How you react to feedback determines if something is or isn’t a prototype

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Stop splitting hairs over what is and isn’t a prototype. Just know that a prototype is an input, not an output.

Okay…but how do you know if something is an input and output? Apply this simple rule of thumb. Say you’re getting feedback about your ideas from other people. If your reaction is “great”, then it’s an input. If your reaction is “son of a bitch!”, it’s an output.

Once you no longer value feedback, you’re past the point where prototyping can help. You’re just seeking approval. You’re also not designing anymore, you’re implementing. That’s only a bad if it’s not time to implement. Figuring out the timing for that is an entirely different conversation. Stay tuned…

There are only 3 good reasons to have a meeting

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Hating meetings is clichéd. Pointless ones destroy productivity while meaningful ones recharge your batteries. The key is to know what behavior is expected of you and the attendees before heading into one.

There are only 3 good reasons to have a meeting; to analyze information, make decisions, and spread the word. Everything else should, and could be handled better by other means.

  1. Analyze Information This is what I call a divergent meeting. The purpose is to explore options with the group. Whether that’s brainstorming, gathering evidence, or examining data, a group is more effective. A group’s consensus judgement is usually more accurate than any individual’s as long as there is structure around the analysis.
  2. Make Decisions This is what I call a convergent meeting. The purpose is to make a choice and move on. Ideally, these are preceded by a divergent meeting. A simple approach is to have a vote. Instead of two options, consider three – yea, nay, and I don’t have an opinion. That last option is critical. Without it, people feel compelled to fabricate opinions which drags out the decision-making process.
  3. Spread the Word This is what I call a dissemination meeting. The purpose is to get people up to speed on decisions made. These are best lead by one or two people who make their point succinctly and open the floor to questions and answers. These require some preparation by the leader. For this, you might want to have a deck prepared.

Whether you want to get all meta and label your meetings is up to you. It really depends on how much process your culture will support. Just don’t try to initiate these rules in the middle of a meeting when you see it going sideways. You’ll only frustrate people.

The key to making this work is to lay down these rules for all meetings before having anymore. This helps people identify the general purpose of meetings and sets expectations for the desired behaviors ahead of time.

You can have more meetings and more effective meetings without adding a layer of red tape. If you try this, let me know how it worked.

50 Shades of Telecommuting

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If there’s any lesson to be learned from all the brouhaha over Marissa Mayer, it’s not whether we should allow employees to telecommute. It’s that we’re incapable of having a meaningful conversation about people, technology, and policy. Gosh, it seems like yesterday, we were discussing whether a pregnant woman can be a CEO.

There’s no debate. Telecommuting can and does work. The enabling technologies are robust enough to support it, and there are plenty of successful companies that allow it. Yahoo! evidently isn’t one of them. People were abusing the policy, network logs proved this. Whether it’s from home, or the office, if people are blowing off work, they need to get to the root of the problem.

Personally, I’m ambivalent about telecommuting. I know I can do it, but not 100% of the time. Some of the work I do needs to be done in long stretches of time without distractions. Other times, I need to be around other people to make informed decision. I also enjoy other peoples’ company.

Here’s a short list of questions to ask yourself about telecommuting policies:

  1. Do you trust your employee? If you don’t think they’ll work at home, what makes you think they’ll work at the office?
  2. Is the telecommuter resourceful? Will they troubleshoot or call when they experience technical difficulties, or  just use it as an excuse to not work?
  3. Is the telecommuter trying to produce something such as a document or design? Maybe the office is too distracting.
  4. Are they trying to get work done, or just want to work from home? Maybe they don’t have enough to do.
  5. Does an employee’s productivity improve when they have flexibility? Some people actually do more work when they get to choose when and how it gets done.
  6. Do you prefer results or action? If you insist on people being on site 9-5, Monday through Friday, they will find a way to look busy.
  7. Would you consider yourself a control freak? Remember, these are adults. If you treat them as such they will act like one.

Telecommuting isn’t an appropriate option for everybody or every job. Instead, we should be looking at what positive things does it enable in the employee, not the same old one-size-fits-all policy sledgehammer.

 

 

 

13 Signs You Might be a Lifehacker

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  1. You won’t eat something unless it has a barcode.
  2. You only read articles written as top 10 lists.
  3. You scrapped your Arduino Cat Feeder project because your Raspberry-PI just showed up.
  4. You have an app called scatterplot that literally charts your bowel movements.
  5. You haven’t gotten laid in 653 days 12 hours 17 minutes and 14, 15, 16… seconds.
  6. You spent $1300 at Ikea to improve a $99 desk.
  7. You have never poached an egg because you’re still not sure of the best technique.
  8. You are going to spend this weekend consolidating your to-do lists, and next weekend segmenting it.
  9. You fail to see the irony of getting nothing done in the name of Getting Things Done.
  10. You shaved 2 seconds off the time it takes to fold a t-shirt.
  11. You only wear t-shirts.
  12. You use GitHub for your Tweets.
  13. You seek advice on how to seek advice.

Wrap-up for the week ending March 2, 2013

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What a week we had…

  • The Sequester, or blunt budget cuts across the board resulting in people losing their jobs and services went into effect Friday.
  • Sinkholes, sinkholes, sinkholes. Some poor guy in Florida lost his life after one opened up underneath his bedroom.
  • In what appears to be her first actual CEO-like move, Marissa Mayer calls for an end to telecommuting at Yahoo! to get the company’s collective shit together.

The Sequester seems like a big deal. Congress and Obama just let it happen. More signs that no one is interested in governing. Glad to see we the people could come up with billions of dollars in campaign donations to keep these folks employed, but they can’t be bothered to do the same for us.

Sinkholes are interesting, but not enough to crowd out other news topics as they have on CNN. I don’t watch it, but I do read their RSS feed. Literally, 4 out of 10 entries were about sinkholes this morning. It’s ironic to me, because “sinkhole” is an apt metaphor for CNN.

While I’m not as enamored of Marissa Mayer as some, she did go up a few notches in my book this week. It’s not whether telecommuting is all bad or all good (it’s relative). It’s because she made a decision that made her unpopular. Up until now, the only thing I’ve ever seen her do well is manage her personal brand. Making a tough and unpopular decision like this at least looks like something a serious CEO does. Maybe she needed everyone back at the office so they too could finally make their “Harlem Shake” video.