It's All About the Data

It's All About the Data
It's All About the Data

Monday, November 25, 2013

Negotiate - What you do every day

"Negotiation is a dialogue between two or more people or parties" (Wikipedia)

Just as all of us who work are part of a sales organization, ALL of us who interact with others are involved in negotiation.  However, negotiation has gotten a bad reputation, based upon the 'win at all costs' that exist in today's hype-competitive business environment.  There seems to be a notion that negotiation is about getting the other side to surrender, as expressed in this quote:

"Negotiation means getting the best of your opponent" - Marvin Gaye

I believe something different.  I have some experience in negotiating - with a weak position, with a strong position, out of necessity, as the 'hired gun', and even when I desperately wanted to be anywhere else but at the negotiation table. 

Those who manage people in a business environment, negotiate with their team members all the time.  Team members negotiate with their team leads also.  It is a two way street.

Here are some things I have learned - maybe these observations will help you in your next negotiation.

  • If the other side cannot give you what you desire (such as ordering a BigMac at a Starbucks), all the negotiating skills, yelling, and desk pounding will not get a resolution.  Look at your expectations ( "You cannot negotiate with people who say what's mine is mine and what's yours is negotiable" - John F Kennedy.
  • Facts sometimes get in the way of emotions.  This is often my fatal flaw - I think facts should always rule, and in some negotiations, facts just get in the way.  Let the other side get their emotions 'expressed'.  "The most difficult thing in any negotiation, almost, is making sure that you strip it out of emotion and deal with the facts" - Howard Baker.
  • Some say that being dispassionate is the key.  I have been in too many negotiations, where one side did not care - I promise you, there never was a resolution until each side cared about the outcome.  Each side may have different reasons for a resolution, but they wanted a resolution.
  • Try to understand the other person's position.  Not just the technical aspects, but the social, economic, and cultural side of why/how you are negotiating. 
  • Leverage is the key and the danger.  If I leverage you, by withholding money, to complete a task well, what are the chances that you will be 'all in' (  In my mind, leverage is the gentle balance between forcing and coaxing.  It is crucial that the harder the leverage point, the clearer the path to the other side getting what they desire.

So, where can we get some guidance?  I personally like the "GROW" process (

  • Goal - where do we both want to be at the end point.  If your goal is to 'kill' your opponent, you can quickly see why these negotiations never work.
  • Reality - this is usually where facts can get in the way.  Maybe the 'reality' is not only about the facts, but how people feel about those facts.
  • Obstacles/Options - Overcoming obstacles is the key to a good negotiator.  What is the 'roadblock' that is stopping a solution.  In lean thinking, it is almost always systematic roadblocks that cause problems (waste or error).  I have seen the an obstacle to be as simply as "I want to get paid 10% down to buy materials", and I have seen negotiators say "no", because they had leverage.
  • Way Forward - Actions steps moving forward. 

The GROW process also works for conflict resolution and mentoring.  If you are not familiar with the process - check it out. (

"The most important trip you may take in life is meeting people half way" - Henry Boyle

David Haynes, PMP, is Director of Consulting at Ideate, Inc. (  David's experience is in providing companies with business process analysis and change implementation.  @dhaynestech.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The benefit of Failure

One fails toward success - Charles F Kettering

Whenever you say the world 'failure',  people hold their breath.  Who wants to admit failure?  
What I hear about failure most often is.... 
  • Failure is why people get fired - right?
  • Competency by definition does not allow for failure?
  • If I admit failure, people will think I am stupid?

Why do a blog about failure.  Here are some of my thoughts that I have tried to express when I am mentoring team members.

  1. If you are trying, you will sooner or later fail.  It is only those who don't try that may avoid failure, but then again, they don't experience success either.
  2. We learn FAR more from failure than we ever learn from success.  Success breeds complacency.
  3. Failure is a positive experience when a good post-mortem is done. Post Mortem Blog

It then comes down to attitude.  We all fail, we all should improve.  Some examples:

  • You have lost your job - what could I have done to be more "all in". All in Blog
  • The project wasn't done on time - what could I have done to remove workflow pinch points.
  • Sales goals are not being met - am I touching my customers like I should, or am I hoping the sales come to me.  "My phone didn't ring today".

Continuous improvement is the name of game, and you only improve when you feel the need.

David Haynes, PMP, is Director of Consulting at Ideate, Inc. (  David's experience is in providing companies with business process analysis and change implementation.  @dhaynestech.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Commitment to Change

We all believe that we are good at 'change'.  We are 'champions of change'.  But is that really true? 
  • Why are people, in general, so resistant to change?
  • What does it take to implement change (personally or professionally)?
  • What is the one key attribute?

