Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Risk and Choice

(Transcript from Temi – edited for context)

One of the ways you can mitigate risk is by the selection of the risk that you take.

Some organizations and some people are risk averse and likely for good reason and some have a much higher tolerance for risk.

I’m going to use the products from my international grocery store trip for an example.

Item one is the donut peach. Now, if you’re trying to donut peach new for the first time, this is at a fairly low risk. Most of us have had peaches and we know whether or not we like the peach and this tastes like a peach. It smells like a peach. It looks like a peach, just a little squishy.

This, to me is like an upgrade between something like project management systems. I know we’ve got a project management system. We just need to do an upgrade to it or transition to one that’s somewhat similar. So… low risk change.

Slightly higher risk is, say, going from a pear, which many of us have had before and many of us know we like them, to something like this, which is also a pear.

Now, some of us live in an area who have had a chance to try Asian pears. We don’t know whether or not this pear is like an Asian pear or not and this was the first time I’ve tasted it.

So yeah, this is like an Asian pear just in terms of texture, so it’s a lot crunchier than your normal pair, little closer to an apple and this is a lot sweeter than Asian pears, which tend to go more towards the apple side of things. This is more like a really, really sweet bosc pair, but with apple texture, so pretty good. But again, this is higher risk.

The analogy I would use here would be – I’ve got a fairly good project management process. I need a tool to help me automate it or help me solve a problem that I’m struggling with in my current process. Like resource management.

Again, it’s a calculated risk, slightly higher risk tolerance. Um, these are really good.

An even higher risk – something like this, small octopus dumplings. Now, depending on how you feel about octopus, your risk level on this, uh, might be higher than most people. I happen to like octopus when it’s done well.

You can mitigate it (the risk).

An example – let’s say I’ve never tried octopus. I know, I like dumplings. Higher risk. We’ll find out whether or not you like octopus.

The other, slightly lower, risk is I know I like octopus. I know I liked dumplings. This should be good.

I would actually use this more as a metaphor for – we don’t really have a project management process. We do some stuff on spreadsheets. We’ve got a few things at work. Let’s try to implement a system.

That will be more of your small octopus dumpling.

I will actually report back, let you know how this is (the small octopus dumplings). This was one of my picks. An interesting thing I have not tried yet. And, honestly, I enjoy picking out things like this to freak out my friends. So hope that helps as an analogy.

If you have access to a farmer’s market nearby and it’s in season, go ahead and get yourself some donut peaches. This is probably your lowest risk thing. I hope this helps.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

How to Try New Things

(Transcript from Temi)

Hi. I just got back from the Korean grocery store. One of the great things about living in the DC area is that we have a number of fantastic international grocery stores and digging through these things is one of my absolute favorite things to do and one of the things I’d love to do on at the Asian grocery store is pick out some vegetable or some product that I’ve never actually tried before.

This particular plant is Taiwanese spinach and this one’s a little more of a calculated risk than some of the things that I pick up.

One, I was able to discern that yes, this is spinach and two, I’ve got a rough idea of how to handle greens or how to cook greens, but I have no idea how this is going to behave when I cook it and I don’t particularly know what it tastes like.

And so far the only thing I can come up with is spinach with a little bit of soap. So this might not be a repeat purchase, but my plan for this particular bunch of greens is to put it in soup so I’ll be able to mask any soapiness out of this.

This really speaks to risk and taking risks and trying new things. It could be as simple as doing this in your personal life first were and in a small scale like going to the grocery store and picking up something brand new that you’ve never tasted before or never tried before.

You don’t have to buy a ton of it. You don’t even really have to eat all of it. You could taste it and come up with a calculated reason why you don’t like it.

One, you can now say you’ve tried it and you don’t like it, and two, you can explain why that is.

Or you’ve discovered something that you really enjoy.

You can do the same thing in your business – find a really small technique that you’ve never tried before.

When you’re managing your project or you’re working with your team, something really low risk and experiment with it. Talk to your team afterwards. Then you’ll have an educated reason as to why you did like the technique or you didn’t like the technique.

So whether it’s doing standup meetings where you have your developers lead those meetings and you can see what’s working, what’s not and why.

And if you decide to not do that again, you’ll at least know why you didn’t want to do it again.

Thank you. And I hope this helps.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Meditation and Task Motivation

Mike Griffiths, over at ProjectManagement.com, provided a succinct summary of the findings from recent research claiming that mindfulness impairs task motivation.

Employees who practice mindfulness meditation are less motivated, having realized the futility of their jobs.

His conclusion – Beware those corporate mindfulness workshops unless your organization has a compelling purpose!

There are some serious issues with the research methodology used (meditation is not a one-and-done deal and the tasks they had them do in the lab were out of context, nevermind pointless), but I also don’t think the conclusion is entirely wrong.

What do you want people “motivated” to do for you? Why?

There IS a danger that your people will realize that their work for you is not helping either themselves OR a greater good.

There is a danger that they will see the task you are asking them to do to be as pointless as it actually is.

The highlights of the findings from ScienceDirect (direct quote):

  • State mindfulness impaired motivation to complete cognitive and performance tasks.
  • State mindfulness had no overall effect (good or bad) for performance on the same tasks.
  • Weakened future focus and arousal serially mediated demotivating effect.
  • Mindfulness enabled people to detach from stressors, which improved task focus.
  • Detachment and task focus help explain why mindfulness does not alter performance.

My personal conclusions on these findings:

  • Detaching from a future outcome is a good thing
  • Detaching from surroundings that will distract you is a good thing
  • Ability to focus on a task is a good thing
  • Questioning why you are doing the task in the first place is a good thing

Thursday, August 09, 2018

The First Step to Strengthen Your Foundations


The one thing that we can do to strengthen our foundations.

When I sleep well:

  • I make better food choices
  • I am more inclined to exercise or, if I force myself, I’m less likely to dog my workouts
  • I am better at practicing positive interpersonal skills
  • I have more resilience when things don’t go as planned
  • I have the energy to get things done
  • I feel I make better decisions overall.

I’m not alone.

In case you need the research:

Our culture, however, expects a 24/7 “always on.” attitude.  How many executives, business leaders, and other “successful” people tout how they can function on little sleep?

Sleep deprivation, however, has disastrous consequences:

The one thing that I feel will improve our working lives and make our workplaces more humane is prioritizing our personal sleep health.

And avoiding any manager who claims that they don’t need sleep.



Thursday, August 02, 2018

A Plea from Your Best Employees

Dear Senior Executive / CEO:

We understand that you have tremendous pressures put on you.

And that’s just the stuff we know about.

This is a plea from us to you – the executive.  We have determined that there are 5 steps you can take to help you be a better leader and to help you retain us, as your best employees. We recommend following these recommendations in order. At least, give this a try for a quarter.

1.Take care of yourself. 

We need you to model this. We need you to understand the value of self-care at a very deep level.  We need you to be healthy.

This may be the hardest step.  We understand that there are many barriers and pressures.

