Simple tips for giving an effective ‘pep’ talk


By Elisabeth Goodman, 12th July 2017

HBR The Science of Pep Talks.JPG

The Science of Pep Talks, Harvard Business Review, July-August 2017

I wrote in a recent RiverRhee newsletter about Inspirational Leadership, and posted a LinkedIn article about Achieving Resonance in our Communications, so it was fascinating to read an HBR article that somehow combines the two!

David McGinn is the author of “Psyched Up: How the science of mental preparation can help you succeed”.  His article in the July-August 2017 issue of Harvard Business Review, “The Science of Pep Talks” (pp. 133-137), is based on that.

Like all good HBR articles, this one comes with a check-list of elements that will help anyone seeking to inspire and motivate their audience towards action.  There are three pointers:

  1. Direction giving. Include a very clear message on what you expect people to do and, if appropriate, how they should do this.  This will also reduce any uncertainty or confusion.
  2. Empathy.  Connect with your audience by acknowledging what they are experiencing and feeling.  Give individuals and teams appropriate praise for their achievements, and express gratitude for their contributions.
  3. Meaning making.  Link the overall purpose of what you are seeking to achieve, with the audience’s own.  This connects your organisation’s or team’s purpose with individual motivation whatever it might be. It combines the why with the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me).

McGinn suggests also that, in an effective pep talk, the speaker will adjust the balance between the three elements depending on what people need.  If they are very clear on what is expected and why, then it may be mainly empathy that’s needed.  If they are already very motivated, then perhaps just a bit of direction giving.  And so on…

The article includes a nice case study to illustrate this too.

Concluding thoughts

These are all familiar messages in terms of effective leadership and effective communication.  They certainly resonate with me.

It will be interesting now to listen to people giving motivational talks with these three elements in mind.  To what extent do “pep” talks actually combine all three?

These will be interesting points for me to consider as we deliver a couple of RiverRhee’s newer courses in the autumn on Transition to Leadership, and Presentation Skills.

About the author

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We use training, facilitation, coaching, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.) Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  

RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals).

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. 

She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

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Neurodiversity – an organisational advantage to be valued and supported


By Elisabeth Goodman, 4th July 2017

2017-06-22 09.37.32

Delegates at RiverRhee’s June 2017 Introduction to Management course demonstrating a diverse approach to one of the challenges that we set them.

What is neurodiversity, and why value it?

I’ve been reading and thinking about neurodiversity for a while, as it is something that we value and support in young people at the Red Balloon Learner Centre in Cambridge, for which I am a Trustee.

It is something that is sometimes attributed to ‘gifted’ young people, or to our ‘cleverest thinkers’ .  And it is something that is described by John Elder Robinson, the co-chair of the Neurodiversity Working Group at the College of William and Mary as “the idea that neurological differences like autism and ADHD are the result of normal, natural variation in the human genome”.

The quote above is cited by Robert D. Austin and Gary P. Pisano in “Neurodiversity as a competitive advantage.  Why you should embrace it in your workforce.”  HBR, May-June 20217, pp. 96-103.  In fact, neurodiversity also includes Asperger’s, dyslexia, dyspraxia and other natural variations.  The authors assert that this neurodiversity is not something to be cured, but rather to be embraced as bringing valuable new perspectives to an organisation.

Similar points are made by Carol Fowler, in her blog on Neurodiversity for One Nucleus, and by Sally Moore, of Top Stream, an organisation that “works to get the best from brilliant minds in the workplace.”

All these practitioners argue that recruiting and supporting such neurodiversity in our organisations will enhance creativity, innovation, problem solving.

Sally Moore and the HBR authors cite typical applications of neurodiversity to IT related roles in SAP, HPE, Microsoft, EY such as software testing, cybersecurity, business analytics; and also scientific and engineering research and development.

However, neurodiverse people can also bring enhanced people interaction and social skills.  The HBR authors cite companies that have experienced advantages for product management and development, HR support and interfacing with customers for software consulting and support.

Hiring neurodiverse people can have other unexpected benefits, as the HBR authors also discovered, in enhancing the people skills of the managers and of other members of the teams that work with them as they seek to support them more effectively.

