Strategic Future of ABC: using Option Solving

Our option solving candidate for this week: an international instrumentation company with a presence in 14 countries. It has several manufacturing locations strategically located with a marketing reach of many more, besides its subsidiary entities.

The “great recession” hit it pretty hard like so many other OEM suppliers, especially since it worked with many of the major equipment suppliers in the world. It had to make many adjustments to retain its financial viability: such as closing marginal units and trimming its workforce wherever it made business sense. However, at some point it had to move from trimming to preparing for renewed growth but, like so many others, was faced with a tough banking and credit situation. This reality, as with countless other manufacturers, is destined to limit its re-expansion without some creative resource initiatives.

One of its key executives decided to speculate about its future options before proposing fresh ideas to his colleagues. To aid his thinking and objectivity he chose to work with an outside resource and together they put together an appropriate question, which took a reasonable amount of debate and time. This turned out to be: “What is our best option over the next 12 months to reposition ABC as the dominant player and achieve its optimal potential?”

Once in place, he was able to identify the two “bookends” (see Smart Decisions book) that would form choice boundaries for his question. These were: at one end, “Keep managing for survival,” and at the other end, “Sell ABC to the highest bidder.” Since both were unacceptable options at that moment in time, for a whole host of reasons, they served to spark this executive’s intuitive intelligence into a strongly creative but strategic mode.

If you now go to the Latest Example, you will see some of the options he developed from which he made his final choice after he slept on all his options overnight. This latter sleep activity is called “emotional distancing,” which allows the intuitive intelligence to work at its best; to make all the trade-offs and weigh the alternatives while asleep. In the book you will see the reasoning for this phenomenon.

At some point, he and his senior colleagues from around the world will need to build a consensus for the best way ahead. With the Latest Example version in his back pocket, he will be in a position to lead such a discussion: although, since the group will swell to around 25, he should consider using an outside facilitator. A capable leader should be able to orchestrate up to 10 executives through such an exercise but when the numbers get higher, there’s much to be gained from using an experienced outsider to facilitate such discussions. Another advantage of using outside facilitators is that they have usually seen a variety of approaches for resolving different company issues, consequently can add to the creativity pool.

Experienced facilitators can also aid splitting larger groups into sub-groups, to aid participant involvement, since those on the fringes will not necessarily buy-into the activity or final outcome…more about larger groups in the book “Smart Decisions.”

This company did come up with an appropriate option and is now better positioned to steadily grow again in a difficult marketplace (Next week’s posting: Significant not-for-profit facing major finance crunch…Please also make COMMENTS for connecting with the author)

                                        © 2009-2010 Leadership Solutions Inc® (MALRC). All rights reserved

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HR Team not Meeting Expectations: using Option Solving

Our option solving candidate for this week: an international financial organization with a substantial branch presence in the US. It has been operating from its New York base for 20-30 years and its America’s workforce is large enough to warrant a small human resources team.

Over the past 4-5 years people within the branch have become increasingly frustrated with the HR team’s effectiveness: it is currently responsible for salary and benefit administration, as well as assisting in recruitment, new employee orientation and training activities. With a fair number of expatriates within the branch, their issues also have to be handled.

With a new general manager in place over the past 2 years, who has ambitious plans for the group, the HR team’s effectiveness came further into the spotlight. One of the branch leadership team was assigned to resolve the issue, even though that person has no defined experience in the HR field. His challenge: to find an acceptable solution as quickly as possible.

Fortunately he is conversant with the option solving technique, so he immediately sets about formulating an appropriate question. Once the appropriate issues or are highlighted, it turns out to be as follows: “What is our best option for handling our current HR function, so that it will be effective, up-to-date and communicate HR issues promptly?”

With this in place, he is now positioned to identify the two “bookends” (see Smart Decisions book) to help frame his deliberations. These were: at one end, “Stay as we are,” and at the other end, “Completely replace the team.” Both were unacceptable choices at this moment in time, for a variety of reasons, but they served to spur the executive’s intuitive intelligence into high creative gear.

A little help from some confidantes with HR experience enables him to come up with the following options: A)?, B) Train and coach current people, C)?, D) Outsource some of what we currently do, E)?, and F) Get an outside HR professional to review the situation – see Latest Example.

Again, this non-executive’s choice is not important, since only he has the best contextual perspective to pick the optimum option with his experience laden intuitive intelligence. Even so, once his choice is made, he is able to meet with his general manager and walk that individual through his thinking and final option: chances are the general manager will go along with it…a good step accomplished. His clear framing, alternatives and intuitive choice provide the arguments and intuitive reasoning to convince his own leader, as well as himself.

It will be a surprise if good progress is not made within the near future and sooner rather than later the enterprise will be able to put the issue behind it: hence good momentum is sustained.  (Next week’s posting: Taking the best fundamental strategic decision to move a business forward using Option Solving.)

