team may agree that the company’s problem is a lack of innovation. But if you ask each member to describe what’s wrong in a sentence or two you will quickly see how framings differ.

Ask what’s missing. In this situation, people tend to delve on the details of what is the case as well as paying less attention to what the description may be leaving out. Author; To rectify this, make sure to ask explicitly what has not been captured or mentioned”.

Consider multiple categories. In this case the author refers to people’s perception of a problem. Author; “One way to trigger this kind of paradigm shift is to invite people to identify specifically what category of problem they think the group is facing. Is it an incentive problem ? An expectations problem ? Then try to suggest other categories”.

Analyze positive exceptions. In this situation you are looking for positive outcomes instead of focusing on the problems.

Question the objective. Here the author are focusing on people with different needs. Author; “The underlying goals of the two turns out to differ: One person wants fresh air, while the other wants to avoid a draft. Only when these hidden objectives are brought to light through the question of a third person is the problem resolved – by opening a window in the next room”.

Reframing problems are hard and difficult, but according the author a very effective method. The most important goal is to find a solution for your companys problems.

Author; “The next time you face a problem, start by reframing it – but don’t wait too long before getting out of the building to observe your customers and prototype your ideas. It is neither thinking nor testing alone, but a marriage of the two, that holds the key to radically better results”.

It’s so much easier to suggest solutions when you don’t know too much about the problem.       Malcolm Forbes

Author; Inger Lise E Greger, Master of Science in Change Management


Tough Decisions.

11 11 2017

When your values are clear to you, making decisions become easier.          Roy E. Disney

Life can be challenging and we all have to make choices. Some choices may be more challenging than others and can put you in really tough situations. Still, you have to make a choice for your decision.

From this interesting article; How to Tackle Your Toughest Decisions, by Joseph L. Badaracco, who is is the John Shad Professor of Business Ethics at Harvard School gives us insights in how to handle tough decisions in organisations as well as in life in general.

Badaracco; “Good judgement relies on two things: One is the best possible understanding and analysis of the situation. The other involves the values, ideals, vulnerabilities, and experiences of whoever will be making the decision.”

When you have chosen your decision and committed to it and act on it, you have to take the consequences of your choice say Badaracco. Author; “After considering outcomes, duties, practicalities and values, you must decide what matters most and what matters less. This has always been the challenge of taking on any serious responsibilities at work and in life.”

In daily life you are faced with challenging situations and adversity. The question is how you take it and analyse the difficulties you are faced with. Managers has to take difficult decisions almost everyday in organizations.

From another article; How to Bounce Back from Adversity, Joshua D. Margolis and Paul Stoltz, is talking about how to handle our instinctive reactions to crisis. Authors; “We believe that managers can build high levels of resilience in themselves and their teams by taking charge of how they think about adversity. Resilient managers move quickly from analysis, to a plan of action (and reaction). After the onset of adversity, they shift from cause-oriented thinking to response-oriented thinking, and their focus is strictly forward.”

Through their work with leaders from different companies and industries, the authors have identified four lenses through which managers can view adverse events on how to make this shift effectively. These four lenses are: Control, impact, breadht and duration. 

Here a short description of the four lenses; Control. Here a crisis occurs. “Do you look for what you can improve now rather than trying to identify all the factors – even those beyond your control – that caused it in the first place ? Impact. Instead of focusing on the origins of the problem in yourself and others, you focus on your positive effects your actions might have ? Breadht. “Do you assume that the underlying cause of the crisis is specific and can be contained, or do you worry that it might cast a long shadow over all aspects of your life ?” Duration. “How long do you believe that the crisis and it’s repercussions will last ?

The two first lenses; control and impact is characterising an individuals personal reaction to adversity.

Breadht and duration captures his or her impressions of adversity’s magnitude.

Authors; “Managers should consider all four to fully understand their instinctive responses to personal and professional challenges, or failures”.

