Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Risk and Choice

(Transcript from Temi – edited for context)

One of the ways you can mitigate risk is by the selection of the risk that you take.

Some organizations and some people are risk averse and likely for good reason and some have a much higher tolerance for risk.

I’m going to use the products from my international grocery store trip for an example.

Item one is the donut peach. Now, if you’re trying to donut peach new for the first time, this is at a fairly low risk. Most of us have had peaches and we know whether or not we like the peach and this tastes like a peach. It smells like a peach. It looks like a peach, just a little squishy.

This, to me is like an upgrade between something like project management systems. I know we’ve got a project management system. We just need to do an upgrade to it or transition to one that’s somewhat similar. So… low risk change.

Slightly higher risk is, say, going from a pear, which many of us have had before and many of us know we like them, to something like this, which is also a pear.

Now, some of us live in an area who have had a chance to try Asian pears. We don’t know whether or not this pear is like an Asian pear or not and this was the first time I’ve tasted it.

So yeah, this is like an Asian pear just in terms of texture, so it’s a lot crunchier than your normal pair, little closer to an apple and this is a lot sweeter than Asian pears, which tend to go more towards the apple side of things. This is more like a really, really sweet bosc pair, but with apple texture, so pretty good. But again, this is higher risk.

The analogy I would use here would be – I’ve got a fairly good project management process. I need a tool to help me automate it or help me solve a problem that I’m struggling with in my current process. Like resource management.

Again, it’s a calculated risk, slightly higher risk tolerance. Um, these are really good.

An even higher risk – something like this, small octopus dumplings. Now, depending on how you feel about octopus, your risk level on this, uh, might be higher than most people. I happen to like octopus when it’s done well.

You can mitigate it (the risk).

An example – let’s say I’ve never tried octopus. I know, I like dumplings. Higher risk. We’ll find out whether or not you like octopus.

The other, slightly lower, risk is I know I like octopus. I know I liked dumplings. This should be good.

I would actually use this more as a metaphor for – we don’t really have a project management process. We do some stuff on spreadsheets. We’ve got a few things at work. Let’s try to implement a system.

That will be more of your small octopus dumpling.

I will actually report back, let you know how this is (the small octopus dumplings). This was one of my picks. An interesting thing I have not tried yet. And, honestly, I enjoy picking out things like this to freak out my friends. So hope that helps as an analogy.

If you have access to a farmer’s market nearby and it’s in season, go ahead and get yourself some donut peaches. This is probably your lowest risk thing. I hope this helps.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

How to Try New Things

(Transcript from Temi)

Hi. I just got back from the Korean grocery store. One of the great things about living in the DC area is that we have a number of fantastic international grocery stores and digging through these things is one of my absolute favorite things to do and one of the things I’d love to do on at the Asian grocery store is pick out some vegetable or some product that I’ve never actually tried before.

This particular plant is Taiwanese spinach and this one’s a little more of a calculated risk than some of the things that I pick up.

One, I was able to discern that yes, this is spinach and two, I’ve got a rough idea of how to handle greens or how to cook greens, but I have no idea how this is going to behave when I cook it and I don’t particularly know what it tastes like.

And so far the only thing I can come up with is spinach with a little bit of soap. So this might not be a repeat purchase, but my plan for this particular bunch of greens is to put it in soup so I’ll be able to mask any soapiness out of this.

This really speaks to risk and taking risks and trying new things. It could be as simple as doing this in your personal life first were and in a small scale like going to the grocery store and picking up something brand new that you’ve never tasted before or never tried before.

You don’t have to buy a ton of it. You don’t even really have to eat all of it. You could taste it and come up with a calculated reason why you don’t like it.

One, you can now say you’ve tried it and you don’t like it, and two, you can explain why that is.

Or you’ve discovered something that you really enjoy.

You can do the same thing in your business – find a really small technique that you’ve never tried before.

When you’re managing your project or you’re working with your team, something really low risk and experiment with it. Talk to your team afterwards. Then you’ll have an educated reason as to why you did like the technique or you didn’t like the technique.

So whether it’s doing standup meetings where you have your developers lead those meetings and you can see what’s working, what’s not and why.

And if you decide to not do that again, you’ll at least know why you didn’t want to do it again.

Thank you. And I hope this helps.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Meditation and Task Motivation

Mike Griffiths, over at ProjectManagement.com, provided a succinct summary of the findings from recent research claiming that mindfulness impairs task motivation.

Employees who practice mindfulness meditation are less motivated, having realized the futility of their jobs.

His conclusion – Beware those corporate mindfulness workshops unless your organization has a compelling purpose!

