Category Archives: Other Frameworks

More on Multitasking

This is a continuation from the previous post titled: Is Multitasking Still a Skill to Boast About? Click here if you have not yet read it.

Books on Multitasking

Here are some good, easy-to-read books that explain more of the concepts and can also help you manage the situation better:

 The One Thing Book Cover The One Thing: The surprisingly simple truth behind extraordinary results by Gary Keller Amazon.com,
Amazon.in
The Myth of Multi-Tasking Book Cover The Myth of Multitasking: How “Doing It All” Gets Nothing Done by Dave Crenshaw Amazon.com,
Amazon.in,
Flipkart

Other Articles on the Internet

Read more about the uselessness of multitasking in the articles listed below (links provided):

Videos on Multitasking

Here is a video that talks about why we can’t multitask efficiently.

If the video does not load use this link: https://youtu.be/BpD3PxrgICU

Here is another short video:


If the video does not load use this link: https://youtu.be/MJuXV6AD93s

Please feel free to share your views, experiences, and queries, using the “comments” feature available. You may also forward the link to this post to your friends, colleagues, and anyone else who may be interested.

Notes:

Nothing Official About It! – The views presented above are in no manner reflective of the official views of any organization, community, group, institute, or association. They may not even be the official views of the author :-).


I am Rajesh Naik. I am an author, management consultant and trainer, helping IT and other tech companies improve their processes and performance. I also specialize in CMMI® (DEV and SVC), People CMM® and Balanced Scorecard. I am a CMMI Institute certified/ authorized Instructor and Lead Appraiser for CMMI® and People CMM®. I am available on LinkedIn and I will be glad to accept your invite. For more information please click here.

Is Multitasking Still a Skill to Boast About?

Multi Tasking Cartoon

Over the last 4-5 years I have read many articles (popular as well as academic) that have consistently tried to educate people that multitasking is inefficient, error-prone and negatively impacts the mental health of the so-called multitasker.

However, I still receive job applications with resumes that highlight the multitasking skill of the applicant. So, I chased this a bit, and discovered that even consultants helping people apply for jobs advice them to highlight their multitasking skills (or is it a single skill?). I have also found ‘multi-tasking skill’ as a checklist item in the interview evaluation forms of a few organizations.

Evolution of the Multitasking concept

The word ‘multitasking’ first appeared in the description of the capabilities of an IBM computer (System/ 360) in 1965. People started using the word for human beings in the 1980s as a desirable skill and something that enhances productivity.

So, what is multitasking in human beings?

Human multitasking is the apparent performance by an individual of handling more than one task, or activity, at the same time. The term is derived from computer multitasking.

Wikipedia

In the last ten years, multiple controlled experiments and studies have been conducted to understand the concept of multitasking in humans. The research consistently shows that humans cannot pay attention to multiple things at the same time. So they are essentially doing rapid context switching. This increases the total time taken and also increases the errors. People who typically multitask, perform poorly (compared to people who do not typically multitask) even when they are asked to do tasks sequentially.

Multitasking is Not Recommended

So, unless it is absolutely necessary, do not multitask (I am using the word multitasking as is commonly used – actually it is some kind of rapid context switching). And do not take pride in your multitasking. Here are a bunch of reasons:

  1. It could be dangerous – like talking on the phone while driving, or texting while walking on a busy road. In some professions, trying to simultaneously do more things than what is absolutely required may be fatal to others (surgeons, air traffic controllers, pilots, etc.).
  2. It is slower and less efficient. According to some studies productivity can reduce by around 40% when you multitask.
  3. It is error-prone. Research consistently shows that people make more errors while multitasking. So, the tasks that you get “First Time Right” reduce significantly.
  4. There is no sense of satisfaction of completion, because there are multiple tasks in progress, and the sense completion of one task  is overshadowed by the rest of the ‘work-in-progress’.
  5. Communication becomes unclear and unsatisfactory – in professional and personal life. Because you cannot pay continuous attention to what others are saying. Nor can you convey a complete concept that requires long communication. This could impact relationships too.
    For example, because you were on the phone while typing an email, you may mark the email to the wrong persons, or send the email with partial / wrong information – thereby creating confusion that needs further communication and sorting out.
  6. Multitasking increases stress. When we start to drop balls,and make mistakes our feeling of overwhelm increases, and the stress keeps building.
  7. Multitasking reduces the IQ (temporarily) by around 10 points – roughly equivalent of missing one night’s sleep – for people who are already sleep deprived or already have a low IQ, it may be a disaster :-).
  8. Multitasking becomes more difficult with age. As all of us are ageing at the same rate (1 day per day, 1 year per year), we will be able to do less and less of ‘multitasking’ as time flies.
  9. Multitasking while eating can make you overeat – so it is not aligned with healthy eating.
  10. Need to multitask may be addictive – you may be soon be unable to focus on a single task for a long duration, even if that is essential (like answering a 2 hour examination without your cellphone or tablet or laptop or TV or favorite book).

