About those 2022 writing goals…

I have three blogging goals for 2022:

1. To finish the year with 100 posts and 50 followers 

2. To write for at least 30 minutes a day, five times a week, and

3. To feel confident about the quality of my posts.

The first quarter of 2022 has passed, so it’s time to check in on my progress.

Goal 1

I am up to 65 posts which means I’ve shared 15 new ones. At this rate, I will exceed my goal of 100 posts. And now I have 30 followers, which means I’ve added 14. I will exceed my goal of 50 followers at this rate.

Goal 2

I have written for at least 30 minutes a day, but it has not been for the blog. When I created this goal, I didn’t consider how much I had to write for work, and most of what I write for work I wouldn’t share on the blog. I’ve also done a lot of writing to get clarity on other personal and professional goals. Still, I wouldn’t share all of that on the blog either. 

Sometimes setting a leading indicator for goals (e.g., number of calories eaten, number of visits to the farmers market) is better than lagging indicators (e.g., weight, waist size). I first learned about this distinction in “4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals”. I tried to apply that principle to blogging, but it didn’t work as I expected. I need a more concrete goal, which could be something like “post once a week.” Posting once a week would help me reach my goal of 100 posts this year.

Goal 3

This goal is both ambiguous and subjective. How do I determine my quality? I’m a pretty harsh critic, and I might never be as good as I want to be. In writing, quantity can help to improve quality, so posting more frequently can help. Maybe something more concrete would be to finish a writing course. There’s a LinkedIn Learning course I started but never finished, “Writing with Flair: How to Become an Exceptional Writer,” that I can commit to completing by the end of the year. What’s great about this course is that it also provides Professional Development Units (PDUs) to maintain my PMP certification.

2022 Goals – Revised

If I were to re-write the goals at this point, they’d look like this:

  1. To post at least once every seven days, ending the year with 100 posts.
  2. To gain roughly two followers each week, ending the year with 50 followers.
  3. To finish a course on writing.

Other Challenges

Another challenge is knowing what to write about. I have a lot of thoughts throughout the week, and perhaps I could try to find a thread between all of those thoughts and write about the connection. 

I also considered using a weekly blog post as a “sprint review.” In agile project management, the work for the project is divided into sprints, usually 2 – 3 weeks. You start a sprint with a planning meeting where you decide what you will design or produce. Then you end the sprint with a sprint review meeting where you share your progress and explain what worked and what didn’t. If I thought about it some, I could find a way to apply this concept to blogging. 

Yet, another option is to share what I’ve learned in the previous seven days. Initially, that feels a bit corny, but one of my weaknesses is that I don’t take time to celebrate small (or big) wins. Once I solve a problem, I’m on to the next thing. It puts me in a state of mild-to-moderate, continual dissatisfaction with my life. I never feel like I reach the top of the mountain; it’s a constant climb. I need more moments where I can stop and appreciate the view.

After more thought, setting one topic to stick to for the next 36 weeks feels restrictive. I want to have some flexibility. And if I don’t like the topic, I don’t want to have to stick with it for the rest of the year.

Another project management principle that’s applicable here is the idea of iterations. Rather than work towards one final goal, you break up the final goal into smaller goals that are immediately useful. For example, rather than design a fantastic app in nine months, create a basic app in one month and use the following eight months for improvements and enhancements. This way, you don’t have to wait until the nine months are up to take advantage of the app’s benefits.

Closing Thoughts

The most important thing is that I sit down to write, which still terrifies me sometimes. I am still afraid of being judged and critiqued, honestly. Sometimes that fear stops me from writing altogether. But today, I committed to writing, and I started writing without a clear idea of what would come out, and then all of this came out! If I wrote a little bit each day, the final blog post would be more manageable than trying to get it all out in one session (like I’m doing today).

