Archive for the ‘Psychology’ Category

Anxious

Anxiety disorders are very common. In a survey covering Great Britain, 1 in 6 adults had experienced some form of ‘neurotic health problem’ in the previous week. The most common neurotic disorders were anxiety and depressive disorders. More than 1 in 10 people are likely to have a ‘disabling anxiety disorder’ at some stage in their life.

Anxiety gives you a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome, but there are tools (different tools work for different people) which make it possible for you to rewire your brain allowing a more calm, healthy and rational way of thinking instead, but being self-aware is also an important part of being able to achieve this.

Example of some of the common scenarios which causes anxiety:

I mentioned earlier that anxiety gives you an unease about something with an ‘uncertain‘ outcome, but one way of reducing this unease about your uncertain outcomes is to fill up a to do list with ‘certain‘ outcomes, covering both personal and work items which will keep your mind busy the majority of the time on the achievable items. As your mind knows that they’re achievable it will naturally allow your brain to focus more on positive thoughts (rewiring your anxious brain), leaving the items on the list above still on your mind, but approaching the scenarios will be more natural and rational as you’ll be more confident rather than your head spinning for days.

By creating these to do lists of small achievable items whether it’s on your phone through an app like Notes, email or physical notepad you’ll find that not only will you start getting a positive feeling of progression as you tick them off each day (which replaces some of the anxious thoughts), but you’ll also find that your productivity will increase as you’re spending less time procrastinating, unnecessarily worrying about things which are often outside of your control or scenario outcomes which will never happen.

To do lists can be as little or as big as you like for example:

  • Anything you need to do at work
  • Review your R&R for work and if there’s anything you’re not doing, then add those to your list
  • DIY projects
  • Food shopping
  • Blog posts
  • Setting up meetings
  • Sending out reports
  • Contacting friends or family
  • Items to purchase next
  • Hobbies
  • Fitness eg. Booking golf
  • Watching a film
  • Talking to someone at work about something
  • Sending an email
  • List of work objectives
  • Friends / family birthday
  • Your children’s after school activities
  • Researching and learning

It’s important not to feel pressured to get everything on the to do list done in one day and rather than set a deadline for it all, just prioritise it and slowly go through it as an when you have time.

Another tool is to write down some positive affirmations, referring back to the relevant ones often by having them up around the house or in a visible place, which can often put your mind at ease also.

Saying “what will be will be” is easier said than done, but try something different to get your mind thinking in a different positive way and you may find yourself telling other people “what will be will be” for something which you had major anxiety over before.

Learning

There are three major types of learning:

  1. Learning through association – Classical Conditioning
  2. Learning through consequences – Operant Conditioning
  3. Learning through observation – Modeling/Observational Learning

This article is focusing around No2 (learning through consequences) and the reason for focusing on this is because it’s so popular for fellow work colleagues across any business to recognise a problem / something not getting done and the consequences of not solving / doing it, that they just get stuck in and solve it themselves because they’re passionate about the business they work for instead of leaving it for the person whose responsibility it is to solve the problem / complete the task with risk that it’ll likely not get done.

Now, many people would say that’s brilliant team work and a fantastic ‘One Team’ attitude, but actually the action of solving someone else’s problem / completing a task for them is stopping the actual person whose responsibility it is to do it from learning. Also there’s the point about the person should be doing what they’re paid to do, but most importantly unless people experience the consequences of not doing elements of their job, then they’re simply not going to learn the importance of doing that element of the job and that they need to perhaps adjust their processes or admin to ensure they take control of their responsibilities in future.

Like I said at the start, if you’re passionate about delivering value for the business then it’s certainly not easy to avoid getting stuck in and it’s hard to avoid reminding people to do their job, but if you want to achieve the goal of the person who should be solving the problem or doing the task actually does it as expected in future, then the only way this will happen in the long run is by that person recognising the consequences of it not being done, so then they can avoid leaving it in future.

There will naturally be times when someone is clearly over worked and can do with a hand and that’s where you could come in to help, but if it’s someone close by spending most of their time surfing the net or playing ping pong in the games room, then you need to take a step back, try and ignore the problem not getting solved allowing them to deal with it however they feel is effective, but what is for certain is that problems / processes don’t normally get done on their own.