Unknowns

Here are some aspects of multitasking for which I could not get very definite answers.

  • Does gender play a role in the ability to multitask?
  • Are some individuals significantly better than others at multitasking?
  • Does multitasking reduce attention span? Or do individuals who lack attention span typically tend to multitask?
  • Can we train people to be good at multitasking?
  • Are there some combination of tasks that are conducive to multitasking? What are their characteristics? (For example – it is perfectly natural to speak to someone seated in a car while you are driving, but not to speak on the cellphone;  one can listen to music and answer emails, but one cannot cook while answering emails).

Read more about multitasking and how to better handle the situation in the article: More on MultitaskingClick here if you have not yet read it.

Please feel free to share your views, experiences, and queries, using the “comments” feature available. You may also forward the link to this post to your friends, colleagues, and anyone else who may be interested.

Notes:

Nothing Official About It! – The views presented above are in no manner reflective of the official views of any organization, community, group, institute, or association. They may not even be the official views of the author :-).


I am Rajesh Naik. I am an author, management consultant and trainer, helping IT and other tech companies improve their processes and performance. I also specialize in CMMI® (DEV and SVC), People CMM® and Balanced Scorecard. I am a CMMI Institute certified/ authorized Instructor and Lead Appraiser for CMMI® and People CMM®. I am available on LinkedIn and I will be glad to accept your invite. For more information please click here.

CIA-OSS Manual for Workplace Sabotage

Recently, the CIA declassified a document titled ‘Simple Sabotage Field Manual’. This manual was created by the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the World War II–era precursor to the CIA. It is dated 1944, for use by CIA operatives in Europe who were trying to recruit civilians living in countries occupied by the Axis Alliance (Germany, Italy and Japan).

A scanned version of the document is available in the pdf form at the CIA’s website, here.

OSS-CIA Manual Cover

The documents has around 32 pages. The most interesting parts for me were in the last few pages in a section titled ‘General Interference with Organizations and Production.’

One sub-section of this part is reproduced here:

(a) Organizations and Conferences

(1) Insist on doing everything through “channels.” Never permit short-cuts to be taken in order to, expedite decisions.
(2) Make “speeches.” Talk as frequently as possible and at great length. Illustrate your “points” by long anecdotes and accounts of personal experiences. Never hesitate to make a few appropriate “patriotic” comments.
(3) When possible, refer all matters to committees, for “further study and consideration.” Attempt to make the committees as large as possible – never less than five.
(4) Bring up irrelevant issues as frequently as possible.
(5) Haggle over precise wordings of communications, minutes, resolutions.
(6) Refer back to matters decided upon at the last meeting and attempt to reopen the question of the advisability of that decision.
(7) Advocate “caution.” Be “reasonable” and urge your fellow-conferees to be “reasonable” and avoid haste which might result in embarrassments or difficulties later on.
(8) Be worried about the propriety of any decision -raise the question of whether such action as is contemplated lies within the jurisdiction of the group or whether it might conflict with the policy of some higher echelon.

The manual continues to other such sub-sections titled (b) Managers and Supervisors, (c) Office Workers, and (d) Employees. You can read all the sections in pages 28-32 of the manual available here.

What is amazing is that I see this behavior in most organizations, displayed by most people, though they may not have been recruited by the CIA (at least, I think CIA has better sense than to spend money when there is no need).

And that is why you have management gurus and management consultancy firms, much in demand, trying to reverse the situation, with maybe negligible effect. We have experts in OD, employee motivation, leadership development. operational efficiency, process management, organizational alignment, Balanced Scorecard, Six-Sigma, Lean, Agile, ISO, CMMI®, People CMM®, and so on…, but nothing seems to change.

