Don’t Just Add, Replace. Own the 100%

The phrase, Don’t Just Add, Replace is probably one of the best productivity tips I have been able to give crazy-busy managers over the years. I recently mentioned it within the discussion we had on the challenges when you adopt the D5M: Can you fail with The Daily Five Minutes?

In wrapping my arms around the Big Picture thinking all managers must embrace, percentages have always appealed to me. I first wrote about the strategy of owning the 100% in a posting I had done for several years ago. Here is a reprint for our Talking Story reference.

Don’t Just Add, Replace. Own the 100%

Here’s a sample snippet of a coaching conversation I have often had with executives. To set the scene for you, it usually happens after we’ve discussed a project or strategic initiative and its value alignment for their organization.

Exec: “This is terrific; I can see how it will make a big difference for us. I’m anxious to get started; we could probably introduce the plan at our next staff meeting.”

Me: “I agree, it is a terrific plan. However let me ask you something before you move on to how you’ll communicate it, or to the campaign you’ll subsequently run with it. What are you assuming this additional project will replace in your existing operation?”

Exec: “What will it replace? Well, the old way we’ve been approaching things; we all agree that our present tactics aren’t all that effective.”

Me: “When you say ‘present tactics,’ how much are you referring to? Are you completely confident that everyone will make the same assumptions you are, and not continue trying to handle both the old and the new? What are the reasons they might want to hold on to the comfortable, tried and true way they’ve always approached this?”

Exec: “Listen, I don’t want to micromanage the thing. I’m sure they can figure it out.”

Another potential stress factor lobbed into the organization. Unless” we continue the conversation to figure out how without micromanaging, the Exec can articulate some suggestions whereby he gives them the gift of reasonableness, not adding to their sense of overwhelm.

You may be underestimating your influence

The reality of most organizations, is that pleasing the boss, in handling directives both old and new, contributes to the significant, and rampant proliferation of auto-pilot, sacred cows, stressful overload, and productivity slowdowns. Like it or not, and whether you want to admit it or not, when you are the boss, people are very selective about the questions they’ll ask you, fearing they are exposing their own shortcomings or lack of self-confidence. If they perceive “the old way” was one of your once-favored pet projects, they’ll hold on to their practice of it, even when they might think better of it otherwise.

When you are about to add to someone’s workload, you should own the 100%. What I mean by that, is that the responsible thing to do, is to own the productivity equilibrium in the operation when you contribute to it.

The one assumption you should make, giving them the benefit of the doubt, is that everyone is already working at 100% of what they feel they can handle. If you add another 10%, you can’t expect them to be equally productive now at 110%. Thus, 10% somewhere else has got to go, and suggestions from you on what that old stuff you are expecting to (or willing to) replace, can really help.

This doesn’t just apply to executives, but to leaders and managers at every level of an organization. Adding versus replacing is contributing to workplace overwhelm every day, and in small ways that add up to BIG drags on overall productivity.

When I coach clients to do audits for process duplication within their organizations, it is amazing how much they find, and how much “Listen, I don’t want to micromanage the thing” turns into “I can’t believe we still do this!”

Even with unanimous agreement on its breakthrough merits, no matter how extraordinary your new idea or captivating project might be, it will add to workload. Excitement dims quickly when the pep rally is over, and reality sets in. You’ve got to reckon with the domino effect any new project or strategic initiative can create, by always seeking to replace, and not just add. Own the 100% and help your organization realize the full benefit of your breakthrough ideas.

(Photo courtesy of Andrew B. on Flickr)

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A Valentine of Aloha

Are you ready for some good lovin’? The only answer, is “Yes!”

Happy Valentine’s Day, 2011

Aloha — love and respect of self and others, in everything
~ Prepping for Ho‘ohana

“Every single day, somewhere in the world, Aloha comes to life.
As it lives and breathes within us, it defines the epitome of sincere, gracious, and intuitively perfect customer service given from one person to another.”
~ Managing with Aloha
~ Your Aloha Spirit, Tightly Curled and Regal

“In his soul he did not respect her and, without being aware of it, did not love her, though by the notions of the circle in which he lived, by his upbringing, he could not imagine to himself any other relation to his mother than one obedient and deferential in the highest degree, and the more obedient and deferential he was, the less he respected and loved her in his soul.”
~ we learn how Count Vronsky feels about his mother,
referred to earlier in the chapter as a “brilliant society woman”

in Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina

Imagine for a moment, how this same relationship can play out in the workplace between manager and those ‘managed.’ Even the ‘highest degree’ of obedience and deferential treatment feels so shallow and unfulfilling, doesn’t it. We much prefer, and want, the love of Aloha.

Love by Arwen Abendstern on Flickr

Love can be a hard concept to wrap your arms around at work, but respect isn’t.

