Creativity, Problem Breakdown, and Problems Such As Eliminating Approvals

There are many problems where we struggle with things such as creativity and breaking down the problem. One such problem that is frequently voiced is the elimination of bureaucracy. You cannot just eliminate bureaucracy. What can you do? You can break down the problem, understand the elements and contributing factors. You can also leverage creativity by looking at more than one solution. One example is the dreaded approvals that cost you delays at the least and rework loops at the worst. In this video, we look at how to overcome the problems created through approvals through the lens of creativity and problem breakdown.


Watch here


Hoping To Have a Good Day? A Good Week? Year? Career?

How you start does matter, because it sets up momentum and other psychological factors to carry that momentum forward, as is also true in the reverse where a bad start can sabotage your remaining efforts.

Years ago, The Onion showed a light on this fact with this hilarious story that feels all too true. 

Admitting that he was unlikely to accomplish anything despite giving his best effort, local claims adjuster David Furman told reporters Thursday that he had effectively chalked up the day as a loss by 10:15 this morning. “I took a decent crack at it, but ultimately I’m gonna have to write today off,” said Furman, who reportedly started losing hope for the day approximately 45 minutes after arriving at work. “I did all I could to get some momentum going, but after 15 minutes of answering emails at my desk I just knew this day was beyond salvaging. Oh, well, there’s always tomorrow. I’ve done all I can.” Furman confirmed that he wasn’t overly discouraged, however, as he had already chalked up the entire week as a loss by Tuesday afternoon.

It’s important to recognize that this is dramatically more true the shorter the time horizon. Get a bad start in the 100-yard dash and you are done. Get a bad start in a marathon and there is plenty of time to make it up. Drag race versus 24-hour endurance race, game versus season, date versus relationship, single meeting versus new team, day versus career…bad starts matter in short durations. 

Pay extra attention to how you start, such as the start of the meeting or the start of your day. I’ve focused more on taking waste out of my start to the day, which I recorded this video about. That is more about taking waste out of my day’s start, which certainly helps, but is not the same thing as structuring your day to start on the right foundation. To be honest, I need to do better on that front. I’ve been thinking about that lately, and when I saw the above satirical piece from The Onion from my memories, I decided I would move from the “pondering” phase to the true problem-solving phase. I won’t get into my own analysis or solutions, as this is more about each of us working on the problem for ourselves and our own situation than about copying solutions. However, I will emphasize that this is the type of problem that we often admire without the resolve to do something, waiting for the magical solution to appear. It doesn’t work that way. Work on the problem, and experiment with the solution.  

WHO Should Own Change or Transformation?

Who should lead the next change your organization faces? Who should lead a transformation? A lot depends on the nature of the change. On one end, you have deterministic, programmatic, and tool- or technology-centric changes. On the other end of the spectrum, you have leading change into a VUCA world, a stochastic change, an organic journey, or a people-centric transformation such as culture or capability. This video intends to point you towards who should be leading depending on the type of transformation you’re thinking about.




Happy Heuristics Podcast Episode #8

Happy Heuristics is a podcast about using rules of thumb, decision criteria, or heuristics to help leaders operate with speed and effectiveness in a complex and uncertain world. Podcast partners Jamie Flinchbaugh and Jeff Grimshaw explore specific heuristics, one theme at a time, that you can either adopt or use to shape your own version. Through this podcast, we hope to help cultivate shock-resistant leader routines and rules of thumb for a complex world. Join us for Episode #8



Read the transcript here: 



Lean Whiskey Episode 33

Episode 33: “Back to Normal, and New Firsts” 

In Episode 33, we recognize some of the back to normal which includes Mark heading out on the road to do consulting again. That brings Mark close enough to Jamie for a new first: an in-person recording of Lean Whiskey. Mark Graban and Jamie Flinchbaugh meet up in Philadelphia to drink some Garrison Brothers’ special barrel selection from Mark as well as talk about Lean 101 training.

In many ways, this is the origin story for Lean Whiskey. Mark and Jamie would be opportunistic about their travels, end up in the same city, and find a good whiskey bar, and talk shop. “We should record this” became almost a joke, until it became reality and Lean Whiskey was born. Now, 33 episodes in, we return to an in-person visit. 

Philadelphia becomes our destination, and after recording Mark and Jamie get to go sample some of the great food the city has to offer. We also get to share a bottle (ok, not the whole bottle, but the same bottle), compare hotel glasses to tasting glasses, and set up a different recording approach which unfortunately resulted in there being no video. However, the discussion was as rich as ever so give Episode 33 a listen. 


Please review us and follow! 


Select the Third-Best Solution

Problem-solving is ultimately about developing solutions, or better said, implementing solutions that work. This means that what actually works is an important filter on all the potential solutions that we may become enamored with. I cam across this interesting quote, thanks to The Economist’s daily Espresso Briefing, from the inventor of modern radar…

“Give me the third best technology. The second best won’t be ready in time. The best will never be ready.”

– Sir Robert Alexander Watson-Watt

Sir Watson-Watt is proposing a useful heuristic for solution selection. Of course, this only works if you truly adopt the practice (as outlined in People Solve Problems) of developing multiple solutions for each problem, and then evaluating those potential solutions before settling on one. 

