Author: Julie Lee

Kickstart Innovation with One Question

I fangirled when I experienced design thinking for the first time with IDEO. I mean, I really fangirled in a way I never have when encountering celebrities. I first had my eyes opened by IDEO in a video shared in business school…the infamous shopping cart video. A few years later, I had the incredible opportunity to work with and learn from IDEO. I soaked up design thinking like a sponge. The most fundamental lessons I learned came before any innovation even started.

One of the key components that differentiate Design Thinking from traditional problem solving approaches is the art of framing challenges. Instead of starting with a rigid problem statement, Design Thinking encourages us to phrase challenges using the open-ended and optimistic “How Might We” format. This small linguistic shift plays a pivotal role in shaping the mindset of problem solvers and kickstarts innovation that delivers creative, collaborative, and user-centered solutions. Each of these seemingly three simple words have been selected for specific purposes. Let’s break them down.

The “How” part of the question encourages a mindset of exploration and curiosity. It assumes that the problem can be solved in at least one, if not multiple ways. It focuses on the act of solving the problem already through action.

The “Might” part of the question is when ideation becomes a natural extension of the problem solving process. It creates a fertile ground for brainstorming sessions where teams can freely generate and explore a multitude of ideas without feeling constrained by predefined problem boundaries. Instead of should or would or will which implies there’s only one right answer, using “might” shifts the focus from constraints and limitations to possibilities and opportunities. This open-ended approach stimulates creative thinking and allows for a broader exploration of potential solutions.

The “We” part of the question is inherently positive and inclusive, fostering a collaborative atmosphere. It implies that the challenge is a shared responsibility, inviting input from diverse perspectives. This inclusivity enhances team collaboration and generates a sense of ownership among team members.

Next time you’re in a meeting or even just trying to work through a problem on your own, try phrasing the problem in the form of a “How might we…” question and you’ll be amazed at how quickly the creative juices start flowing.

If you’re interested in learning more about Design Thinking or hosting a highly interactive, fun, and effective session for your team, please reach out to Julie Lee ( for more information.

Reflecting on Our First Year

For as long as I can remember, I have never wanted to start my own company. Having spent my childhood in a small family-owned business, I craved the stability and perceived freedom I associated with the corporate world. As I progressed in my career, I began to recognize that the perception I had of the corporate world wasn’t fully accurate or fair. I kept seeking out the perfect trifecta for me – a company that was purpose-led with strong values, an executive team whose actions and words aligned with those values, and a role that was challenging for me where I could continue to learn and grow. Every time I thought I had found it, something happened that showed me I hadn’t yet. I was growing more and more disillusioned.

Then, a new friend that I met over a networking breakfast asked me, “why haven’t you started your own business?” I answered with my usual response of “I’m a single mom with 3 kids and I don’t really want to take the risk.” As I was driving home from that meeting, I had a moment of clarity. I realized everything I had told her was an excuse. One that really didn’t hold water anymore. That was on a Friday. By the following Tuesday, Leedan Consulting LLC was established. Now that Leedan is a year old, it is a good time to pause, reflect, and set an intention for the future.

Get Ready for a Crazy Hat Collection
When I joined a company as an employee, I had access to all sorts of resources. Need a Microsoft Word or PowerPoint template? Go to the company intranet or ask the marketing department. Have an issue with my paycheck? Talk to HR or accounting. Need more pens and paper? Swing by the office supply room.

When I started my own business, I pretty much had nothing. Everything had to be created or procured. I was the CEO, CFO, CMO, CRO, COO, CTO, general counsel, graphic designer, webmaster, copywriter, scheduler, custodian, accountant, travel agent, sales team, and more. I had to draw on all of my experiences and skill sets, some of which hadn’t been used in decades. I had to decide which functions I wanted to handle myself and which ones should be outsourced to specialists. I had to wear so many hats on any given day that my head was constantly spinning.