What managers and teams need to do to recruit for and support neurodiversity

Personality tools such as MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and Belbin Team Roles go some way to help us recognise and appreciate the diversity of soft skills and strengths that people can bring to an organisation.

However our recruitment and performance management and development processes tend to be set up for more “neurotypical” people.  According to the HBR article, they put an emphasis on “solid communication skills, being a team player, emotional intelligence, persuasiveness, salesperson-type personalities, the ability to network, the ability to conform to standard practices without special accommodation” etc.

Many neurodiverse people do not interview well – for example they may have difficulty with eye contact, be prone to going off on a tangent, and can be over-honest about their weaknesses.  Making presentations can also be particularly challenging.

In addition, the general emphasis on open plan working makes no allowance for people who may be oversensitive to noise and to light.

Pioneering companies are using a range of approaches to overcome such obstacles for example:

  1. Teaming up with ‘social partners’ who have expertise and can help companies find and work with people from neurodiverse backgrounds.  The HBR article’s examples are mainly in the US and also in Australia and Germany.  I don’t know if we have anything similar happening in the UK.
  2. Using non-traditional, non-interview-based assessment and training programmes. Examples cited include the use of “hangouts”, comfortable half-day gatherings that enable candidates to demonstrate their skills in casual interactions.  Lego Mindstorms are robotic construction and programming kits used for project work, both individually and in groups.  “Soft skills” modules help candidates get first-hand experience of a professional environment.
  3. Training managers and existing co-workers in how to better support neurodiverse colleagues.
  4. Setting up a support ‘ecosystem’ – simple support systems for new employees which could include a team buddy, a job and life skills coach, a work mentor and more..

Concluding thoughts

It seems we have some way to go to value and support neurodiversity in our organisations in the UK.  It would be interesting to hear of examples that already exist and/or of endeavours being made to do so.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We use training, facilitation, coaching, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.) Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  

RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals).

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. 

She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

 

Living in the moment


By Elisabeth Goodman, 29th May 2017

Flowers in the Haut-Languedoc

Taking a moment to enjoy the wild flowers in the Haut-Languedoc, France, May 2017

I’m enjoying a delightful few days in the Haut-Languedoc, trying my best to live “in the moment” in accordance with the principles of mindfulness, and meditation, and, inevitably, it has got me reflecting…

Living in the present is more rewarding than waiting for gratification from success

I passed the time at the airport on my way here watching a very funny, heart-warming and thought provoking video of Shawn Achor giving a TEDx talk.

Shawn Achor - the happy secret to better work

His 5 simple exercises for creating a positive mind-set are indeed very simple and I can confirm, from my own experience, that they are very effective.

(These simple daily exercises include reflecting on 3 good (different) things that have happened; considering one of these in more detail; saying or emailing something nice to a different person; taking at least 15 minutes exercise; concentrating on your breath in and out for 2 mins.)

What struck a chord though, was Achor’s reminder of something that I had also read recently in a Harvard Business Review article (more on this below), that, too often, we wait to succeed at something as a milestone for being happy.  “I’ll get this project completed and then I will be happy” or “I’ll just get these tasks done and then I’ll be satisfied”.

The tasks or projects could take a few moments, a day, a week or several months.  It seems a shame to defer our happiness until then.  They might not even happen, or be transformed into the next thing before we get a chance to finish them.  Better surely to find a way to enjoy and gain satisfaction from the moment, from work in progress?

Perhaps we could pause periodically and ask ourselves: “What am I enjoying most about what I am doing now?”; “How could I make it even more enjoyable?”.  We may be able to find satisfaction in even the most mundane, repetitive or stressful task.  In fact this awareness, and self-awareness, will also help us to identify ways in which we could continuously improve our work and ourselves.

We may even be doing the thing we most enjoy, in which case we should definitely be celebrating, even if only with an inner smile!

Reaching for ever-deferred ideals of perfectionism is a recipe for unhappiness

The Talent Curse - HBR May-June 2017

Illustration from HBR, May-June 2017 article “The Talent Curse”

 

In their excellent article in the May-June issue of Harvard Business Review (HBR), Jennifer Petriglieri and Gianpiero Petriglieri, discuss the stresses experienced by people at work who have been identified as talented “future leaders”.

