A few years ago my daughter Olivia was attending a week-long foreign language camp for the first time. A week! They were going to mostly speak Norwegian! Dad was nervous: how in the world was she going to make friends?
My wife and I helped her arrange her things in the cabin and completed the final check-in at the medical station. As we prepared to leave, Olivia ran up the steps to grab something from her bunk. She was back in less than 60 seconds. “You guys should go now. I made a friend while I was upstairs,” she said.
Making the First Move
In the work world, it’s tougher to make friends this fast. As we go about our work, we all run into situations where we need to initiate contact with people we may not know well. There are times when we need to bring a group together that hasn’t gathered before.
To help warm up the conversation, we often turn to icebreakers. After all, taking time for deliberate activities leads to a more cohesive group and people learn more when they feel connected.
Yet, we’ve all been in situations where an activity certainly didn’t help to break the ice and, in fact, may have even chilled the room.
Time and time again, I’ve learned that icebreakers tend to produce results equivalent to the thought put into designing them. In other words, choosing an ice breaker as you walk down the hall to the conference room is not going to end well.
Just because a get-to-know-you activity worked well with one group does not mean it will be a good fit with the next one.
Choosing the right type of icebreaker is vital.
Fun and Games Icebreakers
Ice breaker games can be the most fun, but they also can be the most stress-inducing for some participants. This type of activity works best when you have a group gathering for a social purpose, or if you already know most of the personalities in the room.
The goal of this ice breaker is to bring some fun and offer a welcome break during long meetings or training sessions.
Two Truths and One Lie: This icebreaker is usually quite popular. Each participant in the group says three things about themselves — two are true and one is a lie. The other participants guess which one is the lie and share why they think so.
The Best Week of the Year: Each year I refer to the week my family spends at a rented lake cabin as “Best Week of the Year.” What would your best week consist of?
Finish the Sentence: Write sentence starters on slips of paper and place these in a bowl, basket, or bag. Have adults sit in a circle. One person pulls a slip, reads the sentence starter, and completes it. Some sample starters:
This type of gathering activity gets names out into the open plus some snippets of information that help make a connection.
The size of your group probably determines what type of activity you do here. One of my favorites for larger groups is the “2 Minute Circle.” For this activity, pair people off and then form two circles, with one partner of each group on the inside circle, facing the other partner. Each pair shares their name and something about themselves. Then, after two minutes, the inside circle rotates one person to the left.
I attend a weekly meeting where we introduce ourselves like this each time. We often share some piece of info that is related to the week’s topic. Recently, the speaker was talking about a local beer and burgers festival. We were told to introduce ourselves and share our favorite beer or burger. I had a nice conversation that day with Mark, who simply liked my answer: “My favorite beer is whatever one I’m drinking while I grill burgers in my backyard.”
This icebreaker is best when you want to get directly relevant information from participants.
With this type of activity, I have always found it useful to establish one firm ground rule: this is NOT a time for discussion. It IS everyone’s opportunity to share their thoughts.
I often think back to staff meetings I led and wish I had, even in that small group that knew each other well, opened with activities like this. As a meeting leader, the insightful icebreaker allows you to check the temperature in the room right when you start. I usually ask participants to provide three things: their name and department/organization, what they hope to get out of the day, and what is the most interesting thing that COULD happen as a result of the meeting.
An example: “My name is Sean Kelly, with Reach Partners. I hope that we walk out of here today with a firm vision of what our priorities over the next six months should be. My wildest hope is that we come up with an idea for a plan that includes more sidewalk cafes under brightly colored awnings . . . because my daughter and I love to visit places like that! If we did, I could tell her ‘Dad helped make this happen!’”
Right there is everything you can hope for in an icebreaker: you know who’s talking and conversation can flow from it. You might even remember who said it.
After all, who doesn’t want to be the guy who wants bring colorful awnings downtown to make his daughter happy? Choose the right icebreaker and you just might be him.
There are times when gratitude overwhelms you, when it covers you like a warm, fuzzy blanket.
