September 2017

Project Stuck? Try Using A “Black Box.”

2017-09-10T18:44:23+00:00 Categories: SandBlog, think|Tags: , , , |

When a scientist or engineer designs a new process, they run into many unknowns. You can expect that when creating something from scratch. However, they could have so many unknowns, if they tried to solve each as they occurred, they’d get mired in minutia and never finish the project.

To deal with these sticky spots, they put each unknown into a “black box.” The box serves as a placeholder for what they’re missing. They assume what comes out of the black box is what they need to continue the path in the process. This allows them to progress without getting distracted.

Black Box Diagram

They will come back to their black boxes later and figure them out, or find someone who can.

The black box technique can come in handy when us non-scientists get stuck on something.

For example, when working on your marketing plan, you know you should include a social media strategy. But, you don’t know much about social media or the right tactics.

Your lack of knowledge may cause you to:

  • (a) omit this as a strategy, or
  • (b) head off to immediately become a social media expert.

If (a): You may miss a potentially critical strategy.
If (b): You’ve lost focus and spun off into a tangent.

Either way, your plan may suffer.

Instead, insert a black box to represent your social media strategy. Continue with the rest of your plan, and return later to add the missing details.

Next time you get stuck on an idea, try using black boxes. Don’t let a temporary lack of information hold you back.

January 2012

Achieve Goals + Resolutions With Bite-Sized Chunks

2017-08-21T16:35:23+00:00 Categories: Sand for Your Inbox, SandBlog, solve|Tags: , , , |

Have you ever tried to put together a jigsaw puzzle with 500 or 1,000 pieces? It takes a while… And, needs to be done in more than one sitting.

One of the reasons we miss achieving goals, New Year’s resolutions, and business strategies is that we try to accomplish too much at once. We approach the 1,000-piece goal as if it can be finished in one sitting.

We get frustrated, the finish line seems a million miles away, and, we lose motivation.

A better approach is to cut your goal into bite-sized chunks.

Take the big idea and cut it into milestones. Cut milestones into projects. And further slice projects into tasks.

You then tackle the smaller, easier to accomplish tasks. Each task another puzzle piece. Before you know it, you’ve achieved several projects and reached most of your milestones…

I know… this idea isn’t rocket science… but sometimes in our excitement (and impatience) to get things done, we forget the basics. I wish you the best in meeting your goals, achieving your resolutions, and creating truly innovative things.

I wish you the best putting that puzzle together.

May 2011

Champion Ideas: Built-In Beats Bought-In

2017-08-21T16:52:05+00:00 Categories: SandBlog, solve|Tags: , , |

You and your team – after a few meetings and many hours – have the plan all figured out. Excellent! Now, you just need to share it and get buy in from the other departments who will help carry it out.

Fast-forward a few days…

While many are on board, you faced resistance, found out you forgot key details, and need to regroup. Not a total loss, but significant adjustments are required. After changes are made, you need to shop it around again… Sound familiar?

This is a common scenario. We pull together a team (which we purposely keep small to prevent distraction and promote efficiency) and create plans other people will implement. We try to foresee challenges that may be thrown at us from the finance, operations, supply chain, creative, and leadership teams. We spend only 20% of our time planning but end up spending 80% selling and re-selling.

Any efficiency we created building the plan with our small group has been wasted in re-work, with bent coat hangers and duct tape, to meet requirements. While our plans may appear a success, they are a shadow of what they could have been, and the structural integrity is questionable.

The solution?

Flip the model.

Instead of getting them bought in after planning, have them built-in and part of the plan. Instead of the exclusive, small team, in secret… include all stakeholders… anyone who will have skin in the game.

Spend 80% of your time building and crafting. Building correctly the first time allows you to spend the remaining 20% plussing, or working on something else. It may not reduce the entire amount of time you spend on a project, but it will ensure programs are…

  • better thought through,
  • not stalled and halted for retrofits, and
  • better implemented. Which is really the goal of all this, right?

Built-in instead of bought-in means… Concerns and issues can be directly addressed up-front. This eliminates fix-it jobs later and promotes a rock solid plan now.

Yes, you’ll share the glory, but you also share the workload, and the troubleshooting if there is a snag during execution. Everyone is responsible for making it a success. Everyone is an ambassador. Go team!

With your next project, instead of trying to anticipate concerns, ask for them. Instead of trying to get them bought in at the end, have them built-in at the beginning.