The first moments of recognition past, they find themselves driving themselves, and being driven by others, to conform to some ideal image of the future leader that they will become.  (By the way, everything they say in the article could relate to any talented person, not just a future leader.)

Opportunities to explore and experiment, to perform in any more individual, divergent, way to this ideal, become few and far between.  It becomes increasingly difficult to reveal the more rounded aspects of their personality, or anything that might be perceived as “weakness”.

Not surprisingly, the author’s suggested remedies include valuing the present.  In fact, they suggest that this is the most important remedy for “breaking the curse”, and that individuals must make what they are doing now matter.

Their other two suggested remedies are to be authentic i.e. bring your whole self to work, rather than just the aspects that are supposed to reflect your talent; and to “own your talent” in such a way that you recognise it as something to be developed in ways that can include help from others.

Concluding thoughts

There is definitely happiness to be found from living in the moment, rather than waiting for deferred gratification from something that may or may not happen.

Which of the above approaches have you tried, or will you try?  What other approaches you have found to be successful?

 

About the author

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We use training, facilitation, coaching, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.) Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  

RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals).

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. 

She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she is a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

Exploring personality tools to enhance the diversity within our teams


By Elisabeth Goodman, 17th May 2017

My RiverRhee Associate, Liz Mercer and I have been doing a fair amount of reading and reflection to support our new course on Transition to Leadership.

The March-April 2017 issue of Harvard Business Review (HBR) gave us plenty to think about, as it explored some of the personality tools available to us to understand the diversity of the people within our teams.

HBR Mar-Apr 2017

Exploring biological systems to help us understand personality traits

“If you understand how the brain works, you can reach anyone” (pp.60-62) is the record of a conversation between Alison Beard, one of HBR’s senior editors, and Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist.  The latter has developed a personality questionnaire (on match.com and chemistry.com) based on her understanding of brain chemistry and others’ neurological research.  She also used brain functional MRI to validate the questionnaire.

Helen Fisher reminds us that personality is based on culture (nurture or upbringing) and temperament (nature or the influences of our genes, hormones and neurotransmitters).

She suggests that four biological systems are linked to personality traits:

  1. Dopamine and norepinephrine – which correlate with curiosity, creativity and risk-taking amongst other behaviours
  2. Serotonin – which correlates with greater adherence to social norms, and to tradition
  3. Testosterone – which correlates with tough-mindedness, directness and assertiveness
  4. Oestrogen and oxytocin – which correlate with intuition, imagination, empathy and trust (see previous blog on oxytocin and trust)

Helen Fisher suggests that some of the biological systems have analogies with and support some of the MBTI preferences.  So for instance the Thinking / Feeling preferences might equate to numbers 3 and 4 above.  And Judging / Perceiving might equate to 2 and 1.

She challenges some of the MBTI tenets in ways that MBTI practitioners would not agree with – for instance she suggests that Introverts cannot be “chatty”.  Whereas the MBTI definition actually includes the notion that Introverts can become quite talkative on topics that are important to them.  (See more about MBTI in one of my earlier blogs.)

Otherwise, Helen Fisher’s conclusions echo those for other personality tools:

  • You can benefit from collaborating with others whose strengths are complementary to your own
  • You can interact more effectively by adapting your style to match others’
  • If you have to act, on a long term basis, in a way that is different to your authentic style, it will be a strain
  • You can use your understanding of others’ strengths to build diversity into your team

The range of personality tools available to us

In “A brief history of personality tests” (p.63) Eben Harrell, another HBR senior editor, takes us quickly through MBTI, the five-factor model (or “big five”) and Strengthsfinder 2.0 (from Gallup).

[The article does not mention the wide range of other tools available to us such as Belbin Team Roles, Colours / Insights, NLP Representational Styles, Emergenetics and more…]

The five-factor model is apparently one that is “widely accepted by academics as the gold standard”.  It is based on a statistical study of words used to describe psychological characteristics across cultures and languages, with the following resultant list:

  • openness to experience
  • conscientiousness
  • extroversion
  • agreeableness
  • neuroticism

It may well be that I am mis-interpreting these words, but they seem to suggest that it would be a good thing if you demonstrated the first four behaviours.  Whilst it would ‘not be a good thing’ if you demonstrated the opposite of any of the first four, and also demonstrated the fifth!

