The Lateral Lens

Lateral thoughts on project management, product design, and business strategy


Meetings Are Design Products

How many meetings are you in where the same few dominant personalities do most of the talking? Or that tout the importance of “inclusiveness” while still being punishingly brutal for introverts? Or where you’re not sure why you’re there, the agenda is only sporadically brought up, and the meeting unerringly runs over its scheduled time?Continue reading “Meetings Are Design Products”

From Frames to Upholstery

Miernik believes that romantic composers prepared the ground for totalitarian politicians: both deal in illusions, knowing that the illusions people have about themselves as individuals and as nations are stronger than reality. —Charles McCarry, The Miernik Dossier It’s easy to be self-congratulatory when delivering something requested. Sometimes that is as it should be. This doesContinue reading “From Frames to Upholstery”

Stories as Filters

Intro Last time we discussed the Narrative Fallacy. Today we will look at five topics that might not seem all that related at first glance. Together, however, they all serve as important lenses showing us the many and profound ways that narratizing can lead us astray. In this post we will discuss sensemaking, projection, pluralisticContinue reading “Stories as Filters”

Just How Related Is Usability to User Satisfaction?

There’s no shortage of wonky assertions in the field of UX, specious claims based on bad methodology, spuriously supported by voodoo statistics. Jakob Nielsen, one of the biggest names in the field, isn’t immune. Perhaps most famously, the “five user-assumption,” which he originally proposed with Rolf Molich, has since been rather thoroughly debunked by Molich’sContinue reading “Just How Related Is Usability to User Satisfaction?”

The Rock and the Wrapper

I was recently chatting with Vicki Amon-Higa, who runs a Customer Experience consultancy. She was telling me about “the rock and the wrapper.” The “rock,” she said, is your technical product offering or service, whatever it is. The “wrapper” is everything else that goes into offering this to customers. She said she’s noticed that evenContinue reading “The Rock and the Wrapper”


OKRs. Objectives and Key Results. I can’t believe I’m writing a post on this. But here we are. It’s but one of the latest viral concepts to be wildly misused. Like Agile, OKRs could be a good thing. Alas, once a large enterprise gets its hands on the latest buzzword, well, it’s bound to endContinue reading “OKRs and OKRA”

Listening Creatively: Killing Giants and Catching Shapeshifters

Today we’ll be looking at Between People, a little book that uses metaphor to generate insights concerning one-on-one communication. The author is John A. Sanford, who was an Episcopal priest, a Jungian analyst, and one hell of a writer. Throughout the post, specific active listening skills will appear bolded. Playing Catch A theme throughout theContinue reading “Listening Creatively: Killing Giants and Catching Shapeshifters”

Strategy and Outcomes

Today we’ll cover an approach I’ve used for running strategy workshops. First, we must discuss what definition of “strategy” I have in view. Second, we’ll go through the 8 steps of the workshop itself. Intro: Strategy In his book, Good Strategy/Bad Strategy, author Richard Rumelt argues that organizations tend to confuse strategy with goals. AsContinue reading “Strategy and Outcomes”

Bureaucratic Blunderland

How about an irreverent respite? In today’s post we’ll look at the 1973 book, Malice in Blunderland, by Thomas L. Martin, Jr., once the Dean of Engineering at the University of Arizona and later the President of the Illinois Institute of Technology. We’re all familiar with “Parkinson’s Law” or the “Peter Principle,” but, Martin argues,Continue reading “Bureaucratic Blunderland”

House of Communication

You want to influence someone. What should you focus on? Should you focus on making your case, on the data that support your position, on laying out an airtight argument? You do need to know your stuff, sure, but this isn’t enough. A good lens for answering this question is Michael Grinder’s House of Communication.Continue reading “House of Communication”

Estimating Cost of Delay

You can’t apply concepts you don’t have, and this is definitely one you should want in your toolbelt. The concept comes from Don Reinertsen, who argues, “If you only quantify one thing, quantify the cost of delay” (Reinertsen, 2009). If you’ve heard of if but don’t know what it is, or if you sort ofContinue reading “Estimating Cost of Delay”

