Tag Archives: life

Food For Thought #13: Less distraction, more ideas


Do you know these moments, were you’re between two tasks and don’t have the energy to start with the next one? I know these moments a lot. It’s same when you’re working on a task and you’re stuck. This is the time when a lot of people search for distraction. At least that’s what I did in the past. You open your web browser and start surfing the web, reading your Twitter timeline, checking for mails on your 11 different email accounts or check who is online on Skype. Nowadays it’s easy to get distracted. There are hundreds of ways to waste your costly life time. The main problem is, when you get used to this behavior, your productivity decreases over time. In the end your not able to concentrate on a single task and even get distracted by simple things DURING a task (like e.g. an incoming email or DM on Twitter). You don’t have the energy to start any task (maybe smaller ones). Don’t tolerate this behavior, stop it! Now! Did you hear me? Stop it!

The next time you’re having a break between two tasks, lean back and do….. nothing. Yes, exactly. Just do nothing. Don’t try to fill these breaks with some distracting activities. Try to withstand the impulse to open the browser or anything else to fill this gap. Just sit there (or stand) and wait. After a while the magic will happen: New ideas will come up into your mind. Your mind needs these breaks to get back into creativity mode. This isn’t wasted time, instead it’s one of the most valuable things you can do with it. In my experience the best ideas are created during these mind breaks.

Try it out and tell me your observations and experiences in the comments. I’m already looking forward to read them.

6 Things You Might Try in 2012


2011 draws to a close and it is time to set your goals for 2012. If you’re not sure what challenges to put on your plan for 2012, the following list could be a starting point.

1 retro 2011

Before jumping into 2012 it might be a good idea to do a retrospective for the past year. Sit together with your family, draw a timeline and collect all the good things that happened to you in 2011. But do me a favor and forget about the bad things to keep 2011 in good memory.

2 question your org structure

When was the last time you questioned the organizational structure of your company? Does it still fit with the way you’re working? Does it support you in your daily business? No? Then it is definitely time to openly question this structure. I saw a lot of companies trying to introduce agile frameworks like Scrum but without changing the current org structure. It never worked. Let’s try to avoid it! Invite for a kick off meeting to get the discussions rolling and start the change process. It is worth it.

3 ask why

Why did your company introduce Scrum? Why do they think that agile frameworks will help. Why is this process in place. Why do we need to fill out this excel spreadsheet? Why does it take so long to get new hardware? Why is Bob behaving like an idiot? Why are you doing your job? Why is this task so important.

Why questions are the most powerful questions. They are a great trigger to ignite change in your workplace or even in your private life. Why questions will help you in your quest for a life of continuously improvements.

4 offer uncalled help

When was the last time you actively offered help? Don’t wait to be asked. When you see somebody struggling, offer them your help. This shouldn’t be limited to your work life, but also to your private life. Unfortunately, the number of people who are offering uncalled help is decreasing year after year. It starts with so simple things, like opening the door for someone who is balancing a cup of coffee in one and a laptop in the other hand. Try it out, it will brighten up your day.

5 work on your listening skill

Have a look at this great TED talk by Julian Treasure. He talks about 5 ways to listen better. Definitely worth the time!

6 genba walk

If you’re a manager or team lead, this one is for you. Instead of sitting in your office and waiting till everyone comes to you, leave your office and visit your employees. Genba is a Japanese term meaning “the real place”. Go to the places in your company, where the real value is created. The idea of a genba walk is that problems are visible and the best improvement ideas will come from going to the genba. It is also a great opportunity to improve your communication with your team.

What else to you have on your agenda for the year 2012? Leave a comment! Thanks.

Food for Thought #11 – Checking In With The Kids


The first time I read about the Core Protocols was about one year ago. Yves Hanoulle and a bunch of other people wrote an awesome article, describing the Core Protocol using a conversation between Yves and a fictional character. Simply said, the Core Protocols consist of a set of commitments and communication protocols, that can help to create high performance teams.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have the chance to try these protocols with one of my teams, yet. But I’m already looking forward to try it out. In the meantime I’m using my family as guinea pigs.

