Point Lookout
a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting

Archive of Point Lookout for 2020

Reverse chronological order

Here are links to all previous issues of Point Lookout, a weekly email newsletter. Bookmark this page. Or browse the Point Lookout archive by topic. Subscribe now.

An empty officeComing December 2: Anticipating Absence: Why
Knowledge workers are scientists, engineers, physicians, attorneys, and any other professionals who "think for a living." When they suddenly become unavailable because of the Coronavirus Pandemic, substituting someone else to carry on for them can be problematic, because skills and experience are not enough. Available here and by RSS on December 2.
A plastic owl, used as a deterrent of unwanted birds and rodentsAnd on December 9: Anticipating Absence: How
Knowledge workers are professionals who "think for a living." When they suddenly become unavailable because of the pandemic, we consider substituting someone else. But substitutes need much more than skills and experience to succeed. Available here and by RSS on December 9.

This page has links to articles from 2020. For other years:

November 25, 2020

U.S. President Lyndon Johnson giving Senator Richard Russell the "treatment" in the White House Cabinet Room on December 17, 1963Newly Virtual Politics: Choices
Pandemic or not, workplace politics marches on, though politics might take slightly different forms in a pandemic. Those different forms make new choices available, and render some formerly effective choices ineffective.

November 18, 2020

The screen image of a virtual meetingNewly Virtual Politics: Meetings
Pandemic or not, workplace politics marches on. But with the pandemic and the prevalence of formerly co-located teams becoming more virtual, workplace politics takes a new form, especially clearly so in meetings.

November 11, 2020

A pair of pearsMastering Messaging for Pandemics: II
When pandemics rage, face-to-face meetings are largely curtailed. Clarity in text messaging and email therefore becomes more important. Some sources of confusion that might not be noticeable in speech can cause real trouble in messaging.

November 4, 2020

Multiple clocks, one for each time zoneMastering Messaging for Pandemics: I
When a pandemic rages, face-to-face meetings are largely curtailed. Clarity in text messaging and email communication becomes more important than usual. Citing dates and times unambiguously requires a more rigorous approach than many are accustomed to.

October 28, 2020

A spiral notebook, a pencil, and a mobile deviceNotes to Self
Many of us jot important reminders to ourselves on sticky notes, used envelopes, scraps of paper, and whatnot. Often we misplace these notes, or later find them too late to serve their purposes. Here's a low-tech alternative that works better for some.

October 21, 2020

Dummy LCTs (Landing Craft, Tank) used as decoys in harbors in the period before D-Day, 1944Projection Deception
Practitioners of the dark side of workplace politics are skilled in the art of deception. One technique involves exploiting psychological projection on the part of the person deceived.

October 14, 2020

Crows mobbing a red-tailed hawkPower Mobbing at Work
Mobbing is a form of group bullying of an individual — the target. Power mobbing occurs when a politically powerful person orchestrates the mobbing. It's a form of bullying that's especially harmful to the target and the organization.

October 7, 2020

Assembling an IKEA chairSeven More Planning Pitfalls: III
Planning teams, like all teams, are vulnerable to several patterns of interaction that can lead to counter-productive results. Two of these relevant to planners are a cognitive bias called the IKEA Effect, and a systemic bias against realistic estimates of cost and schedule.

September 30, 2020

The Bay of Pigs, CubaSeven More Planning Pitfalls: II
Planning teams, like all teams, are susceptible to several patterns of interaction that can lead to counter-productive results. Three of these most relevant to planners are False Consensus, Groupthink, and Shared Information Bias.

September 23, 2020

Auklet flock, Shumagins, March 2006Seven More Planning Pitfalls: I
Planners and members of planning teams are susceptible to patterns of thinking that lead to unworkable plans. But planning teams also suffer vulnerabilities. Two of these are Group Polarization and Trips to Abilene.

