Three Marketers Walked Into a SWOT…

Does that sound like an interesting discussion to you? Trust me, it was! Early this morning, I got into a conversation with two marketers I know only from social media (and that we have connections in common). It started with someone poking fun (nay, mocking) a marketing plan template. One aspect of that template was the SWOT analysis, and there was a lot of talk as to whether the SWOT was no longer relevant. 

Now Steve and I are both fans of frameworks. They give teams a common language to approach an analysis, so you can stop disagreeing about how to look at what’s going on, and simply look at what’s going on. They also provide constraints: don’t bother finding data that doesn’t answer the questions required for that framework. (You can always use that data for a different framework. Just don’t force-fit stuff where it doesn’t belong).

On that note, we also had a sidebar on templates that are created by head office, your boss, or some other wise guy, that (a) requires data that isn’t available in your branch-plant country, or (b) solves a problem that isn’t relevant to your context, but rolls up to a bigger template that serves someone else, somewhere else. Don’t do this to people. But if it’s been done to you, the best way to come up with numbers for the missing links is to triangulate.

Anyway, I digress. I stood up in defense of the SWOT, not because I think it is always the best framework, but because I believe it is a mis-maligned framework, and that often what doesn’t work about it are two things: (a) teams try to stog too much into their SWOT, and (b) they’ve been mis-taught how to use it best. So here goes:

SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. It’s meant to help you think about where you are now, and where you might go (and what could happen to you along the way). The first error teams make, is to mix up Strengths and Opportunities. Or Weaknesses and Threats. It’s about looking through the right lens.

Strengths and Weaknesses are about you (and by that I mean your business, your product, your team). What strengths does your product have? What weaknesses? Are you with me so far? These are internal factors. Opportunities and Threats exist once you leave the safe harbour for open water (or open your front door and go outside). Opportunities are things you can achieve or places you can go. And threats don’t come from inside, they come from the outside factors. Yes, if your culture is broken, you’ve got an issue. But that’s something you need to fix within your own house, not something that’s outside of your control or might impact you whether you want it to, or not. Got it? Excellent. I knew you would.

All this is to say, frameworks are one of the best ways to get people on the same page, fast, to make better decisions. They also can be one of the worst kind of hammers to wield when you’ve convinced yourself that everything is a nail. So proceed with caution. (And if you’d like to talk about which frameworks to use to answer your burning questions, let’s talk).

I’m Megann Willson, and I’m one of the Partners here at PANOPTIKA. We help our clients make #betterdecisions, sometimes using frameworks. You can find us on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter. And for insights delivered direct to your inbox on Fridays, you can sign up using the orange button, below. 

Three Must-Have Steps for Your Next Big Change

Busy escalator and tube
Over the decades we’ve been in the management consulting business, we’ve been part of many change and transformation exercises. We’ve also been incredibly fortunate to have benefited from that old “your network is your net worth” adage. Once again this week, a friend’s post begat another post. Here’s what happened:

Our longtime friend, mentor, and collaborator Luke Hohmann (SAFe® Fellow and Principal Consultant) reposted a post from Em Campbell-Pretty, about making sure you have baseline metrics before you start an Agile Transformation. Now we don’t know Em personally, but if she’s in Luke’s trusted circle, she’s in ours. While some of our clients are Agile, some are not (although most are reasonably flexible). So this got me thinking about what metrics are needed for any kind of change or transformation. Steve and I have helped many organizations do that – ensuring that their teams were all on the same page, and running toward the same goals, if not always in the same direction. We also try to avoid having them run with scissors. 

The fact of the matter is this: no matter what type of change or transformation you are trying to make, whether it’s in your organizational structure, your product process, or your own personal career, there are three key questions you need to ask. If you don’t, you might never get to your destination – or worse, you might arrive at “destination unknown”. These are the questions: 

  1. Where are you now?
  2. Where do you plan to go?
  3. How will you know you’ve arrived?

No matter what system you’re using, or how you measure, if you can find a way to measure each of these things, before you begin, it’s much more likely you’ll have a pleasant journey. 

I’m Megann Willson and I’m one of the Partners at PANOPTIKA. We work with our clients to help them see everything they need to make better decisions – using better data, a better approach, or better metrics. If you need help deciding which metrics will work best for you and your team, so that you can find, serve, and keep more customers, we can help. You can also follow us on TwitterFacebook, or LinkedIn.  For more news you can use to help you or your team to make better decisions, click the handy button, below.

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Never Compromise When You Can Collaborate.

Hands meeting in collaboration
If you’ve ever tried to create something or solve a problem as part of a high-functioning team, you know that conflict is practically unavoidable. Add a looming deadline, a commitment to an important client, or a boss who just won’t take no for an answer, and there’s a lot of pressure to come up with a solution. 

