Friday, June 27, 2008

Business Justification Checklist

When establishing the business justification for a request, here are some helpful questions to consider:
  • What opportunities does your initiative enable? Note, while it may be most comfortable to lead with this answer, many bosses focus much more on problem-solving than opportunity-seizing. As such, if yours is like that, figure out how to re-frame the opportunity you want to address as a problem in need of being solved.
  • What pressing business problems does your initiative solve or at least meaningfully address? Don't forget to articulate the implications of the problem not being meaningfully addressed and how the mere passing-of-time (read: inaction) will impact the situation's ongoing risk and exposure.
  • What's the precedent-setting nature of your request? You'll no doubt find that your answer to this question can have some significant implications as to what happens next. As such, it's best you know beforehand so you can speak intelligently on the topic when it inevitably comes up - and modify your request accordingly, if necessary.
  • What's the ROI (Return on Investment)? In other words, if things go as planned, how long will it take to recoup the initial investment based on anticipated savings or additional revenues resulting from the investment. If you don't already know, you may also want to benchmark your request against the ROI projections of previously-approved projects and programs.
  • What synergy can be expected? How will approving your request also move other initiatives forward? What other expenditures will no longer be needed if this one is approved? Broaden your view - you know your boss will likely go there, so get there first!
  • How might existing dollars be used to fund it? While this isn't always possible, there often are lesser-priority initiatives that have already received funding approval that could be de-listed and its monies reallocated. Example: A more expensive seminar - in town - costs the same as a less expensive one requiring travel and lodging; purchasing more expensive equipment than planned might be manageable if there's a resulting reduction in year-over-year maintenance costs.
  • In what order do you want to order your points? In that you'll likely have several points you'll want to use as the basis of your business justification, give consideration to the proper sequence of your making them. Whenever I'm providing more than 3 points, I try to lead with my strongest two points, and save my third-strongest for last - a grand finale as it were. Each point should be strong enough to stand on its own merit, though - if it can't, you likely have more homework to do.

Hope this helps you get your next initiative approved.

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Making Requests UP the Chain

When making a request up the chain, make it easier for your boss to say 'yes'. Here's how:
  1. Pick just one issue at a time - This is not time for a 'kitchen sink' strategy...unless you're planning a major initiative with multiple parts, in which case the major initiative is your issue, not its components
  2. Succinctly provide relevant background information - Keyword: "Succinctly". Provide only as much as is needed to justify that the issue warrants attention. Have additional backup/documentation available, but don't assume it will be automatically relevant to the decision to move forward. That said, be sure to articulate the business justification for your request. If all you've got is a BIWI (Because I Want It) then don't bother even starting the conversation.
  3. Make a specific request - State clearly and crisply what you're looking for: authorization to do something, permission to not do something, additional funding, additional non-monetary resources? Whatever it is, don't just lay out the issue and make the boss figure out what you want.
  4. Be open to a counter-offer - Sometimes you can't get exactly what you propose, but if you're open to the give-and-take of a meaningful discussion on the topic, you might very well get several of the key components of it. And that may really be all you need.

Repeat with other issues as you see fit.

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Friday, June 13, 2008

Tim Russert, 1950-2008

A moment of silence for this life and leadership role model.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Five (or Six) Truths About Fear

Susan Jeffers, in her ground-breaking book, Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, identified five basic truths about feara:

  1. The fear will never go away as long as I continue to grow.
  2. The only way to get rid of the fear of doing something is to go out … and do it.
  3. The only way to feel better about myself is to go out … and do it.
  4. Not only am I going to experience fear whenever I'm on unfamiliar territory, but so is everyone else.
  5. Pushing through fear is less frightening than living with the underlying fear that comes from a feeling of helplessness.

"By now you've gotten the picture," writes Dr. Jeffers. "We can't escape fear. We can only transform it into a companion that accompanies us in all our exciting adventures ... Some people have told me they are never afraid, but when I question them, they reveal that we are just differing on semantics. Yes, they feel nervous or anxious sometimes - they simply never labeled it as fear."

Know, though, that whether you label it as fear, or not:

Unfamiliarity with HOW to do something is not the same as Inability TO do something.

So, the next time you find yourself "feeling the fear", or feeling nervous, or anxious, or whatever it is you feel when you're in an unfamiliar space ... STOP ... and remind yourself that just because you haven't done this particular thing before, it does not mean you're incapable of doing it (or learning to do it).

This simple realization is central to all personal / professional growth ... all relationship growth ... all leadership growth ...all life growth ... all everything growth.

