Tag Archive: Decision-making

Why Simulation-Based Instruction is the Best Way to Learn!

sitrain_teams_playing_wide_sts

The Chief Operating Officer (COO) asks the Chief Executive Officer (CEO): “What if we spend time and money training our employees and they leave the company?”

The CEO responds: “What if we don’t and they stay?”

Taking time and resources to train your personnel is often looked at as a necessary evil. Training employees takes them away from their day-to-day tasks and the cost will be reflected on the bottom line. Adding to the challenge of supporting training, is the uncertainty of the return-on-investment at both an individual and organizational productivity level.

As an executive who is considering training your team, the most important question you should ask is not: Should I train my team? but rather: What method of training should I use? Different training methods result in varying levels of content retention. Of course you want to ensure that your organization achieves the greatest value from training, so relevant content as well as deploying the use of experiential learning techniques should both be priorities.

learning-_pyramid

As the image to the left illustrates, participatory learning, especially using simulation for practice, provides the highest level of retention for training, second only to “teaching others.”

What is simulation-based learning? It is an instructor-guided, interactive learning environment that replicates an actual business, technical, or educational challenge. It permits the learners to practice resolving issues in a relatively worry-free atmosphere. Not only is it authentic and relevant to the learners’ work, but it provides a safe environment to learn; mistakes won’t result in costly repercussions. It’s ideal to spur on innovation, too, because it allows for creative problem solving.

Simulation-based learning is the most effective technique for developing every professionals’ knowledge, skills, and attitudes, whilst protecting the organization from unnecessary risks. It is useful in resolving practical dilemmas, and provides four real-time benefits.

  1. EXPERIENTIAL & REPETITIVE LEARNING. While in traditional lecture-based training, the desired outcome is merely explained; in simulation learning, individuals achieve an outcome from first-hand experience. Adults, like most people, learn better through experience. In the simulation, individuals have the opportunity for repetitive practice, which helps increases retention.
  2. KNOWLEDGE INTEGRATION. A key facet of any learning is that understanding is increased when it is linked to some already known piece of knowledge. Simulation-based learning, because of its participatory nature, has the added benefit of being able to psychologically link concepts and allow participants to link knowledge areas through their actions.
  3. RISK-FREE LEARNING ENVIRONMENT. Regardless of our attitude, learning research validates that we learn by making mistakes. In fact, they are invaluable to the participant. If executive decision makers can participate in relevant and realistic simulations, they can safely make mistakes, learn from them, and promptly apply their learned knowledge to their real work challenges, avoiding costly mistakes or unintended consequences.
  4. ABILITY TO ADJUST THE LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY. The technology provided in most simulation-based learning tools are designed to allow the difficulty level to increase as the competency of the individuals and teams improve. This provides additional flexibility and continual learning opportunities for a varied level of experienced personnel.

Simulation-based learning is the most effective learning technique for both your employees and your organization. Your training dollars are better invested with simulation training because of higher learning retention. Further, because your team will practice with relevant and practical scenarios, the potential for catastrophic mistakes is mitigated.

If you’re looking for a relevant, engaging interactive learning environment with simulation, call Merit and ask about our SimulTrain® project management training experience. Contact Jim Wynne at  jwynne@meritcd.com or call him at 610-225-0449.

Permanent link to this article: http://meritcd.com/blogs/why-simulation-based-instruction-is-the-best-way-to-learn/

The Pre-Mortem Technique

During my research on how to make better decisions I came across the pre-mortem in the writings of Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman. He notes in his book, Thinking, Fast and Slow (2011), that the pre-mortem technique is valuable in the decision-making process because it has two main advantages. PreMortemFirst, it overcomes “groupthink” that affects many teams once a decision appears to be made. When groupthink is in effect, the wisdom of a plan or decision is gradually suppressed and eventually come to be treated as evidence of disloyalty. The collective suppression of doubt contributes to the group’s overconfidence, which is often a tragic flaw.

Second, it unleashes the imagination of knowledgeable individuals in a much needed direction—the opposite direction of the decision. The principal advantage of the pre-mortem technique is that it legitimizes doubts and encourages everyone, even supporters of the decision, to search for possible threats not considered in the decision-making process. I immediately recognized it as an excellent technique for decision-making, risk management and general leadership.