September 16, 2020

The Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill BridgeSeven Planning Pitfalls: III
We usually attribute departures from plan to poor execution, or to "poor planning." But one cause of plan ineffectiveness is the way we think when we set about devising plans. Three cognitive biases that can play roles are the so-called Magical Number 7, the Ambiguity Effect, and the Planning Fallacy.

September 9, 2020

Larix gmelinii forestSeven Planning Pitfalls: II
Plans are well known for working out differently from what we intended. Sometimes, the unintended outcome is due to external factors over which the planning team has little control. Two examples are priming effects and widely held but inapplicable beliefs.

September 2, 2020

A fly caught in a carnivorous plant known as a venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula)Seven Planning Pitfalls: I
Whether in war or in projects, plans rarely work out as, umm well, as planned. In part, this is due to our limited ability to foretell the future, or to know what we don't know. But some of the problem arises from the way we think. And if we understand this we can make better plans.

August 26, 2020

The battleship USS Arizona, burning during the Japanese attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, December 7, 1941Motivated Reasoning and the Pseudocertainty Effect
When we have a preconceived notion of what conclusion a decision process should produce, we sometimes engage in "motivated reasoning" to ensure that we get the result we want. That's risky enough as it is. But when we do this in relation to a chain of decisions in the context of uncertainty, trouble looms.

August 19, 2020

Unripe grapes that are probably sourMotivated Reasoning
When we prefer a certain outcome of a decision process, we risk falling into a pattern of motivated reasoning. That can cause us to gather data and construct arguments that erroneously lead to the outcome we prefer, often outside our awareness. And it can happen even when the outcome we prefer is known to threaten our safety and security.

August 12, 2020

A so-called "Paris Gun" of World War ICognitive Biases at Work
Cognitive biases can lead us to misunderstand situations, overlook options, and make decisions we regret. The patterns of thinking that lead to cognitive biases provide speed and economy advantages, but we must manage the risks that come along with them.

August 5, 2020

The Scapegoat by William Holman Hunt (1827-1910)Red Flags: III
Early signs of troubles in collaborations include toxic conflict, elevated turnover, and anti-patterns in communication. But among the very earliest red flags are abuses of power. They're more significant than other red flags because abuses of power can convert any collaboration into a morass of destructive politics.

July 29, 2020

A wall of stoneRed Flags: II
When we find clear evidence of serious problems in a project or other collaboration, we sometimes realize that we had overlooked several "red flags" that had foretold trouble. In this Part II of our review of red flags, we consider communication patterns that are useful indicators of future problems.

July 22, 2020

A red flagRed Flags: I
When we finally admit to ourselves that a collaborative effort is in serious trouble, we sometimes recall that we had noticed several "red flags" early enough to take action. Toxic conflict and voluntary turnover are two examples.

July 15, 2020

A dictionaryDisjoint Concept Vocabularies
In disputes or in problem solving sessions, when we can't come to agreement, we often attribute the difficulty to miscommunication, histories of disagreements, hidden agendas, or "personality clashes." Sometimes the cause is much simpler. Sometimes the concept vocabularies of the parties have too little in common.

July 8, 2020

A meeting held in a long conference room.Multi-Expert Consensus
Some working groups consist of experts from many fields. When they must reach a decision by consensus, members have several options. Defining those options in advance can help the group reach a decision with all its relationships intact.

July 1, 2020

Boeing 737 MAX grounded aircraft near Boeing Field, April 2019On Standing Aside
Occasionally we're asked to participate in deliberations about issues relating to our work responsibilities. Usually we respond in good faith. And sometimes we — or those around us — can't be certain that we're responding in good faith. In those situations, we must stand aside.

June 24, 2020

Sherlock Holmes and Doctor WatsonThe Planning Dysfunction Cycle
Some organizations consistently choose not to allocate enough resources or time to planning for their most complex undertakings. Again and again, they decline to plan carefully enough despite the evidence of multiple disappointments and chaotic performance. Resource contention and cognitive biases conspire to sustain this cycle of dysfunction.

