Roadblock

There is a pattern Roadblock in Architectural Lens described as:

Can you put things in users’ way, so they take an alternative route, or adjust their speed?

Example:

‘Chicanes’ can slow down drivers, pedestrians and cyclists; the crossing chicane prevents running or cycling straight across the road.

The same behavior you need from people sometimes. There are stages of the process that people are trying pass trough without paying a special attention. While they are crucial for success. That’s where roadblocks should exist.

For example: decision-making process. A manager gets a task. Finds the first possible solution and starts implementing it. However, you what him to move slowly. His goal not to find a solution but get the best possible one.

You have to put a roadblock here. Just force him prior starting the implementation to create a document. He should describe in one page the solution itself and at least two alternative solutions considered. That will force him to slow down while making a decision and think about an options and rationale. That is exactly what you need.

Disclaimer: there are cases when speed is crucial. The roadblock should be easier to pass then but still exists.

Inspired by: http://www.danlockton.com/dwi/Roadblock

Advertisements

Challenges and Targets


Challenges and Targets
are sweet words in the management. In design world this pattern is described as:

What happens if you set people a challenge, or give them a target to reach through what they’re doing?

Example:

Whoever laid out this coffee tub as a target for throwing coins knew a lot about influencing people to donate generously and enjoy it.

Being the key words in any book on management challenges and targets are usually missed in our everyday job. Our days are filled with routine. Most of people are not aware that this routine is aimed to the specific target. Each problem or mistake is perceived negatively as an obstacle while in reality it is positive challenge.

Managers should care about the way they see the job, the routine, the environment. It should be full of targets and challenges to face. Each achievement is making you stronger, better and moves you forward. Just try to feel it.

However, this post is about patterns. Challenges and Targets shows you the way how to run projects and set tasks to your employees. You should not just ask to do something but set specific targets and outline challenges to face. That will make the work itself more interesting and clear.

There are two key benefits here. First one is that you are not managing but doing a leadership that shifts you to another level. And the second one is that you focus people on result while they are usually focused on process. Together this way of setting tasks makes one personally interested in succeeding in it and sets the right priority of achieving the target.

Disclaimer: boring stuff is the part of our life. You cannot convert everything to a challenge.

Inspired by: http://www.danlockton.com/dwi/Challenges_&_targets

Partial Completion

Partial Completion is the pattern for today. In design world it is described as:

Can you show that the first stage of a process has been completed already, to give users confidence to do the next?

Example:

Pre-filled details such as delivery addresses can be an effective way of speeding up an order process and reducing ‘shopping cart abandonment’

In managerial world this pattern is very useful when you have to pass through natural resistance of people when doing something new. By nature humans afraid of leaving comfort zone. And when they have to pass that barrier they don’t know how to start and what to do.

Partial completion is the way to pass it. You provide a guidance and feeling that this is not a full size greenfield work. Partially completed work is psychologically accepted as a clear and easy to do. It might be just a template with several sentences but it helps.

As an example think about a case when you are mentoring interns. You have passed all necessary initial education and adaptation. It is the right time to give them a real world task. However, usually they are stalled with it. Even if they are 100% ready to implement it.

In case if they have to prepare a report, business plan or another document just give them a template with some sentences in it. When they are back with questions tell them that they shouldn’t care about the whole task and should populate it section by section. That will give them feeling that you control the flow and share responsibility. Surprisingly, they’ll do it quick and easy.

Disclaimer: Be sure that people are ready for the work. If they are not — partial completion doesn’t work. Another possible issue is that pre-filled information is accepted as 100% true while it might be not.

Inspired by: http://www.danlockton.com/dwi/Partial_completion

Fake Affordances

Let’s talk today about Fake Affordances pattern described as:

Is there anything to be gained from making something look like it works one way, while actually doing something else (or nothing at all)?

Example:

Many elevator/lift ‘door close’ buttons are reputedly ‘placebo buttons’, giving an illusion of control but not speeding up the process.

This is the best ever defined management-under-stress technique. When the project has a high visibility, tough delivery schedule or high risks there is an extreme attention from stakeholders. Thus, you have to manage not only the internal delivery itself but external control over it. The same problem exists when delay or non-crucial fail happens. All stakeholders are trying say what to do and how to fix.

Frankly speaking, in most cases you know the reasons and actions required yourself. Each suggestion slows you down. Each external influence affects the team. Thus, feel free to accept any suggestions and promise corrective actions just to give feeling of control to your stakeholders. This will save you time and keep your team focused.

You can use it with boss of your boss as well. Sometimes it happens when a top manager is trying to micromanage. He might be wrong due to lack of information. However, due to his power you cannot say “No” or “Maybe”. He expects immediate action. Thus, give a fake promise if needed. He’ll get what he wants: a feeling of control. And you’ll avoid acting the wrong way. At least immediately.

Disclaimer: there are two issues with this pattern. First, you might me be wrong. Second, you might be considered as a liar. Both are disaster to you. Take care.

Inspired by: http://www.danlockton.com/dwi/Fake_affordances

Angles

The next pattern I’d like to talk about goes from Architectural Lens. It’s name Angles and described as:

Can you slant or angle things so some actions are easier than others?

