Review: Nudge

Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard H. Thaler, Cass R. Sunstein
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The book presents two major concepts – Choice Architecture and Libertarian Paternalism and highlights why people make bad choices, when nudging helps and how to do it.

Choice Architects – these are people who have the responsibility for organising the context in which people make decisions

Libertarian Paternalism – where people should be free to choose but it is legitimate for choice architects to try to influence people’s behaviour in order to make their lives longer, healthier, and better. The reason for this is the difference between Humans and Econs

Econs – understand everything clearly and can always make the right decisions, compared to Humans who struggle to make the right decisions in some cases. It is where the difference between Humans and Econs is significant that Nudges can help steed humans and with embracing libertarian Paternalism towards decisions which make their lives better.

Humans suffer from:

  • Anchoring – where people get drawn towards an answer, e.g. a charity asking you to donate $100 will get a larger donation than one asking for $1 even if no one ever gives them the $100.
  • Availability – people build up an unhealthy fear or lack of fear because something is in their mind, e.g. the risk of a boat sinking if a boat has recently sank.
  • Representativeness – humans try to identify patterns of how similar things are. e.g. people would not expect a short person to be a basketball player
  • Optimism and Overconfidence – people over estimate their own ability, e.g. more than 50% of people will say they are above average.
  • Gains and Losses – people hate loosing things, loosing something makes people twice as unhappy as if they gained it.
  • Status Quo Bias – people tend not to want to change things, even simple things like ticking a box
  • Framing – the wording of a question makes a big difference to the outcome
  • Temptation – people are easily tempted and have low will power
  • Repetition – people have a routine (small such as eating snacks or longer) which they stick to and don’t like to change
  • Doing What Others Do and Think What Others Think – people like to copy others (e.g. telling people that 90% of people have completed their tax return is a big motivator for people to do theirs) and think like others (e.g. a popular song becomes more popular because people think they should like it)
  • The Spotlight Effect – people think others are paying much more attention to them than people really are
  • Priming – by asking people about something it changes their action (e.g. are you going to vote tomorrow? increased voter turn out)

When is it good to nudge?

  • Benefits Now—Costs Later – things you enjoy now but will cause issues in the future e.g. drinking
  • Degree of Difficulty – somethings are just more difficult e.g. selecting a mortgage
    Frequency – infrequent decisions probably need the most help e.g. selecting a university
  • Feedback – where there is no instant feedback for a choice e.g. selecting a pension saving
  • Knowing What You Like – e.g menus which suggest “Top selling” items
  • Markets: A Mixed Verdict – Market forces are not perfect, e.g. extended warranty is a product that simply should not exist.

Ways to architect choice:

  • Defaults – most people will choose this
  • Expect Error – design the process so that errors don’t happen or can be resolved easily. e.g. accepting a credit card no matter which way round it is put into the machine
  • Give Feedback – Well-designed systems tell people when they are doing well and when they are making mistakes as quickly as possible e.g. digital cameras showing a preview of the photo
  • Understanding “Mappings”: From Choice to Welfare – e.g. translating numbers into things people understand like physical objects
  • Structure Complex Choices – e.g. buying a house, filtering options to produce a subset for consideration
  • Incentives – Who uses? Who chooses? Who pays? Who profits? e.g. how are payments etc structures? people tend to forget about the opportunity cost and just consider the incremental cost such as the gas for a car and not how factoring in the cost of the car into the calculation.

The book goes on to present some applications of the above on topics such as money management, the environment, organ donation, healthcare etc.

Review: Leaders Eat Last

Leaders Eat Last: Why some teams pull together and others don’t by Simon Sinek
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Humans get pleasure from a number of chemicals, these fall into positive selfish ones which are there for personal survival, positive selfless ones for the survival of the group and a negative one which cuts us off from the world.

Positive Selfish
Endorphin – enable us to perform hard labor
Dopamine – enables us to feel good when we make progress
Positive Selfless
Serotonin – is the pride we feel when those we care for achieve great things or we make people proud who care for us
Oxycontin – helps form bonds of trust, enabling better longer term problem solving between people who trust each other.
Negative
Cortisol – the feeling of anxiety, discomfort or stress caused by a weak Circle of Safety making us more selfish by inhibiting Oxycontin. Cortisol can’t work its black magic when we have someone by our side, only when there is the utmost confidence that the person at their side would do the same for them.

From these all personal emotions flow.

The responsibility of a leader is to provide cover from above for their people who are working below. When the people feel that they have the control to do what’s right, even if it sometimes means breaking the rules, then they will more likely do the right thing. Courage comes from above. Our confidence to do what’s right is determined by how trusted we feel by our leaders.

