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What I need from who to perform well

How can we help people perform whithin organisations? What are the drivers or inhibitors of performance? Very often, we tend to focus on ‘fixing’ the individual, by training or coaching him/her. An interesting perspective on these drivers and inhibitors was developed by Thomas Gilbert, in a model called “behavior engineering model”. Although I think it’s a horrible name, I think there is value in its simplicity and inclusion of the environment. Key message is that we should focus more on ‘fixing the environment’, rather than ‘fixing the individual’. The model looks something like this:

For me, the model links well to the three basic questions what do I do, how do I do it, and why do I do it, see page “About dubioblog“. So in the lower picture, I made an adapted version of Gilbert’s model. As you can see, it’s not quite finished yet, but I hope it already starts to make a little sense. I added a personal touch to it (contrary to the ‘engineering’ approach of Gilbert), because we’re still talking about people, right?!

Q: Dear reader, what do you think about the models?

For more info on the model, read this article

Six universal principles of influencing

What makes us buy one particular brand, instead of another? What is the difference between influencing and manipulation? Interested (and a little scared) by the power of some influencing techniques, I decided to investigate some of the principles of influencing. At first glance, something doesn’t quite feel right about the word influencing. For me it is linked to selling, marketing or even manipulation. On the other hand, being aware of what is being used to persuade me into e.g. buying something could protect me agains it.

I would like to make my own decisions, based on what I find important, and not (only) on what others want. Is that at all possible? Well, maybe not, but I could at least try to be as aware as possible about what I base my decisions on. In the following video, professor Robert Cialdini explains what he sees as six universal principles of influencing.

Robert Cialdini on six universal principles of influencing people (click to open)

I visualised some of Cialdini’s messages in the video in the following scribble. In upcoming posts I will explore the topic of influence further, along some of the six principles.

Do it yourself doubting with the dubio-cube II

What connects our organisation? In what ways are the members of our team connected? How can we make a diverse team more aware of the value of its diversity?

Some posts back, I described how I think it’s important to know how what I’m good at, the choices that I make and what I find important relates to my company’s identity (See post: “How does my personal identity compare to my organisation’s identity?“).

Now, I will try to make this a little bit more practical, and propose a tool that can help me to find out more about what connects me and my teammembers and the organisation as a whole. It can be used individually or in a team, e.g. as an exercise at the beginning of a strategy/planning meeting. A word of warning: This idea is still in beta-stage, I’ve tried it myself, but not yet with a group.

Dubio cube: What would success look like for me/my team/my organisation?

The idea is that every side of the cube highlights a different perspective on what we are doing. One side focuses on how we do things, e.g. what methods or tools we use, while the other is about our purpose. So how does this work?


How to make a dubio-cube (click to enlarge)

  1. The first step is to download & print a dubio-cube (or a couple of them, say 5 per person).
    You can download a pdf version of the dubio-cube here, and assembling instructions here.
  2. Based on personal preference, the second step is to start filling in starting with the side of the cube that you like most. If you like, you can base what you fill in on the question “What would success look like for me/my team/my organisation”. Some people might prefer to start with the how-side, others probably want to start with the why-question (See also “What is your what-, how-, why-perspective?“).
    Try to fill in your chosen side with an example of a passion, need or value in case of the why-side, or a method or tool in case of the how-side. It can be any example you like, and it doesn’t have to be an example from your own job, it can also be from elsewhere in the organisation.
  3. After you filled in your preferred side of the cube, continue filling in the other five sides if you can. Some will be hard, but try to -at least- fill in the what-, how- and why- sides.
    Additional question for the what-side is “how much?”. Try to make the what a bit more specific by adding words like a few, nothing or everything. Don’t think too long about it though.
    If you like, repeat steps 1-3, and fill in more cubes, up to the point that you have at least five cubes. To stretch yourself a bit, you can try to have a different starting-side for a couple of cubes.
  4. Next, cut out your dubio-cube(s) along the outlines.
  5. Now fold all the edges of the cube to prepare the assembling.
  6. Put some glue on the flaps on the edges of the cube, and assemble it.
  7. Your dubio-cube is ready!

If you have a couple of cubes on similar topics (e.g. from different members of one team), you can try to figure out if you can find cubes that have a connection with another cube (can be your own, or that of a team member). Do we have a match? Or do some different how’s lead to the same what?

