Thursday, December 27, 2012

How Employee Feedback May Have Prevented Deadly Meningitis Outbreak


Guest post by Beth N. Carvin:

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there have been 590 cases and 37 deaths across 19 states caused from an outbreak of fungal meningitis among patients who received contaminated steroid injections. The main focus of the national investigation on this disaster is the New England Compounding Center (NECC), a pharmacy in Massachusetts. While it is the only location implicated in the widespread contamination in 2012, ex-employees of Ameridose, a drug-manufacturing organization that has some of the same owners of the NECC, have come forward with some shocking claims.

One ex-quality control technician at Ameridose stated that he was overruled by management when he tried to stop the production line when he spotted missing labels, according to an October 2012 article in The New York Times, while another employee (ex-pharmacist) said she resigned because she was “worried that unqualified people were helping to prepare dangerous narcotics for use by hospitals.”

Hearing reports like this must come as a shock to well-meaning corporate leaders who cannot be in all places at all times. So what can be done to avoid situations like this? And how can executives in other companies and organizations prevent such a costly tragedy? One of the first steps is creating and maintaining a company culture and work environment in which open communication is encouraged.

Employees should feel comfortable to share their concerns on policies and practices particularly those relating to safety and compliance. From what many news articles state, employees had strong concerns about business practices at both NECC and Ameridose. These specific safety issues could have been addressed prior to the meningitis outbreak. If current employees are hesitant to talk, HR should also be conducting exit interviews, particularly in high-risk occupations like healthcare, to identify any areas that may put the company, its customers and consumers at risk.

Managers need to be trained on the importance of balancing business needs with safety and to take frontline employees concerns seriously. In fact, HR in high-risk industries should implement a variety of avenues/opportunities for employee feedback, such as phone hotlines, online and on-site suggestion boxes, employee surveys, focus groups, new hire surveys and exit interviews.
At this point in the process, HR should analyze the data and information for trends and share important findings with senior management along with recommendations.  HR can facilitate discussions and task forces for planning and next steps. HR should also be involved with safety committees, training and employee development and company mentoring programs. Both 1:1 and group mentoring are helpful in high risk workplaces for knowledge sharing on everything from quality control and technical skills to how to maneuver through corporate politics and the proper channels to voice concerns.

Employee feedback needs to be gathered systematically in such a way that it moves from being anecdotal stories (often attributed to a few disgruntled employees) to shining the light on specific, objective trends. Even with stringent safety regulations in place, companies in industries in which employee error creates a life or death situation should have additional safety processes in place.

Consider the case of the air traffic controller at the Honolulu International Airport who “mistakenly directed the JAL and the UPS jets on a collision course. At one point, their altitude separation dropped to 0, meaning they were headed straight for each other, traveling hundreds of miles an hour with about one and a half miles between them." It was discovered in the FAA investigation that the controller had told his managers he didn’t feel he was ready for certification, and had in fact, requested additional training via his training team.

From an HR perspective, this kind of information should come out long before an incident occurs. Those current and former employees have the information – it’s up to HR to gather it and help solve the problems that could lead to catastrophe. In the contaminated steroid tragedy, if HR had identified that safety was being set aside in favor of speed and other corners were being cut, they could have made a case to senior management for why this was bad from not just a consumer safety standpoint but also from a business perspective. And 37 people would still be alive.

Beth N. Carvin is President and CEO at Nobscot Corporation (www.nobscot.com), an HR technology company that specializes in key areas of employee retention and development. She has more than twenty years of experience in human resources, staffing, business management, sales and marketing. Beth is a nationally recognized expert on employee retention and exit interviews, and has assisted with exit interviewing strategy for large, multi-national companies, in every industry, and in more than 20 countries. She can be reached at bncarvin@nobscot.com.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

My 12 Favorite Posts from 2012

Merry Christmas! 

