Is this why your project is stuck?

Last month, I wrote about uncertainty being the new normal in our world of work, and how we can embrace that uncertainty and use it as a way to move forward.

So many of my clients are dealing with uncertainty on a daily basis—and it’s more prevalent now than I’ve ever known it to be. But they’re so close to it they don’t always see it for what it is. All they know is they’ve identified a problem and see marketing as the cure. But they need someone who will do more than blindly fill that prescription. Before anything else, they need an accurate diagnosis.  

how companies get it wrong

  • Small to mid-size organizations are often filled with people who wear many hats. They are so bogged down in the day-to-day of keeping all of the wheels turning, there is little opportunity to get off the merry-go-round and examine the big picture.
  • Large organizations can be prone to settling into siloed teams and departments. They don’t know what each other is doing, resulting in duplicate, conflicting or simply wasted efforts.
  • Organizations of all sizes may want something different, but many times have no strategy to make it happen. Or when they do, their action plan is based on hunches or gut feelings with no solid data to back it up.
  • At the other end of the spectrum are the organizations that have so MUCH information they can’t process it. They struggle to identify what is actionable, often seek even more information, and ultimately, fail to act.
  • And sometimes an organization becomes stymied with indecision because people may be so emotionally, financially or politically invested in a specific course of action that they need an outside perspective from a third party who can be more objective.  

here’s a real-life example

A new client is unhappy with their current online presence. They hate their website, and their customers hate it, too. The client comes with a request for a (purely aesthetic) facelift, thinking it will solve their problem. After asking some basic questions about the objectives for the redesign, however, it quickly became clear there was no consensus on the client side concerning what they wanted to achieve. No one really had any idea what their goals were for the site, who their audience was, or what was important to those very important people. The real problem had little to do with what the website looked like, and everything to do with the fact that there was no strategy to inform what should be on the site.

how to get it right

It’s oh-so-tempting to jump in and start “fixing” things before we know what is truly broken. This is usually because the problem has been allowed to fester unchecked for too long, and now the pressure is on to produce different results. Trust me, though—the wrong solution applied to the wrong problem is not going to fix anything.

Getting the right diagnosis involves talking to someone (like me) who knows what questions to ask, listens closely to your responses, recognizes when things don’t quite add up, and dives deeper to get to the heart of the problem. My goal is to understand what’s really going on in your organization so I can prescribe the right solution, rather than blindly accepting your self-diagnosis as a scope of work.

Here’s the benefit:

  1. It forces you out of the habit trap (doing the same thing while expecting different results).
  2. It helps identify and remove obstacles that leave organizations stuck in stalled projects.
  3. It forces you out of analysis paralysis, providing the additional information and confidence that is often needed to take action.

If any of this rings true and you’re feeling stuck, need an outside perspective, or want a second opinion on your self-diagnosis, let’s talk! Together we can identify the right solution and get you moving forward again.

Uncertainty—Is it the new normal?

I’m a planner. I like to know what’s going to happen, when, where and how. If you’re familiar with the classic personality types, you can imagine how an environment with no room for that level of certainty could put someone like me (equal parts Type A and Type C) into a tailspin.

Maybe you’ve felt this uncertainty in your work world, too. Maybe direction isn’t clear. Maybe leadership is in flux. Maybe the landscape is changing so quickly that your 12-month plan doesn’t stand a chance of making it past the first six weeks without revision. I have to think it’s not just me. My inbox has seen more than a couple of news bits lately about “corporate chaos” and the air of uncertainty being the new normal.

“How do you even begin to plan for the now when you don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring?” It’s a question posed by one of those news bits I referenced. The author, Robert Rose of the Content Marketing Institute, suggests that humans typically respond to impending chaos in one of three ways:

  • we freeze (seeking safety in inactivity),
  • we get chaotic ourselves (seeking safety in hyperactivity), or,
  • we continue down the path we’ve laid (embracing the chaos).

I recently had the opportunity to “embrace the chaos.” And as much as it was uncomfortable for a Type C like me going in, it actually worked to my benefit!

I was hired to do some strategy work for a Fortune 500 company. The “chaos” came from the fact that while I agreed to be onsite with the client for three days, I did not have a clearly-defined scope of work outlining what they needed and how we would spend those days until a week before “show time!” I knew I would lead back-to-back workshops but as much as I wanted to plan each workshop down to the quarter-hour, I couldn’t do it until I acquired additional information onsite. And even when I did have what I needed for the first workshop, I was continuously gathering new information that would inform and shift the next day’s activity.

So rather than plan with the extreme Type C detail that I am so comfortable with, I had to get cozy being outside my comfort zone (hear what professor, author and consultant Andy Molinsky has to say on the topic) and allow myself to work and think in the moment. I planned as much as I possibly could (goals, objectives, and activities planned for fluid blocks of time) and tried to anticipate the different paths our work might take us. But then I had to trust myself to pivot…live, in front of a pretty esteemed audience (and brand-new client).

And it worked! Not only that, but I also learned a lot about working outside my comfort zone:

  • I realized no one expects me to have all of the answers before the we even know what the questions are.
  • I recognized the most valid, authentic outcomes come from trusting the process and leveraging the value of collaboration within a room full of very smart people.
  • I trusted my ability to think on my feet, and to allow new information to continuously mold and shape the process as it unfolded.

Was it a test for me? Hell yes! But was it successful? Absolutely. The client was happy, we have a path for moving forward, and I am infinitely more comfortable embracing the uncertainty that seems to be the new normal. That’s how I will enter into this new year.

what uncertainty lurks in your organization?

Instead of seeking safety in inactivity or hyperactivity, let’s talk about strategies for your marketing so you can embrace the uncertainty and move forward with confidence. I’d love to help.

Skip this step at your own expense

ever made one of these marketing mistakes?

  • Developing a brand with no distinct position in the marketplace
  • Creating content that doesn’t truly speak to customer needs and wants
  • Buying into marketing products or services that don’t help you meet your goals

These are just a few of the expensive mistakes that happen when you skip the strategy step of the marketing process. Continue reading

To find success in marketing, ask for directions

To be effective in marketing, you have to see things from the customer’s point of view.

You have to put your own thoughts, feelings and assumptions aside, and see things from the customer’s perspective. It starts by understanding who they really are, what they think of you, and what they want or need.

But the answers to these questions don’t come from within your four walls. They require us to step outside, talk to customers and prospects, and develop an accurate understanding of what is important to them—asking for directions, if you will. Continue reading