Prepare for Your Decade Grand Tour!

Prepare for Your Decade Grand Tour!

“When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.”— Audre Lorde

Today’s picture is one of many posters made available by NASA/JPL that show visions of the future. They also celebrate many of the missions already launched.

The Grand Tour poster celebrates the Voyager missions. These missions took advantage of a once-every-175-year alignment of the outer planets for a grand tour of the solar system. These spacecraft used Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune as a gravity assist to send them faster and faster onto their next destination. Voyager 1 has reached a speed of 38,610 mph!

The year 2020 is rapidly approaching.  Instead of a New Year’s resolution consider embarking on a Grand Tour of the Decade.  

Remember that it is easy to over-estimate what we can do in a day. Conversely, it is easy to under-estimate what we can achieve in a decade. Three tips to help you prepare your launch into a new decade:

Think big. Expanding your thinking to a decade can help remove barriers to boldness. By 2030 what would you like to have accomplished? What will you have contributed to doing good in the world?

Create gravity assist milestones. Voyager had meaningful places to visit with each of the planets. And each of those planets also propelled them faster to the next planets. What milestones can you create that build your momentum to the big visions?

Launch. In other words, get started.  The Voyager missions had to deal with the harsh reality of the laws of orbital physics. They needed a detailed plan from one milestone to the next. You just need a good plan for your first milestone.  Get started!

Voyager 1 is currently 13,200,000,000 miles away from the earth and continues to return valuable science from beyond our solar system.

How far can you reach by 2030?

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,

Alan Willett
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Thanksgiving to Those That Came Before Us

Thanksgiving to Those That Came Before Us

“When life is sweet, say thank you and celebrate, when life is bitter, say thank you and grow.”— Author Unknown

I grew up on a farm that has been in the family for nearly 200 years. Having been in the family for so long, the farmhouse is a treasure trove of pictures and documents that show the history of the farm, my ancestors, and events that touched their world.

In combing through the accumulations of the years, we’ve found a first edition of Uncle Tom’s Cabin as well as a newspaper printed in 1912 announcing the tragedy of the sinking of the Titanic. There are paintings and photos of many of my family members and others who lived and worked on the farm. We’ve also found photos that documented the changes and challenges brought by the Great Depression.

The item that struck me most was the marriage certificate of my great-great-grandparents AJ and Ellen. They were married in 1866 in the midst of the American Civil War.

I am thankful that my great-great-grandparents found a reason to be hopeful during the midst of an extraordinarily hard time in our history.  I am thankful that they continued to build a farm that has stood the test of time for nearly two hundred years.

In the USA, this week brings our Thanksgiving holiday. My focus this week is centered on being thankful for those who approach life with belief and hope and keep making our world a better place.

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,

Alan Willett

My great-great-grandparents AJ and Ellen

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It Takes Focused Time To Move Things A Mile

It Takes Focused Time To Move Things A Mile

“Where your attention goes, your time goes.”— Idowu Koyenikan

Creative leaders have lots of ideas. They are often responsible for many different things that all need to be moved forward. 

Sometimes they find themselves spending the day skittering from one place to another. They move many different things forward – one inch at a time.

The problem is that some of the things are big.  And the inch they get moved is soon lost as it slides back 12 inches.  To make real progress on those items, you must move them forward a mile at a time.

Here are five ways to move big things forward a mile.

Start it.  Too often, big things sit there because they are too big even to start. Big things that sit tend to get even bigger. Find a starting place and start.

Break the big thing into clear, achievable parts.  Instead of just picking at the edges of a large project, take a focused two to three hours to find some clearly achievable parts. Create a clear definition of “done” for each part.   When those parts are finished, you can stand on top of your success and tackle the next section.

Plan some interrupt-free time.  Interruptions kill speed. Set aside interrupt-free time. Remember: The number one cause of intrusions is you allowing them.

Schedule a day (or more) to focus on that one thing. Yes, that means that you will ignore the 27 other things that should be looked at every day. Remember that you would ignore them if you had a crisis of any kind. Don’t wait until a crisis occurs to give this task the attention it requires. Your other tasks will be there waiting for you and your focused time may lend perspective to their relative urgencies.

Bring in others who have the skills you need.  You’re unlikely to successfully move a grand piano down a staircase all by yourself. Likewise, for those scary-big things, bring in a few of your trusted experts to lend their help and viewpoints.

Don’t let the creative rush of multiple projects make you forget these time-proven leadership tools. Find a way to tackle those big scary items and move your most important things forward a mile.

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,

Alan Willett
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A Lesson, When In Doubt, Seek Input

A Lesson, When In Doubt, Seek Input

“We must learn what customers really want.”— Eric Ries, The Lean Startup

When looking at the starting line of a new year, I see lots of possibilities. Recently, the possibilities grew in number and delight.  

My doubt crept in as I realized I could not build all my ideas at once. That is when I realized I could model one of the lessons from Eric Ries’s teaching in his books. That is, to ask you what you think.

I’m going to be partnering with one of the leading nonprofit organizations in project management in a new initiative to develop online course offerings. The opportunity is exciting. But the question is, what should I build first? To answer this, I am seeking your input.

