Archive of Point Lookout for 2023

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A well-festooned utility poleComing June 26: Additive bias…or Not: I
When we alter existing systems to enhance them, we tend to favor adding components even when subtracting might be better. This effect has been attributed to a cognitive bias known as additive bias. But other forces more important might be afoot. Available here and by RSS on June 26.
A close-up view of a chipseal road surfaceAnd on July 3: Additive bias…Not: II
Additive bias is a cognitive bias that many believe contributes to bloat of commercial products. When we change products to make them more capable, additive bias might not play a role, because economic considerations sometimes favor additive approaches. Available here and by RSS on July 3.

This page has links to articles from 2023. For other years:

December 27, 2023

Orchestra musicians performingContrary Indicators of Psychological Safety: III
When we first perform actions or play roles unfamiliar to us, we make mistakes. We learn new ways not only by reading or being told, but also by practicing. Unless we feel that making mistakes at first is acceptable, learning might never occur.

December 20, 2023

A beekeeper at work, wearing safety equipmentContrary Indicators of Psychological Safety: II
When we begin using new tools or processes, we make mistakes. Practice is the cure, but practice can be scary if the grace period for early mistakes is too short. For teams adopting new methods, psychological safety is a fundamental component of success.

December 13, 2023

Lifeboats on board the FS Scandinavia, May 2006Contrary Indicators of Psychological Safety: I
To take the risks that learning and practicing new ways require, we all need a sense that trial-and-error approaches are safe. Organizations seeking to improve processes would do well to begin by assessing their level of psychological safety.

December 6, 2023

What a videoconference looks like when all participants have their cameras offOff-Putting and Conversational Narcissism at Work: III
Having off-putting interactions is one of four themes of conversational narcissism. Here are six behavioral patterns that relate to off-putting interactions and how abusers use them to control conversations.

November 29, 2023

A man with a beard. Not exactly a friendly visage.Off-Putting and Conversational Narcissism at Work: II
Having off-putting interactions is one of four themes of conversational narcissism. Here are five behavioral patterns that relate to off-putting interactions and how abusers employ them to distract conversation participants from the matter at hand.

November 22, 2023

Woman who is supposed to be listening, but who is glazing overOff-Putting and Conversational Narcissism at Work: I
Having off-putting interactions is one of four themes of conversational narcissism. Here are six behavioral patterns that relate to off-putting interactions and how abusers use them to control conversations.

November 15, 2023

One human being comforting anotherExhibitionism and Conversational Narcissism at Work: II
Exhibitionism is one of four themes of conversational narcissism. Here are six patterns of behavior that are exhibitionistic in the sense that they're intended not to advance the conversation, but rather to call the attention of others to the abuser.

November 8, 2023

A civilized group debate at workAsymmetric Group Debate
Group debates at work can be difficult when the domains of expertise of participants don't overlap by much. Communicating is possible, though, if we believe in our shared goals and if we tackle the hard parts without an audience.

November 1, 2023

Eduardo Escobar called safe at secondExhibitionism and Conversational Narcissism at Work: I
Exhibitionism is one of four themes of conversational narcissism. Behavior considered exhibitionistic in this context is that which is intended to call the attention of others to the abuser. Here are six examples that emphasize exhibitionistic behavior.

October 25, 2023

The Arc de Triomphe in ParisExploitation and Conversational Narcissism at Work: II
Exploitation of others is one of four themes of conversational narcissism. Knowing how to recognize the patterns of conversational narcissism is a fundamental skill needed for controlling it. Here are six examples that emphasize exploitation of others.

October 18, 2023

A horserace, which is a useful metaphor for the abuser's view of a conversationExploitation and Conversational Narcissism at Work: I
Exploitation of others is one of four themes of conversational narcissism. Knowing how to recognize the patterns of conversational narcissism is a fundamental skill needed for controlling it. Here are five examples that emphasize exploitation of others.

