Doctor’s Notes and a broken system

We recently had a news items here is Manitoba where an NDP member of the Legislature introduced a private members bill to remove the stipulation to require a Doctor’s note until you have been away for greater than 6 days. Seemed to me like a totally reasonable request. It also occurred to me how broken the system must be if someone thought getting a Doctor’s note was a good solution initially.

It appears that the Doctor’s notes were required to try to address unwarranted absenteeism. The problem with this policy is twofold:

  1. By forcing potentially sick employees outside and into a Doctor’s office you are potentially increasing the severity of their sickness and increasing the chance they will infect others.
  2. If they are unable to acquire a sick note because they lack a family doctor or have had too many sick notes, they will probably come to work and make more people sick. This in turn will result in point number 1. 🙂

Ultimately at the end of the day, you will need to trust your employees. If they are not engaged they possibly could take unwarranted sick days that could impact the business. But you know what? That impact would be minor to the impact to the business when they ARE at worked and not engaged. They could waste more time than during their unwarranted sick days. (especially when you factor in other employees they are also distracting)

When you are thinking about designing solutions to the problems, ensure you are treating the problem and not just the symptom. In this case, playing hooky is not the problem. It is just a symptom of being not engaged and not feeling valued.

BTW, increasing the procedure to only require notes over 6 days isn’t fixing things either. Spend the effort to talk to people and understand what they would like to do at work. What makes them feel like they aren’t working? What gives them a sense of satisfaction? What makes the day fly by for them?

How would they recommend getting employees more engaged?

You might be surprised at the answers you get. At the very least, just asking the question increases their engagement and probably starts the process to reducing absenteeism.

Is #Innovation an Empty Word?

Many times on projects and presentations I hear both the empty words and principles and also the full words. I’ve always struggled to determine the difference between the two. I’ve listened to people state that their success is all about ‘their people’ and I’ve come away on one occasion believing them and on another occasion feeling that they didn’t believe their own words.

So what is the difference?

A phrase used by Ed Catmull in his book “Creativity, Inc.” defines the issue perfectly.

The Handle and the Suitcase

It is up to the individual to remember that it’s okay to use the handle, just as long as you don’t forget the suitcase.”  -Ed Catmull, Creativity Inc.

Ed Catmull shares a visual in his new book, Creativity Inc. where he asks us to imagine an old, heavy suitcase whose well-worn handles are hanging by a few threads. He describes the handle of that suitcase as those defining principles and phrases we use and promote.  He then shares how, the suitcase represents all that has gone into the formation of the phrase: the experience, the deep wisdom, the truths that emerge from the struggle.

To me this affirms that one cannot promote and encourage without context. And that context can really only be gathered through experience and commitment. In a sense the person needs to be a practitioner and supporter. In many cases I was probably sensing that people I didn’t believe didn’t have the context or the suitcase in what they were presenting.

Catmull shows the disconnect that can happen.  Too often, we grab the handle and – without realizing it – walk off without the suitcase.  What’s more we don’t even think about what we’ve left behind.  After all, the handle is so much easier to carry around than the suitcase.

This is key. If you aren’t committed to the entire principle, the suitcase is the first to go. As Catmull says, the handle is easy to carry by itself. This is happening recently with Innovation. People promote Innovation and then discuss how organizations can inject structure into the Innovation process. These methods or structures most of the time are the antithesis of Innovation. Methods and structures can go against an Innovation Mindset.

Catmull then continues to what I think is a brilliant way to restate the issue: “I often say that managers of creative enterprises must hold lightly to goals and firmly to intentions. What does this mean? It means that we must be open to having our goals change as we learn new information or are surprised by things we thought we knew but didn’t. As long as our intentions – our values – remain constant, our goals can shift as needed”

So saying we are committed to Innovation is hollow. Saying we are committed to the values of creativity and growth and empowerment and having a culture that encourages those will generate many more Innovations than an Innovation framework. Our commitment to values is critical, not a commitment to a framework.