Last week was one of those times.
On Friday, we attended the ChamberChoice Awards for the Fargo-Moorhead-West Fargo Chamber of Commerce. The program recognizes businesses, organizations, and entrepreneurs that make significant contributions to our community.
We were one of the candidates for Small Business of the Year.
We didn’t win.
And yet, we had been encouraged. Somebody (thank you, anonymous angel!) nominated us to become a candidate. A team of enthusiastic clients/vendors/friends encouraged us to fill out the application. They wrote reference letters and helped us navigate the application questions.
There’s something both humbling and gratifying about summarizing your work into a few short pages. Applying for the ChamberChoice Award gave us an opportunity to reflect on where we’ve been and where we’re going.
So, no, we didn’t win. But we are grateful for the process and for those who served as cheerleaders along the way. We felt valued.
Congrats to the organizations and individuals that won in their respective categories: Emergency Food Pantry, Great Plains Food Bank, Prairie Winds Veterinary Center, Eide Bailly, Office Sign Company, Tyrone Leslie, and Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Red River Valley.
Well-deserved! It was fun to celebrate your success.
And for everyone else: take a moment to nominate a favorite business or nonprofit next year. It may be the nudge they need to become a candidate. It’s one more way to encourage and support the wonderful business community we have in Fargo-Moorhead.
—Anita, Rachel, and Sean
There are few things worse in business than showing up for a meeting that has been poorly planned. You don’t know why you’re there or what needs to be accomplished. The organizer either hasn’t taken time to plan the purpose or – perhaps – hasn’t bothered to share the purpose with those around the table.
The solution to this problem is easy, people: Write an agenda. Send an agenda ahead of time. Print an agenda. (And, yes, you should do all three).
It may seem like a lot of pre-work, but every time you write and appropriately share an agenda, you’ll thank yourself.
An agenda is a mini-plan. It’s a small step in a larger plan that provides structure and direction. And, frankly, it also keeps teams focused on priorities.
Without an agenda, you’ll be less productive. You’ll have co-workers who get off topic and spend 20 minutes rehashing what happened over the weekend. Then you’ll spend 30 minutes agonizing over the color of flowers in a centerpiece when you really needed to decide the lunch menu.
The weekly staff meetings at Reach Partners have a set agenda. I think of agenda topics more like buckets. The specific items under each bucket change weekly, but we are always focused on our three major priorities: financials, marketing, and workload.
Without a clear agenda, it is too easy to discuss things that don’t matter.
Saves Time (and Resources)
Nobody wants to meet for the purpose of meeting.
A good agenda saves time and respects stakeholders’ time commitment. Since there’s a purpose and people know what it is, they are less likely to regret coming. In addition, a good agenda lists a start time and an end time, so people know what they are committing to beforehand.
Time is money and meetings are expensive. If you have 10 people attending a meeting and each person’s wage is $25 an hour, it costs $250 for every hour that group meets. An agenda helps make the most of that time.
I’ve been part of meetings where the project lead dismissed people after agenda items that pertained to them were done. At first it felt harsh and abrupt, but I’ve changed my mind. This person was giving people the gift of time. If the rest of the meeting didn’t pertain to them, they could be doing something more productive.
The general purpose of any meeting is to get a group of people together for some focused reason. The underlying premise is that each person invited has expertise to share or important opinions to be expressed.
An agenda sent ahead of time (no later than three days before the meeting) gives each stakeholder an opportunity to review, think, research and prepare. You want people to be engaged during the meeting, and there is a better chance of that if attendees know what to expect.
Without an agenda, attendees may be asked questions that they didn’t prepare for. Or the group isn’t prepared for the discussion you wanted to have or didn’t bring the data needed to support meaningful conversation.
An agenda sent ahead of time is more useful than one provided when you walk in the door. However, neglecting to send an agenda ahead of time doesn’t give you permission to not have one at all. A late agenda is better than no agenda at all.