I hope you're having a safe, relaxing, and joyful holiday. I sure am, and that means taking a little break from blogging. So, here's a collection of my favorite posts for each month from 2012:

1. January: A Performance Management Model. A picture is sometimes better than a lot of words.

2. February: Top 10 Excuses for Being a Lousy Manager. I have a lot of respect and patience for any manager who is willing to admit their faults and at least try to improve - and zero tolerance for those won't.

3. March: How to Discuss a Problem with Your Manager. I wrote this for a young lady that wasn't sure where she stood with her boss and I couldn't understood why she couldn't just talk to her boss. I realized this may have been simple from my perspective, but not for a lot of others, especially younger employees.

4. April: The Future of Leadership Development. My highest traffic post from 2012.

5. May: 10 (+1) Dumb Leadership Mistakes from Recent Headlines. I usually don't write about leadership lessons from current events - but decided to give it a try, with a focus on dumb mistakes. Wow, it was EASY - there were so many of them to choose from!

6. June: Authentic Leadership Development: Your Past, Present, and Future. Another high traffic post, very appropriate for Christmas day.

7. July: 10 Simple "Truths" about Management vs. Leadership. Although one of my shorter posts, it took a long time to write, and represents over 20 years of experience and learning about leadership.

8. August: How to be a Leader in a Crappy Culture. No, no, I was NOT writing about any current of past employers. This one must have hit a nerve, and led to an interview for a story that was published in hundreds of newspapers.

9. September: Leadership Development is not Supposed to be FUN . From the leadership development Grinch.

10. October: October was a big month, as I announced the launch of my first eBook and two new Executive Development programs, and shamelessly promoted them in blog posts. But my favorite post for the month was 25 Tips for New Managers.

11. November: 10 Questions and Answers for Managers about Praise. It's so easy, so effective, yet so under-used. I sure hope this one helped close the "want-got" gap for a few employees.

12. December: 25 Coaching Questions to Create your 2013 Leadership Development Plan. One of the reasons I blog about leadership development is that it helps me continue to learn about leadership development. This one helped me sharpen my coaching skills.

Thanks for reading, sharing, commenting, your emails, and your support and friendship! I look forward to another 12 months of helping to develop Great Leaders with all of you.

Our back yard in New Hampshire

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The 10 Elements of Positive Performance Management

Guest post from John Mattone:

The fundamental belief underlying Positive Performance Management (PPM) is this: Leaders and their employees must strive to make performance reviews complete, honest, and timely.

 As a leader, it is critical that you engage in crucial conversations to let employees know where they stand at all times. In the course of executing PPM, you should hold yourself to the highest standards of character, always being fair and honest and never injuring a person’s sense of dignity and self-worth. Ultimately, by holding yourself to the highest standards of character, you enable your employees the free will to make whatever decision that’s in their best interest, whether such a decision involves recommitting to you and the organization or even deciding to move on in their careers. 

 Clearly, by executing PPM with character, you also enable your organization to exercise its free will to make the best human resource decisions possible, whether they are decisions involving promotion, transfer, discipline, and even termination. It is only as a result of leaders’ executing PPM with unwavering character and purpose that an organization—your organization—can lay the groundwork for achieving breakthrough-operating performance.

What If the Truth Is Not Told?
I have coached countless leaders who, unfortunately and unknowingly—even knowingly—fall into a very dangerous trap of underrepresenting their employees’ performance (i.e., they tell them that they are performing worse than they are in reality).  This tendency creates:

- Dissatisfaction: “They don’t understand me no matter what I say or do.” 

- Reduced Motivation: “Why try? My boss doesn’t appreciate what I do.” 

- Reduced Commitment and Alignment: “Neither my boss nor anyone in this company cares about me or the talents I bring. Why should I care about my boss or this company?” 

- Voluntary or Involuntary Termination: “Enough is enough. I am going to bring my talent elsewhere.”

Of course, I have also worked with many leaders who make the opposite mistake of over-representing their employees’ performance (i.e., they tell them they are performing better than they are in reality). This creates:

- Coasting: “My boss told me I am doing great, so I’ll just cruise along with my usual half-effort.”