We don’t just trust people to follow the rules, we trust that they know when to break them. In weak organisations people break trust for personal gain – in strong organisations people break the rules because it is the right thing to do for others. If good people work in bad cultures people will be more concerned about following the rules out of fear of getting in trouble or loosing their jobs than doing what needs to be done.

Responsibility is not doing what we are told, that’s obedience. Responsibility is doing what is right – even if that has repercussions (e.g. a fine) but we can only be responsible in a trusting environment.

Trust is like lubrication. It reduces friction and creates conditions much more conducive to performance.

It is how people work together which is the biggest indicator of success.

The better the product, services and experience a company is able to offer its customers, the more it can drive demand for those products, services and experiences. And there is no better way to compete in a market economy than by creating more demanding and having greater control over the supply – which all boils down to the will of those who work for us. Better products, services and experiences are usually the result of the employees who invented, innovated or supplied them. As soon as people are put second on the priority list, differentiation gives way to commoditization. And when that happens innovation declines and the pressure to compete on things like price, and other short-term strategies, goes up.

When we have less, we tend to be more open to sharing what we have. People with little share because they realise that it might be them on another day who need it.

When we divorce ourselves from humanity through numerical abstraction, we are, like Milgram’s volunteers, capable of inhuman behavior. When our relationship with customers or employees becomes abstract concepts, we naturally pursue the most tangible thing we can see – the metrics. Leaders who put a premium on numbers over lives are, more often than not, physically separated from the people they serve. When a leader embraces their responsibility to care for people instead of caring for numbers, then people will follow, solve problems and see to it that that leader’s vision comes to life the right way, a stable way and not the expedient way. Leadership is about taking responsibility for lives and not numbers. All managers of metrics have the opportunity to become leaders of people.

When we do not feel safe from each other in the environments in which we work, our instincts drive us to protect ourselves at all costs instead of sharing accountability for our actions. Hording information is a sign of mistrust and self-preservation. If leaders feel they need to be the most knowledgeable then people hide what they don’t know for fear of having others question their authority. Good leaders share knowledge, ask for help and make introductions to create new relationships within their network.

People do more when they see the results of their effort, not just statistics but the actual people impacted by their work.

For people to make the right choices they need to have a sense of higher authority – God, a noble cause, a compelling vision for the future or some other moral code and not a shareholder, customer or market demand. This is essential so that people can feel they can raise their hand when something is going against this.

Dunbars number of 150 people that we can recognise, beyond this people don’t know each other and can’t form bonds of friendship. Traditionally this was the size of a village but these days could limit the size of a factory or office.

Between money or time & effort people value the time & effort someone gives more than the abstract value of money. We value a boss who spends time with us more than someone who just gives us a bonus.

In organisations where there is no safety, people hide mistakes and problems for fear and self-preservation.

The most common display of a lack of integrity is telling people what they what to hear and not the truth

For integrity to be present honesty is key, not to spin something to make it sound better.

Teams led by a directive leader initially outperform those led by an empowering leader. However, despite lower early performance, teams led by an empowering leader experience higher performance improvement over time because of higher levels of team-learning, coordination, empowerment and mental model development

Command and control puts a lot of pressure on succession planning which is a large gamble to find someone as good as the current leader.

There is no legal standing to the idea that shareholders are the true owner of corporations. They simply own shares, which are abstract representations. In legalese, corporations own themselves. And given that shareholders are not the true owners of corporations, corporations have no legal requirement to maximise share price, as many have claimed.

Would you get rid of your own children if you made a little less money than you expected in the year? Then why would you consider sacking people to be able to make the financial targets.

Employees and customers often know more about and have more of a long-term commitment to a company than shareholders do” Focus on customers, employees and products.

Dopamine addictions cause rivalry, competition and although regularly used to boost performance of an individual actually reduces the performance of the organisation.

These days people are impatient driven by two things: First is a gross misunderstanding that things like success, money or happiness, come instantly. Even though our messages and books arrive the same day we want them, our careers and fulfillment do not. The second millennials have grown up in a world in which huge scale is normal, money is valued over services and technology is used to manage relationships. The economic systems in which they have grown up, ones that prioritise numbers over people, are blindly accepted, as if that’s not the way it has always been. If steps are not taken to overcome or mitigate the quantities of abstractions in their lives, in time they may be the biggest losers of their parents’ excess.

Millennials think that, because they have grown up checking their phone then working then sending a text then working some more, they are better at multitasking. They are not better at multitasking. What they are is better at being distracted. Social media is the drug of the twenty-first century.

It is not when things come easily that we appreciate them, but when we have to work hard for them or when they are hard to get that those things have greater value to us.

Serve the people, who will service the customer, who will ultimately drive the business and benefit the stakeholders. In that order.

When a company declares that its cause is to become a global leader or to become a household name or to make the best products, those are selfish desires with no intended value to anyone beyond the company itself (and often not even everyone in the company). Those causes can’t inspire humans because those causes aren’t causes. No one wakes up in the morning inspired to champion that. In other words, none of them is a cause bigger than the company.