Defines Next Steps
At the end of a recent meeting, I reached the last item on the agenda: review responsibilities. “John,” I said. “You are doing _______.” John quickly responded: “Oh, yes. I’m going to write that down.”
Include a quick “review” item at the end of every agenda. That plus a brief recap of the previous meeting at the beginning of every meeting put everyone on the same page quickly. We are more successful when we all know what’s going on, where things are headed, and what needs to be done.
In summary, I’ve never seen a meeting without an agenda go well. If I don’t know how to prepare or who will be attending, it feels like a waste of time.
Of course, an agenda doesn’t mean that the meeting has to be stuffy or formal. You can still have fun and share a story or two. Flexibility is allowed.
Just keep your meeting purposeful and focused. Everyone will thank you.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
We imagined all sorts of professions: lawyer, teacher, nurse.
Project management never once entered our minds. Not once. Not surprisingly, none of us knew anybody who had this job. We certainly didn’t realize that our skills could be used to orchestrate a group of people to get a single job complete.
Today, we can’t imagine being anywhere else, doing anything else.
One benefit of being project managers is that we get to practice our work skills in our home lives, too. The qualities that make us good planners, organizers, and schedulers at work make life better for our friends and families – just ask us.
Or ask them.
After all, living us means our families get their very own private project managers . . . all the time. Aren’t they lucky?!
Maybe says Lloyd, Anita’s husband.
“We don’t have big projects to manage, but the fact that she organizes our trips and events is pretty handy. It is nice that she has given thought to it before everyone else has,” he says.
On that note, here is what it is like to live with a project manager, from the experience of those who actually do:
Maintains Family Calendars
If there is more than one person living in your household, you need to keep track of everyone. Somebody needs to know when soccer games fall and when cookies are needed for the church supper.
Nobody does this better than a project manager who is already experienced at keeping tabs on everyone involved with a project. Anita is what Lloyd calls a “Google calendar maniac.” She has assigned a calendar for every member of the family. And she successfully juggles them all, keeping everyone in the know as they run off to track meets, evening obligations, and more.
The beauty of a project manager is that whether or not the kids and spouse pay attention, the family gets to the right place at the right time with the right shoes, ball, and money for snacks. Yes, the project-manager-mom is the family motivator.
Keeps Household Projects on Time
There’s a saying that the plumber’s sink is always the last to be fixed. Apparently, that doesn’t fall true for project manager households.
When Rachel and her wife, Melissa, hosted their niece’s baby shower, the couple identified several house projects that needed to get done before the event. Rachel went into project manager mode and made sure the resources and time were available to get things done in a timely manner. She also allocated time for the work to be completed.
Project management skills for the win!
Organizes Holidays, Reunions
If you are fortunate enough to have a project manager in your family, you’ve likely tapped him or her to plan a holiday gathering or family reunion. If not – you should!
Rachel’s dad, Bruce, asked her to manage all details of a large family gathering. She set the stage for everything from communication to the food, the cemetery tour route, the family fun-run, and fishing tournament.
Everyone knew the schedule and expectations for the reunion. As a result, everyone was relaxed and could focus on the time together instead of trying to negotiate activities and meals on the fly.
The beauty of any list is not the list itself, as any project manager will tell you. Instead, lists reflect thinking about peoples’ roles and how they can contribute to the objective at hand – whether it’s leaving for vacation, inviting extended relatives to a picnic, or organizing contractors to finish house projects.
Anita likes to make a list for everything, which is super helpful when the Hoffarth family plans a trip or weekend getaway. Lloyd observes that there’s always a list ready to go once they start to pack. This ensures that everyone has clean socks and a toothbrush along – and nothing critical gets left behind.
Rachel compiles lists and sets them out for big meals and gatherings, says Melissa. This encourages (and enable) others to help get food to the table. The list includes details such as timing and what specific bowl or spoon is needed to serve the dish. Because of Rachel’s planning, others can easily step in and assist.
