July 16, 2015

I Already Know About That


Many years ago when I first started to facilitate Peer Assist meetings I became aware of something that appeared to be operating at a sub conscious level within the home team participants, the guys who had called for the Peer Assist.  It wasn’t something that was very obvious, more a feeling to begin with.

For the purpose of this blog lets describe it in very black and white terms as

“We have some of the best people in the company in this team, they have lots of experience doing similar activities to what we are planning to do, the risk assessments have been done, we know what we are doing, the purpose of the Peer Assist it to comply with the Project Management Manual”

So given that this was something that I suspected, what could I do about it?

I decided to put an extra step into the standard Peer Assist work flow that we were using at that time.  So now I used the following agenda;

  1. General introductions by everyone present – name, rank, serial number; basic stuff
  2. Project team outline the challenges that they are facing and what they propose doing about them
  3. The visitors re-introduce themselves highlighting the relevant experience that they have in the areas outlined during step 2
  4. Conversation
  5. Action planning

Step 3 highlighted why the home team should pay attention to what the visitor might suggest.  Just think of all the experience you have gathered over your career, if someone asked you to introduce yourself during step 1, what would you highlight, how would you know if it was relevant to the challenges facing the home team?  By allowing the visitor to better understand the challenges facing the home team, it allows the visitor to highlight the experience that will be most relevant during the forthcoming conversation.  I sometimes refer to this step as the “why should you listen to me” step.
I tried deleting the introductions in step 1 but constant feedback was that participants were uncomfortable starting a meeting without knowing who was present.

It’s very easy to think you know everything about a given topic and that there isn’t really anything that you can learn from others.  Let me give you a very simple example of how you can trick yourself into thinking you already know about a given topic.

The 6 July 2015 edition of the Time magazine is entitled “The Answers Issue”.  There are lots of interesting facts that I wasn’t aware of eg there are 3317 da Vinci surgery robots installed around the globe as of 31 March 2015 (I was aware that surgery robots were in use but no idea there were so many of them) and that if I stopped driving a car and eating meat, my carbon footprint would be dramatically reduced.  I also learned that if I lived in USA, at my age my top risk would change from cancer to heart disease and that my risk of death by accident is now almost negligible.

The one example where I thought I knew the answer (well I almost did) was in the world’s deadliest creature.  I knew that even although “Jaws” change how we viewed a dip in the ocean, that sharks weren’t the deadliest creatures.  I turns out that they killed 3 people worldwide in 2014.  I was pretty certain that the deadliest creature would be the mosquito and I was correct, they kill 755,000 people per year, yes an incredible 755,000 people are killed each year by the mosquito.  What I didn’t know was that 200,000 people per year are killed by snails!  “Freshwater snails in tropical and subtropical climates can carry schistosomiasis, a deadly parasitic disease”, according to the magazine. 

So if you are about to start an activity in your business (or even your private life) assuming that you know everything about that topic can be a dangerous assumption.  Sometimes you need to listen to the visitors that are participating in your Peer Assist, assuming of course that you called for a Peer Assist in the first place!