- Perceived Unfairness: My boss is playing favorites, so why should I commit?”

- Problems Disciplining/Terminating the Employee Later: “What? Poor work? You told me last year right in this office that I was doing great work.”

Clearly, beyond the need to hold yourself to a higher character standard as a leader, there are significant ethical and legal reasons for ensuring that you are executing PPM in a fair, honest, and objective fashion.

The Ten Elements of Positive Performance Management
There are ten key elements of Positive Performance Management. The greater the degree to which you incorporate these principles, the greater the probability will be of having complete, honest, and timely performance reviews.  

1. Employee involvement: Objectives should be set with employee in put. 

2. Valid performance criteria: Employees should only be rated on the criteria/factors that determine success in their job. 

3. Year-Round Process: Employees need feedback on a regular basis to optimize their performance. 

4. Proper Preparation: Both you and your employees need to dedicate time preparing for appraisals. 

5. Avoid Stereotypical Thinking: You must ensure that your ratings are free of biases. 

6. Input from Others: Obtaining input from others (i.e., teammates, coworkers,
subordinates, etc.) can result in more accurate and complete performance
reviews. 

7. Consistency: You must send a clear and consistent message. Your words
should not conflict with your body language.  

8. Rating Integrity: The final rating should be based on what was accomplished
and how it was accomplished. 

9. Dialogue: Regular communication between you and your employees is critical throughout the year. 

10. Employee Ownership: Because your employee’s name is on the review and
his or her compensation and promotional opportunities are determined by
the review ratings, employees should be entitled to a much larger role in shaping their own review.

Emphasis should be placed on employees reporting their progress to date. You and your employees need to focus on indicators of whether goals will be exceeded or not met. If employees are on pace to exceed their goals, discuss with them how to maintain their current performance level. It is important for you to spend time on performance exceeding specified goal standards. Many times, leaders spend too much time on performance that is below a goal. If an employee is on pace to perform below a goal standard, work with your employees to determine the causes of poor performance, examine solutions, and agree on appropriate actions.  

John Mattone is widely regarded as the world's leading authority on the Future Trends of Leadership Development & Talent Management. In 2011, he was named by the prestigious Thinkers50 as one of the fastest rising stars in the field of leadership development.  http://www.johnmattonepartners.com/

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

25 Coaching Questions to Create your 2013 Leadership Development Plan


As the year winds down, it’s a good time to reflect on what you’ve accomplished and learned as a leader and what you’d like to focus on for the coming year.
Creating an Individual Development Plan (IDP) is a great way to capture those actions and increases your chances of keeping your commitments to yourself.

Senior leaders often hire executive coaches to help them create their development plan. A good coach has the ability to ask just the right question at the right time in order to create insight and inspiration to change. However, a good executive coach doesn’t come cheap.
For those of you on limited budgets and working for frugal or cash-strapped organizations, have no fear, you’ve come to the right place. I’ll coach you right here, right now – for free! Just remember, you get what you pay for. (-:

When you are ready, take out a piece of paper and a pen, or a tablet for you techies, and answer each one of the following questions. Managers, once you’ve created your own plan, use the questions to coach your employees to create their plans. 

Purpose and commitment:
1. Why are you interested in developing your leadership skills?

2. How is becoming a better leader going to help you achieve the results you are trying to achieve?
3. What’s motivating you? Are you challenged in your current role? Do you have aspirations for a new role? If it’s just to be a better leader in your current role, why is this important to you and what do you hope to achieve?

4. How inspired and committed are you to changing?

Identifying the “what”:
5. What does great leadership look like to you?

6. Who is a role model leader for you and why? What do they do?
7. What leadership competencies (skills, knowledge, attributes) are important to your organization, for your current role, and/or for the role you aspire to? Why?

8. How do you stack up against these competencies? If you don’t know or are not sure, how can you get feedback?
9. What are your greatest strengths as a leader and why?

