Month: September 2011

Two Simple Questions To Avoid Value-Free Change

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Often times we’re tempted to add new processes, new templates or tools, modify existing procedures, re-organize – you name it.  Sometimes such changes are called for, but other times they’re performed for the sake of performing them.  Change for its own sake is never good.  It can be a drain on time, resources and on morale.

When confronted with such ideas – whether your own or from others – try asking these two simple questions:

  1. What Business Problem Will This Solve?: Is the proposed change in response to something that is having an identifiable impact on business operations?  If so, how will this change help?
  2. What Will This Change Allow Us To Do Tomorrow That We Cannot Do Today?: Little more than a restatement of the above, this simply asks the question from another angle.  It’s important to understand how things will change as a result of any new processes, tools, etc.  Then….ask yourself, “So what?”

While you can apply these questions to process or organizational changes, you can also use them when determining whether to send an email, schedule a meeting or conference call, etc.  The idea is to simply be mindful of what you are about to do.  Think of it as an internal CBA on the fly or, to borrow a quote from my friend, John Kennedy, “Break it down, think it through, execute!”

© 2011, Mark E. Calabrese


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A friend of mine out in Baltimore used to tell me, “Should-hood leads to Shit-hood”.  This is particularly applicable to those of us in management roles.  Whether you’re managing a project, a team or even your own life, focusing on the ‘should’ can be a good thing or a bad thing.

 “Should-hood” – the mindset of focusing on what should be – isn’t bad in the right context.  Focusing on what ‘should be’ is how we apply our core values to our own words and actions.  ‘Should’ is a very powerful mindset…..when applied to oneself.  The problem comes when we focus on what ‘should  be’ when it comes to the words and actions of others.

 There are countless factors that impact everything we do and while we have varying amounts of influence over each of these factors, rarely do we have control of them.  The good news is that there is one element in every situation over which we have 100% control – ourselves.  The bad news is that we often focus on those elements that, even on our best day, we can only hope to influence….which inevitably leads to “Shit-hood” – that terrible feeling that nothing is as it should be and that life and work are hopeless. 

 So what to do?:

  •  Accept the fact that you can only hope to influence anything or anyone that isn’t you.  Even if you hold a gun to someone’s head and tell them to start dancing, they can always say “screw you – shoot me.” 
  • Instead, focus your efforts on the elements that are 100% within your control – your own words and actions
  • With this fact in mind, work to observe and listen to others to gain an understanding of what IS
  • With an understanding and acceptance of what IS, focus your energy on what you can do, say or write to influence those elements of your work that you need to manage in order to be successful.

 Ultimately, “should” is a word best used when looking in the mirror.  Obsessing on what ‘should be’ when dealing with others will provide you countless ways to be frustrated and unhappy.  Focus your energy on those elements of every situation that are 100% within your control – your own words and actions – and avoid ‘Shit-hood’.  It’s not that nice a neighborhood anyway.

© 2011, Mark E. Calabrese