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Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

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How Do Know If Your Teams Are Remaining Strong and Productive

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Leaders cannot assume that teams will automatically police and monitor themselves. Rather, leaders need to regularly audit a team’s performance to ensure that the mechanisms that build overall strength are firmly in place.

The fact that leaders are dealing with human nature makes team behaviors unpredictable and impacted by a number of variables that may or may not be within their control.

A single individual has the ability to undermine and ultimately destroy team strength. Consequently, leaders must continually audit the team’s overall performance. Such an audit requires both time and attention to detail when observing the behaviors, attitudes and levels of participation reflected within the team.

Leaders should audit the following areas on an ongoing basis in order to maintain overall team strength.

Participation

Leaders must ensure both balanced and equal levels of participation exist throughout the team. They must ensure that all individual members participate in the team process and are given equal opportunities to offer their insights and feedback. In this regard, leaders must make sure that no individual team member dominates the environment or is allowed to cow any other participants into silence.

Interaction

Leaders must actively observe the levels of interaction between individual team members. An active team will have open and energetic levels of communication, where members are openly and freely working with one another. Leaders must be aware of whether specific team members seem to be left out of the process, and identify those who may be reluctant to participate, have been intimidated into silence or had their behaviors minimized by more demanding and dominant members of the team.

Level of Development

Leaders must actively monitor the team’s overall level of development and maturity. A healthy team will grow, mature and become seasoned in their actions and decisions. While such development might occur in incremental steps that are difficult to monitor, leaders should take the time to evaluate the progress and growth of the team over prolonged periods of time.

Mutual Levels of Respect

Leaders should be observant for the mutual levels of respect demonstrated by team members. As teams develop, mature, and become more seasoned, the overall respect demonstrated by individual team members should be increasing and readily evident. Leaders must audit for both minimizing and destructive behaviors that reflect a lack of respect and undermine the entire team’s performance.

Depth and Scope

Leaders should also be auditing their team for the depth and scope of their brainstorming and decision making. Initially, teams will be dealing superficially with their projects or topics. As they mature and grow within the process, the breadth and scope of their brainstorming, analysis and decision making should increase and reflect the maturity of the team. If leaders conclude that these levels have not increased, they must take the appropriate action to challenge their team to grow.

Synergy

A sure sign that a team has developed and evolved is the synergy reflected in its actions and decisions. As team members learn to work with one another toward mutual goals and objectives, the overall synergy of the group should expand to the point where the whole becomes greater that the sum of the parts. Leaders who have determined that sufficient cooperation has not been developed should review the five aforementioned areas, as each will impact the overall level of synergy.

Excerpt: Building Strong Teams: Pinpoint Leadership Skills Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 17.95 USD

Related:

Seven Negative Roles & Behaviors Which Undermine Team Performance

There are Only Three Reasons to Form a Team

Seven Characteristics of Strong Teams

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2014 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

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Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

March 3, 2014 at 10:00 am

Formulating Questions as a Source of Continuous Improvement

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William Hewlett and David Packard - Founders of Hewlett-Packard

William Hewlett and David Packard – Founders of Hewlett-Packard

There is a common misconception that innovation stems from a single “ah-hah” moment. That may be true for the initial idea, but the great and influential leaders experienced long and often painful periods of development and extended periods of refinement before the ideas were manifested into a viable product.

In reality, most innovation is the direct result of a long series of continuous improvements, which serve to perfect both new and existing ideas. For example, there is a television show on the Science Channel entitled, “How It’s Made.” Each episode explains how three or four commonly used products are manufactured. They often showcase complex and automated production machines that produce large volumes of product. As my wife and I watch these programs, we often ask the question, “Who thinks up these intricate machines and complicated processes?” While modern engineers can now design complex production lines, they still remain the result of a long process of continuous improvements that are built upon each other, often over years of design, experimentation and development. Most of these machines were developed with one single automated step. Over time more steps, and more machines were added that ultimately created the entire automated processes one can physically observe today.

