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How design thinking can help your organization

In today’s rapidly changing world, organizations are challenged to work collaboratively to accelerate innovation more than ever before. The COVID-19 pandemic has also forced many organizations to adapt how they operate. Design thinking is an approach to creativity and problem solving that is utilized by some of the most innovative organizations in the world, including corporations, non-profits, universities, schools, and healthcare organizations. 

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Design thinking is a non-linear human-centered approach to creative problem solving. It can help us better understand the experiences of others, define complex problems, and develop innovative solutions. As we prototype and test solutions, design thinking can be an iterative process to build on and modify solutions. In addition, it can help redefine problems as we empathize with people. Design thinking can help us solve problems that users need and want us to solve. 

I will apply the five steps of the design thinking process as taught by the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University (the d.school). More information about design thinking can be found at the d.school.

Empathize

Empathy helps us understand the problem of the user by setting aside our own assumptions. Users are those we are trying to better understand. In a sense, we walk in the shoes of an individual or group of people to better understand their experiences. We can practice empathy through observation, interviewing, and empathizing with the needs of others. 

Define

Once we have spent time empathizing with the user, we begin to define the user’s problem. It is important to ask, “What problem of the user am I trying to solve?” Einstein is quoted as saying, “If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions.” I recommend divergently exploring problem statements and then begin to narrow them down. Min Basadur recommends using the phrase “How might we…?” to define the problem as described in this Harvard Business Review article

Ideate 

We can begin to ideate on possible solutions after defining the problem. During the ideation step, we want to “think outside the box” and divergently explore solutions before we begin evaluating them or narrowing them down. Most of us are familiar with brainstorming which can be used during this step. At the end of this step, we will have a solution ready for prototyping. 

Prototype

For those who do not have experience with prototyping, this step can seem intimidating. Prototyping is the process of developing a quick and inexpensive representation of the solution. The prototype might be a physical object made out of inexpensive materials, a drawing, or an experience map. Maps can detail the steps of a customer experience when receiving a service, an employee’s journey from looking for a job to getting hired and promoted, or the experience of a student looking for a college to enrolling. This process brings the solution to life that the user can see and experience.

Test

After a prototype has been developed, we test the prototype by gathering feedback to determine its effectiveness. It is important to show the prototype to users and allow them to share whether the prototype solves their problem. This step can be an iterative process with improvements to the prototype. 

We provide workshops that allow hands-on opportunities for participants to apply the design thinking approach in their professional and personal lives. Participants will learn how empathy, ideation, and experimentation are foundational steps of the innovation process. Prototyping will be introduced and practiced as a way to experiment developing physical objects and mapping experiences and services. Participants will walk away with an enhanced understanding of design thinking and how these skills can be applied within their organization to improve products and services. If you want to learn more, please contact us.

T.A. Dickel Group, LLC is located in Evansville, Indiana, and we focus on enhancing organizational leadership, strategy, and creativity in the surrounding region.

Dr. Tad Dickel is a leadership, strategy, and creativity consultant who works with businesses, nonprofits, colleges, schools, and churches. He received a Certificate in Family Business Advising from the Family Firm Institute, a Certificate in Nonprofit Board Consulting from BoardSource, a Certificate in Fundraising Management from The Fund Raising School, a Certificate in Foundations of Design Thinking from IDEO U, and holds a Ph.D. in educational leadership from Indiana State University. Tad is a Certified Basadur Simplexity Thinking Facilitator and Trainer, Certified Basadur Profile Administrator, and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) Certified Practitioner.

Uncategorized

I’m worried about the winter

As I write this blog, I’m hoping the content will be irrelevant when winter comes. I ran across this article on CNN last month: “Americans need to ‘hunker down’ this fall and winter as Covid-19 pandemic will likely worsen, Fauci says.” Most of us in the United States have been fortunate during the pandemic to enjoy good weather during the spring and summer months that has allowed us to spend time outside. 

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For me personally, I’ve spent more time outside this spring and summer than normal. The weather has allowed me to take regular walks and responsibly socialize with people. These activities have helped relieve some of the stress and anxiety related to the pandemic. When the winter comes, there may be days, weeks, and months when that time outside will not be possible. 

As I said at the beginning, I’m hoping the content of this blog will be irrelevant when winter comes, and we will have a vaccine. In my work with scenario planning, I know that hope is not a good strategy. We need to plan for different scenarios. 

