Look where you’re going!

People looking through binoculars
I’m all for taking stock – especially this time of year, it’s important to see how you’ve measured up against your goals. Once that’s done, though, it doesn’t do any good to keep rehashing your old mistakes. Figure out how to go forward, and understand your course corrections, then set your eyes on the future. 

This afternoon I had an opportunity to catch up with a board member I used to serve with. He was lamenting that there are always a couple of people in the organization who are stuck on “replay”, always bringing up some past transgression that’s long done. They’re the same people who are unwilling to try anything new, or examine their own part in any so-called failures. 

Does this sound familiar? Do you have team members who would rather grouse about what didn’t work in the past, than to try and discover a better way forward? Ultimately, these individuals aren’t helping the team. It’s worth having a quiet conversation offline, to remind them in advance of the next meeting, that you’re focused on the future. Here are some other ways to prime them for the right kind of action:

  1. Ask them to describe in writing the most persistent problem that exists today – and to list five or ten possible solutions. Share their most positive ideas with the team, so they feel acknowledged. You want to reinforce the behaviour you’re working to create.
  2. At the meeting, ask them to be a note-taker and reporter for the group. This may not stop them from airing their grievances, but it will make them listen more carefully to people who are expressing more positive opinions – and positivity can be contagious.
  3. Acknowledge that problems do occur, and engage them in telling a story of what kinds of solutions have made positive improvements in other situations. Then ask them to describe how similar approaches might be used here.

If you’ve given your best effort to be sure their voice is heard, you’ve done your work. Keep repeating your mission and make sure the meeting ground rules are clear. And if necessary, find a project that will consume their time elsewhere. Then, eyes forward. Face the future, and plot your course.

I’m Megann Willson, and I’m one of the Partners and Founders here at PANOPTIKA. We help our clients see everything they need to know to make better decisions for their organizations. Looking for a facilitator who can help you have richer, more robust conversations? Let’s talk. In the meantime, you can also find us on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn – or you can sign up to get useful business ideas sent right to your inbox, using the handy button below. 

Sometimes you need a disguise…

Image by Nancy Sticke from Pixabay
I know, we’re a day early. But since many of you are already eating the candy, and I thought I could use one more pumpkin-and-costume graphic, with puppies, we’re posting a day early. This week I had a lovely time with connections and colleagues from the Toronto Product Management Association, where I was sharing a facilitator’s-eye view of meetings and how to make them work for you. My first rule: treat your colleagues like you would treat your customers – give them and their ideas the same level of respect and consideration.  No one likes meetings, for sure, but there are some key things that make them run more smoothly:
  1. Curate who needs to be in the room.
  2. Make sure you hold only one kind of meeting, per meeting (status update/info sharing, decision making/problem solving, ideation/creation, team building). 
  3. Set an agenda and communicate the 5Ws of the meeting in advance.
  4. Respect people’s time and contribution by ensuring they are heard, using their time wisely, and doing what you promised (and only that). 
  5. Make space for what doesn’t fit by using a parking lot.
  6. Use a tool like the Ivory Taboo Tower* to let people mention the unmentionable.
  7. Leave with actions.
  8. Follow up with notes that parallel the agenda, summarize discoveries, and give a who, when, what to the actions.

I was thrilled with the enthusiastic response, and I really empathized with some of the questions afterward. These included:

  1. How do I keep from getting stuck always being the one taking notes at the meeting? Note that this question almost always comes from women. (Check this out). 
  2. What if my boss brings someone along who isn’t on my curated list of who should be in the room?  (Give them an assignment like managing the parking lot or taking notes – another reason not to always be the person above). 
  3. How do I get someone to do a task that really is their responsibility, but I’m getting measured for it? (This is where those attractive costumed pups come in at the top of the page – disguise it as something they want to do. And also, if you’re being measured on the actions of people who don’t work for you…that’s a whole nother discussion).
  4. What can you do about a boardroom bully? (We talked about that here). 

What meeting challenges do you have? Steve and I are happy to try and address those in future posts. Let us know in the comments below, or email us with your questions. Product management (brand management, marketing management, roadmap management)…is people management. People are our specialty.

*The Ivory Taboo Tower is a “secret parking lot” out of the room, or on a discreet wall, where people can note topics that are taboo to talk about, and yet are having an impact on getting things done, agreeing, or moving forward. 

I’m Megann Willson and I’m one of the partners here at PANOPTIKA, along with Steve Willson. We help you and your company to see everything you need to know to make better decisions, so you can find, understand, and keep customers. You can also find us on Twitter and Facebook, and if you’d like more news you can use, delivered straight to your inbox, click the handy button below to sign up. 

It’s All (Not) Going According to Plan

“Plans don’t work out.”
“No business plan survives first contact with the customer.”

“If you want to hear God laugh, tell her your plans.”

Have you heard these? We know we have. Usually from people who don’t want to invest the time in putting their plans to paper. Here’s what we also know: committing to a direction in writing, clarifies and solidifies your thinking. It lets you get clarity on:

1. Where you want your business or product to go
2. What actions you believe it will take to get there
3. How you want your customers or stakeholders to react
4. A set of benchmarks you can use to measure, adapt, and adjust as you implement

That last part is usually the part that gets forgotten. The plan isn’t a stone tablet. Just like the blueprint for a new house is only the beginning of what that place will need to become a home, the plan is a starting place. When you have a bias for action (as I do), it can feel slow, cumbersome, and frustrating sometimes. But it can also provide great clarity as you work through it. Used right, it lets you document your learning as you go. It becomes a body of evidence of your experiments, hypotheses, and assumptions, and it can help build critical thinking and the ability to “see around corners” – keeping you in business for a long time.