Leadership is always a commitment to human beings.

Review: Sapiens

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a really intriguing book which covers some really interesting and though provoking topics, it is also a really long book so here I just list some questions and points that it raises.

Why are we the only kind of genus Homo animals? How our bigger brains mean that we are technically born prematurely. How fire was so important to us. Why stories are important. How companies came to be formed. How we accidently ended up farming. The birth of writing and why numbers are fairly universal but letters not so much. How biases come to be enforced from a chance happening to law which means disadvantages leading to cultural prejudices which then leads to a reinforcing of the laws or disadvantages into a self perpetuating cycle (e.g. votes for women). Why does money exist? How do banks work. Why trust is so important why we could not function without it. Why does religion is the mix of human norms and values along with a belief in superhuman order, including communism, exist. Humanism – liberal for each person), socialist (for humankind species) and evolutionary (to protect the gene pool from degradation). Why did Europeans go so far but others did not. Why is America not named after Columbus – because he believed the map was complete and that everything had been discovered. How capitalism works and how it is based on trust in the future. How companies took over the world and explored new words and got protection from the state. The lead from capitalism to consumerism. How the stage champions strong individuals because of strong markets but this leaves weak communities for which it has to step in e.g. with health care. Why have we got more peace now than any time in the past – atom bombs or less tangible assets (e.g. software)?

The book raises some really interesting questions at the end which is sort of half answers and half leaves open. Are we actually any happier now than we were in medieval times? The answer is likely not really. We have changed the world so much and treat animals poorly. What does the future bring? Or more key “What do we want to want?”

Review: High Output Management

High Output Management by Andrew S. Grove
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The book defined a managers rate of output as:

Ax, activities : information gathering, nudging, decision-making, role model. These can be internal to your organisation or these can be influences onto external organisations.

Lx, leverage : a high leverage might be where a large number of people are affected by the action, where peoples actions are effected over a long period of time, providing a unique piece of knowledge or experience. It is important to note that leverage is not always positive, e.g. managerial meddling which can be solved by ensuring people have a sizeable team to manage. It is possible to reduce the organisations output by doing something as well as increasing it.

Tx, time : reducing the time it takes to do things will improve output. e.g. context switching is a proven production killer, as such batching of similar tasks together improves efficiency by reducing the time taken to complete the activity. Reports are more a medium for self-discipline than a way of communication. Writing the report is important; reading it often is not.

Improving output can be by increasing the rate of work, increasing the leverage associated with an activity or shifting the mix of activities from those with lower leverage to those with higher leverage.

The book highly advocated one-to-one meetings and notes – this should be considered the subordinates meeting, they should last an hour, should be near the subordinates location of work, potential problems are key to cover, both participants should take notes – which acts like a commitment from the subordinate that something is going to happen, keep a list of topics to be discussed, personal issues usually get brought up at the end of the meeting (I, not the author, keep the half hour after a one-to-one free just for such occasions).

Decisions should be made in a way where there is a free and open discussion about the problem and potential solutions, a clear decision is made which everyone then fully gets behind. There are challenges with the discussion part because of personal emotions such as pride, ambition, fear, embarrassment and insecurity. Having a chairperson in a group can help ensure that the discussions are suitable and pull the group together to make a decision yet it is key to ensure that not too little or too much time has been spent on the free discussion. There is a strong temptation for the leading officers to make decisions themselves, without the sometimes onerous process of discussions, however if this produces the best result it will only be because of a fluke as opposed to a properly considered range of options.

Organisational structure – mission verses function. It is likely that there are elements of both in an organisation but also having people people dual report to both a mission and function e.g. the security guard might need to report to both the site manager but also a global head of security.

Modes of control – free-market forces, contractual obligations, cultural values. If the problem is well defined (in terms of complexity, uncertainty and ambiguity) and people are only self interested then the free-marked provides a mechanism of you getting what you want (e.g. a toaster). If the problem is well defined but you need to operate as a group then a contract can be formalised (e.g. renting an office). If the problem is not well defined and you have to work as a group then cultural values are key to getting what is required to be produced (e.g. software product development).

When issues are identified with subordinated they tend to go through the following stages – ignore the issue, deny the issue, blame others, assume responsibility, find solution. The key transition is to assume responsibility – from the previous stages this is a physiological one, after this the solutions are purely logical.

There are two ways that someone can produce more – they either need to be better motivated or they need to receive more training. Both of these are key responsibilities for managers.

Separately to general management there are also some specifics for detailing with production management.

For manufacturing there is a difference between market demand and production capacity – it is important to forecast the two separately as using production capacity to drive market demand will result in either too much being produced or not enough when you could have sold more. Different sides (marketing and production) can look at how they can meet the others sides numbers which can then be used for bussiness decisions.

