Four ways to win-win conversations

How many people do you know who wouldn’t understand a win-win conversation if their life depended on it?

What do we mean by win-win? Both parties know how to assert their respective needs. They know that they can never fully align their goals, but try to help themselves while the other party also gets satisfaction. They know that they may not agree on the process of getting there, but want similar outcomes. Their strongest asset is the ability to listen and they don’t see win-win as a feel-good opportunity – they see it as a value building, fairly concrete exercise. They can be as tough as nails and still want the other person to benefit.

It’s reciprocity through enlightened self-interest. They know reciprocity isn’t just a North American place name (there’s 4 of them)!

So, what about the non win-win folks? They simply are trying to tell others what they want, (sometimes, what they don’t want), but without caring much for the other party’s interest. Why? Because people who don’t understand value building reciprocity generally have low self-awareness and think less of the person they are dealing with. They impose their thinking in the hope that compliance will happen. When it doesn’t they assume the other simply isn’t listening (when it’s they who are not listening).

What to do? What are the four ways to win-win?

Here’s a 2-step approach using solution focus that gives you questions to help the non win-win folks move to a better place..

1. Download the win-win PDF and then…

2. View this video

Don’t expect overnight miracles. Patience and showing them you are listening will help move them – and you – closer to win-win!

More about solution focus

For more tips on getting to win-win try my book, Fry the Monkeys – Create a Solution

3 ways organizations can manage marketing programs effectively

Guest blog post by Ujjwal Daga,


Efficiently planning a complex multi-modal marketing plan, executing the plan on time and on budget, measuring and evaluating the campaign’s effectiveness, and ultimately driving higher ROI on the campaign budget can be quite an overwhelming task for most marketing departments.

How can we manage the marketing program in a way that helps us keep pace with today’s consumers? How can we achieve improvements in marketing campaign effectiveness and profitability? What aspects of marketing program management would we like to see develop and improve in the future?

To help answer these questions, I interviewed Douglas Long, a leader in marketing of technology solutions to businesses. Douglas has over 15 years of experience in planning, building and executing marketing strategies that significantly improve the sales performance of companies. He talks at length about his views and experience in the areas of marketing program management and project management.

The following are 3 suggested areas that organizations should focus on. Steps forward in these areas can enable marketing teams to meet their strategic goals.

Effective marketing campaign planning and management

Running a marketing program is really about running a series of project management steps. It cannot be over-emphasized that the success of the project depends primarily on the planning; executing the marketing strategy is the easier part. Managers need to ensure that all elements of the program are simultaneously well-managed for a successful campaign. They also need to focus on aligning the upstream and downstream marketing activities strategically, with the business goals. Likewise, it is crucial to include all teams during the planning phases. For example, they need to involve the sales team in the planning, as they are close to clients and will be having valuable inputs.

Role of HR in helping the marketing teams achieve their strategic goals

As people become the competitive advantage for organizations, it is important that HR goes beyond its administrative support function and play a more strategic role. The role of HR should evolve such that they become involved with the functional managers and the business functions, and parallel the needs of their changing organizations.

I agree with Douglas and would like to add that if needed, HR can help reshape the marketing efforts by bringing change in the organization culture through education and training, people development, etc.

Improvement in the performance measurement tools and methodologies

Marketing managers need access to sophisticated performance measurement and performance review tools and methodologies, to understand the effectiveness of the marketing campaigns. From a project management perspective, this is one area that needs improvement for accurate analysis of the effectiveness of marketing initiatives. As someone said, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure”.

To further elaborate on Douglas’ comment, I think it is also crucial that the marketing metrics used should be an indicator of the business performance and align with the business outcomes.

Here are some Solution Focused questions marketers might want to ask:

  • Suppose all elements of a marketing program are driven by planning, and aligned with the business goals, what would organizations see themselves doing and achieve as a result?
  • Suppose organizations are able to accurately measure the impact of their marketing initiatives, how would that make the marketing programs more effective?

What are your views and comments?

If you are interested in reading more, please download the entire interview here.

Ujjwal Daga is an MBA student at Schulich School of Business. Ujjwal has an engineering background and spent several years in software development before signing up with Schulich. Ujjwal is also learning about how Solution Focus fits with the world of project management.

4 ways NFPs learn from the perils of bad strategy and lack of clarity

Management professor Richard Rumelt asserts that bad strategy abounds in organizations. Former CEO John Bell asserts clarity via strategic plans captured in one page. Not much to disagree with on both counts. They both focus on strategy for shareholder-driven business.

How does strategy apply to multi-stakeholder organizations, e.g., NFPs like hospitals, public service, fund-raising charities, and so on?

The principles of strategy apply equally to these organizations, however the practices have to fit the situation.

The critical strategy issue in large parts of the not-for-profit (NFP) sector is that many organizations are programme and budget driven. This makes them, at best, inefficient. They act incrementally – a new programme and a percent increase in budget have been the norm, and their funders have supported this. Whatever strategy does exist in NFPs can be either somewhat abstract or not outcome- focused. The plan induces status quo and fails to measure and improve the quality of what’s needed in the market or community as they may call it.