But for your health and ours – please take care of yourself.  The other 4 steps won’t happen as effectively without it.

2. Be mindful as you engage with others – particularly your employees.

We are the people helping you succeed. And, if you have taken care of yourself, it will be easier for you to model the behavior that leads to an innovative and positive corporate culture.  That culture (built on the foundation of your actions and behavior) retains and attracts the employees you wish to have in your organization.

3. Deeply listen to your front-line employees.

They hold the key to your success and the success of your organization. They hold the most accurate insight about your customer. You will also find that, as you listen, you are building trust, getting more accurate information, and gaining influence – among other benefits.

4. Develop a vision that we can all get behind.

One that goes beyond making your numbers this quarter. If you follow the first three recommendations, creating that vision and having your employees get behind you in that vision will be easier because you have developed the personal and interpersonal foundation for success.  That vision will help us help you succeed.

5. Provide a framework that allows us to make decisions ourselves.

If you let us help you develop that framework, give us your support and guidance, and help to create an environment that provides some safety to make mistakes, you will have a more innovative and agile organization that will help you better serve your customers, grow your organization and provide your shareholders with consistent, longer-term returns.  By giving us the framework to make decisions, we won’t be bothering you or your direct-reports over small, day-to-day stuff. This will give you the time to do the deep work that will help move all of us forward.

We feel that your success and the success of the organization depends on you executing these 5 steps.

We want to be engaged. We want to do good work. We want to do that work towards making your compelling vision a reality.

Thanks for listening and, if you really want to try this, let us know how we can support you.


Your best employees.


Further Resources

The Spark, The Flame, and The Torch

Real Influence

Tara Brach – The Capacity for Deep Listening (8 minutes)


Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Meaningful Flow Lab – Status Report August 1, 2018

Cross-posted to Medium.

This is a call for feedback and an introduction to where I am headed with this lab.

I feel like I’m taking a risk — showing my work in progress. That’s what labs are for, right?

In the presentation, I’m covering:

  • My why
  • My desired future
  • The existing tools, thinking, and technologies that might help
  • A working hypothesis
  • A potential change management model (first draft)
  • The project plan and release schedule (current)

If you would like to help, chat, or send a comment, please fill out the form below. I will get back to you within 24 hours.


Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Toxic Cultures

“Love it, change it or leave it.”

It is, fundamentally, the situation many of us find ourselves in within our workplaces.

I’ve talked about it before.  And all you have to do is look up “employee engagement” in Google to see what is happening.

As Karen Kollenz-Qutard points out in her TedTalk – you have a fighting chance of changing your organization if you have

I’m at a point in my career where I don’t have the time or energy to bang my head against that wall if any of those three elements are missing.

We can talk all day about what is wrong and what “leaders” (read – others) should do about it.

I’m going to assume that anything that “leaders” and “others” will do is out of our control.

Furthermore, I am also going to assume that the “leaders” will not change their mind, change the way they operate, or be replaced anytime soon.  Often, the leaders are isolated from the impact of their behavior. Furthermore, keeping things status quo benefits them.

Assuming that the leaders aren’t going to change and the system we work in isn’t going to change – it means that it is up to us, individually, to make the change.

We need to take care of ourselves, even if it means removing ourselves from toxic environments.

If you are not in a position to remove yourself from the toxic environment right now – I have the following insights from my own experience:

  1. Disengage or distract yourself.  Psychopathic bosses do not deserve your energy or effort. You might as well put that energy and effort into something positive that empowers you. And in getting away ASAP. You won’t change them, no matter what your ego tells you. I learned this the hard way. Many times.
  2. Recognize the source of your insecurity.  Remember, they WANT insecure over-achievers.
  3. Spend the time getting very clear on what you want your life to look like and why. You will need that information to help you make decisions and evaluate options as you plot your next move.  (I can help you with this – click here for a free 60-minute chat).
  4. Find your tribe and be extra mindful with your colleagues, even the ones you don’t like.  Chances are, you are ALL suffering. If your leaders won’t model the behavior, you can.  Those individual interactions make all the difference.

It is imperative that, as knowledge workers, we focus our energies on creating supportive environments for ourselves and stop tolerating toxic environments.

Our health and our lives depend on it.


Donald Miller’s 40-minute interview with Dr. Lee Norton on mental health in the workplace.

Harvard Business Review: Evaluating Company Culture

First Round: Practical Frameworks for Beating Burnout

Tara Brach: The Capacity for Deep Listening (8 minutes)

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Lakota Sioux Buffalo Hunting: A Case Study in the Importance of Roles

hunting plackard in badlands south dakota

badlands south dakota

Pictures from my trip to the Badlands National Park, South Dakota.

The Plains Indian buffalo hunts provide an excellent example of clear scope, clear “why,” defined roles, and matching roles with skills.

The scope of the Buffalo hunt – to get at least enough buffalo so that they could feed the tribe and provide raw materials for clothing, lodging, and other purposes.

The “why” – to not starve.

The people who participated in these hunts stayed focus on the task at hand.  I don’t see much evidence that they were distracted during the hunt … picking medicinal herbs or hunting prairie dogs. It was understood that the project was challenging enough that it would require everyone’s focus and the “why” was something everyone involved could get behind.

Each role played an important part in the success of the hunt.  I don’t know the official name of these roles and I might be missing a key role, but this is what I have been able to put together without embarking on significant academic research.

Each of these roles and when the role would be performed was clearly defined.

This video provides a decent view of what these hunts looked like and how each resource played its role.

Though our projects typically do not have starvation as our driving “why” – business projects are typically started for a reason and will at least start with a scope of activity and people who can perform particular roles within the project.

Our job, in the business environment, is to make sure that the people on the team know what role they play, why that role is important for the success of the project, why the project is important, and have a clear understanding of the desired end result.

It may not be as clear as hunting buffalo to avoid starvation, but we owe it to our teams to provide as much clarity as possible.

Online Resources


Native-American NetRoots

North Dakota Studies – State Historical Society of North Dakota

Chad Folsom – Lesson Plan for Elementary School (George Mason University project)

The Atlantic – Buffalo Killers

Historians Revisit Slaughter on the Plains


Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Drumlines: A Case Study in Merging Two Teams


Two teams. Two different cultures. Two spoken languages. One common experience.

The Top Secret Drum Corps of Basel is a stand-alone drum corps in the military tradition (though this group is not affiliated with the Swiss military).

The Blue Devils Percussion Line is part of the larger Blue Devils competitive marching band. If you have ever encountered a Drum Corps International competition flipping channels, you have probably seen them.

They met each other 5 minutes prior to the start of this video.

By the 10 minute mark of this video, they are starting to work together. (You can start the video at minute 9, but the entire beginning – including the Drum Corps battle – is worth watching).

How did these two very different teams start working together so quickly?

  • They had a common vocabulary – drumming
  • They had some commonality of experience – drum line work + precision marching
  • They had a shared vision – work together to create an entertaining segment for the Basel Tattoo.