You should be able to place them next to or on top of each other based on their connecting sides. If you always put the why-side up, each layar you put on top of the first will lead you closer to your team’s purpose. Just keep on asking why. Probably you can extend the exercise by trying to make as many layars as possible. Ideally, I think this exercise should lead to a pyramid or triangle shaped building that represents your team’s strategy. See post “A hierarchy of questions” for further explanation on this.

Q: Dear reader, what do you think of this idea? Do you think you would be able to build ‘a pyramid‘ that represents your team’s strategy?

This post is an improved version of an older post with the same title

A conscious learning process

How can we make learning more real? How can we bring our work context into our learning environment? How can we be more strategic about our learning, and our capability to learn?

In previous posts, I described a way of looking at learning and learning to learn (see image above, and post “On learning to learn“). Now, let’s look at how we can organise that in (and around) a learning process, like a training programme.

I realise that within organisations, learning does not only take place in training programmes. In fact, there are more and more signals that the effect of formal learning interventions on on the job performance might be smaller than we have always thought. However, that gives me all the more reason to focus on how we can increase the value of a training programme. And actually, where it says ‘training programme’ in the image below, it could also say ‘learning opportunity’.

Alright, let me explain the picture. First of all, I think the learning process should start and end in ‘the real world’, linking actual work-issues to the training content (start up phase), and vice versa (transfer). We should be conscious of the relevance of our learning (x2) to our performance on the job (x). We can do that by bringing a personal story or case of what we do in our job to the training, or to make an action plan at the end of the training. Pretty straightforward so far.

Slightly less straightforward however, is to ask people, just before they are joining the programme, to draft a learning plan. Thinking about how you normally do things, and then thinking about what potentially you could do differently I think is a good starting point for developing yourself, to have an open mind to changing your ways.

Something even more rare is to take some time at the beginning of a learning event to discuss how to learn more effectively (learning to learn, x3). Planning your approach to learning, and making some clear choices on that (e.g. to fight bias, to listen better than normal, to check your assumptions), could increase the value of the learning experience.

Probably the biggest challenge would be to make these things common for performance in general, not only for training programmes. My aim would be to be a ‘conscious learner’ at all times, regularly checking how I can improve the way I do things, and how to increase my learning capability.

Q: Do you follow? How could we facilitate this ‘conscious learning’ process?

On learning to learn

What does learning to learn look like? Following up on my previous posts “Do, learn to do, learn to learn to do?” and “Is learning the same as performing consciously?“, I’ve expanded my experimental ‘Kolb+ learning model’ with an extra ‘learn to learn cycle’.

Three cycles of learning?

The additional ‘learn to learn loop’ in the picture above, adds a conscious approach to improving the way we learn. If we consciously evaluate our learning process, or ‘learning mastery’, and plan for a better approach to learning as a consequence, we might become better learners.

As was mentioned by Jurgen in the comments on my previous post (Do, learn to do, learn to learn to do?), learning and especially learning to learn can not always be planned. Often it happens ‘by accident’, and often these ‘accidental learnings’ are most valuable. So, considering my model relies heavily on planning (the green steps), is it any good?

I guess it depends on your definition of planning (hehe…. trying to semanthisise my way out of this…). Question is if you can plan for these ‘accidental learnings’ to happen, or if you can plan putting yourself in situations where they can happen. Can you plan to get rid of your biases, or to open up your periferal vision to see new things? As learning (or training) professionals, can we design ‘rich learning environments’ that increase learning opportunities to facilitate this?

Well, I guess I will have to write a couple more posts on this…

Q: Dear reader, is this a useful model for you?

Is learning the same as performing consciously?

Most trainers and learning & development professionals have probably heard of Kolb’s learning cycle, describing the process of learning from the things that we do. Concretely, it describes four steps:

  1. Concrete experience (doing / having an experience)
  2. Reflective observation (reviewing / reflecting on the experience)
  3. Abstract conceptualisation (concluding / learning from the experience)
  4. Active experimentation (planning / trying out what you have learned)
    (source: University of Leeds)

For the sake of challenging the model because I can, I’ve juggled it around a little bit resulting in the following drawings:

From performing consciously to learning?

The reason I adapted Kolb’s learning cycle is that it felt like it was describing the process of ‘performing consciously’, rather than pure learning. The distinction is so vague that it’s probably not worth mentioning, but I thought I’d give it a try anyway. For me, the Kolb+ drawing describes actions, followed by an evaluation of the result of these actions and planning new ones (on the left), but with an extra element.