Can’t Turn it Off
There are times when a project manager’s take over of family projects isn’t as welcome. Lloyd had created a master document, one of those documents with important personal information on it that could be handy in case of an emergency. He spent years developing that list and knew how to find everything on it.
He then shared the document with Anita, so she would have access to it. Within a day she started to rearrange and re-organize the list.
This experience made him rethink the benefits of living with a project manager.
“An on/off switch – when I want it – would be nice” he says.
And maybe that’s the challenge of living with a project manager. Most of us aren’t wired to be off even when we’re away from work.
Good thing our families and friends (mostly!) embrace that.
Woo-hoo! Congratulations. You did it. You convinced your CEO/boss/manager to move forward with that next big project. You’re excited. Giddy, even.
Once the adrenaline level drops, however, reality hits. You need to make it happen.
It’s true: you may be able to complete the project on your own. You may have the skills, experience, and time to devote to a new initiative or event.
If you don’t, however, it may be time to hire a project manager.
Hiring a project manager may feel extravagant or luxurious. But, like any investment, it makes sense to bring in someone who has the experience and professional skills to make sure your project succeeds.
Kayla Gefroh, owner of Purpose Learning Group in Fargo, describes it this way:
Imagine you’ve scheduled a trip to Spain and find out that a close friend lived there for several years. Now, imagine that you invite him/her along on your trip and they agree to take over the planning.
You give them a budget, the dates of the trip, and other important details. Your friend, having lived there previously, has a great sense of how far the budget will go. He or she tells you which airport is best to fly into and whether public transportation is reliable. Your friend suggests hotels and identifies the must-see sites.
Now, the time has come for your trip. Your friend (who is now your tour guide) has planned each day. On the first day you expect to visit an incredible tourist attraction that is outside, but it’s pouring rain. Since your friend is a great guide, he/she has a “plan B” ready. In fact, he/she even expected that rain was likely on this day and suggested alternative activities the night before – just in case.
In addition, your friend speaks Spanish!
Indeed. A great project manager has been there, done that. She’ll have backup plans to mitigate any unforeseen risks and will pack an umbrella. She’ll help you stay within your budget.
Best of all, she speaks the language!
That’s one reason Brady Helland, a project manager with Sundt Construction in Tempe, Arizona, recommends hiring a project manager.
“Project managers often have a unique ability to speak the language of both an individual contributor and the client or stakeholder,” he says.
This is an often unrecognizable and undervalued skill. “Take note of the collaboration and communication environment the next time you have a chance to work with a project manager,” he adds.
After all, project managers are skilled at being honest, fair, and flexible with team members. They know how to listen well to the needs of a client while keeping the project within scope. These skills mean that project managers can communicate in ways that get all team members working together to accomplish the same goal. They can speak to the writer, the graphic designer, the software developer, the electrician.
Combine these abilities with a project manager’s ability to simplify complex projects, and you have a winning combination – or more importantly, a solid plan for completing your project.
Even better: when projects hit obstacles or something doesn’t go quite as smoothly as planned, Brady reminds us that effective project managers have already identified possible risks (or rain on the plains on your trip to Spain). He or she is ready with possible solutions (and umbrellas!) for you to review and consider.
At Reach Partners, we are grateful for Kayla’s and Brady’s perspectives and their willingness to share.
We believe in the power of good project management. It doesn’t matter if your project is in IT, communications, construction, or an event. Every project benefits from having someone on the team who sees the big picture, someone who can effectively break it down for everyone else and keep an eye on the end goal.
Do you need a project manager? Contact us at Reach Partners and let’s talk!
As project managers, we need to be flexible and versatile. Those skills were important when we assisted Sanford Health in Fargo with the launch of its pilot concierge services.
A framework for the program was in place, but few people within the sprawling health system knew about the plan. The manager of guest services, tasked with overseeing the program in Fargo, needed help sharing the details.
Reach Partners was asked to help inform departments and staff. We then identified how to use each department’s communication touchpoints to distribute details of the new services to patients and their families.