Metrics provide windows into the black box which is production.

The sooner you can identify a problem the better since this will be at the lowest cost.

Review: Drive

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Traditionally carrot and stick type management has been used as a way to get employees to do what the company wants. This might work fine for routine mechanical tasks but not creative ones.

Carrot and stick motivation can extinguish intrinsic motivation, diminish performance, crush creativity and dissuade good behaviors such as unethical behavior create addictions as well as encourage short term thinking.

There are tasks which really must be done where people might be “bribed” to do them, for these tasks explaining why the task is important, acknowledging it is boring plus giving people autonomy to do it as they want makes the task less painful.

Giving bonuses for work reduces intrinsic motivation where as giving random rewards afterwards does not reduce intrinsic motivation.

To boost the intrinsic motivation there are three elements.

  • Autonomy :
    • over task – what they do,
    • over time – when they do it,
    • over team – who they do it with and over technique – how they do it
  • Mastery :
    • is a mind set where you believe there are always things to improve on and is linked to when people are in flow – doing tasks which are slightly more challenging than you are capable of.
    • To achieve mastery requires:
      • effort,
      • grit and
      • deliberate practice.
    • Mastery is an asymptote, the closer you get to it the harder it is.
  • Purpose :
    • people want to contribute to a cause greater and more enduring then themselves.
    • The goal is to make the world better – profit is just the catalysis rather than the objective,
    • what words do people use – if people say words like “we” when referring to the company they feel ownership unlike using words such as “they” and
    • policies such as allowing people to decide how they give back to the community or allowing people time to peruse their own interests

The book presented a few tools of which two of them particularly jumped out.

Flow test

  • Which moment produce a feeling of “flow”? Where were you? What were you working on? Who were you with?
  • Are certain time of the day more flow-friendly than others? How could you restructure your day based on your findings?
  • How might you increase the number of optimal experiences and reduce the moment when you feel disengaged or distracted?
  • If you’re having doubts about your job or career, what does this exercise tell you about your true source of intrinsic motivation?

Autonomy audit

  • How much autonomy do you have over your tasks at work – your main responsibilities and what you do in a given day?
  • How much autonomy do you have over your time at work – for instance, when you arrive, when you live and how you allocate your hours each day?
  • How much autonomy do you have over your team at work – that is, to what extent are you able to choose the people with whom you typically collaborate?
  • How much autonomy do you have over your technique at work – how you actually perform the main responsibilities of your job?

Review: Good to Great

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t by James C. Collins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a really interesting book for people who are in a senior leadership position, it shows that any company can be great if they identify what they are good at and they focus solely on that. The book also highlights that this is not an easy of quick transformation taking year (or decades) to get the company doing the things which its good at and improving on it.

The 6 stages (then repeat to gain momentum) of:

  • Having a Level 5 leader

    • These are people who are passionate about the company and not about themselves.  Prepared to make the right decisions for the company no matter how hard.
    • Set up their successors for even greater success
    • More “plow horse” than “show hours”
    • Looks at windows to praise others and mirrors to blame themselves – taking full responsibility.
    • Attribute success to good luck than to personal greatness
  • First who then what
    • Getting the right people in the right places and getting rid of the people who are not right
    • A genius with a thousand helpers model does not scale or provide longevity
    • Three principles:
      1. If in doubt don’t hire
      2. When you know you need to make a change act
      3. Put your best people on your biggest opportunities, not your biggest problems
    • Teams who debate productively in search of the right answer and once they find it commit to it, regardless of personal interests.
    • Compensation is only to keep the right people and not to motivate meaning that great companies did not pay more than good ones.
    • “People are your most important asset” is wrong, “The right people are your most important asset” is
    • The “right” person is more about character traits and innate capabilities than with specific knowledge, background, or skills.
  • Confront the brutal facts
    • Confront your reality, honestly and with diligence to uncover the truth.
    • People need to have a tremendous opportunity to be heard and, ultimately, for the truth to be heard
      1. Lead with questions, not answers
      2. Engage in dialogue and debate, not coercion
      3. Conduct autopsies, without blame
      4. Build red flag mechanisms that turn information into information that cannot be ignored
    • “Retain absolute faith that you can and will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties AND at the same time confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be”
    • Charisma can be as much a liability as an asset for a leader
    • Confronting the facts and act on the implications
    • Ignoring the brutal facts of reality is demotivating
  • Hedgehog concept

