Wednesday Mar 17, 2010

How people actually develop - 70/20/10 rule

Many moons ago Sun introduced SunTOPS (Sun's Talent Optimization System) for development planning. Included in the notes, sadly I no longer have a copy, was this intriguing diagram:

how people write development plans versus how people actually develop

I've since found what I believe to be the underlying research behind this, it's the 70/20/10 model. There is a reference to it in the Princeton University Learning Process.

I've not found a reference to the idea that developmentactually plans usually turn this in its head - in other words, we incorrectly assume that development is 70% training, 20% learning from others, 10% job experience. If anyone knows where this came from please let me know.

According to Princeton:

70/20/10 learning concept was developed by Morgan McCall, Robert W. Eichinger, and Michael M. Lombardo at the Center for Creative Leadership and is specifically mentioned in The Career Architect Development Planner 3rd edition by Michael M. Lombardo and Robert W. Eichinger.

The seriously chunky and expensive The Career Architect Development Planner isn't in my local library or searchable on-line. I'd love to take a peek :-)

Thursday May 28, 2009

Working from home? Make sure you're adding unique value

Mechanical TurkInteresting article in the Guardian on crowdsourcing - companies using large numbers of distributed people rather than technology to solve problems.

While not directly related to working from home it struck a chord with me. I commented on Rands's article on "The Pond". One of the things I wrote was:

"One concern whether remote or not is that if my work is so precisely defined then the company may decide to contract the work elsewhere, possibly off-shore. Human nature means that the unquantifiable work that keeps me valued is so much more visible in the pond."

Occasionally I entertain the idea of working remotely so that I can live where I want to live and all the other good stuff around home working. The article was a useful reality check and had me thinking about where I and the people I work with add value.

Friday May 08, 2009

Rules, incentives and Barry Schwartz's call for "practical wisdom" - and what of goals?

Another extraordinary TED presentation, this time by Barry Schwartz on The real crisis? We stopped being wise. It echoes a theme I'm seeing in many areas around how an over-attention to goals, metrics, rules, incentives, etc not only demonstrates a lack of trust by those setting them, it actually encourages the very behaviour they are seeking to avoid.

I'm a little leery about SMART goals. It's in all the management books of course and as a manager I'm expected to set them but we tend to over-rely on them. As Barry says in his presentation, we need rules, we need incentives but not more and more of them. They have their place but understand the limitations. I also recommend When Goal Setting Goes Bad which discusses the working paper entitled Goals Gone Wild: The Systematic Side Effects of Over-Prescribing Goal Setting.

Barry talks about how any scheme of incentives can be subverted and calls for wisdom and ethics to be nurtured. There's a Wired interview with Barry where he says:

"When you rely on incentives, you undermine virtues. Then when you discover that you actually need people who want to do the right thing, those people don’t exist because you’ve crushed anyone’s desire to do the right thing with all these incentives. And if you bring in a new set of people to replace them — virtuous, moral people who want to do the right thing — and they’re subjected to the same set of incentives, they’re going to become just like the people they replaced.

I’m not talking about getting rid of incentives; people have to make a living. But people need to understand that rules and incentives aren’t enough…. The more rules and incentives you have, the less wisdom you will have. There needs to be room left on the one hand to nurture in people the desire to do the right thing and on the other hand to give them the tools so that they’ll know what the right thing is. This incredible pressure to increase payoffs is an obstacle to doing the right thing. You will never be able to create a system of incentives that rewards people for doing the right thing. The system of incentives may start out that way, but very quickly clever people will find ways to … game it."

Amen to that.

Thursday May 07, 2009

Recommending "Managing Humans" by by Michael Lopp (aka Rands)

Managing Humans cover picture

I thoroughly recommend the book "Managing Humans" by Rands, aka Michael Lopp. The pearls of wisdom come thick and fast, it's an easy read and you'll find plenty to laugh and cry about.

