Cognitive Bias


Not all puppies and kittens.

Cognitive biases are important decision-making tools.  The help to make snap decisions based on patterns of behavior that have been successful in the past. However cognitive biases are not all kittens and puppies.  Cognitive biases can also lead us to miss problems we are not trained to recognize or to ignore better solutions to problems we have solved before.  With some rules, effort, and support most of the problems caused by cognitive biases can be avoided. Tools to avoid the downsides of cognitive biases include:  (more…)

Need an extra set of eyes?

Paul Gibbons suggested in the introduction to Part One of The Science of Successful Organizational Change that every generation thinks it’s path is shaped by great upheavals.  Much of this perception is due to availability bias. Availability bias leverages the most relevant immediate example to evaluate a concept or idea.  The availability bias is only one of a myriad of cognitive biases that humans have developed to deal with the complexity of the world around us.  Steven Adams recently asked, “What biases/fallacies might a developer fall prey to when testing code that he or she developed?” If we broaden the question to which of the cognitive biases would affect anyone reviewing their own work (based on the 16 we have explored over the past two years), there are several cognitive biases that would suggest that reviewing your own work is less fruitful than getting a different set of eyes.  Some of the leading culprits are: (more…)

Teams thrive on reciprocity.

Biases affect everyone’s behavior in all walks of life.  In a recent Freakonomics podcast, The Stupidest Thing You Can Do With Your Money, Stephen Dubner described the impact of various cognitive biases on the behaviors of many well-known money managers (and nearly 70% of the investors in the world).  The people on teams involved in the development, support and maintenance of software products are not immune to the impact of biases.  After the publication of our essay A Return to Cognitive Biases, Steven Adams asked “What biases/fallacies might a developer fall prey to when testing code that he or she developed?” It is a great question that gets to the heart of why understanding cognitive biases is important for leaders and team members.  We will return to the question after we added two more biases to our growing pallet of biases that we have explored. (more…)

Creative thinking can help you combat cognitive biases.

Cognitive biases are shortcuts that people use in decision making.  The shortcuts generated by cognitive biases are typically helpful, which leads to people to internalize the bias. These internalized biases are therefore used unconsciously.  Any behavior that becomes an unconscious response can lead to actions and decisions that are perceived as irrational if the context or the environment has shifted.  For example, a colleague recently related a story about an organization with an emergent product quality problem that occurred after they had disbanded their independent test group. The response was to immediately reconstitute the test group based on the belief that if the independent testing had worked before it would work again. The response was based on a cognitive bias, not a root cause analysis or some form of mindfulness.   (more…)

HTMA

How to Measure Anything, Finding the Value of “Intangibles in Business” Third Edition


Chapter 12 of How to Measure Anything, Finding the Value of “Intangibles in Business” Third Edition is the second chapter in the final section of the book.  Hubbard titled Chapter 12 The Ultimate Measurement Instrument: Human Judges.  The majority of HTMA has focused on different statistical tools and techniques.  This chapter examines the human as a measurement tool.  Here is a summary of the chapter in a few bullet points:

  • Expert judgement is often impacted by cognitive biases.
  • Improve unaided expert judgment by using simple (sic) statistical techniques.
  • Above all else, don’t use a method that adds more error to the initial estimate.

(more…)

Turkey Trot

Turkey Trot

Empathy is defined as understanding what another person is experiencing from their frame of reference. Empathy is more than mere understanding; requiring more of a cognitive connection between two people or a group. Empathy is a very valuable concept because it forms a basis for trust, enables communication and possibly facilitates the development of altruism. However, poorly practiced empathy can lead to problematic behaviors. The first is reinforcing boundaries and defining outsiders, which makes it hard to teams of teams to interact. Secondly is misapplied empathy when there is no basis of trust; the illusion of empathy can be perceived as manipulation. (more…)

Listen Now

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The Software Process and Measurement Cast 345 features our essay on Cognitive Biases and two new columns. The essay on cognitive bias provides important tools for anyone that works on a team or interfaces with other people! A sample for the podcast:

“The discussion of cognitive biases is not a theoretical exercise. Even a relatively simple process such as sprint planning in Scrum is influenced by the cognitive biases of the participants. Even the planning process itself is built to use cognitive biases like the anchor bias to help the team come to consensus efficiently. How all the members of the team perceive their environment and the work they commit to delivering will influence the probability of success therefore cognitive biases need to be understood and managed.”

The first of the new columns is Jeremy Berriault’s QA Corner.  Jeremy’s first QA Corner discusses root cause analysis and some errors that people make when doing root cause analysis. Jeremy, is a leader in the world of quality assurance and testing and was originally interviewed on the Software Process and Measurement Cast 274.

The second new column features Steve Tendon discussing his great new book, Hyper-Productive Knowledge Work Performance.  Our intent is to discuss the book chapter by chapter.  This is very much like the re-read we do on blog weekly but with the author.  Steve has offered the SPaMCAST listeners are great discount if you use the link shown above.

As part of the chapter by chapter discussion of Steve’s book we are embedding homework questions.  The first question we pose is “Is the concept of hyper-productivity transferable from one group or company to another?” Send your comments to spamcastinfo@gmail.com.

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Reviews of the Podcast help to attract new listeners.  Can you write a review of the Software Process and Measurement Cast and post it on the podcatcher of your choice?  Whether you listen on ITunes or any other podcatcher, a review will help to grow the podcast!  Thank you in advance!

Re-Read Saturday News

The Re-Read Saturday focus on Eliyahu M. Goldratt and Jeff Cox’s The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement began on February 21nd. The Goal has been hugely influential because it introduced the Theory of Constraints, which is central to lean thinking. The book is written as a business novel. Visit the Software Process and Measurement Blog and catch up on the re-read.

Note: If you don’t have a copy of the book, buy one.  If you use the link below it will support the Software Process and Measurement blog and podcast.

Dead Tree Version or Kindle Version 

Next . . . The Mythical Man-Month Get a copy now and start reading! We will start in four weeks!

Upcoming Events

2015 ICEAA PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT & TRAINING WORKSHOP
June 9 – 12
San Diego, California
http://www.iceaaonline.com/2519-2/
I will be speaking on June 10.  My presentation is titled “Agile Estimation Using Functional Metrics.”

Let me know if you are attending!

Also upcoming conferences I will be involved in include and SQTM in September. More on these great conferences next week.

Next SPaMCast

The next Software Process and Measurement Cast will feature our will interview with Jon Quigley.  We discussed configuration management and his new book Configuration Management: Theory, Practice, and Application. Jon co-authored the book with Kim Robertson. Configuration management is one of the most critical practices anyone building a product, writing a piece of code or working on a project with other must learn or face the consequences!

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Mastering Software Project Management: Best Practices, Tools and Techniques co-authored by Murali Chematuri and myself and published by J. Ross Publishing. We have received unsolicited reviews like the following: “This book will prove that software projects should not be a tedious process, neither for you or your team.” Support SPaMCAST by buying the book here.

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