                                        © 2009-2010 Leadership Solutions Inc® (MALRC). All rights reserved

Resolving Veterinary Practice Challenges: with Option Solving

Owner veterinarians have many role advantages, not least orchestrating their “own show.” But they also have their practice challenges, too. Sometimes they have no-one else to discuss particular sensitive issues with, other than with other owner veterinarians. The latter are not always available when needed and then there’s the owners’ bias toward trying to resolve things themselves. This is where Option Solving can help as a valuable decision making tool.

You can find an incomplete example under the Latest Example tag: incomplete to discourage readers from the temptation of believing that other people’s solutions will be their solutions, too…especially with regard to Option Solving. The example outlines a typical challenge for owner veterinarians, where an associate veterinarian (Sarah) wishes to drop a work day because she has moved another part of town. Sarah has been working at the practice for a few years and has built up a healthy following on her two days of practice. Unfortunately she wasn’t interested in buying into the practice.

As is often the case, Sarah’s personal relationships had changed and she wanted to relocate to make a fresh start. She had also found an owner veterinarian in her new neighborhood that was willing to take her aboard: initially for a day or two per week. It was a jolt to her current owner practitioner, who had seen Sarah as a capable and reliable producer. Finding such veterinarians is not easy: one of the realities for owners.

For the practice owner the first step in Sarah’s case is to reduce her involvement from two to one day per week, with the strong likelihood she will then vacate all together. Faced with this prospect the owner derives an option solving question (see more about this in “Smart Decisions”): “What is my best option in place of Sarah on Wednesdays (she will still do Fridays), so as to hang on to her client following and meet her standards?”

Once the right question is in place, the owner’s next step is to formulate the “bookends” for spurring the owner’s intuitive mind to figure out the best range of options. Those happened to be: 1) Work alone on Wednesdays, and at the other end 2) Close down the practice on Wednesdays. Both were good because, although options, they were the least likely the owner’s intuition would accept.

Now the owner is in a position to consider options in between. With the owner’s intuitive mind pushing away from these bookends, other options start to flow: A) Find a good match for Sarah’s clients, B)?, C) Appeal to Sarah to extend her stay until we find the right person, D)?, E) Do not replace Sarah across the board, or F)? – see blog Latest Example.

The owner made an appropriate choice, after a night to sleep on it (see “emotional distancing” in the book), which is not important to discuss in light of the earlier point. However, with this intuitive choice comes peace of mind, knowing that all the best options have been considered and the owner’s best judgment tool (the intuitive mind) has done its job. (Next week’s posting: How to deal with an HR team that doesn’t seem to be meeting expectations.)

                                        © 2009-2010 Leadership Solutions Inc® (MALRC). All rights reserved

Dilemma of First Job Exposure: resolved with Option Solving

 My other wonderful daughter (M), who is a psychology sophomore, had figured out how much extra spends she would have, if she could secure a part-time bar-tending job. She also cutely figured out how her studies could be enhanced working as a bar-tender by giving her a terrific “fishbowl” view of the many personalities that hang around bars. So, recently she completed a two-day bar-tender’s course in New Jersey and ended up with an appropriate certificate.

Next step: find a bar-tending agency in Manhattan, which she did. Recently she attended her first interview, by way of an agency, at a “hookah” (mid-east pipe smoking) bar on Manhattan’s West Side. Being such an attractive and “cool” young lady, she was quickly hired: although on the basis she would have to wait tables as well.

In due course her first outing at the “hookah” bar occurred: where we all wished her well. But, within the first 2 hours, her sister received a cell phone call from M asking for advice: “Should she come or hang-around?” She was informed she would receive no pay, only tips. She informed her sister that the bar was dead quiet and she was just hanging out reading. The manager was hardly communicating with her: probably anticipating like so managers that people should – by magic – know what to do; no orientation necessary!

What should she do? Her sister handed over the phone to Dad, who naturally suggested she consider her options. The question for such an exercise was quite straight forward: “What should I do, come home or stay?” Moving straight to her situation bookends (see the book), she quickly came up with at one end – Sit and hang out reading: and at the opposite end – Leave in a fit of rage. Neither of these two extreme options appealed to her, which really helped get her creative, intuitive juices flowing.

She eventually came up with seven alternative options for consideration (see Latest Example), which included: A?, B-Go home if things don’t change in the next 30-60 minutes, C?, D – Request bar-tending as opposed to waiting tables (as per her original expectation),  E?, F – Call agency and ask its advice, G? (Learn more about compiling these options from the book.)

Again, her final intuitive choice is not important, since she’s the only person who could make that judgment in light of her particular situation at the time. More valuable was her ability to figure out her best call for herself, not her parents. Figuring things out made her feel more secure within herself that she could handle these early job challenges. She would also be able to demonstrate to the agency that she handled the situation with some maturity, rather than “act out.” She is now better equipped to use Option Solving in the future based upon this practical experience. (Next week’s posting: Dealing with a veterinarian’s office issues.)

                                        © 2009-2010 Leadership Solutions Inc® (MALRC). All rights reserved