Donkeys and Elephants

Sorry political junkies, this is not a post about Democrats and Republicans. This is a post about egos and drama. It’s a post about meeting effectiveness. Consider, how do you tend to relate to others in meetings, while working, or even just in day-to-day life? Are there certain interactions that leave you feeling disappointed, notContinue reading “Donkeys and Elephants”

The Shape of Strategy

Today we’re going to take a look at Robert Keidel’s book, The Geometry of Strategy (2010). Keidel is a Professor of Management, a consultant, and former senior fellow at the Wharton School of Business. In his book, Keidel argues that we can improve the content of strategy by paying closer attention to its form. ByContinue reading “The Shape of Strategy”

Stories and Risk

People make sense of the world in the form of stories. We all have stories. You have a story. Your team has a story. Your customers have stories. Companies have stories, which they spend great sums of money crafting and managing and protecting. Customers have opinions about company stories, which is largely what brand perceptionContinue reading “Stories and Risk”

A Word on Coaching

Certain popular business terms cause an awful lot of confusion. We use them like they have a single clear meaning when they really don’t. “MVP” is a great example. Others are “value,” “Agile,” and “leadership,” each of which are confusing for different reasons. Unpacking Suitcases If I say “customer,” do I mean external purchasers? Users?Continue reading “A Word on Coaching”

How Are Soft Skills Soft?

It’s now common to hear org leaders stressing the importance of “soft skills.” This is good, of course, but also a little odd. How did this end up becoming something that ever needs stressing? Part of the problem might be the term itself, which comes from the U.S. Army; and, more to the point, probablyContinue reading “How Are Soft Skills Soft?”

Is CD3 the Golden Key?

Don Reinertsen refers to Cost of Delay (CoD) as “the golden key.” CoD is the opportunity cost (in terms of profit and loss) per some unit of time (usually per week) of not achieving something. For example, if achieving a particular outcome will save $50k a week, then a six-week delay in achieving it hasContinue reading “Is CD3 the Golden Key?”

Agile as a Zombie…Noun

In their book, Mind Lines (2005), Hall and Bodenhamer observe that the more language veers from the sensory-based data from which it’s derived, the more “meta” and confusing it tends to become. To abstract you must generalize, often deleting and distorting the underlying specifics that were ultimately the basis of your claims. (Image adapted fromContinue reading “Agile as a Zombie…Noun”

The Birds in the Bush

There is an old saying, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” The idea is the bird in your hand you actually possess, whereas the birds “in the bush” are mere possibilities. This could well be the slogan for most Scrum teams: “A solution in the hand is worth five inContinue reading “The Birds in the Bush”

The Agile Trap

“Agile is dead.” People keep saying that. But then they say, “We’re just kidding.” They meant the way YOU do Agile is dead. And stupid. But “real” Agile isn’t. It’s just that everyone does Agile “wrong.” So I guess real Agile is, you know, Agile in “theory.” Even I have done this. And you know what? I’m sick of doingContinue reading “The Agile Trap”

Drama Part 2: Games

In the first post in this series we looked at Karpman’s Triangle and how drama often leads to games. In this post we’ll talk about games as defined in Transactional Analysis (TA). TA, again, was developed by psychiatrist Eric Berne in the 1950s and 60s, and popularized by his 1964 bestseller, Games People Play. Berne’sContinue reading “Drama Part 2: Games”

Agile Spaghetti Hurling Velocity

Last week I was speaking with my friend April Mills. She was talking about how velocity doesn’t really accelerate value. In her words, it doesn’t improve one’s “value-waste ratio.” This made me sit up straight. It reminded me of Tufte’s famous “data-ink ratio.” It’s a great concept that might help us arrive at an interesting definition of waste.Continue reading “Agile Spaghetti Hurling Velocity”

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