While reflecting on our actions (and their value to us), we obviously learn. However, to increase the value of the learning experience, it might make sense to actively plan a learning experience. That’s what I try to visualise with the extra steps on the right side of the drawing. I’m seperating actions (doing) form practice or learning experiences. For true learning-geeks, you could say that the evaluate-step on the left side corresponds to Kirkpatricks level 3 and 4 evaluations, and the evaluate-step on the right with level 1 and 2.

For me personally, this model -although a bit more complicated- is more accurate, especially if you factor in the concept of meta-learning, or learning to learn (See post: “Do, learn to do, learn to learn to do“). In a next post I will expand the model to include this.

Q: Dear reader, do you agree it makes sense to seperate ‘learning’ from ‘performing consciously’?

Do, learn to do, learn to learn to do?

If our ‘what’ are our choices, our ‘how’ are our actions, and our ‘why’ are the reasons we choose our ‘what’ or do our ‘how’ (See post “The dubio-formula!“), than how would we define learning? How about defining learning as ‘learn how to do’ (equals ‘how to how’ or ‘how x how’)? Then learning to learn would be how x how x how?

20120123-143834.jpg
From doing to learning to learn how to do

This might sound obvious or insignificant, but I feel there is value in realising that investing time and effort in learning how to learn (…how to do something) is probably more effective than -just- investing in learning. Especially since most learning programmes (that I know of) forget about this.

A hierarchy of questions

As I described in my previous post “Do it yourself doubting with the dubio-cube“, I think a team’s or company’s strategy could be described by a number of cubes stacked on top of and besides each other based on how their sides connect. Ideally, I think the shape should be a triangle, or even a pyramid. I will explain why I think it should look like that.

First of all, to be fully aware of what we are doing as a team, we should know what we do, how we do it, and why (See post: “Who are we?” and “How do we do it?“). You could call it our team identity. However, when I try to find out everything about our team identity, I find that it’s not instantly obvious how all these things connect. For example, we might have a way of doing things, but forgot exactly why we do it like that. Or we might be very aware of what we believe in, but not how it relates to the choices that we make. Stacking dubio-cubes, I think can help to connect these things.

The image below describes how I think the cubes should be stacked. The why-sides of the cube should be aligned vertically, each layar leading up to ultimately our common vision, set of beliefs or values. You can get there by continuing to ask “Why?” for each of the what on a cube. For example, if it says “Benchmark with other companies” on the what-side of a cube, and “To find out what other companies are doing”, you can continue by asking “Why do we want to know what other companies are doing?” and fill in the next cube.

Stacking dubio cubes

It can also be done the other way around of course. If you start with an important belief, or the vision of your team, you can add layars building the fundament of your triangle by asking “What can we do to get there?”. If, for instance, your vision is to become the prefered grocery store in your village, you might build a fundament by adding a cube for “selling the products the people in my village want to buy”, or for “being the cheapest grocery store in the village”. Both valuable ways to help attain the top ‘vision-cube’ I guess.

As we all know, pyramids need quite a broad fundament, to not fall over (duh…), and I think this also is true for strategic insight. Having a broad foundation in this case, means you are aware of a lot of options to choose from in order to reach your vision. A good thing, right (See post: “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity” and “The future has a way of arriving unannounced“)? The ‘how much’- question on the what-side of the pyramid (see previous post) helps to figure out to what extent you choose for each of the options you have. Prioritising.

Finally, the foundation of the pyramid (making it a true pyramid, instead of a triangle) can be extended in the other direction by asking “How can we do that” (how-side) for the options (what-side) that we have. Are there other methods? Can we use different tools? For example, if it says “Know what the customer wants” on the what-side of a cube, and “Interview customers” on the how-side, you can consider placing another cube behind it (seen from the same orientation as the picture) saying “Sending out a survey along with our products”.

Do it yourself doubting with the dubio-cube!

Please note, there is an updated version of this post (click to go there)

What connects our organisation? In what ways are the members of our team connected? How can we make a diverse team more aware of the value of its diversity? Some posts back, I described how I think it’s important to know how what I’m good at, the choices that I make and what I find important relates to my company’s identity (See post: “How does my personal identity compare to my organisation’s identity?“).

Now, I will try to make this a little bit more practical, and propose a tool that can help me to find out more about what connects me and my teammembers and the organisation as a whole. It can probably be used individually or in a team, e.g. as an exercise at the beginning of a strategy/planning meeting. A word of warning: This idea is still in beta-stage, I’ve tried it myself, but not yet with a group.