This complex engineering concept and its process can be said to originate with George Westinghouse (Westinghouse). “His methodology of observation and research, rough creation via stretching, then engineering drawing, followed by scale modeling, and finally scientific testing defines the discipline of engineering to this day. This pragmatic approach applied science to engineering. The title that is overlooked for Westinghouse is the father of industrial and manufacturing engineering…

Westinghouse had clearly evolved past the trial and error methods of many early Victorian inventors. He started to use science to narrow the scope of experiments needed. This is another example of Westinghouse’s pioneering in the methodology of modern research and development. Men like Edison wasted endless hours in trial and error experiments, while Westinghouse eliminated many trials by the application of science…

Invention was seen as a craft, which would become the discipline of engineering. Westinghouse, more than any of the great Victorian inventers, pioneered the discipline of the engineering craft. His approach would evolve into the corporate approach to research and development used even today.”

Continuous improvement and innovation doesn’t just apply to engineering and industrial production. Effective leaders apply it to all aspects of their business. Alfred Sloan (General Motors) stated, “I made it a practice throughout the 1920s and early thirties to make personal visits to dealers… visiting from five to ten dealers a day. I would meet them in their own places of business and ask them for suggestions and criticisms concerning their relation with the corporation, the character of the product, the corporation’s policies, the trend of consumer demand, their view of the future, and many other things of interest in the business. I made careful notes of all the points that came up, and when I got back home I studied them.”

Henry Luce (Time) “was able to succeed even in areas he knew little about, because he asked all the right questions, and he never stopped asking. For instance, Luce was an avid golfer, but when it came to baseball or boxing, he could not tell the difference between a diamond and a ring. But in launching Sports Illustrated, Luce undertook an intensive cram course in every sport he needed to familiarize himself with. He was determined to learn everything he did not already know, and that he might need to down the road. Luce appreciated the past, looked to the future, and asked all the right questions along the way. He never stopped asking what could be.”

  1.  Quentin R. Skrabec, Jr., George Westinghouse: Gentle Genius (Algora Publishing, New York, 2007) p. 59-60
  2. The Leadership of Alfred Sloan (CareerAge.com)
  3. Carmichael Evan, Lesson #5 Curiosity Never Killed the Cat (www.evancarmichael.com)

Excerpt: Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011)

Read a Free Chapter

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

How Do Know If Your Teams Are Remaining Strong & Productive

with 5 comments

Leaders cannot assume that teams will automatically police and monitor themselves. Rather, leaders need to regularly audit a team’s performance to ensure that the mechanisms that build overall strength are firmly in place.

The fact that leaders are dealing with human nature makes team behaviors unpredictable and impacted by a number of variables that may or may not be within their control.

A single individual has the ability to undermine and ultimately destroy team strength. Consequently, leaders must continually audit the team’s overall performance. Such an audit requires both time and attention to detail when observing the behaviors, attitudes and levels of participation reflected within the team.

Related: Seven Characteristics of Strong Teams

Leaders should audit the following areas on an ongoing basis in order to maintain overall team strength.

Participation

Leaders must ensure both balanced and equal levels of participation exist throughout the team. They must ensure that all individual members participate in the team process and are given equal opportunities to offer their insights and feedback. In this regard, leaders must make sure that no individual team member dominates the environment or is allowed to cow any other participants into silence.

Interaction

Leaders must actively observe the levels of interaction between individual team members. An active team will have open and energetic levels of communication, where members are openly and freely working with one another. Leaders must be aware of whether specific team members seem to be left out of the process, and identify those who may be reluctant to participate, have been intimidated into silence or had their behaviors minimized by more demanding and dominant members of the team.

Related: There are Only Three Reasons to Form a Team

Level of Development

Leaders must actively monitor the team’s overall level of development and maturity. A healthy team will grow, mature and become seasoned in their actions and decisions. While such development might occur in incremental steps that are difficult to monitor, leaders should take the time to evaluate the progress and growth of the team over prolonged periods of time.

