Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Go Ahead, Plan All I Want


Ha, despite my considerable efforts to find just the right way to "get things done" my time, own body and flow of events conspire to make that something that floats away like so many clouds.

Due to that, I have come to a conclusion that I cannot precisely plan beyond a day, day and a half, perhaps two. What I need to do gets done. i know because I find my old lists and see that lots of the items can be checked off. I know a pending due date looms, and here I am at a bar enjoying happy hour.

Dangest thing, I feel/know rather than think/know this is the right thing to do. Tomorrow will be productive. Or, so that's always the lure and promise.

Right now, for example, this is happening:
I have an application due to King County Procurement on Tuesday 7/29/08 at 2 PM or sooner, no exceptions. They make a bid deal about that, but the unfairness, if any, creeps in under door sills, not by letting anyone slide on the due dates.

To get said application in I need to check my draft (spelling and grammar mostly and the writing can be utilitarian), make changes and then
Print out the Original
Make five two-sided copies (4 for the appl, one for me)
I'm pitching for three sections, so I do this three times,
prepare the cover sheet for each stack
copy my final files onto a CD
prepare the package
double check everything
get it downtown the day before/the day itself is a failsafe option.

Five days later I have a workshop on Insider Change I'm facilitating. So ...
Finish my Powerpoint and handouts (entails making some decisions about the flow and what to put in/leave out).
Make 25 copies of the handout. Wild guess this one.
Update website to reflect the workshop and some tweaks to bring it up to what I envision it to be. Most of the text is ready, so it's a matter to formatting and remembering what little I understand of CSS and using it.

The website will take about 8 hours/one full day. It will be a psychological study, with my hopes pushing me to try things my meager skills can't deliver. I'll need lots of rest, and time to review the manuals and other stuff to figure out things. Finally, I'll have to settle for something because time has run out, and off it will got to the web. And I'll make a note to make more changes later.

Sunday, 8/3/08 I'll have to make circles on my calendar to take the time off.

Monday, July 21, 2008


"Yes, I've taken a stand, and my peers who took the other position will fall into their customary tactic of name calling, put downs, and attempting to falsely associate my actions to other parties that are independent of myself and make their own sovereign decisions. These shameful schoolyard, childish maneuvers have no place in our [organization, town, city, state, nation, world].

"As they may seem unable to limit or control their bitterness, meanness and thinly veiled violence by words, I ask everyone to help place a cushion of concern around them and what they say.

"Let them speak. Finish what they have to say. And, by not agreeing nor disagreeing with their content, point out the wickedness of their manners. Show up the attacks, list them. Then remind them of the affirming choices they have the option to make to remain constructive members of our common community.

"I caution myself, and those who work to sustain a working common area where we speak and talk as mature adults, that finding support among enough of us to discourage this behavior will take time. We ourselves will become the focus of a full load of their venom, that's for certain.

"Prepare yourself, know what you intend, and stick to the issue of etiquette and manners.

"I suspect this tragic pattern developed when we learned two behaviors in our youth. One, under the watchful eyes of our parents, teachers, coaches, and other responsible adults, taught us polite behaviors. If we were well raised, we learned how to disagree without being destructive or disagreeable.

"The other, out of sight of adults, had very few limits. Those behaviors unleashed our meanest sides as we teased, scratched, kicked and otherwise fought each other seeking to dominate one another. Over time, as the rest of us fell silent and watched, the remaining children seeking dominance kept fighting each other.

"We left childhood with a split personality. Now we see the price we paid, the majority of us who fell silent, for our withdrawal. Our space in the middle where we ought to be able to come and talk as peers and respectful equals is soured over with behavior no kindergarten teacher would tolerate for a moment.

"As we grew older, then it appears we have allowed our tolerated social behaviors to grow younger. As 'up we grew down we forgot,' to quote ee cummings.

"Unlike the notion in physics that nothing stops unless acted upon by an outside force, in our human world we can apply brakes by acting from an inside force. You and I know our feelings, we can not let our capacity to uphold a workable public zone be allowed to drift without someone minding the rudder. Indeed, we can step up to the helm and within ourselves, as a first step, commit to support positive public discussion of controversial views. We can make it known in advance by letter and when offered a chance on the media channels that we look forward to counting the positive ways things can be discussed. We will note the negative manners that are a throwback into immature schoolyard tactics.

"Once you have that first inner decisiveness to uphold a positive common arena, look to find another that shares that hope. Find a small action to begin with and experiment.

"This is vital community work. The space where we come to debate and decide we hold in sacred trust. We seldom speak of it in those terms, but consider that no one person "owns" it, and when it we honor and protect it we receive in return mutual acknowledgment and support for participation.

"We know the rules: lets list them and abide by them:
  • Attack the problem not the person.
  • No putdowns.
  • No disrepecting.
  • No personal attacks."

Virgin Mobile Update

Got a call from VM a few days after the 4th of July. Turns out, they approved a refund and I could expect a check within 5 weeks. Opened my mailbox today and, viola! my check! Took 9 working days.

Well done, Virgin Mobile.

In the meantime I got my new cell and number and we're back in (mobile) business.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Beware of the Double Yes Syndrome!