October 11, 2023

Men in conversation at an eventSelf-Importance and Conversational Narcissism at Work: II
Self-importance is one of four major themes of conversational narcissism. Knowing how to recognize the patterns of conversational narcissism is a fundamental skill needed for controlling it. Here are eight examples that emphasize self-importance.

October 4, 2023

A blue peacock of IndiaSelf-Importance and Conversational Narcissism at Work: I
Conversational narcissism is a set of behaviors that participants use to focus the exchange on their own self-interest rather than the shared objective. This post emphasizes the role of these behaviors in advancing the participant's sense of self-importance.

September 27, 2023

A meeting of meerkatsOn Working Breaks in Meetings
When we convene a meeting to work a problem, we sometimes find that progress is stalled. Taking a break to allow a subgroup to work part of the problem can be key to finding simple, elegant solutions rapidly. Choosing the subgroup is only the first step.

September 20, 2023

The Bill of RightsPersonal Boundaries at Work
We often speak of setting boundaries at work — limitations on what we can reasonably ask of each other. We speak of them, but we don't always honor them. They can be easier to remember and honor if we regard them as freedoms rather than boundaries.

September 13, 2023

A graphical metaphor for what happens when we send or receive email messages to or from a group of recipientsSubject Lines for Intra-Team Messages
When teams communicate internally using messaging systems like email, poorly formed subject lines of messages can limit the effectiveness of the exchanges. Subject lines therefore provide a powerful means of increasing real-time productivity of the team.

September 6, 2023

A metaphor for preventing risk propagationThe Risk Planning Fallacy
The planning fallacy is a cognitive bias that causes underestimates of cost, time required, and risks for projects. Analogously, I propose a risk planning fallacy that causes underestimates of probabilities and impacts of risk events.

August 30, 2023

Charles Boyer, Ingrid Bergman and Joseph Cotton in a promotional photo for the 1944 film "Gaslight," directed by George CukorGaslighting Project Teams
To gaslight people is to convince them to reject their own observations and believe what you want them to believe. Gaslighting corrupts project management as surely as it destroys romantic relationships. Here are some early indicators of gaslighting.

August 23, 2023

Workers prepare the S-IC first stage in the transfer aisle of the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space CenterLessons Not Learned: II
The planning fallacy is a cognitive bias that causes us to underestimate the cost and effort involved in projects large and small. Efforts to limit its effects are more effective when they're guided by interactions with other cognitive biases.

August 16, 2023

Opera house, Sydney, AustraliaLessons Not Learned: I
The planning fallacy is a cognitive bias that causes us to underestimate the cost and effort involved in projects large and small. Mitigating its effects requires understanding how we go wrong when we plan projects by referencing our own past experience.

August 9, 2023

A red mailboxRecapping One-on-One Meetings
Some short one-on-one meetings produce important decisions without third-party witnesses. Instead of relying on fickle memory to capture these results, send a recap by email immediately afterwards. Recaps improve decisions and make them more durable.

August 2, 2023

A well-camouflaged mule deer being attended to by its motherThe Six Dimensions of Online Disinhibition: II
The online disinhibition effect appears in computer-mediated communications. It is due to relaxation of inhibitions that demand civility. It's still impactful 20 years after its identification, but it might be less so in today's workplace cyberspace.

July 26, 2023

A schematic of a symmetric virtual meetingThe Six Dimensions of Online Disinhibition: I
The online environment has properties that cause us to relax the inhibitions that keep us civil. And that leads to an elevated incidence of toxic conflict in public cyberspace. But workplace cyberspace is different. There is reason for optimism there.

July 19, 2023

A young girl and a puppy having a moment togetherOn Managing Life Event Risk
Life events are those significant personal occurrences that lie outside the context of work. Some life events cause enough stress and demand enough attention that they affect our performance at work. When they do, they can affect our employers' plans.

July 12, 2023

NASA's Mars Climate Orbiter, which was lost on attempted entry into Mars orbitWould Anyone Object?
When groups consider whether to adopt proposals, some elect to poll everyone with a question of the form, "Would anyone object if X?" It's a risky approach, because it can lead to damaging decisions that open discussion in meetings can avoid.

