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The Navigator
Charting a Path to Leadership Excellence
Volume: # 4May/June 2010
President's Message 
 Bruce Griffiths  

With this installment of the Navigator we welcome our new OSI Program Coordinator, Maya Bristow, PhD candidate at Alliant University (Maya is working toward dual degrees in both Clinical and Industrial Organizational Psychology).  Maya's arrival does mean a farewell and best wishes to Naomi Barbre, our current Program Coordinator.  Naomi takes her new Industrial Organizational Master's Degree to Target.  Naomi has been an outstanding associate, and we'll miss her many contributions to OSI.  

 

Our program for this fall's Midwest Forum on Talent Management is coming together and we're pleased to announce Marc Effron as a keynote speaker.  Marc is the founder of the New Talent Management Network which is a brilliant "open systems" approach to best practice and benchmark sharing in the TM space.  There is more on Marc in this edition of the Navigator.

 

One of the topics we hope to explore at the MFTM is the use of social networking in organizational settings. We're collecting stories and research so if you have either please share!  Meanwhile enjoy your summer and we'll be back in two months.               

 
  
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   Bruce Griffiths
Decisions, Decisions
The Polaris Big Six
This month, the feature article in The Navigator is the third in our series on the Big Six competencies necessary for exceptional performance as a leader. In this edition we're going to focus on Problem Solving & Decision Making.
 
As an exercise in minimalism, I was once asked by a client to select the two most important leadership competencies for good management from a list of several dozen. The choice was easy, influence and problem solving and decision making. Research and experience tell us that these two competencies are among those that have the biggest impact on an organization.
 
Divergent vs. Convergent Thinking
Making good decisions and solving thorny problems involves knowing about and executing a systematic process. All models, from the simple "ready, aim, fire" model, to more complicated models, involve a certain defined progression. Understanding this implicit structure is fundamental to being an exceptional decision-maker. This overall process of making good decisions requires proficiency in two potentially contradictory arenas: divergent thinking (thinking sideways) and convergent thinking (being decisive).
 
Divergent or creative capability is required when initially confronting a decision. It's at this point that assumptions and paradigms can blind a decision-maker to a better option. For example, if the problem is, we have excessive turnover in the call center, there may be a tendency to jump to the first solution that comes to mind. However, a better starting point would be to hit the mental "pause" button and examine the root cause of the turnover. Research suggests that six factors influence retention: pay equity, benefits equity, good working conditions, quality supervision, opportunity to advance/grow, and the work/job itself. Exploring all of these possible contributing factors would probably lead to a better solution.
 
Once root cause analysis and a creative exploration of options is complete, it's time for convergent thinking - pulling the decision trigger. This involves some risk-taking. In a word, you must be decisive; then you must be ready to sell and defend your decision as needed. Roger Von Oech, one of Silicon Valley's most famous creativity consultants, characterizes the decision-making process in terms of four characters, or personalities, that you must be able to adopt. In the divergent phase, you must be an explorer and an artist, while in the convergent phase, you must be a judge and warrior.
 
When making decisions, personality also can come into play, potentially helping or hindering the process. You may have a natural disposition to act quickly - and perhaps prematurely. Or you may be very creative in generating information and options, but hesitant to pull the trigger. The Myers Briggs Type Indicator, a widely used personality assessment tool, can provide insight into your decision-making preferences. I recommend that all managers take the inventory early in their careers to get a better insight into their own preferences.
 
And what role does intuition play? When should you trust your gut? In his book, Blink, Malcolm Gladwell notes that while intuition provides lightning-fast insight into a problem, it's most reliable only after years of experience in a specific decision-making context. So while intuition plays a part, be careful when extrapolating your intuitive insight from one context to a less familiar one.
 
So what does all this tell us about learning to be a better decision-maker or selecting leaders who can fill those roles? The decision-making process can be broken down and understood, which means it can also be learned. Also, because the problem solving and decision making competency is so important to a manager's success, it should be part of any hiring or promotion decision. Asking candidates to describe their best or worst decisions, or using an in-basket exercise to test their problem-solving ability during the interview, can help screen for this most important competency.
 
Copyright 2010, Organization Systems International, San Diego, California, USA
       2010 MFTM Logo
Organization Systems International and Loichinger Advantage, in concert with NTMN and local Madison chapters of ASTD and The Wisconsin Center for Performance Excellence, will be collaborating again this year to bring the 2nd Annual Midwest Forum on Talent Management in Madison, Wisconsin on Friday, September 24th, 2010. 
 
We are excited to announce that Marc Effron will be a keynote speaker at this year's event. Marc is a popular and influential speaker who brings passion and practical advice to his audiences. His presentations to business and HR leaders around the world are highly interactive and entertaining, with participants consistently giving him outstanding ratings. He will be speaking on his new book, One Page Talent Management, which was ranked #1 for HR books on Amazon, and emphasizes Simplicity, Accountability, and Transparency.
 

Please plan to join us for this exceptional opportunity to explore cutting edge topics. With a track for HR and another for Learning & Development/OD, the Forum will provide the latest thinking on topics such as succession management, associate engagement, selection, performance management, leadership development, and much more.  

 
Stay tuned for more information.
In This Issue
President's Message
Decisions, Decisions
2010 Midwest Forum on Talent Management
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OSI 30 Years
At Organization Systems International, we are celebrating 30 years of quality, service, and innovation. We deliver client success with a high-performance approach designed to enhance occupational relationships, improve operational efficiency, and sustain customer relationships.

OSI Clients Include:

American Greetings 
Blizzard Entertainment
Bowling Green State University
Dow Corning Corp.
Fleetwood
GE Capital
Insurance Company of the West
Limited Brands
Nike, Inc.
Northwest Pipe
Portland State University
Schneider Trucking Company
ServiceMaster
Siemens
Standard Insurance Company
State Auto Insurance
The Walt Disney Company
Wendy's International Inc.