Tag Archives: Decisions

How to Hold Mindful Conversations – Part 1

Mindfulness is an important buzzword these days. Basically, Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.

We each hold dozens of conversations, mostly mindless conversations, every day. These are wasted opportunities to build relationships or coordinate activities or to plan for the future or recap the past. It is possible to focus a conversation so that it has a meaningful result by using some simple techniques. It is possible to plan your conversations. And after a smidgeon of practice, you can apply these techniques with little or no effort.

All the techniques seem to follow a specific pattern of topics, in a particular order:
get the facts, get the feelings, get the values (determine importance), generate options, and decide on actions. Here are some of the patterns:

O.R.I.D

ORID stands for Objective, Reflective, Interpretive, Decision. These are the most basic steps in a focused, mindful conversation. The ORID process applies almost everywhere. You can repeat the ORID as a building block at each step of the other processes. The evening after I was introduced to the ORID process, I was able to use it in 17 conversations with my wife without her noticing.

The first step calls for objective observation. “Just the facts, ma’am.” No opinions. No speculation. Just what we know to be true. “What happened?” “What has been your interactions with our board [or agent or support or representative?” “What was said?” “How did you come to that conclusion?” “How did the events unfold?”

The second step calls for reflection. You want them to express their emotions and mental associations. The first step asked for external data. This step probes the internal responses. “How did you feel about that?” “What was your reaction?” “What surprised you the most?”  Many people, eager to get to the point, skip this step. No. No. Nothing happens until the emotions are expressed. Dig them out.

The third step is interpretive. This is where we analyze what is going on. We select our decision criteria. We consider choices and implications. “What is important here?” “What is the central problem here.” “What is the root cause of our experience?” “Which criteria are more important than others?” “What are the options?” “How have others handled this problem?” “What decisions will we have to make?” Note that we now have a commonly held set of criteria before we make decisions, but only after expressing our emotions and feelings.

We make decisions in the final step. This is where we look at the options and make choices based on our decision criteria and values. This is where we make commitments to one another to take actions.

The McKinsey Pyramid

Barbara Minto developed the Pyramid to explain a logical analysis and presentation process. I discussed this process on a prior blog. Check it out.

The Six Hats

The Six Hats is a technique designed to reach group decisions on a proposed course of action. It involves six steps, also called hats. The first is explaining the process, then find the facts, then state what is good about the proposed, then discuss the risks. Now we get to venting emotions. The group discusses possibilities and actions in the sixth step. Of course, there is a recap of the process. I discussed this process in detail in a prior post.

There are more processes using this framework. In the next post, I will talk about using ORID in strategic planning, starting conversations, making tacical decisions, and possibly, like a lawyer.

Talk with you then.

The Thinker

Do You Really Want to Update Your #Nonprofit Strategic Plan?

It seems that about every three years nonprofits get an itch to update their strategic plan.

But do they realize what they are asking?

They are asking to scan the external environment for changes that impact their approach to achieving their vision. Then they review their current strategies to see if they are accomplishing their mission efficiently and effectively.

But this is worthless unless they put into place some Strategic Actions that are innovative and substantial.

Strategies without strategic actions are just paper weights.

Strategic actions that are not innovative are just the same old thing. Innovative means new and different. Not just what you are doing now.

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”
– Attributed to Einstein, Mark Twain, an old Chinese proverb, and Benjamin Franklin

But most, if not all, nonprofits are already over-busy and over-scheduled. How do you fit in something new? You start by taking out your eraser and deleting something you are doing now. Hopefully, that will the be the least effective activity…or the least efficient. You may have to delete your favorite activity, or as author guides say, “Kill your darlings for the greater good.” This is really tough.

“Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”
– Stephen King, stolen from William Faulkner,  Oscar Wilde, Eudora Welty, G. K. Chesterton, “the great master Chekov”, and originally from Arthur Quiller-Couch.

Strategic actions that are substantial are those that have an impact. If they don’t have an impact, they must either be killed or not started. Why do them? Your vision is the reason why your nonprofit exists. Having an impact is another way of saying they are effective.

There are many good things to do, but not all of them advance you towards your vision. Doing good things that do not move you towards your vision is a common problem. See the Stephen King quote above.

The impact, however, does not have to happen immediately. Jim Collins, in his book Good to Great, uses the image of a flywheel that gets many small pushes, but builds up tremendous momentum over time.

So, before you embark on a strategic plan, think about some of the changes you must make and your willingness to make them.

Negotiate or Flight-or-Flight II – Emotional Traps

Last week, I described a framework for making a decision to either negotiate or to flight-or-fight. This framework was developed by Robert Mnookin and detailed in his book, Bargaining with the Devil. His framework is meant to be used totally rationally, without recourse to emotion or intuition. But that is silly. Recent research has proven that nearly all decisions are made emotionally, then justified using logic and reason. Continue reading Negotiate or Flight-or-Flight II – Emotional Traps

Negotiate or Fight-or-Flight I

It has been observed that one of the differences between the “street-wise” and the rest of us is that we often negotiate our way out of difficult circumstances while the street-wise rarely negotiate and will choose to either fight or flee.