10. What are your greatest opportunities for improvement as a leader, and why?
11. What are the three areas (strengths or opportunities) you are committed to work on that if improved, will have the biggest impact on your desired results? Why?

 Identify the “how”:
12. Is your current role the best opportunity to develop these three areas? If not, are you ready to consider a new role? If so, what would it be? Why?

13. What will you do, and who should you talk to further explore this possible change?
14. What are some challenging assignments or projects, both on the job and outside of work that would give you an opportunity to learn and apply these new competencies?

15. Who’s really good at any one (or all) of those things? How can you approach them to ask for their advice?
16. Who can you meet with on a regular basis to get further advice and/or support? You manager, a mentor, a coach?

17. How can you find a good course, a book, articles, websites, blogs, podcasts, and other learning resources related to your learning goals?

Implementation and follow-up:
18. What’s your action plan? Who’s going to do what, and by when?

19. What resources and support do you need to achieve your goals?
20. How will you share your plan with your manager? What support do you need from your manager?

21. In order to hold yourself accountable and gain additional support, who else will you share your plan with and how?
22. How will you ensure you do what you say you were going to do?

23. What roadblocks do you expect or need to plan for? What are some ways to overcome them?
24. On a scale of 1-10, how committed are you to your plan? If anything less than a 10, why? What would you need to change to make it a 10?

25. What will you do to ensure those new learnings become a regular part of who you are and how you think and behave and a leader? 

Side note: It was an interesting challenge to limit myself to only asking questions, and to use as many open-ended questions as possible. I have to admit, I’m more of a “teller” than an “asker”. Try it sometime, as a way to explain something you think you know a lot about to someone. It will challenge your ability as a coach.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

How to Expand Your Leadership Capacity

Guest post By Brian Gast:

What’s your leadership capacity? I was 35 and the CEO of one of the fastest growing telecom companies in the US. I had created $400 million in value from an idea, was managing a 1,500 person company that everyone wanted to work for and a public company that was a darling of Wall Street.

Then things got tough. Competition increased and my patience with my team decreased. I began to avoid real problems and became isolated from my board. I didn’t know it at the time but my capacity to lead was a lot lower than I thought. It took getting fired to wake up and realize that I was not going to sustain effective leadership by relying on an MBA and my natural talent.

Anyone can stay calm and communicate clearly when things are going well. How do you respond when you have to have difficult conversations with a person who thinks very differently than you do? How about working for an unsupportive boss or inspiring the troops when slumping profits show no sign of improving? Such conditions test your leadership capacity. Is your capacity where you want it to be?

Leadership capacity is a way to measure a leader’s ability to be effective in a wide variety of situations and conditions. The greater your ability to access the appropriate behavior at the appropriate time, the greater your leadership capacity.
Executive Development and the Quadrant Model

Consider this four quadrant model as a tool to assess and increase leadership capacity. Let’s start with a brief description of each quadrant.

Acting          This quadrant houses your ability to get things done, to deal with hard facts, to enforce boundaries, and to make and keep agreements.

Thinking:       This quadrant helps us analyze, maintain objectivity, see patterns, and reflect on options and possibilities.

Feeling:         This is where we find our Emotional Intelligence, our ability to connect with others, to have empathy, to maturely express our emotions, and to understand the affect our relationships have on our lives.

Being           This quadrant is the home of our Executive Presence, that intangible vibe we bring when we enter a room. It’s also where we access our vision and our ability to see the big picture, ask for what we want, observe contradictions and inconsistencies, and express gratitude and praise.

Each quadrant has a mature or healthy state and each has “shadow” sides. The shadows reflect either too much or too little of the qualities of a quadrant. For example, too much Thinking energy can result in Analysis Paralysis or being a manipulator. Too little Feeling quadrant capacity and you become numb, stoic or distant.
Your Success Becomes Your Undoing

Successful leaders get bigger jobs because they’re strong in the Acting (working hard and strong) and the Thinking (high IQ and good political instincts) quadrants. Most leaders derail later in their careers for the same reason. They either overuse these two quadrants or they neglect developing their presence, emotional maturity or interpersonal skills.