The new concierge services were designed to meet the needs of patients beyond the medical care that happens in the hospital or clinic. For example, the concierge helps out-of-town patients and their families identify nearby hotels and transportation options.
“The patient is taken care of when he or she is in the hospital,” Anita says. “The concierge services are an added value to assist the whole family during that time.”
To bring the project to success, we needed to understand how departments communicated with patients and their families. Anita met with stakeholders who included everyone from the nurses who call patients before day surgery to the hospital’s patient advisory council to emergency room personnel.
She spent much of her time asking questions and documenting feedback.
“We needed to find the best way to get this information to patients and asking good questions was important in doing that,” she says.
After meeting with key staff and determining how best to inform patients and their families, Anita coordinated the completion of communication materials. These included updated phone scripts used for pre-scheduled surgeries, flyers for patient packets and website updates.
“She showed professionalism with her presentation and communication skills, and through this project continues to demonstrate versatility in the ways that Reach Partners can provide business support,” says Chris Hames, guest services manager at Sanford Health.
Sanford’s pilot project was a success.
Thanks, in part, to feedback gathered and information distributed by Reach Partners, the guest services manager justified adding a full-time position to staff the concierge service.
Thanks to technology, we have many ways to communicate when members in a group don’t live in the same geographic region. Conference calls, email conversations, webinars, video conferencing, and other tools make it possible to participate in the same conversation without being in the same room.
We appreciate the ease of bringing together people who live in Bismarck and St. Paul and knowing that everyone will make it home for dinner. Touching base through Google Hangout on a snow day? Yes, please.
As much as we love the efficiency of virtual conversations, however, we recognize something is missing.
We believe meaningful relationships are best nurtured when we meet face-to-face. For collaborations and conflict resolution, in-person conversations are critical. Looking someone in the eye or shaking their hand is valuable in any situation.
We thrive on helping our clients improve their in-person interactions, whether it’s a meeting, an event, a conference, or a gathering.
The reality is human interaction is nuanced. People communicate more than what their words convey. In fact, only about 7 percent of what we communicate is through actual words. The way words are spoken and facial expressions provide most of the clues for what is being said.
When we meet virtually, it is more difficult to read body language, sense the emotional intelligence of others, and gauge another’s engagement in the conversation or activity. Video-conferencing solves some of these challenges, but it is still possible to miss subtle gestures.
We are programmed to feel closer and connected to someone who has touched us. When we meet face-to-face, we do more than gather in the same room. We shake hands, we touch a shoulder. We may even offer a hug.
These brief touches contribute to our own health. Researchers have discovered that touch “strengthens friendship bonds, triggers more positive emotions, and encourages people to be more responsive to others’ needs,” according to a Psychology Today article published in 2016.
There are heavy social pressures to participate when we’re face-to-face. In these situations, we are typically more engaged in the conversation and less apt to step away. Our posture, vocalizations, and non-verbals cue others that we’re listening (see above), and active listening is an important way we build trust with others.
When trust increases, better discussion occurs. People are more willing to share and build upon each other’s ideas. As in a classroom, we learn from more than just the presenter or leader. We may learn just as much or more from the others in the room, not only when interactions are smooth and comfortable. In face-to-face interactions, questions and rapport build off each other. These moments of spark aren’t interrupted by low bandwidth, connection delays, or distance.
We know that face-to-face interactions aren’t always possible. But taking the time to make them happen is always worth the effort.
P.S. Looking for a way to jump-start your next face-to-face event? Download our free Event Strategy Worksheet.
“Hi, Sean. It’s Tom, Tom Brokaw. Just checking in to see if I can start my newscast on time. Are you still on schedule up there in Fargo?”
During 25 years in television . . . and thousands of daily newscasts . . . I never received that phone call from Tom Brokaw. Still, every day my team started and ended its newscasts on time, right down to the second. So did Tom and his team.
If there’s any enduring lesson I carry from those days, it is to be on time. Always. Truth be told, being on time means more than starting on time (never underestimate the value of ending on time), but let’s start at the beginning.
