Episode 32

#032 - Nine Lies About Work Series: Lie #2

Published on: 15th March, 2021

Today we continue our Nine Lies About Work series with Lie #2 - The best plan wins.

We discuss the value of plans, planning, and the need for teams and individuals to make and meet commitments in order for meaningful progress to be made.

We also talk about the difference between planning and decision-making and how leaders can benefit from the guidance from the chapter from that perspective.

Thanks for joining us today and don't forget to hit the subscribe button or reach out at [email protected].


Robert Greiner 0:05

We were just talking about before you got here, Charles, in our favorite segment of the show, which is the waiting on Charles segment.

Charles Knight 0:16

chronically late; guilty

Robert Greiner 0:20

Igor was inspired by recent tweets and he's gonna get vaccinated at some point soon probably had to where, Cabo? Is that where you want to go?

Igor Geyfman 0:30

Cabos my usual Mexico destination. But I'm thinking Cancun, just because it's a little bit closer. And someone mentioned to me that the warm waters nicer than the Pacific Ocean.

Robert Greiner 0:41

Okay. So the question is, if you woke up tomorrow, and there was no health concern for traveling, but you haven't been anywhere in a year, where do you go? Where's the first place you go? And how quickly do you try to make that happen?

Charles Knight 0:53

Let me make sure I understand the constraints here. There's no health concern?

Robert Greiner 0:57

e normal. It's like it was in:

Charles Knight 1:03

I would

France. That was the plan for:

Robert Greiner 1:45

That's a great choice. Very hard to go wrong there.

Charles Knight 1:48

Have you been in France?

Robert Greiner 1:49

Yeah. Twice.

Charles Knight 1:50

Nice. We'll have to talk. When I do go about recommendations. Igor, I'm sure you've been there, too. You traveled extensively through Europe

Igor Geyfman 1:57

yet, really, for France, basically just staying in Paris. So not as much outside of Paris. And the first time was for the Tour de France finale, which was cool. It's a big event. And and the second time was to propose,

Charles Knight 2:09


Robert Greiner 2:10

how'd that work out for you? By the way?

Igor Geyfman 2:13

We're still engaged. I'm gonna say I'm gonna say success. I think remaining engaged through COVID. Not so easy, probably,

Robert Greiner 2:23

It's a feat and long distance.

Igor Geyfman 2:25

So I'm proud of that. happy for you.

Robert Greiner 2:27

You took long distance to a whole nother level. The museums in France are really cool. Like, you can get a pass that and you just pay basically one fee, and you can go to all of them. It's unlike anything that you are exposed to normally, if that makes sense. Yeah, yeah. Okay. So Igor, I'll give you a quick chance to say to change your destination, but it sounds like you're pretty set.

Igor Geyfman 2:49

No, I mean, I'm definitely changing. And Cancun is like the real one with the reality of COVID still present.

Robert Greiner 2:54


got it. Okay. So yes, you are going bigger. I was hoping you would,

Igor Geyfman 2:58

I would go back to Japan. And for all the same reasons that Charles just mentioned, like literally all the same reasons. I've been before. And I just thought it was such a remarkable country in such a remarkable experience that I'd want to do it again. And I probably maybe even spend a week in South Korea as well.

Robert Greiner 3:15


Igor Geyfman 3:15


Robert Greiner 3:15

So what's something in Japan that you experienced that was unlike anything that you get here? That was just fundamentally different?

Igor Geyfman 3:23


I went on the bullet train. The Shinkansen, and I was staying in Tokyo spent a couple of days there. And then I was like, okay, you know, want to go to Kyoto, but got the ticket. It was pricey for a train ticket. I think it was like between 150 and $200 and boarded the Shinkansen. And it was just a really great experience. The train was super fast, super clean. I did the Japanese thing where I got like a little bento box the EBI bento at the train station and ate on the train. And yeah, it was just a cool experience. And traveling very fast on the ground is remarkable.

Robert Greiner 3:59

Yeah, so what does that feel like? Could you tell you we're moving that fast?