June 17, 2020

Three gulls excluding a fourthAn Introduction to Workplace Ostracism
We say that a person has been ostracized from a group when that person is ignored by the members of that group or excluded from participating in that group's activities, and when we might otherwise expect that person to be a member. Workplace ostracism can have expensive consequences for the enterprise.

June 10, 2020

Kitty Genovese, in a mug shot created by the Queens, New York, police department after her arrest on a bookmaking charge in 1961They Don't Reply to My Email
Ever have the experience of sending an email message to someone, asking for information or approval or whatever, and then waiting for a response that comes only too late? Maybe your correspondent is an evil loser, but maybe not. Maybe the problem is in your message.

June 3, 2020

Franz Halder, German general and the chief of staff of the Army High Command (OKH) in Nazi Germany from 1938 until September 1942Capability Inversions and the Dunning-Kruger Effect
A capability inversion occurs when the person in charge of an effort is far less knowledgeable about the work involved or its purpose than are the people doing that work. In capability inversions, the Dunning-Kruger effect can intensify group dysfunction, sometimes severely disrupting the effort.

May 27, 2020

John Bardeen, William Shockley and Walter Brattain, the inventors of the transistor, 1948Concealed Capability Inversions: Questions
A capability inversion occurs when the person in charge of an effort is far less knowledgeable than are the people doing that work. Capability inversions are common and usually harmless if effectively addressed. But when the person in charge conceals the inversion, and falsely claims expertise he or she lacks, trouble looms.

May 20, 2020

A fawn resting in sunlight-speckled high grassHidden Missions
When you meet people who seem unfit for their jobs, think carefully before asking yourself why they aren't replaced immediately. It's possible that they're in place because they're fulfilling hidden missions.

May 13, 2020

Matt Schaub, as quarterback for the American football team known as the Houston TexansNeglect of Probability
Neglect of Probability is a cognitive bias that leads to poor decisions. The risk of poor decisions is elevated when we must select an option from a set in which some have outstandingly preferable possible outcomes with low probabilities of occurring.

May 6, 2020

A video call during a pandemicNew Virtual Meetings for Teams
Now that so many members of so many teams are working from home, the virtual meeting has taken on a new form, and new importance. Here are suggestions for making your virtual team meetings more effective.

April 29, 2020

The lies inside the truthIntentionally Misreporting Status: II
When we report the status of the work we do, we sometimes confront the temptation to embellish the good news or soften the bad news. Reporting the real situation can be so difficult, in part, because of fear, ambition, and self-delusion.

April 22, 2020

A portion of the Viet Nam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.Intentionally Misreporting Status: I
When we report the status of the work we do, we sometimes confront the temptation to embellish the good news or soften the bad news. How can we best deal with these obstacles to reporting status with integrity?

April 15, 2020

Child's toys known as Chinese finger trapsIncompetence: Traps and Snares
Sometimes people judge as incompetent colleagues who are unprepared to carry out their responsibilities. Some of these "incompetents" are trapped or ensnared in incompetence, unable to acquire the ability to do their jobs.

April 8, 2020

A railroad switchThe New Virtual Meeting: Digressions
The bane of meetings everywhere, even before the COVID-19 pandemic, has been digressions. But there are reasons to expect the incidence of digressions in meetings to increase now. What reasons could there be, and what can we do about digressions?

April 1, 2020

A bedroom in a log homeVirtual Meetings: Then and Now
Now that the COVID-19 pandemic has led to stay-at-home orders that affect many of us, more of our meetings are virtual, and the virtual meetings we used to conduct are somewhat changed. How have they changed, and what can we do about it?

March 25, 2020

Bullet pointsBullet Point Madness: II
Decision-makers in many organizations commonly demand briefings in the form of a series of bullet points or a series of series of bullet points. Briefers who combine this format with a variety of persuasion techniques can mislead decision-makers, guiding them into making poor decisions.

March 18, 2020

Examples of nonlinear relationships among conceptsBullet Point Madness: I
Decision-makers in modern organizations commonly demand briefings in the form of bullet points or a series of series of bullet points. But this form of presentation has limited value for complex decisions. We need something more. We actually need to think.

