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Are You a Mega Thinker?

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Fri Sep 11 2015

Are You a Mega Thinker?
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Without question, new realities guide our work. Indeed, I’m sure you’re familiar with the following refrains: 

There are two “bottom lines” for every organization: societal and conventional. Look after the societal bottom line and success at the conventional bottom line will likely follow.

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  • Think globally as you act locally.

  • Tomorrow is not a linear projection of yesterday; you can't solve today's problems with the same paradigms and tools that created them.

  • Reality is not divided into disciplines, courses, departments, organizations, sections, jobs, functions, policies, or issues.

  • Everything we use, do, produce, and deliver must add measurable value to external clients and society. 

  1. Addressing these matters successfully requires mega thinking. In fact, using mega-level thinking is the most practical and pragmatic starting place for planning and organizational improvement, because it provides “vital signs” that any organization can use to calibrate whether what it is doing or delivering adds value not only to their customers, but also the world. 

    Unfortunately, mega-level thinking is the most common missing ingredient in conventional approaches to strategic planning, needs assessment, benchmarking, and quality management. Here’s the good news: L&D leaders can contribute to mega-level thinking. In simple terms, this means helping organizational leaders identify where the enterprise should be headed, justify why it should work toward that end result, and pinpoint the building-block results required to get from “What Is” to “What Should Be.” 

    Get Started With Your Ideal Vision 

    The safest and most practical starting place is with an “Ideal Vision” that identifies, in measurable terms, the kind of world the business wants to help create. Mega-level thinking requires practical, real-world analysis to discern your organization’s Ideal Vision; it also requires a shift in most current planning paradigms. Organizations must grapple with the notion that they cannot solve today's problems with the same strategies, tools, and paradigms that caused them. Keep in mind that the Ideal Vision is written for society, not for any single organization.   

    From the Ideal Vision, organizations scope-down to define the mission objective, which identifies the individual elements of the Ideal Vision. This is the macro level of planning, and is most commonly managed by senior-level executives. Then, organizational functions (the building-block results to achieve the mission) are defined when leaders scope-down from the mission objective. Frontline managers typically develop and implement this sort of micro-level strategic planning. 

    Next, tactical planning identifies and helps select the alternative ways and means to accomplish the strategic plan. Meanwhile, operational planning identifies what must be done to implement the tactical plan successfully. Both must move the organization ever closer to the Ideal Vision. 

    Pinpoint Problems but Assess Needs 

    As most L&D pros know, a useful needs assessment identifies the gaps between current results and desired/required ones. What’s more, it places the needs in priority order on the basis of "what it costs to meet the need" versus "what it costs to ignore the need." 

    When you define a "need" as a gap between current and desired/required results (used as a noun) it gives you a three-way payoff: 

    it provides the criteria for planning

  2. it provides the criteria for evaluation and continual improvement

  3. it allows you to justify your plans and budgets on the basis of what it costs to meet the need versus the costs to ignore it. 

  4. But remember that “needs” are not the same as “wants.” Don’t confuse wants, or solutions, with ends (results or consequences). In addition, most popular needs assessments are really just solutions assessments or even “wish lists” of desired methods, means, resources, or activities. Using these can make you pick solutions that fail to address the real problems. And in this case, a problem is a need selected for elimination or reduction. No need, no problem. 

    Let OEM Guide Your Planning 

    The Organizational Elements Model (OEM) is a template, or guide, for identifying what an organization uses, does, produces, delivers, and the payoffs for internal and external clients and society. It identifies the five elements characterizing every organization: 

    Mega/Outcomes (the impact and payoffs of Outputs in and for society)

  5. Macro/Outputs (the results which can be delivered outside of the organization)

  6. Micro/Products (building-block results which alone will not deliver organizational success)

  7. Processes (methods and activities)

  8. Inputs (ingredients, resources, and starting conditions). 

The OEM may be arrayed in two levels: 1) What Should Be and 2) What Is. Because there are three types of results, there are three types of needs and three types of needs assessments. Therefore, the two levels will enable you to identify needs at the three levels of results. 

Six Critical Success Factors 

1.   Don’t assume that what worked in the past will work now. Get out of your comfort zone—today’s paradigms—and be open to change.

2.    Differentiate between ends (what) and means (how).

3.   Use all three levels of planning and results (Mega/Outcomes; Macro/Outputs; Micro/Products).

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4.   Use an Ideal Vision (what kind of world, in measurable performance terms, we want for tomorrow) as the underlying basis for planning and continuous improvement.

5.   Prepare all objectives—including the Ideal Vision and mission—to include precise statements of both where you are headed as well as the criteria for measuring how you know when you have arrived.

6.   Define "need" as a gap in results (not as insufficient levels of resources, means, or methods).

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