A lesson by the Washington Generals: Winning doesn’t make sense if you are playing an infinite game

“what is it about a team that has lost over 10,000 games and counting to the same team, and had their last win against them all the way back in 1971” (Why I love The Washington Generals)

I’m a tennis player. But I do not play tennis to win. I do not play to lose either.

Adolfo, you ask, what do you play for?

play_the_infinite_gameI play for the challenge. And I play for the fun. I play for doing right the right things.

When everything out there was dangerous and risky, when every generation lived through a major war, when roads were dangerous, when it was win or die, you used to need to train to win at all costs. It’s no wonder that the original olympic games were all about throwing weapons, wrestling and jumping over walls and moats.

Many of our current sports are heir to this tradition although it makes no sense anymore. We are not throwing spears to our enemies, but we still keep trainning, and competing, on javeling throw.

But there are lots of sports that are not competitive:

  • Figure ice skating
  • Dancing
  • Tennis played among old glories from the 80’s

Of course you can compete (and we do) on figure ice skating. But subjective judges based on hard to understand criteria are the ones “choosing” who wins.
Of course a doubles tennis match Cash-McEnroe vs Lendl-Wilander can be competitive. But they’re not playing for the result. They’re playing for the fun. Their fun and the crowd’s fun. That’s why they arrange this awesome long rallies, full of trick shots, instead of going for the quick winner.

We have been taught that this is not as valid as a competitive match. We have been taught that this is not serious nor professional. We’ve been told that a professional must win. At all costs.

We have been fooled. Won’t get fooled again.

Every year the market is less about competing and more about cooperating, but win-win relationships won’t prosper until we all understand that sometimes competing is a root cause for the problem. Being able to force your supplier to a 10% cost reduction is not a win if next year you’re obliged to search for another supplier when the current one fills bankruptcy. Being able to sell a broken product to a customer is not a win if news spread and you loose trust and confidence from your customer base.

The Generals are not there for winning. They’re there for the fun.

“Their job is not, nor has it ever been to win championships. Like their long time rivals their job is to entertain a crowd. The fans may come to see the Globetrotters but it’s the Generals who see to it that the Trotters always do their best.” (Why I love The Washington Generals)


Related

  • Why I love The Washington Generals (Dan The Generals Fan): “what is it about a team that has lost over 10,000 games and counting to the same team, and had their last win against them all the way back in 1971”
  • The short game, the long game and the infinite game (Seth): “In the infinite game, though, something completely different is going on. In the infinite game, the point is to keep playing, not to win. In the infinite game, the journey is all there is.”
  • Turning competitive into cooperative: “Competitive games are useful for learning things like getting more than your fair share during a negotiation or like killing the enemies of your people.”
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My PMP certification experience

First step: Wanting to get it

  • You are not going to get it unless you really want it. What is your key motivator? Having a clear answer is going to help you all along the way, when tired, bored or frustrated.

Second step: Training

  • You need to take at least 35 hours of training. In my experience 35 hours would be a little too little. Better apply for a 60-hour training course, which is roughly four hours of theory and two hours of practice for each of the ten knowledge areas.
  • Living in Zaragoza, the obvious choice was the one by ESIC. Quite expensive but the good teachers and the great classmates worth it. It also provides you with very convenient resources to prepare the exam after completing the training.

Third step: Applying

  • PMI is expecting you to have a few thousand hours of project management experience. The precise number of hours depends on your degree.
  • Good news is you don’t need lots of precision in justifying your hours. If you’ve been involved in projects for the last years, you should be able to demonstrate the experience. If not, you should check the CAPM certification instead.
  • Bad news is one out of ten applications will be audited. If you are one of the “lucky” ones, then you would need to contact some of your former managers or colleagues who can asses your experience. Normally they wouldn’t need to do anything besides signing the experience you have submitted in your original application so, in the end, is more of a hassle than a real problem.

Third step: Booking a date

  • Once your application is been approved, you could book a date, and a place, for taking the exam. You can take the exam digitally or in paper form. With the digital option you would have a more open set of dates. With the paper form your choosing is more limited.
  • Anyhow, I can’t find the words to tell you how IMPORTANT is to chose a date and book the exam. You are going to have a lot to study. A clear goal date will help you to find the willpower to start studying.
  • Try to take advantage of the momentum given by the training course and plan your exam for sometime between six and twelve weeks after the end of the training.
  • The exam is taken in english. When booking, you could check whether a translation in your native tongue is available as a support. If it is, ask for it. Nothing to loose.