Another limitation to potential is a leader’s inability to move from one quadrant to another when events warrant different skills or a different way of being. I see this when a leader is convinced that his team needs to work harder when actually it is in desperate need of support, inspiration and a vision.

Not only are single or double quadrant leaders lacking in leadership capacity they are often lacking in the area of personal fulfillment. They may lack the ability to affirm and support themselves internally or to believe in themselves enough to set healthy boundaries around how much they work. This means discontent at home gets brought to work and vice versa.
Know Thy Bubble, Know Thyself

I describe the four quadrants and their shadows in my book The Business of Wanting More: Why Some Executives Move from Success to Fulfillment and Others Don’t. The book also talks about how we come about our shadows. We live encased in a Bubble that distorts the way we see ourselves and the world. Our Bubble is filled with limiting beliefs. Executive development is the process of understanding this Bubble, the blind spots it creates, and examining the beliefs that drive our behavior.
How to Increase Your Leadership Capacity

The first step in increasing leadership capacity is to take an inventory of where you are on the Quadrant Map. In which quadrant are you strong and balanced? What are your shadow behaviors? Do you avoid conflict? Lose your temper? Show off? If you aren’t sure, ask someone you know who will tell you the truth. Ask that person, “In which of these four areas do you see that I have a blind spot, a persistent (not necessarily frequent) behavior that gets in the way of my effectiveness as a leader?”
The next step is to create a vision for becoming a Four Quadrant Leader. Write down what that looks like and begin to create a roadmap to get from where you are to where you want to be. I notice that leaders who do this kind of planning begin to build their own Court of Support, a circle of peers and coaches that will challenge them to grow.

Maybe it’s time to invest in expanding your executive capacity. You will not only experience benefits in your career and business but also in your relationships and level of personal fulfillment.

Brian Gast is an executive coach, top team alignment expert, author, and speaker. He is the author of the book The Business of Wanting More: Why Some Executives Move from Success to Fulfillment and Others Don’t (released October 2012). You can reach Brian at 303.707.1340, brian@briangast.com or www.briangast.com.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Are You Managing Penguins or Polar Bears?


"Leadership is about managing energy, first in yourself and then in those around you."


In a recent UNH Executive Development Program, the instructor, Professor Jim Clawson, challenged a group a senior managers to reflect on how they are managing their personal energy, and as leaders, the impact they are having on their employee’s energy. 

He used the following short videos to illustrate the difference between high energy (penguins) and low energy (polar bears) employees (minus the titles on this YouTube version):




How about you? In your individual and team meetings with your employees and others, are they leaving the meeting as penguins or polar bears? And how are you showing up?
Great leaders raise the energy level – and bring out the best in those around them. Their positive outlook and attitude is infectious. You can walk into any work environment and feel the energy (or lack of).

I can’t help but think of current examples from professional football. Robert Griffin (RG3) is a penguin quarterback, and you can see the positive impact he has on his team and the entire city of Washington. Jay Cutler, on the other hand, while a very talented quarterback, comes across to be as a bit of a polar bear. No emotions at all – in fact, he often appears to be sulking. See the popular Jay Cutler smoking meme.
So what can a manager do to create more penguins and less polar bears? It’s unrealistic to expect dramatic changes in the energy level of any employee – after all, there’s a lot more that comes into play other than the impact of a manager, even a great leader. However, there are a few important aspects of managing employee energy that a leader can impact, including:
1.  Start with yourself. As a manager, how are you showing up – as a penguin or polar bear? If you’re more on the polar bear end of the energy spectrum, perhaps it’s time to get some balance in your life. A few years ago I learned about the field of positive psychology, and I think it made a difference for me. If you are not familiar with it, I’d recommend this 23 minute Ted Talk for an overview. 

