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Archive of Point Lookout for 2017

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A review meetingComing December 13: Reframing Revision Resentment: II
When we're required to revise something previously produced — prose, designs, software, whatever, we sometimes experience frustration with those requiring the revisions. Here are some alternative perspectives that can be helpful. Available here and by RSS on December 13.
Raquel Welch (left) and Gilda Radner (right) from a @Cite{Saturday Night Live rehearsal, April 24, 1976And on December 20: Conceptual Mondegreens
When we disagree about abstractions, such as a problem solution, or a competitor's strategy, the cause can often be misunderstanding the abstraction. That misunderstanding can be a conceptual mondegreen. Available here and by RSS on December 20.

This page has links to articles from 2017. For other years:

December 6, 2017

Desperation at workReframing Revision Resentment: I
From time to time, we're required to revise something previously produced — some copy, remarks, an announcement, code, the Mona Lisa, whatever… When we do, some of us experience frustration, and view the assignment as an onerous chore. Here are some alternative perspectives that might ease the burden.

November 29, 2017

A human marionetteManipulators Beware
When manipulators try to manipulate others, they're attempting to unscrupulously influence their targets to decide or act in some way the manipulators prefer. But some targets manage to outwit their manipulators.

November 22, 2017

The United States curling team at the Torino Olympics in 2006Motivation and the Reification Error
We commit the reification error when we assume, incorrectly, that we can treat abstract constructs as if they were real objects. It's a common error when we try to motivate people.

November 15, 2017

A meeting of people and their laptopsExploiting Functional Fixedness
Functional fixedness is a cognitive bias that creates difficulty for seeing novel uses of things that have familiar uses. Some devious moves in workplace politics exploit functional fixedness.

November 8, 2017

Selling an ideaRisk Creep: II
When risk events occur, and they're of a kind we never considered before, it's possible that we've somehow invited those risks without realizing we have. This is one way for risk to creep into our efforts. Here's Part II of an exploration of risk creep.

November 1, 2017

Terminal 3 of Beijing Capital International AirportRisk Creep: I
Risk creep is a term that describes the insidious and unrecognized increase in risk that occurs despite our every effort to mitigate risk or avoid it altogether. What are the dominant sources of risk creep?

October 25, 2017

Five almondsWorkplace Memes
Some patterns of workplace society reduce organizational effectiveness in ways that often escape our notice. Here are five examples.

October 18, 2017

British mathematician Christopher Zeeman in 2009Missing the Obvious: II
With hindsight, we sometimes recognize that we could have predicted the very thing that just now surprised us. Somehow, we missed the obvious. Why does this happen?

October 11, 2017

Not a gorilla suit, the real thingMissing the Obvious: I
At times, when the unexpected occurs, we recognize with hindsight that the unexpected could have been expected. How do we miss the obvious? What's happening when we do?

October 4, 2017

A typical standup meetingMeeting Troubles: Culture
Sometimes meetings are less effective than they might be because of cultural factors that are outside our awareness. Here are some examples.

September 27, 2017

C. Northcote Parkinson in 1961Meeting Troubles: Collaboration
In some meetings, we collaborate not in reaching objectives, but in preventing our doing so. Here are three examples of this pattern.

September 20, 2017

A lightning storm over New York CityComfort Zone Discomfort
The phrase "comfort zone" is a metaphor that can distort how we think about situations in which we feel comfortable and confident. Here are four examples illustrating how the metaphor distorts our thinking.

September 13, 2017

The Penrose triangle, an impossible objectParadoxical Policies: II
Because projects are inherently unique, constructing general organizational policies affecting projects is difficult. The urge to treat projects as if they were operations compounds the difficulty. Here's a collection of policies for projects that would be funny if they weren't real.

September 6, 2017

Writing on a whiteboardParadoxical Policies: I
Although most organizational policies are constructive, many are outdated or nonsensical, and some are actually counterproductive. Here's a collection of policies that would be funny if they weren't real.

August 30, 2017

"The Thinker," by Auguste RodinThey Just Don't Understand
When we cannot resolve an issue in open debate, we sometimes try to explain the obstinacy of others. The explanations we favor can tell us more about ourselves than they do about others.

