Recently I read an article about the (alleged) fall of Holacracy and one part related to meetings draw my attention. I’m interested in the topic of meetings efficiency for quite a long time. It reminded me of a novel way of facilitating a meeting that I witnessed during a Sociocracy 3.0 training some time ago. What I read in the article somehow resonated with my own feelings and thoughts.

But let me start with the prevalent opinion about meetings nicely expressed by this tweet:

Surprised? I guess not. I know many people who think that “meeting = waste of time”(And BTW. my observation is, that the same people who complain about the meetings, act themselves in a way, which makes meetings a nightmare.)

Now, if you search for it, you will find a gazillion of advises on how to make meetings more efficient.

…but what actually happens when you try to squeeze the time spent on meeting to minimum aiming at making them as productive as possible? People should be happy, right? Hmm… not so fast. Read this quote from the aforementioned article:

As Zappos onboarded its employees to the system over the past four years, one of the biggest complaints, far and away, was around the rigid meeting format, which provides the guardrails for the system. Tactical meetings […] tightly govern how and when employees can speak up. The meetings, which typically are held once a week, open with a check-in round and then dive into checklists and metrics. […] there is “no discussion” during the check-in and closing rounds. In other words, there is no natural, back-and-forth conversation that begets camaraderie, respect, trust, and connection. No small talk.

Whoa, wait! That is really interesting, isn’t it? At one hand people are tired with meeting taking too long and often not bringing expected results. They are dead tired with some talkative assholes who waste time of everyone in the room. They want to reach decision quickly and go back to their work, right? They would love to end the endless debates and discussion.

And what happens when you actually give it to them? They are disappointed because “there is no natural, back-and-forth conversation that begets camaraderie, respect, trust, and connection” .

I find this really intriguing. Recently, when trying to start the process of effectiveness reviews, I experimented with strict facilitation rules (rounds & no discussion & no preamble). And I felt that some participants were not enjoying this formula (even if they witnessed its effectiveness). I wonder if what I try to achieve is so much against our human nature (and thus destined to fail) or maybe – and this is what I hope for – it is only an initial pain of doing things in a new way? Will see about this. 

As for now, my plan is to have the following deal with meeting participants:

  • during meetings, we get rid of “human element” as much as possible – we aim at efficiency,
  • after the meeting is finished then whoever feels like he wants to socialize does so (and let me tell you that our office provides plenty of ways to socialize!).

Would that work? Or maybe we are so used to the fact that the meetings are about socializing and small talk, and endless discussions that we won’t let it go no matter what?

 

Few months ago I published a list of books that I really, really wanted to read in 2015. 2015 is finished so I can now tell you how it went.

…and there isn’t much I can be proud of. Out of the 14 books I read.. well… around 3. Not exactly 3 because in fact I read 2 books and also halves of another 2 books. At first I was really disappointed when I realized this. But after some thinking, it doesn’t look so bad any more.

  • The list was published end of May 2015, which gave me only 7 month and not the whole year. Still the 3/14 ratio sucks big time.
  • I have read few books outside the list. Apparently, new topics (e.g. user stories) got my attention in 2015 and I decided to devote more time to them .
  • I have read numerous blog posts and watched many online presentations. It seems much easier to read/watch them than read a book. You can read a blog post during a short break but you can’t (or at least I can’t) read a book like this.
  • The books on my list were mostly about “background” stuff – things which aren’t urgent but crucial in the long term (think Eisenhower method important and not-urgent tasks). It is OK I haven’t read them all as long as I go back and pick one from time to time.

Now, what has it thought me?

  • Long list of books “to read in the nearest future” doesn’t work. I still have a list of “books I want to read one day” (and it is always growing and rarely shrinking) but I do not fool myself into thinking that I will eventually read all of them.
  • Sometimes reading a book is a waste of time – it is enough to read what others have learned from it (at this point it is hard not to mention Pierre Bayard’s “How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read”)
  • I have very limited time for reading books. I should pick them wisely so I do not waste it.

I will end my today’s mumblings with the quote of Stanisław Lem:

“No one reads;

if someone does read, he doesn’t understand;

if he understands, he immediately forgets.”

