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Archive of Point Lookout for 2005

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C. Northcote Parkinson in 1961Coming September 27: Meeting Troubles: Collaboration
In some meetings, we collaborate not in reaching objectives, but in preventing our doing so. Here are three examples of this pattern. Available here and by RSS on September 27.
A typical standup meetingAnd on October 4: Meeting Troubles: Culture
Sometimes meetings are less effective than they might be because of cultural factors that are outside our awareness. Here are some examples. Available here and by RSS on October 4.

This page has links to articles from 2005. For other years:

December 28, 2005

Chocolate chip cookiesNine Project Management Fallacies: III
Some of what we "know" about managing projects just isn't so. Identifying the fallacies of project management reduces risk and enhances your ability to complete projects successfully.

December 21, 2005

Blaming and being blamedIs It Blame or Is It Accountability?
When we seek those accountable for a particular failure, we risk blaming them instead, because many of us confuse accountability with blame. What's the difference between them? How can we keep blame at bay?

December 14, 2005

Chocolate chip cookiesNine Project Management Fallacies: II
Some of what we "know" about managing projects just isn't so. Identifying the fallacies of project management reduces risk and enhances your ability to complete projects successfully.

December 7, 2005

The Scream, by Edvard MunchComfortable Ignorance
When we suddenly realize that what we've believed is wrong, or that what we've been doing won't work, our fear and discomfort can cause us to persevere in our illusions. If we can get better at accepting reality and dealing with it, we can make faster progress toward real achievement.

November 30, 2005

Two colleagues chatting on their morning breakNine Project Management Fallacies: I
Most of what we know about managing projects is useful and effective, but some of what we "know" just isn't so. Identifying the fallacies of project management reduces risk and enhances your ability to complete projects successfully.

November 23, 2005

Artist's conception of the Mars Pathfinder landing by bouncing on its airbagsTraining Bounceback
Within a week after we've learned some new tool or technique, sometimes even less, we're back to doing things the old way. It's as if the training never even happened. Why? And what can we do to change this?

November 16, 2005

The Gatun Locks of the Panama Canal, showing their guide wallsIn the Groove
Under stress, we sometimes make choices that we later regret. And we wonder, "Will I ever learn?" Fortunately, the problem usually isn't a failure to learn. Changing just takes practice.

November 9, 2005

Bison on the U.S. National Bison Range in MontanaEmpire Building
Empire builders create bases of power within the larger organization. Typically, they use these domains to advance personal or provincial agendas. What are the characteristics of empires? How can we navigate through or around them?

November 2, 2005

Threatened and fearfulThe Costs of Threats
Threatening as a way of influencing others might work in the short term. But a pattern of using threats to gain compliance has long-term effects that can undermine your own efforts, corrode your relationships, and create an atmosphere of fear.

October 26, 2005

DeadlockDealing with Deadlock
At times it seems that nothing works. Whenever we try to get moving, we encounter obstacles. If we try to go around them, we find more obstacles. How do we get stuck? And how can we get unstuck?

October 19, 2005

A happy dogSome Things I've Learned Along the Way
When I have an important insight, I write it down in a little notebook. Here are some items from my personal collection.

October 12, 2005

A thiefLooking the Other Way
Sometimes when we notice wrongdoing, and we aren't directly involved, we don't report it, and we don't intervene. We look the other way. Typically, we do this to avoid the risks of making a report. But looking the other way is also risky. What are the risks of looking the other way?

October 5, 2005

Thumbs downRecalcitrant Collaborators
Much of the work we do happens outside the context of a team. We collaborate with people in other departments, other divisions, and other companies. When these collaborators are reluctant, resistive, or recalcitrant, what can we do?

September 28, 2005

Apple PieGive Me the Bad News First
I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that if you wait long enough, there will be some bad news. The good news is that the good news helps us deal with the bad news. And it helps a lot more if we get the bad news first.

September 21, 2005

A cheeseburger with friesMy Boss Is Driving Me Nuts
When things go badly, many of us experience stress, and we might indulge various appetites in harmful ways. Some of us say things like "My boss is driving me nuts," or "She made me so angry." These explanations are rarely legitimate.

September 14, 2005

FedEx logoFedEx, Flocks, and Frames of Reference
Your point of view — or reference frame — affects what you see, and how you experience the world around you. By choosing a reference frame consciously, you can see things differently, and open a universe of new choices.