Igor Geyfman 4:02

No, you

can't tell it's just it's so freakin smooth. The only time you can really tell is when you're passing another bullet train. Because there's a little bit of shake and a wobble that happens and a noise. But at all other times, it is like so smooth and, and the trains were super tidy, on time, everything was really well organized and having traveled via train in Europe. Very different experience. Trains in Europe are habitually late, or just don't, or maybe aren't as clean as they should be. And but the Japanese train experience is just so exceptional. And I did see the scene where there's there's a gentleman, he was wearing police clothing, like dress blues, if you will, and a hat but he's not a policeman and like white gloves, and like packing people in like people would enter the train backwards. This is not the bullet train. This is like regular subway to get to the bullet train. But they would like backup to the door. And he would like just gently back him in just past the door line. And you know, the doors would close. And it was a very like sardine sort of experience. And I definitely didn't want to be on that train. But it was just so cool. Because I'd only seen it on TV. And seeing that it actually happens. And I wasn't like looking for it. I wasn't like, oh, boy, I'm going to go to this train station at this time period, just so I can see this thing was just like, yeah, it just happened organically. And I was like, boy, there's something. There's something really cool here that just so many remarkable things that you're just not used to. And they're just very small, but they feel very different. And it just reminds you that there's so much diversity that you're not exposed to day to day, you start living your own bubble, and it like creates moments of wonder and excitement and creativity. And it's just an inspiring thing to travel to places that are different than where you live.

Robert Greiner 5:53

Yeah. Oh, great, man. What about you, Robert? I had a few popping through my head. One thing we've talked about maybe when I go on my sabbatical next is spending a couple of weeks in Hawaii, renting a house, like on the beach. So you walk outside onto sand, and just can find the ocean hanging out with the kids. That's where Diana and I went for our honeymoon. We went to Maui we rented a Jeep, drove all around it was fun. Would probably do that. That's that was the first thing that popped into my mind. already talked to Amelia about it. She's pretty excited. And so I think that's what we would do.

Igor Geyfman 6:26

I think I want to go to Hawaii on my sabbatical.

Robert Greiner 6:28

It's a lot of fun.

Charles Knight 6:29

I wish it was just a little bit closer.

Robert Greiner 6:33

That's Yes.

Charles Knight 6:34

Just a little bit closer. It's from where we are in Texas. It's a little bit uncomfortable.

Robert Greiner 6:40

All right, there we go. bucket list added. We should probably talk about something useful though. today. Yeah. To travel podcast about

Igor Geyfman 6:48

How about a lie?

Robert Greiner 6:49

How about a lie? Lie number two, we are in the nine lies about work series, which has been great, Igor, I'm so glad that you recommended this book. It has been such a great distraction from the day to day, awesome discussions. It's fun to see Charles's hot take. So I'm really enjoying this series. I wish there were more lies, but we're only on my teeth to change.

Igor Geyfman 7:08

It could take us the rest of the year. We take a lot of detours

Robert Greiner 7:11

could take a terrible turn for the worst to come up with their own lies

Charles Knight 7:14

if we really want to get

Robert Greiner 7:16

That's true. Yeah, we could just augment the book. Yeah.

Charles Knight 7:19

Let's jump in. I do have a hard stop at our end time. And I'm gearing up for a fight.

Robert Greiner 7:24

Let's do it. Alright. Igor, what's line number two? And Charles I'll just give you a quick heads up. It's not exactly where your head might go when you hear it. So we'll maybe talk through what it means and what the boundaries are and then we'll then we'll spar.

Igor Geyfman 7:38

So line number two is the best clan wins. How does that hit you Charles?

Robert Greiner 7:44

I completely agree with on the surface. But like I said,

Igor Geyfman 7:47

I love a good plan

Robert Greiner 7:48

The chapter took an interesting discussion, interesting direction.

Charles Knight 7:51

I think plans are overrated. That's my first reaction. There's the quote from the military, no plan survives first contact with the enemy. It's just like, I think they are useful, but they should not be held up with an reverence as the end all be all thing to be adhered to. I'm a big fan of flexibility. Along with some planning.

Igor Geyfman 8:12

Mike Tyson had a quote about plans. You know,

Robert Greiner 8:16

it was much more quote, yes. Everyone has a plan until I punched him in the mouth.

Igor Geyfman 8:21

Yeah. But then all the plans are out the window. And I think it's got the same tone as what you mentioned, no battle plan survives contact with the enemy. I think Pat,

Robert Greiner 8:30

now there's a there's a side, a side saying to that or a counter saying which is a Benjamin Franklin said by failing to prepare, you're preparing to fail. So there's certainly wisdom out there that would say the act of planning is important. I like Tolkien's the best, though. It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations if you live near one. So there you go.

Charles Knight 8:52

I don't remember the token one. And I didn't remember the Mike Tyson one. But you I think you just skimmed over this. Robert, you said planning is important, which I agree. I think it's the act of planning. That is valuable. Not the plan itself. 100% agree. Anyway.