I’m concerned about people this winter. In my work as an organizational leadership, strategy, and creativity consultant, I regularly help develop successful leaders and create plans for future success. We all know that our employees are critical to organizational success, and their personal lives impact their professional work. I encourage employers to develop a strategy to ensure you are ready for the winter. 

Here are some ways to support your employees and be ready for the winter:

Strategies for combating anxiety: My friend Dr. Jim Schroeder is a psychologist, and he recently wrote an article titled “We can do this.” He suggests three strategies for combating anxiety, and I encourage you to consider how you can foster these mindsets in your workplace. The first mindset is gratitude, and he describes how the act of being thankful has a positive impact on our health and happiness. The next tool is empathy. When we embrace empathy, it helps us focus on someone other than ourselves. He concludes by discussing the “discipline of challenge versus despair.” This mindset helps us focus on opportunities and allows us to convince ourselves that we can get through this challenging time. 

Promote physical fitness and a proper diet: There are many studies supporting the benefits of exercise and healthy eating on our mental and physical health. This might be a great time for your organization to explore ways to encourage activities that promote physical fitness and a proper diet. 

Focus on employee engagement: I’ve written about Gallup’s research on employee engagement in previous blogs, and I think this is a time to really think about engagement. As Gallup shared in their book, It’s the Manager, the role of the leader is extremely important. Clifton and Harter (2019, p. 12) found that “70% of the variance in team engagement is determined solely by the manager.” Leaders have an opportunity now to ensure their employees and teams are engaged. Gallup’s (2019) research has led to identifying “The 12 Elements of Great Management” that can be answered by employees to determine the level of engagement of individuals and entire organizations:

  1. I know what is expected of me at work.
  2. I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right. 
  3. At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.
  4. In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.
  5. My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.
  6. There is someone at work who encourages my development.
  7. At work, my opinions seem to count.
  8. The mission or purpose of my organization makes me feel my job is important.
  9. My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work.
  10. I have a best friend at work.
  11. In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.
  12. This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow. (pp. 286-300)

As many organizations have moved to virtual work and adopted social distancing practices, I think many of these elements of employee engagement have been neglected. I encourage managers and leaders to wholeheartedly commit themselves to ensuring their employees are engaged. It could begin with a discussion or survey around these elements followed by a plan to enhance employee engagement. 

Coronavirus anxiety resources: I ran across an excellent website with resources related to virus anxiety. If you are looking for tools, I encourage you to look at this site: Care for your coronavirus anxiety.

Leaders have a tremendous opportunity now to make a difference on the lives of those around them. I hope you can apply these ideas now or create a plan for the winter. 

If you need help enhancing your organizational leadership or develop a strategy for success, please contact us. 

Reference:

Clifton, J., & Harter, J. (2019). It’s the manager. Gallup Press.

T.A. Dickel Group, LLC is located in Evansville, Indiana, and we focus on enhancing organizational leadership, strategy, and creativity in the surrounding region.

Dr. Tad Dickel is a leadership, strategy, and creativity consultant who works with businesses, nonprofits, colleges, schools, and churches. He received a Certificate in Family Business Advising from the Family Firm Institute, a Certificate in Nonprofit Board Consulting from BoardSource, a Certificate in Fundraising Management from The Fund Raising School, a Certificate in Foundations of Design Thinking from IDEO U, and holds a Ph.D. in educational leadership from Indiana State University. Tad is a Certified Basadur Simplexity Thinking Facilitator and Trainer, Certified Basadur Profile Administrator, and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) Certified Practitioner.

Leadership

Three ways leaders can use feedback to improve employee performance

Providing feedback to employees can be one of the most challenging responsibilities of a leader. There seem to be two extremes: 

  1. Some managers completely avoid giving feedback. 
  2. Other managers provide feedback that upsets employees in a way that is counterproductive.
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In my leadership coaching practice, I frequently discuss giving feedback with my clients. The goal of this blog is to provide three ways leaders can use feedback to improve employee performance. 

