Month: September 2010

The Ten Commandments in Risk Reduction

Risk reduction in decision making comes down to two main considerations:

Increasing our knowledge of the problem by such techniques as soft systems engineering, SODA or any of the many tools that enable us to gain a foothold on the nature of the issue and dealing with the uncertainly of the risk. Here is a simple approach that puts some rigour in our thinking when it comes to breaking down a complex problem and deciding what to do next.

There are Ten Commandments in risk reduction (Morgan & Henrion 1990)

  • Do your homework
  • Problem drives the analysis
  • Make analysis simple (but not too simple)
  • Identify all relevant assumptions (and write them down)
  • Be explicit in your decision making criteria (and write them down)
  • Be explicit in the uncertainties (and the unknown unknowns thanks to rumsfelt)
  • Do sensitivity and uncertainty analysis
  • Iteratively refine the problem statement and the analysis
  • Document clearly and completely…
    … And expose your work to peer review

If analysis can be understood it becomes more acceptable and people will buy in and have more faith in the outcome – but be careful and do not make the work over complex and avoid over simplifications as well. Both stop people making an informed decision based on what evidence you have. Also as seen above document what you do during the process that way when it goes wrong (as it often does) we can learn and move forward and get it right next time – it is particularly important to set down assumptions and what you think are ‘givens’ – these are the points that we most often get wrong.

Do you experience FLOW at work – seven ways to enhance your experience

Seven ways to enhance your experience of flow and enjoyment at work

Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person in an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity. Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced CHICK-sent-me-high-ee) coined the concept of flow experience defining flow as a state of optimal experience – which he described in his books: ‘Flow – the Psychology of Optimal Experience” and the sequel ‘The Evolving Self’. He asserts that life is shaped as much by the future as by the past and the best moments of experience occur when a person’s mind and body are stretched in a voluntary directed effort to achieve something difficult or challenging. Optimal flow experience is something that we can consciously make happen – we can control how our personalities can be applied to achieve rewarding and enjoyable performance. This idea of flow therefore shares many ideas with self-regulation.

Csikszentmihalyi suggested ways of enhancing your experience of flow for example by picking an enjoyable activity that is at or slightly above your skill level and continuously extending the challenge as your performance improves. In this regard he agrees with other psychological theories for the development of expert performance that tells us always to have an element of challenge in what we do – like constantly striving to improve that golf swing and not just satisficing and accepted something that is good enough. By these means we extend performance towards that of an expert and not just a good amateur. He goes on to say that to enhance our performance as well as concentrating on the specific context of the problem we should screen out distractions from the outside world as much as possible and focus on the emotional and sensory qualities of the activity as well as looking for regular feedback on how we are doing.

Seven ways to achieve FLOW

  1. Set clear and challenging goals that although they should be attainable should always extend the current level of performance – raise the bar as your performance improves.
  2. Focus on the task in hand with directed thought – define the area of work and go deeply into it.
  3. Lose your self awareness and self-consciousness, and merge action and awareness to become absorbed. We have all been told to ignore those looking on whilst we perform something – the performance is for us not them.
  4. When we experience flow, time is unimportant and our subjective experience of time is altered – time flows quickly. Let the task dictate the time it needs you to take.
  5. Seek feedback from the performance of the task and from others – regulate your work based on feedback and take corrective actions.
  6. Take personal control and authority over a situation or activity.
  7. Look for the intrinsic rewards of the action, the new learning, the sense of achievement or the acknowledgement of peers – this is where true enjoyment is found.

So do you experience flow and enjoyment at work?

Take a simple test and find out.

Based on our work on flow experience in teaching I have created a simple flow experience survey that you can take and find out if you experience flow in your work. We found when we worked with over a thousand teachers and other professional groups that the experience of peak experience and flow was a common characteristic of professional performance.

To take the test go to our survey site here: Flow Experience Survey

When we have enough respondents we will change the test to include the norms we derived earlier so you can compare with your peer groups.

