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Archive of Point Lookout for 2016

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A schematic of a symmetric virtual meetingComing September 28: Favor Symmetric Virtual Meetings
Virtual meetings are notorious for generating more frustration than useful output. One cause of the difficulties is asymmetry in the way we connect to virtual meetings. Available here and by RSS on September 28.
Astronauts Musgrave and Hoffman install corrective optics during the Hubble Telescope's Service Mission 1And on October 5: How We Waste Time: Part I
Time is the one workplace resource that's evenly distributed. Everyone gets exactly the same share, but some use it more wisely than others. Here's a little catalog of ways we waste time. Available here and by RSS on October 5.

This page has links to articles from 2016. For other years:

September 21, 2016

Police line tapeCounterproductive Knowledge Work Behavior
With the emergence of knowledge-oriented workplaces, counterproductive work behavior is taking on new forms that are rare or inherently impossible in workplaces where knowledge plays a less central role. Here are some examples.

September 14, 2016

A pitcher plantBehavioral Indicators of Political Risk
Avoiding dangerous political interactions is easier if you know what to look for. Among the indicators of possible trouble are the behaviors of the people around you.

September 7, 2016

A forest fireCultural Indicators of Political Risk
Because of fire risk, hiking in dry forests during dry seasons can be dangerous. In the forest, we stay safe from fire if we attend to the indicators of fire risk. In the workplace, do you know the indicators of political risk?

August 31, 2016

Cherry blossoms, some open, some closedContributions, Open and Closed
We can classify contributions to discussions according to the likelihood that they stimulate new thought. The more open they are, the more they stimulate new thought. How can we encourage open contributions?

August 24, 2016

Airliner coach seatingVirtual Teams Need Generous Travel Budgets
Although virtual team members who happen to be co-located do meet from time to time, meetings of people who reside at different sites are often severely restricted by tight or non-existent travel budgets. Such restrictions, intended to save money, can contribute to expensive delays and errors.

August 17, 2016

The "Good Work" team of Damon, Csíkszentmihályi, and GardnerCosts of the Catch-Me-Up Anti-Pattern: Part II
When we interrupt a meeting to recap the action so far for a late-arriving attendee, the cost of the recap itself is just the beginning. There are some less-obvious costs that can be even greater.

August 10, 2016

Time is moneyCosts of the Catch-Me-Up Anti-Pattern: Part I
Your meetings start on time, but some people are habitually late. When they arrive, they ask, "What did I miss? Catch me up." This is an expensive way to do business. How expensive is it?

August 3, 2016

Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Frank MurphyThe Passion-Professionalism Paradox
Changing the direction of a group or a company requires passion and professionalism, two attributes often in tension. Here's one possible way to resolve that tension.

July 27, 2016

North Fork Fire in Yellowstone, 1988The Risks of Too Many Projects: Part II
Although taking on too many projects risks defocusing the organization, the problems just begin there. Here are three more ways over-commitment causes organizations to waste resources or lose opportunities.

July 20, 2016

Rapids in a northern streamThe Risks of Too Many Projects: Part I
Some organizations try to run too many development projects at once. Whether developing new offerings, or working to improve the organization itself, taking on too many projects can defocus the organization and depress performance.

July 13, 2016

Prof. Jack Brehm, who developed the theory of psychological reactanceCognitive Biases and Influence: Part II
Most advice about influencing others offers intentional tactics. Yet, the techniques we actually use are often unintentional, and we're therefore unaware of them. Among these are tactics exploiting cognitive biases.

July 6, 2016

An actual bandwagon in a circus paradeCognitive Biases and Influence: Part I
The techniques of influence include inadvertent — and not-so-inadvertent — uses of cognitive biases. They are one way we lead each other to accept or decide things that rationality cannot support.

June 29, 2016

A Great Grey OwlHow to Waste Time in Virtual Meetings
Nearly everyone hates meetings, and virtual meetings are at the top of most people's lists. Here's a catalog of some of the worst practices.

June 22, 2016

Elephants fightingHow to Waste Time in Meetings
Nearly everyone hates meetings. The main complaint: they're mostly a waste of time. The main cause: us. Here's a field manual for people who want to waste even more time.

June 15, 2016

A particularly complicated but well-ordered utility poleThe Utility Pole Anti-Pattern: Part II
Complex organizational processes can delay action. They can set people against one other and prevent organizations from achieving their objectives. In this Part II of our examination of these complexities, we look into what keeps processes complicated, and how to deal with them.

June 8, 2016

An outstanding example of the Utility Pole anti-patternThe Utility Pole Anti-Pattern: Part I
Organizational processes can get so complicated that nobody actually knows how they work. If getting something done takes too long, the organization can't lead its markets, or even catch up to the leaders. Why does this happen?

June 1, 2016

An outstanding example of the Utility Pole anti-patternWorkplace Anti-Patterns
We find patterns of counter-effective behavior — anti-patterns — in every part of life, including the workplace. Why? What are their features?

May 25, 2016

A bottlenose dolphinWacky Words of Wisdom: Part V
Adages, aphorisms, and "words of wisdom" are true often enough that we accept them as universal. They aren't. Here's Part V of some widely held beliefs that mislead us at work.