I'm a manager in Solaris sustaining - essentially we fix bugs in our released versions of Solaris - rather than product development which is more Rands territory. Having said that, there's lots of commonality between the roles.

It was recommended to me by Dave Walker, a colleague of mine here at Sun UK. It was his tip for the engineer-begat-manager - ie me.

All the chapters are available on-line in Rand's blog, eg Meeting Creatures, but the book neatly groups them and is handy for dipping in and out of when the mood takes you or the panic sets in :-)

You're a bad man Mr Gum cover pictureOn the theme of book reviews - for those with children I also have to recommend the "Mr Gum" books. Full of nonsense words, mad characters and slapstick humour. It certainly amused me and my children (4 and 7) were laughing out loud. Favourite quotes include this description of Padlock the bear:

"He was a proper fat shaggy rumble-me-tumble sort of a roly-poly flip-flap-flopper of a big brown bear"

I had to read that description out loud several nights in a row.

Please read to your children.

Friday Apr 17, 2009

The Knowledge Distortion Field


I'm sure there's a better term for this - the Knowledge Distortion Field is an observable effect created by those who know something that they are unable to share.

I've noticed it more as a manager as I'm privy to more confidential information such as personal details and management decisions. It's particularly noticeable when you yourself are also aware of the confidential information.

Probing the KDF is a little like the old Black Box game. Asking direct questions isn't allowed, or at least won't get you anywhere. Asking indirect questions or observing actions taken allows you to build up a picture.

Why do I mention this? It's simply something to be aware of no matter which side of the fence you sit. If you are in possession of confidential information be wary of any KDF you generate. If you are seeking that confidential information then quiet observation and indirect probing may help.

If anyone knows a better way of describing this I'd love to hear about it.

Tuesday Sep 30, 2008

Teaching critical thinking in schools?

Given my training in SGRT I'm interested in how critical thinking, call it rational management if you will, could be encouraged. In particular, now that I have children of my own, I'm wondering why problem solving, decision making and critical thinking in general is not taught in schools.

Lots of "joining the dots" here, I found a letter in New Scientist that suggests we should. Lynn Stoppelman, Reston, Virginia, US wrote:

... Improving risk literacy is more complicated than switching off the TV. To encourage more people to use rational, less emotional decision-making we must train youngsters in critical thinking skills before fearfulness born of insecurity becomes habitual - not wait until the last year of high school or the first year of college. Conscious parenting focused on raising secure infants who have benefited from a healthy attachment to a parental figure remains the fundamental way to ensure a clear-thinking society.

The original article requires a New Scientist subscription and is well worth a read.

There was a related article in the Guardian's "This column will change your life" by Oliver Burkeman which covered similar ground and is a shorter read - it gets to the point though:

... The researchers' basic point is this: when we lack definite information, we make very poor judgments, and we do so in predictable ways. ... The findings of Kahneman et al suggest a different approach: rather than trying to change that feeling in your gut from negative to positive, learn to be sceptical of your gut feeling, whether it's negative or positive - because there's good reason to believe your focus is completely wrong. (There are sound evolutionary explanations for why we ended up this way, but our brains were designed for an environment in which we no longer live.)

Fascinating stuff.

Update: Turns out there's a non-profit organization that supports the teaching of the basic KT principles in schools, check out Looks like it's aimed at teenagers - pass it on.

Wednesday Nov 07, 2007

Some other problem solving methodologies

Kepner Tregoe logoAs much as an aide-memoir for me as anyone else ... as a licensed Kepner Tregoe Program(me) Leader I'm interested in what other problem solving methodologies there are out there. The classic open question being "what else?".

So far I've found two:

This doesn't include more quality orientated concepts like Six Sigma and the 'Five Whys'. All fascinating stuff.

The footnote to this is the controversial Wikipedia Kepner Tregoe article which I really ought to contribute to at some point.

Wednesday Oct 03, 2007

Just finished reading "Goal-Free Living"

Goal-Free Living: How to Have the Life You Want NOW! by Stephen M. ShapiroJust finished reading "Goal-Free Living: How to Have the Life You Want NOW!" by Stephen M. Shapiro. Recommended reading for anyone who has that lurking suspicion that there's more to life than what they're doing.