It doesn’t feel honest to say that I’m writing for myself when I post it on a public blog. It also feels disingenuous to say that I don’t care about what other people make of my writing. I’m not writing wholly for myself or entirely for anyone else. My meta-goal is to do something and allow myself to be bad at it or not expect it to be perfect. That’s the goal that I need to keep top of mind whenever I sit down to write. The ultimate writing goal for 2022 is to allow myself to be bad at something. Any improvement gets me closer to adequate but still far from perfection. 

Cultivating a Growth Mindset

I came across an article and podcast that I’d like to share. For many years, I thought that if I didn’t do something right the first time, I was bad at it. That’s having a fixed mindset. Over time, I’ve learned that I can get better at things with practice. That’s having a growth mindset.

This episode of Deloitte’s Capital H podcast and this article from Harvard Business Review complement each other. If you’re interested in learning more about what a growth mindset is, I recommend checking these out. Listen to the podcast first, then read the article.

https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/human-capital/articles/cultivating-a-growth-mindset-for-resilience.html

Using Case Study Prep for Everyday Issues

I’ve shared before that I enjoy solving problems, but I felt like I could improve my skills in that area. Sometimes I’ll encounter a new problem that will totally baffle me. I’ve started approaching this situation like as if I was preparing for a case study interview. I use a framework to do a couple of things: make sure I understand the problem, develop a hypothesis, and design a test.

I can’t do this for every issue, and really every situation doesn’t need this approach, but it helps me be more efficient with my thinking time. These guys have a YouTube channel, too. I’m currently working through the “Toothbrush Test,” a method to determine how well you’ve tailored your structure to the specific problem.

This podcast episode and video may not be the best episode to start with if you’re brand new to case studies, but if you’re deep into case study prep, you might enjoy it.

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-case-interview-podcast/id1535572051

There’s got to be a better way than back-to-back meetings.

I think we’ve all experienced days of back-to-back meetings, proceeded or followed by time when we actually “work.” This feels like the norm, but it doesn’t work.

In a typical workday, I need time to collaborate with groups and individuals; time to plan, monitor, and implement projects; time to reflect; and some time to respond to urgent requests. But I’m talking to dozens of people a day who have their own needs, and it’s hard to get aligned so that we can make the BEST decisions and do our BEST work. I’m not sure if we’re trying to do too much, if we have too few people, or if we don’t know how to use the tools we have (or maybe some mix of all three).

It’s a wicked problem, but I think the teams that figure it out can have more fun at work and will be able to get more done. It’s a win-win for organizations and individuals. I like how Cal Newport thinks about these things. The solutions still need to be designed, and he admits that they’re challenging to implement, but I think his ideas are worth a listen.

Failure is all about framing.

At the beginning of the year, I set a goal to write for 30 minutes, five times a week, and post 50 posts by the end of the year, averaging one post every 7-8 days. I started sharing my posts on LinkedIn, but I got nervous because people in my network would see my writing. It’s one thing to have a complete stranger on the internet read your work. But it’s something different entirely to have someone you know well review your work. It made me feel vulnerable, and I was afraid of judgment.

When I did my 30-day blogging challenge, I allowed myself to have average posts. The original intent was that quantity was more important than quality. The more posts I have, the more I practice, and the more I can improve. I’ve gotten away from that, and I’ve since been scared to post.

To correct course, I can give myself permission for this to be something I don’t have to excel at. Perhaps, my most considerable success in blogging is to allow myself to be a “failure.” It takes away a lot of the angst and helps me enjoy writing.

How To Improve Your Odds for Change Success

Organizational change management is hard – so hard that you’re likely to fail 70% of the time.

However, by focusing on performance, i.e., “what an enterprise does to deliver improved results for its stakeholders” and health, i.e., “how effectively an organization works together in pursuit of a common goal,” the clients they’ve worked with have more than doubled their odds for successful change (Keller & Schaninger, 2019).

The authors assert that their approach is unequivocally superior to others because of the extensive research and scientific rigor behind their recommendations, the comprehensiveness and pragmatism of the tools, and the approach’s ability to be customized for each client. They close their introductory chapter with a passionate plea for better change management.

