Predicting Human Behaviour


Time to read: 3 mins

After working with agile frameworks for the last nine years, one can become complacent of the values and principles of agile.  You can believe that you know it all; have seen every scenario, can adduce all the pros and cons and have the panacea to every issue that could arise.

I recently found myself in this situation and went back to revise the core values and principles of agile. One of those core principles is trust.  The fifth principle states:

“Build projects around motivated individuals.

Give them the environment and support they need

and trust them to get the job done”

We often review work practices and procedures to gain more efficiency.  In agile, this is referred to as the empirical process review.  Values and principles differ from processes and procedures. I thought about the values and principles that we all hold and the impacts they have in the workplace.

During my final semester at university, I took the subject Business Ethics for a Digital Society.  All of us went into that class with our own pre-conceived ideas and biases.   I wondered how much value I would get out of the class and how this subject aligned with the rest on my degree.

After completing the class, I saw the decisions that were made at work through a different lens.  One thing that all of us as students agreed upon was this.  Despite your background, upbringing or beliefs; ethics, morals and human virtues (no matter how they are derived) would influence a person’s decision making and how they act. 

On the surface, ethics is hard to measure in business. Unlike a profit and lost statement where numbers are calculated or a burndown chart that visualises progress, we only see the effects of poor ethics in the news headlines.  Such as the 2008 global financial crisis and the Royal Commission into the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services industry in 2019.

So what are human virtues exactly? Here are some examples..

Acceptance | Caring | Compassion | Confidence | Consideration | Contentment | Cooperation | Courage | Determination | Enthusiasm Fairness | Flexibility | Forgiveness | Friendliness | Generosity | Graciousness | Gratitude | Helpfulness | Honesty | Honour | Humility | Justice | Joyfulness | Kindness | Love | Loyalty | Modesty |Optimistic | Orderliness | Passionate | Patience | Perseverance | Tenacity | Tolerance | Truthfulness | Understanding | Wisdom | Wonder

Maybe those implicated in the news headlines we just mentioned were lacking some virtues (Fairness, Honesty, Truthfulness)?

Virtues are a predictor of human behaviour. When they are absent, the only guides left are the instructions set out by the business and the examples of people around us.

When things fail, we often go back and retrace the steps that were followed. We identify gaps, add more steps, and provide further clarification. All of this is done to make a process leaner and less prone to error. 

While controlling the processes may lead you to a better outcome, it’s more effective when you have the right people with the right behaviours. They need not be high performers but they should be trustworthy, ethical, morally aligned with you and the team and display human virtues that are desirable.  These types of attributes dictate how we behave.

Reflecting on my ethics class, I now love and appreciate this definition of what a virtue is.

“Virtues are the essence of our character and character does indeed determine destiny” 

Looking back at the fifth principle of agile. There is no mention of processes. Instead, it points out: motivated individual, environment, support and trust. These attributes are analogous to the list of human virtues mentioned earlier.

Machines follow instructions. To change its behaviour, you change the set of instructions and the outcome is different.  

Humans are a little different, we build character up over a lifetime.  Good virtues are difficult to obtain and even harder to maintain.  We should cherish the virtues that we do have and strive for the one that we don’t.  

Over the long term what I have experience is that human virtues of individuals and teams are a better predictor of outcomes than any set of instructions that you can put in place. 

Management, hands-off leadership and the line

Jocko Willink

Time to read: 3 mins.

No employee wants to be micromanaged.  At the same time, offering employees complete freedom with little guidance can lead to chaos without the organisation’s vision and goals being realised.  The balance between micromanagement and hands-off leadership is the line that leaders walk on when managing teams.

Defining micromanagement

Micromanagement is an extreme form of management.  It involves not only trying to control the actions of others but even their thoughts. When micromanagement exists, people are passive and wait to be told what to do next.  After a while, it inhibits their personal growth. The initiative for action and deep thought fades. Eventually those individuals are not able to bring the value and innovation that organisations crave.  It’s easy to see why micromanagement has a negative association. It’s particularly frustrating for those who are accustom to working autonomously in high performing teams

Defining hands-off leadership

Hands-off leadership also comes with its own set of problems.  With hands-off leadership, leaders can fail to provide clear and specific direction as to what needs to be achieved.  This results in team members thinking too much and forming their own plans and strategies. Without proper guidance, the plans that are formed are outside of a teams boundaries, beyond their capabilities and the strategies rarely align with that of the organisation.  Without any coordination from the top, they move in different directions and disrupt and do not support other projects that are already in flight.

