Posts Tagged ‘decisions’

Is the lifeblood of your project sucked dry by project vampires? You know the type, e.g., belligerent bosses, unreasonable customers, passive-aggressive subject matter experts (SMEs). This is a challenge that a good leader must learn how to handle if any success is to be gained.  There are three solutions for dealing with them. Before getting to those, though, a little background will help. It boils down to one word, “Powerlessness.” You might be wondering, “How does that relate to leadership?” The answer is simple and is based on another word, “Humility.”

Humility is simply knowing where the boundaries are. In this case it means knowing what one can (power) and cannot (powerlessness) do. It is essential in avoiding over-reaching as well as making sure one is reaching as far as possible.

One of the single biggest mistakes Project Managers can make is lacking awareness of where that boundary lies. There is a wimpiness associated with not reaching as far as possible and hubris with reaching too far. The process of seeking that boundary and skirting it can be a source of torture for a Project Manager. So what to do?

Frankly, this is where I meditate. Taking time each day to sit with the torture created by not knowing where the boundary lies. When ego dissolves the line appears. On or around that line the three options sit:

  1. Power-based behavior. Look to see which resources have yet to be explored that will stop the vampire, e.g., disciplinary activities for SMEs under-performing, gaining support from powerful stakeholders who can help reel in the unreasonable customer;
  2. Powerless-based behaviors (1). Here is were I made up a term call, “The vampiric calculation.” It’s quite simple. The rate at which new energy is created is compared to the rate at which it is being sucked out of the team and myself. I consciously bring this up with the team and we look to see how much we can accomplish skirting the line between power and powerlessness;
  3. Powerless-based behaviors (2). This is the really tough one. It’s when exhaustion sets in after manically trying to please the vampire. Working with the team and after all efforts to turn things around have been made we calculate how, exactly we will abandon ship so to speak to keep our sanity. This doesn’t mean responsibilities are abandoned. Rather, it means we pull together to keep each other’s spirits up as the torture from the vampire continues.  Gallows humor is one of the most common forms of pulling together. Being careful is critical. The humor can morph into cynicism very quickly, which increases the rate at which energy is drained.

A better way is finding activities to stay intact. Personally, meditation, exercise, cooking for friends and family along with an occasional Lagavulin scotch and a good cigar help me quite a bit. You probably have your own list. Put it to use. It helps stay in touch with the real powers and supports a realistic attitude displayed by a student I once had. His boss was calling him in for the umpteenth time to chew him out. The student accepted his boss could do this but also skirted the boundary mentioned. He did this by saying, “Could you speed this up. I have to get back to the team, there’s work to do.”

By taking care of oneself and being free of preoccupation something close to a miracle just might occur. A path may start showing that relates to item “1.” mentioned above.  I want to avoid being Pollyannaish.  That path may or may not be there. The only way to see it, though, is to decide what you’ll do in the presence of  a vampire rather than passively let things happen.

Resilience Engineering #3: Miracle on The Hudson

by Gary Monti on June 21, 2011

Capt. “Sully” Sullenberger behaved memorably January 15, 2009 commanding US Airways flight 1549. Most of us know it as “The Miracle on the Hudson” where an Airbus A320 with 170 passengers was safely crash-landed on the Hudson. A six-minute flight encapsulated many of the traits associated with behavior driven by a resilient engineering frame of mind.

The Incident

At 3:27 PM, two minutes after take-off, the plane flew into a flock of geese at 3200 feet. Birds were ingested and both engines were immediately lost. Capt. Sullenberger took the controls while first officer Skiles began going through the three-page emergency procedures to restart the engines.

The Assessment

Passengers and the cabin crew reported hearing a very loud bang from both engines followed by flaming exhausts, then silence with the smell of unburned fuel filling the cabin. Radioing back to LaGuardia air traffic control Sullenberger was told that runway 13 was available for an emergency landing.

The Decision

Sullenberger made a quick assessment of the energy the airplane had at that time and felt that he would be unable to make it. (Later extensive analysis showed that the airplane probably did have sufficient energy to make it back to LaGuardia.) Similarly, an emergency landing at New Jersey’s Teterboro airport was considered but, again, Sullenberger felt the airplane lacked sufficient energy to make it that far. He decided to ditch in the Hudson.

The Consequences

The plane ended its 6 min. flight at 3:31 PM with unpowered ditching in the Hudson heading south at 130 kn. Fortunately throughout the flight auxiliary power was available to maintain control of the aircraft’s flight surfaces. Performing such a feat requires a good amount of luck as well as tremendous skill. An unpowered water landing can be extremely dangerous since any deviation from being perfectly level can lead to an asymmetrical landing, tearing the plane apart. Then there were the difficulties associated with gliding an airliner 2 knots above stall speed (stall speed is when the plane would just drop like a rock.)

