In October 31th 2023, I wrote a blog about information overload. Our brains are, quite simply, tired. Many professionals are still feeling the carry-over from the pandemic. Some find it difficult to focus due to global uncertainty and wars underway overseas. And some of us are cognitively stretched, given how much work we need to get through.
So this week here is a question for you: how can you progress your strategy execution and implement your plan, while at the same time helping others with their own sense of overload?
My tip for this week:
The truth is, you can get more cut through and more support from others, if you make things easier for them. Make it quick and easy for those around you to authorize recommendations, provide their input, make decisions, take on projects.
To reduce information overload, structure your information clearly. When you delegate instructions, ask for input or give recommendations:
start with a brief summary of what you’re asking.
if it is very complicated, consider chunking it into different “asks” – or separate decisions – at different points in time.
when you have a list of reasons, causes or other points, provide no more than 3 or 4 items (absolute maximum of 5!). I aim to limit my weekly newsletter tips to 3-4 (there are only 3 points in this list…. I have many more tips on this topic, and will provide these another time.)
Rationale for lists of 3-4 items:
Traditional wisdom (Miller’s Law, 1956) showed that we could recall a “magic number of 5 plus or minus two”. I think this is why telephone numbers were historically limited to 7 digits, grouped by area codes. (I live in Sydney Australia and this seems to be an exception where we have 8 digits!)
More recently, this magic number of 5 was refuted by neuroscience studies which show that in fact most human brains can only recall 3-4 items (Cowan et al 2010). So don’t forget to structure your information for your stakeholders to make things easy for them.
I’ll dive deeper into “Six secrets to stakeholder success” on December 12th 8-9am AEDT (11th if you’re in the US). To participate, join the Turbocharge membership at the price of a coffee a day. This is especially for transformation leaders and innovators who are looking to change their ecosystem. This is NOT about business as usual.
Case study on governance gone wrong: the answer
Last week I gave an example of governance gone wrong. I was asked by a Finance function to advise on a failing program to implement a digital business model.
Symptoms of failure:
Lack of progress and a failing pilot. Over budget.
Those involved fragmented and de-energized .
Lack of clarity amongst steering committee members, and also project resources.
Business leader focused on BAU troubleshooting.
The best answer I received was was from Trish Sparrow, Senior Business Analyst in Texas. Trish pointed out that we needed to address ownership and accountability on the part of steering committee and project sponsors, and a risk assessment. I gifted Trish the participation in a free group coaching session in the Turbocharge membership for sharing her ideas. Well done Trish!
To bring the project back on track this is what I recommended (3 points only):
Get someone to represent the busy business leader on the steering committee and in key project meetings. You can’t run an initiative to implement a new digital business model without business expertise.
Focus the project meetings on solving the key issues, and escalate to the steering committee meetings. If they had done this, they would realise that the pilot was failing as they were guessing at the solution. Move from guesswork to precision. Get customer feedback.
Change the program manager – they had insufficient business acumen to pick up on the issues and ensure key players had clarity. Also they had insufficient change management awareness on how to navigate decision gridlock and inertia. The initiative needed a program manager with a multi disciplinary approach: business, change, project management, and understanding of workplace culture.
Clients, partners and sponsors
As we approach the year end, you’ll be wondering how to take things up a notch in 2024.
Research reveals that a lack of Strategic Thinking skills prevents middle managers from participating fully in Strategy Activation, and this can impact on their Promotability to senior roles. My talented colleagues, Tamar Altbeker and Dr Norman Chorn have designed a program to enhance strategic thinking and boost promotability. For more info, contact firstname.lastname@example.org and mention my name.
Quote of the week
“Magic lies beyond our fears”. Suzanne Mercier, Leadership Coach, in writing about getting outside our comfort zone.
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About Lisa Carlin
As a strategy execution specialist and scaleup mentor, Lisa works with ambitious digital leaders to turbocharge their transformation and business planning. Lisa’s clients have an independent sounding board and expert advice so they have absolute confidence they WILL ACHIEVE THEIR GOALS. Lisa is Co-Founder and Director of FutureBuilders Group of organisational development specialists, and volunteers as Chair of the University of Cape Town Australia Trust. Her early career was with Accenture (South Africa) and McKinsey (USA).