I enjoyed reading the book and it was a refreshingly intelligent contrast to the more usual business/life/self-help books. Similar to the latter there's an element of "this worked for me, it can work for you too!" - Stephen has done very well as a motivational speaker - but he does document many people's goal-free successes - are we're talking happiness, not necessarily money.

There are some excellent reviews and interviews available so I won't duplicate that effort, check:

My personal take was one of identification. I'm a little wary of how we tend to identify ourselves when it suits us, much like horoscopes, however it rang true for me in a number of places. The book lists eight 'secrets' and then fleshes them out with details such as the how and why. While you could just read the secrets and put the book back on the shelf it's worthwhile reading about the people Stephen interviewed as he worked on the book. As copied from the Amazon Editorial Review ...

  1. Use a compass, not a map
  2. Have a sense of direction, and then let yourself wander and try new things on the way to fulfilling your aspirations.
  3. Trust that you are never lost
  4. Every seemingly wrong turn is an opportunity to learn and experience new things.
  5. Remember that opportunity knocks often, but sometimes softly
  6. While blindly pursuing our goals, we often miss unexpected and wonderful possibilities.
  7. Want what you have
  8. Measure your life by your own yardstick and appreciate who you are, what you do, and what you have . . . now.
  9. Seek out adventure
  10. Treat your life like the one-time-only journey it is and revel in new and different experiences.
  11. Become a people magnet
  12. Constantly seek, build, and nurture relationships with new people so that you always have the support and camaraderie of others.
  13. Embrace your limits
  14. Transform your inadequacies and boundaries into unique qualities you can use to your advantage.
  15. Remain detached
  16. Focus on the present, act with a commitment to the future, and avoid worrying about how things will turn out.

I particularly like 1 (use a compass not a map) and 4 (want what you have).

I was reminded of a BBC 1 documentary and accompanying book called "In Search of Happiness" by Angus Deayton. Superficially it was about finding the strangest things that people do that make them happy and make jokes about them. More fundamentally it illustrated that happiness is subjective and not necessarily the goal-orientated, financial, career-enhancing future we so often seek.

Note that 'goal-free' doesn't mean 'goal-less'. Read the book for more details.

In the meantime it is probably worth mentioning that I've taken a management role at Sun. Still working in the same area (Solaris Engineering) but understanding how the organisation and people work rather than the kernel. How goal-free is that?

Don't get me started on SMART goals. That's another blog entry ...

Wednesday May 09, 2007

Top 10 ways to make better decisions (New Scientist)

New Scientist this week has an excellent article on decision making. As I'm a Kepner-Tregoe program leader I'm interested in tools for decision making as Decision Analysis is one of the things we teach.

The text of the article is copyright but I hope it is acceptable to list the ten points:

1 Don't fear the consequences
2 Go with your gut instincts
3 Consider your emotions
4 Play the devil's advocate
5 Keep your eye on the ball
6 Don't cry over split milk
7 Look at it another way
8 Beware social pressures
9 Limit your options
10 Have someone else choose

As it covers lots of research into the psychology of decision making it doesn't go into any great depth but there are some illuminating findings in there.

Much of the research is about how satisfied we are with our decisions rather than whether we picked the best option. The two are related but not directly. This may be more important for individual decision making versus group decision making.

Some of the key points for me were:

  • Don't avoid making decisions, things rarely turn out as good or as bad as you expect.
  • Simple decisions can be analysed, complex decisions often work better with gut feeling. Not recommended for highly emotive issues.
  • Context, social pressures, emotions and how we frame the decision are all significant factors.
  • Too many choices leaves us less satisfied with our final choice.

In the context of Kepner-Tregoe Decision Analysis the use of rational process should avoid much of the FUD around decision making, at least that's what I find. That deals with items 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 10. As for the others ...