When adversity strikes us, both in organizations and in the private zone of life, we can easily get in to negative emotions. The authors say that people commonly fall into one of two emotional traps. And one of them is deflation. Here is what the authors say; “Someone who has marched steadily through a string of success can easily come to feel like a hero, able to fix any problem single-handedly. A traumatic event can snap that person back to reality. Even for the less heroic among us, adversity can touch off intense bursts of negative emotion-as if a dark cloud had settled behind our eyes, as one manager described it”.

We can feel disappointments in ourselves and others, mistreated and dispirited as well as even besieged.

In the other article; How to tackle your toughest decisions, Badaracco say; “The phrase ‘the world as it is’ points toward Niccolo´Machiavelli’s thinking-a perspective that might seem surprising in an article about making responsible decisions. But his view is important because it acknowledges that we don’t live in a predictable, calm environment populated with virtuous people. The world Machiavelli described is unpredictable, difficult, and shaped by self-interest”.

The author say that we can have sound plans and they can end badly, as well as bad plans can turn out good. What happens is simply beyond our control. Leaders are in a position where they rarely have unlimited freedom and resources, and they often have to make painful and difficult choices. “And a great many individuals and groups will pursue their own agendas, skilfully or clumsily, if not persuaded to do otherwise”.

Badaracco are talking about five practical questions in his writing  which can improve your odds in making sound judgements in challenging situations, even when your data is unclear or incomplete, opinions are divided and the answers are far from obvious.

-1 What are the net, net consequences of all my options ?

-2 What are my core obligations ?

-3 What will work in the world as it is ?

-4 Who are we ?

-5 What can I live with ?

These five questions are guidelines for helping to solve challenging and difficult problems in tough situations. All the questions must be answered according the author, to help come to a sound decision when dealing with a hard problem.

Looking back at the other article; How to bounce back from adversity, the authors are using the four lenses (control, impact, breadht and duration) in challenging situations for solving problems. However, in addition to these four lenses the authors are using what they call a resilience regimen. This is a reflexive approach to dealing with adversity. Here they explain; “By asking a series of pointed questions, managers can grasp their own and their direct reports’ habits of thought and help reframe negative events in productive ways. With the four lenses as a guide, they can learn to stop feeling paralyzed by crisis, respond with strength and creativity, and help their direct reports do the same.”

The resilience regimen, sketches their questions with a focus on specifying, visualizing and collaborating which clarifies each one of the four aspects of resilient thinking. Authors; ” Use these questions to replace negative responses with creative , resourceful ones, and get things done whatever the real or perceived obstacles”.

From; How to tackle your toughest decisions, Badaracco makes us aware of the heavy responsibility leadership is. When you are in the grey areas, your job as a leader isn’t finding solutions, you have to create them and relying on your judgement. Author; “As an executive I greatly respect once told me, We really want someone or some rule to tell us what to do. But sometimes there isn’t one, and you have to decide what the most relevant rules or principles are in this particular case”.

Let us take responsibilities and search for solutions in challenging situations.

Hope you find this reading interesting and useful.

Author, Inger Lise E Greger, Master of Science in Change Management








Human- Biases- In- Organisations.

20 10 2017

I find that when you open the door toward openness and transparency, a lot of people will follow you through.   Kirsten Gillibrand

“The more people can see what is happening – the good, the bad, the ugly – the more effective they are at deciding the appropriate ways of handling things”. (Ray Dalio)

Let’s take a look at one of many definitions of the meaning of bias; “A particular tendency, trend, inclination, feeling, or opinion, especially one that is preconceived or unreasoned: illegal bias against older job applicants; the magazines bias toward art rather than photography; our strong bias in favour of the idea”.

Bridgewater Associates founded by Ray Dalio in 1975, is the largest hedge fund in the world. Dalio’s philosophy consists of radical transparency into the company.