Mutual Levels of Respect

Leaders should be observant for the mutual levels of respect demonstrated by team members. As teams develop, mature, and become more seasoned, the overall respect demonstrated by individual team members should be increasing and readily evident. Leaders must audit for both minimizing and destructive behaviors that reflect a lack of respect and undermine the entire team’s performance.

Depth and Scope

Leaders should also be auditing their team for the depth and scope of their brainstorming and decision making. Initially, teams will be dealing superficially with their projects or topics. As they mature and grow within the process, the breadth and scope of their brainstorming, analysis and decision making should increase and reflect the maturity of the team. If leaders conclude that these levels have not increased, they must take the appropriate action to challenge their team to grow.

Synergy

A sure sign that a team has developed and evolved is the synergy reflected in its actions and decisions. As team members learn to work with one another toward mutual goals and objectives, the overall synergy of the group should expand to the point where the whole becomes greater that the sum of the parts. Leaders who have determined that sufficient cooperation has not been developed should review the five aforementioned areas, as each will impact the overall level of synergy.

Related: Seven Negative Roles & Behaviors Which Undermine Team Performance

Excerpt: Building Strong Teams: Pinpoint Leadership Skills Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 17.95 USD

If you would like to learn more about building strong teams, refer to Building Strong Teams: Pinpoint Leadership Skills Development Training Series. This training skill-pack features eight key interrelated concepts, each with their own discussion points and training activity. It is ideal as an informal training tool for coaching or personal development. It can also be used as a handbook and guide for group training discussions. Click here to learn more.

________________________________________________________________________

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreward Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

June 5, 2012 at 11:57 am

Formulating Questions as a Source of Continuous Improvement

with 5 comments

George Westinghouse - Westinghouse Electric

There is a common misconception that innovation stems from a single “ah-hah” moment. That may be true for the initial idea, but the great and influential leaders experienced long and often painful periods of development and extended periods of refinement before the ideas were manifested into a viable product.

In reality, most innovation is the direct result of a long series of continuous improvements, which serve to perfect both new and existing ideas. For example, there is a television show on the Science Channel entitled, “How It’s Made.” Each episode explains how three or four commonly used products are manufactured. They often showcase complex and automated production machines that produce large volumes of product. As my wife and I watch these programs, we often ask the question, “Who thinks up these intricate machines and complicated processes?” While modern engineers can now design complex production lines, they still remain the result of a long process of continuous improvements that are built upon each other, often over years of design, experimentation and development. Most of these machines were developed with one single automated step. Over time more steps, and more machines were added that ultimately created the entire automated processes one can physically observe today.

This complex engineering concept and its process can be said to originate with George Westinghouse (Westinghouse). “His methodology of observation and research, rough creation via stretching, then engineering drawing, followed by scale modeling, and finally scientific testing defines the discipline of engineering to this day. This pragmatic approach applied science to engineering. The title that is overlooked for Westinghouse is the father of industrial and manufacturing engineering…

Westinghouse had clearly evolved past the trial and error methods of many early Victorian inventors. He started to use science to narrow the scope of experiments needed. This is another example of Westinghouse’s pioneering in the methodology of modern research and development. Men like Edison wasted endless hours in trial and error experiments, while Westinghouse eliminated many trials by the application of science…

Invention was seen as a craft, which would become the discipline of engineering. Westinghouse, more than any of the great Victorian inventers, pioneered the discipline of the engineering craft. His approach would evolve into the corporate approach to research and development used even today.”

Continuous improvement and innovation doesn’t just apply to engineering and industrial production. Effective leaders apply it to all aspects of their business. Alfred Sloan (General Motors) stated, “I made it a practice throughout the 1920s and early thirties to make personal visits to dealers… visiting from five to ten dealers a day. I would meet them in their own places of business and ask them for suggestions and criticisms concerning their relation with the corporation, the character of the product, the corporation’s policies, the trend of consumer demand, their view of the future, and many other things of interest in the business. I made careful notes of all the points that came up, and when I got back home I studied them.”