Greener

There will always be an endless list of all kinds of problems for a business to solve and it’s how people come together to solve the problems which accelerates the execution of viable solutions and positive changes.

Some problems will be easier to solve than others, there will be a multitude of lengthy conversations about how to solve certain problems and there will be various opinions on the value of the problem to solve, but it’s important to respect the person responsible (and accountable) for solving the particular problem and rather than moan about things not being solved / done how you’d expect, then use influence, positivity and collaboration instead to see how things could look from a different perspective, because ultimately everyone’s heading for the same goal and would be passionate to solve problems in the most effective way.

It’s also not easy to ignore a process which you seem to have various problems with especially when it’s not a priority to solve for the person who’s responsibility it is making you feel frustrated, but you could try rewiring your brain to obsess about problems which are within your remit to solve or contribute to solving instead and when asked by senior management “what improvements do you think we can make outside of your remit?” then you’re totally within your right to give an honest answer along with what you’ve tried to do to help.

Before you jump ship because you think the grass is greener, have you thought about:

  1. Collaborating on the solution with the person directly whose responsibility it is to solve the problem in a positive way – you never know, the person who’s responsibility it is to handle the process with the particular problem at hand could do with your observations or opinion on how to overcome the problems they’re facing
  2. Obsessing about solving problems which you’re responsible for and reviewing whether you’re fulfilling all of your R&R, as not solving your own problems could have a direct impact on other areas trying to solve their own problems
  3. Discussing openly with your line manager about how they think you could help contribute to solving the problem
  4. Is it a valuable problem to solve relative to other problems across the business
  5. Listing out all of the positive and good things about the company
  6. How lucky you actually are
  7. Making more conversations
  8. How much autonomy you already have to make big changes

When you get approached with an attractive offer by a recruiter or are fed up of certain problems not being solved, have a real think about how you’ve made an effort to help solve the problem by collaborating, because you may find the same problems if not more might exist on the other side of the fence, resulting in being in the same position in six months time with your new company.

Celebrate

There are always endless amounts of tasks which need doing or processes to improve, but it’s important to frequently stop to say thanks and well done to the craftsman who have created the magic.

Because of the vast amounts of items on the agenda, unless quality time is spent communicating the high valuable work which has been delivered for the business and customers it’s easy for those pieces of work to get forgotten, but when looking back at those items which did get delivered it would always be something to be proud of and something to celebrate with your fellow colleagues.

A few good ways of saying thanks and showcasing the awesome high value work the development teams have delivered:

  • Product iteration alerts – as soon as an item has been delivered, not only is it essential to let stakeholders know what has just gone live to customers, but it’s equally important to shout out the teams who have been involved in the delivery to say thanks and well done. Using some quotes from key stakeholders is a nice touch also
  • Quarterly delivery reviews – looking forward at the exciting future planned product iterations and new product launches happens frequently, but equally it’s important to take some time to look back at all of the awesome iterations the development teams have delivered over the previous few months
  • Team lunches / nights out – escaping from the office to hit a nice restaurant or bar at the end of a milestone or project delivery
  • Adhoc thanks and well done – after an important launch happens, informally gather up the troops to say thanks and well done for their remarkable achievement re-emphasising what it means for the business and customers

There’s plenty of other ways to recognise and celebrate success, but just making a small amount of effort frequently to recognise the hard work and positive impact the development teams are making will inject pride and drive into the development teams.

Positive and collaboration image

Product Management (Product Owners / Product Managers) typically have a very broad range of responsibilities as they’re quite often seen to be the avenue to ensure not only that ‘things get done’ when it comes to product delivery, but also that the right things get done.

The size of the business and location of departments can determine what you do day to day, for example a small company a product manager might see themselves fulfilling the role of a marketer, data analyst or developer team lead on top of their product management role, but in a larger organisation who typically handle all operations in-house might see themselves promoting the vision, providing context, prioritisation and collaborating with the different departments to get things done. Lastly you could be in the unfortunate position where you have the developers in one country, the marketers in another and further more the product management team in another country which makes collaboration all the more challenging.