So I want to add a 6th Truth of Fear to the list:

  1. Our ability to push through fear has far less to do with the difficulty of a given situation - real or imagined - than it does with our readiness to learn and grow, regardless of circumstance.

As such, it seems to me that fear can be recast as a basic "invitation to learn", rather than an inhibitor of learning.

Ha! I guess you could say that while "opportunity knocks but once," fear rings the bell again and again and again - until you accept its invitation to come out and play!

aTaken from Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway®, Susan Jeffers, Ph.D. Copyright ©1987-2008 Susan Jeffers, Ph.D. All rights reserved.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Archived Topic: Fear

Friday, June 6, 2008

Candidate City: Chicago!

Congrats to Chicago for becoming one of only four cities in the entire world to make it to the Final Phase of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games host city selection process. How exciting!

Per the website:

"Chicago offers a magnificent backdrop in the heartland of America for athletes to compete and spectators to cheer them on. We are a city that prides itself on achieving harmony among our lakefront, our 29 miles of shoreline parks and the city itself. In 1909 Daniel Burnham’s “The Plan of Chicago” introduced a comprehensive design for the city, and it still serves as a guide for planning today. By placing the Olympic Games in the very heart of our city, we will give our global guests the opportunity to appreciate the beauty of the downtown parks and lakefront and offer athletes from around the world a compelling and unique experience.

"A city is only as vibrant and strong as its citizens. Chicagoans embody Midwest values — integrity, hard work and optimism. Our community is a melting pot of ethnicities represented in our neighborhoods by 26 nationalities of more than 25,000 each. And we are passionate about sports, as evidenced by the 8 million tickets sold to sporting events in Chicago every year. We embrace athletes, support them in triumph and despair and are inspired by their efforts. The Olympic and Paralympic Games would likewise inspire us.

"Mayor Richard M. Daley has pledged to make the city the greenest in the country. To that end, he has overseen the planting of a half million trees, bisected major boulevards with median strips spilling over with prairie grasses and colorful blooms and pledged to have the city using renewable sources for 20 percent of its energy needs within five years. Indeed, there’s hardly a neighborhood in which you don’t see some sign of continuing beautification.

"Chicagoans are proud of our past, invigorated by our present and excited about our future. We are energized by the prospect of playing host to the Olympic Games, an event that would showcase and promote global partnership and harmony. We will not only stage an inspiring sporting event but also embrace and strengthen the Olympic Movement. Together we will Stir the Soul™."

Tokyo, Madrid and Rio de Janeiro also in the Final Four, so congratulations to them, too. But I know which city I'm rooting for! Very exciting, indeed.


Thursday, June 5, 2008

Stupid Questions and What Happens Next

"There's no such thing as a stupid question."

Wrong. There are all sorts of stupid questions. We hear them every day. We ask them every day. We label them as such every day. And life, amazingly, goes on.

But whether a question is considered stupid or not is not really the issue. What matters more - much more - than the caliber of the question, is what you do with the answer.

If the answer has you (and everyone else in the room) lapse into silence, it probably wasn't a question worth asking - at least not at this particular time, in this particular place, or to this particular person.

If the answer has you say something like, "Well if that's the case, then ....", or "So it logically follows that...", or has you offer up some insightful inference that helps move the conversation meaningfully forward, then it's GOOD you asked your stupid question - GOOD for everyone!

And if the answer has someone else say something like, "Well if that's the case, then ....", or "So it logically follows that...", or has them offer up some insightful inference that helps move the conversation meaningfully forward, then it's REALLY GOOD you asked your stupid question - REALLY GOOD for everyone!

That said, the best way to avoid the harsh glare - and potential embarrassment - from asking a stupid question is to ask it with the intention of applying the answer (whatever it is) in an absolutely brilliant, or at least quasi-intelligent, way. Fear not how you'll do that, just set the intention to do that ... and proceed accordingly.

Not sure how to do that? Not sure how you'd apply the answer (whatever it is) in an absolutely brilliant, or at least quasi-intelligent, way? Then maybe it's a stupid question that's better to not ask at this particular time, in this particular place, or to this particular person.

And what if you're asked a stupid question? Two things on that:
  • Thing One: Please, puleeeeeze, don't say, "There's no such thing as a stupid question!" (Sorry, pet peeve of mine.)
  • Thing Two: Answer the question thoughtfully and immediately follow-up with a stupid question of your own - something like, "So what can you infer from my answer?"

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