Dalio, got reactions from three of his top confidants that he was hurting the company by being too honest. His action to resolve this problem was to meet employees individually and find a solution through discussions on how to treat one another. His goal was to create a culture of sharing ideas without creating lasting conflict, as well as engaging employees in thoughtful disagreements.  From this article in Harvard Business Review; “Radical Transparency Can Reduce Bias – but Only If It’s Done Right, Francesca Gino is a professor at Harvard Business School, she gives us some examples through Dalio’s ideas and believes in openness and transparency.

Francesca refers to Dalio where he says; “I think the greatest tragedy of mankind is that people have ideas and opinions in their heads but don’t have a process for properly examining these ideas to find out what’s true. That creates a world of distortions. That’s relevant to what we do, and I think it’s relevant to all decision making. So when I say I believe in radical truth and radical transparency, all I mean is we take things that ordinarily people would hide and we put them on the the table, particularly mistakes, problems, and weaknesses. We put those on the table, and we look at them together. We don’t hide them.”

Here another interesting article; Outsmart Your Own Biases (Jack B. Soll, Katherine L. Milkman, and John W. Payne, Harvard Business Review). The authors gives us theirs view on biases and it’s challenges. “We are all susceptible to such biases, especially when we’re fatigued, stressed, or multitasking. Just think of a CEO who’s negotiating a merger while also under pressure from lawyers to decide on a plant closing from colleagues to manage layoffs. In situations like this, we’re mentally, emotionally, and physically spent. We cope by relying even more heavily on intuitive, system 1 judgements and less on careful reasoning. Decision making becomes faster and simpler, but quality often suffers”.

Let us take a closer look at the meaning of system 1 and system 2 thinking:

System 1 thinking; are associated with automatic judgements which stem from associations stored in our memories, you can choose to work logically with the information available. The authors makes us aware of the importance of system 1 thinking in critical situations and for surviving- “It’s what makes you swerve to avoid a car accident”. Authors; “But as psychologist Daniel Kahneman has shown, it’s also a common source of bias that can result in poor decision making, because our intuitions frequently lead us astray”.

System 2 thinking; “essentially, deliberate reasoning gone awry. Here the authors are talking about cognitive limitations, and an example of limitations can be laziness, and people may focus on the wrong things as well as failing to seek out relevant information”.

In Francesca’s article where she say that scientific evidence confirms Dalio’s belief ; “as human beings, we tend to evaluate information in a biased manner. For instance, we often fall prey to what psychologists and decision researchers call-confirmation bias: “the tendency to focus on evidence that confirms our beliefs and assumptions rather than looking for data that contradicts it”.

Francesca, says that such biases weakens our judgements as well as decisions.

When confronted with our biases, we have difficulties to listen to peoples feedback and learning from it, especially when it’s inconsistent with the way we view ourselves at work. Francesca; “We tend to strengthen bonds only with people who see our positive qualities. Why ? When others provide evidence that is inconsistent with how we view ourselves or our ideas, we find that information threatening. Our natural reaction is to remove the threat-which can mean dislocating from the source of the information”.

In the other article the authors talk about risk taking and says; “Because most of us tend to be highly overconfident in our estimates, it’s important to ‘nudge’ ourselves to allow for risk and uncertainty”.

Further on Jack. Soll, Katherine L. Milkman, and John W. Payne suggests three methods that are especially useful; Make three estimates, use premortems and take on outside view:

The three methods in short.

The problem; Cognitive biases muddy our decision making. We rely too heavily on intuitive, automatic judgements, and even when we try to use reason, our logic is often lazy or flawed”.

The causes; “Instead of explaining risks and uncertainties, we seek closure-it’s much easier. This narrows our thinking about what could happen in the future, what our goals are, and how we might achieve them”.

The solution; “By knowing which biases tend to trip us up and using certain tricks and tools to outsmart them, we can broaden our thinking and make better choices”.

These three methods are useful and keeps you going in the right direction if wisely used.