The double yes is a communication phenomena. It's two or more people making an agreement, and making the same agreement again. For example:

Person A: Let's have lunch next Friday, at 12:30 at The New Great Cafe.

Person B: Yes, let's do that.

[a few days pass]
[Late Wednesday or Thursday B send an email message to A]

B: "Are we still on for lunch on Friday."
A: [reply]. "Yes."

What just happened? If you think this is a single agreement to have lunch you will sometimes find yourself in a confusing conflict (for both parties) with someone who sees this as a double agreement.

Look again in slow motion ...

Person A: Let's have lunch next Friday, at 12:30 at The New Great Cafe.

Person B: Yes, let's do that. Alert! This is an agreement or promise. With a person needing only a single "yes" this completes the planning. With someone unconsciously using a double yes pattern, this just starts the planning.

[a few days pass]
[Late Wednesday or Thursday email from Person B to A.]

B: "Are we still on for lunch on Friday." Alert! Too little time left. Person A may be busy, distracted, or away from email. This is B's effort to complete the planning.

A: [reply]. "Yes." A is replying a "confirmation" but is confused because he or she already felt that the lunch appointment had been made and settled.

Can you see how this pattern can wreck havoc? What if A misses the email yet still goes to the restaurant as agreed. B doesn't show. When asked later, B says "well, you didn't confirm."

That's just two people, this pattern can ring throughout a board, team or organization.

Most rules of order, such as Robert's Rules of Order (RROO) and Consensus decision making, rely on a single yes philosophy. The streamlined pattern (for RROO) is motion, second, discussion, amendments, voting. The assembly has made its decision: basically it passes (yes), or fails (no). There's no provision for additional "confirmations" of the vote.

I live in Seattle, a city particularly prone to the "double yes syndrome." Many people who grew up here or anywhere along the west coast live with the yes-yes pattern. People from single yes cultures like the South, Midwest and Eastern parts of the USA find themselves intermittently clashing with their yes-yes colleagues, friends and neighbors.

What's going on here? I finally found my answers (I'm a single-yes guy in a double-yes town) in a Wiley Business paperback I snagged for one $ at the Exchange (salvaged stuff from the town dump) on Orcas Island. The book? I Wish I'd Said That by Linda McCallister, PhD.

She has three main communication styles I'm going to rename Direct, Complete and Comfortable (her names were Noble, Socratic and Reflective). The Direct style translate in this case to the single yes camp. These communicators seek to quickly "cut to the chase," state their feelings and opinions briefly and expect the same candor from you, will vigorously argue a position until a decision is reached then implement (whether won or lost), and consider talking about details a waste of time.

The Comfortable style of communicators are the double-yessers in our little fable. This communication style prefers to help other people feel cozy in the exchange, skirts conflict, and will smile and agree though inwardly in disagreement. So a first yes means "sure, I'm comfortable making this plan." The confirmation step is when Comfortables get real, "Do we really intend to do this?"

To round it out, the Completes talk to every point and leave nothing unstated. They enjoy ideas, and don't want to think anything has been overlooked. This means they are likely to be a single-yes styled person due to the completeness of the initial discussion. something like ...

A (Direct): Let's grab lunch downtown on Friday and catch-up.
B (Complete): Hm, will there be any games that day snarling traffic. B imagines likely complicating factors.

A: Oh, Not sure, let's meet then in Capitol Hill, I need the exercise anyway.
B: Might rain. Perhaps A has not thought about walking uphill in the rain.

A: Rain or shine. How about meeting me at Tres Cool Cooks, they do a fabulous lunch.
B: All right, see you there 12:30?

A: Deal.
B. See you then.

What to do?

Myself, being a Direct, would have everybody communicate yes once, record it in their calendars and then show up. I'm always forgetting the double-yes pattern. When I can remember I verbally make the first communication the completion of the plan: Okay, you are sure you can make it? As far as I'm concerned this is the confirmation right now because I'll be there.

If you are a Comfortable, you will have to learn that telling people the truth will not send them running from the room never to speak to you again. Let's say in this scenario you may need to use that time for a project, but you don't want to upset your friend. Here's a hint: people are never disappointed with the truth at the planning stage. You're not showing or using a lack of confirmation as a plea to explain not showing up could trigger unpleasant reactions in others. Something you know you want to avoid.

Assume when someone proposes a specific activity, date, time and place they mean it. Take out your calendar or imagine how you anticipate that day working for you. Take a breath and decide whether you can do it or not, right now, not later. If you can't do, say so, and propose a different arrangement. [Geez, I have to be in an important meeting at work that we haven't found a date for yet. It could fall on Friday. Tuesday will work better for me.]

If you like to keep your options open, inform the other person you will take the initiative and confirm by a particular time.

B: I'd like to confirm this on Thursday, I don't know how that Friday will work out.
A: Well, I'm in meeting all day Thursday. If you change your mind, it helps to both call and email me. I don't always check email after a long day.

B: All right.

More resources:

A blog entry on these styles (with the names McCallister used)

Publishers information on the book

Enjoy finding out whether you are a single or double-yes agreement maker and let me know the results in the comments area.