Providing feedback immediately after something does not goes as well as expected:

In this video, The secret to giving great feedback, cognitive psychologist LeeAnn Renniger provides a four step process for delivering difficult feedback:

  1. “The micro-yes” helps the feedback receiver know feedback is coming. The feedback deliverer asks a question such as “Do you have five minutes to talk about how that last conversation went?” The micro-yes commits the feedback receiver to the conversation.
  2. A “data point” is a specific description of what was observed. If an employee has missed a deadline, the leader might say “You were supposed to turn in the report by the end of yesterday, and I still haven’t received it.”
  3. A leader should “show impact” by describing the impact of the data point. For example, the leader could say “As a result of not receiving the report, I could not begin the proposal for a customer who expects the proposal today.” 
  4. The leader should “end on a question” such as “How are we going to move forward?” This approach can make it a two way conversation and create buy in. 

This five minute video is a must-watch for anyone who has to deliver difficult feedback. The approach can also be applied to providing positive feedback that is very specific in nature. At the end of the video, Renninger also mentions the importance of leaders asking for feedback from those around them. 

Providing regular, ongoing feedback

Marshall Goldsmith has suggested a six question agenda for meetings with direct reports that includes the following questions:

  1. “Where are we going?”
  2. “Where are you going?”
  3. “What is going well?”
  4. “Where can we improve?”
  5. “How can I help you?”
  6. “How can you help me?”

Goldsmith suggests the manager ask the questions of the direct report and then the manager can provide additional comments. For example, when the manager asks “What is going well?” the direct report may share information that the manager is not aware of. The manager can add areas that he or she has observed are going well. The “Where can we improve?” question allows an opportunity for the direct report to share some ways to improve, and the manager can agree or possibly add another area of improvement. This approach allows the manager to develop an excellent rapport with direct reports and remain informed of efforts throughout the company. 

Providing feedback from multiple sources

There is value in gathering feedback from multiple sources. We often use a 360 degree feedback process to gather information from direct reports, supervisors, customers, and peers. The input is compiled into a single report to provide confidential feedback. This approach allows those providing feedback an opportunity to be open and honest with their comments. Simple questions such as “What is this person doing well?” or “What changes do you suggest this person makes?” can be used. The questions can also be more specific based on the type of position. After providing feedback from a 360 degree process, I recommend developing a growth plan for the employee. Giving the employee an opportunity to select an area of improvement is a great way to develop buy in for the improvement process. Companies might consider utilizing a 360 degree feedback process on a regular basis such as once a year or every other year. 

I hope these suggestions are helpful. Please contact us if you would like to discuss leadership coaching and training options. 

T.A. Dickel Group, LLC is located in Evansville, Indiana, and we focus on enhancing organizational leadership, strategy, and creativity in the surrounding region.

Are you ready to learn how we can help develop your leaders?

Dr. Tad Dickel is a leadership, strategy, and creativity consultant who works with businesses, nonprofits, colleges, schools, and churches. He received a Certificate in Family Business Advising from the Family Firm Institute, a Certificate in Nonprofit Board Consulting from BoardSource, a Certificate in Fundraising Management from The Fund Raising School, a Certificate in Foundations of Design Thinking from IDEO U, and holds a Ph.D. in educational leadership from Indiana State University. Tad is a Certified Basadur Simplexity Thinking Facilitator and Trainer, Certified Basadur Profile Administrator, and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI®) Certified Practitioner.

Uncategorized

The difference an effective leader makes

In May 2020, I wrote a blog titled “A leader’s infinite mindset inspires.” I’ve continued to reflect on the infinite mindset that is needed in organizations, and one of the most powerful quotes from Simon Sinek’s The Infinite Game describes one way we can measure the long term success of an organization:

“In the Infinite Game, the true value of an organization cannot be measured by the success it has achieved based on a set of arbitrary metrics over arbitrary time frames. The true value of an organization is measured by the desire others have to contribute to that organization’s ability to keep succeeding, not just during the time they are there, but well beyond their own tenure.” (p. 9) 

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Can you imagine how different organizations world be if leaders focused on improving “the desire others have to contribute to that organization’s ability to keep succeeding, not just during the time they are there, but well beyond their own tenure”? (p. 9)

It’s no secret that humans are motivated by short term outcomes. Leaders can choose to focus on short term metrics or focus on the long term. In reality, leaders set the tone and have a tremendous influence on their organizations and the individuals they are surrounded by. 

There are numerous studies that emphasize the importance of quality leadership on organizational and employee performance. In addition, many of us have anecdotally experienced how a manager’s efforts increased or decreased our motivation and job performance. 