The Emotions

When interviewed by CBS News Sullenberger said, “It was the most sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach, like falling through the floor. I knew immediately it was very bad. My initial reaction was one of disbelief, ‘I can’t believe this is happening. This doesn’t happen to me!’ ”

Patrick Hartson, LaGuardia air traffic controller stated, “I asked him to repeat himself even though I heard him just fine. I simply could not wrap my mind around those words. And when the plane disappeared from my radar screen it was the lowest low I had ever felt; truth was, I felt like I’d been hit by a bus.”

When interviewed by Larry King, Capt. Sullenberger stated, “I expect that this was not going to be like any other flight I’d flown in my entire career. And it probably would not end on a runway with the airplane undamaged.”

Trade Offs: Thinking Outside the Box…What Box!?

For Sullenberger and his copilot all they had trained for and anticipated lost any value. This was a unique situation where everything was initially a blur. Pilots are trained on how to deal with the loss of a single engine as well as how to make controlled landings from altitude. This, however, was not in the simulations.

In such crisis situations the ability to make a completely “right” decision disappears. The situation is highly constrained due to a lack of time, information, and resources. So, instead of making a “satisficing” decision, i.e., the “right” decision, one must make a sacrificing decision trading off threats against opportunities in an attempt to achieve the optimal results under the circumstances.

In line with this Sullenberger went on to say, “I quickly determined that we were at too low an altitude, at too low air speed, and therefore we didn’t have enough energy to return to LaGuardia. After briefly considering the only other nearby airport which was Teterboro in New Jersey, I realized it also was too far away. And the penalty for choosing wrongly, in attempting to make the runway, I could make a mighty catastrophe for all of us on the airplane plus people on the ground.”

So, the trade-off Sullenberger was faced with was either land in the Hudson and have a potentially damaging but non-catastrophic landing or try for the happy ending at LaGuardia with the downside being a totally catastrophic crash.

Another trade-off that needed to be considered was the fact that in attempting to relight the engines there was failure with engine #2 while engine #1 had a partial relight providing sufficient thrust to maintain hydraulics and electrical supply. So, the decision had to be made whether or not to continue limping along with some power which was useful for a controlled crash landing or risk attempting shutting off engine 1 and attempting to relight to get full thrust but risking loss of all thrust.

Again, all of this occurred during the last 4 minutes of a 6 min. flight.

In addition to being an experienced pilot with over 30 years experience between the Air Force and commercial aviation,

Sullenberger was also an experienced glider pilot, a skill that proved immeasurably valuable in saving the situation. He treated the airliner as if it was the world’s heaviest glider.

There is more to this story. While the pilot and copilot were working in the cockpit the cabin crew did their job maintaining composure among the passengers and conducting an orderly exit of the plane. This included evacuating one wheelchair-bound person and having passengers climb over the tops of the seats to reach the exit while water was rising in the cabin. Another issue was stopping a panicked passenger from opening a door that was partially underwater. Surprisingly, all were saved.

These actions set the stage for looking at resilience in depth as well as determining character traits possessed by resilient people working individually and as a team.

Flexible Focus #18: Engage visual thinking

by William Reed on September 9, 2010

In the art of flexible focus, dimension is more important than sequence. To emphasize this point I have selected for review eight of the Mandala Charts which have been featured in earlier articles in this series. Like a card deck that can be shuffled to create new combinations, these Mandala templates can be reshuffled and reviewed for a new perspective. In a world where change is constant, this is one way to stay on top of the wave.

Through the links below you can download the Mandala Charts, as well as reference the articles in this series where they first appeared. Each one contains a visual image in the central frame which was selected as a visual anchor for the central theme. These images resonate powerfully with the sub-themes, and can stimulate new images by association.

The images can help you recall and recreate new ideas around the central theme, as well as serve as a connecting bridge between the surrounding sub-themes. Images keep your Mandala interesting and alive, and if you print them out, you can also sketch images of your own inside the surrounding frames to enhance the key words, phrases, and text which you will add.

The images are assembled in the Mandala shown here, referenced from the articles and downloads below. In the conventional Mandala fashion, they are marked A (bottom center), B (left center), C (top center), D (right center), E (bottom left), F (top left), G (top right), F (bottom right).

Here are a few notes to set your thoughts in motion. For easy reference, and to trigger new insights, download the Mandala Charts and review the original articles from each of the links below.

8 Fields of Life (From Flexible Focus #3: The Principle of Interdependence)

Happily interwoven?…or a tangled mess?

The image of a Celtic Knot is a powerful icon of the 8 dimensions of life interwoven in perfect balance. The weave of the knot is loose enough that each dimension is distinct, and yet each strand crosses through every other. Look at this knot as you consider each of the 8 fields of your life, and ask yourself if they are in balance. Which fields need more time, care, or attention?

