Where Are We Going (This Year)? Why? How?

The organizations we’re working with are in it to win it. While they have gotten stronger in their leadership, while their organizations have gotten stronger, and while we’re seeing more collaboration, they’re currently not winning.

Business as usual will not get us there. We need to be thinking and working together smarter, not just more. If we do that, we think we can start to win… and keep on winning.

If business as usual will not get us there, then how we try to create that time to think and work together smarter cannot look like business as usual. In particular, we know that — for most of us — operating in the Important, But Not Urgent of the Stephen Covey quadrant is very challenging. (In many ways, we can frame the How of what we’re trying to do as finding ways to spend more time in this quadrant.)

So how do we create that time and space? Start small. This is why we’re starting with one-on-ones. It’s the easiest thing to make time for, and it’s high-value. Because of who are leaders are, it’s highly unlikely that they will make time to talk to each other and not get value out of it.

How are we supporting this process?

First, by creating a feedback mechanism. Remember the angsty email we got from one of our leaders about not holding up her weight? That’s a very common feeling among all of us. Part of what the engagement tracker + visualization does is show us how much time we’re actually spending, so that we’re not beating ourselves up based on perception.

Second, by synthesizing and reflecting back what is heard, so that we’re constantly building, not repeating, and so that the conversation becomes collective, not just one-on-one. (Synthesis + reflection is the essence of good facilitation.)

Third, we’re trying to co-create a container with the leaders. We can push them on what a good container looks like, but they have to do the work in the end, or this process fails.

One of our main challenges is reminding folks how what we’re doing now is connected to the big picture. A visualization might help, but it won’t solve the problem for us.

In Built To Last (the classic book by Jim Collins and Jerry Pollas), one of the leadership practices they cite from extraordinary organizations is constantly communicating the big picture. CEOs from these positively deviant companies spend up to 50% of their time doing this.

We need to be doing this with the design team, and the design team needs to be doing this with their peers. This isn’t happening right now, at least not at the level it needs to be.

So how do we address this? Time. We need to be spending more time on this with our design team leaders, and we need to be on message when we’re talking to them. The prerequisite for this is for us to have that message deeply engraved inside all of us, so that we are all regurgitating it with ease.

What’s made this extremely challenging is circumstances. Trying to do this in July and August of an election year is the worst possible time to do it, because people are on vacation and they’re also ramping up for the elections. On top of that, over half of our design team either spent a significant portion of the summer on leave or are missing key members of their senior staff.

This is not an excuse, it’s the reality. And, we have still done remarkable work together. The rich content on the Wye website as well as the data and infrastructure on this one don’t lie. Think back to where both we and Wye were one year ago. Think about what’s different now. Think about all the work we’ve done that’s made things different.

Our minimum goal for July-August is 10 leaders engaged. We’re at 7 with less than two weeks to go. We may not hit that goal, but we’re already close. We need to acknowledge what we’ve accomplished, but also make the adjustments we need to have success.