Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Showing Progress vs. Making Progress Syndrome

You are working diligently on a new and exciting project. You’re making good progress on your project commitments, and it looks like, if everything continues to go as expected, you may even beat the planned time to reach your coming milestones. Everything is coming together as you hoped and expected. Things are going great. Life is good.

Then your boss comes in and says that a critical customer will be coming in for a visit in two weeks, and he wants to be able to show a working demo of the portion of the product that you have been working on. He wants you to make this your highest priority. You tell him that you can do this, but that it will have to involve a number of other people working on other areas of the project, and will likely delay delivery of what will be needed for the real product, as you and others will have to take time away from doing that real work in order to get something temporary together for this demo. Your boss says that’s what he wants you to do, as this customer is very important. You do it, and the customer seems happy, although it appears to you that what you demonstrated was really of only mild interest to that customer, who appeared to have other, more important, things he really wanted to discuss with your boss. Your boss seems happy with your demo, but otherwise occupied with other issues related to this critical customer.  In any event, you’ve done as you were asked and delivered a good working demo. Nice job, you think.

A month later, you (and the others who were involved) are now about two weeks behind in your project efforts, and your boss demands to know why and how this critical work got delayed. You remind him of the demo he asked you to prepare, but your boss says, “But that was only a quick demo! You never told me that it would delay the project [despite the fact that you did]. This delay is unacceptable and so is your performance! I want to know what you’re going to do to get the project back on track! You know that this project is your highest priority!” You have just become a victim of “Showing Progress vs. Making Progress Syndrome”. No good deed goes unpunished! [See The Schedule Estimate Extortion Game and  No Good Deed Goes Unpunished!]

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Shout Out to Ukraine!

Here's a special shout out to the blog viewers from the Ukraine! In the past few months the Ukraine has risen to third place in total page views on this Workplace Insanity blog since the blog started in June 2010, behind just the USA and the United Kingdom. I appreciate your interest! If there are any topics you would like me to address, please let me know. Thanks!

Tom Dennis

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Multiply Ideas by Sharing

You’re working on an important project and you’re determined to complete the project yourself, to demonstrate your capabilities and ability to deliver on a critical commitment. You have stubbornly refused the help generously offered by others, believing that doing so would show weakness and a lack of technical understanding and ability. But now you feel like a marathon runner who has ‘hit the wall’. You’ve exhausted all of the ideas you have to solve the many issues you’re grappling with, and aren’t sure what to try next, what to do next, or where to turn. But you’re afraid to admit that you’ve hit an impasse for fear that it will reflect badly on you and your currently positive reputation in your organization (see Embarrassment Rules the World? and Take the Time to Think!). What can you do to revive yourself, get your creative juices running again, and come up with new approaches to solve your problems?

If you want to spur new ideas, for yourself or for others in your organization, the best thing you can do is to share your ideas and ask for others in return. It may seem counterintuitive to you, but it’s true! You will multiply ideas by sharing them! There is a famous quotation from George Bernard Shaw: "If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas."

So swallow your pride. In your case, you’re about to experience “pride goeth before a fall” first hand! Your pride won’t mean much if you fail miserably on this critical assignment. One person can’t know all there is to know on a subject, as you’re learning first hand. Others will undoubtedly be able to bring a fresh perspective to your problems with many new ideas on ways to solve them. So search them out and ask for help!

This situation, though extreme, is far from rare. Even people who regularly share ideas and ask for help may find themselves in situations where they become reluctant to do so, for whatever reason. It is critical that they come to their senses and recognize the power of multiplying ideas by sharing

How does this work? First, you need to work up the courage to ask for help. Then you can start the process by throwing out one idea, and asking for more. That triggers an idea from another person, which provides an alternate route toward solving your problem. That idea triggers an idea from another person that turns the problem inside out and enables you and others to view the problem from an entirely different perspective with a range of not only new potential solutions, but also of new directions from which to attack the problem. Soon you have more ideas and approaches than you ever thought possible, all by simply asking others for their ideas and perspectives.