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Archive of Point Lookout for 2022

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The future site of 2 World Trade Center as it appeared in 2013Coming October 5: Downscoping Under Pressure: I
When projects overrun their budgets and/or schedules, we sometimes "downscope" to save time and money. The tactic can succeed — and fail. Three common anti-patterns involve politics, the sunk cost effect, and cognitive biases that distort estimates. Available here and by RSS on October 5.
A hummingbird feeding on the nectar of a flowerAnd on October 12: Downscoping Under Pressure: II
We sometimes "downscope" projects to bring them back on budget and schedule when they're headed for overruns. Downscoping doesn't always work. Cognitive biases like the sunk cost effect and confirmation bias can distort decisions about how to downscope. Available here and by RSS on October 12.

This page has links to articles from 2022. For other years:

September 28, 2022

Roger Boisjoly of Morton Thiokol, who tried to halt the launch of Challenger in 1986The Illusion of Explanatory Depth
The illusion of explanatory depth is the tendency of humans to believe they understand something better than they actually do. Discovering the illusion when you're explaining something is worse than embarrassing. It can be career ending.

September 21, 2022

A compass is like a code of ethics in that it provides a sense of directionOnline Ethics
The array of media for exchanging our thoughts in text has created new opportunities for acting unethically. Cyberbullying is one well-known example. But sending text is just one way to cross the line ethically. Here are some examples of alternatives.

September 14, 2022

The Yin and Yang symbol with white representing Yang and black representing YinUnrecognized Bullying: III
Much workplace bullying goes unrecognized because of cognitive biases that can cause targets, perpetrators, bystanders, and supervisors of perpetrators not to notice bullying. The Halo Effect and the Horn Effect are two of these biases.

September 7, 2022

A vague and unreadable diagramIncoherent Initiatives
Mission statements of organizational initiatives serve as recruiting instruments as advocates seek support for their missions. When advocates compromise coherence of mission to maximize the depth and breadth of support, trouble looms.

August 31, 2022

Traffic bollards in Sofia, Bulgaria, let trams pass by then deploy againCovert Obstruction in Teams: II
Some organizational initiatives enjoy the full support of the teams responsible for executing them. But some repeatedly confront attempts to deprive them of resources or to limit their progress. When team members covertly obstruct progress, what techniques do they use?

August 24, 2022

Bollards in Washington, D.C., customized to meet National Capital Planning Commission's design recommendationsCovert Obstruction in Teams: I
Some organizational initiatives are funded and progressing, despite opposition. They continue to confront attempts to deprive them of resources or to limit their progress. When team members covertly obstruct progress, what techniques do they use?

August 17, 2022

The rabbit that went down the rabbit holeWhy Meetings Go Down Rabbit Holes
When a meeting goes "down the rabbit hole," it has swerved from the planned topic to detail-purgatory, problem-solving-hell, irrelevance, or worse. All participants, not only the Chair, contribute to the problem. Why does this happen?

August 10, 2022

Gas train station lamp at Oakworth railway station in West Yorkshire, EnglandCovert Verbal Abuse at Work
Verbal abuse at work uses written or spoken language to disparage, disadvantage, or harm others. Perpetrators favor tactics they can subsequently deny having used. Even more favored are abusive tactics that are so subtle that others don't notice them.

August 3, 2022

A hotshot crew conducts burnout operations on the Derby FireSignificance Messages
Communications about important matters must provide both the facts of a situation and the significance of those facts. The facts often receive adequate attention, but at times the significance of the facts is worthy of more attention than the facts.

July 27, 2022

A scientifically accurate atomic model of the external structure of the SARS-CoV-2Gratuitous Use of Synonyms, Aliases, and Metaphors
The COVID-19 pandemic has permanently changed how we work. We're now more virtual than before. In this new environment, synonyms, aliases, and metaphors can pave the path to trouble. To avoid expensive mistakes, our use of language must be more precise.

July 20, 2022

A mallet. The same object can be either a tool or a weaponOvert Verbal Abuse at Work
Verbal abuse in the workplace involves using written or spoken language to disparage, to disadvantage, or to otherwise harm others. Perpetrators tend to favor tactics that they can subsequently deny having used to harm anyone.

