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)?


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


I’d like to start this post with my favorite saying:

A camel is a horse designed by committee.

There is a design-to-managerial pattern that might cause to the result from above. But only in case if applied incorrectly. In most cases it does work. It is described as:

Can you remove cues that people take for granted, to get them to think more about what they’re doing?


‘Naked roads’ with signage and markings removed can encourage pedestrians, cyclists and drivers to be more aware of each other’s presence.

That is a great pattern for management as well. If you want to find a cross-functional solution you should remove boundaries first. It does mean that if different levels of management and production people should find a solution together they should remove subordination rules.

E.g. if you want to find a cost saving opportunity and form a group of people from different departments with different titles to define the solution you should find the way to make them equal. Methods vary and can include rotation of moderator, adding a separate moderator who care of the result and ignore titles or defining the process when there is no way to use the power and so on.

This pattern is about making the structure flat when needed. It is tough step to do but worth it. The only and the very issue is to find the way not to build a camel when horse is needed. That’s it.

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