Are you Making Sense?


According to The Institute for the Future, the top skill required for 2020 is Sense-Making. This is defined as the ability to determine the deeper meaning or significance of what is being expressed.

In Lynne Cazaly’s words, it’s about your thinking, connections, visualising stuff, communicating that and being able to act on it and iterate it where needed.

Too easy! Or is it?

Leaders can choose to add value by doing three things: uncomplicate matters, enable decisions to be made and help make sense of complex issues. In my world, my common client issue is distilling information to communicate to others for decisions to be made. So, it would make sense to build the capability of ‘sense making’ as it’s the entrée to decision making.

Thankfully there is a book to help managers and leaders. And when a book immediately captures your attention, you hope the author keeps flexing this style. I wasn’t disappointed and read it within 3 days. Lynne’s humour made it enjoyable and she knowingly helped us retain the information. My daughter picked up the book wanting to know why I was laughing and asked immediately “why has this book got WTF in it?” Thanks Lynne!

Lynne presents in ‘Making Sense - A Handbook for the Future of Work’ her reasoning and a collection of other ‘Thought Leaders’ of the same subject, why we need to help our people make sense, how to go about it and offer, on a platter, tools to kick-start the sense-making in your leadership capacity.

It’s a leader’s manual which should become dog-eared quickly given the number of gems included. It’s spiced up with some fair dinkum language which we all need given the amount of procrastination and inaction in this territory (that is, in Australia and the field of sense making).

Anyhow, back to the action held within the rows of text and to my delight, the pages of visuals. Yes, my inner desire of ‘please just draw a diagram of what you mean’ has been fulfilled and I get it.

Lynne creates, immediate context for the need to make sense by introducing the cute Aussie sounding acronym VUCA. It’s because of VUCA that we are in a state of panic and feeling overwhelmed.

Volatility – the unknown in an ever changing environment, in particular in organisational systems & structures

Uncertainty – when you freeze or feel you’re in a holding pattern … struck with a personal unknown feeling

Complexity – in the middle of change humans intervene and add their interpretation creating layers of information

Ambiguity – where more questions are asked to answer questions and everything is clouded



And here are some simple yet powerful points:

DON’T do these things …

Use PowerPoint – we know they are not appreciated and people make them too complex and when people ask for a copy (this means they didn’t get it)

Use bullet points – it’s an excuse for leaving out the detail which is need to make sense of what you’re communicating

Remain quiet – there is so much going on that you need to be the toddler and ask “why?” to make sense

And more importantly start doing these things …

Create a new habit– realise that making sense is a capability and a behaviour … so it has potential to become a habit

Evolve – leaders need to keep learning, changing, and taking on different experimental roles

Set standards – don’t allow clichés or wafflers in your meetings

Educate – this is learnable, teach it in schools and develop it with adults

Dots – join the dots for your team and others

Map it – like google maps, draw a route to help people find their way

Move it on – stop the folks who are stuck in the past, help them resolve their issue to enable movement

Use templates – help make it easier to make sense by drawing templates which visually make sense

Share techniques – there are 21 to experiment with, practise and share in your team

Meaningful meetings – make your gatherings and meeting meaningful and purposeful

Making sense made easy.

The crux of the book is a great model: Think, Map, Act – it simplifies what we should be doing to make sense of what’s going on. Thinking encourages visualising, mapping is creating our version of what we think and acting is practising our thought out version. And this is cyclical, it doesn’t stop with one attempt!


This is a must read and reference book for leaders.

This is a must read and reference book for leaders.

I work with teams who are experiencing conflict which is when individuals’ values are being challenged by other people’s behaviour about an issue. In Making Sense, Lynne identifies when we are aiming to make sense, we need to make sense of the wider world (it = market, industry), the outer world (others - organisation, team), and the inner world (you – your mind)

This is another great model, this time helping leaders to depersonalise conflict; using a new language to work through and make sense of what’s going on. Leaders who demonstrate leadership will guide people to minimise their feeling of conflict by making sense of what’s going on. They’ll use this handbook with its: 40 thought starters, 10 thinking tools, 32 templates and 21 techniques for making sense.

Enjoy exploring stuff, thinking about it, talking about it, mapping it and then definitely acting on it.

Don't let this linger any longer. Act on it and get help if you require guidance. Connect now.

I’m endeavouring to read 52 Business/Professional/Personal Development books in 52 weeks. Yep, that’s one a week. As I read each book, I’ll share my thoughts, learning and recommendations. If there is a book that you’ve been meaning to read, let me know and I’ll read it for us!

Communication - it's not about you!

It's OK to admit our mistakes - as much as it might hurt our ego, it's best to seek forgiveness than have the reputation of being a poor communicator.

The mistake made too frequently by most adults, including the person behind these words, is to communicate for our self opposed to our intended audience. Whether that audience be our team, our kids or a potential client.

Communication is a mammoth subject and  given we spend so many hours communicating - do you ever stop and consider, how effective we are at 'selling' our message ?

The specific mistake is 'using the wrong communication approach'. For example, if you get turned on by producing 50 PowerPoint slides with gorgeous diagrams, sound bites and fonts which you cram into 30 minutes and your audience prefer detail and discussion, then you've selected the wrong communication medium and matched the incorrect learning style.

I don't need to tell you how to do it right, you can 'Google that lesson' what I implore you to do is to think, feel and do understand the preference of the audience or at least vary your communication approach.

I attempt to incorporate three approaches whenever I communicate:

Think - provide information visually - screen, paper & audio and where possible send or make available the information which I plan to cover, ahead of time 

Feel -  use stories, incorporate their names & their stories which you've identified when asking them questions, and 

Do - engage their brain & bum - after 10 minutes people disengage.

TED got it right with the rule of  '18 minutes or less' - that's more than enough time to ask someone to listen to you without any interaction. And now we see everyone in the audience happily using their device while listening (partially) because that's their style of learning & listening! You might not like it - but it's not about you!

Many years ago, a Mentor of mine shared a priceless lesson which I wish I practised more often - Communication is a game: the winner talks least and encourages others to talk/do more!