A few weeks ago I had the idea to use the “Check In” protocol with my kids, when I bring them to bed. Bringing my kids to bed is quite a ceremony. We start with reading two books, then I’m telling them a home made story and last but not least I sing a song. Now we added the “Check In” at the beginning at the ceremony. The “Check In” consists of 4 steps:

    1. Speaker says “I’m checking in”
    2. Speaker says “I feel [one or more of MAD, SAD, GLAD, AFRAID].” Speaker may provide a brief explanation.
    3. Speaker says “I’m in”.
    4. Listeners respond, “Welcome.”

We found out, that this is a great way to close the day. Additionally, we as the parents get to know, what is really on the mind of our kids. Sometimes, it is really hard to keep your mouth shut, when one of the kids is checking in and telling something interesting. But most of the time we’re able to leave the check in uncommented. I think this is also something our kids really like about checking in. They can speak free without explaining oneself. On the other hand, this is also a tool for us as parents, to tell the kids what really got on our nerves that day.

After starting the “Check In” by myself on the first days, my kids took over and started to explicitly ask for checking in. Even my youngest, who is 2 years old, participates. We’re using the “Check In” now for three weeks and everybody loves it. It’s a great way to start our bed time ceremony and helps everybody to come down and get to sleep mode.

I encourage you to try this with your kids, too. I’m really looking forward to your experiences, so please leave a comment.

Food for Thought #8 – (Re)discover the Slowness

Woohoo, I caught an earthworm

Do you have kids? If yes, I bet their slowness often drives you nuts. You have to go shopping, and your smallest stops every second (at least this is what it feels like for you), to have a look at some interesting things. He stops to observe interesting things like a gum on the sidewalk, or an earthworm in the front garden of a house. But shopping isn’t the only thing in your backlog, you have a lot of other things to do today. After the 5th stop of your kid, you pick him up and carry him the rest of your way to the shop.

Most of us got used to our fast life. It is speeded up by things like mobile phones, email, twitter or tight project deadlines. We got used to run through it, without looking left or right. And the bad thing is that we don’t recognize it. But we need some kind of slack in our life because we need time to reflect, improve and recreate. If you use Kanban to help organize your project, you know that you need some slack, in order to improve the kanban system continuously. It’s the same slack you need to see the real problems behind a bigger issue. If you slow down from time to time, you’ll see the details. These details may be important pieces of the puzzle you’re currently working on.

The next time your kid slows you down try the following: Let the kid be your coach and explore the slowness. Instead of getting angry, start to enjoy it. Enjoy where you are right now. Have a look around and observe the environment. Try to see the world with eyes of your kid. Maybe there are things you didn’t recognize before. Open yourself for the details around, like the color of the trees, the voices of the birds or even the cute little earthworm. BTW, did you know that earthworms are hermaphrodites?

After your kids were coaching you for a while, you’ll be able to rediscover the slowness, also in other parts of your life.

Food for Thought #7 – Different perceptions


When was the last time you tried to see a situation with the eyes of a different person? Humans tend to think that everybody has the same view of the world as themselves and that everybody has the same perception. Of course, we all know this isn’t true. Everybody has a different perception, and that’s why it is so important to try to see the situation with the eyes of your counterpart. This can be your wife during an argument, your colleague during a meeting or your boss during a salary negotiation. It helps to understand why somebody behaves that way, and to get a common understanding.

Steve was sitting in a train after a hard day of work, when he recognized two kids jumping on the seats and making a lot of noise. A lot of people already started to turn their heads, and some were quite annoyed. The father of the kids was sitting beside them doing nothing. He was just sitting there, apparently unimpressed by their behavior. After another couple of minutes of this dog and pony show, he stood up and walked straight to the man. He was really upset that the father of the kids didn’t do anything about their behavior. He asked him: “Could you please ask your kids to stop jumping on the seats and be more quite?”. “No, I won’t”, the father said, “their mother died today, and that’s their way to cope with the loss….”.

I know this is a harsh example, but it shows that there are always different perceptions of a dedicated behavior. For Steve, the kids were just ill-bred. Now, that he knew what happened to the kids, he was able to see the situation from a different angle. He was able to understand why their father behaved like this.

Now go back and think about different situations at work. Is Mike really lazy, because he is always leaving at 5pm? Or is it because he travels about one hour from and to work, and wants to have the time to bring his kids to bed? Why did Sally dis you at the last meeting? Is it because she is such an asshole or does she has some problems at home? Get rid of your egocentric world view, and start to look at situations in different ways, with different eyes. Go out, and start with it in the next possible situation. Maybe it won’t help all times, but at least it will change your perception.