Francesca says; “Through radical transparency, Dalio has encouraged a culture where people know it’s important to challenge one another’s views, regardless of rank, and do so regularly”. Here the author tells us that this approach will work if people discuss their ideas openly, even if you have to tell someone about their mistakes. Francesca; ” When transparency unveils our universal human biases, we are more likely to benefit as individuals. Our organisations will benefit as well”.

Both of these interesting articles illustrates how to handle biases as well as giving great advice on how to handle challenging  situations.

“Even the smartest people exhibit biases in their judgements and choices. It’s foolhardy to think we can overcome them through sheer will. But we can anticipate and outsmart them by nudging ourselves in the right direction when it’s time to make a call”. (Jack B. Soll, Katherine L. Milkman and John P. Payne)

Honest communication is built on truth and integrity and upon respect of the one for the other     Benjamin E. Mays

Source; Harvard Business Review

Author, Inger Lise E Greger/Master of Science in Change Management



The Challenge with Problem Solving

12 03 2017

We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”        

–   Albert Einstein

In the January/February 2017 issue of Harvard Business Review, Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg discusses the ever so important topic of problem solving.

Wedellsborg; “The problem is we often solve the wrong problems. Albert Einstein and Peter Drucker alike have discussed the difficulty of effective diagnosis. There are great frameworks for getting teams to attack true problems, but they’re often hard to do daily and on the fly”. (Ref; The secret to better problem solving-Sarah Green Carmichael)

Are you solving the right problems ?

That is the big question Wedellsborg is asking in this very interesting article.

He makes us aware that people tend to jump into solution-mode too quickly when faced with a problem, which means that they don’t really understand the problem they’re trying to solve. He continues by explaining that using a simpler framework, or root cause analysis as well as the 5 why’s questioning technique tend to get people digging deeper into an already defined problem, instead of reaching a new conclusion. He says that even though it can be useful, creative solutions frequently come from redefining the problem instead of getting stuck with the one you already have.

I came across both an interesting interview with Joseph L. Badaracco by Peter Bregman, as well as a whiteboard session (5 questions to help you make tough decisions) that introduces a new issue to problem solving, which is “grey area problems”; What do you do when there is no clear answer to your problem ? In his latest book; “Managing the Grey”; Five Timeless Questions for Resolving Your Toughest Problems at Work, Joseph L. Badaracco, the John Shad Professor of Business Ethics at Harvard Business School, posits five questions to help us solve “grey area” issues by getting the relevant information on the table.

Badaracco continues the interview by saying; “I think in most organisations, most people have a sense that the tough problems, the ones that keep them awake at night are the ones that are grey. I found this phrase, grey area problem, to resonate with just about anything”.

His background to these five questions were “interviewing” a lot of great thinkers over the ages and across cultural backgrounds. These ranged from philosophers to successful leaders, even artists and poets.

While doing this, he kept the question in mind of ‘what guidance could you get from these great thinkers ?’ which eventually ended up as these five sets of questions that are asked systematically to gradually weed out the solutions that are not relevant to all of them:

2)Basic duties
3)What will work in the world as it is ?
4)Core Values of your organizations
5)What can I live with ?


The first set of questions is regarding consequences. This starts off broad and looks at the full consequences of what your decision will affect. Who will gain something from it, who will lose something because of  and what will be the overall result of it ? Badaracco;“Often when we face these problems, and you’re under pressure in an organization, the risk and the tendency is to look for shorter-term consequences. But you’ve got to try as best you can, to look broadly and get a sense of what you can think the most likely consequences are and the most important”.

Basic duties

Second question is , okay, I’ve thought hard about the consequences, what are the basic human duties that I’ve got in this situation ?” A good set of consequences can be imagined by telling a lie, however, most people think that’s wrong. So it is important to consider that your decisions will affect other peoples lives and livelihoods, therefore think of what your duties are to these people, and take action from there.

What will working the world as it is ?