I’m Megann Willson and I’m one of the partners here at PANOPTIKA. We work with clients to help them see everything they need to do to make better decisions for their business, so they can find, understand, and keep their best customers. Since 2001 we’ve helped hundreds of companies with thousands of business challenges, and we can help you, too. What are we seeing? Follow us on Twitter, on LinkedIn, or set an appointment for a no-obligation conversation about what you’re trying to solve in your business.  

Every week, we share news, ideas, links to this blog, books we’re reading (and recommending), and our speaking schedule, direct to inboxes around the world. You can sign up with the handy button, below:

Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Image by Birgl from Pixabay
It’s the Friday before a long weekend. A deadline is looming. You only have today to make a decision about your big launch. And goodness only knows no one wants to be working on Labour Day. Fortunately, the usual naysayers didn’t make the meeting – they’ve already headed to the cottage. Everyone at the table has been carefully selected because they’re committed to getting the work done. You’ve set the end time for 3pm so you can submit the recommendations and all be on your way. What could possibly go wrong? Here are some last-minute checks to make sure you get finished on time.

First, congratulations on the time constraint, maybe. Time constraints do signal that this is not the time for endless discussion. But they can also mean that people who need a lot of time to express themselves, may simply shut down or acquiesce, instead of giving valuable feedback. 

Does everyone know the purpose of the meeting? If you haven’t set a clear agenda stating that this is a decision-making meeting (as opposed to an information/status update meeting or an idea-generating meeting, even the best people can arrive with the wrong idea, dragging out the conversation because they feel like they weren’t heard at the last meeting. 

Do you have as much information as possible, readily at hand? Save time by running around looking for data or feedback you’ve already gathered in advance. Make sure it is already assembled in one place, and that a copy has been forwarded to the attendees in advance of the meeting, in case they need more time to process.

Did you gather that information collaboratively? In the video on Mind the Product’s blog, Tricia Wang points out that you are not the voice of the customer. None of you. And while we try not to use never, always, all, none, and everyone in a collaborative environment, we’re with her on this one. 

Did you appoint a decider? The thing about urgent decisions, is that they must be made. Sometimes, even in the face of indecision. There may also be someone who can ultimately overrule whatever you decide. They need to be in the room. If they can’t (sound of screeching brakes), you may just have to push out the deadline. 

If you’ve done all this, and someone is still arguing, filibustering, or sulking in the corner because they’re not being heard, it’s time to step back and start over. And if the team can’t agree that this is a decision-making meeting, that decision may just have to wait for Tuesday, because you’ve got bigger problems to solve. 

I’m Megann Willson and I’m a Partner and CEO here at PANOPTIKA. I’m also a researcher, strategist and facilitator who works with clients to help them hear the voice of their customer, figure out how to use what they’ve learned, and make better decisions. You can also find me, and my partner Steve Willson, on Twitter or LinkedIn. Want more News You Can Use delivered right to your inbox? Click the handy button, below. 

5 Essential Steps When Your Team Just Can’t Decide

5 Kittens looking Curious
​“Ugh, management by committee. I just couldn’t get them to make a decision. It was like herding cats!” Even if you think of yourself as a decisive person, working with a team can make choosing seem much harder. There are so many more opinions to hear, and so many more options that may be put on the table. Add to that, money, impact on people, fuzzy objectives or incomplete information, and you can end up with a real headache on your hands. We’ve discovered five essential steps to keep every decision-making process on the straight and narrow.


  1. Know the Context
  2. Identify the Decision
  3. See the Possibilities
  4. Validate Options
  5. Make a Plan

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5 Tips to Shut Down the Meeting Room Bully

Stop Bullying Now
​Have you ever been in a meeting, where one person takes over the agenda, commandeers the conversation, and virtually sucks the energy and oxygen out of the room? Sometimes you can be so taken aback, that you don’t even know how to fight. Here are some tips that may come in handy:

  1.  Stare them down. Just like when a two-year-old is throwing a tantrum. Sometimes if everyone simply stops and silently waits, the lack of attention will cut their tirade off at the knees.
  2. Circle the wagons. If they have decided to target an individual and are in attack mode, ignore the bully, but address as many supportive comments as you can to the targeted person.
  3. Keep your buts to yourself. “But” is a signal that you’re not listening, just waiting to interject. It is the same tactic the bully may use. Instead, try “I hear you, and I also think…” 
  4. Take another way home. Sometimes you can’t shut the bully down, but you can work around them and isolate the path to your goal from their negative influence. Eventually they will get the message, or sulk off to their own corner.
  5. The last one, we credit to Megann’s grandfather. Don’t start a fight,  but if they do, stand up for yourself and fight to win. Then walk away.

If you have some boardroom bullies, some negative nitwits, or scared smarties in your office, you may also enlist the help of a professional facilitator. We’d be happy to help.

I’m Megann Willson, and together with my Partner, Steve Willson, we’re PANOPTIKA. We work with our clients to see everthing they need to know (and nothing extraneous) about their customers so they can grow their businesses and make more money. You can find us here, or if you like the blog but forget to check in, you can subscribe. You can also find us on Twitter, or Facebook, or LinkedIn. Did you find this useful? We’d be grateful if you’