August 23, 2017

September 11, 2001 attacks in New York CityLook Where You Aren't Looking
Being blindsided by an adverse event could indicate the event's sudden, unexpected development. It can also indicate a failure to anticipate what could have been reasonably anticipated. How can we improve our ability to prepare for adverse events?

August 16, 2017

The U.S. and Russian delegations meet to negotiate the New Start TreatyThe Discontinuity Effect: What and Why
Counterproductive competition is more likely in group-group interactions than in one-to-one or one-to-group interactions. Why does counterproductive competition happen?

August 9, 2017

A hot dog with mustard on a bunCounterproductive Knowledge Workplace Behavior: II
In knowledge-oriented workplaces, counterproductive work behavior takes on forms that can be rare or unseen in other workplaces. Here's Part II of a growing catalog.

August 2, 2017

Srinivasa RamanujanLinear Thinking Bias
When assessing the validity of problem solutions, we regard them as more valid if their discovery stories are logical, than we would if they're other than logical. This can lead to erroneous assessments, because the discovery story is not the solution.

July 26, 2017

Probably not the kind of waiting we have in mind hereStrategic Waiting
Time can be a tool. Letting time pass can be a strategy for resolving problems or getting out of tight places. Waiting is an often-overlooked strategic option.

July 19, 2017

Mutual respect between a soldier and a military canineRegaining Respect from Others
When you feel that a colleague has lost professional respect for you — or never really had respect for you — what can you do about it? Check your conclusions, check whether it's about you, and ask for a dialog.

July 12, 2017

Masonry archesPerformance Issues for Non-Supervisors
If, in part of your job, you're a non-supervisory leader, such as a team lead or a project manager, you face special challenges when dealing with performance issues. Here are some guidelines for non-supervisors.

July 5, 2017

Artist's depiction of a dust storm on Mars with lightningTackling Hard Problems: II
In this Part II of our look at solving hard problems, we continue developing properties of the solution, and look at how we get from the beginning to the end.

June 28, 2017

Artist's concept of possible colonies on future mars missionsTackling Hard Problems: I
Hard problems need not be big problems. Even when they're small, they can halt progress on any project. Here's Part I of an approach to working on hard problems by breaking them down into smaller steps.

June 21, 2017

A ravenAnticipate Counter-Communication
Effective communication enables two parties to collaborate. Counter-communication is information provided by a third party that contradicts the basis of agreements or undermines that collaboration.

June 14, 2017

Barack Obama, 44th President of the United StatesPower Affect
Expressing one's organizational power to others is essential to maintaining it. Expressing power one does not yet have is just as useful in attaining it.

June 7, 2017

A blue peacock of IndiaThe Knowledge One-Upmanship Game
The Knowledge One-Upmanship Game is a pattern of group behavior in the form of a contest to determine which player knows the most arcane fact. It can seem like innocent fun, but it can disrupt a team's ability to collaborate.

May 31, 2017

Cargo containers at a port of entryUnresponsive Suppliers: III
When suppliers have a customer orientation, we can usually depend on them. But government suppliers are a special case.

May 24, 2017

The Perito Moreno Glacier in ArgentinaUnresponsive Suppliers: II
When a project depends on external suppliers for some tasks and materials, supplier performance can affect our ability to meet deadlines. How can communication help us get what we need from unresponsive suppliers?

May 17, 2017

Boeing 747-409LCF Dreamlifter at Edinburgh AirportUnresponsive Suppliers: I
If we depend on suppliers for some tasks in a project, or for necessary materials, their performance can affect our ability to meet deadlines. What can we do when a supplier's performance is problematic, and the supplier doesn't respond to our increasingly urgent pleas for attention?

May 10, 2017

A Bengal TigerDealing with Deniable Intimidation
Some people use intimidation so stealthily that only their targets recognize the behavior as abusive or intimidating. Targets are often so frustrated, angered, and confused that they cannot find suitable responses.

May 3, 2017

A business meetingStart the Meeting with a Check-In
Check-ins give meeting attendees a chance to express satisfaction or surface concerns about how things are going. They're a valuable aid to groups that want to stay on course, or get back on course when needed.

