Communication — The Path To Payoff

PODCAST | With Guest Oren Klaff | 21 February 2018

Transcript

Narrator

The future of project management is changing fast. On Projectified with PMI, we'll help you stay ahead of the trends as we talk about what that means for the industry and for everyone involved.

Stephen W. Maye

I'm Stephen W. Maye for Projectifed with PMI. For an easy way to stay up to date on Projectified with PMI, go to iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play Music and PMI.org/podcast. In this episode we're back with Oren Klaff, author of Pitch Anything. In part one of our conversation we learned why the art of pitching is a crucial skill for project leaders and discussed ways to increase a port for our ideas, recommendations and vision for the future. We also discussed common pitfalls people encounter while working to influence those around them. Here in Part 2 we jump back in as Oren practices what he preaches and presents what he calls 'The Path to Pay Off' when running a meeting, or presenting a solution.

Oren Klaff

Let's just suspend our belief for a moment and assume the reason the results and the payoff of the meeting, we can actually leave to the end. What do we do in the beginning, set up. Lower the dome, build this environment, establish the social ranking in the environment, and give us some specific ways to do that in a minute but there's got to be a set up and return to the big idea. I'm going to do it in a way that's new and novel but have a good set up, then we get on the path to payoff. The path to payoff is problem and then solution. What we can often do in projects is give the solution first, and then explain what problem the solution solves. There's completely backwards to how the human mind works.

Stephen W. Maye

Yeah.

Oren Klaff

So, if you think about human reasoning theory, it is - what do we know? What does it mean? What should we do? That is the process. Even folks with low IQ and especially people with high IQ and high education go through, what do we know? What does it mean? Meaning. And then what should we do? And so it is what is the problem? And then uh... what does a problem mean and then what is the solution we're proposing or what is the solution?

Stephen W. Maye

Yeah.

Oren Klaff

The way to really sell, and I understand we are not doing a ton of selling here, but if you said 'Hey Oren I want to start a company' or 'I want to buy a company' or 'I want to raise money for my company, what's the right way to do that?' we talk mostly about the problem. Because if somebody believed that what you do is hard, then they will value the solution you have. Until there is a belief in the audience and the buyer and the stakeholders mind, that the things you do are very difficult to accomplish and not many people, no-one can understands this problem at this depth. They're not going to value your solution. Solution will always be discounted if the problem that you're solving seems easy to solve.

Stephen W. Maye

Yeah. Yeah.

Oren Klaff

OK. So what I tend to do for my companies is say that you... so don't come in and they talk, say in a 20 minute period they'll talk 10% about the problem, and 90% about the solution, because the solution is what they are excited about. Until they've convinced somebody that what they do is incredibly difficult, and the only people who can do it, they can't introduce the solution 'cus it won't be valued. I can give you an example. We have a company that we uh... help raise capital and they make communication software for satellites.

Stephen W. Maye

Uh huh.

Oren Klaff

And so... a satellite is not what you think anymore, it's not like this giant thing that goes up in a rocket, they're like the size of, of soccer balls. Alright...

Stephen Maye

Yeah. Yeah.

Oren Klaff

... you can launch them with a slingshot right? You know there's... there's... thousands of these things already in Orbit, but getting data to and from a satellite is really complicated. So they explain the problems of clouds and Russians intercepting and Chinese intercepting the data and encoding it and making sure it gets to the right satellite and they... and they describe all the difficulties of getting data from Earth to a little tiny soccer ball circumnavigating the uh... the Earth you know in space and by the time they have finished explaining how hard it is, and how many people have tried and failed, and how many hundreds of millions of dollars have gone into this space and ended up with... with a donut. No company at all. And... and how much train wrecks there are on the path to having any kind of solution at all. You go 'Gee's this is... this is unbelievably difficult' and in the process of describing how hard it is to get data to a soccer ball sized satellite uh... they show their competency and they differentiate themselves from most of the people that literally, no matter what they describe the solution is, you would believe them.

Stephen W. Maye

Yeah.

Oren Klaff

If they said after 20 minutes of explaining how hard it is to get data to a satellite securely and then get it back down. If they said 'so our solution is we wrap a goose in tin foil and we kick it out the back of a Cessna 310' you would go 'OK'.

Stephen W. Maye

Right.

Oren Klaff

If these guys say that's the solution...Right. I'm gonna pitch that somewhere. So path to payoff is describing the problems that are involved credibly. That's where you're doing your selling.

Stephen W. Maye

Yeah. Yeah.