There are a lot of different ways to solve conflict – the Thomas-Killman Conflict Mode breaks it down into five key methods.  Their model includes a matrix where one axis is assertiveness, and the other is cooperativeness. The four quadrants break down as follows:

  1. Competing – that’s where each of the parties wants to “win”. Usually that’s a no-win for everyone.
  2. Avoiding – is where the risk to one or more parties of being hurt by the process is high, so they “turtle”. Does that sound like a satisfactory outcome?
  3. Accommodating – people want to “keep the peace”, right? Sounds like a good idea. Except when the result is that a few bullies learn that they can continue to run the show, while the simmering resentment begins to build, and build, in the others.
  4. The fourth is Collaborating – and we’ll get back to that in a moment. 

What about compromising? Isn’t that the best approach? Maybe not. And here’s why.

Compromising sounds okay, for sure. It’s fair, right? Well, it’s fair – in both the good, and the bad sense of the word. It’s a little like the difference between equity and equality. Compromise may seem like an acceptable solution, but often it is the solution that gives everyone exactly the same amount of sway, but ultimately provides a weak solution that leaves everyone disappointed. 

So how do you Collaborate? Very carefully. It takes time. (Remember that point at the top about maybe there’s a looming deadline?) Earlier models for conflict resolution also talked about the axes being people-driven, or time-driven. And while there’s no right answer, suspending the time deadline does increase the likelihood of collaboration. Collaboration is arriving at a co-created solution, where everyone feels heard, their ideas are validated, and then, if they must back off their position, they feel that it was at least given careful consideration by the other members of the team.

If time really is of the essence, then the solution may not be to leave it up to consensus decision-making. You may have to rely on a decider, and then return to the collaboration table to discuss less time-sensitive issues. (This is why design sprints usually appoint a decider – someone who has the final say, if push comes to shove). 

So the next time you have a group decision to make, if you know there will be lots of strong wills in the room, leave enough time for collaboration. If there isn’t enough time, appoint someone to decide, and move on. In situations of critical importance, sometimes every kid doesn’t get a valentine.

I’m Megann Willson and I’m one of the Partners at PANOPTIKA. We work with our clients to help them see everything they need to make better decisions – including facilitating collaborative decision-making by teams, leading sprints, and helping them decide which framework best suits the kind of decisions they need to make. If you and your team need help doing that, send us an email, and let’s set up a free call. Follow us on TwitterFacebook, or LinkedInand for more news you can use to help you or your team to ask more questions in ways that will let them make better decisions, click the handy button, below.

Don’t Spend Money on Learning

Hands with money and plant

Invest it!

Too often, business owners and entrepreneurs forego educational opportunities and occasions to learn because they cost money. Oh, they’ll spend money on advertising, or sales collateral, or even a new point-of-sale system. But when it comes to researching customers to serve them better, or worse yet, adding new skills  to their own personal toolkit, they try to only use the “free” option. This is wrong-headed thinking, in our opinion. Why do we think that?

We believe spending money to learn is an investment. Investing in customer research can help you target more effectively, or move into more productive markets. Investing in tools or skills that make you more productive and a better seller will pay dividends to your business in short order. Thinking of either of these things as “spending” is a little like saving for retirement by putting your money in a sock under your mattress.

Of course you can’t invest your money everywhere – so just like that retirement fund, you’ll need to do some research to find what works best for you. And also like your other investments, you may have trouble figuring out just what that is. If that’s the case, find yourself a coach who can help you evaluate your options.

There’s a new skill or new information out there that will help your business grow. Start looking for your next investment, today.

I’m Megann Willson, and I’m one of the Founders and Partners at PANOPTIKA. If you’re having trouble prioritizing your career or business investments, I can help. With frameworks to help allocate their resources, we help our clients make better decisions. Feeling social? Follow on Twitter, on LinkedIn, or on Facebook. And if you want business and career tips, book recommendations, and more, push the button below to subscribe to our weekly news.


How to make excellent decisions under pressure

We had a strategy, we assembled a great team of folks who had been successful in their prior jobs, we met on a regular basis, we used a bunch of co-working tools to foster collaboration…but we still couldn’t seem to make excellent, impactful decisions! Sound familiar? It’s hard to make excellent decisions under pressure.

We’ve been conditioned to think that make decisions is easy; after all, we make  hundreds of decisions each day.  But what we forget is that most of those are subconscious, requiring little or no functional brain power.

Making a real decision, one which affects money, people and other large-scale problems, is hard.

So, what can you do to make it easier?  The first thing we recommend is to use a framework.  Frameworks are simply a standardized method to guide you through the process of making the decision.  There are numerous advantages that flow from frameworks, but the best, we think, is that it eliminates the bickering about how you and the group are going to go about the task of decision making.  Everyone will assume that you have put hours of research into designing the process.  Well done, you!

We’ve developed a simple framework, in the form of a checklist, to help you.  Essentially you need to address five areas to make great decisions:

  1. Context
  2. Problem/Decision Definition
  3. Developing the Solution
  4. Validating with Stakeholders
  5. Making Your Plan

If you address these areas, and there are a number of questions to challenge your team in each of them, you will develop better understanding and make great decisions for you and you business.

​Please contact us for a free introductory conversation.  It may be the best decision you’ll make all day.