Saturday, December 31, 2011

Adieu 2011: It's been nice, but I've got to keep moving.

Dear 2011,

Year end is a pause and a celebration.
Some very good things happened this year that have been in the works for a while.

In 2006, I created and implemented a strategy to change direction, both personally and professionally. Essentially, I challenged convention and walked against the traffic in my work and personal life.

Two things happened. An accident of poetry resulted, and I have made changes in my life that continue to inspire the way ahead in terms of health, self awareness, helping others and work.

Joining Gold's Gym 5 years ago was liberating as I got hooked on group fitness classes. Last year, I became an fitness instructor at Golds, teaching Centergy, which is a yoga / palates combination that challenges and redefines the brain and the body. I love it because not only does it keep me focused on my own fitness goals, it helps others to set and achieve their goals. I have to say teaching 2 hours a week is the best 2 hours of my week, because it's all about them, and not about me. And that is the secret to happiness. To get off the "me" track and help others stay on their track.

Self awareness is about paying attention to the negative noise that bombards our lives, understanding how we interpret these sounds, and managing a response. In 2006, the process that I embarked on included writing 30 minutes a day. Surprisingly the output was in a poetic form of expression. After 5 years of learning about the publishing process and editing, I titled this accident of poetry:

"Died of a . . . a private collection of lives lived so far, found walking against the traffic and told through an accident of poetry" 

The manuscript was finally delivered to a publisher for consideration this week. I will not be giving up my day job. But as my daughter says, that's the only way you will know.  Fingers crossed, but I will continue to write, whatever the outcome.

Giving back is an important part of my life and business philosophy. Over the past 2 years, I have been helping George Reed establish his George Reed Foundation as a member of the Board. We are proud of our first gala fundraiser in December.  Working with the Board and the planning committee has been one of my great joys of 2011. It feeds my soul, and now we can help people who have disabilities or are disadvantaged in our community.

Family Services Regina is another non-profit that I continue to support, both as a Board member and whenever possible in the community.  This agency helps families and individuals who are suffering in a cycle of abuse with a myriad of professional programs and services. We hold two fundraisers a year - Juke Box Jive and a Luncheon.  I urge you to get involved by attending or providing sponsorship and donation.

In the work quadrant, after 16 years of a freelance love affair with strategy and communications, Lynear Thinking Strategy and Communications Consulting Ltd. came out of the proverbial corporate closet with a declared focus on creativity, entrepreneurialism and opportunity.

In 2012, you will find me working with a brand of leadership and teams who are creative, entrepreneurial and optimistic. And you will find me at the gym.

So 2011, it's been nice, but as the song goes, "I've got to keep on moving".  2012, I will see you on the other side of midnight. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

To Facebook or not to Facebook: That is the question.

 Everyone is communicating these days. Facebook, Twitter, blogging and LinkedIn, for example, are commonly used. Since the birth of these social media babies, everyone is communicating. But are they? That is the real question.

I would say, it depends on what you have to say, how often, and whether or not your target audience is listening. If you are Gene Simmons or Justin Bieber for example, you might not have anything to say, but people are willing to listen. (Incidentally, did you hear what Bieber got for Christmas?)

Facebooking has become one of the communication vehicles that business can use to reach an audience. Images are easily uploaded as are status updates.
For those who like to share a thought a moment, there is Twitter.  

LinkedIn is described as the business meeting place. Profiles are professional in nature as are the conversations.

Blogging is another vehicle that helps you get the message out in the form of story.  My view on blogging is that they should follow journalistic principles.

Personally, I love them all, but I am a professional communicator so I enjoy the experiment.  

From a business standpoint, these tools can help you educate your audience in an integrated way.

For example, my website at is fully connected to my Facebook page, blog, Twitter account, Linkedin and to my online CV.  This allows me to provide information to potential clients or employers from a single point of access.

I update my blog weekly, or when I have something relevant that others might find interesting. My blog is updated to my Facebook page and Twitter. I am also careful about who I accept on Twitter by not allowing opening following.

From a personal standpoint, these tools help families and friends to connect a way never before possible. 

But if you are a business interested in entering the fray of social media here are some things to be aware of.

1.  Strategy 

We often confuse the toys and the tools with the strategy. Social media tools are just enablers that may be a part of a broader communication strategy, or may not. I recently heard an interview with Jon Bon Jovi who acknowledged the potential power to reach millions of people simultaneously, but that he will never be tweeting about his dinner. That's not his strategy. The band Bon Jovi uses social media to talk to their fans about the music.  Not dinner.

2.  Investment 

There are costs - time, financial and reputation -  so be prepared to invest or walk away. Communication is an art and a science, I would recommend consulting a professional communicator. Just because you can utter the English language does not make you a communicator. (I can count, but that does not make me an accountant.) Communications professionals understand audience and messaging. They can help you reach your audience and manage your message in good times and in the times of crisis.

3. Content

You need good, relevant content that people will be interested in reading. A Facebook page without good content becomes stagnant. The upside to a Facebook page or blog is the content is easily updated so it can alleviate website management costs. If you have a story to tell, blogging is a great tool, but there again, it is best to access professional resources to blog your story. Bad blogs are just noise.

