Point Lookout
a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting

Archive of Point Lookout for 2021

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.

Handling Q&A after a presentation, a situation in which formulaic utterances occur with elevated frequencyComing September 22: Formulaic Utterances: I
With all due respect is an example of a category of linguistic forms known as formulaic utterances. They differ across languages and cultures, but I speculate that their functions are near universal. In the workplace, using them can be constructive — or not. Available here and by RSS on September 22.
A collection of identical boltsAnd on September 29: Formulaic Utterances: II
Formulaic utterances are things we say that follow a pre-formed template. They're familiar to all, and have standard uses. "For example" is an example. In the workplace, some of them can be useful for establishing or maintaining dominance and credibility. Available here and by RSS on September 29.

This page has links to articles from 2021. For other years:

September 15, 2021

18 hatsIllusory Management: II
Many believe that managers control organizational performance more precisely than they actually do. This illusion might arise, in part, from a mechanism that causes leaders and the people they lead to tend to misattribute organizational success.

September 8, 2021

A drone carrying a camera, flying under remote controlIllusory Management: I
Many believe that managers control organizational performance, but a puzzle emerges when we consider the phenomena managers clearly cannot control. Why do we believe in Management control when the phenomena Management cannot control are so many and powerful?

September 1, 2021

U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the Social Security Act, 13 August 1935Bad Trouble: Coping strategies
When Bad Trouble develops at work people make choices about coping. If they cope constructively, they have choices about how to do that. Even those who don't cope constructively have choices. Here's a survey of the wide range of choices people make.

August 25, 2021

A fictional tornado striking ManhattanBad Trouble: Misdirection
When Bad Trouble develops at work we have a chance to see what our organizational cultures are made of. Many of our colleagues respond constructively. When they don't, misdirection tactics are popular. Here's a little catalog of misdirection responses.

August 18, 2021

The mural on the wall of the Cambridge firehouseThe Major Annoyance of Mini-Digressions
Digressions are expensive. They limit progress in meetings. They're most noticeable when they deflect the entire meeting from its stated purpose. There is another kind of digression that's less noticeable, more common, and just as costly.

August 11, 2021

Main Reading Room of the U.S. Library of CongressMany "Stupid" Questions Aren't
Occasionally someone asks a question that causes us to think, "Now that's a stupid question." Rarely is that assessment correct. Knowing what alternatives are possible can help us respond more effectively in the moment.

August 4, 2021

A beach at sunsetWhat Are the Chances?
When estimating the probabilities of success of different strategies, we must often estimate the probability of multiple events occurring. People make a common mistake when forming such estimates. They assume that events are independent when they are not.

July 28, 2021

Tennis balls on a tennis court. Your fitness program can be a part of your job search.Be Choosier About Job Offers: II
An unfortunate outcome of job searches occurs when a job seeker feels forced to accept an offer that isn't a good fit. Sometimes financial pressures are so severe that the seeker has little choice. But financial pressures are partly perceptual. Here's how to manage feeling that pressure.

July 21, 2021

A dog in despairBe Choosier About Job Offers: I
A serious error some job seekers make is accepting an offer that isn't actually a good fit. We make this mistake for a variety of reasons, including hating the job-search process, desperation, and wishful thinking. How can we avoid the error?

July 14, 2021

Guardrails in a track bed as a rail line crosses a bridgeTime to Go to Plan B
We had a plan, and it was a good one. Plan A actually seemed to work for a while, but then troubles began. And now things look very bleak. We have a Plan B, but people don't want to go to it. Why not?

July 7, 2021

A hang glider pilot taking offTime to Let Go of Plan A
We had a plan. It was a good one. Our plan seemed to work for a while. But then troubles began. And now things look very bleak. But people can't let go of the plan. For some teams in this situation, there isn't a Plan B. For others, Plan B is a secret.

June 30, 2021

Handling Q&A after a presentationAnswering Questions You Can't Answer
When someone asks an unanswerable question, many of us respond by asking for clarification. That path can lead to trouble. Responding to a question with a question can seem defensive, or worse. How can you answer a question you can't answer?

June 23, 2021

Portrait of Isaac Newton (1642-1727)What Keeps Things the Way They Are
Changing processes can be challenging. Sometimes the difficulty arises from our tendency to overlook other processes that work to keep things the way they are. If we begin by changing those "regulator processes" the difficulty can sometimes vanish.

June 16, 2021

An empty theaterOrganizational Roots of Toxic Conflict
When toxic conflict erupts in a team, cooperation ends and person-to-person attacks begin. Usually we hold responsible the people involved. But in some cases, the organization is the root cause, and then replacing or disciplining the people might not help.

June 9, 2021

A meeting at a whiteboardSelf-Imposed Constraints
When we solve problems, the problem definition and associated constraints determine the possible solutions. Sometimes, though, solving the problem is unnecessarily difficult because we accepted self-imposed constraints as real. How can we avoid that?

June 2, 2021

Out-of-service gas pumps during the Colonial Pipeline shutdownThe Expectation-Disruption Connection
In technology-dependent organizations, we usually invest in infrastructure as a means of providing new capability. But mitigating the risk of disruption is a more powerful justification for infrastructure investment, if we understand the Expectation-Disruption Connection.

May 26, 2021

A bullying managerEven "Isolated Incidents" Can Be Bullying
Many organizations have anti-bullying policies that address only repeated patterns of interpersonal aggression. Such definitions expose the organization and its people to the harmful effects of "isolated incidents" of interpersonal aggression, because even isolated incidents can be bullying.