The  beauty of the principles in the document are so inherently ‘aligned’ to human nature, that these principles have insidiously and organically crept into all aspects of all organizations, maybe even in the CIA.

I leave you to draw your own conclusions. Read pages 28-32 of the manual available here.

Please feel free to share your views, experiences, and queries, using the “comments” feature available. You may also forward the link to this post to your friends, colleagues, and anyone else who may be interested.

Notes:

Nothing Official About It! – The views presented above are in no manner reflective of the official views of any organization, community, group, institute, or association. They may not even be the official views of the author :-).


I am Rajesh Naik. I am an author, management consultant and trainer, helping IT and other tech companies improve their processes and performance. I also specialize in CMMI® (DEV and SVC), People CMM® and Balanced Scorecard. I am a CMMI Institute certified/ authorized Instructor and Lead Appraiser for CMMI® and People CMM®. I am available on LinkedIn and I will be glad to accept your invite. For more information please click here.

Probability/ Stats Puzzles – 2 & 3 (Solutions)

If you’ve not seen/ attempted the puzzles, the links are here: puzzle-2 and puzzle-3. These were presented in earlier posts.

Both these puzzles are adopted from a delightful little book by John Allen Paulos titled A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper.

I will provide more details about the book next week. For now, here are the solutions to the two puzzles.

Puzzle-2

You need to call the throw of a dice a 1000 times. Like all dices, in each throw, this dice also gives you a number between 1 and 6. You are also told that the dice is slightly distorted / damaged – the probability of getting the six results is as follows: 1- 20%; 2- 10%; 3- 25%; 4-15%; 5-15%; 6-15%.

What strategy would you use to call the answers for the 1000 throws? Your objective is to get the right answer for a maximum of the throws.

Solution:

Call 3, 3, 3, 3…. all the 1000 times. This will get you aprroximately 250 right calls.

Or better still, tell the dice roller that your call is 3 all the thousand times, go for a coffee, or do something useful, come back after some time.

Puzzle-3

Two contestants are to decide on the winner of 10 mn by flipping a coin. The winner will be the one who reaches six (6) correct calls first.

After 8 flips, contestant A has 5 correct calls, and contestant B has 3 correct calls. At this stage they agree NOT to continue with the flipping of the coin. Here are some proposals on how the money should be shared:

  1. Contestant A says that since he is leading, he should get the 10mn.
  2. Contestant B says that since the flipping was called off before the final result, the 10mn should be shared equally.
  3. The show-host says that TV quiz program sponsors should retain the 10mn, since both the contestants agreed to call off the contest.
  4. Someone from the audience suggests that the prize money be split in the 5:3 ratio (5 for A and 3 for B), in line with the number of right calls
  5. A mathematician calls in to suggest that the money be split A7:B1 (try and guess the logic here, it is related to the probability of winning from this point, if the flipping had continued)

Solution:

The question on how the money is to be shared is not a mathematical /statistical problem at all! It is a matter of fairness and justice, and each solution proposed (and some yet to be proposed) has its own merit.

However, if you have not yet worked out the logic of why the mathematician proposed option # 5 above, here it is:

For contestant B to win 6 calls in a row, he/ she needs to call ALL of the next three calls correctly (even if he / she calls one incorrectly, A will reach 6 right calls. So the probability of B winning is (0.5) x (0.5) x (0.5) = 0.125; which means A has a probability of 0.875 – that is 7:1.

Next week, I will cover the source of these puzzles, a book titled A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper by John Allen Paulos.

Please feel free to to share your views, experiences, and queries, using the “comments” feature available.
You may also forward the link to this post to your friends, colleagues, and anyone else who may be interested.

Notes:

Nothing Official About It! – The views presented above are in no manner reflective of the official views of any organization, community, group, institute, country, government, or association. They may not even be the official views of the author of this post :-).


I am Rajesh Naik. I am an author, management consultant and trainer, helping IT and other tech companies improve their processes and performance. I also specialize in CMMI® (DEV and SVC), People CMM® and Balanced Scorecard. I am a CMMI Institute certified/ authorized Instructor and Lead Appraiser for CMMI® and People CMM®. I am available on LinkedIn and I will be glad to accept your invite. For more information please click here.