Robert Mnookin has written a book, Bargaining with the Devil, that gives a formal framework for the negotiate or else decision. He is the chair of the Program on Negotiations at the Harvard Law School, so he is a pretty good source.

His basic framework is that you need to dispassionately (emotions always get in the way of logic) think about five points:

  1. What are my interests and what are my adversaries interests?
  2. What are my alternatives to negotiation and what are my adversaries alternatives? [Understand your, and his, BATNA’s.]
  3. Is there a potential deal that is better than the BATNA for each of us?
  4. What will it cost me to negotiate? Not all costs are in dollars. Time, emotion, reputation, and self-image are also factors.
  5. If we reach a deal, is there a reasonable prospect that it will be carried out? You can always put penalties for nonperformance from third parties in the deal.
Think about these before you make a fight or flight decision.
Overview of The Big Picture

The Big Picture – Redux

My prior post, The Big Picture, described the high level view of nonprofit strategic planning and management. Overview of The Big PictureIt showed that all nonprofits start with the recognition of a problem and a vision of the world where the problem is resolved. The mission is the commitment to achieve the vision. The vision and mission are why the nonprofit exists and should never rarely change.

The strategies are the broad actions the nonprofit will take to accomplish the mission; how they will achieve the vision. Strategies should be reviewed every 3 to 5 years or when there is a significant change in the environment.

The actions are the detailed plans for the next couple of years. These are what they will do to execute the strategies.

Managing the Nonprofit

The Logic Model, described in this post, is the basis for detailed management…and it’s often mandatory for grant applications.

A logic model is used to describe the whole process, starting with stating the problem, then the resources to be applied to the problem, the activities to be performed (including dosage, frequency, and duration) and the specificLogic Model  outputs of the activities.

There is usually an accompanying narrative  that describes the problem in more detail and giving proof that the problem really exists and indicating the severity of the problem. The narrative may also discuss the root causes of the problem.

The Resources-Activities-Outputs columns represent the efficiency of the organization in addressing the problem. Typically, these activities and outputs are focused on addressing the root causes.

The last three columns detail the outcomes. This is the “So what?” describing the change in the external environment  as a result of the activities and the outputs. This tells of the effectiveness of the activities and outputs.

 Managing the Efficiency

So how do we manage the efficiency? The first step is to make sure that you have a Delegation of Authority in place. This authorizes budgeted expenses and allows for variance approvals.

Where does the budget come from? The board issues guidelines that represent their criteria for evaluating the budget. The budget funds the activities shown in the logic model using the resources they are willing to provide. The board should pay close attention to the measures of efficiency, usually expressed as ratios. Ratios such as dollars per student or clients per employee, or classes per month.

The staff prepares the budget and, if done according to the guidelines, the board approves it.

Monthly Report

This budget is the baseline for the next year. Every month the board receives a report that shows 1.) the performance relative to the planned actions (budget) for the prior month, 2) the performance relative to the planned actions for the year-to-date, and 3 )the projected performance relative to budget for the full year. See the post on the Financial Ladder.Projected Year End Variances

This report provides a roadmap for drilling down into the details to assess performance and to direct future actions. Note what the report does NOT include: 1.) references to last year. Last year is not the baseline. The budget is the baseline. Last year should have been considered when developing the budget. 2.) nor does it report how much budget remains. That is irrelevant when you have a baseline budget and projections on how it will be spent.

This report also provides the basis for projecting future cash needs.

Managing the Effectiveness

Managing effectiveness is a more difficult problem, but ultimately, it is the more important. The logic model has three columns under Outcomes. A near-term, a mid-term, and a long-term.

Near-term effectiveness is the easiest to measure. This is the immediate impact of our activities. This can be measured by observing clients; their awareness, knowledge, skills, behavior, practices, motivations, etc. You can just ask them, using surveys. We can tell right away if our activities have an impact. These measures often focus on root causes.

Mid-term effectiveness is a little more difficult. The real impact may take three to five years measure. We want to actually observe the changes in attitudes and behaviors. This can tell us if our near-term outcomes are really persisting, or are they just transitory. For example, does our middle-school reading intervention actually improve high school graduation rates. These measures have a middle-ground focus between root causes and the problem/vision.

Long-term effectiveness is quite difficult to measure. This is the achievement of the vision. (Remember the start of this post?) The real impact may be years away. It may be the impact of elementary school reading interventions on high school graduation rates. It may be a decrease in joblessness from GED training.

Quite often this happens long after the founder has passed from the scene. It may be Martin Luther Kings dream. It may be landing on the moon well after JFK’s death. It may be finding a cure for polio years after FDR died. But it is still the dream, the vision, and why we exist.