Why get a car when you can get a Landrover and meet interesting people on the motorway hardshoulder

My love hate relationship with Land Rover Discovery’s

I expect most people associate Land Rovers with a robust off road vehicle capable of navigating the Sahara desert (see Ice Cold in Alice) or scaling the heights of Mount Kilimanjaro on a single tank of petrol. Robust rugged and ready for any off-road experience. Well the reality is other-wise and my experience of Land Rovers (specifically the series TD5) has shown them quite incapable of getting out of our gravel drive without conking out. Some years ago ‘er indoors had a hare brained idea that rather than pulling the back axle off the Mondey by dragging our half ton Ivor Williams horse box around we should swap out the BMW (yes you saw right) for a Disco. This idea was based on a recommendation from my brother-in-law (her side) that I should have treated with a pinch of salt as he used to work as quality manager for the bunch of idiots at Longbridge who manufactured this car. Anyhoo after I picked myself off the floor and following 24 hours of relentless female logic I found myself at the local Discovery people in Crawley South London.

‘Cor blimey mate your not thinking of getting rid of that one for one of these disasters are you?’ was the opening remark followed by a broadening smile when he realised he had a half wit before him and then turning to me he said, ‘oh you have my sympathies let’s have a look of what we have on the lot.’ We duly traipsed behind him and after looking at a couple of monstrosities they had on offer approached the triumph of engineering that was soon to clutter our front drive for the next nine months (that’s how long this one lasted). A week later it took three salesmen to prise me out of the driving seat of the BMW 523, my tears were for naught, and we were the proud owners of a shiny newish blue Disco – this was the high spot from there on in it went down hill.

A few weeks later we decided to get a new dog (our old Border Collie had died in sad circumstances) so thought we would pop over to the Isle of Sheppey where we knew some good breeders (they have six kids) and picked a beautiful puppy now known as Tess. On the way back the missus was driving and along the M26 just past Wrotham … ‘Oh’er the temperature gauge is going up and down what does that mean?’ Well what it meant was in a little over a mile further along after dark on the motorway we had tea’s up and coolant all over the road. Completely conked out would not start and I had to wait until it cooled a bit so I could start the motor for a few seconds to get it fully on the hard shoulder. Anyhoo we called the recovery people and they said they would be with in about an hour – so we decamped from the dead Disco to the embankment just as it started to rain – yes you guessed it no coats or umbrellas so we got a soaking. ‘Oh this would not have happened with the BMW’er would it’ … Arghhhhhhhh!! You silly **@!!**!!! twit – just then the police dropped by to check the tax disk and generally hassle motorists in trouble. ‘You all right mate!’ ‘No I’m bloody well not alright this heap of junk has just conked out.’ ‘Oh I know terrible they are – we had to get rid of them because they were so unreliable – always conking out!!’ ‘Arghhhh! Why is it we find out now we have paid a small fortune’ (several more expletives deleted here ed.). The friendly cops gave the Disco a quick once over and although a little disappointed they could not nick me for anything then kindly dropped off the missus and my daughter off at the next service station leaving me to wait up on the recovery man.

After an hour nothing – so I decided to give the recovery people a call to see where they were. Now where’s the number – crap – she’s got it in her handbag. So I get the phone out and then notice I’ve only one blob left and getting nice friendly warnings that I need to charge it up. Calls Missus – ‘hello’ – ‘hello where are you?’ – ‘oh we’re at home now the police dropped us off’ – ‘oh that’s good.’ ‘Now get your arse in gear and find the number of the recovery people if there’re not here soon you might as well send for the coroner.’ ‘Oh OK just hang on a minute’ – five minutes later – ‘Hello are you still there’- ‘Well where else would I (remarks deleted ed.) be?’ … ‘now keep yer hair on the number is 1342 … Arghhhhhhh! Bloody phone went dead … fortunately just then the recovery man turns up lights flashing to help me search for the pieces of the phone on the embankment. When I had recovered my composure he turns to the car and says, ‘Oh a Disco is it, (literal words) we had these but they were so unreliable we spent most of our time recovering our own vehicles Ho! Ho! they’re a heap of ****.’ After giving the engine the once over – the verdict – cracked cylinder head – ‘What!! – We only got this a week ago’ – ‘yes they do seem a little prone to this problem’ – ‘anyway you’re dead in the water mate we have to recover it back.’ So he dragged the dead Disco onto the back of the truck (an event I will witness many times in the next few years) and we headed off home. Next day the little man from the garage called around with the truck to pick up the Disco to take him back for repairs – ‘oh its that one is it – I’m surprised they let that one out after the last incident.’ He drags off said dead car and that’s the last I see of it for two weeks while they fix it. Just to cap it all ‘er indoors calls up the insurance to arrange a courtesy car for me to get to work whilst Disco was laid up – ‘oh sorry when you changed the insurance over from the BMW you forgot to arrange that option – sorry!!!’