Enjoy reading, folks! 🙂

So you have just developed this new feature and your application can calculate things. Some very, very important things. Business people are happy. …at least for few days. Then they start asking questions. They want to know how the numbers you give were calculated.

This is a recurring pattern that I observe.

For the first time it happened to me few years ago. Back then I was working on some fancy system which allowed to calculate bonuses for sales of financial products. Oh my gosh, how many (stupid) rules where there! And they were time-bound and they changed oh-so-very-often. Marketing people were adding new rules (new bonuses) for different products on daily basis.

The software used Drools (ver. 2.0 if I remember correctly) and had a nice GUI so users could create quite sophisticated rules by clicking. It worked like a charm.

…and then they started asking questions.

Of course they wanted to know! After all, it was all about the money. And every salesrep had his/her own excel with calculation. And whenever our system said they should get less money than what their excel calculated then they wanted to know how the hell we calculated our result.

An interesting thing is, that they were always wrong. They made mistakes. They always did. They forgot some rule was no longer holding when they made a sale. Or that some other rule was only applicable when sales was over 20k. Or that they needed to sell 3 items of certain type and they sold only 2. Really, this is the kind of mistakes they made.
And we never made such mistakes. We calculated money without emotions. Our answers were right. But it was not enough.

Lesson learned: it is not a valid result unless you can explain to users why it is valid.

So after having our perfect system working perfectly we spent few more days on making it output not only the final result but also how it was achieved. As far as I remember, we ended up with list of all rules with green dash (rule applied) or red tick (not applied) next to each rule. It was enough to radically cut down number of questions.

After this I got a little bit wiser and now, whenever I feel users might be interested in learning about the reasoning behind the final result, I try to think about such features from the very beginning (no, it is not a YAGNI, cause you definitely gonna need it).
And the thing is that often it doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Few log entries with crucial data used for calculation might be enough. If someone asks all you have to do is to find the appropriate log lines. Once you get tired with logs browsing you can think about exposing this data via some API or even GUI. But this can wait.

…and if you do not implement anything to explain the result then you will spend your time writing (No)SQL queries so that you can understand why the answer you gave to your user was 44. Good luck!

The progress of computers and software has taught us, that there are not many things that can not be done. Linux, Google, Facebook, cloud computing, open source etc. has shocked us with solutions we hadn’t even dreamed about. Still, I often hear (and use myself) this phrase: “it can’t be done”. This post is about trying to understand what is really hidden behind these words.

Source: http://eaonpritchard.blogspot.com/
Peter Ustinov

No Time

Sometimes this simply means, that I don’t have time for this. Sometimes I don’t even have time to think if it is a good idea. I have so little time, that I don’t really care if it can or can not be done. I just don’t care. All I care about is to kill this idea before you get excited and make me ponder it over. So I say “it can’t be done” hoping that you’ll take this excuse for real, forget about it, and I will not be burdened with another task (because I really don’t have time, got it?).

Incompetence

I know nothing about this, and I feel incompetent. But because I’m afraid or ashamed to acknowledge it, I will tell you that “it can’t be done” in order to:

  • make you think that I know the subject,
  • convince you that there is no point in even trying.

We Really Can’t Do It

I know a lot about this, and I know, that if we were to discuss the details, we would end up with a conclusion, that this is too costly or that we more important things to do. Whatever the reason, I’m 100% sure, that we would end up deciding not to do it. So to spare us both the troubles of discussing it, I tell you that “it can’t be done”.

Not On My ToDo List

I know it can be done, but I have other more pressing (or interesting) things on my mind, or I am too lazy to do it. So I will tell you that “it can’t be done”, in hope that you get off.

Never Ever Before

If I tell you that “it can’t be done”, then I can simply mean, that we have never done it like that before. It also means I’m afraid to try. I’m afraid, because we may fail, and I don’t like failing at all. But I’m also afraid that it might work out pretty well. And then we would discover that we were doing things wrong (or suboptimal) all the time, that the new way is better, faster, easier, cheaper.
As you can see, it is simply safer to say that it can’t be done…

What Is Your Excuse?

Now, every time someone tells me, that “it can’t be done” I wonder which one of the above does he mean…