The final result?

I’ve seen the same dynamic with stage crews. Disparate teams (like a road crew and a local crew) working together to get a show started on-time. Shared experience. Shared vocabulary. Shared mission.

High-functioning engineering teams – same thing.

Give the teams a clear mission. Leverage their shared experience and shared vocabulary. And get out of their way.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Louisville Leopards: Another Model of Teamwork

The Louisville Leopard – Grade 6 graduates.  Please donate and support music education.

The Louisville Leopard, in this video, provide another demonstration of teamwork.

  • Working with, the environment you find yourself in. In this case, they have limited resources: 9 kids, the instruments you see on the stage, and 2 adults.
  • Clear priorities. “We will make an epic version of Bohemian Rhapsody using nothing but xylophones, drums, 11 people (all but 2 of them 6th graders), and a synthesizer.”
  • Strong, respected leadership.  Did you notice the conductor didn’t conduct for the majority of the song?  He gave them the basics, was there when they needed him, and let them do their job.
  • Carefully defined roles. The kids moved around as they needed to fill new roles. I suspect that any of the other kids, if the one kid called in sick, could fill in any other role.
  • Mutual respect between the team members and between the team and the stakeholders. I didn’t see any pushing, shoving, arguments, dirty glances etc.

Yes, this was rehearsed repeatedly. Chances are, the people you work with have rehearsed their roles repeatedly too, across many projects.

Yes, this may be a simplistic example, but how different have your projects been really?

Does it need to be that “complicated?”

FYI – this is the same group that gave Led Zeppelin on xylophones.

Below is the full crew for 2017.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Kilauea as a Case Study for Cross-Functional Teamwork

Video by Tim O’Hara. This park was overtaken by lava on July 12, 2018


I’ve been watching the slow-moving disaster that is occurring in the Puna Region on the Big Island of Hawaii.

As I’ve watched this drama evolve, I’ve been impressed by how everyone involved is trying to work with the environment instead of trying to control it.  I’ve also been impressed by how everyone is working very hard to understand the perspective of the other team members and stakeholders.

A few observations on this event as I watch it from the safety of my home half a world away:

THIS is what collaboration and teamwork should look like.

  • Working with, the environment you find yourself in. What you are dealing with is likely not nearly as life-threatening or destructive, but the complications and the pace of change are likely similar.
  • Clear priorities.
  • Strong, respected leadership.
  • Carefully defined roles.
  • Mutual respect between the team members and between the team and the stakeholders.


The best place to watch what is happening is Big Island Video News on YouTube.

PS: If you watch nothing else – listen to this teleconference with Wendy Stovall discussing the emotional impact of her work as a USGS Volcanologist during the early stages of the eruption.


If you wish to help the people at Puna – Big Island Hawaii, KHON2 has a list of current donation sites. 



Thursday, July 12, 2018

Video: An Example of Experiential Intent

(Transcript – edited to remove some of the verbal tics)

I wanted to talk a little further about this notion of experiential intent.

As I look at this experience and the decision making that went into my trip, you know, I had mentioned before that I did time calculations I could have gone to the airport and flown between DC and Toronto.

There was another component to it as well when I did some decision making and that was …what was the experience I want to have in the process of this trip?

Now, if I were trying to maximize my productivity time or I needed to maximize my productivity time, then the airport and the airline experience … absolutely doable and absolutely possible and a really good option.

You know, I could sit down, I can work on my computer, I know I’ll have Wifi, I know I’ll have cell signal. I know that there’s food around.

Thankfully, for this particular trip, I had a different intent in mind.

One was to relax a little more.

Two was to be able to see more of the country. Right now I’m here in Erie, Pennsylvania. This is a section of the country. I’ve never been to before.

And then the third thing was to change up my inputs a little bit, so instead of staring at a screen or staring at a book, I’m staring at nature and whether there are ideas that I can pull from just sitting here on this lovely beach we’re at right now that is fairly empty because I’m very fortunate enough to be here on a weekday.

So by determining experiential intent, it helps guide decision making during the planning process.

It also helps guide decision making during the actual execution, much like your why.

Hope this helps and talk to you soon.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Video: Experience DURING Projects

(Transcript – minus the “so….” )

There’s another consideration when planning projects that I think gets neglected quite a bit and that’s the question of what experience do you want to have during the project?

We get fixated on the destination, what will get fixed, and on why we want to do what we want to do at the end of it all.

I invite you to consider what you want the experience to be like during the process.

Is it an exercise in how fast can we do this thing? Which is great. It’s good to at least make sure that that’s clear now.

Or …is it potentially an exercise in how do we improve our teamwork?

Is it potentially an exercise in what do we want to learn during this process?

Is this an exercise in observation?

Now all of them are valid, but I think we’re doing ourselves a disservice if we’re just focused on the end game and not at least considering what the process is going to look like. Hope that helps.

Much of the conversation around the “employee experience” has been around the greater organizational environment.  Deloitte has been doing some great work in this space.

I think there is value in doing the same thing, but smaller – within the individual work teams and projects.

Though we interact with the greater culture, the bulk of the day-to-day is housed within the work teams, projects, and operational activities.

Let me know if you want to chat about this further.



Thursday, July 05, 2018

How to Evaluate Lessons Learned

A while back, I did a series on using historical methodology during project initiation and planning.

The steps I use during analysis can be found in the posts below:

I Love Documents

The Benefits of Historical Methodology

Document Analysis

Synthesis – or Finding Trends

Individual Interviews

Observing Behavior

Using What You Learned in Your Project

During my final analysis, I focus on two areas:

  • People –  Who gets along with whom, the stakeholder RACI matrix (both what the stakeholder says they want AND their behavior when faced with a similar project), and any cultural norms that will impact how the project is run and the chances of project success.
  • Processes – Where does scope creep tend to occur (and from where)? How accurate were the time and cost estimates on similar projects?  Is there a pattern of schedule and cost over-runs at the organization across ALL projects?  Do you see any causation trends – Unrealistic expectations? The same 5 people being put on ALL projects? Lack of organizational focus? Add your favorite to this list.

Most project managers focus on process issues and lessons learned when they do their project planning preparation.

I would argue that cultural analysis, and getting a solid read on the culture around the project will have an even more powerful impact on the success or failure of your project.  I’ve seen too many projects fail because of people-issues, despite planning, careful controls, or even well-run Agile methodologies.

  • Misunderstandings
  • Lack of clarity around roles
  • Lack of clarity around why you are doing this project in the first place
  • Lack of trust
  • Unclear acceptance criteria
  • Political games – at all levels
  • Unclear priorities
  • Overworked individuals pulled in too many directions by management – usually your most competent people
  • Misaligned rewards
  • Disengaged (or actively hostile) leadership
  • Add your favorite people issue here…

Take some time to discern the historical and current state of the people and culture and how people-issues can potentially impact your project’s chances of success.

Despite assurances to the contrary, these issues will pop up during your project whether the individuals involved mean to or not. Old habits die hard.


Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Video: Niagara Falls and Waterfall Projects

You may have noticed that I’ve been traveling over the past few months. I wanted to use these trips as an opportunity to experiment with different content formats and tools.  Let me know what you think. Thanks.

(Transcript – via Temi (not an affiliate link).  Where Wendy learns she says “so” a lot.)

Greetings from Niagara Falls. I wanted to take this opportunity to talk a little bit about waterfall projects and what better way to talk about waterfall projects and the at a waterfall. I’m currently at Niagara Falls State Park in New York, the New York side of the waterfalls. This is one of the most famous waterfalls in America. It’s also the oldest state park. I’m going to go ahead and turn this around so you can get a better look at this.

I wanted to show you a part of Niagara Falls and most people don’t see pictures and that’s the lead-up. I don’t know if this is familiar to any of you, but this area here reminds me an awful lot of the lead up to projects. My background is as a trainer and so oftentimes the lead up to the project to me looks an awful lot like this because it’s at the point where the project manager has realized that they actually have to release this to other human beings and so we wind up doing a little bit of white water rafting.

If you look at that as white water rafting and then you’ve got that slight little bit of breather before again, go over the big falls. I think this is something that we don’t really pay much attention to. Again, in our project planning of where all the checklists and all the last minute stuff and all of the things that suddenly don’t work after we make one little tweak occurs, but there’s still always that big drop at the end that we need to pay attention to. Something to consider. I hope this helps.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Newsletter – June 2018

MeaningfulFlow June Newsletter by Wendy Wickham


If you wish to participate in the survey (anonymously) – click this Survey link.  The button in the email does not transition into the image.

Thank you for your help. I look forward to your responses.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The Importance of Rest Stops in Projects

I work to design “rest stops” in my projects.

These rest stops aren’t necessarily milestones (though milestones make good rest stops).

Rest stops are places within the execution of the project where the team can take a breather and evaluate what they need.

  • Do they have the resources to continue?
  • What changes have occurred in the environment since they started?
  • Are there new resources available?
  • How are the team members feeling and what do they need to recharge?
  • Are we on the right path?  If not – how do we get back on the right path?
  • Should we even keep going?

The Pennsylvania Turnpike rest stop is just one type of “out”. The road is straight, there are limited “outs.” On the Pennsylvania Turnpike, you pay extra if you follow one of the exits and return.  Having mindfully designed rest stops helps to mitigate the risk of accruing unnecessary expenses.

I’m experimenting with video.  At some point in the near future, I will be adding transcripts.

Bear with me as I perfect my production process and please feel free to provide productive feedback in the comments.

Give me a few days to approve your comment.  I am on travel right now and my internet is spotty. I’m using approvals to keep spam off the blog.  Thank you for your patience.


Monday, June 25, 2018

Changes to Privacy Policy

I’ve made some changes to the Privacy Policy for my site and services.

Partially in response to GDPR requirements.

Partially to better reflect my values around privacy and the importance of what you share with me.

For those of you who wish to unsubscribe from my list, please click Unsubscribe in any email you receive from me. It will appear at the bottom of the mail.

For those who wish to have me remove any information I might have on my marketing database, please contact me at wwickham@middlecurve.com with the subject line Remove from Database.

Thank you.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

On Time, Resources and the Desired Experience

Sitting by a tree in Myersville, MD talking about trip/project planning.

Now that I am back home, here are the actual numbers:

If I went by plane (one way):

  • 1.5 hours for the actual flight between DC and Toronto
  • Take taxi to airport (anywhere between 30 minutes and 2 hours – dependent upon DC traffic)
  • Arrive at the airport at least 3 hours before the flight
  • Pick up luggage and rental car – about 1 hour
  • Get to destination in Southern Ontario – 2 hours
  • Total travel time – 8 – 9 hours

Going by car (one way direct to final destination):

  • 10 hours, including stops.

Then there is the experience in a car vs. the plane:

  • I don’t have to worry so much about packing toiletries
  • My seat is significantly more comfortable
  • I can listen to whatever I want without getting interrupted
  • I am free to stop whenever I want
  • I am not disturbing anyone or climbing over people to use the bathroom
  • Even with gas prices, food, and wear and tear on my car – the car is significantly cheaper.

Fundamentally – I spent 1-2 extra hours for significantly more satisfaction and happiness.  I think that’s a great ROI.

Really, the only “disadvantage” of driving myself places is that I am not able to work (or at least do stuff in front of my computer).  Honestly, I don’t see “not being able to work in front of a computer” as a disadvantage.  I managed to get a lot of work done during my road trip – the videos are my evidence 🙂


Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The Relative Importance of Stakeholders – Using Cats


This gem from 2009 provides one of the best descriptions of stakeholders (and the perils of paying attention to the ones closest to you) I’ve seen.

It’s only 3 minutes.

Remember: Your project needs to ultimately satisfy the cat.

(Thanks to Brandon Carson for sharing this video.)

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Time Management Planning vs Contingent Planning and Why You Need Both

We found that increasing your engagement and productivity at work could be as simple as making a plan for the day. But these positive effects depended on what type of plan employees used and how many interruptions or disruptions they faced in their day-to-day work.

Research Shows a Simple Way to Increase Your Engagement at Work – Harvard Business Review

What they found is that we need to plan for distractions.

They looked at two types of planning:

  • Time Management Planning – which the researchers defined as planning what you are going to get done that day
  • Contingent Planning – or…how you will change your plan if you get interrupted. Which will happen unless you unplug everything and hide in a cave.

Just doing time management planning isn’t enough to stay engaged and productive.

People over-estimate how much they can get done and don’t consider what might hinder them from getting through their to-do lists.

Contingent planning accommodates the interruptions.

For me, this looks like:

  • Here are the 3 things I plan to get done today and when I am going to do it.  (Time Management planning – this shows up as blocks on my calendar)
  • Here’s the ONE thing I will get done today no matter what. (Contingent planning – the first thing I do that day)

The days I plan for interruptions and have contingency plans just in case – I walk away from the day feeling more accomplished.

The days I carefully plan what I am going to accomplish, then get pulled in a million different directions that I didn’t plan to get pulled in, I finish the day tired and frustrated.

The researchers set aside the question of interruptions and how to control the distractions in the first place.  They are assuming that we are not able to control these.

They may be right.

I’d love for us to at least start asking why we are so distracted and what purpose those distractions serve.

Why am I inviting distraction?  How do these distractions help me?

How am I distracting others? What are my motives?

Thursday, June 07, 2018

How to Create a Reskilling Environment

Reskilling is NOT about providing a library of online tutorials.

Reskilling is NOT about providing courses.

Or training.

Or any of those other singular events.

Reskilling is about developing new skills and knowledge to allow you to bring more value to the world.

Yes, training is a part of what is necessary for reskilling.  As Gary Wise explains, “training drives potential”.

How many times have you attended training, or a course, or watched an online tutorial, and never used the skill?