Igor Geyfman 9:07

So that's

the patent quote, which I think is plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.

Charles Knight 9:13

Oh, geez.

Yeah, we're all just parroting back quotes.

Robert Greiner 9:16

Yeah, there we go. Podcast over? episode over?

Igor Geyfman 9:20

All right. That's fine. Doesn't when we are all agree this one to bed and go go take a break.

Robert Greiner 9:27

Yeah, got to talk about travel some more. So Charles, your head went in the direction of the chapter. So what I assumed when I read the lie was the person who sells the best wins that it's like, the best plan doesn't win based on logic alone. But it's the humans involved that sort of direct activities and behaviors. Maybe most of the time in unhelpful directions because there are other incentive structures in play that you have to get to the bottom of and that's not really at all the direction of the chapter. This is more an assault on plans themselves and the amount of time and energy and reverence that are given to plans and the act of the activities around planning in an organization.

So your head's in the right place.

Igor Geyfman:

And the chapter starts out with the author's having a go at Ocean's 11.

Robert Greiner:

Great movie, by the way, I love that movie.

Igor Geyfman:

Great movie. Love George Clooney, Brad Pitt. Amazing. Maybe for the listeners that don't know, it's a heist movie. And so there's a group of individuals, and I think in Ocean's 11, it's Danny Ocean, who's George Clooney, and 10 others. So that's how they get Ocean's 11, they are planning a heist at a casino. And the star of the action is the plan that George Clooney cooks up, and the, you know, participants in the plan and how it all pulls together to give them a successful result at the end. And the joke, I think in the book was, if the movie reflected the real world, when the team showed up to the vault in the casino, they actually would have been greeted by a hot yoga class. Because in the time that they've developed their plan, the casino has actually decommissioned their vault, moved to Bitcoin, and has started to run like employee wellness programs in that space. And so the whole thing changed up on them. And that that's, that forms the, the assertion at the beginning of the chapter, that the best plan wins, because the world is just always changing. And most of the time, plans don't survive contact with the enemy,

or with the reality.

Robert Greiner:

And in software delivery, we talk about the happy path all the time, most every plan I see is just if everything went well, this bizarre Rube Goldberg device that we've created, every piece hits at the exact right time, when the marble goes down the ramp, it doesn't fall off the edge, but it hits the domino that all fall without a break in the pattern and on and the balloon pops in. And all of a sudden, the alarm clock or the egg gets boiled at the end or whatever. And in my mind, I keep picturing that because it's like those things take forever to set up. Our world does not work that way. yet. That's what we expect when we put plans on paper. And so this is definitely rang true for me at the beginning from a software delivery perspective, because of how poorly plans are done to begin with in the first place. Like they're just they don't have enough foresight or precision. And then

Charles Knight:

it makes me wonder what is the because having no plan is rarely a good idea. At least in in our, in our world that we live in professionally. Like no plan is usually not an option. But what we're saying is that spending too much time planning is also not good. Because it takes a lot of it takes too much time and energy and resources to try to get to something of any fidelity and accuracy and precision. And in fact, even if you were able to get there, things will change because the world is complex.

Robert Greiner:

It's immediately outdated.

Charles Knight:

It's immediately outdated. What is it about the act of planning, like the activities that go into producing a plan that are valuable? Knowing that we've all seen some pretty crappy plans? Right? So it's not like planning in general, any and all planning is good. There's a specific type of planning that is very valuable and efficient use of time and energy and resources. And I wonder what that is? Yeah. As you were describing, Robert, yeah, from a software development standpoint, oftentimes planning is useful to uncover dependencies, risks. Yeah. So it's like, what are some other things that planning the act of planning gets us to think about that is the true value that emerges when you produce a plan.

Robert Greiner:

The book has a couple of examples, they say, it's not true that the best plan wins, it's true, the best intelligence wins. And so what they would say as you move from a bottom up, or I guess maybe a top down view of planning where the leader gets all the information streams into the single point of failure. they analyze and make a decision in a vacuum on their own. And then everyone is just supposed to carry that out with blind faith. And the argument here is the energy should go much more into the decentralization deliberation of information and data. And you give that to the people who are actually on the frontlines doing the work needing to make day in day out decisions. And then as a leader, you support them in that effort. And again, I have an issue here in this chapter with that of scale. But I do agree that more of the efforts in planning what you would call traditionally, planning should be communicating and giving people the information and support that they need to do their job effectively.

