Point Lookout
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Archive of Point Lookout for 2020

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A meeting held in a long conference room.Coming July 8: 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. Available here and by RSS on July 8.
A dictionaryAnd on July 15: Disjoint Concept Vocabularies
In disputes or in problem solving sessions, when we can't seem to 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 don't overlap. Available here and by RSS on July 15.

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

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.

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