July 5, 2023

A frost-covered spider webFractures in Virtual Teams
Virtual teams — teams not co-located — do sometimes encounter difficulties maintaining unity of direction, or even unity of purpose. When they fracture, they do so in particular ways. Bone fractures provide a metaphor useful for guiding interventions.

June 28, 2023

A jumbled jigsaw puzzleToxic Disrupters: Responses
Some people tend to disrupt meetings. Their motives vary, but their techniques are predictable. If we've identified someone as using these techniques we have available a set of effective actions that can guide him or her toward a more productive role.

June 21, 2023

A meeting of a small team working to resolve a serious matterAsking Burning Questions
When we suddenly realize that an important question needs answering, directly asking that question in a meeting might not be an effective way to focus the attention of the group. There are risks. Fortunately, there are also ways to manage those risks.

June 14, 2023

A wolf pack, probably preparing for a huntPseudo-Collaborations
Most workplace collaborations produce results of value. But some collaborations — pseudo-collaborations — are inherently incapable of producing value, due, in part, to performance management systems, lack of authority, or lack of access to information.

June 7, 2023

A labyrinth. It's a good metaphor for what toxic disrupters try to erect in the path of the group.Toxic Disrupters: Tactics
Some people tend to disrupt meetings. Their motives vary, but they use techniques drawn from a limited collection. Examples: they violate norms, demand attention, mess with the agenda, and sow distrust. Response begins with recognizing their tactics.

May 31, 2023

A new day dawningWhen Your Boss Leaves Before You Do
At some point in your career, your supervisor will leave his or her position and you'll end up reporting to someone else. It can be a harrowing experience, even if you prepare. Nevertheless, preparation usually produces a better outcome than winging it.

May 24, 2023

A workplace training sessionTen-Minute Training
Despite decades of evolution of technology-assisted workplace learning, instructor-led classroom formats remain the most popular and effective. Now perhaps videoconferencing can help to achieve that effectiveness at lower cost.

May 17, 2023

Benjamin Franklin portrait by Joseph Siffred DuplessisClouted Thinking
When we say that people have "clout" we mean that they have more organizational power or social influence than most others do. But when people with clout try to use it in realms beyond those in which they've earned it, trouble looms.

May 10, 2023

Eurasian cranes migrating to Meyghan Salt Lake, Markazi Province of IranOn Schedule Conflicts
Schedule conflicts happen from time to time, even when the organization is healthy and all is well. But when schedule conflicts are common, they might indicate that the organization is trying to do too much with too few people.

May 3, 2023

A red molded plastic zipperPersonal Feasibility Decisions
When considering whether to exploit a rare but desirable opportunity, there is a risk that desire can overcome good sense. Having at hand a predefined framework for making such decisions reduces the risk of blundering by acting in haste.

April 26, 2023

Adolf Hitler, dictator of Germany and leader of the Nazi party 1934-1945Confirmation Bias and Myside Bias
Although we regard ourselves as rational, a well-established body of knowledge shows that rationality plays a less-than-central role in our decision-making process. Confirmation Bias and Myside Bias are two cognitive biases that influence our decisions.

April 19, 2023

Portrait of Sir Thomas Gresham, pendant to portrait of Anne Fernely ca. 1563-1564More Things I've Learned Along the Way: VI
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.

April 12, 2023

A roaring lion, a metaphor for what can happen when comments on the work of another lead to toxic conflictCommenting on the Work of Others
Commenting on the work of others risks damaging relationships. It can make future collaboration more difficult. To be safe when commenting about others' work, know the basic principles that distinguish appropriate and inappropriate comments.

April 5, 2023

Bust of Aristotle. Marble. Roman copy after a Greek bronze originalThe Fallacy of Division
Errors of reasoning are pervasive in everyday thought in most organizations. One of the more common errors is called the Fallacy of Division, in which we assume that attributes of a class apply to all members of that class. It leads to ridiculous results.

