Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

If you “don’t know,” you’re doing it right.

If you know how to do it, it’s because you’ve done it before. You may feel comfortable with your knowledge, but you shouldn’t.  You should feel deeply uncomfortable with your comfort. You’re not trying hard enough, and your learning rate is zero.

Seek out “don’t know.”

If you don’t know how to do it, acknowledge you don’t know, and then go figure it out.  Be afraid, but go figure it out.  You’ll make mistakes, but without mistakes, there can be no learning.

No mistakes, no learning.  That’s a rule.

If you’re getting pressure to do what you did last time because you’re good at it, well, you’re your own worst enemy.  There may be good profits from a repeat performance, but there is no personal growth.

Why not find someone with “don’t know” mind and teach them?

Find someone worthy of your time and attention and teach them how. The company gets the profits, an important person gets a new skill, and you get the satisfaction of helping someone grow.

No learning, no growth.  That’s a rule.

No teaching, no learning.  That’s a rule, too.

If you know what to do, it’s because you have a static mindset.  The world has changed, but you haven’t.  You’re walking an old cowpath.  It’s time to try something new.

Seek out “don’t know” mind.

If you don’t know what to do, it’s because you recognize that the old way won’t cut it.  You know have a forcing function to follow.  Follow your fear.

No fear, no growth. That’s a rule.

Embrace the “don’t know” mind. It will help you find and follow your fear.  And don’t shun your fear because it’s a leading indicator of novelty, learning, and growth.

“O OUTRO LADO DO MEDO É A LIBERDADE (The Other Side of the Fear is the Freedom)” by jonycunha is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Success Strangles

Success demands people do what they did last time.

Success blocks fun.

Success walls off all things new.

Success has a half-life that is shortened by doubling down.

Success eats novelty for breakfast.

Success wants to scale, even when it’s time to obsolete itself.

Success doesn’t get caught from behind, it gets disrupted from the bottom.

Success fuels the Innovator’s Dilemma.

Success has a short attention span.

Success scuttles things that could reinvent the industry.

Success frustrates those who know it’s impermanent.

Success breeds standard work.

Success creates fear around making mistakes.

Success loves a best practice, even after it has matured into bad practice.

Success doesn’t like people with new ideas.

Success strangles.

Success breeds success, right up until the wheels fall off.

Success is the antidote to success.

“20204-roots strangle bricks” by oliver.dodd is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Taking vacations and holidays are the most productive things you can do.

It’s not a vacation unless you forget about work.

It’s not a holiday unless you leave your phone at home.

If you must check-in at work, you’re not on vacation.

If you feel guilty that you did not check-in at work, you’re not on holiday.

If you long for work while you’re on vacation, do something more interesting on vacation.

If you wish you were at work, you get no credit for taking a holiday.

If people know you won’t return their calls, they know you are on vacation.

If people would rather make a decision than call you, they know you’re on holiday.

If you check your voicemail, you’re not on vacation.

If you check your email, you’re not on holiday.

If your company asks you to check-in, they don’t understand vacation.

If people at your company invite you to a meeting, they don’t understand holiday.

Vacation is productive in that you return to work and you are more productive.

Holiday is not wasteful because when you return to work you don’t waste time.

Vacation is profitable because when you return you make fewer mistakes.

Holiday is skillful because when you return your skills are dialed in.

Vacation is useful because when you return you are useful.

Holiday is fun because when you return you bring fun to your work.

If you skip your vacation, you cannot give your best to your company and to yourself.

If neglect your holiday, you neglect your responsibility to do your best work.

Don’t skip your vacation and don’t neglect your holiday.  Both are bad for business and for you.

“CatchingButterflies on Vacation” by OakleyOriginals is licensed under CC BY 2.0

When you don’t know the answer, what do you say?

When you are asked a question and you don’t know the answer, what do you say?  What does that say about you?

What happens to people in your organization who say “I don’t know.”? Are they lauded or laughed at? Are they promoted, overlooked, or demoted? How many people do you know that have said: “I don’t know.”?  And what does that say about your company?

When you know someone doesn’t know, what do you do? Do you ask them a pointed question in public to make everyone aware that the person doesn’t know? Do you ask oblique questions to raise doubt about the person’s knowing? Do you ask them a question in private to help them know they don’t know? Do you engage in an informal discussion where you plant the seeds of knowing? And how do you feel about your actions?

When you say “I don’t know.” you make it safe for others to say it. So, do you say it? And how do you feel about that?