Emotional Roller Coaster
Starting my own business reminded me a lot of being a new mother. I could start the day on the highest high and end on the lowest low and vice versa. I had moments of self-doubt and wondering what the hell I got myself into. I would vacillate from wanting to jump back into the relative safety and familiarity of being a corporate employee to never wanting to work for someone else again. Some days I even contemplated what it would be like to become a hermit and live off the land (although that thought never lasts long given I’m an extrovert who hates insects and has a black thumb).

The bottom line is that I didn’t anticipate the magnitude of the emotional roller coaster that starting my own business and being accountable only to myself would bring. I also realized I didn’t have to do it alone. There were many people willing and able to help along the way. Leaning on trusted advisors, practicing self-care, and having a supportive domestic partner helped me navigate these ups and downs. I learned to give myself grace and to celebrate the little wins, even if it was just managing to figure out WordPress enough to publish a small change to the website.

Getting Over My Hangups
As a sole proprietor, I am responsible and accountable for building my sales pipeline and executing on contracts. Even when I leverage independent contractors, I am still on the hook. I have always had an aversion to business development and sales because it felt slimy and inauthentic to me. Obviously this aversion is a major roadblock when starting a new business. I have had to consciously change my mindset into looking at networking as reconnecting with old friends and colleagues or meeting new potential friends to share knowledge and solve problems together. If an engagement or referral comes of it, great! If not, it’s still great because I got to fill my bucket with human connection and interesting discussions.

Gratitude and Manifestations Matter
I believe strongly in the law of attraction. I create annual vision boards and practice gratitude regularly. When I start feeling overwhelmed or downtrodden, I recenter myself by expressing gratitude for what I do have. I focus on the process of building the business – writing content, reaching out to people – rather than on the outcome of revenue. And you know what? That authentic positive energy comes back in spades. I have had wonderful referral business from friends and colleagues I respect. I’ve been able to connect people who may have never met otherwise. I have been able to give back to my local community of women leaders and developed strong friendships as a result. I am manifesting my future one day at a time and I’m excited to see what’s to come.

The Future is Bright
Starting a business was exhilarating! I wanted a role that was challenging. Being a business owner is certainly that! As Leedan Consulting grows and adds full time employees, I intend to leverage my personal values into creating a culture of radical transparency and integrity where every person can bring their whole, authentic selves to work every day solving problems for clients that help make this world a better place. I want to show my kids that they have the power to change their own lives by challenging their perceptions and limitations. I aim to build lasting relationships that are mutually uplifting, especially in ways that support other women and minorities. I am creating the trifecta I’ve been searching for my whole career and making it accessible to others who seek the same. Most importantly, I am eternally grateful for the multitude of people who have, and continue to, believe in me and support me on this journey.

Swallow a Humble Pill

As we progress in our careers, it’s natural to feel a sense of accomplishment and pride in our achievements. However, it’s important to remember that we are not infallible, and there may come a time when we need to swallow a humble pill.

I remember vividly the time when I had to swallow a big, fat humble pill. I was an individual contributor at a global company having a great time doing a great job. Then within a short time, I found myself leading a team of senior leaders. I thought I was ready for it. Boy, was I wrong. It was the toughest stretch of time in my career. I couldn’t seem to do anything right and my confidence took a huge blow.

So what does it mean to swallow a humble pill?
Swallowing a humble pill means acknowledging that we don’t know everything and that there is always more to learn. It means accepting feedback, admitting when we are wrong, and being willing to learn from our mistakes.

Why is it important to swallow a humble pill at least once in your career?

It helps you grow
Swallowing a humble pill can be a very uncomfortable experience, but it can also be an opportunity for growth. When we accept feedback and learn from our mistakes, we become better at our jobs and more well-rounded individuals.

It builds trust and credibility
When we admit that we don’t know everything and are willing to learn, we build trust and credibility with our colleagues and clients. They are more likely to see us as approachable and reliable, and more willing to work with us.

