Rich picturing

Solving the wrong problem is ineffectual. Diving straight into designing the solution doesn’t have a high success rate, and it will wear you down.

Rich picturing is an efficient alternative.

When understanding a business challenge, or an operational issue, or a system problem, you can rich picture it.

Find the things that your stakeholders are concerned about and struggle with. The people, the views, the structures, the processes, the cultures, the impressions … and sketch it out, brain dump down all the relevant knotted components within. Then see the shopping list of parts that you need to dig into deeper.

You can do the same thing when you analyse your product, your way of working, or your next project. Find the essential elements (the situations) that matter to the organisation and to your stakeholders, and thread them together in a holistic way.

Always be experimenting

The ever-changing world that requires us to constantly be experimenting, to resist creating safety, is driven by the fact that the stakeholders we serve are curious, dissatisfied, or uncomfortable. Everyone else can largely be ignored and refuse to show interest.

The good news is that two amazing things we can leverage, big shifts in the way we can test feasibility with our stakeholders:

  1. It’s cheaper, quicker and easier than ever to create a prototype or a proof of concept. This is true for paper mock-ups, as well as for high-fidelity models or usable MVP’s.
  2. It’s cheaper, quicker and easier than ever to find the early champions, to engage with stakeholders who are seeking better.

This means each of us is in the hot seat to make a proposition. Shape a promise. Choose your dimensions, find the stakeholders who seek to change, and show up with your best work.

Call it an experiment if you want to.

But it’s project life.

The project life of engaging with what’s possible, and of mobilising stakeholders who want to make a change.

Always be seeking, empathising, investigating, solving, seeing, believing, and yes, experimenting.

The other way to read this is: always be failing.

Well, not always. Sometimes you’ll succeed. But a lot of the time, you’ll be failing. And that’s okay.

Comfort in safety

It’s tempting to create a safe product or service for all your stakeholders.

Safe, because safe is beyond reproach. It meets spec. It causes no disruption.

All your stakeholders, because if all your stakeholders are happy then no one is unhappy.

The trouble is that the groups of stakeholders who are happy with safe are comfortable. They aren’t looking for change.

Change and safe don’t really coexist, and so the stakeholders who are comfortable aren’t looking for you. In fact, they’re largely ignoring you.

What do you want?

Let me take a stab …

You’d like to be respected, successful, rewarded, suitably challenged, and maybe a little renowned for what you do. You’d like to do work you’re proud of and do it for a goal you care about.

What’s missing from that list?

That you need a window seat with a particular view. That you have to produce your work in an iterative way, not sequential. That you want all your stakeholders to arrive fully prepared for your meetings.

These details aren’t what matters. What matters is that just as your stakeholders wish to move along their emotional journey, through fear to hope, so do you.

This opens up the realms of possibility. Many windows of opportunity.

It helps to follow certain career truths. If you want to be rewarded, you probably need a salary increase or a new position. If you want to be promoted, you probably need to consistently deliver value to the right people who will happily recognise you for it. If you want to be proud of your work, you probably need to avoid pushing the pencils around and criticizing the way things are done around there.

Within the organisation, though, there’s a huge amount of whitespace. Space for you to dig in deep and figure out what change you want to make, and how (and who) you seek to serve.

This might be a good time to go back to the X/Y map exercise, to work through it again to find some new axes, new dimensions, new promises. First, find stakeholders worth serving, and then find the change worth making.

Where’s the block of ice?

When a stakeholder doesn’t act as you expect them to, find their fear.

It’s tricky to imagine a better place when you’re about to hit an iceberg. Even (or especially) if all the barriers are in the unconscious mind.