Wednesday, July 29, 2015

When Two Right Decisions Make Things Wrong


In this 7th installation of an 8 part series, Brad Szollose and Rob Hirschfeld invite you to share in our discussion about failures, fights and frightening transformations going on around us as digital work changes workplace deliverables, planning and culture.


Are You Caught Between 2 Worlds? 

 

The Hierarchy of yesterday made sure that each problem required one solution that always worked. But in today's work environment, there is no one way to get work done.

Each apple is delicious. Which would you choose?
Image courtesy of Bill Longshaw at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
The Duality Trap is one digital management danger that's so destructive, we felt this series would be incomplete without a discussion. It's especially problematic for The Digital Native managers and often mishandled by traditionally trained ones too.

The Duality Trap occurs when there are multiple right answers to a question. How often does this happen? Every single time. In fact, it's a side effect of good digital management. Why?

In hierarchical management, the boss is always right so there's no duality. Since we've thrown out hierarchical decision making, every team action is potentially subject to review by everyone on the team. The very loose structure that allows individual autonomy and rapid response has the natural consequence of also creating cognitive friction when individuals approach problems differently.

These different approaches are generally all valid ways to progress.

Digital natives fundamentally understand choice duality and may present alternatives just to ensure team diversity. Unfortunately, while where may be multiple valid solutions, the team can only pick one [1]. Nine times out of ten, the team will simply pick and move on. In that outlier case, they are counting on you, their digital manager, to resolve the selection.

Here's the trap: resolving a duality does not mean "picking the winner" because having a winner implies the choices were unequal. If you're team is stuck then there are at least two good choices.

If you are a traditional manager, the temptation to become Ronald "the decider" Reagan is nearly irresistible. Under the title=authority to decide model, you must justify your salary with making a "right" decision. You've been waiting for this moment to exert your authority for days. But, unbeknownst to "the decider," this big moment will immediately undermine the team's autonomy. On the other hand, If you are a digital native then this is the moment you've been dreading because you've got to be decisive. Despite 5 to 10 really good choices, you have to make ONE. So, a digital native can appear to be indecisive. However, not deciding is the worst possible choice. So what should you do?

First, remember that teams are strengthened when they are clearly aligned around an intent.


Resolving the duality trap is an opportunity to emphasize your intent. The best approach is to ask your team to review the options again in light of your shared objectives. In many cases, they will be able to resolve the issue from that perspective. If not, then you should:
  1. validate all options could work
  2. have the team state desired outcomes that can be measured
  3. pick the option that most aligns with your intent
  4. ask if the option your team does choose fit the overall agenda of; speed of delivery but quality drops, quality of deep diving into the project (upping the quality) but you may miss a crucial deadline (this may narrow down your choices).
  5. ask the team to monitor for the results
In this case, even as you are driving a decision, you are still sharing the responsibility for the outcome with the team. It's important for the team that you focus on the desired results and not on which course was chosen. It is very likely that any of the choices would work out and achieve positive outcomes.

So it's OK to get out of the trap of picking "best" options when there are multiple right choices.  


In an age of ambiguity, it is easy to fall into the duality trap. Just remember, there is no one way to get it all done these days. Which means a GREAT people manager realizes 2 things; a) your people need more of your support than ever. This comes in the form of training, finding solutions, and building a team that has the right chemistry. And b) getting out of their way.

Get ready as we wrap up this series in post 8:
Transitioning from a Bossy Boss into a Digital Age Leader.

[1] If you are in a situation where you an allow divergence for minimal cost (like which phone brand people use) then do not force your team to choose!

Thanks for reading...

Brad & Rob



Our point of view: About the authors

Rob Hirschfeld and Brad Szollose are both proud technology geeks, but they’re geeks from different generations who enjoy each others perspective on this brave new world.

Rob is a first-generation Digital Native. He grew up in Baltimore reprogramming anything with a keyboard—from a Casio VL-Tone and beyond. In 2000, he learned about server virtualization and never looked back.

As founder and community lead of the OpenCrowbar project, Rob is the CEO of RackN, which provides support, consulting and commercial extensions to the community project. 

Rob is also a board member for the OpenStack Foundation. A position he was elected to fill in 2012, 2013 and 2014 and the chair of DefCore committee.


Brad is a Cusp Baby Boomer who grew up watching the original Star Trek series, secretly wishing he would be commanding a Constitution Class Starship in the not-too-distant future.

Since that would take a while, Brad became a technology-driven creative director who cofounded one of the very first Internet agencies during the dot-com boom. As a Web pioneer, Brad was forced to invent a new management model that engaged the first wave of Digital Workers.

Today, Brad helps organizations like Dell and MasterCard close the digital divide by understanding it as a cultural divide created by new tech-savvy workers ... and customers.

Beyond the fun of understanding each other better, we are collaborating on this 8 part blog series for different reasons.

  • Brad is fostering liquid leaders who have the vision to span cultures and to close the gap between cultures.

  • Rob is building communities with the vision to use cloud products that fit the Digital Native culture.