It promotes a culture of learning
By swallowing a humble pill, we set an example for others in our workplace. We show that it’s okay to make mistakes and that learning is a lifelong process. This can create a culture of learning and growth within the workplace.

It can prevent costly mistakes
When we refuse to admit that we are wrong or don’t know something, we run the risk of making costly mistakes. Swallowing a humble pill can help us catch mistakes before they become major issues, saving time and money in the long run.

How can you swallow a humble pill?

Listen to feedback: When someone gives you feedback, take the time to listen to it and consider it. Don’t immediately dismiss it or become defensive.

Admit when you are wrong: When you make a mistake, admit it. Don’t try to cover it up or blame someone else.

Ask for help: If you don’t know something, ask for help. Don’t pretend that you do and risk making a mistake.

Learn from your mistakes: When you make a mistake, take the time to reflect on it and learn from it. Use it as an opportunity to grow and improve.

I finally had to admit I needed help and was fortunate enough to be provided with an executive coach who helped me see my blind spots and transition from an individual contributor mindset to a leadership mindset. This humbling experience ultimately helped me become a better leader, colleague, and even a better parent. Swallowing a humble pill can be a difficult but important experience in your career. By acknowledging that we don’t know everything and being willing to learn and grow, we can build trust and credibility, promote a culture of learning, and prevent costly mistakes. In the end, it shows that we’re all human.

Get Comfortable with Disagreements

Disagreements are a natural part of life, and they can occur in any setting, from personal relationships to professional environments. While it can be tempting to avoid disagreements altogether, learning how to get comfortable with them can be incredibly beneficial. Here are some tips on how to get comfortable with disagreement.

Embrace diversity of thought
One of the most important things to keep in mind when it comes to disagreements is that everyone has different experiences and perspectives. Embracing this diversity of thought can help you approach disagreements with an open mind and a willingness to learn. Instead of viewing disagreement as a negative, see it as an opportunity to gain new insights and perspectives.

Focus on the issue, not the person
Disagreements can quickly become personal, which can make them much more difficult to navigate. When you find yourself in a disagreement, try to focus on the issue at hand rather than the person you are disagreeing with. This can help you keep the conversation constructive and avoid getting sidetracked by personal attacks.

Practice active listening
One of the best ways to get comfortable with disagreement is to practice active listening. This means truly hearing what the other person is saying and trying to understand their perspective. When you actively listen, you show the other person that you value their opinion, even if you don’t agree with it. It also helps to foster a collaborative environment where both of you contribute to a better solution than either of you could have thought of on your own.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions
If you don’t understand why someone holds a certain opinion, don’t be afraid to ask questions. This can help you gain a better understanding of their perspective, and it can also help the other person clarify their thoughts and reasoning. This is very much about seeking first to understand, then be understood.

Stay calm and respectful
Disagreements can be emotional, but it’s important to stay calm and respectful throughout the conversation. Avoid using aggressive or confrontational language, and try to keep your tone neutral. This can help you maintain a productive conversation and find common ground.

Look for common ground
Even if you disagree with someone, there may still be areas of common ground that you can build on. Look for areas of agreement and try to build on those, rather than focusing solely on the areas where you disagree.

Learning how to get comfortable with disagreement can be challenging, but it’s an important skill to develop. By embracing diversity of thought, focusing on the issue, practicing active listening, asking questions, staying calm and respectful, and looking for common ground, you can navigate disagreements in a constructive and productive way. Who knows? You may even begin to relish disagreements as the learning opportunities they are.

Importance of Asking the Right Questions

Human beings are wired to solve problems. We approach every challenge with a desire to fix it, to make it go away, to find a resolution. However, not all problems are created equal, and not all solutions are the right ones. In order to find the right solution, we need to ask the right questions. In this blog post, we’ll explore the importance of asking the right questions to fix the right problem.