    • The hedgehog is an understanding strategy of what the company can be the best in the world at, not necessarily what it wants to be the best at.
    • If you can not be best in the world at your core bussiness then that can not be your hedgehog concept.
    • The “best in the world” understanding is a much more severe standard than a core competence.  You might have a competence but not necessarily have the capacity to be truly the best in the world at that competence.  Conversely, there may be activities at which you could become the best in the world, but at which you have no current competence.
    • Identify your economic driver e.g. profit per x which has the single greatest impact
    • Good to great companies base their strategies on understanding, not bravado
    • Getting the hedgehog concept is iterative and not just a single meeting to decide it – on average taking 4 years
  • Culture of discipline
    • Keeping to the three circles is key
    • Bureaucratic cultures arise to compensate for incompetence and lack of discipline
    • Within the circles it gives people freedom.  Disciplined people engaged in disciplined thought who then take disciplined action
    • These companies can look dull from the outside but are incredibly diligent and with stunning intensity always trying to make things better to the nth degree
    • Culture of discipline is not a tyrant who disciplines, the latter being extremely dysfunctional
    • The more a company stays in the circles the more opportunity it will have to grow
    • A “once in a lifetime” opportunity is only worth it if it is within the three circles
    • Budgeting against the hedgehog concept identifies which activities should be fully funded and which should not be funded at all
    • “Stop doing” lists are more important than “to do” lists
  • Technology accelerators
    • Good to great companies avoid technology fads, they are only interested in ones which can build on the hedgehog model
    • Technology is used as an accelerator, not as a creator
    • Mediocre companies react and lurch about, motivated by fear of being left behind
    • “Crawl, walk, run” can be very effective during technical change

After following the steps it is key to keep doing them, small increments add to big benefits.  The companies which keep changing direction effectively keep growth down where as if they kept the fly wheel going they would have achieved far superior results.

Review: Turn the Ship Around!

Turn the Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders by L. David Marquet
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was presented in a very easy to read way. Showing how the leadership model can work in quite a challenging environment. The book lists a lot of questions which are useful and worth thinking about. These are:

  • Why do we need empowerment?
  • Do you need someone to empower you?
  • How reliant is your organisation on the decision making of one or a small group of people?
  • What kind of leadership model does your organisation use?
  • In your organisation, are people rewarded for what happens after people leave?
  • Are they rewarded for the success of their people?
  • Do people want to be “missed” after they leave?
  • When an organisation does worse after someone leaves, what does it say about this persons leadership? what does this say about the organisation?
  • How does the perspective of time horizon affect our leadership actions?
  • What can we do to incentivise long-term thinking?
  • What are you willing to personally risk? (Sometimes taking a step for the better requires caring/not caring.  Caring deeply about the people and the mission, but not caring about the bureaucratic consequences to your personal career)
  • What must leaders overcome mentally and emotionally to give up control yet retain full responsibility?
  • What;s the hardest thing you experience in letting go of micromanaging, top-down leadership, or the cult of personality?
  • How can you get your project team interacting differently but still use the same resource?
  • What can you, as a subordinate, do to get your boss to let you try new ways of handling a project?
  • Do you give employees specific goals as well as the freedom to meet them in any way they choose?
  • Do you have to be the smartest person in your organisation?
  • To what degree does technical competence form the basis for leadership?
  • Is that technical competence a personal competence or an organisational competence?
  • How do you know what is going on “at the deck plate” in your organisation?
  • Is there a call to action in your organisation?
  • Do people want to change, or are they comfortable with the current level of performance?
  • Are things too comfortable?
  • Is there a feeling of complacency?
  • Do people take action to protect themselves or to make the outcome better? Does leadership in your organisation take control or give control?
  • Why is doing what you are told appealing to some?
  • Do people really just want to do as they are told?
  • If a snapshot of your bussiness went viral on the Internet, what would it reveal about your workers?
  • Do your procedures reinforce the leader-follower model?
  • Are your people trying to achieve excellence or just avoid making mistakes?
  • Has your organisation become action-adverse because taking action sometimes results in errors?
  • Have you let error-reduction programs sap the lifeblood out of initiatives and risk taking?
  • Do you spend more time critiquing errors than celebrating success?
  • Are you able to identify the symptoms of avoiding errors in your workplace?
  • When you ask people what their jobs are, do they answer in terms of reducing errors?
  • When you investigate the criteria that went behind decisions, do you find that avoidance of negative outcomes far outweighs the accomplishing positive outcomes?
  • What is the primary motivation of the middle manager and rank an file?
  • How can you minimise errors but not make that the focus for the organisation?

