As we discussed when we looked at the High Performance Cycle and goal setting, goals have momentum. In a more precise sense, success has momentum. When we are succeeding, we feel better about ourselves, our work, and the organization we are a part of. How we manage time plays a major role in our perceptions of success.
As we saw earlier [...]]]>
In chapter 9, we talked briefly about the time component of goals. Without a deadline, goals are not seen as particularly important. If we want a sense of urgency around our goals, we need to put a target date on them and we need to have check points along the way to monitor our progress. But if we become overly specific about scheduling every [...]]]>
Perhaps the best definition of time is that it is nature's way of keeping everything from happening at once. Unfortunately, that doesn't stop us from trying to do everything at once! Even more unfortunately, this approach triggers that feeling of being rushed and reduces our ability to get things done. It helps, therefore, to view time as a [...]]]>
Where oh where has my little week gone, where oh where has it gone?
It’s Thursday afternoon and that big project is due at 5pm. There’s no way you can finish it in the time you have available. No problem, you can just go to the time bank. All your life, people have been telling you that it’s important [...]]]>
I often hear the argument made that the effort involved in effective goal setting is really unnecessary so long as people just "do their best."
The problem with "do your best" is that "your best" is an arbitrary term. There is no real way to measure it or even know when you've arrived. Each person has [...]]]>
I have to confess to being very tired of the old aphorism, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” Planning to fail is actually a worthwhile exercise, while failing to plan is simply a good way to waste time and energy without any benefit at the end. Failure is a surprisingly useful tool, at [...]]]>
The cultural immune response is a phenomenon I discuss in my books, http://www.taftmidwaydriller.com/article/20131115/BLOGS/311159962/-1/blogs01
I’ve mentioned several times the concept of creating subgoals and how large goals generate a great many smaller goals. This process is known as goal decomposition. Goal decomposition is critical if we’re going to accomplish anything large or significant: a black belt in a martial art, a college degree, shipping a [...]]]>
If outcome goals are what we want to accomplish, then process goals are how we are going to do it. Process goals reflect those elements of the goal equation that are under our control: for example, the judo player might rehearse different throwing combinations, the fencer different combinations of blade work. A [...]]]>
We talk about goals a great deal. Every January I receive numerous articles touting the benefits of setting goals, and assuring me that if I just set goals then everything will magically work out Just Fine ™. I've lost track of the number of times I've walked into a company and asked people, "What are your goals?" only to [...]]]>
Once upon a time, there was a light bulb. This light bulb was quite a remarkable light bulb: it was praised far and wide for its incredible efficiency. This light bulb gave off no waste heat. This light bulb did not contribute to global warming. It had no carbon footprint. It did not rely on fossil fuels. Truly, [...]]]>
Gamification, or the art of using games in a business setting, is becoming extremely popular. Turning things into games promises to revolutionize productivity, training, and also wash dishes. Okay, maybe the dish washing is wishful thinking. Unfortunately, so is much of the promise of gamification. Fortunately, however, there are also some [...]]]>
Our discussion thus far has focused on individual learning with an organizational context. How, though, does an organization learn new skills?
An organization is, in a very real sense, not an actual physical entity. It is a conceptual construct held together by bonds of common purpose and culture. As we already know, culture is in the [...]]]>
Organizations develop attitudes around learning: when is it necessary? Who gets trained? Why are people trained? How are mistakes viewed? etc. These attitudes shape how learning is viewed and, to a very great extent, how successful learning is.
Many years ago, I was participating in a training exercise. As part of that exercise, I was [...]]]>
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Wow! I never expected that. To everyone who ordered a copy, Thank You!
The good news is that if you order it now, you can still get it more quickly than you can get an iPhone 5s.]]>
Fans of James Bond movies might recall a scene that goes something like this:
We are looking at an unidentified room. Two people we've never seen before are standing in front of a desk. We might be able to see the back of the head of the man who sits behind that desk. A voice rings out:
"You have failed SPECTRE. Number 3, why [...]]]>
When there's a problem, perhaps a critical deadline was missed or you lost an important client, what could be more fair and just than finding and punishing the person responsible? Surely fixing blame is the best way to make sure such problems don't happen again! Blame is, after all, a natural response when something goes wrong. It's what we do in [...]]]>
Our strengths are the things that we enjoy doing. The reason our strengths are strong is because we feel good when we succeed and so we do more. Weaknesses, on the other hand, are often things that do not provide any internal reward no matter how well we do them.