It’s tempting to be flexible with start times. After all, who doesn’t feel obligated to wait for a latecomer or open to letting a crowd socialize a few more minutes.
And yet, the effort it takes to be prompt pays off every single time.
As project managers, we call and lead meetings because there is a project or process underway. We need everyone around the table engaged. For a meeting to have value, everyone in the room needs to feel empowered to give advice, insight, direction, feedback, criticism. As event managers, we may be in charge of the flow for the day. Whether someone’s in a meeting or at an event, they need to feel valued.
By starting promptly, you immediately send a message that the gathering is worthwhile and that you value the people who are attending. By starting on time, you immediately tell everyone in the room: “You are important. Let’s not waste your time.”
The single most consistent way I know to demonstrate how I value someone is to pay attention to her. When a meeting or event starts on time, you can see how a person’s body language responds. You will observe satisfied nods, eye contact, and a more energetic posture.
This stands in stark contrast to the body language shown during meetings or events that don’t start on time. In these scenarios, people drift in and settle into a chair before getting up again to refill their water or coffee. As the appointed start time slides by, they look at their phones (or watches) and start to engage in something else.
It’s like watching a balloon deflate. Pfffffftttttt. Flat. Uninspired. Unworthy.
Starting on time is the ultimate strong opening move. It sets the tone that you are in control and have expectations. It’s a rah-rah step: “Let’s go, team! You are here because this is work or a topic we care about together.”
Starting a meeting on time has the additional benefit of assuring those around you that you are a good steward of resources. After all, if you value time, more than likely you also are careful steward of financial and human resources.
At Reach Partners, we often stand side-by-side with volunteers or client staff as they gather to take that next meaningful step. When people walk into a room and immediately sense direction and purpose, they engage. When they engage right away, the process is more efficient and smoother; the experience is more joyful, the final outcome better.
Think about it in these terms. If your office has motion-sensitive lighting, the lights turn off when there’s no noticeable activity in the conference room. The same thing happens in a meeting. If there’s no momentum, if nothing has started, attendees shut down.
Trust me, once someone in a meeting shuts down, it takes more than an arm wave in the air to get their attention again. It might even take more than doughnuts.
Leave people sitting too long and they will inevitably do the thing we feared the most in television: they will tune you out . . . and it’s awfully hard to get them to tune back in.
We can do more together than alone.
It’s true, but hard enough when individuals want to work together. Those challenges multiply when organizations with different motivations want to collaborate. Even actions like identifying goals and determining how to share resources can be complex.
Organizations may agree that a partnership will lead to good outcomes and stronger relationships, but they also may be overwhelmed and uncertain about how to get there.
Rarely is there a one-size-fits-all approach to facilitating these partnerships. Yet there are two valuable elements to keep in mind when gathering people with different perspectives who want achieve a common vision: stability and communication.
Create a system of stability
It doesn’t sound sexy at all, but stability has the power to ensure that completed collaborative work doesn’t get undone.
It starts by building trust among group members. Trust is supported by guidelines of conduct (e.g. be respectful, show up on time, listen carefully, and participate) and guidelines for meetings and communications (e.g. limit discussion via email thread, keep to an agenda during face to face meetings, promptly distribute supporting materials).
Dale Carnegie once said that “people support the world they help create.” You want members to add their voices and share their expertise; it’s why they’re a partner. Building trust gives diverse members of a group ownership to keep specific details, items, and issues moving forward.
Stability also highlights the expertise of group members. It provides opportunities for multiple voices to be heard during meetings and supports a group when responsibilities and resources are shared.
A system of stability is built when a group defines the processes and structures for intra-organization and governance. Especially important is how the group decides to resolve differences. This task can become more difficult as the number of members exceed 6 to 8 organizations. At this size, a hierarchical governance structure and an outside firm (like Reach Partners) may be needed to keep the group and its mission stable.
