Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Holidays are efficiency killers

First of all, let me state that this post is a personal opinion. And, like any opinion, it relates to an individual's personal feeling and it's subject to interpretation. You can disagree with it. Also, note that I'll be using Christmas and the first day after New Years Eve as examples and I think they are actually the only two exceptions to my opinion.

So, I think Holidays are efficiency killers. Don't get me wrong, I'm even more addicted to my personal life than I am to my work, but there's just something wrong with our current calendar. Let me explain: This year, both Christmas and the first day after New Years Eve are on Thursday. For the "typical job", what that means is that we work 3 days, stop one day, then work Friday and then there's the weekend. This is bad news. It's a rhythm breaker. What I mean is that I like holidays, just like everyone else, but in our current world, we should consider adapting the holidays to a more logical calendar. It would be like a "disk defragmentation tool":

If you're spending the weekend 400km away from your work and someone tries to schedule a meeting to that same location on a Thursday, what would you do? Probably postpone the meeting to Friday right? That's efficiency: take the best out of the available resources in order to achieve a given task. If your birthday is on a Wednesday, you'll probably postpone the celebration party to Friday or Saturday because that way people can take the most out of the night (assuming they don't work on weekends). Why not do the same with holidays? If a holiday is on Thursday, why not move it to Friday? Apart from religious beliefs and similar issues, I can see no disadvantages on this "defragmenting" process. As a professional, It would be great: no rhythm breakers (not only for me, but because everyone else's rhythm breaking affects my work). As a life lover, three days in a row would allow much more fun and travelling.

As I stated in the first paragraph, I think Christmas and the first day after New Years Eve are actually the exceptions to the "defrag rule". And I know that due to religious, political and even financial issues this would be hard to implement, but it would be great...

Thursday, December 18, 2014

What's unique about Shark Tank (US)

I love Shark Tank (US). Until this show, I was only addicted to one TV Series in my entire life: It was the 90's, a series called Seinfeld (a name inherited from one of it's creators, a genius man by the name of Jerry Seinfeld). There's a big difference from Seinfeld to Shark Tank: while the first was a TV Series written by geniuses and cannot be replicated across countries or cultures, Shark Tank is actually replicable. The format is just the materialization of something that happens everyday: entrepreneurs pitch investors. And it happens everywhere around the world.

So, in Canada you have Dragons Den, in the US there's Shark Tank, and in Portugal we'll have Shark Tank too. As a marketplace of ideas, they all work great. If you just want to see ideas, then your time is well spent watching either one. However, there's one thing that you won't get anywhere else but the American Shark Tank: The entertainment show. It's just something that the Americans are really good at: setting up a Hollywood production. And that's why Dragons Den is miles away from Shark Tank as an entertainment show. And that's why the Portuguese version won't be as amazing as the US version. It will be good to see ideas and how entrepreneurs materialized those ideas, but as an entertainment show, I'm out!

Don't agree? Take a look at the Shark Tank's Top Secret Gag Reel below.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The power of feedback

Feedback is essential. Not just Feedback: but constructive feedback! We all know this, but do we really put it into practice every day?

Everybody recognizes that no work is done without a team and teams rely on people that need orientation. Nowadays, we even use "buzz words" like 360-degree evaluations which are based in a full 360-degree feedback input (if it's good or bad that's another topic). So, feedback plays a particularly important role in teams and individuals. It's a key element to a continuous improvement process because it's supposed to direct efforts towards improvements.

But how to give feedback? Where should you focus your feedback? How to be assertive and direct peoples efforts to the right track? There are 3 basic levels of focus:

  1. Task level
    – The focus is on a task, something an individual has to do;
    – It's where the focus should be and where there's higher margin to enable improvements;
    – Example: Feedback about writing a Word document.

  2. Learning level
    – The focus is on behaviours, something an individual can learn to improve daily processes;
    – Useful if it can lead to a better behavior in order to perform a task. Efficacy;
    – Example: Feedback about posture in a business meeting.

  3. Self
    – Dangerous: high probability of emotional reactions;
    – Comparison with the "ideal person" is a red flag;
    – Example: Feedback about the person's intelligence.

This is theory, but let's see examples (of negative feedback):

   "You're late. You're lazy. This can't happen again."
   "If you could be here 10 minutes earlier it would be great. It would allow us to talk more before the meeting and that would be awesome."

In the first quote, the focus is on the self. He's not the perfect stereotype, he's lazy. Now, turning tables, in the second quote the focus is no longer on the Self but on behavior. Yet, the message is the same: you're late!

   "You don't know how to work with Powerpoint."
   "Why not do a Powerpoint workshop? It would be of great value to your daily tasks and you could help us even more."

Can you pick on the difference? The first sentence is totally focused on the Self. The second has the exact same topic, the exact same problem, but now the focus is at the task level.

These two examples are a deviation of framing techniques: people react in different ways depending on how the information is presented to them. The Framing effect is actually more specific and even more interesting. Take a closer look at the "Research" topic in the WikiPage. Humans...

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

How focused are you?

Psychological factors play a huge role in our daily interaction. It's also one of the most interesting topics in project management.

Ready? Take a look at the following video:

How did you do? Here's another: Who did it?

What you witnessed belongs to Cognitive psychology. "Selective attention is simply the act of focusing on a particular object for a period of time, while simultaneously ignoring irrelevant information that is also occurring. This occurs on a daily basis and can be seen in how people pay attention to something and how much attention is given at that time. Because it is impossible to give attention to every stimulus in our environment, we use selective attention to select what stimulus are important as events occur."