It is very easy to focus people on remediating [...]]]>
Feedback takes many forms. Equity, blame versus problem solving, and dealing with jerks provide feedback that tell people how the organization works and handles difficulties. In addition, there are the explicit feedback systems:
There is the feedback that people get that tells them how, and whether, the [...]]]>
My first jujitsu sensei would constantly yell at us to not reach for the ground when being thrown. His point was that if someone is throwing you and you yield to your natural reactions, you will try to catch yourself with an arm or a leg. In jujitsu, this is good way to end up with a broken arm or leg. What makes learning [...]]]>
"That doesn't sound good," says Flanagan.
"That sounds like a hungry bear!" replies Ahtear. "Don't you have a pot of honey or [...]]]>
That, of course, got me thinking about another kind of Apple. I didn’t really pay attention when they announced that the 5C would be available for pre-order starting today, but the 5S would not be. Both phones will be released on 20 September. [...]]]>
Last year, when Apple announced the iPhone 5, I commented that:
Don't get me wrong: the iPhone 5 is a beautiful piece of technology. I'll probably upgrade to one eventually (unless I decide to stick it out and see what the iPhone 6 looks like http://www.taftmidwaydriller.com/article/20130912/BLOGS/309129946/-1/blogs01
This is an excerpt from my new book, Organizational Psychology for Managers
The trap of looking for the perfect candidate manifests in a few different ways.
The first manifestation is something I refer to as the Godot Effect, based on Estragon's line in Waiting for Godot: "Personally, I wouldn't even know him if I saw him."
All too often, a prospective hire becomes the repository of every hope and [...]]]>
Near the end of the award winning movie, Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Aragon leads his pitifully small army to the Black Gate of Mordor, realm of Sauron the Dark Lord. Sauron's forces outnumber Aragorn's by easily a hundred to one. On the surface, there appears to be little chance of success. Indeed, during the planning of [...]]]>
One of the most important things you can do as a team is periodically celebrating progress. It is always more motivating to look at how far you've come rather than how far you have yet to go. Indeed, it's more motivating to say, "we're half done," than to say, "There's still half left to do." The two statements may be mathematically [...]]]>
The world is full of classic face-offs:
Red Sox vs. Yankees
King Kong vs. Godzilla
Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla
Dracula vs. Frankenstein
Kirk vs. Picard
They’re all [...]]]>
I've spent a lot of time talking about the perils of rewards, and now I'm going to talk about using rewards. Bear with me. As we discussed earlier, rewards can be very useful when they are a form of feedback. It's when they become the goal that they become problematic. The nature of the reward also matters: some rewards force us into the [...]]]>
So how do we escape from the motivation trap?
I've frequently walked into an organization and been told, "The problem is Phil. He's unmotivated."
When I chat with Phil, I quickly find out that he's a marathon runner, or a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, or volunteers in a homeless shelter, or one of dozens of other activities [...]]]>
When motivation is focused around rewards and punishments, it is being done to people not with them. There are several problems with this approach.
First of all, as we touched on in the previous chapter, rewards need to be used carefully in order to motivate appropriately. The classical image of using rewards and punishments, as [...]]]>
A question I get asked quite often is, "do nice guys finish last?"
The problem lies in the definition of nice.
Leaders should set high standards and then work like mad to help their team achieve those standards. That may require pushing people or telling them that they've screwed up.
