Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 9, Issue 44;   November 4, 2009: Twenty-Three Thoughts

Twenty-Three Thoughts

by

Sometimes we get so focused on the immediate problem that we lose sight of the larger questions. Here are twenty-three thoughts to help you focus on what really counts.
Flourless chocolate cake

A flourless chocolate cake, with raspberries. It looks delicious, but as convincing as this photograph might be, we don't know for sure what the cake tastes like without actually tasting it. So it is with team composition. When we learn that a team is having interpersonal difficulty, we can't be sure what might be the sources of that difficulty without actually experiencing life on that team. Too often, we assume that making a change of personnel — usually one or two people — will solve the problem. Rarely is this assumption valid. In most cases, the entire team, including the team owner, is involved. Moving people from one team to another can result in just spreading the trouble.

Sometimes we get so caught up in the small stuff that we forget about the big stuff. We try to do what nobody can do. We take the hard path because we think it's easier. Or we choose the path we know, even though we know it leads to trouble.

Here are twenty-three thoughts to keep in mind when caught up in the small stuff.

  1. It's better to cancel a meeting that shouldn't be held than to hold a meeting that shouldn't be held.
  2. When a project gets way behind schedule, you have to go faster than "best case" just to catch up. Actually catching up is unlikely.
  3. Tarzan's First Rule of Change: After you grab the next vine, you have to let go of the vine you're on.
  4. They don't call it the "red-eye" for nothing.
  5. If you only call people when you want something, they'll eventually learn how to use Caller ID.
  6. Advice for troubled teams: If you're mixing batter for two chocolate cakes in two bowls, and you accidentally drop some asphalt into one bowl, moving some of the asphalt to the other bowl doesn't help.
  7. Multitasking is often just a way of convincing yourself that you're getting more done than you really are.
  8. The need for continuous communication with coworkers might really be a need to feel needed.
  9. Troubles at home eventually find their way to work.
  10. Troubles at work eventually find their way home.
  11. The Troubles at home eventually
    find their way to work.
    Troubles at work eventually
    find their way home.
    more stuff you pack for the trip, the more stuff you'll be lugging around.
  12. The more stuff you pack for the trip, the more stuff you can lose someplace.
  13. Most people have little tolerance for ambiguity. What they don't know, they make up.
  14. To reach unexplored territory, you have to step off the well-trodden path.
  15. Number One way to halt forward progress: start squabbling about who gets credit for progress already made.
  16. When things are going well, getting the small things right can make outcomes even better.
  17. When things are going badly, getting the small things right might be just an irrelevant distraction.
  18. If someone is constantly trying to do part of your job, have a chat. If that fails, or if you can't chat, do your job before they do it.
  19. Number One sign of disorganization: "Where did I put that?"
  20. Number One sign of overload: "Did I or didn't I already do that?"
  21. Advice given but unsought soon becomes advice heard but unheeded.
  22. Working smarter is harder. That's why so few do it.

Finally, and most important, almost everyone involved in whatever you're involved in is focused on their own role in it. Most of them think the whole thing is about them. They're wrong, of course, because it's not about them. But they're only partly wrong: it's not about you either. Go to top Top  Next issue: How to Ruin Meetings  Next Issue

52 Tips for Leaders of Project-Oriented OrganizationsAre your projects always (or almost always) late and over budget? Are your project teams plagued by turnover, burnout, and high defect rates? Turn your culture around. Read 52 Tips for Leaders of Project-Oriented Organizations, filled with tips and techniques for organizational leaders. Order Now!

Your comments are welcome

Would you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenZLkFdSHmlHvCaSsuner@ChacbnsTPttsdDaRAswloCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.

About Point Lookout

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.

Point Lookout is a free weekly email newsletter. Browse the archive of past issues. Subscribe for free.

Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.

Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.

Related articles

More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:

The Marx brothers: Chico, Harpo, Groucho and ZeppoTINOs: Teams in Name Only
Perhaps the most significant difference between face-to-face teams and virtual or distributed teams is their potential to develop from workgroups into true teams — an area in which virtual or distributed teams are at a decided disadvantage. Often, virtual and distributed teams are teams in name only.
Roger Boisjoly of Morton Thiokol, who tried to halt the launch of Challenger in 1986How to Foresee the Foreseeable: Focus on the Question
When group decisions go awry, we sometimes feel that the failure could have been foreseen. Often, the cause of the failure was foreseen, but because the seer was a dissenter within the group, the issue was set aside. Improving how groups deal with dissent can enhance decision quality.
Rep. John Boehner displays the Speaker's gavelEnding Sidebars
We say that a sidebar is underway in a meeting when two or more meeting participants converse without having been recognized by the chair. Sidebars can be helpful, but they can also be disruptive. How can we end sidebars quickly and politely?
Orient quad, photo by George H. Van NormanHow to Deal with Holding Back
When group members voluntarily restrict their contributions to group efforts, group success is threatened and high performance becomes impossible. How can we reduce the incidence of holding back?
A voltmeter with a needleHigh Falutin' Goofy Talk: II
Speech and writing at work are sometimes little more than high falutin' goofy talk, filled with puff phrases of unknown meaning and pretentious, tired images. Here's Part II of a collection of phrases and images to avoid.

See also Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

Tuckman's stages of group developmentComing December 7: Reaching Agreements in Technological Contexts
Reaching consensus in technological contexts presents special challenges. Problems can arise from interactions between the technological elements of the issue at hand, and the social dynamics of the group addressing that issue. Here are three examples. Available here and by RSS on December 7.
An actual straw manAnd on December 14: Straw Man Variants
The straw man fallacy is a famous rhetorical fallacy. Using it distorts debate and can lead groups to reach faulty conclusions. It's ad readily recognized, but it has some variants that are more difficult to spot. When unnoticed, trouble looms. Available here and by RSS on December 14.

Coaching services

I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenZLkFdSHmlHvCaSsuner@ChacbnsTPttsdDaRAswloCanyon.com or (650) 787-6475, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.

Get the ebook!

Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:

Reprinting this article

Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500-1000 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info

Follow Rick

Send email or subscribe to one of my newsletters Follow me at LinkedIn Follow me at Twitter, or share a tweet Subscribe to RSS feeds Subscribe to RSS feeds
The message of Point Lookout is unique. Help get the message out. Please donate to help keep Point Lookout available for free to everyone.
Technical Debt for Policymakers BlogMy blog, Technical Debt for Policymakers, offers resources, insights, and conversations of interest to policymakers who are concerned with managing technical debt within their organizations. Get the millstone of technical debt off the neck of your organization!
Go For It: Sometimes It's Easier If You RunBad boss, long commute, troubling ethical questions, hateful colleague? Learn what we can do when we love the work but not the job.
303 Tips for Virtual and Global TeamsLearn how to make your virtual global team sing.
101 Tips for Managing ChangeAre you managing a change effort that faces rampant cynicism, passive non-cooperation, or maybe even outright revolt?
101 Tips for Effective MeetingsLearn how to make meetings more productive — and more rare.
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.
If your teams don't yet consistently achieve state-of-the-art teamwork, check out this catalog. Help is just a few clicks/taps away!
Ebooks, booklets and tip books on project management, conflict, writing email, effective meetings and more.