If you want to love your people, start there:
Ask yourself, on this Valentine’s Day, how can I better respect my team?

Ask, how can I show how much I respect them, within my thoughts (for they feel them), in the words I use (for they hear them), and in my every action? (for they see them.)

Need I more respect for their intelligence?
Need I more respect for their feelings, and emotional well-being?
Need I more respect for their history, their experience, their heritage and sense of place?

Respect their uniqueness in whatever form they present themselves to you.
Respect their complete worth, and people will feel your love.

Last year: Valentine’s Day is Aloha Blooming

Can you fail with The Daily Five Minutes?

The D5M is coming up a lot lately, which is great! Unfortunately, that means the “yeah, but” responses can follow suit too.

After all these years I’m still trying to solve my teaching challenge with it (and I’m totally open to your suggestions): The Daily Five Minutes stirs up objections when managers hear about it for the first time, even when they immediately get how investing 5 minutes today can save them hours of heartache and extra work later.

They needn’t say so outright; I easily see it in their eyes, or in their changing demeanor, as they sit back and cross their arms defensively. In fact not just upon first hearing; managers even object when they read about it in Managing with Aloha, already having 144 pages to warm up with!

The Daily 5 Minutes appears in MWA within the chapter about ‘Ike loa, the Hawaiian value of learning. That was a purposeful decision for me, for first and foremost, I do consider the practice a learning tool. In adopting it, you are tapping into what you can learn from the people who surround you.

Learning (‘Ike loa) is the why. Conversation (Kākou) is the how.

So what’s the problem? I’ll tell you what I think it is, and if I’m wrong, and you have another reason, please email me, and help me understand your point of view better than I do.

(Photo courtesy of Eddi van W.)

A warning label borne of past experience

Embracing my natural resistance with doing so, if I were challenged to present The Daily Five Minutes to you with a warning label, this would be my draft with it:

In my experience with bringing the D5M to different work teams, regardless of industry, there are two main challenges to the practice becoming part of a work culture:

1. You add first, replace later.
By necessity when done correctly, the D5M does start as a brand new practice both givers and receivers must learn. Thus it starts as a daily addition to task loads managers may already feel burdened with, and they don’t give it their best shot — the best shot required so it begins to work its magic of replacing those other tasks. You have to trust in the process, go all in, and then go the distance, having faith that what starts as an addition becomes a killer of a replacement.

The D5M is a proactive conversation. Once you have proactive communication practices, all your reactive conversations begin to go away. There are less fires to put out because cooler heads always prevail, and no fires were ever started. Big maintenance and/or stopgap projects, such as those dreaded employee surveys, go away completely and forever — people only feel they need to be heard in employee surveys when face-to-face workplace communication is dysfunctional, broken, or depends on unintentional neglect.

However this won’t happen overnight, and some patience is required. New for you, is new for everybody, which leads to the second challenge:

2. You can’t ignore any history.
Everyone will have history to deal with unless the business is brand-spanking-new. The D5M creates disruption where people have gotten pretty good at hiding or ignoring stuff, and that disruption is something managers must be able to handle. Initially, these are even more additions: Will you be able to handle them? If you’ve voiced a “yeah, but” of some kind, have you anticipated this, and is your objection hinting to some self-preservation instinct kicking in?

Think about it: Most people will not readily accept new change until they deal with old irritations. I bet you feel that way too: It seems to be a universal truth no matter where you sit in any organization. Things will come up which you’d thought you’d already dealt with, but no, a conversation still needs to be had: So have it!

Thus the short version of my warning label is this: There will very likely be a price to pay for the good the D5M eventually will deliver. As I see it, that price is a bargain in the grand scheme of things.

All failure is a temporary state of affairs

To address the question of my post title, managers must be able to ‘fail forward’ and do so with Ho‘ohanohano (feeling they both give and receive Aloha, dignity and respect in their workplace) so they can grow in the ways they’ve managed and led in the past. They’ve got to be strong on their own, or have the strong support and mentorship of their boss, with everyone understanding that the workplace transition created by the D5M can be unsettling.

Simply said, the Daily Five Minutes stirs things up. In the end though, the result of a healthier workplace culture is always worth the stirring. Always.

Relationships change in The Daily Five Minutes — they’re supposed to, changing for the better. And the manager is the one who has to take the high road as everyone involved learns, ‘gets taught,’ and gets a taste of those proactive conversations they may have been avoiding before. There’s good, there’s bad, and there’s ugly: You clear your decks in the beginning so you can start fresh without anything having been swept under the rug to fester, and trip you up later on. And everyone gets their shot at you: The worse thing you can do in the D5M is avoid people. (Tacit approval is another yucky thing which is replaced, and goes away forever :)

Do you want easy, or do you want effective?