There are some serious issues with the research methodology used (meditation is not a one-and-done deal and the tasks they had them do in the lab were out of context, nevermind pointless), but I also don’t think the conclusion is entirely wrong.

What do you want people “motivated” to do for you? Why?

There IS a danger that your people will realize that their work for you is not helping either themselves OR a greater good.

There is a danger that they will see the task you are asking them to do to be as pointless as it actually is.

The highlights of the findings from ScienceDirect (direct quote):

  • State mindfulness impaired motivation to complete cognitive and performance tasks.
  • State mindfulness had no overall effect (good or bad) for performance on the same tasks.
  • Weakened future focus and arousal serially mediated demotivating effect.
  • Mindfulness enabled people to detach from stressors, which improved task focus.
  • Detachment and task focus help explain why mindfulness does not alter performance.

My personal conclusions on these findings:

  • Detaching from a future outcome is a good thing
  • Detaching from surroundings that will distract you is a good thing
  • Ability to focus on a task is a good thing
  • Questioning why you are doing the task in the first place is a good thing

Thursday, August 09, 2018

The First Step to Strengthen Your Foundations


The one thing that we can do to strengthen our foundations.

When I sleep well:

  • I make better food choices
  • I am more inclined to exercise or, if I force myself, I’m less likely to dog my workouts
  • I am better at practicing positive interpersonal skills
  • I have more resilience when things don’t go as planned
  • I have the energy to get things done
  • I feel I make better decisions overall.

I’m not alone.

In case you need the research:

Our culture, however, expects a 24/7 “always on.” attitude.  How many executives, business leaders, and other “successful” people tout how they can function on little sleep?

Sleep deprivation, however, has disastrous consequences:

The one thing that I feel will improve our working lives and make our workplaces more humane is prioritizing our personal sleep health.

And avoiding any manager who claims that they don’t need sleep.



Thursday, August 02, 2018

A Plea from Your Best Employees

Dear Senior Executive / CEO:

We understand that you have tremendous pressures put on you.

And that’s just the stuff we know about.

This is a plea from us to you – the executive.  We have determined that there are 5 steps you can take to help you be a better leader and to help you retain us, as your best employees. We recommend following these recommendations in order. At least, give this a try for a quarter.

1.Take care of yourself. 

We need you to model this. We need you to understand the value of self-care at a very deep level.  We need you to be healthy.

This may be the hardest step.  We understand that there are many barriers and pressures.

But for your health and ours – please take care of yourself.  The other 4 steps won’t happen as effectively without it.

2. Be mindful as you engage with others – particularly your employees.

We are the people helping you succeed. And, if you have taken care of yourself, it will be easier for you to model the behavior that leads to an innovative and positive corporate culture.  That culture (built on the foundation of your actions and behavior) retains and attracts the employees you wish to have in your organization.

3. Deeply listen to your front-line employees.

They hold the key to your success and the success of your organization. They hold the most accurate insight about your customer. You will also find that, as you listen, you are building trust, getting more accurate information, and gaining influence – among other benefits.

4. Develop a vision that we can all get behind.

One that goes beyond making your numbers this quarter. If you follow the first three recommendations, creating that vision and having your employees get behind you in that vision will be easier because you have developed the personal and interpersonal foundation for success.  That vision will help us help you succeed.

5. Provide a framework that allows us to make decisions ourselves.

If you let us help you develop that framework, give us your support and guidance, and help to create an environment that provides some safety to make mistakes, you will have a more innovative and agile organization that will help you better serve your customers, grow your organization and provide your shareholders with consistent, longer-term returns.  By giving us the framework to make decisions, we won’t be bothering you or your direct-reports over small, day-to-day stuff. This will give you the time to do the deep work that will help move all of us forward.

We feel that your success and the success of the organization depends on you executing these 5 steps.

We want to be engaged. We want to do good work. We want to do that work towards making your compelling vision a reality.

Thanks for listening and, if you really want to try this, let us know how we can support you.


Your best employees.


Further Resources

The Spark, The Flame, and The Torch

Real Influence

Tara Brach – The Capacity for Deep Listening (8 minutes)


Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Meaningful Flow Lab – Status Report August 1, 2018

Cross-posted to Medium.

This is a call for feedback and an introduction to where I am headed with this lab.

I feel like I’m taking a risk — showing my work in progress. That’s what labs are for, right?

In the presentation, I’m covering:

  • My why
  • My desired future
  • The existing tools, thinking, and technologies that might help
  • A working hypothesis
  • A potential change management model (first draft)
  • The project plan and release schedule (current)

If you would like to help, chat, or send a comment, please fill out the form below. I will get back to you within 24 hours.