Please review the course offerings I am excited to build. 

How to Recover Project Disasters!
Consider that you are suddenly responsible for a project that is in grave jeopardy. It is certainly late. It is riddled with quality issues. How do you know how deep in trouble the plan is?  Will you deliver the bad news to those that really must know? Can you recover this project?  This course will review the cold hard truth of what you need to do to recover the project and finish with style.

Lead the Unleadable to Create Incredible Value
This course provides detailed guidance on how to unwrap the gifts of those very talented, but sometimes problematic people on your projects. We will cover how to set expectations of excellence that people will be inspired to reach for. We will provide the language of how to deliver messages that lead to a positive change of those going in the wrong direction. The course will help you develop your radar for trouble. You will learn how to determine when you remove versus when you improve the most troublesome. You will be able to detect it in the early stages and set things right before they become a challenge.

Start Projects Right so You Can Finish With Style
Too many projects finish in turmoil and exhaustion. In truth, some seem to never really quite cross the finish line. That finish line is there in sight – but as we get closer, it moves farther away. Often the trouble at the end was based on how the project started. This course will provide the ten critical things to ensure projects start right such that they can finish with style. We cover the key reasons that these ten things are rarely done. We will provide you with the courage, skills, and language to overcome the barriers and actively start your projects with speed and style.

How to Deal with Technical Debt
As a project leader, your job is to get the project done fast and with high quality. One of the most significant detriments to speed that most organizations have is an abundance of technical debt. This course will cover the seven typical types of technical and why knowing the differences between them is critical. You will know how to measure it, how to deal with it with surgical precision, and best yet, how to prevent it from occurring.

 ***

Now imagine you have $500 you want to invest in an online training experience that leads to immediate on-the-job improvements.

Pick one of the four that would be most interesting to you. Hit reply to [email protected]xseeker.net to let me know your choice.

You may provide write-in suggestions as well.

Thanks for your votes and ideas. Vote early and often!

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,

 Alan Willett

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,

Alan Willett
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The Big Ideas Summit

The Big Ideas Summit

“Knowledge is rarely enough to spark change; it takes emotion to bring knowledge to a boil.”— Chip Heath

I had the extraordinary experience last week of finding myself on “higher ground.”  I had a better view of the value-based consulting I have been doing.  More importantly, from this higher vantage point, I was able to visualize better how I can make more positive impacts in the years to come.

I sought this higher ground by attending Alan Weiss’s Thought Leadership Summit in West Palm Beach, Florida. I was there with the host Alan Weiss (author of over 50 books) and 15 other thought leaders in various fields.  The guest speaker Chip Heath, pictured with me, was very inspiring. Chip is the author of many influential books. 

The discussions we had and the work we did together were challenging and inspirational. 

3 Take-aways from Alan Weiss’s Thought Leadership Summit

Always start and end with a focus on high value for those that you serve. In other words, do not get lost in the methodology. Do not get caught up in the details of planning. Those are important, but they are useless without a complete focus on what you will achieve.

When you start to feel comfortable, it is time to seek higher ground. The stability of the plateau can be very enticing. However, there are cliffs on the edges. When feeling comfortable for too long, it is time to push your envelope to new ideas.

Do not sweat the small losses. They lead to big wins. When working on new ideas, there will be setbacks. There will be people ready and willing to criticize. The losses and the friction are all fodder you can use to build towards creating the best value for those that you lead.

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,

Alan Willett

Here I am with author and featured speaker, Chip Heath

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Details Make the Big Picture Real

Details Make the Big Picture Real

“Your big picture will never be a masterpiece if you ignore the tiny brushstrokes.”— Andy Andrews

Details, Details, Why Do They Always Want Details?

I recently lead a three-day workshop where the key purpose was to define a new direction for a large organization. By the end of day 2, everyone agreed that a pivot point for the organization was being achieved. The participants were excited about the new direction in which they were heading.

The energy level was high, yet there was something missing.

When we went around the room at the close of the second day we asked two key questions. What was an example “aha moment” of your day? And what is a major wish for what we achieve on the final day?

The aha moments were quite diverse. The wish for the day was common across the majority of people. That wish is summed up with one person’s comment, “Alan, the big picture is great, but we need more details. How do we actually go in this new direction?”

This question is a common one in this type of workshop. These workshops are designed to get everyone engaged and excited about defining their aspirational desired state. By its nature, a vision doesn’t contain the details of what most people really need to move forward. I have attended similar workshops where people leave excited, but on Monday they find they are back in the same job and not clear how to change things to match the new vision.

In contrast, I design this type of workshop to ensure that people walk out with a detailed plan and examples of what they need to do differently. I lead workshop participants through the design and plan of those details. I can and do help with providing some concrete examples. However, it is the participants of these workshops themselves who must execute the new direction. The real details must come from them.

The better they can envision the headwinds they will face in making the changes happen, the abler they will be to adjusting on the spot and keep making headway to the horizon of their choosing.

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,

Alan Willett
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A client wrote to me recently with a note that said simply “I need a win.” Have you been there, where it feels like you have faced a sudden losing streak and quite simply there is a need for a win? I have. I expect Elon Musk is looking for one with Tesla.

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