The following suggests ways to practice the strategy issues raised by Richard and John in the context of the public / NFP sector.

1. Take a leadership position.

The NFP sector does not enjoy the hierarchical structure that drives decision- making in for-profit organizations. NFPs often look to tools like policy to guide them when the policy is too complex, no policy exists, or the structure is out of date. As someone said, ‘In the absence of a clear plan, leadership matters.’ Better NFP strategy, i.e., outcomes-driven, will come from leadership by the board and executive staff.

2. Engage key stakeholders closely when planning.

In NFPs, it’s not often obvious who the customer is. Strategic planning requires engagement with key stakeholders. The purpose is not to get their wish-list, but to establish their perspective on what’s needed in order for the organization’s leadership to be decisive about the plan. Merge your fact-based data with what stakeholders are telling you – you’ll need their collaboration to make the plan happen!

3. Manage problem diagnosis and decide what needs to be different.

NFPs often tackle complex social or sectoral issues, few of which will be solved, or materialize opportunities easily. Strategists delve into extensive problem diagnosis. This makes it harder for the multi-stakeholder organization to know which of the many problems should be tackled. Strategies built on problems prevent the creativity that’s necessary to be focused and successful. Instead, clarify the problem by prioritizing and explore improved outcome opportunities. And. don’t overlook the NFP’s existing strengths and resources (of which there are always many more than perceived). The strengths/resources are the platform for the future strategy,.

4. Be clear on the difference between goals and strategy (and tactics).

NFP goals must be measurable in terms of outcomes, not just program delivery. Measure in a way that improves (not proves) quality. And, remember the line, be careful what you measure. It’s that simple!

What are your comments on we help NFPs (and for-profit’s) move in the direction John and Richard assert?

Want some ideas on how to develop the plan using solution focus?

Project Management: What’s the opportunity in Solution Focus (SF)?

Guest blog post by Ujjwal Daga, a fine MBA student at Schulich School of Business. Ujjwal has an engineering background and spent several years in software development before signing up with Schulich.


Most organizations have a comprehensive Change Management Plan to address the changes to scope, schedule or budget of a project. Using this framework, the Project Managers try to quantify the impact of the changes and make decisions accordingly.

However, to succeed, they also need to have a clear picture of what is it they want to accomplish, engage the customers in the process, and address the ‘human side’ of change management. Steps forward in these areas will supplement the existing change tools and protocols and utilize the best of already working change approaches within the organization.

Projects initiate change and Project Managers can be considered as the change agents. We are seeing many examples of organizations collaborating with change partners, also known as ‘change management experts’ to facilitate the changes required to deliver projects. Solution Focus (which is the approach in ‘Fry the Monkeys – Create a Solution’ can be used to accelerate the Project Management changes – both strategic and human. It can help on a number of fronts:

  • Help the Project Managers create a vision of the preferred future by asking the right questions
  • Identify the elements (strengths, abilities and resources) of the desired future that are already present
  • Help them take the small steps in the direction of the desired change, and achieve visible progress right away
  • Seek innovative ways to engage the customers and external stakeholders
  • Enable the individual groups of silos to discover the common goals, collaborate on the key priorities and arrive at shared solutions for change

What are your thoughts and comments on the emerging opportunity?

Tips for Solutions Driven Strategic Planning

Want to get more out of strategic planning? Much more!

Want to make it a creative, concrete way to move the organization move forward right away?

How many times have you seen a SWOT analysis tilting to one side because the Threats and Weaknesses outweighed the Strengths and Opportunities? Why do planners, bless them, love to focus on the first two and skip lightly over the latter? Why do teams build their plans on the things they already know are not working?

Let’s not even bother answering those problem focused questions. Instead…

Here’s some of the solutions-driven questions used at the recent AMA Toronto strategic planning session:

What’s already working?

VIDEO: AMA Strategic Planning July 2011

What does the research tell us needs to be different?

What are the 5-6 most useful questions we need to answer in the planning work?

Suppose be made progress in the next three years, what would be better?

What outcomes would our key stakeholders, especially the various member groups be doing as a result?

How would do we see that be useful to our partners?

Suppose we focused on 5-6 strategic priorities, what would they look like?

Suppose our plan was communicated widely, what people see us doing?

View the outcome of using this approach: (Video)

Want details on using Solution Focus (and a pinch of process) to power up your planning? See page 62 of my book; Fry the Monkeys – Create a Solution

4 Customer Reasons why Project Management gets Better with Solution focus

Project planning is no longer an abstract process.

Ujjwal Daga, Alan Kay, Purnendu Nayak, John Nicol and Venkat S. Somasundaram met to talk about how Solution Focus can help Project Planning become even better.

Here’s four outcomes the group came up with:

1. The customer is now more involved

2. The customer is now the arbitrator of value

3. The customer’s perspective is now sought throughout

4. The customer’s unreasonable requests greatly reduce

Here’s the teams solution focus future-perfect view of project management.


Video: The Solution Focus Future Perfect Project Planner

What are your comments, observations and challenges to these possible outcomes?