There is a big difference [...]]]>
Effective communications comes from building trust, and trust comes from taking the time to build connections with employees and from, yes, communicating. The problem is that many people don't typically drop by to chat with the boss. If you only talk to the ones who do drop by, you end up with limited information and communications structure [...]]]>
– Lewis Carroll, Hunting of the Snark
Lewis Carroll billed the Hunting of the Snark as an "agony in eight fits." While it's not entirely clear what Carroll meant by this, the sentiment [...]]]>
A question I get asked all the time is some variant of, "What is a leader?" The question may be, "How do a I recognize a real leader?" or "What do true leaders look like?" or any of a dozen other versions of the question. I created a stretch of dead air on a radio show one time by responding, "Whatever we think a leader looks like." The host [...]]]>
While I was writing this, I was asked the question, "How important is hierarchy on a team? I've been told it's a problem. I'm responsible for 160 people, and I don't know what I'd do without a hierarchy."
Hierarchy is a tool. Whether it works for you or against you depends on how well you understand your tool and the situation in [...]]]>
Teams that don't work when the manager isn't around are legion. It's a common problem, and common wisdom suggests that the team members lack motivation or are trying to goof off: when the cat's away, and all that.
Common wisdom may sound good, but is often wrong. This is no exception.
Groups can get stuck when the leader [...]]]>
Imagine that first day on a new job working with a group of strangers: there you are, staring at your partners, wondering what to do. You don't want to admit that you don't know; after all, perhaps you're in this group by accident. Sure, they said that the selection process was careful, but they must have made a mistake in your case. If [...]]]>
Once upon a time, the late and unlamented Soviet Union decided to grow wheat in Siberia. Their logic was simple: by growing wheat in the inhospitable conditions of Siberia, the wheat would become stronger. The wheat, however, was indifferent to Soviet philosophy. Despite speeches, threats, and promises from the government, the wheat [...]]]>
I live in a small town west of Boston. Halloween is a big deal here. It doesn't matter which night of the week Halloween falls, that's the night the kids are out trick or treating. Naturally, the kids prefer it when Halloween falls on a Friday or Saturday night so that they don't have to worry about going to school the next day, but the [...]]]>
Communications get the blame for an awful lot of organizational problems. Sometimes it's even justified.
In order to function, members of any organization have to communicate with one another. If they don't, not a whole lot gets done. The trick is to recognize the patterns of communications and the nature of the message. [...]]]>
In creating the rest of the story, we need to recognize some basic facts: people operate in their own perceived best interest and people preferentially choose higher status over lower status. The problem is that we don't always know what they perceive their best interest to be, and we don't necessarily know how someone measures status. However, [...]]]>
Humans are pattern-matching creatures. We are built to try to make sense of our environment. Indeed, as more than one psychologist has observed, we see patterns even when they aren't there! This tendency toward pattern-matching is a very powerful tool, though, because it enables us to impose structure on our environment. If we've done [...]]]>
"That person might destroy our culture."
I hear that line often in organizations, usually to explain why a potential new hire was rejected. The logic of it is somewhat dubious since cultures are extremely robust and do not accept change easily. Indeed, far from being damaged by a new person joining, [...]]]>
Traditional systems engineering argues that we identify the key systems and then decompose them into progressively smaller systems. Thus, a helicopter might be decomposed into a flight subsystem and ground subsystem. The fight system can be further decomposed into a drive system and navigation system, and so [...]]]>
"We can't afford computers."
"How can we write software without computers?"
"You'll figure out a way."
It's hard to imagine a conversation like this happening in any company. The truth is, it's hard to imagine because it basically doesn't happen. No manager is crazy enough to tell his team to write software without computers. So let's posit a slightly different scenario:
After wading through the announcement, I was reminded of some of the restructuring announcements that IBM used to send out back in the late 1980s: long, boring, and ultimately pointless. It’s impressive to see how much Microsoft has really taken on IBM’s mantle… although [...]]]>
None of these problems were new problems… they were problems that the organization had [...]]]>
He has some good points, but he also misses a few key points as well.
He talks about finding out if the candidate has been excited in the past by work similar to what you’re hiring them for. While that’s one thing to look at, it’s [...]]]>
When you make it hard for someone to stand, something very interesting happens. The harder you make it, the more they fight back. Unless your opponent happens to be asleep or under the influence of mysterious hypnotic powers, the very act of attempting to force them off their feet triggers and instinctive and intense resistance. This happens even [...]]]>