I agree that change is hard – but what’s the deal with the high failure rate? It’s hard to contest the need for better change management practices, but a 30% success rate doesn’t offer much hope.

Point 1: Change management has never been more critical.

There are multiple types of change – e.g., organizational, political, social – all of which we desperately need. For example, consider that Americans generally do not have an optimistic view of the future. In a recent study by the Pew Research Center (2019), respondents overwhelmingly believed that America would lose its standing globally, implode under the cost of health care, and have a weakened economy by 2050. In addition, about half surveyed have lost confidence in our representative democracy and don’t believe our political leaders are qualified for their jobs. And 40% are worried about the country’s moral values, the climate crisis, and the quality of public schools for our children.  

But it’s not because we haven’t tried. Change has been on the agenda for political leaders, globally, for decades. The authors remind us of the political zeal of leaders like France’s Hollande and Macron, America’s attempt to “make itself great again,” and our Canadian neighbors’ belief of “real change” under the dreamy Trudeau. But the odds are stacked against them (Keller & Schaninger, 2019). There’s only a 30% chance of impacting economic inequality, climate change, and an overcrowding planet. If we don’t have better tools for designing and implementing change, we’re going to be in a pickle.

In addition to social changes, there are also changes to how we work – and not just because of COVID. One of these changes is an increasing shift towards projects and away from operations. In fact, we may need to shift our thinking to look at projects as operations.

As Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez, former chairman of the Project Management Institute, writes for the Harvard Business Review, “…projects (which involve the changing of organizations) are increasingly driving both short-term performance and long-term value creation—through more-frequent organizational transformations, faster development of new products, quicker adoption of new technologies…” (Nieto-Rodriguez, 2021). Said differently, soon, we’ll all be project managers. And managing that much change can have severe consequences if we don’t know how to do it right.

Point 2: Our odds of success may be higher than we realize.

The authors tout the infamous 70% failure statistic, but I take issue with that. It’s not that change isn’t hard, but the negativity bias implied with this kind of percentage makes it feel like you are bound to fail. Here’s a personal example.

When I was preparing for the Project Management Professional (PMP) exam, my teacher said that only 30% of test-takers passed it on the first try. Even worse, while I was preparing, the test changed, which allegedly cut that success rate in half. How the heck do you stay motivated when there’s an 85% chance you’ll use most of your free time to study and still fail? Naturally, I was nervous, but I stuck with my study approach, and ultimately, I scored above the target in every area.

Perhaps, there’s some cache around passing what some would consider a difficult test – and maybe to elevate the profession, this sort of reputation is good. But in everyday life, if I told you that you had a 70% chance of failing – even with your most excellent intentions and hard work, how often would you try something new? Probably not all that often.

In a seminal work, “Reengineering the Corporation,” two renowned business authorities shared an eye-popping statistic that caught readers’ attention. “Our unscientific estimate is that as many as 50 percent to 70 percent of the organizations that undertake a reengineering effort do not achieve the dramatic results they intended (Champy & Hamper, 1993).” Note the term “unscientific estimate.” Well, after people latched on to that quote, it’s been reverberating in the change atmosphere ever since. A few years after their book was published, the authors even corrected the public, but it was too late. The looming thought of change failure would haunt business professionals for decades.

If we think we’ll fail, we’ll look for signs that we’re failing and use those as proof that we’re doomed. Unfortunately, research done at the University of Chicago shows “we assume that failure is a more likely outcome than success, and, as a result, we wrongly treat successful outcomes as flukes and bad results as irrefutable proof that change is difficult.” Thankfully, research shows that the opposite is true; if we actively look for signs of success, we’ll build momentum that helps us achieve our goals.

So, what’s the upshot here?

Change is hard – for many reasons I’ll unpack in future posts – but we aren’t doomed to fail. Doesn’t it feel bleak to think that there’s a 70% chance in 2050 you’ll be poorer, our kids will be less bright, your health with be worse, and our country will implode? Thankfully, we have change management principles that can help us significantly improve our odds for success. Moreover, we can use these principles to affect professional and social change. Kelly and Schaninger give us the McKinsey approach; you don’t have to use theirs, but I suggest that you use something.