Oren Klaff

Then you introduce briefly the solution that you have. Once we have that in place, then we can move onto the payoff.

Stephen W. Maye

Yeah.

Oren Klaff

Set up. Problem - why things are difficult uh... then the solution and then ultimately the message you want to deliver. The payoff

Stephen W. Maye

Yeah. So... so let me tie that back to something and see... see how you react to it. We have heard and read, gone to classes everything else for many of us for much of our careers, where somebody at some point says 'tell 'em what you're gonna tell 'em... tell 'em... tell 'em what you told 'em'. That... that would kinda lead me too kind of get to the pay off too fast wouldn't it?

Oren Klaff

So this is...the same thing as I seeing people put up an agenda. It's the same thing.

Stephen W. Maye

Yeah.

Oren Klaff

Only tell 'em what you are going to tell 'em. If you have a poor narrative that it doesn't organise itself naturally and interestingly and compellingly in the mind of another person, then you have to use all these cheats which is... tell them what you're gonna tell them. When you go to see a play...

Stephen W. Maye

Yeah.

Oren Klaff

... nobody comes out and says 'let me tell you what you're gonna see here' so... 'John is gonna get shot right and then his family is gonna be really sad and their gonna wanna seek revenge', right. So after I've done that I'll come back out right and I'll tell you like... uh... how they are trying to seek revenge. It is a you know... movies are these unfolding narrat... that... if you look at a modern movie, the ad for it... I was just looking at a movie, you don't know what it's about. Right, so you see a guy with a gun, and a shaved head and a tattoo and a kitten in the background. You go [INAUDIBLE] I gotta this movie...

Stephen W. Maye

[laughs]

Oren Klaff

...because they know how to attract and then, then you go look at the trailer, you watch the trailer right, a gun goes off, kitten goes across the road, spaceship lands you go [INAUDIBLE] this looks awesome right, so I go 'Hey Stephen, lets go see this movie' and you're 'Alright Oren, what's it about?'

Stephen W. Maye

Right, I've no idea.

Oren Klaff

I don't know, but it's awesome. Well how do you know it's awesome 'well, because it's.... it's...' it's on a narrative art which that is enticing to the evolutionary biology of the human mind. So anytime you feel like you have to tell somebody what you're gonna tell them. It's because your story isn't strong enough to support what it is you want to talk about.

Stephen W. Maye

Right. Right. One of the things that you talked about a moment ago in this path to payoff and the... with the setup and then the path to payoff reminded me so much of what I think the best in business transformations of folks that I know that have made their careers in business transformation, the best in business transformation look at this and say 'yeah, you know what we call that? We call that getting really really clear about a case for change, and it's so easy to get caught up in the solution and start, and even when somebody says 'well you know, we really need to get clear on the case for change'. What we can do is, we can start to shift to say 'oh what you mean is.. I should tell you how awesome the solution is?' it's like 'No, the case for change is really about problem and opportunity, it's not about solution' and I hear that, not your words but I hear that you come at it... coming at it from a slightly different angle. But really arriving at much at that same place.

Oren Klaff

The problem has to be big enough that the... it's worth taking the risk or change on the solution. The... and people that have had sales training will go back and they'll say 'yeah, you know you have to create a fire, you know in order to be able to sell fire extinguishers'.

Stephen W. Maye

Right.

Oren Klaff

And then... in some way that's true, but in enterprise situations especially somewhere where you are raising 25 million dollars or a project is a million dollars, and... and there's multiple decision makers and there's real rigorous thought [processes] put around the decision, you're not gonna get away with just sort of fakeley creating a fire, so in order so you can sell fire extinguishers. People are gonna see through that. You really need to have the ability to deeply describe a problem and in that description uh... your status raises, because you're giving people new interesting information about something that they care about, as your status raises there's more trust layered in, believability, credibility happens and eventually, you reach a point and you can sense in the buyer, the audience are raising off their temperature where they have so much belief in you, that you know this area, you understand these problems and that you work on solutions in this area, they literally want to hear the solution from you. And that is the time to give some of the solution when they want to hear it. You walk in a room, that is not the question in peoples mind - what is your solution? The question in peoples mind are ' why did they ever agree to come to this meeting?, I have a million other things to do'. We're gonna lower the dome, re-establish why this meeting is important, set it up, create change and then move into the problems that we are addressing. That is the question on peoples mind. Why am I here? OK. What is there worth an hour to be concerned about? - That's the set up. OK. What's your... then the next question is - remind me what's your credibility? What's your status in this area? Why should I believe you? How important is this? What are the stakes? Um... and why should I be emotional about this in any way? Those are the next questions. That starts to give people autonomy - which is listen 'you know we're 25% into this project...