Financial stability becomes important when resources are needed to advance a cause or policy, or required to create an object, event, or process. In these cases, partnerships can help to maximize resources including funds, expertise, and influence. Long-term financial planning is one challenge of nearly all partnerships. For these reason, groups typically look for short-term solutions, for instance leveraging funding sources like grants.
Communication. Communication. Communication.
Communication supports the momentum of the group and creates a case for collaboration.
What is the purpose of the partnership? What are the proposed outcomes? How does each member organization and participant’s actions move toward that purpose? How does that group’s participation move their own business needs? Questions such as these inform communications, align partners, and help to focus internal and external communication.
Communication techniques, such as storytelling, can bring the group back again to the narrative and goals that hold the group together. Taking time to highlight stakeholders’ motivations (a nonprofit’s mission, a business’s goals, an agency’s role) and the benefits they receive by participating can help to keep the group on task.
An experienced facilitator can understand how to navigate the differences between organizations while carefully pointing out the risks of pursuing the goal alone. An experienced facilitator will encourage collaboration, giving organizations both small and large an opportunity to contribute and share their expertise.
Yes, we can do better together than alone. It takes patience; it takes flexibility. In the end, it is well worth the effort.
Examples of how Reach Partners has facilitated partnerships:
Every great project and event starts with great strategy.
This is why we carefully guide our clients to identify their intent: What do they want to accomplish? How will success be defined? Once goals are determined, we identify constraints, such as time, financial resources, human resources. We think through possible risks and barriers.
We expect that good strategy will save time, money and mental energy. And, of course, everything will proceed smoothly.
Except sometimes it doesn’t.
Surprisingly, one of the biggest threats to a successful project isn’t poor strategy or poor planning: it’s the seemingly harmless fuzzy bunny.
Fuzzy bunnies are well-meaning distractions that keep you from focusing on what needs to be addressed.
Speaking of fuzzy bunnies, when I hear the phrase I picture a small rabbit that my dad found in a field nest and brought to our house one Easter. My cousin Maggie, at age 3 or 4, was visiting. She wore a red print dress with a white overlay and she carefully cuddled that little bunny in her tiny hands. So cute. So adorable.
And so off on a tangent.
The point is that fuzzy bunnies are cute and good and cuddly. The latest, new idea is pretty darn cute, too (or at least some individual or group you are working with will think so). That is a problem when the great idea derails a project or doesn’t align with the strategy.
Fuzzy bunnies come from anywhere. Sometimes it’s the visionary folks who thrive on the big picture who can’t help themselves. They enjoy coming up with lots and lots of ideas and they’re pretty good at it, too. Sometimes it’s the more detail-oriented members of a group who fixate on ideas that won’t actually move the project forward.
We’ve worked with clients who wanted to spend precious meeting time discussing menu items that were too expensive for the budget. We’ve guided teams who kept contributing “great ideas” for programs well beyond the time they could be implemented.
Yes, when managing a project you need to be flexible and nimble. But there’s a difference between changing plans because there isn’t a staff member available and changing plans because a new idea popped up.
Bad ideas, of course, are easy to dismiss. But the good ones?
That’s when we turn to the strategy document. If good strategy work has been done, it is relatively easy to determine whether an idea should be explored or set aside.
A strategy document can be simple or complex, but it can’t be placed on a shelf. Its true value appears when it is kept close at hand throughout the entire project. It can be used to review all new ideas, all new solutions to determine whether the idea is helpful or a fuzzy bunny.
Should you entertain the idea of serving lobster on the lunch buffet? Check the budget in your strategy document. Should you rent a billboard because it’s a good deal? Review your strategy document.
It’s powerful and rewarding to see real and tangible experiences rise up from strong strategy. Even more so, it’s exciting to see strategy used to combat the fuzzy bunnies that rear their crazy heads in midst of shaping a project or event.
Let’s keep the fuzzy bunnies where they belong.
Want help starting the strategy for your next event? Download our free Event Strategy Worksheet.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Blog adapted from 12/2/14 post.