Or the environment didn’t encourage use of the skill?

Or the environment didn’t tolerate mistakes? Or time for practice?

To create a reskilling environment, we need to do the following:

  1. High-Quality Training.  Yes, training is an important tool.  It provides the knowledge transfer and introduction.  Training is only the beginning of the process. Oh yeah, and PLEASE allow the students to unplug when they are there.  If they have to continuously respond to email or Slack or IM or text or whatever while they are supposed to be training, no one is getting anything out of the time.  Your organization is handicapping its investment.
  2. Support at the Point of Work. Job aids, decision trees, whatever.  This is where the new skills go into application.  If they don’t need to memorize it, they don’t need to memorize it.
  3. Opportunities to Practice.  This means projects.  And this means projects with enough time to accommodate the practice of these new skills and low enough risk to allow for mistakes. And allowing for mistakes and lessons learned.
  4. Opportunities to Process. Give people the time to reflect on what is working and what isn’t.  Give people the time to figure out how to apply their new skills to solve the problems in front of them.  When people are rushed and stressed, they will revert back to old habits.
  5. Encouragement and Safe Spaces.  Learning new things is painful.  Especially if you have been an expert and now have to go back to being a beginner. There are setbacks. There are plateaus. There are times when it feels like you will never get it.  Be the guide. Remember when you went through that challenge. Remember what it felt like to be a beginner. Do this for your employees. Do this for your peers.

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Reskilling Prong 6 – Sharing

I think I figured out why so many people are selling marketing solutions.

“Here’s what worked for me.”

It’s a way of monetizing the reflection step of learning.

I don’t blame them.  Setting up marketing requires a lot of complicated, unpaid work.

In my case, sharing what I learn outside of my immediate group of friends encourages me to process the information in ways where I cannot take shortcuts in my explanations.

  • What did I do and can I explain it in a way that others can follow?
  • What results did I intend?
  • What worked?
  • What didn’t?
  • What would I have done differently if I knew then what I know now?
  • Why would I do those things differently?
  • What are my next steps?
  • What is my anticipated result?

Don’t worry.  I’m not going to be selling my marketing “solution” anytime soon.

There are others who are much more passionate about marketing as an activity.  And I’m still in early days.

If I become a kajillionaire doing this, I might change my mind.

Meanwhile – a reminder regarding my newsletter and mailing lists.

I appreciate everyone who reads this blog.  Thank you for spending your valuable time with me.

My sweet spot is helping middle managers and senior team leads cope with their current environment, find time to do the things that are important to them, and be less stressed about it all.

Let me know if you want to work together.

I am also offering a free 45-minute Masterclass.

The 3-Stage Process to Move from Overwhelm to Results.

Register Here.


Thursday, May 31, 2018

Reskilling Prong 5 – Experimental Mindset

Treating my marketing and sales activities as experiments helps me get stuff out there and reduces the resistance (a little).

  • Do (sales and/or marketing) thing.
  • Put out into world.
  • Receive results.
  • Analyze results.
  • Make adjustments.
  • Rinse, repeat.

There is less pressure to get something out there that is “perfect.”

That doesn’t always stop me from procrastinating.  That’s a fear/resistance thing.

This is why the mentor in Prong 2 and the friendly safe space in Prong 4 are so important.

They encourage me to get over the fear and resistance.

Maybe one day I won’t need to lean on those prongs so much.

I’m not quite there yet.  It will take more cycles.

It’s part of the mastery process.

I am offering a free 45-minute Masterclass.

The 3-Stage Process to Move from Overwhelm to Results.

Register Here.


Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Reskilling Prong 4 – Safe Space

New learning needs safe spaces to allow for experimentation and development of stability.

New learning is scary – why make transversing the dip more challenging than it needs to be?

This is where I recruit supporters and allies for friendly pilots.

These are trusted friends who I know have my best interest at heart.

I’m blessed that these friends are also really smart – I get good feedback from them.

That safe space allows me to practice and solidify the new learning before going out into the scary world.

For my marketing efforts, I decided to approach safe space creation in three ways.

First – through my entrepreneurial friends. They can relate to the need to market (and the resistance that pops up).  We are also not competing with each other for clients.  They have provided sound, actionable feedback and encouragement.

Second – through my “target market” friends.  They are able to look at my materials and tell me whether they work for them.  They provide a good place for me to experiment, tell me whether I am hitting my mark with my service, and whether I am actually helping. They get free help, I get practice. Everybody wins.

Third – through a small mastermind group.  This is a higher risk approach, but one that I needed to add to my safe space.  I needed a group of people who don’t know me to give me feedback. We are all trying to do the same thing, so they can relate to the struggle.  They also haven’t heard my attempts to explain things umpteen-million times, so they are approaching my work with a fresh eye.

I consider this “coopera-tition.” We may be competitors, but we can help each other too.  This has the added benefit of growing my network.  I have no problem with forwarding potential clients to any of them if that client would be better served through their services.

Example:  If you are a senior executive or CEO – I feel you would be better off contacting one of the following:

None of those are affiliate links.

My sweet spot is helping middle managers and senior team leads cope with their current environment, find time to do the things that are important to them, and be less stressed about it all.

Let me know if you want to work together.

I am offering a free 45-minute Masterclass.

The 3-Stage Process to Move from Overwhelm to Results.

Register Here.


Friday, May 25, 2018

#52books Authorpreneur

authorpreneur cover
#52Books Authorpreneur: Build the Brand, Business, and Lifestyle You Deserve. It’s Time to Write Your Book.

Format: Kindle

Have you noticed the explosion of books on Amazon?

I sense that a large percentage of those books are written by individuals trying to establish expertise in a given niche.

Jesse Tevelow comprehensively explains the entrepreneurial book writing process; from idea to the act of writing to packaging and marketing.

Tevelow argues that the act of writing a book helps the development of mastery. The research required and the attempt to explain what you are learning to others help you gain expertise in the topic.  By the time you are done writing the book, he argues, you can speak authoritatively on the topic you researched.

I feel that there is more credibility if you have applied what you are writing about and can speak to the hazards and pitfalls of your ideas out in the field.  I know I am in a more privileged position than many of Tevelow’s readers. I have been doing what I have been doing for 20+ years, and I am not trying to reposition myself as an expert in things I haven’t done before.

The research I am doing now is helping me get some new ideas for maneuvering in our current environment and get a better understanding of some of the new conversations around business. Step 2 – for me – is to put what I learn into practice. Only after I get some feedback from application in the field, that’s when I write. I’ve operated this way for my entire career. Take idea, test in environment, write about the results. 

The big issue I have with Tevelow’s advice is that it skips the application step. I’m finding that many of the books I am encountering in the “build-a-business” space are missing proof of application.  It takes some digging to tell you whether the book is written by someone who has done the work or is just a decent researcher and writer.  This is not a complaint – it only speaks to the increasing need for assessing sources before diving in headlong.  At least Tevelow practices what he preaches.