Because this has proven to be of great value, I would like to share this excellent technique with you. The pre-mortem is easy to implement once the team reaches a decision or finalizes a course of action. Here’s what you need to do:

Step back and state the following: “Imagine that we are one year into the future. We implemented (the decision and plan) exactly as decided here today. The outcome was a total complete disaster. Take 5 to 10 minutes to write a brief history of that disaster.” If someone asks: “What do you mean by a total disaster?” Reply: “In any and every way imaginable it was a total failure.”

Then, explore all the possible reasons that the decision or plan failed. By taking this opposite approach to brainstorming the ideas, your team will likely realize that there are more points that need to be thought through before the plan is implemented.

Merit Career Development incorporates this technique into our leadership, strategic decision-making, risk management and project management classes and it is very well received.  In one recent class the participants clutched the flip charts from the group discussion. I saw this and asked what were they going to do with them? I was told that they were going to present the findings to upper management; they had never participated in such a rewarding experience.

Merit can help guide your team through various tools and techniques to optimize your team’s knowledge, skills and ability with techniques and tools such as pre-mortem and many others. Please contact Jim Wynne at jwynne@meritcd.com or call him at 610-225-0449 to schedule training to learn this and other valuable decision-making techniques.

Permanent link to this article: http://meritcd.com/blogs/the-pre-mortem-technique/

Emotional Intelligence (EQ): The Essential Secret to Great Performance

The concept of emotional intelligence, EQ, has been studied for over 30 years. Research shows that high EQ predicts success beyond an individual’s knowledge, skills and abilities. Emotionally intelligent leaders have significantly greater annual profit growth, increased customer satisfaction, and higher personnel retention. In management, the more senior the leader, the more the EQ matters. In sales and customer service capacities, the higher EQs correlate directly to success.

RedheadStudies show that lack of EQ may limit a person’s ability to achieve results. Lower EQ scores correlate with lower merit pay increases, lower job satisfaction and more burnout. Managers’ and supervisors’ EQ scores correlate with their performance ratings.

The definition of emotional intelligence has been the subject of ongoing debates; however, researchers all agree that it consists of two principal components. The first component; intrapersonal skills or self-awareness, is the ability to recognize one’s emotions as they occur, helping one gain self-control in potentially emotionally charged situations.

The second component, interpersonal skills or social awareness, is the ability to recognize others’ emotions. The ability to express empathy enables one to have more positive relationships and minimize unproductive conflict. EQ helps put people at ease, build and mend relationships, confront problem employees, and manage change.

It is important to note that emotional intelligence can be learned. Understanding and incorporating specific EQ skills, techniques, and behaviors can help improve both the intrapersonal and interpersonal skill sets. An intra-personal skill, self-monitoring, can help one can limit or minimize emotional hijacking. Let‘s look at this closer…

Emotional IntelligenceWe all have specific words or phrases that are steeped in emotion. During the 1960s and 70s, the term “nuclear power” raised a great deal of emotion—both positive and negative. Similarly today we have emotionally charged words or phrases such as “gun control”, terrorism, and consumer privacy. It is important to recognize one’s own emotionally charged phrases and stop the emotional hijacking that is about to take place.

By recognizing our emotional responses when we hear a cue by self-monitoring, we can prevent emotional hijacking before it takes place. Stopping to recognize the emotional trigger is an important first step. Taking a deep breath, and/or silently counting to 10 can help us regain composure and react in a rational manner.

As for interpersonal skills, empathy helps us develop more positive relationships with others at work. Increasing our display of empathy enables us to connect with another person on an emotional level, thus allowing us to develop a meaningful, trusting relationship.

The question remains, however, how much emotional intelligence do you have—what is your baseline? Do you have an EQ deficiency, or are you well above average? There is only one way to know your EQ baseline and that is to take an assessment. Many exist on the Internet, some free others fee-based, however they may not stand up to statistical reliability and validity standards.

We invite you to take our free online self-assessment http://www.meritcd.com/assessments/eq/ and see how you compare to others; it takes less than 15 minutes. You will receive a report comparing you to the general population and you will know your starting point. With your baseline in hand you can select appropriate techniques and build your self-awareness and social awareness skill sets, and improve your emotional intelligence.

Would you like some guidance to improve your staff’s EQ? Merit offers half-day and full day workshops that help participants understand, identify their baseline, and strengthen their emotional intelligence. With exercises and interactive assessment tools, this workshop is engaging and life changing. For more information, please contact Jim Wynne at jwynne@meritcd.com or call him at 610-225-0449.