Obsess About the Problem
We have a tendency to jump right to fixing something. However, the first step in finding the right solution is not to focus on the answer. Rather, become obsessed with the problem. This requires asking the right questions to gain a deep understanding of what the problem is to get to the root cause, including:

  • What exactly is the problem?
  • When is the problem occurring?
  • Where is the problem occurring? Is it localized? Across the entire organization?
  • How do we know it’s a problem? What is the number of incidents, occurrences, frequencies in real numbers, not percentages?
  • Magnitude of the problem? Can this cost/impact be quantified in dollars?
  • Why is this a problem? Why does it matter?
  • Who does this problem affect directly? Indirectly?

Asking the right questions helps to clarify the scope and severity of the problem, which in turn helps to identify the most appropriate solution. Writing a strong problem statement helps to rally everyone around it so they know what problem they’re solving, why it’s a problem, who it affects, how big of a problem it is, and what a successful outcome would look like.

Focus on the Data
Oftentimes, companies will spend millions of dollars on a solution without clear understanding or measurements on whether that solution was effective. A large part of obsessing about the problem and asking the right questions is about getting to the right data around the problem. Baselining the data and measuring on a regular frequency as a solution is implemented enables a company to make adjustments more quickly and reduce wasted effort if the desired outcomes are not achieved in the expected timeframes.

Avoid Assumptions
Assumptions can be dangerous when it comes to problem solving. We often make assumptions about what the problem is, what caused it, and what the solution should be. Asking the right questions and focusing on data helps to avoid jumping to conclusions and instead encourages a more objective, evidence-based approach to problem-solving.

Encourage Collaboration
Asking the right questions encourages collaboration between team members and expands diversity in thought. When we ask questions, we invite others to share their knowledge and expertise, which usually leads to more creative and effective solutions. Don’t just ask the usual or obvious people either. Seek out those that may be affected by this problem both upstream and downstream in the process, especially those with firsthand knowledge on the front lines. This collaborative approach also helps to build trust and improve communication among team members, leading to a more positive and inclusive work culture.

Ultimately, asking the right questions is essential to achieving desired outcomes. By obsessing about the problem, focusing on the data, identifying the root cause, avoiding assumptions, and encouraging collaboration, you can ensure that you are addressing the right problem (not symptoms) and clearly understand which solution(s) would be most effective. So next time you are faced with a problem, take the time to ask the right questions up front, and you’ll be well on your way to finding the right answer.

The Six Principles of a Successful Transformation Strategy – Part 3

In Part 1 of this three-part series, we emphasized starting with a clearly defined and well-understood vision and strategy for the transformation itself as well as the critical nature of accurate, timely, and relevant data.  In Part 2, we stressed the importance of aligning the organizational structure and culture to support transformation as well as the need to embrace continuous improvement in processes.  We round out the holistic approach to transformation in Part 3 by ensuring you have the right tools and reward structures in place for long term success.


It’s critical to evaluate whether your current tools support your transformation goals.  Ask yourself if you have the right tools and how long they will stay current.  Be mindful of adopting “sticky tools,” which are designed to keep their creators gainfully employed or protect their contract.  Sticky tools can also hinder innovation and agility, making it harder to adapt to changing customer needs and market conditions.  They can also create dependencies and lock-ins that limit your company’s choices and flexibility.

Ensure you make the most of your tools by adopting a standard depreciation model,  helping you track the value of your tools over time and determining when it’s time to retire or replace them.  Using a depreciation model simplifies the planning and budgeting process for upgrading your tools. It will also help your company avoid wasting resources on maintaining obsolete or underperforming tools.  Automation, in particular, continues to improve processes and reduce time spent on manual tasks.  In fact, more than half of all occupations today have some tasks that can be automated.  Adopting new technologies can be a costly and time-consuming process, but making the right choices can pay off for years to come.

