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SPaMCAST features our interview with Julia Wester.  Julia returns to the cast to discuss spectrum thinking.  Specturn thinking is an important tool in system thinking and required to address complexity.  Even though using binary thinking is rarely the most effective path, it is rare to use spectrum thinking to address problems. Julia provides a path to more effective decision making.

Julia’s Bio

Julia is a Co-Founder of Lagom Solutions and its Principal Consultant. Lagom Solutions is an outcome-focused consulting and product company. Julia leads the consulting side of Lagom Solutions. When working with customers, she leverages her 18 years of experience working in and managing high-performing teams at companies such as Turner Broadcasting, F5 Networks, and LeanKit. Julia is passionate about teaching others how to tame the chaos of everyday work by embracing transparency, continuous improvement, and a lagom mindset. She also loves talking about how management doesn’t have to be a dirty word. Julia blogs at and tweets at @everydaykanban.

Re-Read Saturday News
This week we continue our re-read of The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. In Chapter one, Gladwell suggests that there are three factors that impact whether an idea or product crosses a tipping point; they are the law of the few, the stickiness factor, and the power of context. Chapter one introduces these concepts and presents real-life examples to illustrate the factors. Dust off your copy or buy a new copy.

Current entry:

Week 2 – The Three Rules of Epidemics (more…)

Pareto chart of Pokemon

Got to catch them all!

A Pareto analysis is based on the principle suggested by Joseph Juran (and named after Vilfredo Pareto) that 80% of the problems/issues are produced by 20% of the issues. This is the famous 80/20 rule, and this principle is sometimes summarized as the vital few versus the trivial many. Process improvement professionals use the Pareto principle to focus limited resources (time and money) on a limited number of items that produce the biggest benefit. (more…)

checklist-manifesto Book

In week 5 of re-read of The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande (use the link and buy a copy so you can read along) we tackle Chapter 4, The Idea. In Chapter 4 Gawande shows us how checklists can help push decision-making outward, which empowers teams and makes them more responsive.

For simple routine problems, forcing functions have great appeal.  I put my company badge and car keys in the same place, everyday – check. I put my lunch box in the freezer — check. I am home — check. A simple routine checklist that makes going to work in the morning less complicated. The checklist for routine problems can be spelled out in great detail to precipitate behaviors. That said, not everything we face in day-to-day or business environments is routine. (more…)

Sushi Rice and Tofu Bowl

Don’t assume no meat mean no taste!

Monte Carlo analysis provides a way to handle answering questions with significant uncertainty in the inputs that influence the outcome of the work so you can have the difficult “when, what, and how much” type conversations with sponsors, stakeholders, and marketing people. That definition is an explicit admission that almost ALL of the hard questions asked about projects cannot be answered using simple a + b = c formulas or arguments. This leads us to use tools like Monte Carlo analysis. There are four common assumptions often overlooked or misunderstood when using Monte Carlo methods. (more…)

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SPaMCAST 507 opens with our essay on consensus decision making. Consensus decision-making techniques are used by almost every team. The process of getting to a decision or solution that the whole team can at least live will make sure that everyone on the team has a seat at the table and that team builds both majority and minority views into the deliberation process.

Want to read about consensus decision making?   

6 Step Framework for Consensus Decision Making

Consensus Decision Making Revisited –

Life Cycle of Consensus Decision Making

Consensus Decision Making Forever – Sometimes  

In our second column, Susan Parente brings her I Am Not a Scrumdamentalist column to the podcast.  In this installment, Susan talks about the myths of agile and how falling into the traps that the myths create affect the delivery of value.

Jeremy Berriault (QA Corner) anchors the cast this week with a discussion of what happens when you make bad decisions.

Re-Read Saturday News

It is week 3 of our re-read of The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande (use the link and buy a copy so you can read along). Chapter 2 continues building the case for checklists to deal with complex and complicated environments. This chapter firmly pins down the idea that checklists save time, money and lives.

Current Installment:

Week 3 – The Checklist (more…)

Making Christmas Cookies Requires A Concensus

Getting to a consensus decision is not always a walk in the park. Everyone seems to have a different path to the same goals, or if not a different path, at least an opinion on why other paths are better or worse. Everyone involved in reaching a consensus decision must start with the the belief that achieving consensus is the goal. If everyone is not operating in good faith there will be no consensus decision. Without an agreement to reach a mutually beneficial agreement one side winning or not agreeing become the only options. Based on the simple premise that people want to achieve a consensus decision, the question is how to get from many ideas down to few and finally to one a single idea or decision. (more…)

Eating ice cream

Consensus for ice cream!

Consensus decisions are the output of a process in which a team or group finds a solution that everyone can either actively support or live with. Getting from the need to create a decision to the decision is where the magic (or at least the hard work) happens. The steps a facilitator takes in generating a consensus decision include:

  1. Identifying what the team will decide. Develop a clear outline to help a team or group to frame the scope of the decision. State the need for everyone to understand by pinpointing the priorities.
  2. Visualize what a positive outcome looks like. Visualization provides a mental model of what a successful consensus looks like and how it impacts the team. Use the process of visualization to mentally role-play getting to a consensus in your mind. This is a critical step not only for the facilitator but the whole team. Facilitators use mental models to guide, and team members use mental models to create a goal. Questions are a tool to generate a mental model. Two questions I have found useful are:
    1. What is the ideal or best outcome possible?
    2. What does the path to attaining that outcome look like?