Permanent link to this article: http://meritcd.com/blogs/emotional-intelligence-eq-the-essential-secret-to-great-performance/

Crossfit Training; Your Body and Your Mind

The start of a new year brings with it many changes, professionally as well as personally. Many of us choose to start the New Year by making goals and resolutions, whether resolving to stick to a budget, or picking up a new hobby. Mine? I’m in the majority of the population: lose weight. To help me achieve my resolution I’ve started an exercise program called CrossFit training.

What is CrossFit training? The CrossFit training program, as explained by its founder Greg Glassman, is a system of performing functional movements that are constantly varied at high intensity. CrossFit is a strength and conditioning program that optimizes physical competence in each of ten recognized fitness domains: Cardiovascular and Respiratory Endurance, Stamina, Strength, Flexibility, Power, Speed, Coordination, Agility, Balance, and Accuracy.

Glowing_ManThe CrossFit program was developed to enhance an individual’s competency at all physical tasks. Athletes are trained to perform at multiple, diverse, and randomized physical challenges. This type of fitness is demanded of military and police personnel, firefighters, and many sports requiring overall physical prowess.

CrossFit training benefits the body by training your individual muscles over time to work together to provide an overall greater level of personal fitness than can be achieved by only conditioning one set of muscles at a time. This got me thinking: are there other areas in my life where I can use this approach? How can I “crossfit” my skills to become better at my job? How can I crossfit new learning opportunities to become a more valuable employee?

How can CrossFit training the body carry over to crossfit training your mind? If we consider our skills, hobbies, and responsibilities in our careers as muscles, we can make the analogy that those skills are muscles needing exercise. Some muscles are used more than others; some are barely used at all. All too often in our jobs, there is a set way of doing things that is like performing a repetitive workout. However, the brain is a muscle that like all muscles must be exercised to be kept in peak condition.

Modern cognitive psychology has demonstrated that the brain is not a static entity. Rather, the brain is continually and constantly developing and pruning pathways across skillsets, linking new knowledge to existing knowledge, or destroying old pathways which aren’t utilized to make room for new synaptic links. You can take advantage of this process by crossfit training your brain with a new skill or area of knowledge, which is seemingly unrelated to your existing career or job responsibilities.

people teaching each otherHow can crossfit training your mind benefit you in your workplace? Cross-functional training has many benefits for organizations as well as employees. At an organizational level, cross training skillsets help safeguard the organization against widening skills gaps. Organizations that cross-train employees across a range of functions put themselves in a good position to prevent sudden shortfalls and manage surges in specific areas when there is a spike in demand. On an individual level, cross training enables employees to explore and assess alternative interests and abilities. It also enables managers to identify and nurture employees who show exceptional talent in a particular function. Cross-training yourself to learn new skills, can increase your employability and enable you to stay relevant.

A few examples …learning the components of Strategic Leadership as a Project Manager (PM) can help reduce the probability of failure by sharpening leadership skills that enable the PM to better understand, motivate and build consensus with other members of a project team.  Or, learning to identify the role emotions and subconscious biases play in the decision making process can enable an individual to make more effective decisions. Learning Risk Management skills can enable a Human Resources manager to better anticipate potential problems and know how to create effective solutions before a problem arises.

In 2016, give consideration to learning things outside the scope of your role or responsibilities. Even if learning new skills may not seem directly related to your current work position, you will be increasing your value. Soon, you’ll wonder how you ever got along without these new skills.

If you are seeking to reduce your organization’s gaps in skills, improve cooperation and productivity through better communications and decision-making knowledge, or provide some morale-improving, team-building workshops, let’s talk. With a wide variety of courses, delivery techniques and a highly skilled training team, we will help you achieve your training goals for 2016 and beyond.

Contact Jim Wynne at 610-225-0449 or at jwynne@meritcd.com.

 

Permanent link to this article: http://meritcd.com/blogs/crossfit-training-your-body-and-your-mind/

Business Ethics in the Age of Technology

Business Ethics in the Age of Technology“Business Ethics” is a dangerously murky term with real and profound effects. Ethics are a vital part of every decision, not just hiring practices and the handling of corporate resources.

With the prevalence of social media and the ease of accessing information through technology, training your employees on ethics is more important than ever. Every single decision has the chance to drastically affect how the public perceives a company.

Companies that have invested in ethical compliance education for their entire staff have achieved praise from critics and fervent support from consumers. Conversely, companies that have shirked this responsibility have been met with exorbitant legal battles, vocally dissatisfied customers, and critical condemnation.

Although many aspects of business ethics seem obvious, every decision made has an ethical component. Without a clearly defined and understood corporate code of ethics, seemingly insignificant decisions can lead to enormously expensive legal gray areas.