Probability/ Stats Puzzle – 3

I encountered another problem in the same book (I will disclose the name of the book in a later post along with the answer). Here is the problem:

Coin FlipTwo contestants have reached the last round of a TV quiz contest and one of them is hoping to be the winner of a prize of 10 mn (currency deliberately left vague) via a tie-breaker. Even after the tie-breaker, neither of them has beaten the other.

The show-host offers to break the tie with a coin (my guess is that the show host did not have any more questions left :-)). However, to maintain the suspense and gain more TRP, he proposes that the winner will be one who reaches six (6) correct calls first.

After 8 flips, contestant A has 5 correct calls, and contestant B has 3 correct calls. At this stage both the contestants agree NOT to continue with the flipping of the coin (maybe the coin is lost or it breaks or falls into something disgusting – use your imagination). They have to decide on the winner based on result of the 8 flips.

Here are some proposals:

  1. Contestant A says that since he is leading, he should get the 10mn.
  2. Contestant B says that since the flipping was called off before the final result, the 10mn should be shared equally.
  3. The show-host says that TV quiz program sponsors should retain the 10mn, since both the contestants agreed to call off the contest.
  4. Someone from the audience suggests that the prize money be split in the 5:3 ratio (5 for A and 3 for B), in line with the number of right calls
  5. A mathematician calls in to suggest that the money be split A7:B1 (try and guess the logic here, it is related to the probability of winning from this point, if the flipping had continued)
  6. Any other…

It is interesting to note so many options to a simple situation.

Please share your suggestions in the “comments” feature available below.


I am Rajesh Naik. I am an author, management consultant and trainer, helping IT and other tech companies improve their processes and performance. I also specialize in CMMI® (DEV and SVC), People CMM® and Balanced Scorecard. I am a CMMI Institute certified/ authorized Instructor and Lead Appraiser for CMMI® and People CMM®. I am available on LinkedIn and I will be glad to accept your invite. For more information please click here.

Probability/ Stats Puzzle – 2

I encountered this simple problem in a book (I will disclose the name of the book in a later post along with the answer).

Here is the problem:

You need to call the throw of a dice a 1000 times. Like all dices, in each throw, this dice also gives you a number between 1 and 6. You are also told that the dice is slightly distorted / damaged – the probability of getting the six results is as follows: 1- 20%; 2- 10%; 3- 25%; 4-15%; 5-15%; 6-15%.

What strategy would you use to call the answers for the 1000 throws? Your objective is to get the right answer for a maximum of the throws.

Green Dice

Here are some answers that I have heard:

  1. Call the number ‘3’ all the 1000 times – this is the most common answer I have heard.
  2. Call the numbers in the same pattern as the probability: 1- 200 times; 2- 100 times; 3- 250 times; 4-150 times; 5-150 times; 6-150 times.
  3. Call the numbers randomly, ignoring the distortion in the dice.
  4. A variation of 2 above is to call the numbers in the same pattern, but also taking into account the answers to the past throws, so that we try and keep the probabilities similar to the expected patterns. So if in the first 100 throws, 1 has already rolled more than 20% and 2 has been rolled less than 10%, then in the 101st throw, call 2 instead of 1, and so on.
  5. There are other possible answers too – and the right one may not be listed above (this is not a mutiple choice question 🙂 )

Work out the reasons for your choice, not just make a choice. The reasons are more important.

This is a simple question, and you should get the right answer.

The answer will be posted later.

Please share your views in the “comments” feature available.

 


I am Rajesh Naik. I am an author, management consultant and trainer, helping IT and other tech companies improve their processes and performance. I also specialize in CMMI® (DEV and SVC), People CMM® and Balanced Scorecard. I am a CMMI Institute certified/ authorized Instructor and Lead Appraiser for CMMI® and People CMM®. I am available on LinkedIn and I will be glad to accept your invite. For more information please click here.

Henlon’s Razor: Sound Principle for Processing Interpersonal Interactions

Here is the statement, attributed to Robert J. Henlon:

  • "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity".

Though the origin is not too clear, there are others who have been credited with similar statements/ quotes. Here are a few of them.