Henry Luce (Time) “was able to succeed even in areas he knew little about, because he asked all the right questions, and he never stopped asking. For instance, Luce was an avid golfer, but when it came to baseball or boxing, he could not tell the difference between a diamond and a ring. But in launching Sports Illustrated, Luce undertook an intensive cram course in every sport he needed to familiarize himself with. He was determined to learn everything he did not already know, and that he might need to down the road. Luce appreciated the past, looked to the future, and asked all the right questions along the way. He never stopped asking what could be.”

[1]  Quentin R. Skrabec, Jr., George Westinghouse: Gentle Genius (Algora Publishing, New York, 2007) p. 59-60

[1]The Leadership of Alfred Sloan (CareerAge.com)

[1]  Carmichael Evan, Lesson #5 Curiosity Never Killed the Cat (www.evancarmichael.com)

Excerpt: Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Majorium Business Press, 2011)

If you would like to learn more about the great American leaders formulated questions as a source of continuous improvement and innovation in their own inspiring words and stories, refer to Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It. It illustrates how great leaders built great companies, and how you can apply the strategies, concepts and techniques that they pioneered to improve your own leadership skills. Click here to learn more.

Copyright © 2011 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

The Four Stages of Effective Decision Making

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In order to thoroughly identify, assess and select a “best choice” alternative from among a variety of potential solutions, it is essential to understand how to utilize the various stages of decision making in a manner that accommodates creative insight and thought.

Decision-making is most powerful when combined with logical, intuitive and creative mental processing. The stages used at specific points in the decision making and problem solving processes are well suited to group settings but are equally applicable to individual situations.

Tunnel vision is the biggest obstacle to problem identification during the decision making process. Tunnel vision often leads to artificial restrictions on the search for alternatives because it leads to a problem being defined too narrowly.

In order to prevent tunnel vision and maintain focus on the main problem, four decision-making stages and their individual steps should be followed in the specific order outlined below. Careful execution of these stages will help generate the best solution for an existing problem.

The Contribution Stage

The goal of the contribution stage is to gain a better understanding of the existing problem and the specific circumstances surrounding it.

Before doing anything, the decision making group must identify the problem and state it clearly and concisely. The idea at this point is to understand and maintain a focus on the decision-making or problem solving process and its purpose.

The identification of a problem consists of not only describing it accurately, precisely and in detail but also addressing the possible gaps that exist between current perceptions of the situation and desired outcomes.

The following are four typical gaps that indicate a decision has to be made soon:

  • Something needs to be adjusted or corrected because a current method, procedure, action or practice is insufficient to produce the desired results.
  • Something needs to be prevented because of a possible threat or negative influence.
  • Something is appealing, engaging or interesting and needs to be acknowledged, received or accepted.
  • Something needs to be provided because an element seems to be missing, ignored or unidentified.

Step One: Brainstorming

To initiate effective brainstorming, group members should either individually or collectively write down possible solutions to the problem at hand with all alternatives objectively considered. It is important to brainstorm extensively in order to expand and build upon the ideas generated.

Once the brainstorming session has run its course, the group can begin classifying, categorizing, and prioritizing issues surrounding the problem. The goal is to create a hierarchy of issues and factors based on how essential each is to achieving a particular solution.

Step Two: Criteria

During this step, the group develops the criteria to evaluate possible alternatives for resolving the problem or situation. It is important to categorize criteria as either “essential” for a successful solution or simply “desired.”

When the criteria are being developed, the group should establish boundaries, acceptable alternatives and important values or feelings that need to be considered, as well as certain results that should be avoided.

Once ideas are generated, the criteria need to again be objectively considered. Important criteria should be categorized, with the group making a preliminary selection to be used throughout the process. It should be noted that these criteria will probably need to be modified as other important facts and information come to light.

Step Three: Fact Gathering

This step focuses on gathering information and facts that are relevant to making a decision. It is a critical component in clarifying the aforementioned perceived gaps.

Quality is more important than quantity when gathering information. Too much information can confuse and complicate the decision making process.

Brainstorming can again be used at this point. Facts should be classified and categorized so as to clarify the connection between various elements of information. The goal is to establish patterns and relationships among the facts.