Gallup has extensively researched team engagement. As Gallup shared in their book, It’s the Manager, the role of the leader is extremely important. Clifton and Harter (2019, p. 12) found that “70% of the variance in team engagement is determined solely by the manager.” When things go wrong, do leaders look at themselves 70% of the time or blame other factors?

Gallup’s (2019) research has led to identifying “The 12 Elements of Great Management” that can be answered by employees to determine the level of engagement of individuals and entire organizations:

  1. I know what is expected of me at work.
  2. I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right. 
  3. At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.
  4. In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.
  5. My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.
  6. There is someone at work who encourages my development.
  7. At work, my opinions seem to count.
  8. The mission or purpose of my organization makes me feel my job is important.
  9. My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work.
  10. I have a best friend at work.
  11. In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.
  12. This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow. (pp. 286-300)

Clifton and Harter (2019) cite numerous studies related to employee engagement and improved organizational outcomes, including profitability, safety, customer satisfaction, productivity, lower employee turnover, and quality. 

The Leadership Challenge by James Kouzes and Barry Posner (2017) is considered a classic leadership book by many. Through years of research, the authors have identified “The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership”:

  1. Model the Way
  2. Inspire a Shared Vision
  3. Challenge the Process
  4. Enable Others to Act
  5. Encourage the Heart (2017, p. 12-13)

According to Kouzes and Posner (2017), leaders who put these practices into action more often than other leaders:

  1. “Create higher-performing teams
  2. Generate increased sales and customer satisfaction levels
  3. Foster renewed loyalty and greater organizational commitment
  4. Enhance motivation and the willingness to work hard
  5. Facilitate high patient-satisfaction scores and more effectively meet family member needs
  6. Promote high degrees of student and teacher involvement in schools
  7. Enlarge the membership size of their religious congregations
  8. Reduce absenteeism, turnover, and dropout rates
  9. Positively influence recruitment yields” (p. 22)

These studies emphasize the behaviors and practices of leaders. How is your organization intentionally developing leaders who are focused on improving team engagement as described by Gallup, embodying the “The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership” identified by Posner and Kouzes, or developing “the desire others have to contribute to that organization’s ability to keep succeeding, not just during the time they are there, but well beyond their own tenure”? (Sinek, p. 9)

We help organization’s develop more effective leaders through leadership and executive coaching and training workshops. What would improved leadership do for your organization? If you are looking for ways to build the leadership potential of your employees, please contact us. Virtual and in person options are available. 

References: 

Clifton, J., & Harter, J. (2019). It’s the manager. Gallup Press.

Kouzes, J.M., & Posner, B.Z. (2017). The leadership challenge: How to make extraordinary things happen in organizations (6th Ed.). Wiley. 

Sinek, S. (2019). The Infinite Game. Portfolio/Penguin.

Are you ready to learn how to improve leadership within your organization?

T.A. Dickel Group, LLC is located in Evansville, Indiana, and we focus on enhancing organizational leadership, strategy, and creativity in the surrounding region.

Dr. Tad Dickel is a leadership, strategy, and creativity consultant who works with businesses, nonprofits, colleges, schools, and churches. He received a Certificate in Family Business Advising from the Family Firm Institute, a Certificate in Nonprofit Board Consulting from BoardSource, a Certificate in Fundraising Management from The Fund Raising School, a Certificate in Foundations of Design Thinking from IDEO U, and holds a Ph.D. in educational leadership from Indiana State University. Tad is a Certified Basadur Simplexity Thinking Facilitator and Trainer, Certified Basadur Profile Administrator, and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI®) Certified Practitioner.

Strategy

Strategic planning during uncertainty

Most organizations recognize the importance of long term planning. However, some organizations get caught up in what the book The 4 Disciplines of Execution by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, and Jim Huling describe as the “whirlwind” which is “made up of urgencies that consume your time and energy” (p. 7). As I have discussed strategic planning with current and prospective clients in recent months, many are struggling to plan when there is so much uncertainty related to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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When I first became involved with strategic planning processes, I was introduced to the classic Jim Collins and Jerry Porras article “Building Your Company’s Vision” which was published in the Harvard Business Review in 1996. This article remains a classic strategy article and is included in HBR’s 10 Must Reads in Strategy. The authors discuss how successful organizations set a 10-30 year “Big Hairy Audacious Goal.” I don’t know about you, but setting a 10-30 year goal during this time of uncertainty seems daunting and perhaps a bit unrealistic. 