Do you want more commiseration from me, or a ticket to a brighter future?

I’ve never claimed that The Daily Five Minutes was easy to do. I think it’s very easy to learn the logistics of it, but I’m no Pollyanna: I know you’re rocking your world as a manager when you completely buy in, and give it that ‘best shot’ I ask you to. You’re having conversations you’ve never had before, with people you thought you knew completely, but now discover are more complex than you ever imagined they were. And yes, more needy.

And that is precisely the beauty of it. If you do The Daily Five Minutes, you will become a better manager. If you still question your own calling — Should I be a manager, or should I be doing something else? — the Daily Five Minutes will give you a very clear answer, once and for all.

You’ll stumble at times. You’ll be embarrassed. You’ll eat crow. You’ll admit, “I don’t know, and I have to find out for you.” more than you ever thought you would. It will be a rocky road as you clear your decks to deal with past history, and possibly ask forgiveness for past sins, but you will grow immensely.

And your people will admire you for making the effort: The D5M is essentially a private, one-on-one conversation, but it is a highly visible “I care” habit in the workplace.

No matter the journey, every employee who goes through adopting the Daily Five Minutes with you will eventually become your ‘Ohana in Business partner. That’s the experience which makes me so stubbornly insistent about this:
So you want a MWA jumpstart. Do the Daily Five Minutes.


Your People are Your Daily

They aren’t “a project.”

I must start this posting by saying that I greatly admire the gentleman I’m going to quote shortly. I’ve read all his books, and have implemented several of the suggestions he makes within his expertise of GTD productivity, blogging about them extensively in past years. However this beginning to his recent newsletter sent up such a red flag with me:

I decided to make it a project (and priority) over the last few months to sit down with each and every employee in my company. I heard feedback (positive, plus improvement opportunities) and a ton of creative ideas (amazing what others see who are positioned in a different way in front of the fire hose!) I am now culling all of that intel. and looking at a stack of creative ideas. Interestingly enough, dedicating so much time to that process threw the rest of my personal workflow way out of my comfort zone of being in control. But what a great opportunity to creatively see how we can grow and adapt as a global company.

I challenge you this month to consider doing something that will take you out of being in control—even just a little bit. As long as you know how to regain composure and balance, and that you will get there, soon enough, you’ll be fine. There may be an unseen opportunity waiting for you to grab.
~ David Allen

The red flag is CEO detachment. Makes me think back to the first time I saw Undercover Boss (I never made it to a second episode).

If you believe in the overall philosophy of Managing with Aloha, and you decide to adopt it, this good intention of sitting down with each and every employee in your company cannot be ‘a project.’ It has to be your everyday m.o. I don’t care how big your company is.

David Allen needs the Daily Five Minutes.

I am sure Allen does have all kinds of conversations with people on his staff, and on a daily basis. However his project approach described here is a recipe for disaster at worst, and workplace mediocrity at best. Unless he is an exceptional delegator, the likes of which I’ve never seen, and able to delegate to a truly stellar network of Alaka‘i Managers, I simply cannot imagine how Allen can possibly follow-up on what he’s described as “a ton of creative ideas” — not to the extent where each person he spoke with feels valued versus filtered.

His aside is what he is consistently missing within the better context of their operational presence: “amazing what others see who are positioned in a different way in front of the fire hose!” Umm, yeah, you think?

Talking to your people, — Your. People. — cannot be an occasional project. To say this in the words that Allen himself taught me, conversations with your people are “Next Actions” for a whole slew of projects, probably every single project you can possibly think of. Conversations with staff have to be an integral part of your everyday life as a manager, for then valuing their ‘intel’ is part of your everyday life too. Following up gets less stressful, for it also becomes a smaller, more nimble bit of something daily or weekly. Like all the rest of it, delegation gets easier, and more timely. There’s less clutter: I’ll bet a lot of what Allen heard was stage play for that rare opportunity people got with the big boss.

In his newsletter, Allen goes on to feature what he’s ended with in this quote, the urging to get out of one’s auto-pilot, and “Stretch, disrupt, regroup, stabilize” your personal system. I agree with that part, but if you seek to be an Alaka‘i Manager I must insist on this: Talk to your people daily to Care for your people daily, even if your Daily Five Minutes translates to seeing each of your 800 employees once every 3-4 years. You will be setting up a great habit, and a highly visual one, where keeping your people as Job One inspires them to help you keep your common causes as their Job One.


No Archive Aloha of related reading will be listed with this post. I’ve embedded several links already in a sincere hope you will check them out, and they will encourage you. If you feel you are usually more of a project with your boss, share this link with them, and then work on being a gracious receiver the next time they approach you.