Week 25 – Start with the end in mind

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Recognising how busy we all are, I am trying to reduce the processing power needed by our brains to get work done. When we think about work, the more unknowns there are about what is needed from us, the more our brains will try to calculate all the possibilities.

During these conversations, our brains are using lots of different processes including attention, reasoning, problem-solving and memory as we are not only processing the current message, but we are drawing on our past experiences to compare with what we are hearing now and make sense of it based on what we already know.

This takes an enormous amount of processing power, which saps our energy. This lack of energy can create feelings of negativity, because we are tired so we lack the enthusiasm to get things done, which makes us worry about how much we have to do which makes us feel down which means we have even less enthusiasm and motivation. It is a vicious circle.

We can create more positive feelings, by streamlining the amount of mental energy we are using by being very focused about the information we share.

We must avoid ambiguous descriptions for what is needed. If you don’t know what you want, then the person listening to you is going to have to process a lot of potentials to try to sort out what you mean. You have exhausted them before they even begin the work!

This week I am trying to be focused, specific, definite and unequivocal in my requests. The problem is, to do this, I need to think ahead. I need to imagine the conditions for success before I can describe them. I must challenge myself to decide before the work is done, what exactly would make me happy. I need to describe “what good looks like”.

By describing these “acceptance criteria” including examples of what bad looks like, I am creating a very clear picture of what work is needed. Try it for yourselves, it is not as easy as it looks but the more you practice, the easy it will become.

I am off now to have a picnic at the beach with my partner, and before I pack the food, I have worked out my acceptance criteria!

  • Fizzy white wine – not still red wine
  • Granary rolls – not white bread
  • Salad filling – not meat
  • Digestive biscuits – not with chocolate
  • 1 apple each – not other fruit

For more about acceptance criteria, join me on my first Agile Change Agent course after the summer break.