Whiteboard Thinking: A Thousand Words are Worth a Picture

We’ve heard it said that a picture is worth a thousand words. If that is true then the converse is also true: a thousand words are worth a picture. What I mean is that if it requires a thousand words to explain, then it’s complex. If it’s complex, then it needs to be mapped out. It needs a picture.

One of Sales Ops Solutions’ fundamental principles is that every complex problem can be translated into a series of simple problems. Think about it. Your business has a lot of moving parts. A dashboard provides a series of simple charts that together provide an overall view of your business. The secret to solving a complicated problem is in mastering the art of translating it into bite-sized, manageable pieces.

I help clients solve complex problems. One of my first questions when I visit a client is “Can I use your whiteboard?” The whiteboard helps us to produce clarity around the problem we are trying to solve and how to prioritize its components.

I like to refer to the following simple steps as “Whiteboard Thinking”. They are designed to help you get started in attacking a complex problem with clarity and confidence:

    1) Settle in your mind that you will solve the problem. The only question is how.
    This will eliminate the fear factor, which often slows us down.

    2) Define the ultimate goal.
    What are we primarily trying to accomplish? Often in trying to solve one problem, we discover 3 more. This causes us to shift our focus on trying to solve all 4 problems at the same time. Bad idea. Define your ultimate goal and stay focused. Often this goal is refined through the process; that’s ok. But stay focused. Each problem will have its turn.

    3) Define the various components.
    What often complicates a problem is the existence of several interrelated moving parts. Define clearly what those parts are. Draw each one as a circle on a whiteboard. Literally looking at these circles helps to bring clarity to our thinking. If you have too many parts, then you may need to create sub-components, so each level contains no more than 6 or 7 components. Deal with the highest level first, then tackle each multi-component level. To demonstrate this step I have provided below a simple diagram that I created to help define Sales Operations. Viewing this diagram provides clarity around what I mean when I refer to “Sales Operations”.
    Sales Operations - Simplified and Defined

    4) Define the purpose of each component.
    Why does each component exist and how does it contribute to your ultimate goal?

    5) Define the relationships between components.
    How does each component effect every other component? This is often represented by a line interconnecting the circles. Often a matrix is helpful in this exercise, with each component having its own row and column. Does each effect strengthen or weaken the respective components’ purposes?

    6) Define the players.
    Who in your organization owns each component. If you cannot identify an explicit owner for each component, then this may be part of your problem.

    7) Define the problem.
    a) What are the fruits? These are visible symptoms that indicate that a problem exists.
    b) What are the roots? These are the ultimate causes of the problem. This is what needs to be corrected in order to stop the problem from recurring. Sometimes identifying the root cause requires digging deeply and speaking to several effected parties.

These 7 steps to Whiteboard Thinking will help you to define and simplify the complex problem so that you can tackle it with clarity and confidence. This exercise is worth your time, because a thousand words are worth a picture.

Enjoy!

I welcome you to post your feedback.

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3 Responses to Whiteboard Thinking: A Thousand Words are Worth a Picture

  1. mark matejik says:

    Michael- Loved the article content. Nice and succinct. We should talk since your Sales Ops space is synergistic to what we do. We work with top executives (CEO, COO, CIO, SVP Sales) as an agile strategy and productivity implementation partner. Our firm specializes in Strategic Cloud Productivity in universes like Salesforce.com, Google & Amazon.

    Where we live is leveraging innovations like Cloud computing applications to help people gain strong productivity increases in sales & service while saving them significant cost and frustrations of traditional implementation approaches.

    We also use SMEs like yourself on enagagements so it would make sense for us to connect to see if this would be a fit for both of us.

    Best regards,
    Mark F. Matejik
    Chief Evangelist
    Spyrel
    781.799.2280

  2. Pingback: Tweets that mention » Whiteboard Thinking: A Thousand Words are Worth a Picture Sales Ops Solutions: The Art of Motivation. The Science of Enablement. -- Topsy.com

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