 

Or as Catmull adds, words like quality and excellence are misapplied so relentlessly that they border on meaningless.  Managers scour books and magazines looking for greater understanding but settle instead for adopting a new terminology, thinking that using fresh words will bring them closer to their goals.”

 

 

 

 

How #Empathy is fixing #Canada

I’ve talked about how Empathy is so important in understanding client needs in the past, how Empathy is important to understand what a client really requires and needs. The other side of Empathy is understanding what your team requires.

Ultimately, Empathy results in Prosocial behaviour. Prosocial is a term I only recently came across. Let’s quickly review the definition from Wikipedia:

Prosocial behavior –  “is a social behaviour that “benefit[s] other people or society as a whole, such as helping, sharing, donating, co-operating, and volunteering. Obeying the rules and conforming to socially accepted behaviors (such as stopping at a “Stop” sign or paying for groceries) are also regarded as prosocial behaviors. These actions may be motivated by empathy and by concern about the welfare and rights of others”

Ultimately this describes team behaviour and client service focus that we like to see in our project teams.

Canada

My country has always prided itself with having a good global conscience. But really until the last little while we have not shown ourselves to be empathetic at home. Let me call attention to a couple of recent news items. The tragedies of missing and murdered aboriginal women is the first item. For the longest time, the media and the majority of Canada have spent a lot of our efforts trying to state why this is someone else’s problem. We haven’t really empathized with the problem. We have hidden behind the fact that the situation was created by our ancestors and not us. In short, we felt comfortable doing nothing unless we were directly responsible. Myself included. 😦

Let’s review the definition of Empathy again:

Empathy – “is the capacity to understand or feel what another being (a human or non-human animal) is experiencing from within the other being’s frame of reference, i.e., the capacity to place oneself in another’s position.”

We haven’t truly put ourselves in the shoes of the aboriginal families and really felt their pain. Recently we are starting. Canada has become outraged that this is happening and everyone has demanded as a whole that this be fixed now. Finally we have exhibited Prosocial behaviour and demanded that this is fixed even when it will result in no personal gain. In some way we are demanding change that will even hurt us by taking money and attention away from other priorities. But we understand that it is the right thing to do. Maybe we are finally gaining some true Empathy.

A similar occurrence has happened recently with the Freedom Road that is finally being built to address a long-standing injustice committed against Shoal Lake #40 First Nations who were isolated by the city of Winnipeg building an aqueduct in 1915. How it took 100 years for our community to become Empathetic and outraged at this situation is unbelievable. But at least now it is being addressed. Finally we have become empathetic and are being Prosocial with our demands from our politicians.

We can even see this recently with our neighbours from the south. For the longest time the United States were content to also determine excuses as to why the number of murdered black men were not a problem. Everyone investigated the victim’s past history, looked in their behaviour that night, and also said much of the violence was black man on black man so certainly there is no racism issue. Finally the United States is demonstrating Prosocial behaviour and also demanding that something be done to address these issues.

The truth is until large groups are willing to be Prosocial and take a stand on issues, they will never be addressed.

In retrospect, the majority of Canada was not empathetic to the massacre at École Polytechnique. 28 people were injured, with 14 Canadian women losing their lives that day. We grieved and mourned, but we didn’t truly empathize and demand action. The best we could muster in the past was Sympathy. We certainly have been sympathetic in the past but finally it seems Canada is learning how to be empathetic.

I see an interesting similarity with the Muslim people and countries around the world in relation to terrorism. Although people are sympathetic with the impact of terrorism, we haven’t yet reached an Empathy with the victims and seen Prosocial behaviours. Once we see those Prosocial behaviours, I have no doubt that the situation will greatly improve. Even with the recent tragedies in Paris, there is could be more we could do.

And I don’t believe building walls like Mr Trump proposes is a Prosocial behaviour. If anything, that is an Antisocial behaviour. By Prosocial behaviour I mean that we would see people independently organizing instead of assuming that it is only the Police’s job to stop terrorism.