You should not expect any change to be easy. However, “Every time we feel the impulse to say, “change is hard,” we could make a different claim that is every bit as accurate: Adaptation is the rule of human existence, not the exception. (Tasler, 2017).” 

Furthermore, we don’t approach each new change effort like a newbie. Instead, we’ve learned how to manage over time, throughout the multitude of changes thrust upon us. It is, quite literally, how we’ve learned to survive. So, start to see your challenges (and yourself) as a change success story. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, and your perspective determines which future comes to pass.

Citations

Champy, J.A. & Hamper, M. (1993). Reengineering the Corporation: A Manifesto for Business Revolution. Harper Business.

Keller, S. & Schaninger, B. (2019). Beyond Performance 2.0: A Proven Approach to Leading Large-Scale Change. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Nieto-Rodriguez, A. (2021, November/December). The Project Economy Has Arrived: Use these skills and tools to make the most of it. Harvard Business Review, 38-45. 

Pew Research Center. (2019). Looking to the Future, Public Sees an America in Decline on Many Fronts.https://www.pewresearch.org/social-trends/2019/03/21/public-sees-an-america-in-decline-on-many-fronts/

Tasler, N. (2017). Stop Using the Excuse “Organizational Change Is Hard”. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2017/07/stop-using-the-excuse-organizational-change-is-hard

Meet My Alter Ego: Change Management Evangelist

When’s the last time you reflected on why you liked what you like?

I heard that you could increase your job satisfaction by finding a job that meets some deep, personal need. As I’ve described on the blog, I have an incessant need to solve problems. I tend to see things as puzzles, but I’ve often become frustrated that I couldn’t solve them.

Change management (CM) and project management (PM) have given me tools to improve my skills in this area, providing some order to this otherwise chaotic, hyperactive brain. This post will provide some background on how I came to appreciate CM/PM and what you can expect from my CM/PM-focused posts.

I spent some time thinking about how I became such an evangelist for change management, and I had to go back through my career. Corporate training was the first job I really liked, and I was good at it. I’d become successful by using my public speaking skills and intuition as a facilitator. But not having an organized, repeatable, and reliable approach to developing courses put me at a disadvantage.

One day, I learned about an instructional design framework called ADDIE (Naji, 2016)  – Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation – and it’s hard to describe how much this helped me as a trainer. ADDIE offered a systematic way to solve my training problems, and the best part was that I didn’t lose my creativity. In fact, it allowed my imagination to blossom even more. As a result, I became a much better trainer.

After I moved out of training & development and into organizational effectiveness, I again had the issue of not having proven approaches to make improvements. I could see where my team was and where I wanted it to go, but I didn’t have a good plan to get there. In fact, I didn’t even know what the plan was. I’d look at my inputs – me and all my skill sets, the team and their skillsets, the culture, our morale, what I was learning in school, what other managers were doing, etc. – but I couldn’t get to the other side of making meaningful results. I managed to get on well enough, but it was hard, and I felt like a fraud next to my colleagues.

So, imagine my excitement when I learned about organizational change management (OCM)!. There are dozens of frameworks that all consist of helping to change human behavior with the hope of moving as many people as possible from point A to point B. And after I learned about project management (PM) – the practical tools to move from point A to point B – I felt even more equipped. 

OCM helped me with the “what”; PM helped me with the “how.”  

I have not solved the world’s biggest problems with my instructional design, change management, or project management skills, but these concepts have given me the tools to approach life with greater confidence. I’ve applied these principles with great success, whether at work or at home. I’ve wanted to share what I’ve learned with the community out of gratitude. In addition, I wanted to share how one could integrate CM and PM into one strategy. I haven’t seen a lot of people tackle these issues together. Probably because it’s damn hard, though, not impossible.