Product specialists are expected to be well rounded across a multitude of disciplines including KPIs / handling data, prioritisation (effort vs. value), customer service, UX, technical, marketing, Agile and of course product life cycle, but being a specialist in all these areas is unrealistic, so it’s fundamental to closely collaborate with all areas of the business in order to get to the right solution to customers within an acceptable time frame.

Unlike a dictatorship, collaborating on what problems to solve is critical generating a positive atmosphere, so discussing the problem you’re hoping to solve and solutions openly and honestly with stakeholders and relevant business areas, enables you all to come to a decision together with the customer being at the heart of conversations which will result in delivering a far superior product / end result.

This actually applies to the majority of roles, but collaboration alone is not enough and it’s equally important to be positive with a ‘can do’ attitude which will likely be absorbed across the ranks, resulting in your fellow colleagues who you rely on so much will rally behind you to fast track solutions to your customers.

Letting the barriers down, lots of collaboration, positivity, understanding there’s no I in team, believing that you can’t do everything on your own and appreciating the support at your disposal will naturally put you on the right road to success.

Team-image

There’s no doubt that it’s desirable for a team to be happy for many obvious reasons including productivity, but a few do’s and don’ts to retain a jolly happy team ☺:
Do

  • Be polite irrelevant of who you’re talking to – thank you, I appreciate that, thanks
  • Offer help if you see a colleague struggling
  • We have done that – embrace the team
  • Congratulate your colleagues on achievements
  • Share any positive performance off the back of effort
  • Own up / apologise for contributing to buggering anything up accidently
  • Be positive day to day
  • Be honest sooner rather than later so people have time to improve
  • Chill and take time out to talk non-shop to your colleagues
  • Discuss / focus on what problems you’re looking to solve
  • Ask why it’s valuable
  • Allow autonomy

Don’t

  • Blame a work colleague directly but instead discuss whos responsibility it is and how we can avoid it in future
  • Dictate solutions to colleagues. discuss the problem and how you need help solving it instead. Troops will stand by and support you whatever the need
  • There’s absolutely no need or nothing to gain from being rude or a bully, other than your work colleagues keeping their distance from you. You can always get what you want from being polite and direct.
  • Focus on problems with agreed solutions (negativity)
  • There’s no I in team
  • Contradict yourself regularly to avoid confusion and frustration

This may all be obvious, but get it wrong and there could be an expensive mass exodus which will impact productivity, but adopting at least a few of these will result in Spartans banging their swords against their shields ready to defend the realm with you.

Context switching

There’s never just one thing you could do, not just a few things, but there could be hundreds of things you could possibly do to deliver value, so by being reactional with a ‘just get it done’ attitude could result in little progress towards delivering overall business goals and lead to a few frustrated developers.

Product development isn’t as quick as setting up a new programmatic ad campaign for example and instead can take weeks to carefully craft a solution collaborating with colleagues along the way. Also with development costs not being cheap means that not making a sensible decision up front could be costly.

Context switching can impact a variety of key elements:

  • Waste – it can take hours / days for a developer to jump from one project to the next especially if they’re unrelated and the code is complex. There’s also risk that some of the learnings from the original task would be lost even if documented.
  • Morale – one of the most frustrating things for a developer is context switching either by switching in progress work or frequent disruptions. Developers take pride in doing a high quality job and to do that takes detailed technical planning to ensure they do the job well, so pulling the rug beneath them often ends in frustration. Typically they just want to get a job they’ve started on done and see the fruits of it.
  • Delivering value frequently – adapting to change quickly is important, but you may find changing a strategy often results in delivering very little.
  • Prioritisation – expecting a product owner or someone in a strategic position to juggle a significant amount of projects at once will end in the highest priority work not necessarily getting done, because it takes time to groom and value projects / requests, so if there’s less time to do this, work could be prioritised based on who shouts the loudest.

Context switching can negatively impact anyone across the majority of an organisation and is often caused by unnecessary flapping / panicking, but with a robust and strict new request process and well oiled live bug process can not only keep context switching to a minimum, but also ensure that teams are working on the highest priority item delivering value frequently to customers.