Control

  • How can you prepare your mid-level managers to shift from holding a “position of privilege” to one of “accountability, responsibility, and work”?
  • What procedure or process can you change with one word that will give your mid-level managers more decision-making authority?
  • When thinking about delegating control, what do you worry about?
  • What do you as a proponent of the leader-leader approach need to delegate to show you are willing to walk the talk?
  • How do you respond when people in your workplace don’t want to change from the way things have always been done?
  • What are some of the costs associated with doing things differently in your industry?
  • Do we act first, and think later? Or do we think first, then change our actions?
  • How would you counter any reluctance on the part of your team to have early, quick discussions with you, the boss, to make sure projects are on course?
  • To what degree is trust present in your organisation?
  • Is your staff spending time and money creating flawless charts and reports that are, simultaneously, irrelevant?
  • What can you do in your organisation to add “a little rudder far from the rocks” to prevent needing “a lot of rudder next to the rocks”?
  • What commonplace facts can you leverage to make information more valuable and accessible to your employees?
  • Have you eve uncovered a “reason why” akin to being a random decision?
  • What causes us to take control when we should be giving control?
  • Can you recall a recent incident where your subordinate followed your order because he or she thought they learned the secret information “for executives only”?
  • What would be the most challenging obstacle to implementing “I intend to …” in your place of bussiness?
  • Could your mid-level managers think though and defend their plan of action for the companies next big project?
  • How deeply is the top-down, leader-follower structure ingrained in how your bussiness operates?
  • Do you recognise situations in which you need to resist the urge to provide solutions?
  • When problems occur, do you immediately think you just need to manage everything more carefully?
  • What can you do at your next meeting with senior staff to create a space for open decisions making by the entire team?
  • Are you underutilising the ideas, creativity, and passion of your mid-level managers who want to be responsible for their department’s work product?
  • Can you push tasks to a lower level rather than having high level demands for things to be done?
  • How many top-down monitoring systems are in play within your organisation? How can they be eliminated?
  • Do you ever walk around your facility listening solely to what is being communicated through informal language?
  • How comfortable are people in your organisation with talking about their hunches and their gut feelings?
  • How can you create an environment in which mean and women freely express their uncertainties and fears as well as their innovative ideas and hopes?
  • Are you willing to let your staff see that your lack of certainty is strength and certainty?
  • To what degree does trust factor in the above?
  • How do you use outside groups, the public, social media comments, and government audits to improve your organisation?
  • What is the cost of being open about problems in your organisation and what are the benefits?
  • How can you leverage the knowledge of those inspectors to make your team smarter?
  • How can you improve your team’s cooperation with those inspectors?
  • How can you “use” the inspectors to help your organisation?

Competence

  • How do you react when an employee admits to doing something on autopilot, without deliberately thinking about the actions or its consequences?
  • Do you think that by implementing a system of taking deliberate action you can eliminate errors in your company, or within certain departments in your company?
  • Will employees in your workplace revert to acting hastily and automatically in a real-life situation?
  • How effectively do you learn from mistakes?
  • Are you aware of which areas in your bussiness are marred by mistakes because the lower-level employees don’t have enough technical competence to make good decisions?
  • Ho could you implement a “we learn” policy among your junior and senior staff?
  • Would you consider writing a creed for your organisation?
  • Are people eager to go to training?
  • How do you shift responsibilities for performance from the briefer to the participants?
  • How much preparation do people do prior to an event or operations?
  • When was the last time you had a briefing on a project?
  • What would it take to start certifying that your project team know what the goals are and how they are to contribute to them?
  • Are you ready yo assume more responsibility within the leader-leader model to identify what near-term events will be accomplished and the role each team member will fulfil?
  • Are there employees who are going to quit because they are overworked and underappreciated?
  • When is it right for the leader to overturn protocol in the effort to rescue a single stressed-out subordinate?
  • What message do you need to keep repeating in your bussiness to make sure your management team doesn’t take carer of themselves first, to the neglect of their team?
  • Have your processes become the master rather than the servant?
  • How can you ensure adherence to procedure while at the same time ensuring that accomplishing the objectives remains foremost in everyone’s mind?
  • Have you reviewed your operations manual lately to replace general terminology with clear, concise, specific directions?
  • Are your staff complying with procedures to the neglect of accomplishing the companies overall objectives?

Clarity

  • What would you and your team like to accomplish?
  • How can you, as a leader, help your people accomplish it?
  • Are you doing everything you can to make tools available to your employees to achieve both professional and personal goals?
  • Are you unintentionally protecting people from the consequences of their own behaviour?
  • What is the legacy of your organisation?
  • How does that legacy shed light on your organisations purpose?
  • What kind of actions can you take to bring this legacy alive for individuals in your organisation?
  • How can you simplify your guiding principles so that everyone in your organisation understands them?
  • How will you communicate your principles to others?
  • Are your guiding principles reference in evaluations and performance awards?
  • Are your guiding principles useful to employees as decision-making criteria?
  • Do your guiding principles serve as decision-making criteria for your people?
  • Do you know your own guiding principles? Do others know them?
  • Do you have a recognition and rewards system in place that allows you to immediately applaud top performers?
  • How can you create scoring systems that immediately reward employees for the behaviours you want?
  • Have you seen evidence of “gamification” in your workplace?
  • For how far in the future are you optimising your organisation?
  • Are you mentoring solely to instruct or also to learn?
  • Will you know if you’ve accomplished your organisational and personal goals?
  • Are you measuring the things you need to be?
  • Have you assigned a team to write up the companies goals three to five years out?
  • What will it take to redesign your management team’s schedule so you can mentor one another?
  • How can you reward staff members who attain their measurable goals?
  • How do we create resilient organisations where errors are stopped as opposed to propagating through the system?
  • Will your people follow and order that isn’t correct?
  • Do you want obedience or effectiveness?
  • Have you built a culture that embraces a questioning attitude?

