December 3, 2017


The 8020Info Water Cooler

  Highlights from the latest information
  for managers, leaders & entrepreneurs


In this issue of the Water Cooler we focus on web design for easier scanning, how decision-making is influenced by past investments, and managing a team with members who serve on multiple teams. And with this, our last issue for the year, we extend a special appreciation to all our Water Cooler subscribers and clients in 2017.  Enjoy!


1. F-Pattern Reading And Your Web Site

It’s easy to imagine readers poring over every word on your web site. The reality is different: They are inclined to scan, in an F-shaped pattern, and you need to strategically design your content to align with that tendency.

The Nielsen Norman Group first identified this pattern in 2006 and recently took another look at it, finding other patterns but with F-shaped the most common. Here’s how it works, according to senior vice-president Kara Pernice:

  • Users first read in a horizontal movement, usually across the upper part of the content area. This forms the F’s top bar.
  • Next, they move down a bit and read across in a second horizontal movement that typically covers a shorter area than before. This creates the F’s lower bar.
  • Finally, they scan the content’s left side vertically. Sometimes this is a slow and systematic scan — on an eye-tracking heat map it appears as a solid stripe. On other occasions they move faster, creating a spottier heat map. This forms the F’s stem.

Given that scanning pattern, she suggests including your most important points in the first two paragraphs on the page, to catch the top of the F. Use headings and sub-headings, making them look important, to catch the reader’s eye, and start those headings with the first few words carrying the gist of the information in case that’s all the reader notices.

Visually group small amounts of related content with such devices as borders or a different background, and boldface important words and phrases.

Don’t fight the F pattern if you can go with the flow.


2. Past Investments Can Sink Your Decision-Making

Consultant Suzie McAlpine says one of the biggest fallacies around decision-making is that people make rational decisions based on the future value of objects, investments and experiences.

“The Truth? Your decisions are tainted by the emotional investments you accumulate, and the more you invest in something, the harder it becomes to abandon it,” she writes on her blog.

It’s known as the sunk cost fallacy. And you need to be alert to its presence, particularly in a fast-changing world, where your previous ideas — and investments in those ideas — can erode very quickly.

Sometimes you won’t notice. But sometimes it will appear through what she calls “an inner pilot light” warning you not to follow a certain direction. Here’s what to do:

  • Ask yourself if there’s a third option when two options are a toss-up.
  • Play devil’s advocate to your preferred decision. “This is especially important if you’re passionately wedded to it or if there’s high emotion involved. Even better, ask others to challenge your assumptions,” she says.
  • Give it the overnight test. She has gone to bed many times chewing over a decision and woken up clear-minded about the way forward.
  • Pay attention to your gut. If your intuition is saying no, don’t ignore that signal. Complement your intuition with data if possible but pay attention to the gut nevertheless.

Challenging your past investments in a project often means challenging your previous decisions, so it’s not easy. But it’s vital.


3. How To Stop Being A Micromanager

If you don’t like having a micromanager as boss, don’t be one for your subordinates.

On his blog, Bryant University Professor Michael Roberto suggests making a list of the types of decisions you have been heavily involved with over the past month or so.  Now divide it in two: the ones in which you absolutely must be involved, and the ones where you might test letting go a bit.

“Give it a few weeks or a month, and see how things go. Let your subordinates know that you are going to try to let go on those particular decisions.  Review and assess periodically to see if the change has been productive,” he says.

Supplement that by identifying the people you trust the most and could give more autonomy. Talk with them about opportunities that they wish to pursue and the situations where they feel confident moving with less direction and oversight.

Also, review the forms and memos on your desk for approval. How many layers of pre-approvals already exist, and can you eliminate yours?


4. The Root Of Causal Analysis

Getting to the root of a problem or anticipating difficulties with a course of action can be tackled with this multi-step process shared on Lifehack.org by writer Angelina Phebus:

  • Begin by delineating the problem, real or anticipated.
  • Name all the things that are contributing to failures.
  • Ask yourself how often failures are occurring.
  • List the actions you have taken to ensure that failures do not recur.
  • Analyze whether those solutions worked for you.

It’s simple, logical, and vital.