2. Give your employees more control over their work. Again, there is science to support this recommendation – see another Ted Talk, Dan Pink’s The Puzzle of Motivation. People are motivated when they have choices, or are empowered. They drag their rear ends when they are told what to do – even when they are “incented” – and it becomes an nothing more than an obligation. 

Once you get them a sense of control and ownership, then get out of the way! Micromanagement will polarbearize an employee who may have started out with penguin enthusiasm.

3. Stop sucking the energy out of your employees through your own annoying behaviors. The BEST list of “energy draining” (and annoying) manager behaviors comes from Marshall Goldsmith’s book What Got You Here Won't Get You There. Here’s a summary. For example, stop trying to "add too much value" - i.e., feel compelled to add your own two cents to every one of your employee's ideas. Others include not listening, not expressing gratitude, or the need to blame everyone but yourself.
The good news is, any of these behaviors are relatively easy to correct. You don’t have to learn anything new – you just need to stop doing each any of them!
Not sure if you’re being annoying? Then get some feedback and act on it.

Penguins or polar bears? The choice is yours.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Managing An Older Team As A Young Manager

Guest post by Sean McPheat:

With more and more graduates finding themselves in a managerial role fresh out of university, it’s interesting to analyse the way that young managers are able to manage and interact with their older team members.

I myself was a young manager, working with a team of much older and more experienced sales people in my role as Head Of Operational Planning at only 21 years old! Half of my team were twice my age and yet I was expected to command the respect of these people who had been in the business longer than I’d been alive – a daunting task to say the very least.
I was with that company for nearly 8 years in the end, and I learnt very quickly how to overcome my fear of being a young manager with a much older team. Here are my top tips on how to manage your team as a young manager – because at the end of the day, age is only a number.

1.    Steer clear of any “Big Boss” talk

Although it might seem like a good idea to start with, acting the big “I Am” with your new team is never a good idea. Whilst you might think you are being authoritative and making your mark in your new role, your team are sure to take an instant disliking to you and are likely to go on the defensive with you from the word go. 

Instead of trying to exert your new power over the team, let your team know that although you are in charge, you see your role as being there to help and support them far more than just bossing them around. Make it clear that you are there to help them do their job better and make it easier for them to achieve their goals.

2.    Get to know your team as individuals

Whilst this rule is paramount for any team leader, getting to know your team as a young manager is especially important to ensure that you can communicate fluently with each of them and to help you learn more about their career motivation within their role.

Not only will this help them to see that you do care about them as individuals, it will also help them to warm to you as a person and allow them to see you as being more than just their boss.

3.    Tap into their knowledge and expertise

Don’t assume that just because you have been given a managerial role in the company that you are the most knowledgeable and experienced person in your team. You can learn so much from your team in terms of their knowledge and understanding of the business, and you can also learn a lot from their past experience with the company.

Your team might have some really valuable ideas about how you can progress and develop your department, and they may not have been given the chance to voice these ideas to their previous manager. Not only will you learn a lot from your team, but you will also ensure that they feel valued in your department and that their opinions do matter to you.

4.    Be confident in your abilities

Although I have recommended against acting the Big Boss with your team, you also can’t afford to act like you have no idea what you are doing and that you are scared to tread on people’s toes. Your company has employed you to manage your team, and you need to demonstrate that you know your stuff and that you are not afraid to actually MANAGE your team.

They will respect you more if they can see that you are confident in your abilities as a manager and that you are not going to shy away from the nitty gritty that is involved in your role.

Author credit:
Founder and MD of international management development firm MTD Training, Sean McPheat is widely regarded as a leading authority on modern day management and leadership. Sean is a bestselling author, and has been recognised for his own business building skills through the British Business Awards and has been featured in the Who’s Who Of Britain’s Business Elite. Click here to follow Sean online.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The December Leadership Development Carnival – Hot Cocoa Edition

 
 
The December Leadership Development Carnival is being hosted by Jennifer Miller over at The People Equation blog. Jennifer has once again set the standard for Leadership Development Carnivals with a well organized list of 34 recent leadership posts and podcasts from some of the world's best leadership bloggers.
 