The line

The solution is to walk the line between management and hands-off leadership.  While there is no secret formula, finding the right balance comes from gauging individuals and the team as a whole. Here are some signs to look out for.  They can inform you on whether there is too much management or too much hands-off leadership.

Warning signs of micromanagement

  • There is a lack of initiative.
  • The team doesn’t seek out solutions to problems (the wait to be told about a solution).
  • In an emergency, the team does not mobilise and take action.
  • Bold and aggressive action becomes rare.
  • Creativity comes to a halt.
  • The team tends to stay within their own silo. They are not willing to step out ans coordinate with other teams out of fear overstepping.

Too much management (i.e. micromanagement) requires you to provide less detail and direction.  Instead, just describe the end state and why it is important.

Warning signs of hands off management

  • Lack of vision in what the team is trying to do.
  • Lack of coordination between between teams.
  • They have created their own initiatives that overstep the bound of authority.
  • The team is focused on priorities that are not aligned with the greater strategic vision.
  • There are too many people trying to lead and not enough people there to execute.

When there is not enough management (i.e. hands-off leadership) it requires that you give clear guidance.  Your team must understand where the boundaries are. You also need to assign roles, responsibilities and a chain of command.

Take some time to think about the warning signs as mentioned above.  Maybe you can see the signs within your own team, a team that you manage or more alarmingly within yourself. In either case, it may be time to bring these issue up to the leadership team or address the issue yourself.

 This article was inspired by the book The Dichotomy of Leadership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

The people around us


Barrack Obama (in the 80’s)

Time to read: 2 mins.

Last night I watched the movie Barry.  A quick synopsis: Barrack Obama arrives in New York City in the early eighties as a college student at Columbia University as he tries to find his own identity and his place in life.   To be honest I found the movie a little underwhelming. At least those were my initial thoughts on the movie…


Barry covers themes of identity, race, perceptions and how we label others.  One of the biggest takeaways was how Barrack was surrounded by a wide array of people early on in his life, wealthy, poor, educated and lost. And while these people have some influence on him, Barry never conforms to anyone’s philosophy or way of living.


There are numerous long scene’s that don’t drive the narrative forward. Instead, it shows Barrack getting lost in his own thoughts where he is either sitting on a park bench, looking out on to the cityscape, smoking a cigarette, or reading a book in the library;



The people around us

As many bad influences that are around Barry, he also had some good ones. He is able to see people them for who they are, the circumstances that they are in and what drives them.


In those scenes that I mentioned above, I wondered what Barrack is thinking about.  Was it his own background?  And should that determine what his own direction going forward? Without that clarity and definition of who he is, Barrack struggles to connect with anyone around him.



Finding you and connect with others

As I tried to relate to Barrack in the 1980’s, I found that our situation is analogous to what we see in the movie Barry.  That’s if we are interested in connecting with others.  In Melbourne, 49% are either born overseas or have at least one parent who is born overseas. We come from more than 200 countries, speak over 250 languages and dialects and follow over 130 religions.


Like Barrack in the early 80’s in New York, we should evaluate the unique experiences that we bring as individuals and the values we hold. In the same light, we should also seek the insights that others can provide us not just in the workplace but also in life.

Assertiveness & Saying No


Damon Zahariades

Time to read: 3 min.

What I have commonly observed with friends and family and in the workplace, is that the kindest and nicest of all people often have a difficult time saying no.  Yet, saying no is a critical skill.  It’s a skill that can save us time, raises our status as a leader and improves our self-worth.


If you often find yourself saying yes, when you should really be saying no.  Then this article is for you.



Associations with the word no.

Words are important.  How we define, internalise and give words meaning determines how we feel and experience the world around us.