Mandala on Health (From Flexible Focus #4: The 8 Frames of Life: Health)

Radiantly connected?…or bent out of shape?

The image of a radiant tropical sun symbolizes the radiant quality of health. It includes what you eat, how you move, your attitude, and your relationships. It makes no sense to sacrifice your health for the sake of profit or convenience. Consider all of the factors that contribute to your health, and you will have many leverage points to improve it. Are you neglecting one or more of these factors in your life?

Refocus Your Business (From Flexible Focus #11: The Principle of Comprehensiveness)

Focus on the spaces between…and the possibilities therein

The optical illusion of flashing dots is a reminder of how we need to look closely to see what is really there. If you keep your eyes open you will discover many opportunities to make improvements. It is not enough to make a living. You must also make a life. Business and work can easily dominate your life, occupying an unreasonable amount of time and energy. The irony is that working harder is not always working better. If your work does not support your mission and identity, it will create conflict and sap your energy. Look for better, smarter ways to work. Find ways to work with others to accomplish more than you can by yourself.

Empowerment Mandala (From Flexible Focus #10: Become the Change)

Are you receiving fish?…or learning how to fish?

The image shows the moment of catching a fish, not asking for one. Empowerment is the ability to fish and fend for yourself. It is the opposite of entitlement, which is expecting others to fish for you. Constant preoccupation with receiving confines creativity. It is better to build momentum through action, than to succumb to inertia through passivity. To quote Dr. Seuss, with brains in your head and feet in your shoes, you can steer yourself in any direction you choose.

Magic of Mindset (From Flexible Focus #9: The Magic of Mindset)

Rabbit or duck illusion…and mental perception?

This image appears to be a rabbit, until you shift your focus and it appears to be a duck! It is a reminder that mindset is truly magic. The way you look at things determines what you see. Life tends to live up to our expectations as a self-fulfilling prophecy. Don’t be taken in by first impressions, because things and people are not often as they seem. Both positive and negative judgments can be contagious. Keep an open mind and a positive attitude, and you will attract people of like mind.

Opportunities for Engagement (From Flexible Focus #12: The 8 Frames of Life: Business)

Keep your ideas flowing…Keep your passion high

The image of a fountain of ideas spiraling from an open mind is enhanced by the color of red for passion. The flow of ideas is a measure of your interest, curiosity, and enthusiasm. Keep it strong by looking for new ways to engage with people in your work and private pursuits. Business is a dynamic process, and you are better off being an active player than a passive spectator. Look at the Mandala and ask yourself, where are there opportunities for greater engagement?

Decision Mandala (From Flexible Focus #16: The Decision Trap)

Learn from others…with a better perspective

The image of question marks lost in a labyrinth shows the difficulty of making decisions in complex circumstances. Many of life’s challenges do not lend themselves to simple logic. Sometimes it is best to lift yourself out of the labyrinth and seek wisdom from a higher perspective. Well selected quotes can provide that perspective, but the inspiration of a quote depends on timing and its relevance to the problem at hand. Working with the Mandala chart you will find that eight quotes can be better than one.

Karma Connections (From Flexible Focus #15: Karma and Connections)

Act, action, performance…not fate or consequences

The image shows the interplay of opposites, the balance of yin and yang. It also shows the dynamics of interaction. The more actively you engage in the game, the more opportunities you have to take advantage of critical moments. The pitch on which you play is where you are here and now. When you see that negative words and thoughts lead to negative results, it is easier to leave them behind. Karma is a dynamic and ongoing process. Your actions are the script for your life.

The visual images in each of these Mandala charts help you to engage visual thinking. Visit them often.

NOTE: The articles in the Flexible Focus series are updated with graphics, links, and attachments on the FLEXIBLE FOCUS Webbrain, a dynamic and navigable map of the entire series. It has a searchable visual index, and is updated each week as the series develops.

Character and Personality #10: A simple honesty

by Gary Monti on September 7, 2010

The final blog in this series on character and personality deals with the leaders affect, i.e., what others observe with a leader who shows integrity regarding the character and personality traits discussed in previous blogs. Others observe a simple honesty. In this day and age it may seem paradoxical to use the word “simple” considering the ever-increasing complexity of business life. The reality is: the need for this simple honesty increases right along with the complexity. Achieving it is a daily challenge since expediency in a fast-paced environment can push one to go for the short-term gain.

Looking at the lives of leaders such as Gandhi, George Washington, Martin Luther King, Joan of Arc, and Chief Joseph the deliberateness of their behavior in an ever-changing environment provided a much-needed stability for their followers. They were very sophisticated leaders who displayed simple honesty.

Moral- vs Emotional Integrity

Underpinning simple honesty is integrity. Integrity is a word that is bandied about and can become quite slippery. One way to nail down its meaning is to look at two usages: moral and emotional.