This is essentially a Machiavelli question, even though it can be found in writings of many great thinkers over time. The answer can more or less be divided into two parts: -it has to be something that is practical and likely to work, second part; You and your action has to be resilient, because we live in a turbulent, uncertain and political world. It is important to remember that the world is filled with people pursuing their own self-interests as well as goodhearted people doing what they can to make this world a better place. Therefore, the answer to this question has to take all of this into consideration, the response of people serving their own interests and people who are acting in good faith.

Core values of your organization

This question is about the values of your organization, not the ones that every organization has up on a wall, but the ones that people really care about. The ones that make them stay up at night and come into work on weekends. “These values are often implicit in stories that go through an organization of how the leaders, or the founders handle things when they got tough, and the stories are often somewhat inspiring”.

What can I live with ?

The final question is the most critical one, because whether you are running a big or small organization, you will, at some point, face a grey area problem. Badaracco says that:”The fifth question says, what can I live with ? In other words, what can you, as the decision-maker and as a manager and as a human being, live with ? What can you sleep with ? What do you think you can look back on ? You asked where the clarity comes from, and this is ultimately where the clarity comes from. It doesn’t come out of the analyses. It comes out of the decision”. The essence of this question is knowing that you could have narrowed something down to this very last question, however, if you are unable to live with the decision, it is definitely not the right one.

The idea behind all these questions is to be self-critical, and not get stuck in your own thinking but to try (to the best of your abilities) and see the possible solutions from other point of views and not just your own. And by answering them systematically, you will most likely reach one final, suitable solution.

Going back to the article in this issue of Harvard Business Review and Wedellsborg, he also introduces us to seven practices that can be useful in problem solving. He says that they can be used in one of two ways depending on the amount of time you have, and whether or not you are in control of the situation: Firstly, you could go through all of the seven practices, which takes about half an hour, or you can use a different method that can be especially useful when you are not in control of the situation. Here he says: “Perhaps a team member ambushes you in the hallway and you have only five minutes to help him or her rethink a problem. If so, simply select the one or two practices that seem most appropriate”. He continues by saying that even though a few minutes might seem like nothing, such short interventions could kick-start new ways of thinking, and thereby shifting the point of view of the problem. However, not all problems are that simple, and you might have to ‘reframe’ them several times before reaching the conclusion. He also recommends mastering this ‘5-minute version’ before starting on the main course, the full version with all seven practices.

The seven practices are as follows:

Establish legitimacy. In this first practice, Wedellsborg explains that reframing a problem can be very difficult if you are the only one in the room that understands the method. People who are driven by the desire to find solutions may look at your insistence on discussing the problem as counterproductive. “Your first job, therefore, is to establish the methods legitimacy with the group, creating the conversational space necessary to employ reframing”.

Bring outsiders into the discussion. This is the most helpful practise because when you bring in an outsider’s perspective, they will look at the organization and the problem with new eyes. The outsider will rethink the problem quickly and properly, according to Wedellsborg. “As research by Michael Tushman and many others have shown, the most useful input tends to come from people who understand but are not fully part of your world”. This is because outsiders are not there to solve problems, they are there to stimulate new thinking and to give the problem-solvers a new perspective. That’s why it is so important, when introducing an outsider into the conversation, to ask them to challenge the employees way of thinking and getting them focused on a new input instead of a solution.

Get peoples definitions in writing. Wedellsborg says that it is not uncommon for people to think that they have understood and agreed on a problem, only to discover down the line that they have completely different views on the issue. “For instance, a management team may agree that the company’s problem is  a lack of innovation. But if you ask each member to describe what’s wrong in a sentence or two, you will quickly see how framings differ”. All the employees may have the same idea of what the problem is, but not necessarily what’s causing it. In his example, the common problem was lack of innovation, however employees could have different views on the cause of it, for instance ‘lack of motivation’ or ‘not the right skill set’ etc. Therefore it could be a useful tool to have employees anonymously, send you or someone else, their interpretation of the problem in a sentence or two. Then putting all of these up on a board, to see how their mindset might differ.