Most of us have a negative association with the word no.  If we reflect on situations where we have had to say no or heard the word, its generally associated with a negative emotion.



The fear of saying no

These negative associations stems from fear.  We can fear how others will react.  Some can react with frustration, anger and disappointment.  When others react this way, it can leave us with feelings of guilt and shame; as it’s natural to long for the approval of others.


After having seen people reacting poorly (and more than once), the wisdom that I can share is that when there is an opportunity to set an expectation early, then take the time to prepare the requestor for the response that they may not want to hear.


Sometimes there is no avoiding a poor reaction.  The important thing to remember, is that it is not your role to appease the requestor. Harmony is not always possible and in these situation conflict maybe unavoidable.




Another aspect of why we have trouble saying no is from the fear of missing out.  There are meetings you could attend, people that you should meet and groups that you should participate in.  I’m not saying that these activities are not beneficial, but we have to be selective of the opportunities that we choose to take on.


When you say yes to something, you are indirectly saying no to something else.  If you are in the ‘nice and kind’ category, then often it’s you own goals, interest and aspirations that are being pushed back and neglected.


Take some time to think about the message you send to yourself when this is done on a consistent basis.  Aren’t your goals, interests and aspirations just as valuable as everyone else’s?


There is a right way to say no.  A way that allows you to keep your self-worth without coming off as being rude or aggressive.


The right way to say no

Assertiveness.  In the context of saying no, assertiveness means expressing your point of view with grace.


Assertiveness is demonstrated when you are able to say no in the right manner, tone, with purpose and poise.  When you are assertive it means you are not looking for external validation or the approval of others.


When you are not looking for validation or approval; You can say no confidently because your actions align with your convictions.  It’s like having a planned response.


A planned response shows that you are prudent, thoughtful and considerate because you let the requestor know why you are saying no. You may even suggest an alternative avenue to pursue.  There is no need for stalling, lying or giving an “I can’t” excuse. You say no, because it’s your decision to say no.


Over time being assertive when saying no will gain you the respect and trust of others.  You will eventually feel better for it and start to see the benefits.  You may even change a once negative association to a positive one J



For a more in-depth look into this topic, I would recommend The Art of Saying No by Damon Zahariades.

Housekeepers and being physically​ active at work



Alica Crum


We spend a third of our time at work.  For most of us, that time is spent either sitting down at a desk or in meetings. This post will feature tips on how to stay physically healthy in the workplace.



Being Mindful of your Movements

Before reading the tips below, it’s good to think and note down the physical activities that you’re already engaged in while in the office.  Walking to the kitchen, to your next meeting, or outside to get some a coffee; all of these counts as being physically active.


Just being more mindful of your physical activity can have a positive impact on your health.  I’ll circle back to this point later in the article.



Increasing physical activity at work

For now, here are some additional changes that you can adopt to increase your level of physical activity at work.


  1. Active Melbourne City Sports

There are a number of sports being organised around the city on a weekly basis: Soccer, Basketball, Dodgeball, Running, Netball and Cricket just to name a few.  Check out the Active Melbourne City Sports and to see how you can get started.



  1. Stairs

Instead of using the elevator try take the stairs.  This can be done when attending meetings or you even use the bathrooms that are on a different level.  Making a trip up and down the stairs burns a little over 5 calories.



  1. Chat services are great, but…

Chat services are great when you need a quick and short response to question or to broadcast a message to a team; but if a conversation is taking longer than 2-3 minutes, then having a face to face conversation may be more appropriate.  Face to face conversations requires you to move away from your desk and take a short walk across the office.



  1. Nice kicks

If you are fortunate enough to work in an office with a relaxed dress code; wearing comfortable clothes and shoes encourages you to be more active.  It’s a lot easier to get up a flight of stair in flats, than in high heels (I assume).



The Mindful Housekeepers

A study was conducted to test if one’s mindset along with exercise could have an effect on health variables such as weight, blood pressure, body fat and BMI. 84 housekeepers from 7 different hotels were split into two groups and were measured on the previous health variables mentioned above.