Moral integrity reflects one’s ethics in codes of conduct that delineate between good and evil. In politics this surfaces frequently. However, I believe it misses the mark. Why? Moral integrity runs the risk of being associated with “head stuff.” To borrow from previous blogs, it runs the risk of flowing from ego consciousness. The danger is this: codes of conduct can be formed supposedly based on taking the higher ground when actually it has more to do with being attracted to or wanting to avoid people who reflect our shadow self. (For more on this see the blog on Triggers.) So, in the end, moral integrity can reflect deep-seated fears and aggressions. This is reflected in the aphorism, “More people have been killed in the name of God than for any other reason.”

Moral integrity DOES have value and it IS important. However, it comes from being a subset of something greater. That something is emotional integrity. A simple definition of emotion integrity is:

Thoughts, feelings, and actions are mutually reinforcing and integrated.

Achieving this is no small feat! Remember that battle between ego consciousness and shadow self? Emotional integrity deals with it directly. It is reflected in a simple honesty. Deviation from it leads to dishonesty, a form of lying.

Children are very good at picking up on emotional honesty and dishonesty. They can intuitively feel when someone is lying to them by simply seeing the discord between thoughts, feelings, and actions. They may not understand the subject matter but they can see when someone who is speaking from supposed moral integrity displays fear or aggression. They sense the disconnect between thoughts, feelings, and actions. The child can then proceed to shut down or act out since they are in a powerless situation much like some employees.

There’s a phrase in the business world when one refuses to see this disconnect in others and in turn becomes emotionally dishonest. We say, “He drank the Kool-Aid.” This is an extremely good phrase. The etiology is Reverend Jim Jones’s direction to his followers to commit suicide by drinking cyanide-laced Flavor Aid at their colony in Jonestown.

Situational Decision-Making

So how does a simple honesty play out in changing business environments? Answering this question is what burdens leaders. The leader may have to go through great changes herself. Doris Kearns Goodwin does a masterful job of showing Abraham Lincoln’s journey in her Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Team of Rivals. This is in stark contrast to Jones’s megalomania.

Trust and trust

I’ve found this reduces to two definitions of trust. The first is with a capital “T”. Here Trust means a willingness to be vulnerable in the other person’s presence, e.g., followers Trusted Lincoln and Jones. The second definition is with a small “t”. Here trust means expectations based on consistency of behavior, e.g., if I walk by someone’s desk and say “Hi!” each morning that person will probably trust I will say “Hi!” tomorrow morning.

Lincoln could be Trusted because his behavior said he could be trusted to do what ever it took to preserve the Union. He showed a simple honesty in a changing situation.

Creating Possibilities

by Himanshu Jhamb on June 22, 2009

We strive to do this all the time. What they don’t tell us is that with every action that we take, we not only create some possibilities, we also shut off a few. Whether we know it, don’t know it, mean it, don’t mean it … it doesn’t matter. This just happens.

Consider the “Entrepreneurs action map”, below:


* The ‘Start’ marks the point where the entrepreneur starts to act.

* The ‘Final Perceived Goal’ is the Goal he has in mind at the time he starts.

* The ‘Actual Final Goal’ is the Goal he ends up where he declares it to be so.

* The full red dots along the path represent the ‘Decision Points’ where he must make a choice (amongst many paths) on which path to take next.

* The ‘Solid lines’ denote the path he actually travels on.

* The ‘Dotted lines’ denote the path he chooses not to take.

So, what is the meaning of all this? Here’s what it means to me:

1. Every time you make a choice (on any of the decision points), you end up creating the possibilities along the chosen path and you shut down the possibilities on the paths you did not choose (hence the dotted lines… depicting fading possibilities).

2. Once you choose a certain path, the other paths emanating from the decision point (the ones you did not choose to take) will cease to exist for you. That is to say, they will be in your ‘blind spots’.

3. You will not know for sure where you’ll end up, when you begin the journey and more likely than not, it will be somewhere other than your perceived goal. So, no point in fretting or spending too much time worrying about it and its prudent to not get stuck in the analysis for too long.

4. Here’s a big one: The farthest point to the ‘Final Perceived Goal’ is the point where you start from. There is a possibility of not making it on any of those paths but it is guarantee of not making it if you don’t start!

5. Ready for the Biggest one? – On every path, you touch other people and their lives, in many ways… and that creates endless possibilities for you, some of which may not be apparent immediately. Brings the old adage to mind… “It’s all about the journey, not the destination”.

Here’s a little example that you might find useful to think with: Lets say you always wanted to write a book but did not start because you needed the entire journey mapped out beforehand. Now, consider that you started it, anyway. Can you imagine the possibilities you would be creating for yourself along the way?

Now apply this to anything that you always wanted to start and ask yourself – Are you waiting for the entire journey to be mapped out or will you start, even if it’s not?