Ask what’s missing. In this fourth practise, the author makes us aware of how we respond when faced with the description of a problem. He explains that people tend to get too focused on the small details, and therefore not notice what’s missing, an issue that can be rectified by specifically asking what has been left out. By doing so, someone can point out what is missing from the problem, and that could possibly be the boost that will help us resolve it.

Consider multiple categories. “Powerful change can come from transforming people’s perceptions of a problem. One way to trigger this kind of paradigm shift is to invite people to identify specifically what category of problems they think the group is facing. Is it an incentive problem ? An expectations problem ? An attitude problem ?” By highlighting the way that people are thinking about a problem-what the author calls metacognition or thinking about thinking-he makes us aware that it can be an effective tool to reframe the problem, especially in the case of sorting through written definitions that your coworkers have provided in advance.

Analyze positive exceptions. “To find additional problem framings, look to instances when the  problem did not occur, asking, ‘What was different about that situation ?’ Exploring such positive exceptions, sometimes called bright spots, can often uncover hidden factors who’s influence the group may not have considered”. In this paragraph, Wedellsborg highlights a different way to look at the problem. Rather than only focusing on the current problem and how to fix it, we can compare it to an instance where it did not happen. This can help us see how the circumstances have changed, which will make it a lot easier to either fix it or prevent it from happening again. Imagine that you forget your keys one day, and you dont want it to happen again the next day. By comparing the day you forgot your keys with one where you didn’t, it can help you analyse your problem better. The reason could be that you overslept and didn’t have enough time, you were distracted or anything else, but by doing so, you will indirectly find a possible solution to your problem.

Question the objective. In this final practice, the author talks about two people with conflicting interests-one wants the fresh air from an open window, while the other wants to avoid the draft. “Only when these hidden objectives are brought to light through the questions of a third person is the problem resolved-by opening a window in the next room”. By paying attention to all objectives and challenging them we can reframe the problem. It could be a change from teaching the employees a better skill set to boosting morale, or something entirely different, just by questioning everyones objective.

So, a new way of looking at problem solving is by having the right problem to begin with, as well as asking the right questions and having the right people involved. By looking at problem solving in this way, we can find solutions that not only benefit a few, but that will benefit the majority of people in an organization.

“A problem well put is half solved”       John Dewey

Author, Inger Lise E Greger, MSc Change Management



Strategic Challenges.

1 06 2016

Strategy is about making choices, trade-offs; it’s about deliberately choosing to be different.        Michael Porter

In todays organizations change is necessary if you want to succeed in a tough world. However, we don’t like to change things and feel most comfortable when we are staying in the comfort zone. Leaders are aware of this problem and are prepared to cope with these challenges.

“Habits keep us doing what we always do. We resist being pushed in new directions that make no sense to us. We cling tenaciously to what we value and fear might be lost. To behave otherwise is somehow less than human”. (John P. Kotter)

From his book; ‘Accelerate’, John P. Kotter reveals how the best companies focus and align their people’s energy and urgency around what Kotter calls the Big Opportunity.

An organizations strategy is important for the business. A company’s strategy describes what to do to reach their goal and what choices to be made on it’s way.

Kotter; “Strategy is a term used loosely to mean high-level policies designed to help you successfully achieve your most important goals, or, in a competitive context, to help you win”.

Hierarchies is a challenge in organizations and if used wrong, creativity and innovation will be a challenge. Kotter; “Hierarchies with great management processes and good leaders on top are not built for leaping into a creative future. Innovation requires risks, people who are willing to think outside their boxes, perspectives from multiple silos, and more. Management-driven hierarchies are built to minimize risk and keep people in their boxes and silos. To change this more than incrementally is to fight a losing battle”.

Kotter present the dual operating system. The basic structure is self-explanatory with hierarchy on one side and network on the other side. Kotter explain; “The hierarchy part of the dual operating system differs from almost every other hierarchy today in one very important way. Much of the work ordinarily assigned to it that demands innovation, agility, difficult change, and big strategic initiatives executed quickly – challenges dumped on work streams, tiger teams, or strategy departments – has been shifted over to the network part”.