When you don’t know and you say otherwise, decision quality suffers and so does the company. Yet, some companies make it difficult for people to say “I don’t know.” Why is that? Do you know?

I think it’s unreasonable to expect people to know the answer to know the answers to all questions at all times. And when you say “I don’t know.” it doesn’t mean you’ll never know; it means you don’t know at this moment. And, yet, it’s difficult to say it.  Why is that? Do you know?

Just because someone asks a question doesn’t mean the answer must be known right now. It’s often premature to know the answer, and progress is not hindered by the not knowing. Why not make progress and figure out the answer when it’s time for the answer to be known?  And sometimes the answer is unknowable at the moment.  And that says nothing about the person that doesn’t know the answer and everything about the moment.

It’s okay if you don’t know the answer.  What’s not okay is saying you know when you don’t.  And it’s not okay if your company makes it difficult for you to say you don’t know. Not only does that create a demoralized workforce, but it’s also bad for business.

Why do companies make it so difficult to say “I don’t know.”?  You guessed it – I don’t know.

“Question Mark Cookies 1” by Scott McLeod is licensed under CC BY 2.0

How do you measure your people?

We get what we measure and, generally, we measure what’s easy to measure and not what will build a bridge to the right behavior.

Timeframe. If we measure people on a daily pitch, we get behavior that is maximized over eight hours.  If a job will take nine hours, it won’t get done because the output metrics would suffer.  It’s like a hundred-meter sprint race where the stopwatch measures output at one hundred meters.  The sprinter spends all her energy sprinting one hundred meters and then collapses.  There’s no credit for running further than one hundred meters, so they don’t.  Have you ever seen a hundred-meter race where someone ran two hundred meters?

Do you want to sprint one hundred meters five days a week?  If so, I hope you only need to run five hundred meters.  Do you want to run twenty-five miles per week?  If so, you should slow down and run five miles per day for five days.  You can check in every day to see if the team needs help and measure their miles on Friday afternoon. And if you want the team to run six miles a day, well, you probably have to allocate some time during the week so they can get stronger, improve their running stride, and do preventative maintenance on their sneakers. For several weeks prior to running six miles a day, you’ve got to restrict their running to four miles a day so they have time to train.  In that way, your measurement timeframe is months, not days.

Over what timeframe do you measure your people? And, how do you feel about that?

Control Volume. If you have a fish tank, that’s the control volume (CV) for the fish.  If you have two fish tanks, you two control volumes – control volume 1 (CV1) and control volume 2 (CV2).  With two control volumes, you can optimize each control volume independently. If tank 1 holds red fish and tank 2 holds blue fish, based on the number of fish in the tanks, you put the right amount of fish food in tank 1 for the red fish and the right amount in tank 2 for the blue fish.  The red fish of CV1 live their lives and make baby fish using the food you put in CV1.  And to measure their progress, you count the number of red fish in CV1 (tank 1). And it’s the same for the blue fish in CV2.

With the two CVs, you can dial in the recipe to grow the most red fish and dial in a different recipe to grow blue fish. But what if you don’t have enough food for both tanks? If you give more food to the blue fish and starve the red fish, the red fish will get angry and make fewer baby fish.  And they will be envious of the blue fish.  And, likely, the blue fish will gloat. When CV1 gets fewer resources than CV2, the fish notice.

But what if you want to make purple fish?  That would require red fish to jump into the blue tank and even more food to shift from CV1 to CV2. Now the red fish in CV1 are really pissed.  And though the red fish moved to tank 2 do their best to make purple guppies with the blue fish, neither color know how to make purple fish.  They were never given the tools, time, and training to do this new work. And instead of making purple guppies, usually, they eat each other.

We measure our teams over short timeframes and then we’re dissatisfied when they can’t run marathons.  It’s time to look inside and decide what you want.  Do you want short-term performance or long-term performance?  And, no, you can’t have both from the same team.

And we measure our teams on the output of their control volumes and yet ask them to cooperate and coordinate across teams.  That doesn’t work because any effort spent to help another control volume comes at the expense of your own.  And the fish know this. And we don’t give them the tools, time, and training to work across control volumes.  And the fish know this, too.

“Purple fish” by The Dress Up Place is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Certainty or novelty – it’s your choice.

When you follow the best practice, by definition your work is not new. New work is never done the same way twice.  That’s why it’s called new.

