Management

Gamification - fad or fun?

The rise in "gamification" as a management technique to change staff or user behavior is simultaneously exciting and exasperating. Exciting because it means that managers are beginning to recognise that incentives are necessary to change behavior; exasperating because it claims some special insight into how incentives are implemented and managed.

For example, the recent KMWorld feature on KM behaviors and adoption through gamification talks about employees being given "an insight into the level of impact he or she is having across the organisation" and "being recognized and rewarded for that". Yes, the outcome is increased "impact of collaborative behaviors on the organization" (which is great!) but the reason is the recognition and reward, not gamification per se.

Put another way: if the game was there, but managers publicly or privately told staff "I see you've been wasting your time getting points with that collaboration leaderboard again", and over the long-term promotions went to people who ignored or gamed the system, then it would rapidly lose its effectiveness.

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On checklists, maturity models and methodologies

There is a lot of empirical evidence that shows checklists are one of the best ways to ensure consistency and quality in execution, even for domain experts.

And a maturity model is essentially just a slightly fancy checklist. So they should be a good
thing ... right?

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Managing unknown risks

David Griffiths has a post struggling with how to correctly plan around low-probability, high-impact events (a.k.a. "black swans").

He writes:

... we can talk about historic data from past events, but implications and impact will not be transferable ... We can talk about frequency, but we cannot predict the next event or a likely time-frame for that event. We can raise awareness, but we offer nothing ‘tangible’.

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What really matters?

Once, a team had to find a 20% saving in their budget. They were in despair since all of their costs were equally important and necessary to deliver their services. They decided to hold a workshop to work out what could be done.

The very first thing their moderator asked them was, "So, what would you do if you lost 50% of your budget?"

Sometimes tougher restrictions breed creativity and innovation in ways that fully-funded initiatives do not.

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Blameless portmortems

For organisations committed to continually improving, self-reflection is critical. I particularly liked Etsy's description of how they conduct blameless portmortems when something goes wrong:

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6 dimensions of optimisation

Pinched with gratitude from Bob Lewis and stored here for future reference:

[To improve] organizational effectiveness, [rank these six dimensions] in order of importance for each business function targeted for attention:

  • Fixed cost – the cost of turning the lights on before any work gets done
  • Incremental cost – the cost of processing one more item
  • Cycle time – how much time elapses processing one item from start to finish
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Running a complex project successfully

A great piece of investigative reporting from Bob Lewis. He discovered the Loch Ness Monster a SAP implementation project that finished ahead of schedule by the Japanese company Daiwa House Industry.

The lessons are entirely relevant to any complex project implementation.

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Key Snowden

Dave Snowden has come up with a lot of complex and interesting ideas over the years, but often mixed up in a way that makes it difficult to tease out the individual strands.

However, a recent blog post is an excellent summary of his current state of thinking and is well worth a read. But from this and by chasing down the relevant originating blog posts, here is a summary:

The benefits of KM are:

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Lessons from palliative care in communicating honestly

Sometimes I stumble across ideas that are so useful and simple that I wonder why they aren't globally known. The SPIKES protocol taught to medical students as an effective and compassionate way to break bad news falls into this category:

S: set up the interview
P: assess the patient's perception
I: obtain the patient's invitation
K: provide the knowledge
E: address the patient's emotions
S: establish a treatment strategy

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Types of organisational work

Organisational work can be broadly classed into four categories:

  • Process – work that needs to be completed in a defined manner to ensure consistency and repeatability, eg call centers, surveying, project management reporting.
  • Practice – work that requires people to use their judgement to determine the appropriate method of completing a particular task.
  • Discovery – innovative work that extends the range of available solutions within a field through invention or research.
  • Management – oversight and ongoing improvements of organisational work undertaken

Each type of work requires a different approach to staff retention:

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