The heuristic is useful, whether applied to technology or simply process improvements because it helps us prioritize speed and probability of process over perfection. I often refer to myself as a recovering engineer, but this is part of what I mean when I use that phrase. The desire for the perfect solution can lead us to overconfidence in both its ultimate effectiveness and its near-term feasibility. 

When I’m coaching problem-solving, I really love to ask what the next-best solution was that you didn’t select. First, this highlights often the fact that they don’t have one, and so just grabbed the first idea that came to them. Second, it is often the solution that they looked over that may be best. While the “third-best” may not prove itself as a hard and fast rule, the thought process shows promise. The “best” is not the same as “feasible” and “immediate.” 

3 Under-Appreciated Lessons on Entrepreneurship

Recently I was giving a very, very brief speech at Lehigh University at an event with the Baker Institute honoring entrepreneurs and the teaching of entrepreneurship. It wasn’t originally meant to be a topic of any substance, but I can’t pass up the opportunity to speak to some students and offer some advice. I decided to touch on three traits of good entrepreneurs that aren’t as often celebrated and communicated as some of the others. I never would have thought of sharing this in a post, but I received so many comments such as “that’s exactly what I needed to hear” that I took the time to write down the thoughts. Here are three under-appreciated traits. 

  1. Build curiosity and intellectual agility

If you’re going to do anything differently or better than others, then you must build the muscle of curiosity and intellectual agility. The market and customer expectations move, your competitors get better, and whatever you were capable of yesterday is not likely good enough tomorrow. You must hold many of your assumptions lightly, be curious about what you don’t know as well as what you think you know that you’re wrong about. Always seek to understand the “why” of what you observe. 

Even if you establish a really good board of directors, or hire the best advisors, they are all just advisors and counselors. You must ultimately own your own mind, think through problems, explore extrapolations into the unpredictable future, and take action with conviction. The intellectual agility to sort through all of that on a continuous basis is vital for an entrepreneur. 

Since I was speaking to undergraduate and graduate students, I also made clear that the knowledge that school is putting into your head is less important than learning how to think, have perspective, and solve problems, which is the real objective of most good education. I learned to program Fortran, which as a knowledge base is pretty useless today, but I understood how code works, which is useful in many pursuits. Learning history may appear be one of the more pointless pursuits of knowledge, unless you see it as insight into patterns of how things unfold over time. 

  1. Courage – move forward through fear

So many leaders, throughout history and into modern entrepreneurship, are touted as “fearless” and moving forward with reckless abandon. If you are truly fearless, that may be a gift, but is quite rare and more often born of naivety than virtue. A more common attribute for an entrepreneur is being filled with fear – fear of failure, of customer rejection, of letting down your team or your investors or your family. Fear is well-founded and very rational. 

Courage is not the absence of fear, but having those fears and moving forward anyway. Courage acknowledges the fear. Courage is not letting that fear control you and your decisions. Far more successful entrepreneurs demonstrate courage through fear than fearlessness. Don’t let your lack of fearlessness feel like an entrepreneur’s character flaw. It is not. 

  1. Passion to serve – a vision, a customer, a cause

Very few entrepreneurs start out in the pursuit of financial success. When a business idea has the potential to scale and make a lot of money may be a decision-making filter on whether to go forward or not, or how much to risk in order to move forward. But the pursuit of wealth is rarely the foundation. 

Instead, most entrepreneurs are driven by a passion to serve. That service may be for a vision of how the world (or a market) should work, or in service of a set of customers, or in service of a cause. Many entrepreneurs are driving by the pursuit of service. They give themselves to that cause, invest themselves in it, lose themselves in it. The fact that they may make money, or even become very wealthy, is simply a recognition that this service was welcomed, and in fact those outcomes are what ultimately allows this ecosystem to help change the world. 

Of course entrepreneurs must ask themselves can they, will they, make money, but only as validation of the value and the viability of that pursuit. So, find your passion to serve, and lean into that service. 


4 Mistakes in Establishing Clear Roles Through RACI

RACI is a well-known tool for helping to establishing clear roles, but it is often either avoided, or produces an underwhelming impact. RACI stands for Responsible, Accountable, Consult, and Inform. I believe the lack of effectiveness in using the RACI framework often comes down to 4 mistakes which I outline in this video.


Watch here

Happy Heuristics Podcast Episode #7

Happy Heuristics is a podcast about using rules of thumb, decision criteria, or heuristics to help leaders operate with speed and effectiveness in a complex and uncertain world. Podcast partners Jamie Flinchbaugh and Jeff Grimshaw explore specific heuristics, one theme at a time, that you can either adopt or use to shape your own version. Through this podcast, we hope to help cultivate shock-resistant leader routines and rules of thumb for a complex world. Join us for Episode #7

Watch here





Abstraction and Precision in Standardization

Standardization is good, right? Well, it’s not quite that simple. We should standardize something because it helps us solve a problem, as I wrote about in Chapter 3 of People Solve Problems. Two variables in finding the RIGHT solution of standardization are the level of abstraction and the level of precision. In this video, I demonstrate how to think across these two dimensions for more effective solutions.


Watch Here