Always remember that the ultimate value of tools is their ability to empower your people.  People are always your biggest resource and expense. Tools help your people be better at and happier with what they do.  The goal is to have employees focused on value added work.  Leverage Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to help bridge the gap between current state and future state tools.  RPA automates repetitive tasks, reducing the likelihood of errors and freeing up time for high-value activities.


Your incentives should be structured to support your transformation goals.  Incentives play a crucial role in gaining maximum buy-in from stakeholders.  They include but are not limited to financial rewards, recognition, and career advancement.  Top-performing companies align incentives with transformation goals to avoid counterproductive behavior.  While there is no way to fully regulate individual behaviors, you can always determine which outcomes you want to reward. You must also provide timely and constructive feedback to reinforce your desired behaviors and outcomes.

Start by identifying sacred company processes and cultural norms, including those outside of your transformation scope.  These are processes and norms that have been ingrained in your company and are often taken for granted or seen as immutable.  You must be aware of any legacy systems or policies that conflict with your company’s transformation.  If these sacred processes and norms are left unchecked, they can quickly become counter to your transformation goals.  Redesign or remove them before they impede your company’s transformation.

Develop incentives that are consistent, transparent, and self-reinforcing across the entire organization, both vertically and horizontally.  They must be specific performance metrics and goals that align with your transformation goals.  Communicate your incentives clearly and frequently to every stakeholder, and also ensure they support continuous improvement and innovation.  Design your incentives around the future, not just the past or current state.  This will help ensure employees are motivated to continue improving and innovating.

Moving Forward

Transformation isn’t easy.  It’s a complex and ongoing journey, requiring organizations to adapt and evolve constantly.  Embracing change as a continuous process, rather than a one-time project, sets the stage for long-term success.  By reassessing your vision, data, people, processes, tools, and rewards, your organization can embark on a transformational journey that not only achieves desired business outcomes but also prepares you for future challenges and opportunities.  With a holistic and forward-thinking approach in place, your company can finally transform and thrive in an ever-changing business landscape. Leedan Consulting is here to help you succeed. Schedule a 30-min introductory call to discuss how.

The Six Principles of a Successful Transformation Strategy – Part 2

In Part 1 of this three-part series, we discussed the importance of starting with a clearly defined and well-understood vision and strategy for the transformation itself. We also covered the invaluable nature of data and how critical it is to eliminate or reduce the organization noise in order to obtain a clear picture of what is actually happening during your transformation. In Part 2, we consider the implications for people and processes during transformations that are often overlooked or minimized.


Your organization should be designed to support transformation goals.  Don’t be constrained by your current structure.  You may need to redefine roles and responsibilities, create new teams and departments, or restructure the entire organization, depending on how well-suited the current organization structure is for post-transformation success.  Ensure you evaluate and adjust your people strategy regularly, so you have the right people in the right roles. It is essential to constantly evaluate, sort, and develop your people talent to avoid gaps and correct ill-fitting assignments.  On average, it can take approximately 6-12 months to get to know a new employee and 18 months for them to fully assimilate to the organizational culture.  Investing the time by conducting more frequent mini reviews will pay dividends in the long term.  Focus on distinguishing between someone’s knowledge/training, their abilities, and their values. The first one you can develop, the second can be moderately affected, and the third cannot be changed.  Know what you’re dealing with for each individual and act accordingly.  

Culture is often overlooked in a company, but it impacts everything about a company from recruiting to daily operations to the bottom line. Successful and sustainable companies spend time intentionally establishing, developing, and nurturing their culture in a way that aligns with their values and objectives. Ask yourself if your current culture supports your transformed company.  If it does not, you must address the biggest detractors and establish appropriate rituals, practices, and incentives to realign your culture towards your desired outcomes. Most importantly, leadership must align their actions and behaviors with their words to build trust during this time of change.  Transforming your company culture will not happen overnight, but the benefits will prepare your organization for long term success.  