Science Fiction author Robert A. Heinlein in his short story Logic of Empire:

  • “You have attributed conditions to villainy that simply result from stupidity”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in The Sorrows of Young Werther:

  • “…misunderstandings and neglect create more confusion in this world than trickery and malice. At any rate, the last two are certainly much less frequent.”

Jane West’s The Loyalists states something similar in a more sincere (less cynical/ insulting) manner:

  • “Let us not attribute to malice and cruelty what may be referred to less criminal motives. Do we not often afflict others undesignedly, and, from mere carelessness, neglect to relieve distress?”

All of the above can be applied to actions, situations, and interactions that cause inconvenience, hurt and pain, for many reasons:

  1. It is possible that there was no malice, deliberate intention, or evil motives for the action/ inaction by the other party. Maybe it truly was carelessness, incompetence, or stupidity.
  2. It is easier to emotionally cope up with consequences of the action/ inaction if you do not think that it was the result of malice (whether or not it is true).
  3. When your action / inaction is inconvenient/ hurtful, it may be preferable (for you) to have others attribute it carelessness, incompetence, or stupidity (though some people may prefer being known as ‘evil’ rather than ‘incompetent’ 🙂 ). If so, it is preferable that everyone uses the same principle.

People often attribute deliberate malafide intent on the powerful (Executive Management, Human Resources) within the organization. The same holds true for the way journalists analyze governments. Most of these powerful people are clueless themselves. It may therefore helpful to remember that:

  • “Cock-up theories”  are more likely to explain man-made problems than conspiracy theories.
    [This also means ‘luck and randomness is more likely to explain success than thought-out strategy’]

You many also want to read Occam’s Razor for Design of Systems and Processes.

Please feel free to share your views, experiences, and queries, using the “comments” feature available.
You may also forward the link to this post to your friends, colleagues, and anyone else who may be interested.

Notes:

Nothing Official About It! – The views presented above are in no manner reflective of the official views of any organization, community, group, institute, country, government, or association. They may not even be the official views of the author of this post :-).


I am Rajesh Naik. I am an author, management consultant and trainer, helping IT and other tech companies improve their processes and performance. I also specialize in CMMI® (DEV and SVC), People CMM® and Balanced Scorecard. I am a CMMI Institute certified/ authorized Instructor and Lead Appraiser for CMMI® and People CMM®. I am available on LinkedIn and I will be glad to accept your invite. For more information please click here.

Are Surveys Really Objective?

If you are under the impression that you should believe the results of surveys (customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction, etc.), you may want to rethink after you have a look at this episode of  Yes, Prime Minister (Episode “The Ministerial Broadcast”). Sir Humphreys instructs Bernard on how to design and administer a survey to get the result that you want. See this youtube clip (the quaint accent in which they speak English alone is worth it 😉 )

If your youtube clip does not load, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G0ZZJXw4MTA

Please feel free to to share your views, experiences, and queries, using the “comments” feature available.
You may also forward the link to this post to your friends, colleagues, and anyone else who may be interested.

Notes:

Nothing Official About It! – The views presented above are in no manner reflective of the official views of any organization, community, group, institute, country, government, or association. They may not even be the official views of the author of this post :-) .


I am Rajesh Naik. I am an author, management consultant and trainer, helping IT and other tech companies improve their processes and performance. I also specialize in CMMI® (DEV and SVC), People CMM® and Balanced Scorecard. I am a CMMI Institute certified/ authorized Instructor and Lead Appraiser for CMMI® and People CMM®. I am available on LinkedIn and I will be glad to accept your invite. For more information please click here.

Occam’s Razor for Design of Systems and Processes

Occam’s (or Ockham’s) razor is a principle attributed to the 14th century logician and Franciscan friar William of Ockham (does this profession  still exist? I am yet to meet a “logician” :-)).

Occam’s razor states that “one should minimize the assumptions to the minimum necessary to solve any problem”. It is a minimalistic principle (often called principle of parsimony) and can be used as a heuristic while doing scientific modelling and building theories.

Though the principle has been found in the writings of earlier medieval philosophers, William of Occam has been credited with it because he was its most prolific proponent.

