- Coming 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.
- And 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
- Newly 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
- Newly 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
- Mastering 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
- Mastering 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
- Notes 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
- Projection 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
- Power 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
- Seven 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
- Seven 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
- Seven 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
- Seven 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
- Seven 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
- 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
- Motivated 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
- Motivated 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
- Cognitive 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
- 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
- Red 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
- Red 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
- Disjoint 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
- 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
- On 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
- The 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
- An 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
- They 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
- Capability 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
- Concealed 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
- Hidden 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
- Neglect 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
- New 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
- Intentionally 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
- 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
- Incompetence: 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
- The 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
- Virtual 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 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
- Bullet 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
- 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
- Workplace 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
- Unintended 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
- Unintended 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
- Unrecognized 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
- Unrecognized 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
- Higher-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
- Disjoint 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
- Disjoint 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
- Disjoint 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
- Disjoint 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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