The Forge

The Decision Space

I like to work in the space of decision making.

The “decision space” resides in the minds of people when they are capable of making a choice to change. The decision space exists when people are convinced there is a better way to do things.

The conversation here is really just about features and cost/benefit and personalty (innovator, early adopter, late adopter…)

Another way to work in the space of decision making is to create this space in people’s minds. People who do not yet have this “space” are not listening to a message for change for whatever reason (or perhaps they’ve listened and moved on).

The conversation here…well there isn’t one, yet. There can’t be a conversation about features and utility until people are convinced there is an alternate reality that might be better than their own. In this case, the name of the game is connecting people to others who already live the alternate reality.

Maybe the only one living the new reality is me, for now.


Some forms of ranting end up sounding like “I can’t.”  I can’t do anything about the problem, but ranting about it (again) feels good.

I Can’t: Public education is broken, [and here’s all the research to prove it] but I can’t or won’t suggest or enlist resources to figure out a solution.

One option for the rant is, “I can if…”  Public education is broken.  I can move the needle if I work within the system to discover if the research rings true for my city. What can I do if it’s true?

Rants serve a purpose for sure…calling attention to something that is broken. It can be helpful to name problems.  But we can’t stop there.  It is worth being aware of which categories our internal monologues fall into…and to be aware of the pattern of our conversations with friends and colleagues.

If ranting is left to it’s own devices, nothing actually gets done.  Rants need to evolve in order to create change.

Some Reasons for Collaborating

Some reasons for collaborating, from most to least convenient.

Collaborate because we don’t have all the required skill sets or perspectives. Other stakeholders need to weigh in. In order to build a better service or learning space or product, it’s necessary to have input from those with domain expertise and from those who will use the new [creation].

Collaborate because we require feedback to validate or correct ideas. We are qualified to work in this domain and we crave feedback from other qualified professionals in order to get better at getting better.

Collaborate because we don’t know what we don’t know. Better yet, collaborate because we are curious. Let’s identify what the market needs and figure out if we can and should meet those needs.

Collaborating as a byproduct of curiosity is more mindset than mandate for most job descriptions. Rarely will a supervisor provide negative feedback for not going out of our way to vet solutions that don’t exist. And yet, being curious is a choice. So is collaborating. Choosing to envision a new reality is a choice. Choosing to create that reality is the ultimate choice.


Prescribing Vs. Discovering

Is it better to prescribe the steps for organizational change or allow employees to discover a path to the desired change? Research has a lot to say about change management (favoring the prescriptive approach) vs. organizational develop (favoring inquiry and discovery).

Prescribing steps with a resistant group may result in compliance to a process without the vision for how to benefit from the new systems. Alternatively, a willing group who discovers a path for change can be led astray by processes that are not proven.

Leading change within organizations is based on influence which is based on trust which is based on relationship. Therefore, whichever model we favor, it makes sense to factor in the judgement of the stakeholders who are “being changed.”  Is it possible that discovery and prescribed (research-based) processes are mutually dependent for effective change?

Collaborating With Colleagues

Co-laboring with colleagues is mission critical for most people in this century.
How do we respond to ideas and methods that conflict with our own?

That doesn’t work for me.
Wait, what?
Here’s what I’d rather do.
That might work for you but not for me.


How has that helped you solve this problem?
Can you give me an example?
Mind if I share some thoughts?
I wonder if… I wonder, that might just work if we….

Moving conversation to a place of possibility creates new alternatives.
New alternatives create new conversation. Not belaboring. Co-laboring.

Work That’s Worth Doing

Each job assignment, career, or vocation has these three components: the craft, the personal, and the interpersonal.

The craft component is what we were hired to do: teach, weld, sell…

The personal component includes our ability to be effective in managing our commitments, our time, our focus.

The interpersonal component includes our ability to network and to be a team player in order to achieve the mission of our enterprise.

Each of these three components includes emotional labor. Depending on why we agreed to our current assignment, it can be tempting to expend emotional labor on one or two components at the expense of the other.

Work that’s worth doing is always worthy of emotional labor in all three facets. HT @sethgodin

Pick Your Complaint

“Project management would be a breeze if it weren’t for all of these last minute changes to the scope.”

“If clients would just follow the protocal for filling out the technology request-for-help form, I could solve their problems quicker.”

“If my students would just make good choices, I could get on with teaching.”

If it weren’t for (you fill in the blank): I’d be able to do what I was hired for; I’d be great at my job; I could get on with my work.

If it were possible to cherry-pick problems and magically remove them from the job description…do that too many times and soon anyone could do what you do.

Part of what makes work, projects, and teaching an art, is the approach we bring to bear upon solving challenges.

Consider the constraints that make a job into “work.” Is it possible to think of these constraints as a canvas for your art?

Two fantastic books about constraints, art, and business are Orbiting the Giant Hairball by Gordon Mackenzie and A Beautiful Constraint by Adam Morgan and Mark Barden.

That’s A Wrap

The 2016/17 school year ended about 18 hours ago for Orchard Elementary in Modesto, CA. First year down, many more to go, God willing.

Students learn best when they believe they can learn or believe they will be supported as they take risks to learn.
Students become more effective when they connect their effort to their performance.
The best professional learning experiences came from other teachers and my students, many of whom taught me how their previous teachers implemented things (shout out to Nikki Whorton).

Goals for 2017/18 and beyond:
Teaching growth mindset and social emotional skills (especially empathy) will play a central role in our class routines and conversations.
Hustle can be taught! Hustle will be valued and celebrated!
I will actively share and connect with other educators.


The Best Constraint for Creativity

I participated in two meetings today; a strategy session with an existing client and touched base with a potential new client.  Both were incredibly powerful experiences due to open feedback and a mutual interest in finding truth.

In the first, we reflected upon recent successes and few recent challenges, yet to be solved.  As we interrogated reality, we began to see a new vision forming and a new sense of urgency.  We owned our successes, we owned a few failures, and now we own a new vision.

In the second meeting, a vision for solving some pain points is still a bit distant.  It’s not clear that I can offer a solid “fit” and solution for this client.  Nevertheless, the open and faithful pursuit of what’s best for this organization was evident in our conversation…its stakeholders are truth-seeking pros, so refreshing.

Today (and all days), truth was the best constraint for creativity.

Change Mavens

Do you find yourself managing up in your organization?  If you’re pushing for a change and feeling stuck, try to identify other culture change advocates.  Find fellow advocates for change who can introduce you to their spheres of influence within the company.

By creating a network that includes various subject matter/department experts, you’ll assemble a powerful combination and diversity of change mavens.  You’ll appreciate how the SMEs can translate the net effect of desired change into benefits that are relevant and tangible to a diverse group of stakeholders.

It can be an adventure to be on the vanguard of change, but don’t insist on going it alone.