Here the author makes us aware that this system losen up and is better able to perform what it is meant to be and designed for. Because of the losing up effect you will be doing your job great as well as making incremental changes to then improve further efficiency, and because of this you are handling the strategic initiatives which also helps the company dealing with predictable adjustments like routine IT uppgrades.

The principles of a dual operating system:

-Many people driving important change, and from everywhere, not just the usual  few appointees. Kotter makes us aware that it all starts here. For more speed and agility to occure, a fundamentally different way of gathering information and decision making is needed as well as implementing decisions which have some strategic significance. Kotter; “You need more eyes to see, more brains to think, and more legs to act in order to accelerate. You need additional people with open mind and new eyes and additional good working relationships with others in order to be creative and innovate, from the insiders”.

-A “get-to” mindset, not a “have-to” one. Force is not an option if you want to achieve change. Inspiration is a better solution, and by giving people a choice where they feel they truly have permission to step forward and act is a better way. Kotter; “The desire to work with others for an important and exciting shared purpose, and the realistic possibility of doing so, are the key”.

-Action that is head and heart driven, not just head driven. People have feelings. Kotter; “You must also appeal to how people feel. As have all the great leaders throughout history, you must speak to the genuine and fundamental human desire to contribute to some bigger cause, to take a community or an organization into a better future”.

-Much more leadership, not just more management. In this system, the author talks about competent management. Leadership is needed as well as the guts of the engine are managerial processes. Kotter; “Yet in order to capitalize on unpredictable windows of opportunity which might open and close quickly, and to somehow spot and avoid unpredictable threats, the name of the game is leadership, and not from one larger-than -life executive”. The game is about vision, creativity, passion, inspiration, innovation, agility, opportunity, celebration, relationships, compensation and accountability to a plan.

-An inseparable partnership between the hierarchy and the network, not just an enhanced hierarchy. Kotter; “The two systems, network and hierarchy, work as one, with constant flow of information and activity between them-an approach that succeeds in part because the people essentially volunteering to work in the network already have jobs within the hierarchy”. Kotter, shows us that based on these principles, a dual system is different from that on the hierarchy side when it comes to the action. Kotter; “Because action within networks accelerates activity, especially strategically relevant activity, I call it’s basic processes the Accelerators“.

Kotter’s eight accelerators: 1) Create a sense of urgency around a big opportunity, 2) Build and evolve a guiding coallition, 3) Form a change vision and strategic initiatives, 4) Enlist a volunteer army, 5) Enable action by removing barriers, 6) Generate (and celebrate) short-term wins, 7) Sustain acceleration and number, 8) Institute change.

Let us take a closer look at Kotter’s accelerators:

1- Create a sense of urgency around a big opportunity. This accelerator is focused on creating as well as maintaining a strong sense of urgency among as many people as possible around a Big Opportunity an organization is facing. Kotter; “This is, in many ways, the secret sauce which allows behaviour to happen that many who have grown up in mature organizations would think impossible”.

2- Build and evolve a guiding coalition. In this accelerator, the urgency is to build the core of the network structure, which will evolve to take form into a stronger network later. People are eager and motivated from across the organization and they feel the urgency. Kotter; “These are individuals from all silos and levels who want to help you take on strategic challenges, deal with hyper-competitiveness, and win the Big Opportunity”. In this situation we can see people who want to lead as well as to be change agents. People are eager to work together in team and learn how to work effectively. People from different levels of silos gives effort to work well together. Kotter; “But under the right conditions – with urgency around a Big Opportunity as a crucial component – they will learn how to work together in a totally new way”.

3- Form a change vision and strategic initiatives. Here the guiding coalition clarifies the vision which fits a big strategic opportunity together with selecting strategic initiatives which moves you in the right direction toward the companies vision. Kotter; “When you first form a dual system, much of this, especially the initiatives, may already exist, created by the hierarchy’s leadership team. But the initiatives the nascent network side attacks first will be those that individuals in the guiding coalition have great passion to work on”.