The first group was informed that the work they engage in daily (i.e. cleaning hotel rooms) is a good form of exercise and attributes to an active and healthy lifestyle.  The common work tasks that they performed were shown as examples of exercise.


The second group of housekeepers kept in the dark.


After four weeks, the same health variable was measured again for both groups.  The informed group showed a decrease in weight, blood pressure, body fat and BMI as compared to the control group.


The research conducted by Alia Crum and Ellen Langer shows that changing one’s perception of the of physical activities at work can be enough to affect your health in a positive way.


Combining a change in mindset along with increasing physical activity at work would be even better 🙂





No Days off


Mahatma Gandhi

Time to Read: 2 mins

What a busy weekend! On Saturday I played with my 5-year son, finished Firewatch (great game) and watched Dough (an entertaining movie). On Sunday we went to visit a few winery’s, went to the strawberry farm and then stopped by my parent’s house for dinner.

I have committed to completing 5 daily activities to help improve my emotional, mental and spiritual state.

But over that weekend I managed to complete 1 out of the 5 daily activities that I usually commit to every day. Outside of having a fabulous weekend, what did I learn from skipping over these activities?

I learned that taking days off kills your momentum. We all need time off now and again to break away from our normal day to day activities. But when we’re trying to build habits, the truth is that days off hurt. This is especially true in the early stages of habit formation.

No days off
Committing to daily practice reminded me of the statement: ‘No days off’. And so, I wanted to explore what types of feelings and beliefs we have around this statement. Who is it typically used by, if it’s the approach towards excellence and whether it is even achievable.

Having a quick search around the web, you will find that the ‘no days off’ line is typically associated with either, gym junkies or in rap music. The other instance where it is commonly used is in sports. For the most part and statement comes off and very cliche.

It infers that an individual is exerting so much will power to make sure that they arrive at a destination or goal first. It’s hard, it’s competitive and that only means that you simply can’t afford to take a day off.

For someone to take on this view and approach is impressive. But how long can you last?

If you find a task difficult and unenjoyable, how long can you possibly keep at it? If the only thing that keeps you going is motivation, I have some bad news. Motivation (like our ability to focus) is finite. But some people have been able to keep it going.

Choose your Habit’s wisely
No days off simply means that you have established a habit. A habit that is so ingrained that it’s no longer a chore, motivation is no longer required, you don’t even think about it, it just happens, and is a part of who you are. So choose your habits wisely.

Daily habit is all about mastery, but before you get there somewhere along the way you decided that it was important. It was important enough that you decided to come back to it day after day.

Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.

– Mahatma Gandhi

How to use Buffers

Time to Read: 3 mins

Sakichi Toyoda was the founder of Toyota and is considered to be the father of industrial revolution in Japan. The industrial revolution moved us away from hand made goods, to mass manufacturing of goods by machines.

In manufacturing, buffers are used to keep the assembly line running with any interruption; It’s described as having enough supply to keep the assembly running and helps to compensate for any variations in the production process.

We also use buffers in certain aspects of our lives. We add them to our budgets, when we need to travel to an important destination and can visible in all of the ‘stuff’ that we accumulate.


Why buffers make sense
In the context of running an assembly line, buffers make sense. If you find one part that is faulty, if can be quickly discarded (because you have a buffer of spare parts) the spare part is used and the assembly line keeps on moving.

At a surface level, it seems that buffers are a smart safe guard, which clearly has its merits. But a valuable exercise to try is to operate life without any buffers.


A life with our buffers
Living life without buffers can uncover problems that are difficult to identify. When our buffers are always being used and depleted; it indicates that a real problem exists that isn’t just an anomaly.

Sakichi Toyoda knew that buffers were a necessity to compensate for small anomalies, but he also knew that without regular examination, buffers would only be covering up bigger problems.

Using the assembly line as an example; If a large number of parts are being discarded (because they are faulty), then it may be time to speak to the supplier about the quality controls they have in place.


Digging a little deeper
Taking the time to dig deeper can help us to discover why buffers exist in the first place, as opposed to just accept the status quo.