April 26, 2017

A vizsla in a pose called the play bowWhy Dogs Make the Best Teammates
Dogs make great teammates. It's in their constitutions. We can learn a lot from dogs about being good teammates.

April 19, 2017

President Obama meets with leaders about job creation, December 3, 2009Naming Ideas
Participants in group discussions sometimes reference each other's contributions using the contributor's name. This risks offending the contributor or others who believe the idea is theirs. Naming ideas is less risky.

April 12, 2017

Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 2016How to Listen to Someone Who's Dead Wrong
Sometimes we must listen attentively to someone with whom we strongly disagree. The urge to interrupt can be overpowering. How can we maintain enough self-control to really listen?

April 5, 2017

kudzu enveloping a Mississippi landscapeListening to Ramblers
Ramblers are people who can't get to the point. They ramble, they get lost in detail, and listeners can't follow their logic, if there is any. How can you deal with ramblers while maintaining civility and decorum?

March 29, 2017

Balancing talk time and the value of the contributionVirtual Blowhards
Controlling meeting blowhards is difficult enough in face-to-face meetings, but virtual meetings present next-level problems, because techniques that work face-to-face are unavailable. Here are eight tactics for dealing with virtual blowhards.

March 22, 2017

Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, James ComeyUnanswerable Questions
Some questions are beyond our power to answer, but many of us try anyway. What are some of these unanswerable questions and how can we respond?

March 15, 2017

The 1934 rally of the Nazi Party in GermanyInfluence and Belief Perseverance
Belief perseverance is the pattern that causes us to cling more tightly to our beliefs when contradictory information arrives. Those who understand belief perseverance can use it to manipulate others.

March 8, 2017

Promotional poster for the 1957 film Twelve Angry MenThe Opposite of Influence
The question of why some people are so influential has a partner question: why are others largely ignored, or opposed, even when their contributions are valuable?

March 1, 2017

Rosemary Woods, President Richard Nixon's personal secretaryYet More Obstacles to Finding the Reasons Why
Part III of our catalog of obstacles encountered in retrospectives, when we try to uncover why we succeeded — or failed.

February 22, 2017

Heart with mindHeart with Mind
We say people have "heart" when they continue to pursue a goal despite obstacles that would discourage almost everyone. We say that people are stubborn when they continue to pursue a goal that we regard as unachievable. What are our choices when achieving the goal is difficult?

February 15, 2017

A sunlit glenDirected Attention Fatigue
Humans have a limited capacity to concentrate attention on thought-intensive tasks. After a time, we must rest and renew. Most brainwork jobs aren't designed with this in mind.

February 8, 2017

The FBI wanted poster for Evgeniy Mikhailovich Bogachev, a Russian cyber criminalToxic Conflict in Teams: Attacks
In toxic conflict, people try to resolve their differences by eliminating each other's ability to provide opposition. In the early stages of toxic conflict, the attacks often escape notice. Here's a catalog of covert attack tactics.

February 1, 2017

FlamesHow to Get Out of Firefighting Mode: II
We know we're in firefighting mode when a new urgent problem disrupts our work on another urgent problem, and the new problem makes it impossible to use the solution we thought we had for some third problem we were also working on. Here's Part II of a set of suggestions for getting out of firefighting mode.

January 25, 2017

Firefighter lighting grass using a drip torchHow to Get Out of Firefighting Mode: I
When new problems pop up one after the other, we describe our response as "firefighting." We move from fire to fire, putting out flames. How can we end the madness?

January 18, 2017

Many different viewpoints make for many different choicesOn Differences and Disagreements
When we disagree, it helps to remember that our differences often seem more marked than they really are. Here are some hints for finding a path back to agreement.

January 11, 2017

Drawing the line between one category and the nextMeets Expectations
Many performance management systems include ratings such as "meets expectations," "exceeds expectations," and "needs improvement." Many find the "meets" rating demoralizing. Why?

January 4, 2017

Lt. Gen. Donald Kutyna, Ret., when he was Commander of the U.S. Space CommandMore Obstacles to Finding the Reasons Why
Retrospectives — also known as lessons learned exercises or after-action reviews — sometimes miss important insights. Here are some additions to our growing catalog of obstacles to learning.

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