Processes must have purpose.  They must drive business outcomes and increase customer value.  Applying a methodology such as Lean to processes helps eliminate waste, strive for zero defects, and establish standard work.  Everyone in the organization should understand their role and feel empowered to continuously measure and improve their respective processes.  This requires an organizational operating model designed for continuous improvement.  Focus relentlessly on driving value for the customer and reducing as much of the non-value-added activities as possible.  Review the entire process from end-to-end rather than in its component parts to ensure you always have the big picture and end results in mind. Always go to the place where the work is performed and speak with the people who perform the work to understand what is really happening before trying to change any processes.

While containment measures can be necessary to address immediate issues, they should be treated as temporary solutions.  Do not allow containment measures to become permanent or you may be unintentionally embedding additional issues and waste into the process.

Stay Tuned…

In Part 3, learn about how selecting and managing the appropriate tools and structuring the right reward programs help ensure the long term success of your transformation.

The Six Principles of a Successful Transformation Strategy – Part 1

“Transformation” has been a buzzword in the corporate world for decades, but very few companies succeed at achieving their transformation goals. Why is that? Some attribute it to lack of commitment, poor change management, or leadership challenges. However, the main issue is that most see transformation as a project to accomplish – a set of tasks that once completed, equate to a new way of operating. When we are talking about transformation, we are talking about a significant change to the company’s core. This cannot be done in isolation. A holistic, system-thinking approach to transformation that includes all parts of the organization and is designed in a self-reinforcing manner is much more likely to achieve desired results. This three-part series will explore the six principles of a successful transformation strategy. It all starts with a clearly defined and well-understood vision and strategy for the transformation itself.

Vision & Strategy

The importance of the vision for the transformation cannot be overstated.  This is the North Star for why transformation is even needed in the first place.  It provides decision-making guidance as well as inspiration to keep going when things get tough.  Many people want to skip right past this stage and jump into execution.  If you cannot clearly articulate why you’re doing what you’re doing and how you’re going to measure whether you’ve succeeded, then how can anyone else get aligned behind it? 

The vision needs to be concise and relatable to all levels of the organization.  It should be only 1-2
sentences long so it’s easily remembered.  However, be careful about making it too broad to where there isn’t clear support to guide decisions or prioritization.  The statement should include a business outcome focused goal that is measurable and time-bound.

Once you have a clear and measurable vision, it is critical to assess whether you already have the correct business architecture to support it.  If not, what is the correct business architecture?  What capabilities need to be added, matured, outsourced, or eliminated so that you have the right design for your business moving forward?  It is difficult for individuals new to business architecture to distinguish between capabilities and departments.  Keep in mind that while they’re closely related, they are distinct and need to be evaluated separately for maximum impact.


Oftentimes, data tends to be an afterthought or a byproduct.  This is especially true when it comes to reporting.  How many times have you tried to answer basic questions with data, only to find out that it either doesn’t exist or would require jumping through many hoops to get it?  Although it is impossible to
think of all of the questions and requirements in advance, spend time before starting any transformation to identify what the key business decisions are that you’d like to be able to make with data, what insights you might need, and what reporting (both compulsory and informative) would be required.  This information helps to design the processes and tools in such a way to ensure the necessary data is captured as timely, accurately, and easily as possible.  It also helps to train your team to capture and interpret data properly. Remember:

Poor Insights = Interpretation x (Interpretation)n

The most critical aspect of data is to eliminate or reduce the organizational noise and interpretation as it moves up the chain of command.  Access to instantaneous data that is relevant to decision makers at the appropriate level helps to reduce the errors made from poor insights. Critical data can start being collected even during the experiment phase using manual tick sheets to ensure the right type of data is captured in a meaningful way for meaningful insights. To protect the integrity of the data at all levels, it is important to establish and enforce appropriate data governance structures.  Proper data governance clearly defines each data element, ownership of the definition and calculations, single source of truth, and quality checks/measures.  The level of sophistication depends on the size of the company and the number of data elements.

Stay Tuned…

In Part 2, learn about considerations around people and processes when it comes to transformations.