Best practices are for old work. Usually, it’s work that was successful last time.  But just as you can never step into the same stream twice, when you repeat a successful recipe it’s not the same recipe. Almost everything is different from last time.  The economy is different, the competitors are different, the customers are in a different phase of their lives, the political climate is different, interest rates are different, laws are different, tariffs are different, the technology is different, and the people doing the work are different. Just because work was successful last time doesn’t mean that the old work done in a new context will be successful next time.  The most important property of old work is the certainty that it will run out of gas.

When someone asks you to follow the best practice, they prioritize certainty over novelty.  And because the context is different, that certainty is misplaced.

We have a funny relationship with certainty.  At every turn, we try to increase certainty by doing what we did last time.  But the only thing certain with that strategy is that it will run out of gas.  Yet, frantically waving the flag of certainty, we continue to double down on what we did last time.  When we demand certainty, we demand old work.  As a company, you can have too much “certainty.”

When you flog the teams because they have too much uncertainty, you flog out all the novelty.

What if you start the design review with the question “What’s novel about this project?” And when the team says there’s nothing novel, what if you say “Well, go back to the drawing board and come back with some novelty.”?  If you seek out novelty instead of squelching it, you’ll get more novelty.  That’s a rule, though not limited to novelty.

A bias toward best practices is a bias toward old work.  And the belief underpinning those biases is the belief that the Universe is static.  And the one thing the Universe doesn’t like to be called is static.  The Universe prides itself on its dynamic character and unpredictable nature.  And the Universe isn’t above using karma to punish those who call it names.

“Stonecold certainty” by philwirks is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

The Discomfort Around Diversity of Perspective

When your organization doesn’t want to hear your truth because it contradicts a decision they’ve already made, that’s a sign of trouble.  It’s a sign they’re going to do what they’re going to and they don’t care all that much about you. But, what if they’re wrong?  And what if your perspective could snatch victory from the flames of an impending train wreck?  As someone who cares about the company and thinks it would benefit from hearing what you have to say, what do you do?

When you have a culture that makes it clear it’s not okay to share divergent perspectives, you have a big problem.

In domains of high uncertainty, increasing the diversity of perspective is the single most important thing we can do to see things more clearly.  In these situations, what matters is the diversity of culture, of heritage, of education, of upbringing, and of experiences. What matters is the diversity of perspective; what matters is the level of divergence among the collective opinions, and what matters most is listening and validating all that diversity.

If you have the diversity of culture, heritage, education, and experience, congratulations. But, if you’re not willing to listen to what that diversity has to say, you’re better off not having it.  It’s far less expensive if you don’t have it and far fewer people will be angry when you don’t listen to them. But, there’s a downside – you’ll go out of business sooner.

When you have a perspective that’s different than the Collective’s, share it. And when there are negative consequences for sharing it, accept them.  And, rinse and repeat until you get promoted or fired.

“A Sense of Perspective” by dolbinator1000 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Our behavior is our choice.

Disagreement is fine as long as it’s founded on mutual respect. There’s no place for violence

Both sides don’t have to like each other to work together, but nonviolence must carry the day.

Our differences may be significant, but never large enough to justify violence.

We have more in common than we realize. When we hold onto that we create space for nonviolent solutions.

We all breathe the same air, we all want the best for our family, and we all want the best for our county. When we remember that, there’s no place for violence.

Violence is a choice, but it’s an unskillful one.

Nonviolence is a choice, and it’s a skillful one.

In all that I do, I will choose nonviolence.

What will you choose?

“Ghandi cor 02” by Luiz Fernando Reis MMF is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Giving Continuum

I don’t give – regardless of the situation, there is no giving.

I won’t give – in this situation, there is no giving.

I cannot give – there’s a reason for the non-giving.

I might give – there’s something about this situation that could result in giving.

I almost gave – there was strong consideration of giving.

I will give – in the future there will be giving.

I gave, but I got more – there was more getting than giving.

I gave, but I also got – there was a little getting, but far more giving.

I gave, but I got credit – getting credit helped, but there was giving.

I gave – in this situation, there was giving for the sake of giving.

I gave, and could spare it – there was surplus, and in this situation, there was giving.

I planned, saved, and gave – there was forethought to the giving.

I gave more than I saved – there was a lot of forethought, and far more giving.

 

I’ve found that the size of the gift doesn’t matter. What matters is the giving.

I’ve found that giving is for the giver.

I’ve found that giving is like getting twice.

I’ve found that giving creates givers.