September 7, 2005

A small workgroupMastering Q and A
The question-and-answer exchanges that occur during or after presentations rarely add much to the overall effort. But how you deal with questions can be a decisive factor in how your audience evaluates you and your message.

August 31, 2005

Benjamin FranklinPractice Positive Politics
Politics is a dirty word at work, as elsewhere. We think of it as purely destructive, often distorting decisions and leading the organization in wrong directions. And sometimes, it does. Politics can be constructive, though, and you can help to make it so.

August 24, 2005

Which came first — the chicken or the egg?Dealing with Condescension
Condescending remarks hurt. When we feel that pain, we often feel the urge to retaliate, even when retaliation might not be appropriate. Our responses are more effective when we understand where condescending remarks come from.

August 17, 2005

Two rabbits doing the Condescension Cha-ChaControlling Condescension
Condescension is one reason why healthy conflict becomes destructive. It's a conversational technique that many use without thinking, and others use with aggressive intention. Either way, it can hurt everyone involved.

August 10, 2005

Wheelchair basketballBonuses
How we deal with adversity can make the difference between happiness and something else. And how we deal with adversity depends on how we see it.

August 3, 2005

Jersey barriers outside the U.S. White HouseProblem Defining and Problem Solving
Sometimes problem-solving sessions are difficult because we get started solving a problem before we know what problem we're solving. Understanding the connection between stakeholders, problem solving, and problem defining can reduce conflict and produce better solutions.

July 27, 2005

Too much time on his handsHurtful Clichés: II
Much of our day-to-day conversation consists of harmless clichés: "How goes it?" or "Nice to meet you." Some other clichés aren't harmless, but they're so common that we use them without thinking. Here's Part II of a series exploring some of these clichés.

July 20, 2005

The Great WallDevious Political Tactics: Divide and Conquer, Part II
While most leaders try to achieve organizational unity, some do use divisive tactics to maintain control, or to elevate performance by fostering competition. Here's Part II of a series exploring the risks of these tactics.

July 13, 2005

You worthless piece of trash!Hurtful Clichés: I
Much of our day-to-day conversation consists of harmless clichés: "How goes it?" or "Nice to meet you." Some other clichés aren't harmless, but they're so common that we use them without thinking. Maybe it's time for some thought.

July 6, 2005

The Roman ColosseumDevious Political Tactics: Divide and Conquer, Part I
While most leaders try to achieve organizational unity, some do use divisive tactics to maintain control, or to elevate performance by fostering competition. Understanding the risks of these tactics can motivate you to find another way.

June 29, 2005

A multi-function phoneDeniable Intimidation
Some people achieve or maintain power by intimidating others in deniable ways. Too often, when intimidators succeed, their success rests in part on our unwillingness to resist, or on our lack of skill. By understanding their tactics, and by preparing responses, we can deter intimidators.

June 22, 2005

Locate your dry cleaning wherever it is in one of the Standard Time Zones of the WorldThe Loopy Things We Do at Work
At the end of the day, your skill at finding humor inside the dull and ordinary can make the difference between going home exhausted and going home in a strait jacket. Adopting a twisted view of the goings-on might just help keep you untwisted.

June 15, 2005

A harrow in actionWhen Others Curry Favor
When peers curry favor with the boss, many of us feel contempt, an urge for revenge, anger, or worse. Trying to stop those who curry favor probably isn't an effective strategy. What is?

June 8, 2005

ApplesCurrying Favor
The behavior of the office kiss-up drives many people bats. It's more than annoying, though — it does real harm to the organization. What is the behavior?

June 1, 2005

A hiker on a pathPaths
Most of us follow paths through our careers, or through life. We get nervous when we're off the path. We feel better when we're doing what everyone else is doing. But is that sensible?

May 25, 2005

Water bottlesAn Agenda for Agendas
Most of us believe that the foundation of a well-run meeting is a well-formed agenda. What makes a "well-formed" agenda? How can we write and manage agendas to make meetings successful?

May 18, 2005

Carrot and stickIrrational Self-Interest
When we try to influence others, especially large groups or entire companies, we sometimes create packages of incentives and disincentives that are intended to affect behavior. These strategies usually assume that people make choices on rational grounds. Is this assumption valid?

May 11, 2005

A traffic sign warning of trouble aheadNine Positive Indicators of Negative Progress
Project status reports rarely acknowledge negative progress until after it becomes undeniable. But projects do sometimes move backwards, outside of our awareness. What are the warning signs that negative progress might be underway?

