Using Data in Problem-Solving

Several years ago, I was called to help an organization that was experiencing system outages in their call center. After months of outages and no effective action, they appointed an Operations Analyst to collect data and get to the bottom of the problem. Once they had data, the managers met monthly to review it. At…

Continue Reading →

Fill in the blanks

I’ve been noticing what’s missing lately. In some ways, its harder to see what’s not there than what is. But there’s lost of useful information in what isn’t said, as well as what is. For example: A manager, talking about one of the people who reported to him said: “He’s difficult to manage.” What’s missing?…

Continue Reading →

Best at argument != Best ideas

I was talking to my friend Penny the other day about a team she coaches. There’s a really smart guy on the team. I’ll call him Bob. Most of the time Bob is an asset to the team. But when the team needs to decide on a technical solution under time pressure, he’s not. “But…

Continue Reading →

Fixing the Quick Fix

Here in the United States, our business culture tends to be action-oriented. We value the ability to think fast and act decisively. These qualities can be strengths. However, like most strengths, they can also be a weakness. Taking action when you don’t know the facts can lead to irreparable harm. Deciding too quickly before you’ve…

Continue Reading →

Bridging Structural Conflict: Same and Different

No two people or groups are the same, but their differences don’t have to force them apart. I recently talked to two groups who were feuding. On one side were the development teams, tasked with delivering new functionality every two weeks. On the other were the operations folks, who were charged with keeping the environment…

Continue Reading →

Seeing System Problems: Expand Your Field of Vision

One of the biggest mistakes people make is attributing system problems to individuals (and individual problems to the system).  If you try to solve the problem on the wrong level, you are doomed to fail. Here’s a simple yet classic example of trying to solve a systemic problem on the individual level. Bob Sutton recently…

Continue Reading →

The Confusing Field of Coaching

I noticed at the recent agile conference that there were lots of people who billed themselves as agile coaches, and several sessions on coaching. Seemed like more of both than in past years. I consider myself a coach, too, though not with a capital C.  I usually coach managers or teams, and sometimes coaches. Mostly,…

Continue Reading →

A Coaching Toolkit

As a coach, your job is not to solve or do—it’s to support other people as they develop skills and capabilities and as they solve problems on their own. When it comes to coaching, one size does not fit all. You need to have a variety of practices in your toolkit in order to approach…

Continue Reading →

Facing Up to the Truth

(c) 2001-2010 Esther Derby “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, Act II, Scene 2 The other day I was skimming the Harvard Management Update when a section in bold red print caught my eye: “Why don’t more organizations stop and think? Because they…

Continue Reading →

Three States in Problem Solving

“Nothing is more dangerous than an idea, when it’s the only one you have.” Emile-Auguste Chartier There are three states in problem solving. Not enough ideas Too many ideas Just the right number of ideas In the first case (stuck) the task is to generate ideas. In the second case (stuck in churn) the task…

Continue Reading →