Example:

Some cigarette bins are sold to authorities using the sloping top as a feature, discouraging people leaving litter on top.

This pattern has great use in management. Policies, roles, organizational chart, titles, departments and so on makes the corporate environment rectangular. Everything has a definition and purpose. Unfortunately, it decreases the flexibility.

There are cases when rules set in the rectangular world don’t let you to achieve your goal and do a specific action. Think about changing the angle. It might help.

Let me give an example. You have a new project. You clearly understand that you are the right person to start it. However, if you become a project manager during the kick off your chances to step back are low. Customer will not accept this move. You have a dilemma: whether to let the project start slowly without you, or you do fast kick off and have to take part in it for a long time due to rectangular rules.

The solution is to call yourself an engagement manager and do your job. Don’t care if this title doesn’t exist in your company.

It is nice practice to change your title, organization chart position, role in the project or department name to ‘hack’ the system. This is exactly changing the angle solution. You are forming the layout that makes some actions difficult to make. E.g. if renaming project manager to engagement manager you make it difficult for the customer to keep you on the project for a long time.

Every time you face obstacles due to rectangular policies, job definitions or reporting dependencies think about changing the angle that creates new surface and makes your life easier.

Disclaimer: you should know that most of the people don’t like non 90 degrees things 😉

Inspired by: http://www.danlockton.com/dwi/Angles

Hiding Things

The pattern for today is Hiding things. Original description says:

Can you hide functions or elements you’d prefer people didn’t use?

And example is:

These church hall heating controls have been hidden (leaving only the timer accessible) to reduce errors by users unfamiliar with them

In managerial world this pattern has two major applications. Positive and negative as you guess. Being the good guy by nature I’d like to start with the positive one.

Hiding things is the good approach for writing documents, policies and so on. 80% of long document is a kind of over-complication. The core message usually takes less than two or three paragraphs and is useful for the most readers. Ten more pages are about minor details and facts behind the proposal. Just split your writing into two parts. A short message to fulfill  the needs of most of your users and a number of pages to provide background and details for some of them. Save the time to your readers.

I’m always looking for the executive summary section. In most cases it works perfectly well. All other chapters can be just scanned that saves time.

Unfortunately, the most positive pattern that makes usability happen in the real world becomes the dirty trick in the communication. This pattern is the brilliant way to put something in writing that not welcomed by the recipient. Just let me show several examples.

The first one is about corporate policies. Have you ever read them? The bigger company is the more complicated they are. As the result it is perfect place to hide something. E.g. your company has a policy that allows ordering pizza or taxi on a specific occasion. However, to use them you should find the right regulatory document. Surprisingly, there is no pizza or taxi ordering policy. It is part of a 60-page-long office space regulatory policy. Those who are aware are using the service. Others are suffering from the pattern. Whether it was done on purpose or not is the question to you. Bad author does it accidentally. The good one does it on purpose!

Another usage of this pattern is emailing. There are cases when you need to put disclaimer, notification or fact into the message to cover your back. However, the counterpart wouldn’t ever confirm this information. So, it is your turn to do the dirty Hiding Things pattern. Write the long message with two or three messages in it. Put you tiny message (that is expected to be skipped by the reader) right after the tough and intriguing question near the end of the message and cross your fingers. In 50% cases if not used daily it works.

Disclaimer: whatever reason you have to hide something you should think from the reader’s perspective. The most awful thing is when writer of the document can’t understand the reader properly. Hiding Things is the most dangerous pattern in this case.

PS: If you don’t you like politics and avoid even thinking about dirty tricks you are not ready for anything more intriguing and interesting but a line management.

Inspired by: http://www.danlockton.com/dwi/Hiding_things

Simplicity

Today I’d like to talk on the architectural pattern Simplicity. Original description says:

How simply can you structure things, to make it easier for users to do what you’d like them to do?

And example says:

EcoButton allows a user to put a computer into a low-power state with just one press, making it much easier for users to save energy.

When I look at this pattern from managerial point of view I see that this is the way we should use modern methodologies. E.g. Agile, RUP, ITIL in IT world or Six Sigma or Balanced Scorecard in general management.

Usually, people see the problem and can identify the methodology that should fix it. However, than they fight for pure implementation of it according to the book.

That is the place where problem begins. Any methodology is always too general and universal for your exact case. You solve your problem but bring unnecessary complexity. You are starting to obey new rules that are artificial to your process.

And that is the place where this must use pattern comes. Just make the methodology implementation as simple as possible. Remove every single procedure, document or rule that is not relevant to your case. Try to identify exact subset of the methodology that fixes your problem and throw away the stuff that is not needed.

It is absolutely clear that this sweeping looks like bad methodology implementation. But why should you care? Just take care of the initial problem to be solved. And while removing unnecessary complexity think of the reasons it was introduced in the original concept. There might be something that you are not aware of yet.

PS: God bless people who care about making agile more simple rather than fighting for its purity.

Inspired by: http://www.danlockton.com/dwi/Simplicity