Unfortunately, the current uncertainty has led many organizations to maintain the status quo and get caught up in the “whirlwind” instead of strategically planning for the future. For those organizations struggling with strategic thinking, I encourage them to consider the following approaches as variations to traditional strategic planning processes:

  1. The 4 Disciplines of Execution (4DX) identifies four disciplines that help organizations develop strategy and improve execution of strategy. To avoid having too broad of a focus, 4DX encourages organizations to focus on a single “Wildly Important Goal” or “WIG.” All individuals and teams within the organization align their efforts with the WIG by “acting on lead measures.” Lead measures are behaviors that are directly tied to the WIG. A “compelling scoreboard” is created to track success. “A cadence of accountability” is established through brief weekly “WIG sessions” that review progress and make commitments for the upcoming week. This intense focus can really help an organization set a vision for the future, and implement it, and regularly review progress. 
  1. A strategy screen helps organizations identify criteria for making decisions. In his book The Nonprofit Strategy Revolution, David LaPiana writes: “The Strategy Screen is not a rigid framework. Its value is in making your decision-making criteria explicit” (p. 66). Organizations can spend time developing a strategy screen by reflecting on why the organization exists, what it values, and what is feasible. LaPiana (2018) suggests all strategy screens have criteria related to how well the strategy is consistent with the organization’s mission and will “build on or reinforce our competitive advantage” (p. 64). Other examples might include: Will this strategy become profitable within one year? Is this strategy consistent with our organization’s values? A strategy screen can be created now, and developing this criteria in advance of strategic decisions can be beneficial for all organizations. 
  1. Scenario planning helps organize plan for uncertainty, and this process can be particularly valuable while navigating the COVID-19 pandemic. Belinda Lyons-Newman (2020) identifies four steps for scenario planning: (1) “Identify external uncertainties,” (2) “Identify internal uncertainties,” (3) “Explore multiple, alternative futures,” and (4) “Assess the scenarios using a strategy screen.” This process helps identify “what if” scenarios, develops a plan for responding to them, and clarifies criteria for making decisions. Scenario planning can be particularly valuable for industries that are experiencing significant disruption and uncertainty. 

There are numerous approaches to strategic planning, and this article is not intended to be a comprehensive listing of approaches. If you are interested in learning more about strategy, I encourage you to spend some time reading the articles and books that I have written about. One thing is certain: we can’t afford to wait around until things become “normal” again to think strategically and plan for long term success. 

We facilitate planning processes with a wide range of organizations and customize processes to meet their organizational needs. Planning processes can be facilitated in person or virtually. If you are interested in learning more about how we can help you plan for future success, please contact us

References:

Collins, J., & Porras, J.I. (1996, September-October). “Building Your Company’s Vision.” Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from: https://hbr.org/1996/09/building-your-companys-vision#:~:text=Vision%20provides%20guidance%20about%20what,core%20ideology%20and%20envisioned%20future.

HBR’s 10 Must Reads in Strategy. (2011). Harvard Business Review. 

LaPiana, D., & Campos, M.M. (2018). The Nonprofit Strategy Revolution (2nd Ed.). Turner. 

McChesney, C., Huling, J., & Covey, S. (2015). The 4 Disciplines of Execution. Simon & Schuster. 

Lyons-Newman, B. (2020, May 8). “Scenario Planning: Rapid Planning in a Time of Rapid Change.” Retrieved from: https://blog.boardsource.org/blog/scenario-planning-rapid-planning-in-a-time-of-rapid-change?_ga=2.216094229.241316251.1595867701-1637645238.1574390002

T.A. Dickel Group, LLC is located in Evansville, Indiana, and we focus on enhancing organizational leadership, strategy, and creativity in the surrounding region.

Are you ready to learn how we can help you plan for future organizational success?

Dr. Tad Dickel is a leadership, strategy, and creativity consultant who works with businesses, nonprofits, colleges, schools, and churches. He received a Certificate in Family Business Advising from the Family Firm Institute, a Certificate in Nonprofit Board Consulting from BoardSource, a Certificate in Fundraising Management from The Fund Raising School, a Certificate in Foundations of Design Thinking from IDEO U, and holds a Ph.D. in educational leadership from Indiana State University. Tad is a Certified Basadur Simplexity Thinking Facilitator and Trainer, Certified Basadur Profile Administrator, and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI®) Certified Practitioner.