Igor Geyfman:

And the thing that they took probably the most direct run at from a planning perspective is the idea of organizations creating at the executive level, the top level, creating the big plan for the company, the strategic plan, and then handing that down to the next level of accountability. And those folks creating a medium sized plan, that's a combination of the plan above. And then they hand that down to the next rung in the organization. And they create, it's like a Russian nesting doll of plans. And then you repeat that from quarter to quarter. And that that generally is a huge waste of time. It constraints people, it makes them feel like you're telling them what to do. And it doesn't give them the intelligence, is how they referred to it. that's necessary to be able to adaptively react to changing situations. Yeah, that's probably their biggest criticism of plans in the book.

Charles Knight:


maybe you can explain what you mean by challenges at scale. Because I think at a small scale, like a scrum team, like the the notion of a burndown chart, used to be a piece of paper on the wall that people could see, like the card wall was literally a wall with pieces of paper that at any point in time, anybody could look over and quickly see the canvas. This is what I remember, they used to call those they're still probably do information radiators. Y'all remember that phrase?

Robert Greiner:


Charles Knight:

I think that when you talk about providing intelligence by providing the best intelligence to people, and absolutely, I think that quickly breaks down outside of the scale of a scrum team, it becomes exponentially harder to cascade intelligence, even as information, but just cascading information throughout an organization I think is fraught with peril. That's I don't know if that's what you mean by you have challenges with that at scale, Robert?

Robert Greiner:

Yeah, a little bit. So if you take the argument from the book, so you have some leader or group of people that go off on an off site, or whatever, and they synthesize some information, do a SWOT analysis come back, and there's a 90 day plan in place where, okay, so we want to increase revenue over here. So that's, you know, IT you cut costs, product, you design any feature for the website and go and it does, things just cascade down. I like your Russian nesting doll analogy, or that makes a lot of sense. And at the end of the day, the people who are responsible for doing the work, they don't like being communicated with that way. And so the argument in the book is, hey, even if the plan is right, you don't have buy in, like the people that work for you, all the people in the organization, they're just not gonna want to work in that paradigm. And so it's just not a good idea. I'm with you, though. I think there's are we building things well?And then are we building the right things? It's hard to answer? Are we building the right things at scale outside of the area of a single team?

Igor Geyfman:

Yeah, this information right here, it's just it's a little bit different, because it's that maybe you can think about that as the intelligence but I think it's a zoomed out version of the intelligence that it's actually referring to probably in this case is, how do we know that the things written on those cards are the right things? It's not? Are those cards moving efficiently from one swim lane to another swim lane, or from one combat column to another? It's Do we have the latest data, evidence, intelligence in the books case, to know that what we plan what we put on those cards two months ago, is even back then if it was the right thing to put down? And definitely asking the question today, is that the right thing that we have written down? So I think it goes a little bit beyond just the information radiator.

Robert Greiner:

So in the book, it says, okay, as a leader, what can you do to create an intelligence system? So the idea is, instead of putting time and energy into creating a plan, you create an intelligence system, real life example that they have, as an analogy, who was in World War II, yeah, the Royal Air Force, they were trying to patrol the borders of England. And it's very hard thing to do, given how many planes they had. So they developed this new sort of system where these different centers and they had this grid view, information was coming in. They had timing type things going on and had basically decentralized made more available information about enemy movements. And then that was able to pair it paired with this system, and the activities of a broader group of people, you're able to get a much higher hit rate on finding enemy fighter planes in your area of operations. That's an oversimplification. But the idea here was the old models of top down leaders are making decisions, you have to wait on them to give the blessing the signature to go deploy an aircraft unit over here. Instead, you can have like real time experts on the ground with a direct line to things actually happening in the real world. Yeah. And so that, so the idea here is like you create an information system, not a Gantt chart, on a wall and updating that a lot of times it's just like manual labor, right? There's not really a lot of thoughtfulness that goes into it. So I am interested in, you know, what is a modern approach to moving past that. It says, first liberate as much information as you can. So what are all the sorts of sources of information you have? What can you make available to your team on demand, and not just classifying things as need to know but broadly making things available, and then second watch to see which data people find useful. And that's like, pretty much the extent of the advice the book gives. And so I'm struggling, I think, is the right word to find maybe a useful application for this. And in my work, or even like the clients that we


Igor Geyfman:

I think what what they described what the World War Two, Royal Air Force is, like a very classic example of moving from a deterministic system to an adaptive system. And it's that constant influx of the latest intelligence into that system that allows it to be adaptive, and that allows it to have better outcomes. And when I was reading that example, in the book, too, I thought it was, I was a little cynical about it. Because I said, that sort of system, while it is adaptive, and it does rely highly on having the latest intelligence. It's also tightly planned. It's just planned to be adaptive. Like it was not a haphazard thing, that materialize out of thin air, right, like it was intentionally planned and designed. And then part of the plan and the design of it just happened to be highly adaptive, based on you know, gathering the latest intelligence. So that was my reaction to that part of the book.