  1. The first step is to print a couple of dubio-cubes (say 5 per person) with the outline of a cube that can actually be assembled (see image below). Trying to assemble a cube based on the image below will not work very well, as it was drawn by hand. Later, I will provide a more accurate image that you can download.
  2. Based on personal preference, the second step is to pick the side of the cube that you like most, based on the question “What would success look like for me/my team/my organisation”. Some people might prefer to start with the how-side, others probably want to start with the why-question (See also “What is your what-, how-, why-perspective?“).
  3. Try to fill in your chosen side with an example of a passion, need or value in case of the why-side, or a method or tool in case of the how-side. It can be any example you like, and it doesn’t have to be an example from your own job, it can also be from elsewhere in the organisation.
  4. After you filled in your preferred side of the cube, fill in the other five sides if you can. Some will be hard, but try to -at least- fill in the what-, how- and why- sides. Additional question for the what-side is “how much?”. Try to make the what a bit more specific by adding words like a few, nothing or everything. Don’t think too long about it though.
  5. Repeat steps 2-4, and fill in more cubes, up to the point that you have at least five cubes. To stretch yourself a bit, you can try to have a different starting-side for a couple of cubes.
  6. Next, assemble all cubes and put them all together in one place.
  7. Now for the most interesting part of the excercise, try to figure out if you can find cubes that have a connection with another cube (can be your own, or that of a team member). Do we have a match? Or do some different how’s lead to the same what?

Dubio cube: What would success look like for me/my team/my organisation?

If you have enough cubes, you should be able to place them next to or on top of each other based on their connecting sides. If you always put the why-side up, each layar you put on top of the first will lead you closer to your team’s purpose. Just keep on asking why. Probably you can extend the exercise by trying to make as many layars as possible. Ideally, I think this exercise should lead to a pyramid or triangle shaped building that represents your team’s strategy. I will explain further in the next post.

Q: Dear reader, what do you think of this idea? Do you think you would be able to build ‘a pyramid‘ that represents your team’s strategy?

Strategy as a piece of art

In the previous post “Creating our company’s strategic storyline“, I  described how I think creating a storyline, describing ‘the meaning of life’ for an organisation can help people within the company ‘own’ the strategy. And in the post before that “How does my personal identity compare to my organisation’s identity?“, I described three approaches to describe a strategy: strategy as a shared direction, strategy as a set of core competences, and strategy as a set of shared beliefs. In this post, I would like to add another perspective: strategy as a piece of art.

As I argued in my last post, I believe that a good strategy should include the how, what and why, and include a future perspective. However, for it to become a true piece of art, it should also include some background. Why is our current strategy different from last year’s strategy? What were the considerations that brought us to these strategic choices? Did we have any doubts about this, or were we pretty sure about what to do? Having answers to these questions, for me provides the background, and ‘human touch’ necessary for me to embrace the strategy.

For me that’s where the art comes into the strategy. The personal value of a piece of art is not only in the way we see feel or hear it, or the ‘face value’, but also in what we believe it really is, or where it came from. In his talk “The origins of pleasure” (see below), Paul Bloom explains how this works along some clear examples. My view is that this is also true for strategic communications.

Video: Paul Bloom, the origins of pleasure

Even if objectively, our strategic communications are great, it could be of low value to an individual employee because of her/his (subjective) perception of it. As, like Bloom argues, our beliefs about the history of an object change how we experience it, we might consider adding some historical background to our communications. We want to know how it came about, and that a lot of work and expertise went into it. While talking about the future direction of our organisation or team, we could for instance consider sharing some stories about our considerations and the doubts that we had while shaping our thoughts on this. Probably it would be even better to actually include people in the process, but even sharing the thought process could help.

Another point Bloom makes is that for a piece of art to be perceived as valuable, it should be considered original. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is also true for communications on strategy. Is a strategy more valuable if it’s distinctly different than that of other organisations or teams? I guess so.

When designing a description of our organisational or team identity (probably a better word than strategy?), we could consider adding a ‘past perspective’ to the mix. Combined with the what- why- how- questions, it could look something like this:

 

 Strategy as a piece of art?

I realise the comparison between a strategy and a piece of art is a bit makeshift, but my point is that it might be good to approach it in a similar way, especially in our communications.

I hope this makes sense, if only a little. Please let me know if you would like to share your view on this, or if you have suggestions for improving or extending my reasoning.

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