July 13, 2022

A micrometer capable of measuring to ± .01 mmWhat Do We Actually Know?
Precision in both writing and speech can be critical in determining the success of collaborations in the modern workplace. Precision is especially important when we distinguish between what we surmise or assume and what we actually know.

July 6, 2022

Margay cat (Leopardus wiedii)Fake Requests for Help
When a colleague asks for assistance, we can feel validated, even flattered. But not all requests for help are what they seem. The more devious amongst us can be endlessly creative in employing requests for help to achieve devious ends.

June 29, 2022

A working meetingFormulaic Utterances: III
Formulaic utterances are phrases that follow a pre-formed template. They're familiar, and they have standard uses. "For example" is an example. In the workplace, some of them can help establish or maintain dominance and credibility. Some do the opposite.

June 22, 2022

A figure-eight loop, also known as a Flemish LoopDouble Binds at Work
At work, a double bind arises when someone in authority makes contradictory demands of a subordinate, who has no alternative but to choose among options that all lead to unwelcome results. Double binds are far more common than most of us realize.

June 15, 2022

Oakland Coliseum, home field of the Oakland A'sWe Can 'Moneyball' Bullying
Capturing data about incidents of bullying is helpful in creating awareness of the problem. But it's like trying to drive a car by looking only in the rearview mirror. Forward-looking data that predicts bullying incidents is also necessary.

June 8, 2022

A goose and goslingsFlexible Queue Management
In meetings of 5-30 participants, managing the queue of contributors can be challenging. A strict first-in-first-out order can cause confusion and waste time if important contributions are delayed. Some meetings need more flexible queue management.

June 1, 2022

Bottom: Aerial view of the Forth Bridge, Edinburgh, Scotland. Top: Inside the Forth Rail Bridge, from a ScotRail 158 on August 22, 1999.Mental Accounting and Technical Debt
In many organizations, technical debt has resisted efforts to control it. We've made important technical advances, but full control might require applying some results of the behavioral economics community, including a concept they call mental accounting.

May 25, 2022

The lies inside the truthOn Reporting Noncompliance
Regulating compliance with process design in organizations requires monitoring process usage. Typically, process monitors depend on reports from process participants. In blame-oriented cultures, fear of retribution can limit what these reports contain.

May 18, 2022

Ray Bradbury, author of Fahrenheit 451, in 1975Obscuring Ignorance
Some people are uncomfortable revealing that they have limited understanding of topics related to the issues at hand. They can't allow themselves to ask, "Pardon me, what does X mean?" Here are a few of the techniques they use to obscure their ignorance.

May 11, 2022

Sunflower (Helianthus annuus). Jardin des Plantes, ParisCapability Inversions and Workplace Abuse
A capability inversion occurs when the person in charge of an effort is far less knowledgeable about the work than are the people doing that work. In some capability inversions, abusive behavior by the unit's leader might be misinterpreted as bullying.

May 4, 2022

A sturdy fence with a working gateRational Scope Management
In project management, rational, responsible scope management helps us focus on the task at hand. But rational scope management lets us adapt our work to changes in external factors, and changes in our understanding of the problem.

April 27, 2022

Aedes aegypti mosquito in Dar es Salaam, TanzaniaDepth First or Breadth First?
When investigating candidate solutions to a problem, we tend to focus first on what we believe is the "best bet." But a more systematic approach can sometimes yield dramatic advantages by reducing the cost of the investigation and the time it requires.

April 20, 2022

Disappointment that has escalated through frustration and possibly to angerAnticipatory Disappointment at Work
Disappointment is usually unpleasant, and sometimes benign. But when it occurs before we have evidence of bad news — when it is anticipatory — disappointment can be unnecessary and expensive. What is anticipatory disappointment? What are the risks?

April 13, 2022

Cassandra, from a painting by Evelyn De Morgan (1855-1919)Cassandra at Work
When a team makes a wrong choice, and only a tiny minority advocated for what turned out to have been the right choice, trouble can arise when the error at last becomes evident. Maintaining team cohesion can be a difficult challenge for team leaders.

