Biases, mindset and tools

Biases, mindset and tools

Few recent conversations made me think about the approaches and tools that we choose for delivering valuable work. Many people rely solely on tools that they’ve always been using. They never change their ways of working. Or, they may change the labels, but not the actual approach.

This is the snippet from the first conversation:

One of my ex-colleagues mentioned that his primary stakeholder, who happens to be the executive of the department, told him not to bother her about the process and frameworks he was using. She hated any mention of Agile, Kanban or Jira. She needed detailed plans, roadmaps and estimates and believed that other approaches didn’t work.

Why was that? 

The other conversation happened during a recent event. A participating senior manager of a large organisation was concerned that stakeholders don’t understand iterative approaches. He wanted to collect and use more data points to prove that work was happening. My personal observation was that his team and he himself lacked an iterative delivery mindset.  Was his approach to rely on data right?

What seems to be the problem? 

“Elementary, dear Watson!” (Actually, Sherlock Holmes never said those words in any of the stories. At least I didn’t come across those words. I have read Sherlock Holmes more than once, I enjoy that so much.)

These conversations remind me of a few cognitive biases. Primarily of the curse of knowledge bias and Dunning-Kruger Effect.

It might be true in both cases that one party thinks that the other one knew more than they actually did. My colleague possibly was talking in a jargon laden language that the business executive didn’t understand and decided that it was all nonsense. All the while the ex-colleague assumed that she being an executive knew more about what he was talking about. That’s the curse of knowledge. 

It is also possible that the same executive believed that she knew more about all delivery approaches. And the ones she actually knew more about, were the better ones, because she knew more about them (sounds dumb, but that happens). That assumption by her makes the other ones bad automatically, at least for her.  

That’s the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

The third point I want to make is not about bias, but about data. 

Data is ruining everything.

Well, not really. We rely on data for decision making. However, over-reliance on anything is bad, isn’t it? I must remind you of the Challenger catastrophe if you disagree with my assertion. You can read about that here. If you read the report, pay special attention to Richard Feynman’s observations and findings. Every word there is insightful.

In a nutshell, what happened then was that NASA wanted to make decisions purely on data, while an engineer had a gut feeling that there was something not right with the O-ring (type of a valve that stopped gases from leaking from the spaceship). That engineer didn’t have data to prove, only a strong gut feeling. 

We all know about the disaster where few astronauts sadly lost their lives.

The CTO in our scenario is focusing on data. It has been proven many times either through research, or in real life, that statistics often fails to influence us compared to social proof. 

Not convinced? 

Think how many times you have made decisions based on a friend’s advice. We approach our family or friends and read online reviews when we buy cars, houses, electronic equipment and other stuff. We look for social proof there.

So, I’m not surprised that by offering data to executives, this person is hardly making a difference.

What else is happening?

What do you think is happening in these scenarios? I’m looking for more insights before we jump into potential solutions.

Let me know either by commenting or emailing. 

Commit to CRIME

Commit to CRIME

When Mike told me and few others that we should commit to crime and also get our teams to do that, I was like, “Huh? What do you mean?”. 

 He went on to explain what CRIME acronym was. 

CRIME stands for Collaboration, Retrospective, Investigating, Mapping and Exploration. I found the acronym useful as this reminds you of the basics that we should all be following and keeping track of. In fact, mnemonics has been a proven technique for remembering ideas and concepts for a very long time. People who have studied chemistry will possibly remember how they memorised the Periodic Table.

This website is a useful resource for learning more about mnemonics.  

I have attached the sketch for you that you can share with your teams.  If you can’t download it here, then please email me and I’ll send it to you.

Mike is a friend of mine from North Carolina. He is an author, speaker and QA Director. Although he used the acronym CRIME for testers, I modified it to suit Agile delivery people and teams.

 

Crime acronym

Tips for Job Seekers

Tips for Job Seekers

As a #JobSeeker, one of my mentees asked for help and I gave him few tips to deal with the current situation. I hope they are useful to others too.

1. Do some planning:
– what can you do to manage the situation in the short term
– what does the long term look like

2. Stay afloat:
– In the short term, find ways to generate some income (selling used things online still works.)

3. Take Action:
– Re-connect with those you know and build new connections. Others might be in the same shoes as you are. So, gently ask for help and follow up after some time.
– Apply for relevant jobs.
– Can you deliver an online or virtual training? Consider those options too.
– Make a list of things you are good at. Don’t judge yourself by saying, “I’m not good at anything.” Just make a list. Can you cook, sew, build, design, teach, sing, dance,..? Someone out there might need help in that.
– Stay up to date with your skill area.
-Negotiate your rent, utility rates and mortgage.
– Can you secure a government grant to start a business? Find out.

4. Stop worrying:
Yes, easier said than done, but let’s try that. Worrying takes energy away. Distract yourself from negative things. Do things that make you feel better.

Things will improve eventually. Stay positive.

Advice for Job seekers

 

Is Remote working doing more harm than good?

Is Remote working doing more harm than good?

Is remote work doing more harm than helping?

In the past weeks some of my clients, friends and ex-colleagues have told me how they’re working longer hours, getting lesser exercise and spending less time with family.
That indicates a big problem. And that problem is burnout.

