If you have ever hit your head really hard, you may be familiar with the bright flash of light followed by a little disorientation, confusion, and dizziness. For those that don't know what I am talking about, consider yourself lucky - it's not a fun experience. Just like it is not a fun experience working with a team where everything is moving along smoothly and then someone starts “can’t-standing” (like grandstanding, but with excessive use of the word can't). When that happens I get all the head injury type symptoms. Followed by a massive headache. I hate that word. Can’t. Just looking at it makes me angry.
Can't, Can't, Can't...
That word has derailed more projects than any other word in the English language. I’m not sure which word is currently in second place, but I can guarantee its not a close second. Seriously, the human race has successfully placed a human being on the moon and returned them safely to Earth! I'm pretty sure we can do this.
As a young facilitator, I used to think some people were put on this planet to make sure nothing progresses. Ever. People who habitually use the word can't are not evil people. They're really not.
They can be a huge asset to an improvement team
“Wait, what? You mean my co-worker who invents reasons we can't ever change anything at all is an asset to an improvement team?!? Chris, have you lost your mind?”
People with this tendency are ultra talented at finding barriers. These are often barriers your team is going to have to overcome anyway. The key is in drawing out those barriers while preventing the language from stalling all of the team’s momentum. Here is a process to make that happen.
How to harness the good energy and block out the bad
Preparing for the meeting that you anticipate will turn into a “full-on can’t festival”...
During the Meeting...
After the Meeting...
Consolidate the ideas into an action plan format, and then congratulate yourself and smile (like an "I just did that" cocky kind of smile). Because you, like Christopher Columbus are a crusader - you just navigated some pretty choppy waters and successfully charted the course for you and your crew to discover the new world. Good work.
For most, snakes are pretty scary, or creepy, or gross, or [insert other non endearing adjective here]. I admit to screaming and running from a snake or two in my lifetime (I won't reveal my age at the time, but I can assure you - that was the fastest I have EVER ran). What is interesting to me about snakes is their ability to swallow large prey whole, and as it digests, you can actually watch the lump of food move through it's body. (you are probably thinking - where the heck is he going with this? Stick with me here...)
I'll spare you the images here, but for those interested, there are plenty of videos on YouTube of snakes eating wolves, deer, and other large animals. The larger the animal, the longer the digestion. If a snake tried to eat something the size of a Volkswagen, could you imagine how that would go? Completely stretched thin, and surely a long, painful digestion. Yikes. So you know what snakes don't do? They don't eat things that are too big to digest.
Are snakes smarter than most businesses? Apparently.
Businesses try to bite off more than they can digest all the time. Think about it. Does your company have a master list of all the projects that have been started and/or are actively being worked on? I've seen companies have lists with hundreds of active projects. Yes, hundreds - with an 's'. Do you know what happens when you have that many projects being worked on at once? Resources stretched thin, and VERY. SLOW. DIGESTION. It takes FOR-EV-ER to get any of them done.
Stop doing that. Find your high impact projects and let the rest sit idle. Here's how to tell the difference.
I'll quickly walk through the steps to fill it out a Prioritization Matrix and use it to prioritize your potential projects. I have a free template to make this set up really easy, just click here to get it.
A Prioritization Matrix is made up of four components:
Here is a sample layout:
Using a Prioritization Matrix in a Few Easy Steps
Step 1 - List all the projects you could be working on (If you use the four quadrant method explained here, you’ll be able to pull all your number 2’s into this list.) Helpful hint: if some of these “project candidates” feel like something that can be done in a half an hour or so, there’s no reason to include it on the spreadsheet. Projects that are bigger and are difficult to estimate how long they’re going to take to complete are the ones that really belong in this matrix.
Step 2 - Identify the important criteria to be used to "rate" each project and put them in the spreadsheet. Then for determine the weight for each criteria and plug them into the spreadsheet as well. (If all the criteria are relatively equal - just put a "1" in for the weight).
Step 3 - Now continue through rating every project for every criteria. The “total” column will automatically tabulate the results by multiplying a project's score for each Criteria times the Criteria Weight that you assigned and calculate a total score for each project. If you are an organization that has a lot of projects, this could be a lengthy process, but you will be glad you did it.
Step 4 - All you have left to do is sort the spreadsheet by your total score from largest total score to smallest and it will sequence them in the order to work through them.
So, back to the original question - can a snake eat something the size of a Volkswagen?
Honestly, I'm not really sure. The better question may be, "why would he want to?"
Something I am sure about: don't spread yourself too thin by biting off too much and make sure the limited projects you are focused on actually deserve your attention.
Thinking of Outsourcing your Internal Audits?
Christopher M. Spranger, MBA, ASQ MBB
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