 

Don’t do this Do this
Leader-follower Leader-leader
Take control Give control
Give orders Avoid giving orders
When you give orders, be confident, unambiguous, and resolute When you do give orders, leave room for questionning
Brief Certift
Have meetings Have conversations
Have a mentor-mentee program Have a mentor-mentor program
Focus on technology Focus on people
Think short-term Think long-term
Want to be missed after you depart Want not to be missed after you depart
Have high-repetition, low quality training Have low-repetition, high quality training
Limit communication to terse, succinct, formal orders Augment orders with rich, contextual, informal communications
Be questionning Be curious
Make inefficient processes efficient Eliminate entire steps and processes that don’t add value
Increase monitor and inspection points Reduce monitoring and inspection points
Protect information Pass information

A better Abbey Line for everyone

We have been pulling together the details for a crowd funding campaign to help fund a study to show what the impact of a passing loop on the Abbey Line.  I have set up the crowd funding campaign on SpaceHive and popped together a promotional video.  Having spoke to local councillors we already have support for £1.5k from them as well as a number of private donations so hopefully we will make it to the required £6k by our deadline of the end of the year.

Review: Peopleware

Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams by Tom DeMarco , Timothy R. Lister
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Bigger projects have a higher probability of failure, typically 25% compared to 15% for smaller projects.  The biggest cause of failure is sociology.  We worry about the technical but rarely about the sociology issues.

In a production environment, it’s convenient to think of people as parts of the machine. When a part wears out, you get another. The replacement part is interchangeable with the original. You order a new one, more or less, by number.

This might be the case in a production line but this is far from the case in creative or knowledge based industries.

Easy management

  • Get the right people
    • Aptitude tests can be good at screening out unsuitable individuals
    • Get people to audition, don’t hire someone because they say they can do something
  • Make them happy so they don’t want to leave
    • If you have low turnover people tend to be happier and do a better job
    • Loosing people results in more than just a loss of a replaceable resource – knowledge, experience etc are all lost too which take time for it to be recovered from.
    • An organisation that succeeds in building a satisfying community tends to keep its people. When the sense of community is strong enough, no one wants to leave.
  • Turn them loose

Teamicide

  • Defensive management
    • Open Kimono attitude is the exact opposite of defensive management.
      • You take no steps to defend yourself from the people you’ve put into positions of trust.
      • And all the people under you are in positions of trust.
      • A person you can’t trust with any autonomy is of no use to you.
  • Bureaucracy.
    • As organisations age they become more standard and the sameness pervades, meaning lack of excitement and enjoyment.
    • Self healing systems – you can over systematise your work which removes flexibility
    • Big M Methodology is for teams that you don’t trust, these don’t work in creative environments and always result in paperwork and bureaucracy
      Better ways of methodology – training, tools and peer review tend towards to consistency
    • Pilot projects should change just one aspect to see how that changes things.
    • Hawthorne Effect – people perform better when they are doing something new
    • The purpose of a team is not goal attainment but goal alignment
  • Physical separation
  • Fragmentation of people’s time
  • Quality reduction of the product.
    • Developers enjoy producing a high quality product, getting them to produce a lower quality product will be demotivating and reduce productivity.
    • Should developers be able to veto deployments if they were not happy with the quality?
  • Tight deadlines.
    • Who is pushing for things to happen quicker and what are the implications?
    • The manager should not be pushing for dates, if this is really needed it should be motivated by the team.
    • People are more productive when there are no estimates and as such no scheduling pressure.
  • Phoney deadlines.  The reasons that some people don’t perform are lack of competence, lack of confidence, and lack of affiliation with others on the project and the project goals.  In none of these cases is schedule pressure liable to help improve performance.
  • Clique control
  • Motivational posters
  • Overtime – getting people to do extended hour is equivalent to fraud, it results in under-time and disgruntled employees
  • Competition
  • Annual salary or merit reviews
  • Management by objectives
  • Praise of certain workers for extraordinary accomplishment
  • Awards, prizes, bonuses tied to performance, in fact performance measurement in almost any form

Keep an eye on staff turn over is one way to identify if Teamicide is happening.