You can never take it back

In an attempt to solidify his core demographic, Mike Jeffries, the CEO of clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch, publicly belittled the people he felt did not fit the company’s image. During an interview, he casually condemned those who did not meet the brand’s image as being unworthy of wearing their clothes. Consumers found this statement to be offensive and unethical, resulting in a 15% drop in sales and a 10% drop in share price[i]. However, the remarkable part of this incident is that the backlash came six years after the comments were made.

In 2013, social media websites brought the CEO’s comments to a much larger audience than imagined at the time of the interview. The permanent and public nature of social media and electronic record keeping changed a forgotten comment into an irreversible and hugely expensive PR nightmare. Almost every major news outlet picked up the story and these articles still appear prominently with a simple Google search of Abercrombie & Fitch.

The CEO’s unethical comment, along with ethical issues of racial discrimination in hiring practices, have resulted in millions of dollars in legal fees, a diminished clientele, and highly expensive restructuring of ethical training and policies for A&F. However, offhand remarks or discriminatory hiring practices are by no means the only unethical actions with drastic tolls on businesses.

Who owns the information?

Poorly drafted IT policies regarding the ownership of information created on company computers can also place a business at risk of being perceived as unethical. The lack of clear policies and workforce training regarding the content of e-mails, accessing social media, and personal communications on company computers create easy opportunities for issues of harassment. Only proper training in ethical use can help shield a company from liability.

Ethical decision-making has a direct and profound impact on a company’s brand and can result in substantial expenses if not handled properly. Taking ethical compliance education seriously, drafting and implementing clear policies and guidelines are of vital importance in today’s business.

With successful startups like uber, giants like Comcast, A&F, and the Livestrong Corporation being crippled by unethical behavior, business ethics are a pressing need in every workplace.

Interested in safeguarding your business from ethical issues? Click here to learn more about Merit Career Development’s business ethics training courses and consulting services.


© 2014 Merit Career Development. All rights reserved. For more information, please contact Jim Wynne at jwynne@MeritCD.com.

Permanent link to this article: http://meritcd.com/blogs/business-ethics-in-the-age-of-technology/

Infographic: Keys to Improving Decision-Making

In just the few minutes it will take you to review these graphically presented facts, you will gain a good sense of the factors and issues that impact our decision-making. When we pause to understand these, we can literally improve the outcome of our decisions.

Feel free to share this graphic on your own website, through social media or by email. Just click on the code below the graphic to copy for your own use. Of course there is a lot more detail and guidance available for your team or organization on decision-making and other leadership enhancing strategies. At Merit Career Development we offer on-site, virtually-led and on-demand programs that help improve communications, productivity and impact the bottom line. For more information, contact us.

Improve Decision-Making; all rights reserved Merit Career Development 2014References:

www.hbs.edu/faculty/PublicationFiles/08-102.pdf

www.nytimes.com/2011/04/24/business/24unboxed.html?_r=1&

hbr.org/2011/06/the-big-idea-before-you-make-that-big-decision/ar/1

www.mckinsey.com/insights/strategy/Flaws_in_strategic_decision_making_mckinsey_global_survey_results

researchnews.osu.edu/archive/decfail.htm

 

Feel free to share this infographic on your website by copying and pasting the code below. To share this on social media, please see the links below the post. Thanks!

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Use the Iron Triangle to Frame Your Pitch to Upper Management

Framing information and using the Iron Triangle - time, cost and scope - can be instrumental in gaining support from senior executives for your projects.Framing information and using the Iron Triangle – time, cost and scope – can be instrumental in gaining support from senior executives for your projects.

In their 2002 book, “Selling Project Management to Senior Executives: Framing The Moves That Matter,” authors Janice Thomas, Ph.D., Connie Delisle, Ph.D., and Kam Jugdev, Ph.D., highlight the challenges that project managers face when trying to sell a plan to senior management. The primary issue lies in communicating the benefits of the assignment and approaching the situation with the right frame.

“Framing” is the perspective we bring to decision-making based on past experiences. In her renowned book on the subject, “The Power of Framing: Creating the Language of Leadership,” Gail Fairhurst, Ph.D., says that when we are communicating through frames, we are shaping the reality of a situation.

But framing can have a negative effect when it’s not used with careful thought, so it’s important to choose the proper frame when promoting a project to upper management. By presenting the vital information in a concrete and practical way, project managers can use the Iron Triangle of time, cost and scope to prove to executives how the company will improve its bottom line.

