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Tuesday, May 10, 2011


here are some excerpts from a newsletter I received from

1. Set quiet hours. Think about the times when you've found it easiest to concentrate. You probably aren't thinking of times when your phone was ringing, or when your neighbors were conversing loudly, or when your boss was visiting your desk bi-hourly with demands for "status updates." Distractions matter. Distractions kill good work. So try this: Set aside a 4-hour block, one day a week, to be "quiet hours." No talking; ringers off; no IMs; no desk visits. Just good old-fashioned silence. To learn more about the surprising power of this technique, check out our TechCrunch piece about people who've declared war on distractions.

Our team actually started doing this a few months back. we call it the cone of silence. our developers meet on Monday morning to brief the week, those who have serious time critical task that week set aside chunks of hours during the week, in which they enter the cone of silence. they use a visual indicator in their workspace to let others in the building they are in "heads down mode", and the other team members volunteer to intercept those unexpected and impromptu request that come from everywhere throughout the day.

2. Stand up during meetings. Nobody schedules a "lunch hour" and then eats nonstop for the full hour, dropping his fork at the 60th minute, with no regard whatsoever to the amount of food consumed. Yet this is the way every meeting works. By default, a meeting consumes the time allotted to it. That's crazy. Meetings should last as long as they need to last, and not a moment longer. Yet there is no force pushing for that outcome! So add a force: Make people stand up during your meetings. Now you've given your team a powerful incentive to be efficient. The military and software developers have already embraced this approach. 

NovoLogic employs this approach during our daily morning huddles, where each team member quickly explains what they plan/need to accomplish that day. this allows us to see if someone needs help, is available to help, and reinforces the personal commitment to get the things done we have promised to do for the day.

3. Bake in bright spots. We know from psychology that people focus instinctively on problems. Meetings are often dominated by problem-solving (or, less charitably, frustration-airing). By indulging that instinct to dwell on problems, we miss a chance to analyze what IS working. (That's a philosophy we call "finding the bright spots.") To correct this bias, some groups (in organizations ranging from Jack in the Box to Kaiser Permanente) are now starting their meetings with a discussion of bright spots. To try it, start your next meeting with this question: "Since the last time we met, what has worked well, and how can we do more of it?" Not only will you harvest lots of great ideas, you'll create a more positive tone for the meeting.

This is a practice I have to personally, consistently work on. My nature is to identify weak spots and eradicate them in my self, and my team, part of my athletic background I guess. "great performance, now if you just do these 2 things better, you can set new personal records during the next track meet..." However I found that by focusing 75% of my energy, time and comments on the brights spots, and only 25% on the blindspots, the organization as a whole moves forward at a much faster pace, and my team members are more energized and eager to keep a fast pace.

4. Change the way you brainstorm. In most brainstorming session, the "talkers" in the group will share a few ideas, and then others will chime in with refinements of those initial ideas (rather than introducing a radically different point of departure). The effect is that, within 10 minutes, the group has shut down 99% of the potential conversation paths. One easy way to correct for this is to have every member of the team brainstorm privately and record their thoughts prior to the meeting. Then, start the meeting by asking people to share their ideas before the group discussion begins. That way, you can be more confident that you've charted more of the "landscape of ideas," rather than simply building on the (possibly misguided) ideas of the group's loudest members

The Flawless Execution methodology we leverage at NovoLogic, utilizes this approach. as we are planning a project, or doing creative brainstorming, we have everyone write down on post it notes, etc. all their ideas no matter how crazy, out of the box or unrealistic they may first seem. Once, the popcorn stops popping so to speak, we gather up the written notes and group them into like categories, and then the team votes on the ones they feel are "doable" or "needed", etc.  this allow us to get the best ideas we can in the quickest time possible.

So what do you think of these 4 ways to make your team more effective?

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