March 11, 2020

A meeting held in a long conference room. Meeting geometry is another factor that can lead to contribution misattribution.Contribution Misattribution
In teams, acknowledging people for their contributions is essential for encouraging high performance. Failing to do so can be expensive. Three patterns of contribution misattribution are especially costly: theft, rejection/transmigration, and eliding.

March 4, 2020

A remorseful dogWorkplace Remorse
Remorse is an unpleasant emotion. But it need not be something we suppress or avoid. It can provide a path to a positive learning experience that adds meaning to life.

February 26, 2020

The planet Earth on planet Earth on April 17, 2019Unintended Condescension: II
Intentionally making condescending remarks is something most of us do only when we lose control. But anyone at any time can inadvertently make a remark that someone else experiences as condescending. We explored two patterns to avoid last time. Here are two more.

February 19, 2020

An off-putting conversationUnintended Condescension: I
Condescending remarks can deflect almost any conversation into destructive directions. The lost productivity is especially painful when the condescension is unintended. Here are two examples of remarks that others might hear as condescension, but which often aren't intended as such.

February 12, 2020

Three gulls excluding a fourthUnrecognized Bullying: II
Much workplace bullying goes unrecognized because of cognitive biases that can cause targets, bystanders, perpetrators, and supervisors of perpetrators not to notice bullying. Confirmation bias is one such cognitive bias.

February 5, 2020

Three gulls excluding a fourthUnrecognized Bullying: I
Much workplace bullying goes unrecognized. Three reasons: (a) conventional definitions of bullying exclude much actual bullying; (b) perpetrators cleverly evade detection; and (c) cognitive biases skew our perceptions so we don't see some bullying as bullying.

January 29, 2020

A model of a space station proposed in 1952 by Wernher von BraunHigher-Velocity Problem Definition
Typical approaches to shortening time-to-market for new products often involve accelerating problem solving. Accelerating problem definition can also help, but a curious paradox stands in the way.

January 22, 2020

HoneybeesDisjoint Awareness: Bias
Some cognitive biases can cause people in collaborations to have inaccurate understandings of what each other is doing. Confirmation bias and self-serving bias are two examples of cognitive biases that can contribute to disjoint awareness in some situations.

January 15, 2020

A pumpkin pie in the midst of being dividedDisjoint Awareness: Systematics
Organizations use some policies and processes that can cause people in collaborations to have inaccurate understandings of what each other is doing. Performance management, politics, and resource allocation processes can all contribute to disjoint awareness.

January 8, 2020

Braided streams in Grewingk Glacier RiverDisjoint Awareness: Analysis
Breaking large problems into smaller parts can sometimes create a set of risks that make solving the problem in pieces more difficult than solving it as a whole. But we can still profit from breaking the problem into parts if we manage those risks.

January 1, 2020

Agricultural silosDisjoint Awareness: Assessment
When collaborators misunderstand each other's work and intentions, they're at risk of inadvertently interfering with each other. Three causes of misunderstandings are complexity, specialization, and rapid change.

Previous Year  Next Year

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!
The Collected Issues of Point Lookout: 2001-2012Looking for insights, tips, and concrete suggestions for the conundrums and kerfuffles of workplace life? The Collected Issues of Point Lookout is a collection of articles from my weekly newsletter, all in a single ebook of 1263 pages, searchable and cross referenced. Check it out!
Support
Point Lookout by
starting your Amazon search here
When you start here, a part of every purchase you make goes to support Point Lookout, at no cost to you.
Search Now:
101 Tips for Managing ConflictFed up with tense, explosive meetings? Are you the target of a bully? Learn how to make peace with conflict.
101 Tips for Effective MeetingsLearn how to make meetings more productive — and more rare.
Ebooks, booklets and tip books on project management, conflict, writing email, effective meetings and more.
Comprehensive collection of all e-books and e-bookletsSave a bundle and even more important save time! Order the Combo Package and download all ebooks and tips books at once.
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!