Fourth step: keep your pace and try some tests

  • You should have planned your way through the theory. Whether you’ve planned it as a short sprint or as a long marathon, there is going to be ups and downs, so try to keep your pace.
  • You should check your progress every now and then with questions similar to the ones in the exam.

Fifth step: Passing the examproject-management-professional-pmp

  • You have four straight hours to answer 200 questions.
  • Take the first ten minutes in writing the main formulas and the table connecting the ten knowledge areas, the five process groups and the 49 different processes. It would let you use it as a guide when you start feeling exhausted, and you would calm down while doing it, so you would be able to take the first questions better.
  • If english is not your native tongue and you asked for a translation support, probably you would feel like reading some questions in both languages. Sometimes translation could misguide you.

Sixth step: Enjoy 🙂

  • You should get the results sometime between right after finishing your digital exam, or two weeks after finishing your paper-based exam.
  • Update your LinkedIn profile, take your partner or some friends to have a nice dinner, and enjoy your success. 🙂

Related: Consejos para estudiar y preparar el examen PMP y CAPM del Project Management Institute (Daniel Echeverría)

Ask for availability, not for sit hours

R&D jobs are not like an assembly line.

You don’t need to optimize each and every second. You don’t need to maintain a pace minute after minute…after minute… after minute.

On the contrary, you need to keep getting your mind freshen up every now and then.

What are you paying for when you hire someone for a 40 hour-week R&D position?
If you are working on R&D, you shouldn’t be paying for presence, but for availability.

we are not in a hurry to be in the juice

“we are not in a hurry to be in the juice”

Being paid for presence implies you need to have your butt on the chair, you need to fill both your daily hour-reports and some arbitrary empty space where work is supposed to happen. You need to use the presence tracking system and you need to show up every day no matter what, if you want to be seen as productive, if you want to avoid punishment…

But if paid for availability, you are focusing on doing the job, on helping others, on flexibility. You are not supposed to be at your desk, or on your chair or any other empty space where work is supposed to happen. In fact, you are supposed to be making work happen, wherever this needs to be done.

Make work happen. Anywhere. Just be sure you are available. Available just in case your co-workers need your help. Available if your customer is trying to tell you that the priorities have changed. Available if someone should rearrange some work because a supplier is going to be late.

What are you paying for when you sign someone for a 40 hour-week R&D position? When in doubt, don’t pay for presence, but for availability.


Related:

  • Synchronize your watches, Seth Godin. “Factories required synchronization, so that workers would all show up at the same time […]Today, of course,[…]Work is no longer time-based. It’s now project based.”
  • Trickle down workaholism in start-ups, DHH. So don’t tell me that there’s something uniquely demanding about building yet another fucking […] It’s bullshit. Extractive, counterproductive bullshit peddled by people who either need a narrative to explain their personal sacrifices and regrets or who are in a position to treat the lives and well being of others like cannon fodder.

Building bridges, not walls

On one hand there are walls. The people at Troy, the people at Jericho, build walls millennia ago.

antigua_muralla_zaragoza

A wall used to keep your family, your business, your house, your art and your temples safe from strangers. At night, everyone belonging to the community, gathered inside the safety of the city walls.

But then artillery came in, and military air crafts did it too. And walls were reduced to dust or became touristic attractions. Walls are not a shelter anymore.

On the other hand there are bridges. People have been building bridges for millennia. Ancient Romans built bridges still in use today.

With a bridge you can safely cross through a river and go to the next village. You can use it to go visit your parents, or to reach the market to buy some goods you don’t have on your own town.puente_de_piedra_zaragoza

Strangers will make use of the bridge to connect to you. To reach your village, and your business and your loved ones.

Bridges are still in full use. Every city has been building bridges to ease communication problems. And bridges, the ancient and the new ones, have become touristic landmarks too.

A wall can’t keep your business, your team, your project safe anymore. Your best developer will be tempted by a job offer from a company who operates with remote teams in three different continents. Your competition is operating under some Asian country laws. Your Australian customer is expecting your product to be delivered right to them, no middlemen involved.

But a bridge is more useful than ever, to connect your business, your team, your project. Your best developer will be working with a supplier’s interface to integrate your product into theirs. You will need someone with a clear understanding of how things work in the places where your competition is located. You can send products from one part of the world to the other easier than ever, and you can get direct feedback from your customer in a matter of seconds.

Bridges are at least as safe, and much more productive, than walls.

How much effort are you spending on building bridges and walls?

 


Related: Burning Bridges (Seth Godin) “A bridge well-crossed gets better over time. When you need to break it down to push through, you’ve not only hurt the person you trampled on, you’ve hurt your reputation.”