The Toyota assembly line is renounced for the hundreds of small improvements it makes to its assembly line each year. All of those tiny improvements results in a reduction in cost and time to process.

Those who take the time to dip deeper and find the reasons could be called perfectionists and have a somewhat obsessive nature with what they do.


The right approach
Admittedly some problems feel like they are easily dealt with the use of buffers, they give us a certain feeling of safety and readiness.

But we can get closer to a better process by removing the buffers and examining how something work, looking at a cause and effect relationships.

Once the process is improved, we can then put the buffers back in place, because ideally they shouldn’t be part of the process or be used to hide a bigger problem; but should only act as a safe guard for events we can’t control.

Seeing both sides, with Empathy

img_0187Time to read: 3 mins

A while ago (a long time ago) I watched an episode of Comedian in Cars Getting Coffee.  As the title suggests, the show is about comedians in cars getting coffee with the host Jerry Seinfeld.  It’s a good combination of cars, comedy and coffee.

I watched an episode where the guest was Chris Rock.  Jerry picked him up in a 1969 Lamborghini 400s Miura. The dialogue and comedy were great.  Then there were some remarks about arguing both sided that got my attention.

A dialogue with Chris Rock
Chris: The ability to talk to a lot of people is freakish
Chris: Anyplace where there is a microphone people want me to speak, a funeral and book signing someone’s birthday. It doesn’t matter where I am.

Jerry: There is no subject that you can’t handle, you (as a comedian) have given some thought to almost everything.

Chris: We are professional arguers.  Not only can we argue, but we argue either sides.
Chris: If you walked into a school and saw your kid talking to 500 kids you think your kid was possessed.

A Freakish Ability
For Chris, the ability to speak to a lot of people and successfully holds their attention comes down to being able to see both sides.  He demonstrated this when hosting the 2016 Oscar Awards.

Despite the protests for the lack of diversity of the Nominees, he was able to entertain the majority of actors while still acknowledging the issues that lead to other actors boycotting the event.  It was a difficult situation; to talk in front of your peers about a very sensitive topic, where anyone could have been easily offended.

Seeing both sides
When solving a problem that involves negotiating or mediation.  We usually don’t spend enough time on the other side of the fence.  We may be able to see things from another person’s perspective but only for a short period of time.

By only briefly acknowledging someone else point of view; we can only briefly break out of our own biases before we return to own arguments and points of views that we are comfortable and familiar with.

Less time on the other side
Some of the reasons why we avoid ‘the other side’ is due to our inbuilt biases.  A point of view different from our own may cause some discomfort or may contradict our own beliefs.  This is known as Selective Perception (i.e. the tendency not to notice and more quickly forget stimuli that cause emotional discomfort and contradict our prior beliefs)

We also have a tendency to tune out when listening because we assume we know how others feel. This bias is known as the Illusion of Transparency (i.e. The tendency to overestimate how well we understand the personal mental states of others)

More time on the other side
By spending more time on the other side we can move from sympathy (a glib acknowledgment) to empathy (a personal understanding).

Having empathy builds trust between two parties and helps to build an environment that is collaborative, supportive, inclusive and sustainable. Having empathy also makes you feel good!

The only question is, which side is smart enough to go first?

Simple Truths

Hellen Keller
Time to read: 3 min

Over the last few days, while taking the train home from work, I have pleasantly read through Hellen Keller autobiography. Hellen Keller… What an amazing woman. I wish that she were still alive today. I wonder if she would talk as beautifully as she writes?


Hellen Keller
A short time after Hellen was born, she went both blind and deaf. Yet throughout her life, she was able to experience the world so vividly, even more vividly than all of us who have all of our senses. She lived until the age of 87. Somehow she was able to describe all things, of nature, people, her feelings and thoughts with a level of clarity and detail that we don’t often see.

After reading her autobiography one of the bigger gems of wisdom that I found was about truth. I found that keeping a ‘simple truth’ is more real to us. And adding an excess amount of detail is exactly that, its just details.