Stephen W. Maye

Yeah.

Oren Klaff

Right? Here's what... there's other ways to do this. Right. You can by the way, you can always pull the project from us, and take it to Mackenzie, they knock it out of the park, but write a check to go do that. Right. And look, this is a budget and we're going to continue to need budget, you can probably do this for a tenth as much. Right. Get some interns, but if you want a bridge built by interns, go get it. That's just not what we do.

Stephen W. Maye

Yeah.

Oren Klaff

Right. Whatever the context is... So I think that's important to show people you're willing to walk away if it's not right for them.

Stephen W. Maye

Yeah. Yeah.

Oren Klaff

That way, you're not slavish to your own motivations in the projects, so once you have established that then you go into the solution. Uh... and so now we're on... we're building this, so you now we're building a narrative art, like people get scared when they say narrative art because like your saying project is not um... you know it's not a movie. It's not a M. Night Shyamalan's The Village where you have a protagonist, you have an antagonist, you have people walking through the Village, you have a war, you have villagers you know, it's too complex, we're Project Managers. Um... in my own right a Project Manager right, but a narrative art in our context is a big idea about something new, interesting, novel and changing. Then uh... a problem that is difficult to solve, giving their audience or buyer a sense of autotomy, we're not the only ones we just think we've chosen the right way to do it. Our solution, and then moving in to reporting the results or whatever the pay off is, the value proposition and so now you start to see, if we go back to when the problem was just information dump, right now we can take a look at all the information we have, and say how do we start hanging it on these stages of the presentation.

Stephen W. Maye

Yeah. Yeah and see I think that as I keep going back and applying that to all the common situations, and by common I mean - the ones that repeat for people that are Project Managers, other project professionals, people working in PMO's those who don't call themselves Project Managers but are deeply immersed in important projects. I think that what you just described repeats over and over and then inside itself meaning, we might be here to talk about a very important risk that has emerged and what we believe needs to be done about it. It may not even be about the big project, the big problem, the big solution, it might be about getting past this risk that has emerged, what we think needs to be done and the options around that and still all the things that you described, I think still apply. I think giving that autonomy, I think being passionately committed to what we think uh... is right, but being willing to back away from it and honour the choices of those that have the authority to choose. I think there's a... I think that pattern repeats...

Oren Klaff

So I give you an example like right... exactly what you said, lets say we're working on a project which is a delivery of a tax accounting software. And this involves you know, a million lines of code over a one year build for whatever reason and now we come in and say 'hey, look we've run up against something which needs some more budget - which is risk' right? What's happened today is these hackers haven gotten very good at tunneling into the existing firewalls, [subquestioning] data and then charging companies a couple of million dollars to get their own data back. Right. And some might say, today the level of threat to um... accounting systems has risen by aura of magnitude since just two years when this project was conceived. There is now strong evidence that the off-the-shelf uh... white label security systems aren't tight enough for this kind of project. And for companies who are doing a million lines of code build, that aren't investing in the next generation of threat security and building it on their own instead of taking it off the shelf are going to have uh... too much risk going forward.

Stephen W. Maye

Right. Right.

Oren Klaff

So that's the change. Right. So companies get this threat... this threat um... correctly are going to thrive, survive and be the front runners. Companies who are building on outdated uh... white label security are going to be the back markers 5 years from now 'cus they are gonna get penetrated um... and they are gonna have you know, a serious uh... security you know whatever you call it. And so that's a big idea. Right. So look guys here's the problem, we can get this stuff cheaply from Kaspersky right um... and you know we had budgeted for 50 thousand dollars for security software, but over at Target, over at Walmart you know they saw that this um... security not be strong enough and now looks like it's going to take a quarter of a million dollars to build uh... our own internal threat detection. So uh... so here's the problem with Kaspersky, here's the problem with doing it on our own, here's the... here's how we've looked at it, here's how other companies have done it, here's how we might do it, here's if you don't want to use us you know, we brought in Mackenzie to do it, here's what it will cost them right. Anyway you look at it, this is a problem. Uh... and we are really deep in it, so couple ways we think we can solve this. One is we just go with the path we have and stay on budget and on time, that's certainly a solution right and sort of roll the dice. Uh... another solution is too - we can go to Kaspersky and ask them to do updates that we're aware of these threats and but that's gonna cause a huge dent in the timeline cus if something... you know uh... a third solution and the one that we're committed too is we just take it in-house, it's gonna cost a little bit more budget, a little slip in the time-line, but we think that's the best solution. So, knowing nothing about this and just making it up on the spot, that's how we go in and do a narrative on a risk problem within a larger project.