Here's Jennifer's introduction:
 
"Here in West Michigan, the temperatures are turning chilly and in our household that means one thing: hot cocoa! A creamy, sweet mug of the stuff is the perfect companion when the snow flies and you have a pile of reading to do.
So grab a cup of your favorite warm beverage and settle in for some excellent reading on leadership development, management and workplace culture."

You can find it right here: Leadership Development Carnival – Hot Cocoa Edition.

The Carnival returns here to Great Leadership on January 7th. 


Monday, December 3, 2012

Parkinson's Law of Triviality

This post was first published in SmartBlog on Leadership on 11/29/2012:


Have you ever noticed that committees or management teams tend to spend way too much time in meetings endlessly debating the most unimportant or mundane topics, while at the same time, not enough time on the most important or strategic issues?
Most of us have either led or participated in a meeting where this phenomenon has reared its ugly head. Most of the time we blame it on the leader’s lack of meeting planning and facilitation skills, or we blame it on our fellow team member’s low intellect or competence, or both. We cope by getting frustrated, or just checking out and hoping it’s all over when we come out of out the coma.

There’s been plenty written about how to prevent wasting time at meetings, and yes, well planned agendas, process, meeting facilitation and participation skills are ALL very important.  However, my friend Alex tipped me off to something that I believe is vitally important for any leader to be aware of and could have a dramatic impact on how your team spends it’s time at meetings.
It’s called “Parkinson's Law of Triviality”. Parkinson's law of triviality (PLOT), also known as bikeshedding or the bicycle-shed example, is C. Northcote Parkinson's 1957 argument that organizations give disproportionate weight to trivial issues. Parkinson demonstrated this by contrasting the triviality of the cost of building a bike shed in contrast to an atomic reactor.

Way back in 1957 Parkinson used the example of a finance committee spending hardly any time approving the construction of a nuclear power station, then going on to spend hours debating the construction of a bike shed. Some of the reasons that he attributed to this behavior, were to do with the nuclear power plant being very complicated and the average committee member being unable to understand the issues. As a result the item receives very little discussion, and the committee ‘trusts’ the experts. There are very few questions as nobody wants to appear stupid by asking something that is blindingly obvious or makes them look ignorant. Building a bike shed on the other hand is something we can all understand, and committee members are more than happy to contribute anecdote, opinion and sometimes ideas, usually at great length.
Just about everyone I’ve talked to since learning about PLOT can come up with plenty of examples in meetings in which PLOT came into play, including:

-A Marketing Team: 5 minutes on the review of a new marketing brand strategy and 60 minutes on what to call the strategy;
- An HR team: 5 minutes on spiraling company health care costs survey and 90 minutes on the rules for an employee “fun committee”;

- A facilities committee: 5 minutes on the design of a 10 million dollar HVAC system for a new building and 2 weeks selecting the artwork for the lobby.
So is there anything a leader can do to address Parkinson's Law of Triviality and its negative consequences? Here are a few ideas:

1. Be aware of it. Now that you know about it, it should be easier to anticipate and deal with it.
2. Make sure the rest of the team/committee is aware of it – share this blog post with your team or organization.

3. Set time expectations and limits for every agenda item and stick to them.
4. Be clear on where and how much participation is expected and desired and where it is not.

5. If an issue is complex, share information about the issue prior to the meeting so that participants can be prepared to discuss it.
6. Assign trivial issues to individuals or small sub-teams, and empower them to implement without full team discussion or approval.

7. Call it out if you think the discussion has fallen prey to PLOT (although, use tact if anyone, especially the boss, may feel the issue IS very important and worth spending time on).
8. Create “PLOTless” meeting agendas.

9. If you’re the leader, exercise your decision making authority on the trivial stuff and leverage your team for the important decisions. Just make sure they are clear which decision making method you are using for each item on the agenda.
10. When all else fails, activate the fire alarm app on your smartphone and evacuate the building.