That’s the primary reason I was excited about Beyond Performance 2.0 (Keller & Schaninger, 2019). The authors don’t use the terms the same way I do, but it’s the best and most recent work I’ve read that tries to integrate the concepts of “what” and “how.” I started reading the book some time ago – and with a lot of enthusiasm – but gradually, I took longer breaks in between sessions and ended up losing momentum and forgetting most of what I read. So, I plan to share the highlights of the text on this blog to rekindle the change management flame and crystallize my learnings from the book.   

The terms “change management” and “project management” can feel cold and dry. They can feel so corporate. That said, the guidance and tools they offer have contributed to significant positive changes for me, personally and professionally. My goal is to find a way to share CM/PM info that doesn’t put you (or me) to sleep, which helps me test my hypothesis. I believe that change/project management principles are practical at work and can also be applied to improve the quality of your life.

Citations

Naji, C. (2021, November 16). Addie Training Model: Steps, examples, and outdated myths. RSS. Retrieved January 14, 2022, from https://www.eduflow.com/blog/addie-training-model-steps-examples-and-outdated-myths 

Keller, S. & Schaninger, B. (2019) Beyond Performance 2.0: A Proven Approach to Leading Large-Scale Change. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Reflections on my 30-in-30 Challenge

Tomorrow ends my 30-in-30 challenge. I just scanned my posts, and – boy, were they all over the place! Doesn’t matter, though, as my focus was on production. I wanted to create a writing habit, and I didn’t want fear or perfectionism to stop me. I’ve had about a 1% improvement in writing. I recently signed up for some courses that will help me improve my page and writing abilities. If I had to summarize the biggest lesson I’ve learned in this process, it would be the power of setting achievable goals. For this stage of my life, I need to define achievable as “easy.” That doesn’t mean that I didn’t push myself or that I didn’t care about the results. But I did it in a fun way. This is a hobby, after all. Thank you all for reading, but I’d mostly like to thank myself for FINISHING (tomorrow).

New Month, Same Struggle Pt. 2

I guess what I’m getting at is that PM won’t solve all of your problems. Earlier today I was reflecting on why I felt so “blah.” At least part of it is that I look at life as a puzzle. Or a project. And I think, “if I just follow these rules and figure out the game, it’ll all come together.” But that doesn’t happen. It’s never happened. I can’t approach life as a problem to be solved. That begs the question, then, how does one live life? If it’s not a project or a problem, how do I drop my tendency to approach it like one? How can I “roll with the punches” without feeling like I am relinquishing control?

“Okay, Houston, we’ve had a problem.” About a week ago, I reported that my highest theme – perhaps one of my greatest strengths – was my inclination to see situations as problems to be solved. Even without the assessment, I can attest that I view the world as having a set of issues that need to be resolved, though I think everyone feels that way to some extent. The problems I’m facing now, both personally and professionally, are beyond my current set of problem-solving skills. I still don’t know the answer to the question I posed, but I’d guess that part of the solution requires a total shift in judgment. 

You could argue that I don’t really have control anyway, that it is an illusion. But seriously, though, how can I move through life without the nagging feeling that I’m screwing up or that I’m missing some big important piece of information? How do I let go?

I think I posed this question a few days ago, and I still don’t know the answer. 

There is a part of me that is an organizer and a planner. I like for everything to be in its place and there to be no surprises. I want to be in control. That part of me is so exhausted from trying to be three steps ahead of life. I know that I do it to try to protect myself. It’s well-intentioned, but ultimately it just makes things more difficult. 

Just reading this sentence gets me annoyed all over again. Maybe there’ll be a breakthrough if I just give up. 

Maybe the blog’s goal can still be about project management, focusing on your life as the project. But maybe there’s a need to be less focused on “managing” and more focused on “living.” I legitimately do not know how to do this. But maybe I can use this blog to stumble on it. 

This blog doesn’t have a specific goal yet or a target audience. I’m writing my ideas as they come. I know you need to “know your audience,” but trying to accommodate a specific group of people – at my current skill level – stunts my creativity, and it adds more pressure. Also, this is a hobby, and I don’t want it to add more stress to my life.