May 18, 2016

A piece of chocolate cakeEgo Depletion and Priority Setting
Setting priorities for tasks is tricky when we find the tasks unappealing, because we have limited energy for self-control. Here are some strategies for limiting these effects on priority setting.

May 11, 2016

Dr. Ben Carson speaking at CPAC 2015 in Washington, D.C., on 26 February 2015Characterization Risk
To characterize is to offer a description of a person, event, or concept. Characterizations are usually judgmental, and usually serve one side of a debate. And they often make trouble.

May 4, 2016

Magic Lantern Slide of a dog jumping through a hoopJust-In-Time Hoop-Jumping
Securing approvals for projects, proposals, or other efforts is often called "jumping through hoops." Hoop-jumping can be time-consuming and frustrating. Here are some suggestions for jumping through hoops efficiently.

April 27, 2016

Two varieties of "Stupid" buttonsPushing the "Stupid" Button
Some people know exactly how to lead others to feel ignorant or unintelligent. Here's a little catalog of tactics to watch for.

April 20, 2016

A virtual team as a networkVirtual Brainstorming: Part II
When virtual teams must brainstorm, they try to do so virtually. But brainstorming isn't just another meeting. There's a real risk that virtual brainstorms might produce inadequate results. Here's Part II of some suggestions for reducing the risk.

April 13, 2016

A globe puzzleVirtual Brainstorming: Part I
When we need to brainstorm, meeting virtually carries a risk that our results might be problematic. Here's Part I of some steps to take to reduce the risk.

April 6, 2016

The deadline at Rock Island Prison during the U.S. Civil WarIrrational Deadlines
Some deadlines are so unrealistic that from the outset we know we'll never meet them. Yet we keep setting (and accepting) irrational deadlines. Why does this happen?

March 30, 2016

An example of a Weaver's PathwayStill More Things I've Learned Along the Way
When I have an important insight, or when I'm taught a lesson, I write it down. Here's another batch from my personal collection.

March 23, 2016

Erich Friedrich Wilhelm Ludendorff (1865-1937) was a German general and politicianBackstabbing
Much of what we call backstabbing is actually just straightforward attack — nasty, unethical, even evil, but not backstabbing. What is backstabbing?

March 16, 2016

The Costanza MatrixThe Costanza Matrix
The Seinfeld character "George Costanza" is famous for having said, "It's not a lie if you believe it." What if you don't believe it and it's true? Some musings.

March 9, 2016

Conferees attending the NATO Lessons Learned Conferencde 2015How to Find Lessons to Learn
When we conduct Lessons Learned sessions, how can we ensure that we find all the important lessons to be learned? Here's one method.

March 2, 2016

A collaborative discussionAllocating Airtime: Part II
Much has been said about people who don't get a fair chance to speak at meetings. We've even devised processes intended to more fairly allocate speaking time. What's happening here?

February 24, 2016

Donald Trump, a candidate for the nomination of the Republican Party for President in 2016Allocating Airtime: Part I
The problem of people who dominate meetings is so serious that we've even devised processes intended to more fairly allocate speaking time. What's happening here?

February 17, 2016

A dense Lodgepole Pine stand in Yellowstone National Park in the United StatesConversation Despots
Some people insist that conversations reach their personally favored conclusions, no matter what others want. Here are some of their tactics.

February 10, 2016

U.S. Troops in Viet Nam, 1961-1968Patterns of Conflict Escalation: Part II
When simple workplace disagreements evolve into workplace warfare, they often do so following recognizable patterns. If we can recognize the patterns early, we can intervene to prevent serious damage to relationships. Here's Part II of a catalog of some of those patterns.

February 3, 2016

Sen. Robert Packwood, Republican of OregonPatterns of Conflict Escalation: Part I
Toxic workplace conflicts often begin as simple disagreements. Many then evolve into intensely toxic conflict following recognizable patterns.

January 27, 2016

Artist's conception of an asteroid belt around the star VegaVirtual Clutter: Part II
Thorough de-cluttering at work involves more than organizing equipment and those piles of documents that tend to accumulate so mysteriously. We must also address the countless non-physical entities that make work life so complicated — the virtual clutter.

January 20, 2016

Clutter in the Leonardo Module of the International Space StationVirtual Clutter: Part I
With some Web searching, you can find abundant advice for decluttering your home or office. And people are even thinking about decluttering email inboxes. But the problem of clutter is far more widespread.

January 13, 2016

A curious babyWhen Fixing It Doesn't Fix It: Part II
When complex systems misbehave, repairs can require deep thought, inspiration, and careful reasoning. Here are guidelines for a systematic approach to repairing complex systems.

January 6, 2016

Vintage slot machine at the Casino Legends Hall of Fame at the Tropicana Las Vegas Casino Hotel Resort, NevadaWhen Fixing It Doesn't Fix It: Part I
When complex systems misbehave, a common urge is to find any way at all to end the misbehavior. Succumbing to that urge can be a big mistake. Here's why we succumb.

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