However, if we choose to value the opposites that these terms suggest, as strengths, as other personality tools do, then they can also provide us with the basis for creating a richly diverse team.

Reading this issue of HBR was also very timely as it coincided with my reading of Claudio Feser’s new book on Inspirational Leadership, which also includes a section on the five-factor model.   The book explores, amongst other things, how an inspirational leader can adapt their influencing style to reflect the different personality types in this model or tool.

[There are a couple more articles in this issue of HBR that explore other personality tools, and how leaders are using them to enhance their understanding and how they can work more effectively with others.]

Closing thoughts

How we inspire others as leaders depends to a large extent on our ability to balance our emotional intelligence (EQ) with our intellectual intelligence (IQ).

Personality tools contribute to our EQ by helping us to better understand our own style of leadership and how we interact with others – our preferences and defaults.

That understanding will enable managers and leaders to clarify what strengths in others will most complement their own so that they can actively nurture diversity within their teams.

How will you enhance your understanding of personality types, or how have you done this already?  How will you / or have you applied this to enrich the diversity of your team?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We use training, facilitation, coaching, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  

RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals).

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  

She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she is a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

Knowledge Sharing – more than one reason and more than one way to do it


By Elisabeth Goodman, 7th April 2017

Cardiff Central Library

I am enjoying my first visit to Cardiff on two very sunny days in April, and combining a bit of sight-seeing with delivering the CILIP on-site course on Good Practices for Knowledge Sharing and Collaboration.  Spotting the rather impressive Central Library seemed an added reason to write a blog on knowledge sharing!

More than one reason for sharing knowledge

We know that people can be reluctant to share knowledge in the belief that doing so may result in them losing something – their uniqueness, indispensability, power even.  Yet hearing some of the success stories that my delegates tell about the times they have shared knowledge, and the impact that has had, should go some way towards convincing the skeptical.

Sharing knowledge brings value to the individual, and to the organisation.  It can be as simple as feeling that you have been helpful to someone and made their life easier and richer, and as ‘complex’ as resulting in cost savings to your company and improved customer service.  The gains from sharing knowledge can vastly outweigh the losses.

As an individual you can gain time as people no longer need to come to you with everyday questions.  You help to create a climate where others will be more willing to share their knowledge.  You gain recognition for the value you can bring to the organisation.  You have the satisfaction of knowing that you have contributed to improving the quality of work in your organisation.

And, as delegates discover when they try out some of the knowledge sharing techniques in the course, you can add new knowledge to your area of expertise as a result of sharing your knowledge with others!

More than one way of sharing knowledge

As delegates discover during the training course, there are many ways to share knowledge, they need not be difficult, and they can be fun!

Goldfish bowl illustration from “The Effective Team’s Knowledge Management Workbook”, RiverRhee Publishing 2016

We use the gold fish bowl as a way of exploring a topic in which two or more people have some expertise and others are interesting in learning about.  The ‘experts’ sit in the middle of the room, and have a conversation about what they know, challenges they’ve dealt with, opportunities they envisage.

Those on the outside are asked to take notes on they key points that they hear, and to then play those back.  It concentrates the attention of the listeners and so enhances their learning.  For the ‘experts’ it’s an opportunity to enjoy talking about what they know, and can also reinforce their awareness of their expertise.

It’s a simulation, in a relatively short space of time, of what people might expect to gain from “Communities of Practice”, or “Centres of Excellence” – where people have the opportunity to gather, across organisational silos, with colleagues who have related areas of expertise.  These can be short term, or longer term structures to address specific organisational problems, or provide opportunities for continuing professional development.

Other approaches we explore on the course include “Ask the Expert”, “Peer Assists”, “Learning Reviews”, “After Action Reviews” and also the use of storytelling.  Like the gold fish bowl, these provide a structure for the exchange of knowledge between those who have experiences, insights, expertise to share, and those who have questions that they would like to address.

As our delegates find, sharing knowledge in these various ways is not only enlightening but also enjoyable, and very beneficial to both the individual, and the organisation.  Sometimes it can result in a very pleasant surprise!