Everything else he describes strikes me as dead-on.  Knowing WHY you are writing the book and how you are positioning it (freebie for email collection, expertise development, or as a profit center), the process of writing and how to make it less crazy-making, even some marketing recommendations.  There is a lot here for those of us who like to write and want to make writing a core part of their business.

Disclosure: The book link goes to Amazon and supports my blogging.  Thanks.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Reskilling Prong 3 – Scheduled Deliverables

I do best when I know what steps I need to take and, for the scary bits, those steps are small enough that I can do that step today and celebrate the fact that I’ve taken the step.

Is this quick? Nope. I’m making progress.

Days when I am feeling more confident about what I am doing, I get more steps done.  Days where I am not right in the head – at least I did something.  I count that as a win.

Learning sticks when we apply it. Not just when we hoard information.

To that end, I create small, low-risk projects for myself to start.

What that looks like will vary for everyone.

As I get more comfortable, I increase the risk and scale.

For instance, creating a marketing architecture and plan requires a number of small steps and deliverables attached to those steps.

Small, low-risk – create a MailChimp list.  MailChimp has a free level and allows you to create a list.  Is your list created and working? Yes/no.   (BTW – that is not an affiliate link. MailChimp is a popular tool in the marketing space for a reason, it’s really simple.)

Small, higher risk – ask people to join the list.  Again, a deliverable with a measurable outcome.  How many people are on your list (that is not you and your testing accounts)?

The risk is in the ask. Getting over the fear of asking and what people will think of you. Some of us have an easier time with this than others.

Slightly larger, slightly higher risk – ask people you don’t know very well to join the list.  Yet again, a deliverable with a measurable outcome.

This time, you can work with lag and lead measures. Lag measure – how many people are on your list?  Lead measure – how many people did you ask today?

This is the deliverable I am currently working on.   Eventually – I will have enough information to be able to see a percentage of the number of people I asked vs the number of people who signed up.

When done well – you can work up to large, multi-deliverable projects at a significant risk level.

Unfortunately, many of us try to go big right out of the gate.

In my experience, 9 times out of 10 that is a huge mistake.

Failing big makes it much harder to try again.  Not only have you burned yourself out, you have also damaged your goodwill with others.

Don’t under-estimate the power of small, low-risk projects.

This is a good time to offer my personal marketing and mailing list disclaimers:

  • If you sign up for my newsletters (check the sidebar of the blog) – I will send you monthly newsletters, any freemiums I develop, and potential offers as I come up with them.  My intent is to provide value and not spam your inbox. You get enough email.
  • If you decide to watch my Masterclass – the newsletter subscription will not be automatic. I do have email follow-ups (like everyone else) – but I’m not going to hound you every 2-3 hours.  I’ll send a separate invite to a newsletter subscription, but you can choose whether you want to subscribe or not. Again, my intent is to provide value and not spam your inbox.
  • The blog is always there.  I do not intend to cease writing for free just because I am trying to make a living.  The blog is one way I reflect and process information. I’ll talk about this more in a future post.

Does the above go against common marketing practice?

Yes – I don’t want to clutter your inbox.  My goal is to build positive relationships.

Providing me with your email tells me that you trust me to provide value.  For that, I thank you.

Oh – and feel free to let me know what you would like to see me cover.  What is your most pressing problem?

I am offering a free 45-minute Masterclass.

The 3-Stage Process to Move from Overwhelm to Results.

Register Here.



Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Reskilling Prong 2 – Finding a Mentor

This one is a bit trickier for me. I’m not good at asking for help.

As I learn sales and marketing, finding a mentor provided a greater challenge than usual.

Most of my closest friends have the same problem I do – sales and marketing are not natural acts.

Furthermore, the best salesman I know is my brother, and though I can ask him advice, he’s a natural.  He probably thinks my struggle is ridiculous.

I’m also not good at receiving advice from people close to me.  This is why I don’t ask my partner for golf tips (even though he is a fantastic golfer).  I know myself well enough to know that I’m going to resist.  I prefer to keep my relationships with both my brother and my partner strong. No point in testing those bonds because I’m suffering from the “familiarity breeds contempt” fallacy.

The sales and marketing mentor I found is completely outside my network.  This works for me because he doesn’t need to be my friend. Plus, he’s been there. He’s made the mistakes. He’s far enough along that he can guide, but isn’t so far along that he can’t relate. And he holds me accountable.  This has been critical for the “hard” activities. I’m great at procrastinating when I have to reach out to people or release projects I’ve been working on forever.

Mentorship provides the accountability that is absolutely critical for learning a new skill and feedback from someone who has already done the work multiple times.  In my case, my mentor has also talked me down from a few fear-based freakouts. I haven’t been the best student 🙂


Kenny Goodman – Find the Edge.  He’s been invaluable in helping me with my first pass at developing a marketable consulting service.

I am offering a free 45-minute Masterclass.

The 3-Stage Process to Move from Overwhelm to Results.

Register Here.


Saturday, May 19, 2018

#52books Ask

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#52Books Ask

Format: Kindle

This book appeared repeatedly among the big online marketers as a “great book.”

Fundamentally, the book describes how to use surveys as a marketing tool.

As Ryan Levesque describes, you are both getting important information about your prospective customers’ needs and encouraging engagement and trust.

Part 1 is his personal story and how he came up with the approach.  It’s well written but skippable.

The meat of the book is Part 2 – his step-by-step approach for leveraging 4 different types of surveys to get information from your market and engage prospective customers.

I like the level of detail he provides.

As with all of these “marketing technique” books, the secret sauce is in how you apply the technique to your own business or product.

Application of the technique is much easier when your product and market is like the author’s.  I also suspect that applying these techniques as a beginner marketer from this book is much like following a cookbook as a beginner cook.  There is some implicit knowledge, developed through personal experience, that will be missing when you try to follow the instructions verbatim.

Of course, he has expensive consulting services to help you apply the model to your own business.  The book is a “low-cost product” step in a consulting sales funnel.

I’ve already used surveys (and will continue to use them) to learn how I can best help you.  The process Levesque provides is straightforward enough to be worth an experiment.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Reskilling Prong 1 – Collect Information

This is the easy prong for me.  I can read books and consume media happily all day.

It’s easy for me to mistake “research” for learning.

Thankfully, I’ve spent a lifetime learning and unlearning.  I’ve approached even the most uncomfortable topics with the idea that I can at least become passably OK at whatever it is I’m trying to learn.

Some topics, I find it’s easy to figure out where the “beginning” is and put together the learning plan from there.

Foreign languages, for instance, have a pretty consistent start point and a clear learning path.

Other topics, like sales and marketing, generate significant noise.

Each person has his or her “best” way.  The result is a lot of conflicting information.

Add to that the internal noise I generate when I am trying to learn things in areas I’m not entirely confident I will master.  Or, as is the case with sales and marketing, have reservations about the endeavor.