Occam is attributed to have said something like “Numquam ponenda est pluralitas sine necessitate” (as expected, he did not say these things in any modern language :-))- which means “plurality must never be posited without necessity” [if this was how people promoting simplicity spoke, I really don’t want to know how others spoke]

Various versions/ derivations of the Occam’s razor include:

“Keep it Simple, Stupid”

“Simpler explanations are, other things being equal, generally better than more complex ones”

“Simpler hypotheses are generally better than the complex ones”

“Everything should be kept as simple as possible, but no simpler.” (Einstein?)

One of the common misuses of Occam’s razor is perpetrated by woo-scientists who say that God / brahman/ mystical forces are simpler explanations for any phenomenon that is difficult to explain. You can know more about woo science here and here.

Though Occam’s razor was initially applied to “explain things”, it can equally be applied to “building things” like systems and processes. Consciously using Occam’s Razor may make these systems easier to operate, maintain and upgrade.

Here are new variants of Occam’s razor as applied to design of systems and processes:

“It is vain to do with more what can be done with fewer”

“A simpler design that achieves the purpose is better than a more complex design”

“Minimize the entities in any design to make it effective”

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” (da Vinci?)

Here is a write-up on how Occam’s razor has been used in Web Design “Occam’s Razor: A Great Principle for Designers“.

And another delightful article on design principles is “12 Laws and Principles to Aid You in Your Design” – Occam’s razor is number 1 in this list.

See this Wikipedia page for more details on Occam’s razor.

Occam’s razor has also been applied to human interactions, and that is the subject for another post, but here is a teaser:

  • "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity".

Please feel free to share your views, experiences, and queries, using the “comments” feature available.
You may also forward the link to this post to your friends, colleagues, and anyone else who may be interested.

Notes:

Nothing Official About It! – The views presented above are in no manner reflective of the official views of any organization, community, group, institute, country, government, or association. They may not even be the official views of the author of this post :-).


I am Rajesh Naik. I am an author, management consultant and trainer, helping IT and other tech companies improve their processes and performance. I also specialize in CMMI® (DEV and SVC), People CMM® and Balanced Scorecard. I am a CMMI Institute certified/ authorized Instructor and Lead Appraiser for CMMI® and People CMM®. I am available on LinkedIn and I will be glad to accept your invite. For more information please click here.

Probability/ Stats Puzzle – 1 (Solution)

If you have not tried to solve the puzzle, click here for the problem. The problem was discussed in an earlier post.

This is a famous puzzle, called the “Monty Hall Problem”. Monty Hall was a host in the early episodes of the game show Let’s Make a Deal.

The common version of the the puzzle used three doors (instead of 3 boxes) and a car and two goats (instead of gold and garbage).

The problem was originally posed by Steve Selvin and became famous when it was quoted by Marilyn vos Savant in Parade magazine in 1990.

The answer: You increase the probability of winning the gold if you change your choice of the box to open. The probability of winning the gold is only 1/3 if you continue with your original choice and 2/3 if you change your choice.

Here is a brief explanation of why:

When you initially selected a box, you had a 1/3 probability of being right. The host knowingly opened a box with garbage in it, so that eliminated one of the wrong choices.  You still have a 1/3 probability that you initially chose the right box; this means that the other unopened box has a 2/3 probability of containing the gold.

Amit Bhattacharjee, Satish K Mariyappagoudar, and Patrick OToole got it right.

Better explanations are provided on the wikipedia page here.

Or you can watch the youtube video.

If the video does not load, the link is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mhlc7peGlGg.

You can also search the internet for the keywords “Monty Hall Problem” – you will get lots of hits.

Please feel free to to share your views, experiences, and queries, using the “comments” feature available.
You may also forward the link to this post to your friends, colleagues, and anyone else who may be interested.

Notes:

Nothing Official About It! – The views presented above are in no manner reflective of the official views of any organization, community, group, institute, country, government, or association. They may not even be the official views of the author of this post :-).


I am Rajesh Naik. I am an author, management consultant and trainer, helping IT and other tech companies improve their processes and performance. I also specialize in CMMI® (DEV and SVC), People CMM® and Balanced Scorecard. I am a CMMI Institute certified/ authorized Instructor and Lead Appraiser for CMMI® and People CMM®. I am available on LinkedIn and I will be glad to accept your invite. For more information please click here.