While working longer hours you may see high productivity in short term, but the consequences can be disastrous in the longer term. So, please stop it!

What can/ should you do:

– Block your diary for breaks. Have short breaks if you’re worried about disruption to work.
– Use lunch breaks for exercise and walks. Can you attend meetings while walking?
– Talk to your colleagues about good practices and prepare a working agreement. (I’ve written about how to create these. Visit my blog.)
– Stick to your delivery or release planning process. Agile releases allow you to flex the scope. What would your stakeholders prefer? A massive surge in productivity now and a massive drop later; or a continuous flow of delivery?

What else can we add here?

I work with teams and individuals in improving their delivery practices. Connect with me if you need help.

How do you improve collaboration when everyone is remote

How do you improve collaboration when everyone is remote

Building trust, enhancing collaboration and establishing relationships is hard enough when teams work together in a physical office. Things become more challenging when teams are distributed. This issue doesn’t sound too challenging when one team is co-located and works with other teams that are at different locations or different time zones. Actually, ever since offshoring and outsourcing became mainstream, we have learned to live with the distributed nature of work. 

When do we collaborate?

We collaborate with others to achieve something of common interest. For example, entrepreneurs may collaborate to build and launch a new product. In corporate settings, different teams collaborate to build products and to deliver valuable outcomes for their customers.

Collaboration is successful when the level of trust is high among the people who work together.

However, the question remains.
How do we build and enhance collaboration and trusted relationships among team members?

There are hundreds of methods that help us do so. But we’re not going to list all of them here. Google is good for that sort of stuff. In this post, I’ll tell you what has worked for me and then you can tell me what has worked for you. Hence, don’t forget to add comments below.

Current challenge: 

When it comes to collaboration, the current pandemic has made the situation even more challenging. How? Now not just the teams, but every single person of a team is located remotely. That brings a different dynamic to the equation when we talk about collaboration and teamwork.

I’m going to share two techniques that I’ve found useful.

The first one is personal mapping.

Enhancing collaboration using personal mapping:

When team members know more about each other than just the work stuff, the bonding improves. It mostly happens that when we sit in the vicinity of others, communication begins. The generic, “hey, how was your weekend?” often becomes the icebreaker and increases the flow of communication. And it appears to me that this improved relationship also helps us deliver better outcomes. This might just be human nature. When our ancestors worked together, they survived and grew. 

Personal mapping technique is a simple mind mapping exercise where you tell your story through visualisation. Here’s my personal map.

Personal mapping

 

How to get your team’s started with personal mapping:

A good place to start is to use the technique as an icebreaker before workshops. Or, do it when New team members join. 

I often start with asking team members what they knew about me. One they respond, I share my personal map with them. I normally include details of education, work, hobbies, family, goals and values etc. The idea is to keep the session interesting. This often helps in making team members feel safe, relaxed and engaged.

After sharing my personal map, I encourage team members to pair with someone who they don’t know much about.

Team members talking of their colleague’s personal map:

When team members know that they will be introducing their colleague to others, they listen intently and they try to understand them better. 

How to do it remotely

Easy. If you’ve created your map on your computer and if you’re using a solution liked Google Meet, Microsoft teams or Zoom, you can share your screen. If you’ve created your map on paper, you can show it on camera.

Drawbacks of personal mapping:

My observation is that introverts can find this exercise a bit awkward. Some team members also do not want to share information about themselves for personal reasons. Each person is different and it’s better to familiarise the team with this exercise beforehand and find out whether it might make someone feel uncomfortable. You can work with them to adjust the exercise for them and make them feel safe for participation.

Using collaboration game Quinks for team bonding

I came across this interactive game when one of my friends invited me to join a free session with the game’s inventor, Viren.

The game is available online as well as a physical set and that makes it easier to either do it remotely or in person.

Quinks game

How to play:

Quinks is based on experiential learning techniques in which two players ask each other questions related to specific contexts by drawing cards. One person is assigned the role of Questioner, and the other the role of Answerer. The Questioner draws a Quinks card (a question card) and combines it with a Context card to create and ask a powerful question. These cards consist of powerful questions that Viren collected through his research and experience. 

Since the game limits conversations (responses of the contextual questions) to just 3 minutes, it compels team members to pay attention, learn to express themselves in a concise way, ask good questions, empathize and engage in deeper conversations.

Outcome:

I had fun playing the game even with total strangers in public sessions. It was interesting and surprising to realise that given a context and a relevant question, how you can bond with those who you’ve never met before. This was a great way to introduce people and build relationships.

Value map for further discussions: 

The game also lets players map various values of their partners based on their conversations. Once everyone completes the game, you see the value map that represents how others have perceived you through your responses. Through this process you learn about your blind spots and improve self awareness. 

 

A good reference regarding self awareness here is Johari Window. Have a look.

Personal mapping and Quinks can possibly be combined as one big workshop. I haven’t tried that yet. You may want to do that.

If you have used other collaboration techniques that gave you good results, let me know. Actually, even if your efforts didn’t succeed, we can learn from them. Why not share them here.

References:

https://quinks.co/?variant=32701557342283

https://management30.com/practice/personal-maps/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johari_window