7 Look at it another way: One of the most important things to get right in the KT processes is the initial statement, the pithy synopsis of what it is you are doing. The wording of a decision statement is pivotal in the process. It's all too easy to colour your decision by inappropriate framing.

8 Beware social pressures: Either as an individual or as a group it's hard to avoid being swayed by everyone else. Good facilitation of the decision analysis process is vital and can avoid things like groupthink.

9 Limit your options: Faced with too many alternatives we usually screen them against our MUSTS and our highest weighted WANTS. For me, too many alternatives gives me analysis-fatigue :-)

Point 2 is also interesting as it illustrates that human beings are surprisingly good decision makers, analysis is not always necessary or productive. However, for business decisions satisfaction with the final choice may be less important than the financial implications. Having said that, I often wonder if the mark of true and good leadership (political, business, etc) is productive and effective decision making based on instinct.

Perhaps truly good leaders make any reasonable choice in a complex decision successful?

Friday May 05, 2006

Kepner Tregoe, Appreciative Inquiry and Appreciative Planning and Action

Now that I've checked-out as a Kepner Tregoe program leader I've been doing some background research and came across Appreciative Inquiry (AI) and Appreciative Planning and Action (APA).

From what I can tell it's a approach based on positive change rather than problems. Given the connections it has with Nepal I would guess that there's a Buddhist angle to this, cf Gross National Happiness (GNH).

Malcolm Odell appears to be a significant figure in this area. New World Coaching has him listed as:

Malcolm Odell, AI Consulting co-owner and creator of the Appreciative Planning and Action process (APA)

Malcolm wrote a review of the The New Rational Manager (ISBN 0-9715627-1-7). I've taken the liberty of make a PDF file of it here:

Food for thought.


Monday Mar 13, 2006

Psychometric testing I have known

A lunchtime discussion reminded me of the various psychometric tests I've seen. Here's a short summary:

  • DiSC (1920s)
    "Dimensions of Behaviour" which is a "Carlson Learning Company" product. I did this in the US on a one day course. Quite interesting. It claims to be one of the original psychometric tests.
  • Myers-Briggs (1940s)
    Not done this but it's very popular. I found a comparison of DiSC and Myers-Briggs. Essentially the former is an emotional and the latter an intellectual basis for how we behave.
  • Facet5 (1980s)
    A much more recent test. Flicking through a paper on the Development of Facet5 it sound like it builds on the older tests.

I had considered publishing the results of the DiSC and Facet5 tests I took but thought better of it :-)

Thursday Nov 03, 2005

Managing Human Performance - the Kepner Tregoe way

I'm currently training as a program leader for our Sun Global Resolution Troubleshooting (SGRT) process. This is our customised version of Kepner Tregoe and provides a systematic approach to effective problem solving, decision making and protecting actions plans.

OK, so it doesn't sound thrilling but having just re-done the course - which I first did in March 1997 - and expected to be bored, I was pleasantly surprised to find how interesting it was. The two program leaders, Graham and Dave, were excellent and what made it really work was how much everyone participated.

Graphic of Kepner Tregoe performance systemOne of the new aspects was applying their techniques to how people perform. They refer to a "performance system model" which has:

  • a situation
  • a performer
  • how they respond to the situation
  • the consequences and how they increase/decrease the probability that the behaviour will be repeated
  • feedback

Sometimes abbreviated to SPRCFb and clumsily pronounced "spruhk-fuhb".

I'm still reading the material on this but I did find an article by Jamie Weiss (of Kepner Tregoe) called The Fallacy of People Problems, and How to Solve Them. From what I could tell from quickly scanning the article it illustrates the techniques used. I plan to read it after I've reviewed my notes on this from the course.

As the material is copyright I won't quote it here but one of the examples of poor management was identifying a people problem where they were slamming the lids of drums so hard that the rust fell off the inside. Root causing why the rust was there in the first place seems an obvious step forward.

Like most of these things, what might be considered common sense isn't so common.




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