When I’m starting from “dead beginner” status – I’ll typically look for “Introduction to…”   or “…for Dummies” type books.  The general overview.

I’ll then look at the “classics” and most cited.

Is there something in that information I can hook into from my past experience?

What can I immediately leverage?  What actions can I take, and how quickly can I take them?

Where am I finding agreement or resistance to the information?

What trends am I seeing?

As I dig into the information and gain more clarity on my personal goals for learning this skill, I can start work on the other prongs.


eLearning Industry – 9 Techniques to Achieve Learning Agility and Future-Proof Yourself in an Age of Disruption

Harvard Business Review – Learning is Learned Behavior. Here’s How to Get Better At It

I am offering a free 45-minute Masterclass.

The 3-Stage Process to Move from Overwhelm to Results.

Register Here.


Wednesday, May 16, 2018

#52books The End of Power

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#52 Books – The End of Power: From Boardrooms to Battlefields and Churches to States, Why Being In Charge Isn’t What It Used to Be

Format: Softcover

It’s not really the END of power. More the end of the effectiveness of a type of power that prioritizes scale and concentration.

Moises Naim has had a front-row seat to this transition, between his tenure as Venezuela’s trade minister, serving as editor-in-chief for Foreign Policy magazine, time as an executive director at the World Bank, and his scholastic work with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

He sees three big trends that change the way power is held:

  • More – “When people are more numerous and living fuller lives, they become more difficult to regiment and control.”
  • Mobility – These people move around a lot more and have access to faster, less costly ways of moving information, money, and values.
  • Mentality – As a result, people’s expectations have changed as they see the possibility for more prosperity, freedom, and personal fulfillment and start demanding changes.

As a result, Naim argues:

  • Automatic deference to authority can no longer be assumed since jurisdictions are now porous and the populace is more numerous, healthier, and better informed.
  • Moral claims and dogma are challenged and universal values begin to take precedence.
  • There is a growing awareness of alternatives and ability and propensity to switch
  • Niches become profitable
  • The incentives to accept the status quo become weaker and the cost of loyalty increases.

The bulk of the book further details how this works in various areas: business, religion, politics, and the military get particular focus.

Naim also speaks to the ever-increasing amount of information and the growing challenge to filter and sort that information.

Essentially, power (as we traditionally understood it) is decaying, spreading, and becoming more ephemeral.  Naim is of two minds about this trend. On the one hand, “The undeniably positive consequences of the decay of power include freer societies, more elections and options for voters, new platforms for organizing communities, more ideas and possibilities, more investment and trade, and…more options for consumers.” On the other, Naim fears that these trends have “simultaneously made our problems bigger and more complex and weakened our mechanisms for addressing them.”

Ultimately, he seems to want the old forms of power back.  He fears disorder, alienation, impatience, de-skilling and loss of knowledge (because, Naim argues, no small firm can match large internal R&D), and the banalization of social movements (because we can “participate” with just a click of a mouse).

Naim’s solutions to mitigate the risks involved in this new de-centralization of power include:

  • Stop ranking each other. Focus on interdependence.
  • Be on the lookout for the “terrible simplifiers.” We need to be skeptical of those who loudly offer “easy” solutions.
  • “Bring Trust Back” Naim sees this as changing the way political parties organize and operate and in how they screen, monitor, hold accountable and promote/demote their leaders.


Personally – I see this as a pattern throughout. Are you trustworthy? Is your organization (no matter what type) promoting the trustworthy?

I was a little disappointed to see that he concludes his book by focusing on strengthening the political parties and political system.  Naim, maybe inadvertently, spoke to a much larger move towards networked, agile societies that rely on collaboration and interdependence to thrive.  I’m not so sure he meant to do that.  I would have liked to see a more robust discussion of ways to work with the More, Movement and Mentality revolutions he identified.

My sense is that he sees this re-defintion of power and how it works as a bad thing. Naim at least made a go at providing “solutions” to what may not necessarily be problems.  If nothing else, it starts the conversation around how best to maneuver in this new world.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

How I Approach Skill-Building in Things I Suck At

I mentioned in my last post that I am skill-building in Marketing and Sales.

Because I am doing this skill-building in activities I’m not naturally talented at, I have to do more than just watch a couple online tutorials, listen to Zig Ziglar tapes and presto! Sales and Marketing Genius!

Furthermore, there is a LOT of noise in this particular space.

Check your Facebook feed – how many ads do you see promising that you can make tons of money for less than 1 hour a week? Most of these folks are selling marketing solutions.

Nope, I have to use everything I’ve learned about learning and make a plan.

Treat mastery in uncomfortable topics as the project that it is.

I take a 6 prong approach.

Prong 1 – Collect information – get the lay of the land.

Prong 2 – Find a mentor – for feedback and accountability

Prong 3 – Develop a schedule of deliverables – making sure I actually DO something with what I am learning

Prong 4 – Create a safe space for experiments – to minimize risk

Prong 5 – Cultivate an experimental mindset – to minimize procrastination

Prong 6 – Share what I’ve done into the big scary world.

Through these 6 prongs, I am gaining knowledge, applying what I learn, and practicing for mastery.

I’ll talk about details in the next few posts.

I am offering a free 45-minute Masterclass.

The 3-Stage Process to Move from Overwhelm to Results.

Register Here.


Thursday, May 10, 2018

How to Choose What to Reskill Next

How to thrive in an unknowable future? Choose the plan with the most options. The best plan is the one that lets you change your plans. – Derek Sivers

That quote above guides which skill I build next.

What is going to provide me with the most options long term?

It’s how I approached choosing my majors (even if the reality of a History degree turned out to be wildly different than expected)

It’s how I approached continuing my schooling (learning the mechanics of learning has proven to be more important than ever – even if the reality of the actual Education education turned out to be wildly different)

It’s how I approached the certifications I pursued

It’s how I’m approaching skill-building as a consultant.


What skill do I need to build that will provide me with the most options long-term?

These days, for me, it’s Marketing and Sales.

Two things that if I could outsource them, I would.  Neither of these skills fit into my natural mindset (academic) or personality (deeply introverted).

But, in my business, I am marketing and selling myself.

I have to take responsibility for those activities.  At least long enough until I a) understand what, exactly, I am marketing and selling and b) am able to do this well enough to communicate my needs and expectations to someone else.

If you, or someone you love, suffer from anxiety or depression – please give to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.  


Monday, May 07, 2018

#52books Wemberly Worried

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#52Books – Wemberly Worried

Format: Hardcover, Children’s

Sometimes a children’s author nails it.

Kevin Henkes nailed not just the child’s experience of anxiety and worry, but also the adult’s.  The mental loop that many of us drag around for decades.

His illustration through a brief story of how telling someone to “stop worrying” doesn’t work. Even if you mean well. Even if you don’t see WHY they are so concerned.  It just makes the worrier feel more isolated and wrong.

His accurate depiction of a worrier’s internal dialog and his treatment of that dialog as somewhat normal versus something to be treated or medicalized.