April 6, 2022

A symphony orchestra in actionThe Risks of Rehearsals
Rehearsing a conversation can be constructive. But when we're anxious about it, we can imagine how it would unfold in ways that bias our perceptions. We risk deluding ourselves about possible outcomes, and we might even experience stress unnecessarily.

March 30, 2022

A happy dogMore Things I've Learned Along the Way: V
When I gain an important insight, or when I learn a lesson, I make a note. Example: If you're interested in changing how a social construct operates, knowing how it came to be the way it is can be much less useful than knowing what keeps it the way it is.

March 23, 2022

The side mirror view from an automobilePremortems
Premortems are simulated retrospective examinations of future events, conducted as if those future events had already occurred. By combining the benefits of psychological safety with a shift in temporal perspective, they offer advantages for planners.

March 16, 2022

"My Wife and My Mother-in-Law", a famous optical illusionResolving Ambiguity
Ambiguity is anathema to success in collaborations. It causes errors and rework, extending time-to-market. When we interpret information, we often choose the first interpretation we find, never recognizing that others are possible. That leads to failure.

March 9, 2022

Holding a lighted matchQuasi-Narcissistic Quasi-Subordinates
One troublesome kind of workplace collaboration includes those that combine people of varied professions and ranks for a specific short-term mission. Many work well, but when one of the group members displays quasi-narcissistic behaviors, trouble looms.

March 2, 2022

A picture of a Snow Crystal taken by Wilson Bentley, "The Snowflake Man"Logical Presentation Can Be Ineffective
Although logic and reasoning are useful tools for problem solving and decision-making, they're less useful for exchanging ideas among collaborators. Effectiveness in presenting one's own views to others requires more clarity than logic.

February 23, 2022

RMS Titanic departing Southampton on April 10, 1912Disproof of Concept
Proof-of-concept studies of system designs usually try to devise solution options and discover the system's operating constraints. But limitations can become clear too late. A different approach — disproof of concept — can be a useful alternative.

February 16, 2022

A scientifically accurate atomic model of the external structure of the SARS-CoV-2Vendor Mismanagement
When we outsource knowledge work to vendors, we expect to achieve the desired result with less risk and uncertainty than if we did the work ourselves. But mission creep, mission retrenchment and employee capture can lead to less welcome results.

February 9, 2022

Big Spring, a giant karst spring in The Ozarks, MissouriDefect Streams and Their Sources
Regarding defects as elements of a stream provides a perspective that aids in identifying causes other than negligence. Examples of root causes are unfunded mandates, misallocation of the cost of procedure competence, and frequent changes in procedures.

February 2, 2022

Children playing a computer gameThe Risk of Astonishing Success
When we experience success, we're more likely to develop overconfidence. And when the success is so extreme as to induce astonishment, we become even more vulnerable to overconfidence. It's a real risk of success that must be managed.

January 26, 2022

The iconic image of cyber code, as popularized in the film The MatrixCyber Rumors in Organizations
Rumor management practices in organizations haven't kept up with rumor propagation technology. Rumors that propagate by digital means — cyber rumors — have longer lifetimes, spread faster, are more credible, and are better able to reinforce each other.

January 19, 2022

An exit signComply, Resist, or Exploit?
When we encounter obstacles, we have choices about how we deal with them. Generally, we can comply, we can resist, or sometimes, we can find ways to use the obstacles — to exploit them — to advance to our objectives. The pandemic provides two examples.

January 12, 2022

A fist crushing a small cardboard containerOn Gratuitous Harshness
Rejecting with gratuitous harshness the contributions of others can be an expensive pattern to tolerate — or to indulge. Understanding how the costs arise and what factors exacerbate them is the first step to controlling the pattern.

January 5, 2022

Two football teams face off at the line of scrimmageCovert Inter-Team Noncooperation
Occasionally teams find that they must cooperate with another team despite strong misgivings. Because noncooperation isn't an option, they find covert ways to avoid cooperating. Here's a little catalog of techniques of Covert Inter-Team Noncooperation.

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