Summary

Pretty heady topic for Christmas Eve, but it does relate back to our teams. Our high performing teams always are the ones that manage themselves and work together for the greater good and not just for what they need to individually accomplish. We are getting there. Nice to see our world is as well. 🙂

 

Stop just #Innovating , start #Empathizing

innovative

There I said it.

Everywhere you go today, the focus is on Innovation as a verb. You must Innovate. There are Innovation Frameworks out there that define a framework on how you can generate Innovations at your work and personal life if you follow a process. Some of these frameworks are openly available while some are proprietary. There are even geographical areas that are designated with the Innovation titles to hopefully instill the belief that Innovation happens there before anywhere else. And then there are the individuals that have Innovation in their titles and seem to be somewhat responsible for Innovation at their companies.

Are we Innovation-ed out?

While the focus on Innovation and those Innovation Frameworks are valuable and can produce ideas and innovations, you shouldn’t stop there. The additional focus needs to be on why you are innovating. What pain or gain are you trying to achieve. Traditionally if your gain is just to make more money, then the life of your Innovation will be short lived. How do we then generate long lived Innovations?

Outcome

Innovation is an outcome rather than an action. I’m not sure how we got to the place where Innovation became an action and not an outcome. In some ways that is tantamount to changing for the sake of change. Let’s look at the definition of Innovation:

: a new idea, device, or method

: the act or process of introducing new ideas, devices, or methods

So what is missing? Well it seems like all I need to do is introduce anything new or different and I’ll be innovating. It could even be something worse.

The traditional definition of Innovation does not have any focus on value of the Innovation. This is a problem.

Action

OK Terry, well if Innovation is an outcome and not the action, what is the action that creates Innovation?

I’m glad you asked. 🙂

First off the actions that create Innovative outcomes need to be client value based and not company based. If those actions are based on value, then the Innovations will also be based on value. If we don’t base Innovations on value we really will be changing for the sake of change. Some of these changes may be home runs, but others might be duds.

In business, value is defined and determined by the client. As much as we think some product or service has value, it only really has value when the client agrees to pay something for it.

So really the only methods that can result in Innovative outcomes are those that maximize client empathy and client understanding. Only with that understanding can we understand what changes will be innovative and result in more value for your client. At the core the Innovation needs to take away a client pain or provide a client gain.

If you need to be Innovative, seek to understand your client better.

Turns out those guys like Luke Hohmann, Clay Christensen, and Alex Osterwaldner were onto something.

But please stop only using Innovation frameworks to be innovative and generate innovations. Throwing a bunch of ideas at the wall to see if some stick is time-consuming and wasteful. If you focus on understanding your clients the Innovations will follow.

If you want to be Innovative, gather true Client Insight and Empathy.

My new favourite #InnovationGame – #Agile Science Fair

IG

I was asked to do a session for the Agile Winnipeg User Group and the first thing that popped into my mind was Innovation Games. Innovation Games are a critical piece in Protegra’s offering to gain Customer Insight on all projects. Recently we have used Innovation Games to assist the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce in creating their strategy. It really confirmed in my head that Innovation Games are the best way to gain Customer Insight no matter what the ultimate end product of the project is.

Agile Winnipeg Users Group

So I was very excited to be able to talk about Innovation Games and try one or two games in the session.  But it many cases, Agile teams have used Silent Brainstorming and parts of Innovation Games already even if they didn’t call  them Innovation Games. I wasn’t sure they would get the maximum value out of the event if I just did the SpeedBoat Innovation Game.