Torta della nonna – at San Martino, Cardiff – my treat to finish off a very enjoyable meal as a result of surfing TripAdvisor for recommended restaurants!

About the author

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We use training, facilitation, coaching, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  

RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals).

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  

She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she is a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

Oxytocin, trust, motivation and employee engagement


By Elisabeth Goodman, 9th March 2017

Introduction and a caveat

There seems to be a real wave of articles and seminars on the relationship between various hormones, mental health, and our performance at work.

I am definitely not an expert in this field, although I did complete a Biochemistry degree some years ago, and have kept generally in touch through my work in and with Life Science organisations.  I would certainly invite those who are more knowledge than me to clarify any aspects of the following article that might benefit from their greater expertise.

The Neuroscience of Trust. Jan-Feb 2017 HBR article by Paul Zak

That said, there is an impressive amount of research (see notes) behind Paul Zak’s article on “The Neuroscience of Trust” in the Jan-Feb 2017 issue of Harvard Business Review, pp. 84-90.  And the conclusions echo many points that we have come across and make in our training for managers and teams.

Click here for information on RiverRhee’s training, workshops and coaching for managers and teams

His conclusions echo many points that we have come across and make in our training for managers and teams.

oxytocin and trust or motivation?

Zak’s research has established that certain behaviours can increase the level of oxytocin, and that there is a clear link between this increase and trust.

He describes the following behaviours – some of which could arguably be ways to increase motivation rather than trust.  Although the end-result of increased productivity, collaboration, higher energy, happiness, loyalty and engagement could be the same (more on this below).

  1. Recognition (of excellence).  We know that recognition for having done good work can be a strong motivator for people.  Zak claims that this will be most effective if it’s immediate, from peers, is unexpected, personal and public.  My experience is that some people would be very uncomfortable with this form of recognition and would prefer something more low-key.
  2. Introducing a “challenge” stress. This is a stretch but achievable goal for a team.  Again, different people may respond to the perceived level of challenge in different ways.
  3. Give people discretion in how they do things. This echoes the point made by Dan Pink in “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us” about how motivating autonomy can be, resulting in important increases in innovation.  Micro-management is the flip side of this.
  4. Enable “job crafting” – giving people a choice of what projects they work on.  This also sounds a bit like “holocracy”: organisations that self-organise, rather that using traditional hierarchical structures.  I read about how the Morning Star tomato company was successfully adopting this approach in a December 2011 HBR article.
  5. Sharing information broadly. We  know that people can perform more effectively if they understand the purpose of what they are doing.  Open and frequent communication also help people when dealing with change. So the same goes for information about company goals, strategy, tactics.  Lack of information will certainly be counter-productive to creating trust.
  6. Intentionally build relationships.  High performing teams are typically those where there is a good balance of attention to relationships as well as tasks.  And for some people, it is the social interaction at work that is a great motivator for them to be there.
  7. Facilitate whole person growth.  Good managers will pay attention to the personal as well as the professional goals of their direct reports.  They will do that through coaching, mentoring and constructive feedback.
  8. Show vulnerability as a leader.  This seems to me one of the most powerful ways to demonstrate and promote trust, albeit within certain boundaries.  Good leaders will have direct reports whose strengths complement theirs – be it in areas of expertise, or in softer management skills.  They can give people the space and the opportunity to demonstrate these strengths, by asking rather than telling them about aspects of their work.

The positive effect of trust on self-reported work performance

Zak concludes his article by citing that greater trust has been found to increase:

  • energy
  • engagement
  • productivity
  • loyalty
  • recommendations of the company to family and friends
  • alignment with company purpose
  • closeness to colleagues
  • empathy
  • a sense of accomplishment

and to decrease burnout.

He also found that people working in companies with greater trust earn more – possibly because these companies are more productive and innovative…

So, however the neuroscience works, this certainly seems like a topic worth paying attention to!