A description of a flower
“It is possible to know a flower, root and stem and all, and all the processes of growth, and yet to have no appreciation of the flower fresh bathed in heaven’s dew.” – Hellen Keller

When imagining a flower in her mind, Helen describes it as ‘A fresh flower bathed in heaven’s dew’. Take a moment to create that image in your mind…

The former (roots, stems and process of growth) is just the detail, the latter is a simple truth. And a simple truth is what stays with us, it’s what we remember and what we immediately understand.


A simple truth
Simple truths have a far wider reach, for both experts and novices alike. The ah hah moments happen when someone is able to strip away all of the complexity and get to the crux of an issue and describe a problem or a goal. Being able to articulate a simple truth works for yourself and in the context of a larger group or business. It’s how businesses state their values, marketing campaigns, and a mission statement. Here is an example:

Before Microsoft began to dominate the software space their mission statement was posed as a question:
‘How do we become the intelligence that drives all computers?”

After which Microsoft owned 90% of the PC market. Being able to communicate a big idea, complex functionality or an ambitious goal into a simple truth is a skill that can have a colossal effect.


What is it really?
A simple truth doesn’t necessarily mean less detail, shortening or making something more compact; it about making something as real and tangible as possible.

Children do this so easily, there words and actions are so in sync with their emotions. When they are sad, they burst out crying, when they don’t get their way they sulk, ask them to describe a tiger and they won’t tell you through words but through their actions.

While crying, sulking and roaring like a lion is not advisable in the workplace. Finding the simple truth about what we see, what we do and the problems we are trying solve has its merit.


Simple truths reach a wider segment of people. They get to the crux of all things, whether they be goals or a problem you are trying to solve and finally they make things tangible enough so other can easily grasp what you are communicating.

Consciousness & Self Examination

Anthony Hopkins

Time to read: 3 mins

Last night I finished watching season one of WestWorld.  WestWorld is a theme park set in the wild west, which is inhabited by android hosts (robots that look and act humans).  Although the setting sounds less than exciting; It’s the themes that are explored which has kept audiences intrigued.
For the android host the story line is driven around the ideas of consciousness and choice.  For the guests of the park (the humans) it is all about finding and following your deepest desires without consequences.
Some characters follow their desires which are brutal and perverted.  And others follow their desires to be noble and heroic.
As I sat in bed in a dark room.  The only source of light came from the iPad on my lap.  The light illuminated my face.  As I watched the final episode with my headphones on.  I wondered how the pursuit of consciousness by the android host related back to us humans in any way.   The closest equivalent I could come up with was self-examination.  After some thinking I concluded that consciousness and self-examination are closely related.
Three elements…
There are three elements of self-examination. The first element is the way that we view ourselves. The second is our ideal view, or what we want to be.  The third and final element is the comparison we make between ourselves and our ideals.
A view of our selves
We think of ourselves differently depending on the roles we are in.  And in life we have different roles that we play.  We are parents, professional, best friends and maybe even a mentor to others.
I view myself as a great Business Analyst… and a kinda ok husband.  The way that we view ourselves can (and actually does) determine our behaviour.  With that being said, it’s important that we don’t delude ourselves and hold a view that is fairly accurate with reality.
Our ideal
This is the ’should be’ point of view.  It’s an ideal that we are setting out to achieve.  We can get ideals from different sources.  But in most scenarios ideals come from observing others.  Another source of ideals come from standards and precedence that have already been set. But again, these standards have usually been set by another individual.
Going back to my previous example, I can judge my Analyst skills on a standard that a more senior Business Analyst has obtained.  It could be a qualification like a CBAP certification or looking at the years of experience across different industries.
Whatever our ideal is, it’s advisable to have something that is ambitious but still within reach.
The comparison.
Making a comparison is what we are most familiar with doing.   Comparing ourselves with our an ideal is very similar for performing a gap analysis.  When performing a gap analysis, we identify what needs to be done for us to move from one state to another.
Final thoughts…
Remember to:
  1. Have an honest view of ourselves, too often we see ourselves as less then.
  2. Choose your ideals carefully, make sure that you select an ideal that is realistic.
Without these two points, you’ll end up with a comparison that is unfair on yourself. Self-examination is a process that is used to improve yourself, so make sure you use it in a positive and constructive manner.