Office environment

A key impact on performance

  • If you want better workers you need better work space which they enjoy working in.
  • People need space, 9.3 m2 minimum
  • Noise plays a part of flow and thus errors
  • People want to work, so will hide or book meeting rooms so that they can
  • Everything can be measured
  • People spend 30% of their time working alone, 50% working with one other person, 20% working with two or more people.
  • Flow is key to people concentrating on things.
    • One measure of flow is E-Factor = Uninterrupted hours/Body-present hours
      • Measuring the E-Factor improves the E-Factor
  • Phones are interrupting and break flow, use them as a last resort
  • Even worse then phones are tannoy announcements
  • Treating noise means choosing isolation in the form of noise barriers—walls and doors
  • Group offices make sense and improve performance
  • Give people ownership of their space and arrange it as they want
  • Natural light keeps people awake and motivated, it is perfectly possible to have an office where each team has access to a window in the same way as hotels
  • The challenge is that office space costs are very visible and the benefits are much less tangible
  • Communal space is important
  • The idea that people will stick with you if you move the office is dead, your best employees need to consider their partners and their careers, children etc and all of these are not easy to move

Jelling a team

Jelled Team

  • Low turnover
  • Strong sense of identity
  • Sense of eliteness
  • Joint ownership of the product
  • Obvious enjoyment

People use team when the tight bonding of the jelled working group is pleasing to them. And they use clique when it represents a threat. Fear of cliques is a sign of managerial insecurity.

Someone who can help a project to jell is worth two people who just do work.

When it comes to management practices, if it sounds too good to be true it likely is – there is no silver bullet.

Chemistry-building strategy for a healthy organisation

  • Make a cult of quality.
  • Provide lots of satisfying closure.
  • Build a sense of eliteness.
  • Allow and encourage heterogeneity.
  • Preserve and protect successful teams.
  • Provide strategic but not tactical direction.
  • There is too much order.
  • Constructive reintroduction of small amounts of disorder
  • Pilot projects
  • War games
  • Brainstorming
  • Provocative training experiences
  • Training, trips, conferences, celebrations, and retreats

Change

  • If there are changes or things wrong in your organisation then there is a “sleeping dragon” which will be woken which is the voice of sensibility.
  • Risk aversion kills creativity and ultimately your bussiness.  People who are blindly loyal or military opposes are both bad at change, the people in the middle “Believers but sceptical” are those who will buy into things once they are convinced but won’t blindly follow or oppose ideas “just because”.
  • Changing to a better Status Quo always goes via chaos while people adjust, but care has to be taken not to go back to the previous Status Quo before the new one has actually reached stability
  • Wall Street care about short term gains not long term one and as such don’t like larger changes as they might impact the results for the next quarter etc.
  • Some organisations learn and some don’t either by: Instilling new skills and approaches in its people and/or the organisation redesigns itself to operate in some different manner
  • These learning happen in the middle management, in the white space between teams and people – getting teams to compete kills this creativity and learning plus if companies down size these middle managers are first to go – which strips the organisation of learning.

The ultimate sin

is wasting people’s time

  • Status meetings are about giving senior managers status and wasting other people time.
  • Staffing projects incorrectly – over staffing at the start in the hope it will speed up the project. This is political because if the project does not finish on time and externally people see the team being small then there will be blame.

Review: Black Box Thinking

Black Box Thinking: Why Some People Never Learn from Their Mistakes – But Some Do by Matthew Syed
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book starts off contrasting two industries – health care and aviation, it shows that in many areas of life, such as health care, we just don’t put the effort into learning from our mistakes. It contrasts these to environments where learning is critical to feed back into making future issues less likely. The book also highlights how blame for accidents in aviation are unfair just because the person accused just randomly happens to be the first person to have experienced that issue, not that they were actually any worse than any other pilot.

The book presents a number of challenges in fostering an environment where learning is the primary motivator and how this environment is extremely difficult to foster and protect, especially in position where peoples reputations are built on not looking too deeply into mistakes.

People don’t like to be wrong, it is almost hard wired into our brains. Through cognitive dissonance we even rationalise to ourselves or change our own interpretations so that we are not wrong. This means it is very difficult to be self critical, no one like to have done something wrong so re-framing things makes us feel better but it does not help us learn.

To ensure that we are properly learning gathering data is not enough, randomised control trial (RCT) are critically important. If we don’t do this we can still gather data which shows improvement but we need to contrast that against not having done something to prove that we did actually make an improvement and we did not just pat ourselves on the back. This combined with experimentation can lead to incremental improvements which add significant value.

Stories are powerful, to the point where people believe stories more than they believe data. If a story sounds logical and people want to believe it they will, even if there is evidence that it is wrong if this data contradicts the story in a way that the reader/listener can not comprehend or believes.