So I thought it would be the most impactful and fun to do the Product Box game. The idea was to do a Product Box on Agile. The objective was to create a Product Box that would let you communicate what Agile is and then try to sell Agile to their imaginary manager who has never used Agile. Fair enough. Seemed like fun

Staples

Ultimately though, Staples would not comply with our devious plans. This had happened once before when Luke Hohmann had presented at SDEC in 2012. Luke had graciously offered to also do a workshop the following day and one of the games we were playing was product box. But when I was looking for the plain white cereal sized boxes that we would use for our game, they were nowhere to be found. Eventually we found some mailing boxes that we could use for the game, but it wasn’t optimal.

So I was hoping that the lack of white cereal sized was only temporary at Staples. Nope. They were nowhere to be found.

They had the same inventory they had before… 😦

Science Fair

With one huge addition. They had in stock tri-fold cardboard boards like the ones used for science fairs.

This, I thought, is freaking perfect!

The Game

We started off the session with a few slides on Innovation Games and then got into the Science Fair game. I had purchased stickers, colorful sharpies, and colorful 4″ letters. (Which I thought were stickers. They were merely punch-out letters. But our ingenuous teams managed in spite of me) 🙂

I posed to them the situation.

“Your manager knows nothing about Agile, but you know it is the only way to develop software. Use all the supplies to create a poster board to communicate what Agile is and to try to convince your manager choose Agile for the next project”

I then also had purposely bought some animals stickers. I wanted them to use the stickers as Metaphors for Agile. I would ask why they choose a certain animal and what the animal represented about Agile. By doing this, I was using additional metaphors to gain insight into additional aspects of Agile they may not have communicated elsewhere.

The Results

Like all Innovation Games, we had fun and the teams produced projects that were awesome and I had greater insight into what each team thought about Agile.

But I really liked two aspects of the Science Fair game as compared to Product Box.

1) Real Estate – The teams had much more space to use to communicate. This allowed for more messaging and content then I would have had on Product Box. It particularly gave them room to draw.

2) Animal Metaphor – This was a neat twist I thought, but the insight gathered was truly great. Some teams used all the animals to show how teams had to be diverse, some teams used Giraffes to show how visibility was crucial to Agile, and then two teams used multiple reptiles to show how the Minimum Viable Product would be created and enhanced in each iteration.

Summary

It was a fantastic event and I think I’ll try Science Fair again when we need to do Product Box. The additional space allows for additional creative elements in the game. I think I’ll also keep the additional metaphor I used. That provided additional context and insight.

Why Customer #Empathy ?

Why should we bother with Customer Empathy? Many time we have seen the results. Either you deal with Customer Empathy or you deal with Customer Anger. It is much more efficient to deal with Customer Empathy when you define an offering than dealing with Customer Anger to fix the offering.

Sadly, most the time Information Technology initiatives are based in what we as Information Technology professionals think the customers want. At best, we have Information Technology empathy – we understand what Information Technology values.

Information Technology Empathy

So what happens when we have Information Technology Empathy? One might suggest that we can improve the cost side of the equation. Perhaps if we have Information Technology Empathy, we can reduce cost and become more efficient. Sadly, many times having Information Technology Empathy may not reduce costs. We may pursue Information Technology goals that may increase costs. And then the customers doubly suffer – we expend budget that makes their lives worse. 😦

Many times this happens with Package Implementations. Software Packages are chosen to reduce risk from the Information Technology point of view. (Information Technology Empathy) Frequently the new Software Package reduces the value delivered to customers. Very rarely do you hear about customers extolling the virtues of the new Software Package – at best you hope the Customers don’t lose functionality.

Customer Empathy

Only with Customer Empathy can we improve the revenue side of the equation. If we truly understand what the customer values, we can design new products and services that they are willing to pay more for. Strangely enough, Customer Empathy will also allow us to improve the cost side of the equation. By knowing what the customer values, we can also understand what costs the clients will accept and potentially which areas could be trimmed without affecting customer value.

Summary

Many times we see plans being put in place assuming we know what the customer values. There almost seems to be a hesitation to ask the customers what they want. In this fast-paced world with so many options, be warned. If you aren’t going to ask your customers what they want, someone else will.