5. Zingers

  • Hands-off leadership: It doesn’t matter how long you stand behind people. It won’t make them work any faster, says consultant Gordon Tredgold. Give your team space and freedom to succeed. (Source: Inc.com)
  • Trust but verify: A common theme in today’s ad tech world is that no one knows what’s going on, says Mark Ritson, associate professor of marketing at London Business School. Apply a “trust but verify” attitude. (Source: Marketing Week)
  • Identify parental expectations: When Mike O’Neill, chief executive of the music rights firm BMI, interviews people, he wants to know if they have the same qualities his parents expected from him: Trust, respect, accountability and watching others’ backs. He also asks about their last job, to understand the people they surround themselves with. For example, who was the person you really wanted to work for? Who was the person you wanted to run from? Why? (Source: New York Times)
  • Power hour: Keep a sacrosanct 60-minute “power hour” in your schedule, giving your undivided attention to a specific task — one central to your effectiveness, suggest BKR founders Kate Cutler and Tal Winter. (Source: FastCompany.com)
  • Sell what’s important: Remember that customers only value what’s important to them, advises sales consultant Colleen Francis. If a client says, “We don’t care about that,” leave it out of the proposal and further discussions because it’s not relevant. However, if the client says “that is very important to us; we should include that as well,” then look for ways to discuss how you can add further value. (Source: Engage Selling)


6. Q&A With 8020Info: Does Multi-Teaming Leave Your Team Overcommitted?

Question:  Unlike most teams I’ve led, members of my current team are distracted by their involvement with many other teams. How do I help them make my team their priority and stay focused on our project?


8020Info Associate Matthew Wood responds:

The challenge you’re facing isn’t uncommon: Nearly every knowledge worker these days is a member of multiple concurrent teams. Accommodating this dynamic means creating an environment where multi-teamers will thrive, says organizational design and leadership professor Mark Mortensen, in an article in Harvard Business Review.

Building a successful environment involves many factors, such as coordinating and managing competing priorities across groups. You will also need to enable members to build strong connections and trust with people despite spending little time together.

Mortensen points out a few priorities for team leaders in your position:

  • Help the team establish trust and familiarity: When working on only one team, members have time to build connections and learn about each other beyond their working roles. But working on multiple teams means they have less time for the natural interpersonal growth that forges strong bonds and builds trust. To support this process, try launching the team with a formal initial meeting to clarify roles and objectives as well as increase peer-to-peer accountability.
  • Map skills across the team: Before you start, map everyone’s skills and make sure the whole team knows how each teammate can contribute. This is important because members may make assumptions based on outdated or incorrect information about what the others can do. This step will help ensure your team uses its collective time, resources, and expertise more effectively.
  • Manage time across teams: One of the toughest parts of managing members involved with multiple teams will be trying to align individual timelines and commitments, ensuring your project doesn’t get pushed into the background. Explicitly talk about the competing priorities and be prepared to revamp deadlines and deliverables.
  • Boost motivation: Motivating team members to focus on your project can be more difficult when they have other teams and priorities. Do what you can to keep members engaged and focused on the importance of working on your project.

In his article, Mortensen points out some additional tips to help organizational leaders create a strong multi-teaming environment. He also highlights the need to create a learning environment to make the work more meaningful — something all teams should do, regardless of whether their members are multi-teaming.

These aren’t small investments of time and effort for the leader or organization, but the payoff of effective multi-teaming is huge while the price of neglecting it can be crippling.


7.  Around The 8020Info Water Cooler:

     Our 2017 Year-End Shout Out

At 8020Info, it’s been another year loaded with meaningful projects, and we’d like to say thanks to all those special people we collaborate with and serve — our clients.

Again this year we facilitated strategy development and planning sessions, stakeholder consultations and research, and designed communications approaches to help their organizations move forward.

Best wishes of the season from our team to:

  • Brockville District Hospital Foundation
  • City of Kingston (various public consultation projects)
  • Community Living – North Frontenac
  • Extend-A-Family / Developmental Services Ontario (South East)
  • Kingston Economic Development Corporation
  • Kingston Day Care Inc.
  • Kingston Family Health Team
  • Kingston Police
  • Ministry of Municipal Affairs / Ministry of Housing
  • Modern Fuel Artist-Run Centre
  • Madoc COPE (Constructive Opportunities for Progressive Employment)
  • Providence Care
  • Providence Manor
  • Queen’s Clinical Care Medicine
  • Queen’s Regional (Distributed Medical) Education
  • Queen’s Library
  • Resolve Community Counselling Canada
  • Lawrence Youth Association
  • Vincent De Paul Society of Kingston
  • United Way of Hastings & Prince Edward
  • Workforce Development & In-migration Strategy and Youth Employment Strategy

We also salute the good works of those worthy community organizations in our home town where we contributed this year as supporters and volunteers:

  • Community Foundation for Kingston & Area
  • Compassionate Kingston
  • Downtown Kingston BIA
  • Habitat for Humanity (Limestone District)
  • Hospice Kingston
  • Imagine Kingston
  • Innovate Kingston
  • Queen’s Family Health Team
  • Queen’s 3-Minute Thesis (3MT) Competition for Masters and doctoral students
  • Youth to Kingston (Y2K).

Happy holidays and best wishes for 2018!


8.  Closing Thought

“We are taught you must blame your father, your sisters, your brothers, the school, the teachers — but never blame yourself. It’s never your fault. But it’s always your fault, because if you wanted to change, you’re the one who has got to change.”

— Katherine Hepburn