Book summary: The Jazz Process (II)

This is the second part of my summary of the book “The Jazz Process” by Adrian Cho. You can read part one on this blog. This part will cover the rest of “Working” and half of “Collaborating”.

Working: build trust and respect

Trust and respect are binding agents that keep a team together and help it maintain strong and healthy relationships. The mutual dependence that binds a team together requires that each member trust the other members to do their parts. This trust gives them freedom to work, and this freedom is especially important if their approach to a task differs from that of others. When people make great efforts, deliver under bad conditions or excel, they generate respect, and feeling respected makes them correct mistakes and take extra steps for a stand-out work.

The book “The Speed of Trust” explores the idea that trust affects the speed and cost of operations: things move faster and costs are lower. In activities where time can be sacrificed, there are delays (and often increased costs). When time is fixed, quality may suffer.

One way to build trust is with transparency, indicating intentions and actions clearly. Trust and respect can only be built with genuine, uncompromised communication. People can’t trust if they don’t know the person or its contributions to the team, and they’re less likely to trust the team if they don’t know how it’s going. For the latter, collecting metrics is useful, but they aren’t enough for themselves for building trust and respect, so personal messages are needed too. And those have to be genuine: company-wide broadcasts are often ignored. Being straight and direct (Warren Buffet examples on p.64,65) is important. Don’t try to make the company look good or hide mistakes.

Building trust and respect is hard, but losing it is easy. To avoid losing it or to restore it, accept accountability for mistakes and make it a priority to correct them whenever possible. Failing to do so may make the problem bigger. When mistakes are unavoidable, communicate the circumstances clearly to all parties. Accepting responsibility is not just apologising, you must acknowledge your understanding of the problem and you role in it. The worst kind of mistake is when the person making it doesn’t realise or (even worse) pretends it didn’t happen.

Working: commit with passion

Companies wonder why their employees aren’t more committed, when they should wonder what they can do to achieve a higher level of commitment from their employees. Top-talented people often have strong motivation. One has to try not to undermine that motivation. Nobody likes to work for an underperforming team or a failing project. It’s easy to contribute when there’s high level of activity. If you make a mistake, you have the team to back you up (examples in p.73).

Often companies use artificial means to motivate employees: team-building and inspirational speeches. They may help in short-term but not solve underlying problems in a team. Actually they may frustrate people.

Essentials of execution (Intro to Collaborating)

Feedback loop is the process in which part of output is fed to the input. A positive feedback loop is self-reinforcing or synergistic. Another interesting phenomenon is “hunting” (oscillating indefinitely when trying to correct a mistake):

  • Hunting case 1: trying too hard. Being nervous or overconcentrated in a goal causes us to fail, because of overzealous correction. Solution: back off, relax, avoiding trying too hard.

  • Hunting case 2: reacting too slowly. When we take too long to react to feedback. When we react, the correction is not enough or valid.

The OODA loop was conceived by fighter pilot John Boyd: Observe (get data), Orient (analyse/synthesise it), Decide (determine course of action), Act (implement decision). He was convinced that success in dogfights came from superior decisions and executing them more quickly: the pilot that goes through OODA in the shortest time wins.

Blitzkrieg gave unit commanders more autonomy, improving agility. Instead of waiting for explicit orders, they knew the strategic intents and could use their creativity and initiative.

Collaborating: listen for change

The aim of observing is getting relevant data for decisions, and it begins with unimpeded field of view. We tend to limit ourselves (tunnel vision), must work on peripheral vision: beginning with the end in mind (example in p.105,106). To improve execution, expand your field of data, but learn how to filter the noise. Considerations for observing:

  1. Cognitive biases. We see what we want to see (confirmation bias), avoid/discount information that contradicts our ideas (disconfirmation bias), pretend not to see things we rather not see (selection bias), interpret information to suit our needs (assimilation bias), take decisions based on previous experience that we don’t recall correctly (selective memory). These biases often result from cognitive dissonance, and aren’t only for individuals: groups can polarise (making more extreme decisions).

  2. Thinking outside the box. We are encouraged to expect the unexpected: that is really about being agile enough to respond to unexpected problems.

One of the most important pieces of info in any situation is a score, a measure of how well you’re doing. Successful teams need to know how they’re doing, but beware of management by numbers (they should never be the only input for decision-making). The most important figures for management are unknown or unknowable. For a score to be useful, it must be consistent over time, everyone must agree that the score is useful and fair, limitations/caveats in it must be well documented, and the team must understand the relation between their efforts and the score.

Paths that lead to success change over time, keeping the same path is not good long-term.

And that’s it for now. Next part will cover the rest of “Collaborating” and part of “Executing”.