 

Thanks for giving when you can.

Thanks for giving when it’s difficult for others to ask.

Thanks for giving when no one else sees the need.

Thanks for giving when no one is looking.

 

Wherever you are on the giving continuum, thanks for giving.

 

“Give a big hand to…..” by Andrew Pescod is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Do you have a problem?

If it’s your problem, fix it. If it’s not your problem, let someone else fix it.

If you fix someone else’s problem, you prevent the organization from fixing the root cause.

If you see a problem, say something.

If you see a problem, you have an obligation to do something, but not an obligation to fix it.

If someone tries to give you their stinky problem and you don’t accept it, it’s still theirs.

If you think the problem is a symptom of a bigger problem, fixing the small problem doesn’t fix anything.

If someone isn’t solving their problem, maybe they don’t know they have a problem.

If someone you care about has a problem, help them.

If someone you don’t care about has a problem, help them, too.

If you don’t have a problem, there can be no progress.

If you make progress, you likely solved a problem.

If you create the right problem the right way, you presuppose the right solution.

If you create the right problem in the right way, the right people will have to solve it.

If you want to create a compelling solution, shine a light on a compelling problem.

If there’s a big problem but no one wants to admit it, do the work that makes it look like the car crash it is.

If you shine a light on a big problem, the owner of the problem won’t like it.

If you shine a light on a big problem, make sure you’re in a position to help the problem owner.

If you’re not willing to contribute to solving the problem, you have no right to shine a light on it.

If you can’t solve the problem, it’s because you’ve defined it poorly.

Problem definition is problem-solving.

If you don’t have a problem, there’s no problem.

And if there’s no problem, there can be no solution. And that’s a big problem.

If you don’t have a problem, how can you have a solution?

If you want to create the right problem, create one that tugs on the ego.

If you want to shine a light on an ego-threatening problem, make it as compelling as a car crash – skid marks and all.

If shining a light on a problem will make someone look bad, give them an opportunity to own it, and then turn on the lights.

If shining a light on a problem will make someone look bad, so be it.

If it’s not your problem, keep your hands in your pockets or it will become your problem.

But no one can give you their problem without your consent.

If you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t, the problem at hand isn’t your biggest problem.

If you see a problem but it’s not yours to fix, you’re not obliged to fix it, but you are obliged to shine a light on it.

When it comes to problems, when you see something, say something.

But, if shining a light on a big problem is a problem, well, you have a bigger problem.

“No Problem!” by Andy Morffew is licensed under CC BY 2.0

How To Know If You Are Trusted

When you have trust, people tell you the truth.

When you don’t have trust, people tell you what you want to hear.

 

When you have trust, people tell you when others tell you what you want to hear.

When you don’t have trust, people watch others tell you what you want to hear.

 

When you have trust, you can talk about the inconvenient truth.

When you don’t have trust, you can’t.

 

When you have trust, you can ask for something unreasonable and people try to do it.

When you don’t have trust, they don’t.

 

When you have trust, you don’t need organizational power.

When you have organizational power, you better have trust.

 

When you have trust, you can violate the rules of success.

When you don’t have trust, you must toe the line.

 

When you have trust, you can go deep into the organization to get things done.

When you don’t have trust, you go to the managers and cross your fingers.

 

When you have trust, cross-organization alignment emerges mysteriously from the mist.

When you don’t have trust, you create a steering team.

 

When you do have trust, the Trust Network does whatever it takes.

When you don’t have trust, people work the rule.

 

When you have trust, you do what’s right.

When you don’t have trust, you do what you’re told.

 

When you have trust, you don’t need a corporate initiative because people do what you ask.

When you don’t have trust, you need a dedicated team to run your corporate initiatives.

 

When you have trust, you don’t need control.

When you don’t have trust, control works until you get tired.

 

When you have trust, productivity soars because people decide what to do and do it.

When you don’t have trust, your bandwidth limits productivity because you make all the decisions.

 

When you have trust, you send a team member to the meeting and empower them to speak for you.

When you don’t have trust, you call the meeting, you do the talking, and everyone else listens.

 

When you have trust, it’s because you’ve earned it.

When you don’t have trust, it’s because you haven’t.

 

If I had to choose between trust and control, I’d choose trust.

Trust is more powerful than control.

 

Image credit — “Hawk Conservancy Trust, Andover” by MarilynJane is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Mike Shipulski Mike Shipulski
Subscribe via Email

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Archives