There are multiple phases people go through during change:
Internal Response
External Response
Not me
I am an agent of change
Why me
It is not time for change
What change
We change all the time
Poor me
The other guy won’t change
Why now
Who can I blame for change
The new me
I was the agent of change

These phases are inevitable, it is only our external response we have control over. 

In every successful change implementation it takes three key elements, without these keys, the change is doomed at least to a bumpy road, and probably to either under-achievement or failure.
  1. Upper management buy-in.  This cannot be under estimated.  Without executive buy-in, the change is destined for stalling.  Mid-level management will test the business resolve of upper management and can smell weakness in a heartbeat.  Momentum is lost, and delay is what happens.
  2. Have a plan.  Seems obvious, but much of change happens without a fully resolved and documented plan.  Firms implementing change often say 'we are really smart and we will figure it out'.  This is misguided and often leads to delay of change.  Hire a qualified consultant, with resources to bring to the table, and give implementation consultant the input needed for a plan that is both reasoned and documented.
    1. What problem are we trying to solve?
    2. What are we willing to do to assist?
    3. What is our corporate culture and what works best for our type of company (not based upon budget, but upon other successful change).
  3. Define Conditions of Success.  See my blog - . Success requires a goal line.  A mutually agreed goal line.  Then the change needs to be constantly measured against the goal line.  This is different than metrics.  Here is an example:

A project requires a new software to be implemented.  The existing software opens in 1 second.  The new software opens in 2 seconds.  The metric says 100% decrease in performance (2 seconds vs. 1 second).  The Condition of Success is the user should not notice the change from using existing software to new software. 

The problem is that metrics (numbers) can be manipulated to either forecast failure or promote success.  Metrics are not the only predictors of change success.  A defined and agreed upon Condition of Success will be a better indicator of a successful implementation than metrics.

What is the one crucial part?.  Commitment.  Commitment by all the parties involved, the customer and the consultant.  Commitment is more than "I will pay you if you provide this for me".  Commitment is the dedication of management buy-in, consultant time and effort, customer involvement and response, and dedication to conditions of success. 

Unless Greek mythology Sisyphus is your hero (, look at your next change implementation from a different perspective.

David Haynes, PMP, is Director of Consulting at Ideate, Inc. (  David's experience is in providing companies with business process analysis and change implementation.  @dhaynestech

Monday, November 4, 2013

When am I done? Why is the customer unhappy?

Within all agreements there is the expectation that the customer will be satisfied.  This basic tenet of contract law is assumed, but rarely documented well in the contract or agreement. How will we know if the customer is satisfied?  When things go bad in a project, more times than not, the problem starts out with the client feeling that their needs are not being met - in other words unsatisfied.

Lean thinking has a concept called Conditions of Satisfaction (COS).  This concept applies to any endeavor/project, whether it is a construction project, IT project, or any other customer-based service.  Conditions of Satisfaction is defined as:

Criteria by which the outcome of a contract, program, or project may be measured.

What does a Condition of Satisfaction include:
  1. What are the expectations of the customer?  How often do we assume that or project/service meets those expectations.
  2. Have the Conditions of Satisfaction been documented/validated/verified and confirmed by the customer?
  3. Are the Conditions of Satisfaction(s) defined in a actionable way?

The project will be done by January 1, 2014.
The project schedule will be defined later.
The training will be three days.
The customer will be satisfied with the training.
There will be three (3) solutions provided that meet Owner's objective as outlined in Section A.
A solution that will meet the customer's goal will be provided.

These actionable items require two key elements:
  1. Actionable items solve project requirements. The requirements that the project must solve needs to be written in a clear and defined way.  Each requirement shall be stated in a precise manner, and solve only one issue at a time.  There may be multiple requirements in a project.
  2. The requirements also need to describe what the customer is to do.  Some call this NIC (not in contract), but I believe that Conditions of Satisfaction needs to include what the customer is providing.  I have found the best projects are one where the customer is fully engaged in the process, including providing elements of the completed project.  This dual, written commitment makes for a better partnership between the customer and the provider.

During the project, these COS requirements are reviewed at every meeting, and special attention is paid to them prior to the completion of the work.  A project cannot be complete without agreement on completing the Conditions of Satisfaction requirements.

David Haynes, PMP, is Director of Consulting at Ideate, Inc. (  David's expe