 

 

It is MY fault: Harvey Specter on Leffert’s Law

The Lefferts law of management: It is your fault

Suits, the TV series, narrates the happenings of a New York legal firm.

suitsMike is a young rookie with lots of potential, but a lack of business knowledge and real experience. Harvey is an admired, goal-oriented professional, that gets the hardest part of the work done, in search of a sidekick who can take on his legacy in the future. Thus Harvey and Mike develop a protégé-mentor relationship since the moment they first meet.

We don’t have to wait many episodes to see Mike, the mentee, spoil a negotiation for an important client, after being late filling a form.

Mike is worried about Harvey telling the client the mistake was Mike’s fault.

Harvey: You think that’s going to be a walk in the park?
Mike Ross: Hey. Harvey. Did you tell him it was me [my fault]?
Harvey: Why would I do that? I’m responsible for you. It was me [my fault].

Mike was worried about what the client could think of him. But Harvey didn’t tell the client that it was Mike’s fault. Not because Harvey is good people, not because he wanted to preserve his mentee’s reputation.

He didn’t told the client it was Mike’s fault… because it wasn’t.

Even if Mike had been late, it really doesn’t matter. Harvey, nor any mentor, should expect Mike to behave exactly the way he is told. Mike needs to learn by himself. For doing so, he needs to learn from success, but also from failure. He needs to learn to make hard calls with incomplete information during crisis.

And that’s precisely why he needs a mentor in the first place. He needs someone who advice, lead and guide him. He needs someone who can own his mistakes while he learns from them.


  • Related: The Lefferts law of management on ScottBerkun.com “If you have the title ‘manager’ in your name you should tend to absorb blame for what’s going on, while distributing the rewards. When all else fails, be the fall guy.[…] Being passionately accountable creates a shield for others and makes it safer for them to invest more personal responsibility in their work.”
  • Related: Who is your sidekick. “On the other hand, a sidekick is someone you can train as your replacement.”

The additional croquette and why you should keep your workers informed and motivated

I was having some tapas with five of my friends from college.

We arrive to that big fancy bar.

Before ordering, someone realized something strange happened with the menu…

  • 6 croquettes: 6 €
  • additional croquet: 0,75 € each

It was an obvious mistake, we agree. If you would order six croquettes you’d pay 1€ for each one. And then, from the seventh on, you would get a 0,25€ discount.

But we were having fun, so it couldn’t hurt to ask the waiter about it. So we ask him if we could order six “additional” croquettes instead of the six pack.

He told us, “if it’s in the menu, you can ask for it”.

We explained him that it should be an error, that if we ordered only additional, they were making less money.

“I only work here”, he answered.

In the beginning, he didn’t know about the menu. But in the end, he didn’t care about the profit.

Please… please, please, please… If you are a boss, a manager, an owner, keep in mind that your workers make the profit. Keep in mind that they need to understand how this profit is made. But, above all, keep in mind that they need to care about it.

Inform them. Motivate them. Good news is that both things are strongly related.

Great bosses will want you to work less

Not more.

Great bosses leading successful companies won’t want you to work more.

They want you to be more productive. To bring better results in less time. Since…

Productivity = Work done / Time spent

Dilbert's Pointy-haired Boss asking you to work 178 hours a week

When some kind of (pointy-haired) boss asks you to spend more time at work, they are asking to increase the divisor. Increasing the divisor, by itself, will only DECREASE productivity.

Some other type of boss (not as pointy-haired but still kind of) could ask you to increase both the divisor and the dividend. The trick then is that if you would spend an extra 20% time at work, you would need to get at least a 21% increase in the work done to be more productive. This could seem plausible… but by definition extra work is done AFTER you’ve work your normal hours, so it’s unlikely that those extra hours would be the ones getting the most work done.

And all of this leave great bosses with the only strategy able to let them increase productivity. They must make sure to leave alone the divisor. The people is working as much as they should. So they need to INCREASE THE DIVIDEND. More work done in the same time.

How can you accomplish this? Let’s see some strategies:

  • Automation. Every time you need to have something done several times a week (or a month, or a year), please, automate.
  • Change the point of view. People shouldn’t wonder how many extra hours do they need to get this work done, but how is the best way to have this work done in as few hours as possible.
  • Remove obstacles each time tech people is stuck doing other things than their work. E.g. blurry requirements, old-fashioned hardware difficult to work with, dealing with licenses that expired, tough procedures to ask for holidays or reporting progress, …
  • State clear channels for communication. Avoid email lists. Define information radiators. Death penalty on the bosses who arrange long meetings with everyone involved.
  • Focus on focusing. Everyone working in one task at each time, until it’s done.

 

 


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