May 4, 2005

Thor's Hammer, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, USAEmail Antics: IV
Nearly everyone I know complains that email is a real time waster. Yet much of the problem results from our own actions. Here's Part IV of a little catalog of things we do that help waste our time.

April 27, 2005

A tournamentQuestioning Questions
In meetings and other workplace discussions, questioning is a common form of conversational contribution. Questions can be expensive, disruptive, and counterproductive. For most exchanges, there is a better way.

April 20, 2005

Using an information kioskKnowing Where You're Going
Groups that can't even agree on what to do can often find themselves debating about how to do it. Here are some simple things to remember to help you focus on defining the goal.

April 13, 2005

The Cone NebulaShining Some Light on "Going Dark"
If you're a project manager, and a team member "goes dark" — disappears or refuses to report how things are going — project risks escalate dramatically. Getting current status becomes a top priority problem. What can you do?

April 6, 2005

Power poles after Hurricane Rita, 2005Email Ethics
Ethics is the system of right and wrong that forms the foundation of civil society. Yet, when a new technology arrives, explicitly extending the ethical code seems necessary — no matter how civil the society. And so it is with email.

March 30, 2005

Two infants exchanging secretsSee No Evil
When teams share information among themselves, they have their best opportunity to reach peak performance. And when some information is withheld within an elite group, the team faces unique risks.

March 23, 2005

A shouting matchCan You Hear Me Now?
Not feeling heard can feel like an attack, even when there was no attack, and then conversation can quickly turn to war. Here are some tips for hearing your conversation partner and for conveying the message that you actually did hear.

March 16, 2005

A sundialRecovering Time: II
Where do the days go? How can it be that we spend eight, ten, or twelve hours at work each day and get so little done? To find more time, focus on strategy.

March 9, 2005

Kayakers enjoy exploring Apostle Islands' sea caves on calm Lake SuperiorPlanning Your Getaway
For many of us, taking a vacation can be a burden. We ask ourselves, "How can I get away now?" And sometimes we have the answer: "I can't." How can we feel relaxed about taking time off?

March 2, 2005

A sandwich piled highWorking Lunches
To save time, or to find a time everyone has free, we sometimes meet during lunch. It seems like a good idea, but there are some hidden costs.

February 23, 2005

A sleeping dogRecovering Time: I
Where do the days go? How can it be that we spend eight, ten, or twelve hours at work each day and get so little done? To recover time, limit the fragmentation of your day. Here are some tips for structuring your working day in larger chunks.

February 16, 2005

Beatty Pennsylvania broad axTop Ten Signs of a Blaming Culture
The quality of an organization's culture is the key to high performance. An organization with a blaming culture can't perform at a high level, because its people can't take reasonable risks. How can you tell whether you work in a blaming culture?

February 9, 2005

What not to eat on the phone: Peanut butterVirtual Communications: III
Participating in or managing a virtual team presents special communications challenges. Here's Part III of some guidelines for communicating with members of virtual teams.

February 2, 2005

An iphone 4sVirtual Communications: II
Participating in or managing a virtual team presents special communications challenges. Here's Part II of some guidelines for communicating with members of virtual teams.

January 26, 2005

PencilsVirtual Communications: I
Participating in or managing a virtual team presents special communications challenges. Here are some guidelines for communicating with members of virtual teams.

January 19, 2005

Agreeing to a dealObstacles to Compromise
Compromise is the art of devising an approach acceptable to all parties. A talent for compromise is rare. What makes finding compromises so difficult?

January 12, 2005

Emergency extrication trainingEmergency Problem Solving
In emergencies, group problem solving is unusually challenging, especially if lives, careers, or companies depend on finding a solution immediately. Here are some tips for members of teams that are solving problems in emergencies.

January 5, 2005

Winter dawn in BostonOn Beginnings
A new year has begun, and I'm contemplating beginnings. Beginnings can inspire, and sometimes lead to letdown when our hopes or expectations aren't met. How can we handle beginnings more powerfully?

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The message of Point Lookout is unique. Help get the message out. Please donate to help keep Point Lookout available for free to everyone.
21st Century Business TravelAre your business trips long chains of stressful misadventures? Have you ever wondered if there's a better way to get from here to there relaxed and refreshed? First class travel is one alternative, but you can do almost as well (without the high costs) if you know the tricks of the masters of 21st-century e-enabled business travel…
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Exchange your "personal trade secrets" — the tips, tricks and techniques that make you an ace — with other aces, anonymously. Visit the Library of Personal Trade Secrets.
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