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From Business Project to Your Project (Part 2)

February 25, 2011 1 comment

DRAFT: I will try to finish it after de FD Career challenge

So your manager and you need to know how to make you happy and get the project done! This post is the second part of the story. In the first part I tried to show how you might identify the tasks in a project which need some attention to make you happy. Now how can you go about changing the things that need changing, for you to get happy. Sometimes you can just say, I’m not the man for the job, but most of the time this solution is not available (for the extreme cases: Worry and Apathy, do ask though!). So now you have a problem, I will describe a technique which originates from psychology, solution focussed thinking and try to give some handles to accomplish your goals.

How?…the magic question!

First thing to teach yourself to ask solution focussed questions, for example:

  1. How can I do it?
  2. What is going well, and how did I do that?
  3. What does work?
  4. How did others do it?

It will make you look into the future, and open the door to solutions. Sometimes these solutions come without you ever knowing the root cause of the problem. Example: you see a kid that’s sad, and you decide to buy the kid some ice cream, the kid is happy. You didn’t know the original cause of the sadness yet you were able to fix that fact that he was sad.

In his book ‘Solution focussed management: Simple works the best’ (dutch), Louis Cauffman, mentions 6 tools to help people in a solution focussed way. I will briefly discuss two which I like:

1) The miracle question:

‘If I would wake up tomorrow and your problem is gone (as by a miracle), but you don’t know its gone. What would be different, what would you do different, how would you notice the miracle has happened?

It’s a strange question and a lot of people might think it stupid, but just give it a try. Make the answer specific with good detail. Focus on what is changed for you. This question will help you find sub objectives your after, it will also give some guidance in what will be enough and it will also let you focus on the future.

2)The scale of change:

To make a scale of change draw a line divide it up in from 0 to 10, 0 for example being unskilled and 10 being skilled enough. Now ask your self: Where am I on this scale? And what in that number, what goes well? Next question is ‘How can I go 1 step up the scale, what is changed then?’. This technique advantages: it will help you visualize your going somewhere, and will also help you take smaller steps (and get you into the flow).

Next step is to pull in some resources, to speed up the process:

  1. Did I solve the problem in a different context?
  2. How did other people do it? What can I learn from that?(By the way don’t try to copy a best practice, make it your own best practice)
  3. Develop sub-solutions.
  4. Look for exceptions, when did it work? How did that work?

One way to pull in some of these resources can be facilitated in the new world of work. In a next post I will focus on how the new world of work can be used in a company consisting of scientists and engineers.

A manager should help you in getting your focus on the solutions (‘what does work?’, ‘What goes well?’,’How will we reach the goal’). And unless he is very certain he can find and take away the root cause very quickly, he should stay away from questions like: ‘What’s wrong?’, ‘What doesn’t work?’, otherwise you might end up with more problems than you started with in the first place.

I’m not to happy about this post yet, please comment and make it better!

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From Business Project to Your Project (Part 1)

February 20, 2011 1 comment

Ok this piece took me a bit longer to write. I had to think about ‘The Flow’ a lot. The theory behind the flow is off course not mine, but the ‘how to make it into a tool’, is! So here goes, (please comment so I can make it better).

Last post I finished writing, I would write something about aspirational targets, I might get back to that, but first of all I would like to tell you how to change a business project into the project, that makes you happy. I found a way which works for me, and I would like to share.

This is me, I am a reasonably skilled control engineer and my skill matrix looks something like in the next figure (I only filled in one skill per box, don’t worry I have more).

My skill matrixSo what would it take for me to get from one box, like ‘No skill’ to another box like ‘Some skill’. It will take some learning! But what I’m skilled over skilled to do the job? I go into automatic, I don’t need to learn I just need to do the job. So, Remember the challenge vs skill picture from the last post from Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi? I would how would I feel when a task is x steps out of reach/over skilled? I made a matrix out of that:

Now I made a picture that which summarizes that. Please mind that the steps are the step you are forced to take, not the steps you would want to take!

Happiness and the flowSo now let us look how do you use this? Well, lets say you have a smart business project. It has clear tasks to fulfill the goal set by the business and it is up to you fulfil all those tasks. But it’s not fit to your skills, it fit for the business objective! Some task are not within your grasp, some skills are much to easy. The figure below shows the business objective and your objective (feel good and ultimately: happy). The task that will make uncomfortable/feel bad need to change. You need to discuss this with your manager, it’s in his best interest as well!

So your manager and you need to know how to make you happy and get the project done! My next post, the second part of this story, is about solution focussed management.

Please comment, How can I make it better?

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Need motivation?…Experience the flow!

February 18, 2011 4 comments

Ever had someone calling you up and asking: “Are you still at work, do you know what time it is?”. And you found that you lost track of the time, and were fully consumed by your work. Now then, you might have experienced ‘Flow’.

Flow is concept advocated by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and it lets itself be summarized as:

Flow is a subjective state that people report when they are completely involved in something to the point of forgetting time, fatigue, and everything else but the activity itself.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi was doing research into the fact that some people do time-consuming, extremely complex and even dangerous tasks without receiving an external reward (ex. Mountain climbing). The reward might therefore come from within the person. His studies showed that people had a very similar experience that they enjoyed so much the were compelled to experience it again. This is the experience we now call the flow.

So how do I get into that state, what trigger me to do so, well the three ingredients are:

  1. A clear set of goals, to channel your attention.
  2. A balance between perceived challenges and perceived skills
  3. Clear and immediate feedback, this removes doubt on what to do next.

The balance is particularly of  importance, since it can give you handles on how flow could be obstructed by your goals.  The following figure show the balance between skill level and challenge level and which states it holds:

The balance between skills and challengesFor me the best places to be is either arousal or flow. So how will I get into those states? I plan to do that by choosing my goals Aspirational! Won’t you end up in Anxiety then? No, I’m convinced I won’t, to convince you readers I finally have to go into one of the subject of my essay ‘Solution Focussed Management’. This will be the subject of my next couple of posts, so stay tuned.

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(Please tell me, How do you keep motivated? )