4- Enlist a volunteer army. In the fourth accelerator, the author makes us aware that the guiding coalition together with others who wish to help and communicate information about the change vision and the strategic initiatives to the company, may lead to large numbers of people who are interested in buying into the whole flow of action.

5- Enable action by removing barriers. Kotter; “Much of the action here has to do with identifying and removing barriers which slow or stop strategically important activity”.

6- Generate (and celebrate) short-term wins. Kotter; “The sixth accelerator is about everyone on the network side helping to create an ongoing flow of strategically relevant wins, both big and very small”. The author say that the wins are possible for all the people in the entire organization and the importance of celebrating even if it is in small ways. Kotter; “These wins, and their celebration, can carry great psychological power and play a crucial role in building and sustaining a dual system”.

7- Sustain acceleration. In this stage, accelerator 7 keeps the entire system moving. All the energy is focused on new opportunities and challenges and the people find a motor to help all the other. Kotter; “Accelerators keep going, as needed, like spark plugs and cylinders in a car’s engine. It is the opposite of a one-and-done approach and mindset”.

8- Institute change. Accelerator 8 helps institutionalize the wins as well as integrating the wins into the hierarchy’s processes, procedures, systems, and behavior- in effect, here you are also helping to infuse the changes into the culture of the organization. Kotter; “When this happens with more and more changes, there is a cumulative effect. After a few years, such action drives the whole dual system approach into an organization’s very DNA”.

From this article; The Greatest Barriers to Growth, According to Executives (Harvard Business Review, by Chris Zook) the author tells us that the greatest barriers in organizations lies inside their own four walls. Zook; “It’s a common story in business today. Eighty-five percent of executives say that the greatest barriers to achieving their growth objectives lie inside their own four walls, according to research by Bain & Company. In the largest companies, this rises to 94 percent of executives who believe that their most difficult challenges are internal, not external”.

Zook describes five ways that bureaucracy distorts behavior in your organization; The first one is, distortion of speed:  Zook; “Young, founder-led companies often set the speed in their competitive arenas-speed to recognize the need to change, interpret how, decide on what, and react. Young insurgents whose speed allows them to get ‘inside’ of the decision cycle of a large, slow incumbent competitor can reap an enormous advantage”.

Distortion of motive: Tells us that young organizations has no place to hide and in this situation the founder knows everything. Zook makes us aware that the meritocracy may flourish when things are transparent. Zook; “Yet, as companies grow, promotions fall in line with corporate processes, complex ‘balanced’ scorecards of performance, and regression to the mean”.

Distortion of time: The author is in this case talking about the executives self-awareness. Here the management teams need to look into the use of their time as well as the use of their money which they have to be very careful about. In this case you can start with three questions: How much time do they spend with top customers?  How much time do they spend with high potential employees?  How much time do they spend on solving the firm’s top five challenges? Zook say that if they honestly ask these questions themselves, you will soon see the first step to take.

Distortion of decisions: The author suggests to start your assault on the decision distortions of bureaucracy with your five or ten most important types of decisions. Zook; “Map out how they are really made and how many people are involved. Then attack what will emerge clearly as obvious root causes of distortion: decisions that should be pushed to the front line with a few vital guiding principles, decisions that should have many fewer people involved, and decisions where it’s unclear who actually decides”.

Distortion of information: Zook illustrates that the information is better remembered in small companies as well as the intimacy and ground knowledge are second nature. “Yet, as companies grow this becomes increasingly difficult”. More thoughts from Zook; “But there are other, simpler ways to renew this aspect of a founder’s mentality and its connection to the front line. We have seen management teams benefit greatly from setting up ways for them to ‘drop in’ on customer calls, or call-centre service discussions.

Difficulties mastered are opportunities won       Winston Churchill

Strategic challenges are important for companies to succeed.

Author, Inger Lise E Greger, MSc in Change Management




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