- Coming 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.
- And 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
- Illusory 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
- Illusory 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
- Bad 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
- Bad 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 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
- Many "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
- What 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
- 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
- Be 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
- Time 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
- Time 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
- Answering 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
- 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
- Organizational 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
- Self-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
- The 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
- Even "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
- Pre-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
- Pre-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
- Pre-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
- The 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
- Choice-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
- What 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
- Some 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
- Way 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
- Learning-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
- Facts, 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
- On 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
- Risk 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
- Risk 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
- Remote 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
- Remote 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
- Cost 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
- Cost 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
- Anticipating 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
- Virtual 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
- Virtual 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.
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