All considered information must be analyzed in terms of the group’s problem statement and evaluation criteria; any non-pertinent facts should be eliminated. Relevant information and associated patterns should be prioritized by applicability to the problem at hand, and additional facts collected later if necessary.

The Procedural Stage

The group must actively develop, evaluate, and select alternatives and solutions to solve the identified problem.

Step One: Development

It is important to create alternatives over the entire range of acceptable options outlined in the contribution stage. At this stage the process needs to be free, open, and unconcerned with feasibility. This activity should ensure that nonstandard and creative alternatives are generated. Once again, the brainstorming technique can be used effectively, allowing participants to quickly record and share results without partiality and to use the input to develop additional alternatives.

A number of brainstorming methods such as “challenging assumptions,” the “random word technique,” and “taking another’s perspective” can be used to generate more creative alternatives. Alternatives that appear unworthy of further consideration need to be eliminated.

It is possible to categorize or classify alternatives and consider them as a group, but care should be taken not to create categories that are too complex, unmanageable or cumbersome. If the group shows dissatisfaction with the quantity or quality of alternatives under consideration, a break may be beneficial in order to renew the group and inject more objectivity and fresh insight into the process.

Step Two: Evaluate

A list of specific advantages, disadvantages, and interesting aspects for each alternative should be shared, discussed and recorded. After eliminating alternatives that are clearly outside the bounds and parameters of the stated criteria, these advantages and disadvantages should be considered in more detail.

An analysis of existing relationships among alternatives should also be completed, which can be done by asking, “Is an advantage of one a disadvantage for another?” At this point, serious consideration should be given to the relative importance of advantages and disadvantages.

Only those alternatives that the majority of the group considers to be relevant and correct should be given further consideration.

Step Three: Developing a Solution

For relatively simple problems, one alternative may clearly be the “best choice” solution. However, in more complex situations, combining several alternatives may be more effective. A distinct advantage of this process is that—if previous steps have been completed thoroughly and with attention to detail—selecting a solution becomes far less complicated.

Before completing this stage it is important to diagnose possible problems with the selected solution and determine the implications of these potential problems. This means asking the question, “What could go wrong and why?” When developing a solution, it is important to discuss the worst-case scenario that could come about if the solution is implemented.

The Implementation Stage

During this stage, a plan with which to put the selected solution into action is created. The plan must be highly detailed to allow for successful implementation.

Methods of evaluation must also be considered and developed. When developing a plan, the major phases of implementation are considered first, with steps necessary for each phase outlined. It is often helpful to construct a timeline and diagram the most important steps in the implementation process. “Backward planning” and task analysis techniques can be useful during this stage.

The plan should be implemented as carefully and completely as possible, with minor modifications often needed.

The Reflection Stage

The final decision making stage—reflection—is comprised of three steps.

Step One: Assess Implementation

Once initially undertaken, this step should be ongoing.
The group needs to decide how to determine “completeness of implementation” prior to evaluating the implemented solution’s effectiveness.

The fact that this step is often ignored or omitted is one of the main reasons decision making and problem solving processes fail: it often never becomes apparent that the selected solution is simply not being effectively implemented.

Step Two: Evaluate Solution’s Effectiveness

It is particularly important to evaluate outcomes in light of the problem statement generated at the beginning of the process. Affective, cognitive and behavioral results should also be considered, especially if they have been identified as important criteria. The solution should be judged according to its overall efficiency and impact on the people involved.

Step Three: Modification

When necessary, the solution should be modified according to suggestions generated during the previous step, as evaluation often brings additional problems to light that will need to be considered and addressed by the group. Issues identified that focus on implementation efficiency and effectiveness should be targeted.

Excerpt: Intelligent Decision Making: The Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, 2011) $ 18.95 USD

If you would like to learn more about effective decision making techniques, refer to Intelligent Decision Making: The Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series. This training skill-pack features eight key interrelated concepts, each with their own discussion points and training activity. It is ideal as an informal training tool for coaching or personal development. It can also be used as a handbook and guide for group training discussions. Click here to learn more.

Copyright © 2011 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

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