May 19, 2021

Sherlock Holmes and Doctor WatsonPre-Decision Discussions: Reasoning
When we meet to resolve issues related to upcoming decisions, we sometimes rely on reasoning to help find solutions. Contributions to these discussions generally use mixtures of deductive, inductive, and abductive reasoning. How do they differ, and what are their strengths and risks?

May 12, 2021

Lady JusticePre-Decision Discussions: Emotions
Some meeting agendas include exploring issues related to upcoming decisions. Although we believe that these discussions lead to rational decisions, some contributions evoke possibly misleading emotional responses. Here are five examples.

May 5, 2021

A working meetingPre-Decision Discussions: Facts
The purpose of some meetings is reaching decisions. Because decision making can be difficult, familiarity with the forms of contributions that can occur in such discussions is helpful. Their connection to facts is critical.

April 28, 2021

Two people engaged in pair collaborationThe Self-Explanation Effect
In the learning context, self-explanation is the act of explaining to oneself what one is learning. Self-explanation has been shown to increase the rate of acquiring mastery. The mystery is why we don't structure knowledge work to exploit this phenomenon.

April 21, 2021

A possibly difficult choiceChoice-Supportive Bias
Choice-supportive bias is a cognitive bias that causes us to assess our past choices as more fitting than they actually were. The erroneous judgments it produces can be especially costly to organizations interested in improving decision processes.

April 14, 2021

A demanding managerWhat Micromanaging Is and Isn't
Micromanaging is a dysfunctional pattern of management behavior, involving interference in the work others are supposedly doing. Confusion about what it is and what it isn't makes effective response difficult.

April 7, 2021

A reversed calendar pageSome Perils of Reverse Scheduling
Especially when time is tight, project sponsors sometimes ask their project managers to produce "reverse schedules." They want to know what would have to be done by when to complete their projects "on time." It's a risky process that produces aggressive schedules.

March 31, 2021

U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1954Way Too Much to Do
You're good at your job — when you have enough time to do it. The problem is that so much comes your way that you can't possibly attend to it all. Some things inevitably are missed or get short shrift. If you don't change something soon, trouble is sure to arrive.

March 24, 2021

Don't tell me anything I don't already knowLearning-Averse Organizations
A learning-averse organization is one that seems constitutionally unwilling, if not unable, to learn new and better ways of conducting its operations. Given the rapid pace of change in modern markets, one wonders how they survive. Here's how.

March 17, 2021

A U.S. 100-dollar bill made into a jigsaw puzzleFacts, Opinions, Estimates, and Desires
One reason why resource allocation debates can become so difficult is confusion about the differences among facts, opinions, estimates, and desires. Clarifying their differences can reduce the length and intensity of resource allocation debates.

March 10, 2021

NASA's Mars Climate Orbiter, which was lost on attempted entry into Mars orbitOn Repeatable Blunders
When organizations make mistakes, they sometimes acknowledge them and learn how to avoid repeating them. And sometimes they conceal them or even deny they happened. When they conceal mistakes or deny they occurred, repetition is more likely.

March 3, 2021

Braided streams in Grewingk Glacier RiverRisk Acceptance: One Path
When a project team decides to accept a risk, and when their project eventually experiences that risk, a natural question arises: What were they thinking? Cognitive biases, other psychological phenomena, and organizational dysfunction all can play roles.

February 24, 2021

Roger Boisjoly of Morton Thiokol, who tried to halt the launch of the Challenger space shuttle in 1986Risk Acceptance: Naïve Realism
When we suddenly notice a "project-killer" risk that hasn't yet materialized, we sometimes accept the risk even though we know how seriously it threatens the effort. A psychological phenomenon known as naïve realism plays a role in this behavior.

February 17, 2021

A jigsaw puzzle with a missing pieceRemote Hires: Inquiry
When knowledge workers join organizations as remote hires, they must learn what's expected of them and how it fits with what everyone else is doing. This can be difficult when everyone is remote. A systematic knowledge-based inquiry procedure can help.

February 10, 2021

Working remotely, in this case, from homeRemote Hires: Communications
When knowledge-oriented organizations hire remote workers, success is limited by the communications facilities they provide. Remote hires need phones, computers, email, text, video, calendars, and more. Communications infrastructure drives productivity.

February 3, 2021

A vial of COVID-19 vaccineCost Concerns: Scale
When we consider the costs of problem solutions too early in the problem-solving process, the results of comparing alternatives might be unreliable. Deferring cost concerns until we fully understand the problem can yield more options and better decisions.

January 27, 2021

stacks of gold coinsCost Concerns: Comparisons
When we assess the costs of different options for solving a problem, we must take care not to commit a variety of errors in approach. These errors can lead to flawed decisions. One activity at risk for error is comparing the costs of two options.

January 20, 2021

A home officeAnticipating Absence: Quarantine and Isolation
When the pandemic compels some knowledge workers to quarantine or isolate, we tend to treat them as if they were totally unavailable. But if they're willing and able to work, even part-time, they might be able to continue to contribute. To make this happen, work out conditions in advance.

January 13, 2021

Why we have so many virtual interviews now: no one is in the officeVirtual Interviews: II
The pandemic has made face-to-face job interviews less important. And so we must now also master virtual interviews, and that requires understanding the effects of the attendance list, video presence, and the technologies of staging, lighting, and makeup.

January 6, 2021

A virtual interview underwayVirtual Interviews: I
The pandemic has made face-to-face job interviews less important. Although understanding the psychology of virtual interviews helps both interviewers and candidates, candidates would do well to use the virtual interview to demonstrate video presence.

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!