His emphasis that there are others in the tribe.  That you are not alone.  That worrying is a common human condition and it is OK to be a bit more sensitive to changed surroundings.

I want to give this to every kid who has ever been accused of being too much of a worry-wart.

I want to give this to every risk manager and project manager to remind ourselves that we are not alone and that we can mentor these children to help them make their worry-ing a strength.

I want to give this to every adult who EVER told me to “stop worrying” – both as a child and as an adult.

I am where I am today because I was the kid who “worried too much.” I never quite grew out of it.  And I’m grateful for that.

If you, or someone you love, suffer from anxiety or depression – please give to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.  


Friday, May 04, 2018

School of the Possible – Meaningful Flow Lab

I have put together a proposed lab for The School of the Possible.

This is a project spearheaded by Dave Gray.

He’s doing something deeply personal that resonated with me.  I want to help.

This initiative also provided an opportunity for me to get clear on what I am doing with my new service – Meaningful Flow.

I need your feedback and help.

Please read this post in Medium and send me an email at wwickham@middlecurve.com with any comments.

You are also welcome to add a comment to this post.


And May the Fourth be with you!

FYI – I won’t automatically add your email to my mailing list if you contact me via email or comment (here or at Medium) as a result of this post.  I’m pretty sure you get enough emails.  You are doing me a huge favor through your input.

If you want to join my mailing list, let me know in your comments.  The mailing list is for a monthly newsletter and any freebies I develop. Let me know if you want me to send you a sample newsletter.  Thank you for your help.


Thursday, May 03, 2018

How to Reskill as an Individual

For individuals, particularly those under risk of displacement, simply to remain employed will require engaging in lifelong learning and regular reskilling. Additionally, for all workers, continuous learning will not only be key to securing employment but also to building stable, fulfilling careers and seizing rewarding job transition opportunities. – World Economic Forum, Towards a Reskilling Revolution, pg.17

As much as I sometimes wish it was otherwise, education isn’t (and can’t be) a one and done thing.

Not so long ago, our environment “seemed” stable enough for individuals to develop mastery and expertise in a particular field without worrying about irrelevancy.

Having recently watched a number of telecommunications experts become the equivalent of typewriter repairmen, I’m convinced that we need to embed learning into our lives.  They had built expertise over decades, then were forced to retire because their skills and knowledge no longer seemed relevant.

I don’t want to be forced into retirement early because I’m irrelevant.


Harold Jarche has been talking about lifelong learning for close to 15 years. 

He’s argued for Personal Knowledge Management.

Learning how to learn and continue building knowledge and skills for a lifetime.

Maintaining relevance.

Harold breaks down the process to Seek > Sense > Share.

My take on how Harold’s process can help individuals reskill:

  • Seek.  What do you want to learn about?  Go find resources. Internet, books, people, experiences.  What’s out there on that topic?
  • Sense. Harold really means sense-making. Read the resources. Put together what you are learning into forms that make sense to you.  Play with the ideas. Practice and make mistakes and build things that you wouldn’t share with your closest friends.
  • Share. I learn more when I have to explain what I am learning to others – either through teaching, writing, or building courses.  Through sharing, I also get valuable feedback.  For the knowledge and skills I am learning that I don’t particularly want to share publically, I use this step to reflect on how what I am learning here can apply to my other, more public, endeavors.

Using that Share step to reflect on how what I am learning can serve others and what the transferable skills are within that learning has been invaluable to me.

Tuesday, May 01, 2018


The World Economic Forum recently started publishing a series of resources around the changes in the workplace and how to reskill the workforce.

Organizations are complaining that they “cannot find the right skills.”

Individuals, many of whom have been working to master certain knowledge and skills for years, find themselves with outdated knowledge and skills they are not entirely sure they can transfer elsewhere.

At this year’s Davos conference, they started to tackle this disconnect between the individuals, the organizations and the economic environment.

In the session on Putting Jobs Out of Work, Yuval Harari noted that “people are now fearing something far worse than exploitation – they fear irrelevance”.

“There will be new jobs. The question is whether people feel they can re-invent themselves to fill these new jobs…If you have to reinvent yourself every 10 years…that’s extremely difficult…To reinvent yourself when you are 20; it’s difficult, but you do it. To do it again at 30, at 40, at 50…That’s a really high level of anxiety.”

The World Economic Forum, with the help of Boston Consulting, made a first pass at some pathways to make it potentially easier for people to reskill.

The Current and Target job lists are interesting.  My favorite – Printing Press Operators to Farm and Ranch Managers.

This struck me as a stretch – but dig deeper and it kinda makes sense.

Printing Press Operators have a mindset that thinks in terms of systems and processes.  They have skills in inventory and throughput.

Farm and Ranch Managers need a mindset that thinks in terms of systems and processes. They need skills in inventory and throughput.

The materials you are controlling (paper and ink vs plants and animals) and the environment you are in (factory vs barns and fields) are different, but the baseline mindset and skills are the same.

I’m glad to see this conversation.  It’s not about being an expert in a particular field.  It’s about developing transferable skills that can move across fields.


The World Economic Forum realizes this is a multi-pronged problem that requires all stakeholders to participate.

I’m quoting their recommendations below. My comments are in italics.

— For individuals, particularly those under risk of displacement, simply to remain employed will require engaging in lifelong learning and regular reskilling. Additionally, for all workers, continuous learning will not only be key to securing employment but also to building stable, fulfilling careers and seizing rewarding job transition opportunities. Think in terms of transferable skills. And give yourself the time and space to learn new things.

— For employers, relying solely on new workers entering the labour market with the right ready-made skills will no longer be sufficient (emphasis mine). And while predicting the exact nature of the demand for skills is impossible, recent research from the World Economic Forum reveals that across a wide range of scenarios, investment in workforce reskilling and human capital development is a ‘no-regret action’—that is, it will be a beneficial investment even in the absence of skills shortages (emphasis again mine). Stop writing job descriptions asking for 15 years of experience in technologies that have only been around for 5. And give your current employees the time, resources, projects, and environment that will allow them to learn the skills YOU BOTH need.

— For policy-makers, fostering continuous reskilling and lifelong learning across the economy will be critical in order to maintain a labour force with the tools needed to fuel inclusive economic growth and to ensure that companies can find workers with the skills needed to help them succeed and contribute their full potential to the economy and society.  This is going to require a major re-think of our educational systems.  Barring that, I think those of us who claim to be adults could help those younger than we enjoy learning and encourage problem-solving, critical thinking, and creativity in their day-to-day life outside of school. We can’t abdicate responsibility for developing the generations behind us to the schools anymore.


World Economic Forum – Towards a Reskilling Revolution

World Economic Forum – 8 Futures of Work Scenarios and Their Implications

World Economic Forum – 6 Reasons to be Optimistic about the Future of Work

World Economic Forum – Which of Tomorrow’s Jobs are you Most Qualified For?

Video: Putting Jobs Out of Work (60 minutes)