Breaking through their barriers

From CEOs to CFOs, top-level executives are concerned with maintaining profitability. Therefore, they are often wary of using valuable resources like time and workflow in projects that have a potential for failure. When it comes to pitching assignments to them, executives need to understand the positive outcomes that project management will provide the business.

In their book, Thomas, Delisle and Jugdev explain that project management is becoming increasingly important to organizations that are looking to grow within their sectors. Project managers have to present the main components of the project in the right context while managing the realistic expectations of their executives.

The steps of persuasion

When framing a project management pitch for senior leadership, persuasion is an effective tool. In “The Necessary Art of Persuasion,” author Jay Conger, D.B.A., senior research scientist at the University of Southern California’s Center for Effective Organizations, underscored the efficacy of persuasion and discussed four distinct steps that project managers should use for framing discussions with upper management:

  1. Establish credibility
  2. Identify common ground, and use it to frame goals
  3. Reinforce position with language and evidence
  4. Connect emotionally.

Successful project leaders position the assignment as a solution to corporate problems. They use executive-level language and concepts that resonate with upper management and present their information using the Iron Triangle focusing on time, cost and scope of the project. Senior executives want business results that can be achieved at lower expense to the company, and by presenting evidence in the right light, managers can ensure that their leaders support their efforts.


© 2014 Merit Career Development. All rights reserved. For more information, please contact Jim Wynne at jwynne@MeritCD.com.

Permanent link to this article: http://meritcd.com/blogs/use-the-iron-triangle-to-frame-your-pitch-to-upper-management/

Improve Your Decision-Making, Improve Your Leadership

Decision-MakingDid you know that we make about 35,000 decisions a day? Learn about the many factors, conscious and sub-conscious, that affect our choices, and how we can control the ones that will help us make the best decisions.

The brain is a powerful machine constantly working behind the scenes, absorbing and dissecting information at an unimaginable rate. Without even realizing it, most people make thousands of decisions every day, from choosing a snack to making swift decisions while driving. Of course, there are the tougher decisions that we really contemplate, too.

Making the best decision is critical to success in most fields and disciplines. Our lack of understanding of how our minds work has profound consequences. Modern psychologists are studying the processes in our complex and sophisticated brain and have identified common errors in thinking, shortcuts used in the decision-making process, and cognitive biases that influence our decisions without our knowledge.

We know that good decision-making is critical to business success and will impact the bottom line. Daniel Kahneman, PhD, a Nobel-prize winning psychologist and author, explains how the brain functions in making decisions. In his book, “Thinking, Fast and Slow,” he breaks down the decision-making process into two systems: System 1 and System 2.

System 1 works quickly and deals with automatic, unconscious thinking, such as finishing thoughts and sentences. It’s deeply rooted in our intuition and emotional mechanism. System 2 works more slowly, focusing on logic and problem solving. It is associated with deliberative thinking and complex computations, while System 1 is more reactive and creates impressions and feelings. Leveraging these two aspects of decision-making can be enormously beneficial.

One of the most significant of the biases that affect our decisions Kahneman calls “pervasive optimistic bias” which gives us the feeling of having control. That is also referred to as “illusion of control,” the tendency for people to overestimate their ability to control events In their lives. Other biases that need to be understood and considered include: ”framing”, where familiar numbers form the context for our decisions, although there may not be any reason for them to be relevant or accurate, and “loss aversion,” a tendency to fear losses more than value gains.

Professional assistance and career development

At Merit Career Development, we stay on top of the latest proven research and integrate these findings into our unique and engaging programs. As a result, participants can learn about many different features that are integral to the decision-making process. We help our clients understand how the two primary systems generate actions for quick thinking and more thought-requiring decisions.

Participants in our “Better Decision Making” program will learn about traps like biases and blind spots that can unconsciously and negatively affect best decision-making practices. Merit teaches the tools to develop effective listening techniques and how to adapt and apply this knowledge to different types of situations.

Like most Merit programs, this highly engaging and interactive workshop is ideal for optimizing learning retention of valuable information. Numerous rational tools and practical techniques ensure that the lessons taught will be carried over into real-life workplace scenarios.

Interested leaders can review the course outline for Merit’s “Decision Making and Problem Solving” to discover why it is the one-stop for dynamic workforce training.


© 2014 Merit Career Development. All rights reserved. For more information, please contact Jim Wynne at jwynne@MeritCD.com.

Permanent link to this article: http://meritcd.com/blogs/improve-your-decision-making-improve-your-leadership-2/