Notes

  1. Paul Zak is the founding director of the Centre for Neuroeconomic , Studies, Professor of economics, psychology and management at Claremont Graduate University.  He and his team measured the oxytocin levels of blood in volunteers before and after they completed a strategic decision task designed to demonstrate trust.  They also administered synthetic oxytocin or a placebo in a nasal spray to prove that oxytocin causes trust.  They carried out further studies over 10 years to identify promoters and inhibitors of oxytocin, and created and used a survey instrument in several thousands of companies to measure the constituent factors of trust.  In addition, they gathered evidence from a dozen companies that had taken action to increase trust, measured brain activity in two companies where trust varied by department, and referenced an independent firm’s survey of about one thousand working adults in the US.
  2. Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We use training, facilitation, coaching, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  

    RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals).

    Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  

    She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she leads on Membership, Communications and Events for the Enabling Change SIG committee.

Framing your problem so it can be solved..


By Elisabeth Goodman, 22nd February 2017

I had a very enjoyable day yesterday teaching four young people about Lean and Six Sigma as they explored how to improve one of their processes.  I work on the premise that ‘problems are treasures’: the more you find and deal with, the less fire-fighting you will have to do at time and cost critical times. They found lots of lovely problems to explore, and we got stuck into the 5 Why’s and Fishbone analysis to find the root causes to one of them.

fishbone-analysis

Fishbone analysis – illustration adapted from “The Effective Team’s Operational Excellence Workbook” by Elisabeth Goodman, RiverRhee Publishing, 2015

How each problem is framed can make an enormous difference to what root causes are found, and how many of them.  This was graphically illustrated with when a re-framing of the problem resulted in some root causes that the team could actually do something about, as opposed to the original root cause which would have fairly limited potential.

I already know, from the workshops I’ve attended with the Ideas Centre that it’s worth exploring the nature of a problem before getting down to finding solutions for it.  There are many ways to do this.

Find the root causes

The Lean and Six Sigma techniques provide one way to do this.  As the story I share about the Jefferson Memorial building illustrates: there’s no point investing in bird scarers when the root cause for high cleaning bills caused by large number of birds, is actually when the street lights are turned on creating a food chain from midges, to spiders to birds.  The solution hinges on the timing of the street lights rather than the bird scarers!

jefferson-memorial-coloured

Illustration of the Jefferson Memorial building in “The Effective Team’s Operational Excellence Workbook”, by Elisabeth Goodman, RiverRhee Publishing, 2015

The different headings in Fishbone analysis can also provide useful prompts to explore what other themes might be associated with a problem.  Is it to do with people, the methods or metrics being used, the wider environment, the systems or IT involved, or the materials available?

Get other people’s perspectives

A Lean Sigma principle is that it’s the people doing the work who have the best understanding of the associated problems.  As I found in the Ideas Centre workshops, involving people who are not directly concerned with the work will bring some different and often helpful perspectives on a problem.  They will ask the ‘dumb’ questions that those doing the work might not be aware of, or may not have the courage to ask.  That could help re-frame the problem, as well potentially providing some very different solutions.

A January-February 2017 Harvard Business Review article: “Are you solving the right problems” by  Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg, p.76, refers to people who can provide these other perspectives as ‘boundary spanners’.

Think about the problem differently

One of my previous blogs about the value of learning to draw references a number of ways that we can think about or look at a problem differently, and the HBR article referenced above has a nice range of ideas too.

I like the suggestion that we could think about what could be happening, as opposed to what the problem is.  This has hints of NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) – what vision would we like to move towards?  Appreciative Inquiry – what situations can we think of where things have worked the way we would like them to?  Clean Language / Questions – what would we like to have happen?  We can gain insights from these positive mindsets and experiences that could help us reframe and resolve the problem.

Conclusion

 

It’s worth spending time experimenting with how you frame your problem.  What solution will one definition of the problem give you?  Will a different definition potentially lead you in a different direction?

The various techniques described above could help you.  Treating each problem as a treasure to be welcomed, rather than another headache to get anxious about could be an interesting mind-set to experiment with too!

As one of yesterday’s delegates said in his feedback, they took away some good learnings from the course: “Wonderful training course, learnt plenty, look forward to using this knowledge.”  Hopefully one of those learnings will be to think carefully about how they frame their problems.  Will you?

About the author

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We use training, facilitation, coaching, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  

RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals).

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  

She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she leads on Membership, Communications and Events for the Enabling Change SIG committee.