Ounce of Perception

In the loop

“Keep me in the loop.”

This all too common expression is – or should be – the bane of anyone trying to implement, or just use, a community approach of working out loud for collaboration and communication. What it really means is…

I want to know what’s going on with your project, but I don’t care enough to actually spend my own time keeping up with what’s going, so please take time out of your own busy schedule and figure out what information I need to know and then make sure you get it to me. I may or may not bother to read it once you’ve sent it to me.

The next time someone asks you to “keep me in the loop”, let them know where the conversation is happening and offer to grant them access. If they don’t take you up on it, then they don’t really care. If they do take you up on it, they may never join in. But they might, and their participation will be that much more valuable because they are there intentionally, not accidentally.

This goes both ways. Next time someone talks to you about a project that you are interested in, don’t ask them to keep you in the loop. Instead, ask them, “How can I join the conversation?”


Pound of Obscure

From Euan Semple:

Normality is overrated. In fact it is dangerous. It erodes our ability to be our true selves as individuals, can cause unhappiness in those who through no fault of their own are “not normal”, and gives us the tribal excuse to behave appallingly to our fellow man.

As a somewhat un-normal person myself, and parent of two quite unique sons, I’ve seen this “cause unhappiness” all too often through the years. Most often it is unintentional, but there are times when the “tribal excuse to behave appallingly” is relished and the unhappiness is quite intentionally caused.

An example came across my Facebook feed today from a friend who posted about some issues with trolls on a site intended for autistic children:

A troll tried to get on [site] today. We asked why. He said: “I found out about a server with only autistic kids, its a trolls [sic] dream.”


Ounce of Perception

Meetings in the age of working out loud

Working out loud is typically looked at from the point of view of the person doing the work out loud, with tips and ideas on how to work out loud more effectively. But it is also important for those who are “consuming” this out loud work to understand the process and how they can leverage it in their own work. No one has more to gain, and probably more to learn, from working out loud than the managers of those doing the work. Consider, for example, meetings.


Meetings, in general, assume that the process of work is hidden and that the only thing that matters are the results or, in many cases, the current state of the work. So managers will call meetings, or even worse schedule recurring meetings on a regular basis. These meetings are often set for an hour, because that is the default in Outlook and generally the time blocks by which conference rooms are scheduled.

What other factors do you take into account when you plan / schedule a meeting? Some items might include:

  • Agenda

Actually, if you don’t count the availability of a conference room, the only real consideration in the scheduling of most meetings is the agenda, even though it is more likely than not that the agenda is more an outline or a “let’s go around the room so everyone can fill everyone else in on what they have been working on”.  The “this is what we’re going to talk about” gets a lot of attention, the “what do we want to achieve” gets a bit less, and the “how does this contribute to our work” gets barely any attention at all.

When, of course, the most important aspect of meetings, the easiest to measure, and the most overlooked – dare I say ignored – is the bottom line. The value of the meeting. (Not just the cost, but the return you get on paying that cost.)

From the book ReWork:

When you think about it, the true cost of meetings is staggering. Let’s say you’re going to schedule a meeting that lasts one hour, and you invite ten people to attend. That’s actually a ten-hour meeting, not a one-hour meeting. Your trading ten hours of productivity for one hour of meeting time. And it’s probably more like fifteen hours, because there are mental switching costs that come with stopping what you’re doing, going somewhere else to meet, and then resuming what you were doing beforehand.

Which doesn’t take into account the productivity loss for the time required to prepare for the meeting, type up and distribute notes, etc….

When it is possible to work out loud, however, the work is not (need not be) hidden and the current state of work, along with all of the context that goes with it, is readily available to all who may need to see it. Including managers. But this requires a change in how managers approach management, and how they interact with the people who report to them.

Instead of asking to be “kept in the loop” through individual emails or by scheduling meetings, it becomes incumbent on the manager to ensure that their employees are working out loud and that they, the manager, keep themselves in the loop.

Thinking in bits isn’t just about changing the way we design forms to collect information or using fancy techniques to push customized content to our users. It also has far reaching implications and potential in how we design our work and the organizations in which we perform that work.


Ounce of Perception

KM vs LSS vs CPI

A coworker posed a question today on one of our internal discussion areas looking for thoughts on the differences between knowledge management (KM), Lean Six Sigma (LSS), and Continuous Process Improvement (CPI). I know a little about KM, not so much about LSS and CPI, but took a stab at a response anyway. Here’s what I came up with:

  • KM is about things you don’t yet know how to do or that you have never done
  • LSS is about doing better that which you already know how to do in the way you already know how to do them
  • CPI is about finding better ways to do what you already know how to do

Each has its place, depending on what you are trying to accomplish, it’s not an all or nothing proposition. Just as organizations need a good mix of structure and fluidity, they need a mix of sustaining and improving on the things that are necessary and learning new things. And, yes, I’d say that there is some correlation between these, where the infrastructure will typically benefit from increased efficiency (LSS, CPI) and operations needs the ability to learn and grow (KM).

Unfortunately, “all or nothing” seems to be the default approach of many as they try to improve an organization. But just as the means of keeping the human body healthy is different and distinct from learning a new language, the processes and tools we implement to keep our organizational infrastructure healthy differ drastically from the way we interact with our operational environment.

A better analogy may be the training of an athlete. The athlete trains both body and mind together towards a single goal, building up from perfecting the basics (LSS), learning how to combine the basics into effective combinations (CPI), and ultimately pulling on this past training and effective interpretation of the environment in which they are performing to achieve something they had not done before (KM).

How would you describe the differences between KM, LSS, and CPI?