Stephen W. Maye

Right. Right. Yeah I think it makes... I think it makes perfect sense, it's a great... it's a great kind of flow, a great sequence if we can continue to think about that applying that story model with the idea of set up, path to pay off and then pay off and not uh... not getting too caught up in giving the big solution too early. I think it makes sense. But we get so excited about the solution you know, it's hard... it's hard to do that sometimes.

Oren Klaff

Well let me weigh in on that, I think the last thing on the narrative art that's important here is when I see people introducing the solution, they can't as you said, are so excited about it they can't separate it from the benefits and the human mind does not like too have the solution and the benefits delivered simultaneously. So what we have to do is unpack the solution further so the solution is what it is in black and white just the facts no editorial, how it works black and white no editorial like the Wall Street Journal is delivering it, then you can go crazy on selling it and I think this is what Project Managers are looking for, the... the right and the ability to sell you know without feeling promotional or salesey. The way that CEO's do it, the way that Venture Capitalists do it, the way that private banks do it, is unpacking this is what it is, facts - no editorial, no overlay, no emotional content. This is how it works cus what it is and how it works are two different things.

Stephen W. Maye

Sure.

Oren Klaff

Right, for whatever... this is how it works again without emotional content. Now that you understand what it is and how it works [INAUDIBLE] we can go crazy right. It's so good I love it, it's because they... this is actually the point where the human mind and the other side of the table want you to get excited.

Stephen W. Maye

Yeah.

Oren Klaff

They don't like you to be excited and passionate about something when you are delivering facts because they know you're trying to provide emotional content at a time and sway and influence and persuasion at a time when they are just learning, remember what it is, what does it mean, what should we do. It's OK, people expect you, you bring something to the table, they expect you and want you too be behind it, passion about it, promoting it and... and this path or this pattern or this narrative art gives us permission to sell and be passionate, the reason you feel squishy or slimy or salesey is when you delivering facts uh... information and suggesting a uh... a course of action at the same time. It's not how we work.

Stephen W. Maye

Do you have time for two more short questions?

Oren Klaff

Sure let’s do it.

Stephen W. Maye

OK. Uh... what do you think is most important for Project Managers, other project professionals to understand about overcoming resistance?

Oren Klaff

So a couple of things. The span of human attention is 20 minutes. That does not... meetings are an hour long. Presentations are 20 minutes long or less. You should only present as long as you could be compelling. So that's one. So if your... we talked earlier, this PMI covers CEO of the largest companies in the world all the way down to newly hired you know, managers at the beginning at their career. If you're at the beginning of your career and you are going to present you should take, not the time you're allocated but you should put your presentation into the amount of time you can be compelling, and what does that mean? Big ideas. New information. Novel and ways of describing things, insight on what is gonna happen next, so that's one or two. The next thing is, the most highly valued people in any company in any project are people who know what's going to happen, is likely to happen in the future, that's why this big idea setup is so important. The people who know what is going to happen one quarter, two quarters, three quarters out are the most valuable people in any company in any project. So if you can provide insight, credibly on what is likely to happen next, so if you show some ability to describe what's gonna happen around the corner you will be highly regarded and then the benefit of that is your status in the pecking order it goes up, once you do that then you have a little bit more power, a little bit more control and more influence. You're the valuable person, what is valuable is you. Your insight. Your knowledge, your integrity. Your value system. Your hard work. Your relationships. You cannot... do you know how hard we try and buy that stuff and fail? When we find somebody with those things, we... we literally do anything we can to find a person like that.

Stephen W. Maye

Pro-tips or project professionals present only as long as you can be compelling emphasise your ability to tell what will happen in the future - I love that. I love that idea that it's not just professional Project Managers but others that are playing key roles in the projects the more you can demonstrate your ability to tell people what's coming, and believe in your value, Oren talked about the insights, knowledge, integrity the relationships that you bring. Believe in it and walk in and run your meetings, run your presentations, run your updates like you believe in that value. Oren it was a pleasure.

Oren Klaff

I really enjoyed it.

Stephen W. Maye

It was great talking with you. We'll have to do this again.

Oren Klaff

Let's do it again.

Stephen W. Maye

Alright, thanks again.

Stephen W. Maye

For an easy way to stay up to date on Projectified with PMI, go to iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play Music and PMI.org/podcast.

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