4. Frequency   

I would ask you to consider frequency.  Bogging down the Facebook pages and mail boxes of your "friends" who "like" you can be like an guest that never leaves. We might "like" you, but we will "unsubscribe" so we never have to hear from you unless we initiate the conversation.  

5. Management and monitoring

Your social media sites need to be monitored. While you want to attract your market, you will also attract those who feel they have the right to say whatever they want all over your pages. For example, when a disgruntled employee vents all over your page, you need to be aware of it, and you need to either offset the situation by blocking, or you need to remove the offending comments.  If you play in the world of social media, you need to be aware of privacy and permissions as the tools and the world continue to change and evolve. The default privacy setting for Facebook is open, because that is the intent, but it may not be yours.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Scratching the Intrapreneur's Itch: the Lynearthinking Way

An Entrepreneur attempts to make profit by undertaking a task or business enterprise though risk and initiative.

An Intrapreneur is described as an employee of a large corporation who is given freedom and financial support to create new products, services, systems, and does not have to follow the Corporation's usual routines or protocols.

Whether one is an entrepreneur or an intrapreneur, these people are the risk takers and inventors of our time. They have an itch to scratch and they build a scratching post.  Then they find a way to make others want it to and bingo, we all have a scratching post.

Entrepeneurs have a reputation for being risk takers. They may be former corporate intrapreneurs whose revolutionary creativity and spirit scared the beejezzuz out of their conformity loving counterparts (and supervisors).

The fact is, to be successful in any business, both are needed. A visionary who cannot implement is a dreamer.  An implementer with no vision becomes irrelevant.

But there tends to be a clash of culture between the dreamers and the doers.  It is a classic case of pink flamingos and brown ducks  trying to co-habitate.

I believe that this chasm between the brown ducks and pink flamingos has its roots in the control based origin of strategy as a military tool.  When it was introduced into business thinking, the reigning mindset was one of command and control.

But since then, thinking has changed. We know that success requires engagement, creativity,reinvention and due dilligence. Therefore, the culture of the organization is the key to putting to rest this clash of the feathers.

An organization that values creativity, innovation, diversity and leadership is more likely to ensure the structures and procedures that are required to run a business also facilitate and encourage brilliance. Non-linear processes are in place to provide for incubation and expression of creativity.

The planning process is culture based.  It both mirrors the current culture and issues and can be used to enhance the culture.  

Organizations that are control based tend to create structures and procedures that are linear in nature, with decision making at the top of the organization. In this environment, proceses are linear and budget driven. I have seen as many as 9 budget drafts in a single process.  When this happens, nobody knows what is behind the numbers, and frankly, by that time, they don't care, and don't want to share their plans. So they spend the next year quietly implementing whatever plan they might have, reporting the bare minimum and quacking in code so nobody will ask questions. As this cycle continues, year over year, the same plans seem to be brought forward, and nothing seems to get done. The waters become stagnant.

People who want to get somewhere - the Intrapreneurs - become frustrated. And planning never gets off the executive table.

As a strategic planner with a penchant for creativity and a solid appreciation for due diligence, this is the Lynear way of thinking and planning.

1.  Executive sets the targets up front and communicates them so that everyone knows the appetite for direction, spend and speed. 2 buckets are put aside:  one for day to day operations, and one for development. Each "bucket" has its own own planning, decision making and reporting process.

A. Operations
  • Managers develop their operational plans and budgets that describe inputs that are required to run their business area. For example, an accounting department that runs the core activities of budgeting and reporting will need to define the employee requirements needed to perform the work.  
  • Each operational plan is reviewed against the already communicated targets and approved by the executive of that area. 
  • Once plans are approved and budgets are rolled up, they implemented and reported quarterly through a corporate process. 
B. Development
  • Establish an initiative  or developmental planning process whereby new or ongoing initiatives are planned, scoped and brought forward for discussion through a committee assigned to direct the development budget.  
  • Each initiative must describe what will be accomplished, how, when, the amount of employee weeks that will be required (this is subtracted from the operational plan), the technology, systems and capital required to implement the plans for the year, and the associated risks.  
  • The "Development Committee", comprised of senior members of the management team (not executive) debate the initiatives with the creators, and make a recommendation on the best use of the development budget. 
  • The executive can then review and approve the development plan.  
  • Approved initiatives are implemented with progress against plan reported quarterly through a corporate process. 

The Lynearthinking model facilitates an environment whereby planners own their plans and are responsible for leading implementation, which includes inspiring others to help them. Things that get done are reported. Things that do not get done are reported. Accountability is achieved.

The key to the Lynearthinking model is sustained leadership and commitment.  Once an organization commits to this path, the usual change - based reactions occur.  People may resist engagement if they do not understand what is being asked of them, if their leaders are not on side, or if they do not like to plan, and would rather execute.

This approach is one of cultural change and takes time to engineer.  Year 1 focuses on creating the process and understanding. Year 2 is about improvement, and year 3 it begins to feel operational.  Leadership commitment is required to sustain the change so that by year 4 and 5, the way of working has been established.