More about Solution Focus in organizations

Everybody’s an expert in change. What’s your experience?

Gregory Bateson said, “Change is happening all the time…our role is to find useful change and amplify it.”

Change management is a growing field. Even individuals are starting to think about personal change plans.

My book, Fry the Monkeys – Create a Solution advocates that because change is happening so fast, managers and staff have to stop talking about problems and move to solutions. It’s a productivity issue.

What are your observations about change? What have you personally experienced?

The first two responses will receive a free copy of Fry the Monkeys – Create a Solution

Here’s an example of what I have noticed:

One change opportunity is to move beyond the popular notion that 90% of change fails. Sure, but it all depends on what you measure and who’s doing the measuring. Within ‘failure’ there are lessons to be learned. Ask any social media-driven marketer and they will tell you that they are looking to learn fast lessons from failure because it will tell them what to do instead.

So, what have you noticed?

4 ways stakeholder consultation planning changed conversation in a town

What sort of results would you want from a stakeholder consultation in your town? Here’s the outcomes from the June 15, 2011 Port Hope planning consultation

Duncan Mackinnon, one of the the contributors to the town’s brand planning kindly answered my four questions.

Video: stakeholder planning consultation

1. What were the top 4 things that worked to bring HBIA group together, then to bring the stakeholders together?

Concerned downtown business owners in Port Hope began to talk among themselves about the decline in retail traffic by both visitors and locals. Initially, the mood was pessimistic and there was an “us” vs. “them” type of attitude.

Informal discussions quickly became more formal using the HBIA (Historic Business District Business Improvement Association). An additional HBIA committee was formed to focus on strategy with the group recruiting people with a mix of skills and experience to work on solutions.

An outside professional facilitator was engaged to mobilize the group. Information technology and social media played a huge role in quickly/collectively sharing news and ideas.

This group quickly realized the need to consult with a broad range of stakeholders who are concerned about the town’s future and that the issue was larger than just trying to fix downtown.

Effective Teamwork came into play as the committee reached out to people they knew at Town Hall, in business/industry, education, service clubs.

The Roundtable meeting that resulted with all parties under one roof was an enormous success in building morale. And, putting thoughts into motion.

2. You saw the facilitator using solution focus throughout the process, i.e., leading up to, and in particular at the stakeholder session. What were some of the things you noticed that worked for both HBIA and the stakeholders?

The solution based focus very quickly got everyone down to work and allowed for “pent up” positive ideas to come forth. It clearly helped to avoid getting bogged down in negative, defensive dialogue. The resulting sense of teamwork and word-on-the-street, positive vibe would not have been felt possible by many.

The result has been a major turnaround in attitudes and has got people thinking that anything is possible.

3. What did you see or hear happening in the few days afterwards?

The best phrase I can come up with is “A fire has been lit!”. Early, I mean at breakfast time, the very next morning, there was a buzz up and down the main street about the incredible meeting held at Molson Mill.

That morning, the town’s Tourism and Economic Development department staff were calling on shopkeepers asking what needed to be done and how they could help.

Town Council members were “pumped” and looking for ways to quickly implement the ideas discussed.

The email, Facebook and Twitter traffic was jumping with positive comments and COMMITMENTS.  It certainly demonstrated that such a coming together, in a positive way, was long, long overdue.

4. What steps do you see the group taking to make the learning and the actions sustain over time?

It’s critical to “Strike while the Iron is hot” so that we do not lose momentum. A top line thank you note and YouTube video link were sent to all participants by email. The video , with description, was also posted on Facebook and on various community websites. A follow up meeting is scheduled within 7 days. Also important is the identification of skilled new recruits who attended the session, to help implement ideas.


6 questions for the self-reliant customer

Do we know what our customers really want? Today, there’s so many ways to find out, but are we asking the right questions?

One factor to consider in our questions is the self-reliant customer. They can never be fully self-reliant – they do need you. But, consider this…

A strategically driven not-for-profit recently had me facilitate a session on a new programme offering on financial literacy. We invited in a group of self-declared math-deficient learners. We were joined by folks from the field and the major sponsor, a bank.

The questions we asked them were very important, namely,

What are you most pleased about in your math skills?

On a scale of 1-10 where would you place yourself?

Suppose that number was to go up a little, what would you have learned?

How would that be useful to you and your employers, family, etc.?

When you received good training in the past, what did that look like?

Suppose you were getting tutoring on math skills, what would that look like?

Notice, the lack of discussion about the problems they faced.

With rich helpful answers based on their existing self-reliance and – importantly – the gaps that needed to be filled, we sent the learners out to further discuss their needs with the business professionals in the room.  The NFP team was able to immediate engage in asking questions about developing solutions for these ‘customers’. They knew where help was not needed and where it was.

What’s the key point? If we are going to ask people to change their behaviour we have to find out what they want, not what we tell them they need to fix.

Interestingly, as the math learners were about to leave, one of the group asked if they could stay and contribute to the planning session. They did.

Want to know more about this approach? As I say in my book, Fry the Monkeys – Create a Solution, ‘It’s about their resources for change’