March 29, 2023

Vulture getting ready to strike a dying prey, KenyaTime Slot Recycling: The Risks
When we can't begin a meeting because some people haven't arrived, we sometimes cancel the meeting and hold a different one, with the people who are in attendance. It might seem like a good way to avoid wasting time, but there are risks.

March 22, 2023

A distorted view of realityFear/Anxiety Bias: II
When people sense that reporting the true status of the work underway could be career-dangerous, some shade or "spin" their reports. Managers then receive an inaccurate impression of the state of the organization. Here are five of the patterns people use.

March 15, 2023

A flock of starlings acting as a swarmFear/Anxiety Bias: I
When people don't feel safe enough to report the true status of the work underway in an organization, managers receive an inaccurate impression of the state of the organization. To understand this dynamic, we must understand psychological safety.

March 8, 2023

A Wurlitzer "One More Time" jukebox, circa 1950Goodhart's Law and Gaming the Metrics
Goodhart's Law is an observation about managing by metrics. When we make known the metrics' goals, we risk collapse of the metrics, in part because people try to "game" the metrics by shading or manufacturing the data to produce the goal result.

March 1, 2023

Charles Goodhart delivers the keynote speech in the 2012 Long Finance Spring ConferenceGoodhart's Law and Reification
Goodhart's Law, applied to organizations, is an observation about managing by metrics. When we make known the goals for our metrics, we risk having the metrics lose their ability to measure. The risk is elevated when we try to "measure" abstractions.

February 22, 2023

Robert S. McNamara as Secretary of the U.S. Department of DefenseThe McNamara Fallacy
The McNamara Fallacy is the idea that measuring properly chosen attributes of inputs and outputs provides all we need for decisions about organizational and human performance. And we can safely ignore anything that can't be measured. It doesn't work.

February 15, 2023

Stained Glass of William of Ockham in a church in Surrey, England, United KingdomFour Razors for Organizational Behavior
Deviant organizational behavior can harm the people and the organization. In choosing responses, we consider what drives the perpetrators. Considering Malice, Incompetence, Ignorance, and Greed, we can devise four guidelines for making these choices.

February 8, 2023

Two bull elk sparring in Grand Teton National Park, WyomingKerfuffles That Seem Like Something More
Much of what we regard as political conflict is a series of squabbles commonly called kerfuffles. They captivate us while they're underway, but after a month or two they're forgotten. Why do they happen? Why do they persist?

February 1, 2023

Cracking walnuts with a nutcrackerThe Big Power of Little Words
Big, fancy words, like commensurate or obfuscation, tend to be more noticed than the little everyday words, like yet or best. That might be why the little words can be so much more powerful, steering conversations where their users want them to go.

January 25, 2023

Roger Boisjoly of Morton Thiokol, who tried to halt the launch of Challenger in 1986Some Consequences of Blaming
Both blame-oriented cultures and accountability-oriented cultures can learn from their mistakes. Accountability-oriented cultures learn how to avoid repeating their mistakes. Blame-oriented cultures learn how to repeat their mistakes.

January 18, 2023

Tuckman's stages of group developmentTuckman's Model and Joint Leadership Teams
Tuckman's model of the stages of group development, applied to Joint Leadership Teams, reveals characteristics of these teams that signal performance levels less than we hope for. Knowing what to avoid when we designate these teams is therefore useful.

January 11, 2023

New York Fire Department Deputy Chief Joseph Curry calls for rescue teams at Ground Zero three days after the 9/11 terrorist attacksJoint Leadership Teams: Risks
Some teams, business units, or enterprises are led not by individuals, but by joint leadership teams of two or more. They face special risks that arise from the organizations that host them, from the teams they lead, or from within the joint leadership team itself.

January 4, 2023

Promotional photo of Boris Karloff from The Bride of Frankenstein as Frankenstein's monsterThe Politics of Forming Joint Leadership Teams
Some teams, business units, or enterprises are led not by individuals, but by joint leadership teams of two or more. They face special risks that arise from both the politics of the joint leadership team and the politics of the organization hosting it.

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