Monday, June 2, 2014

Sharing Information Helps You Think

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That's one of the conclusions I've come to as I continue to take steps to better manifest a chosen behavior from my organization's values statement in the day-to-day interactions around my office.

I last wrote about this two weeks ago, in The Case for Sharing Information. Having asked everyone else in the organization to do the same, I decided I would lead by example and chose the following behavior:

We share information openly and proactively, demonstrating an understanding that our actions impact others.

It is part of our overall value of Teamwork, which is focused on helping us work better together to deliver exceptional service to our members, and I chose it very intentionally. I wanted a behavior I thought I actually needed to improve upon, as a way of demonstrating both the aspirational nature of our values statement and to model the kind of honest vulnerability that I believe is necessary to actually make progress.

So far, in order to manifest my behavior, I have been putting a little more thought into my comments at our weekly staff meeting. I spend a fair amount of time on the road, chasing one strategic objective or another, and it occurred to me that the staff back in the office may have no concrete idea about where I'm going or why. In the past I haven't shared much of that information--focusing instead on the mechanics of when I'll be out of the office and how someone could reach me if they needed to.

That's starting to change. Looking back over my travel calendar, it usually easy for me to find a trip that I can spend more time talking about at the staff meeting. Where did I go? Why? Who did I meet there? What did I do? How did it help us advance our strategic objectives? These are the questions I seek to answer, not just in my own head, but in open forum with my staff. And, realizing that they will lead to expanded discussion, I find myself often sitting with a blank piece of paper (or blank computer screen), attempting to compose in at least some kind of short-hand a summary of what I'm trying to do and what, if anything, I think I'm accomplishing.

One of my latest reports was on a trip I made to Washington, DC, to attend a meeting hosted by the Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO) of the U.S. Department of Energy. Here are the verbatim notes I wrote for myself before going into a staff meeting to talk about it.

Next topic: AMO Peer Review Session

We are trying to create a program within the DOE’s AMO that will focus on the use of energy efficient fluid power.

Three legs to this stool:
1. Support pre-competitive research discovery – the CCEFP.
2. Support bridge projects that move from discovery to commercialization – conversations about public/private partnerships at the Council on Competitiveness.
3. Incorporate fluid power best practices into existing assessment programs – EEHPC, IAC, Better Plants, etc.?

Progress made in all three areas

Good discussion with Mark Johnson – responding to RFI

White paper from Dan Helgerson – discussion with Jay Wrobel and John Smegal

Still orbiting the goal, but feel like we’ve moved into a lower orbit

Obviously, there's a lot of specific terms, acronyms, and people's names in there, but I think even an outsider can see through those specific trees to the forest I'm trying to convey. The notes are a short and succinct summary that lists not just our objective (create a program...), but describes our core strategy for getting these (three legs to this stool...) and some of the progress we're making towards them.

And it may embarrass me to say it, but this may the only place this kind of information is actually written down. When it's just me--me going here and going there, without any expectation that others will need to be informed--the crush of other responsibilities can often prevent me from finding the time to compose or document my thoughts, reactions and next steps.

But now that I've made this new commitment to share more information with my staff, and find myself not just finding the time to document these things but, as part of the process, to think about them more carefully. What am I trying to achieve? Am I really making progress?

They're great questions to ask yourself. But they're even better questions to discuss in an environment where the information needed to answer them is broadly shared.

Stay tuned. In a future posts, I'll keep writing about my chosen behavior and some of the things I'm doing to better manifest it in the office.

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This post was written by Eric Lanke, an association executive, blogger and author. For more information, visit, follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at

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