Charles Knight:

Yeah, I think I yeah, I like the word it was designed. It was a system that was designed. I guess for me, are they conflating planning with decision making, instead of aggregating decision making an information needed to make those decisions to the top at the top and dissent? When we talk about decentralizing information? It's Oh, yeah, I think about decision making, I put information in the hands of people that are closest to the pain, the problems, whatever, and let them make decisions.

Robert Greiner:

That's it. You've hit the nail on the head, you unlocked a whole chapter for me. I could not get there on my own.

Igor Geyfman:

I didn't think about it in those terms. But as soon as Charles started saying it, I was like, Yes, that's, that's that's it.

Robert Greiner:


this is so much better for me now. Because that the guidance, it's like, hey, as a leader, check in with your team every week, ask two questions. What are your priorities for this week? How can I help and they have the guidance here that frequency trump's quality, right? Doing it regularly, every week, not waiting every month, there's data around engagement. If your team doesn't really care about meeting with you once a month, they want help with their problems today, getting unstuck today, that's really where the chapter ends. And I was some of the things that I was geling with, but I couldn't quite put it together. You've put it together. This is a chapter about decision making. And decisions should be pushed down to the lowest possible level they can be to be made, which is not unique recommendations his book, Jocko willing talks about that a lot decentralized command, or things like that. Yeah, you're right. This is a chapter about decision making,

not planning

Igor Geyfman:

and maybe Jocko is getting it from partly the same source because this chapter also talks about William McChrystal, who was the sort of tension around General, and I'm pretty sure Jocko and they they describe the ONI meeting. And I bet you dollars to donuts that Jocko was in more than one of those own meetings, at some point that McChrystal ran.

Robert Greiner:

Yeah, the example that Jocko gives is when you have a, let's say, a group of 24 people, and you need to make sure that they're all there before you leave somewhere, you're out of the base, you've done an operation, you need to make sure like everyone's there before you pack up and go home. My kids have that issue when they're on field trips and stuff like you can't be leaving people behind. And it's really difficult to assign everyone on the team a number. And then have everyone say their number in sequential order. People forget what number they are, like it takes forever. And it seems like a small thing, because like, how long does it take to account for a couple dozen people. But then what they ended up doing is they had the sort of the team lead are equivalent of a team lead, not maybe not the manager, but the tech lead or the defector lead of the team, who is a little more senior, you're responsible for the four people in your little unit. And so then the commander that's on the ground only has to check in with four people who all have four people. And so you've cut geometrically, the level of work, and it's just much more smooth. And so it's a similar analog in the business world. So yeah, it's not a new idea.

Charles Knight:

It still may be worth and I don't know where you want to go from here. But there's a lot to say about why planning, no project plans, not the top down cascaded ones that are better decision making oriented around what the chapter might have been talking about, but there's things like humans are terrible estimators, right? That's one of the core reasons why plans are not very good, because it's just really hard to estimate something accurately. And yet that's still useful to add. So we could talk about plans, the way that we typically talk about it, even though they were talking about decision making. But I don't know if there's other things we want to talk about,

Robert Greiner:

Maybe both. I like the decision making first, maybe we can just tie a bow on that. Because if we replace everything, the book says find replace in the book, everything it says for planning to decision making, then I would pretty much agree with everything they're saying, right? pushing information down making information available, and the person on the frontline makes the decision. And as a leader, your job is to support them in unblocking any kind of issues they're having and making sure that they don't need anything on a regular cadence like weekly or more frequent, not less frequent. That's pretty much sums everything up right Igor? or did I miss anything there,

Igor Geyfman:

That's it.

Here's where here's where like plans, grind my gears regularly. And that is you put together, let's say it's a project plan, you put together a project plan, it's usually it's a quarter or two quarters worth of work that you're putting into it. And just the nature of the plan, when you're putting it together, you just know that it's 100% certain that it's wrong, you may not be wrong by a lot, but it's almost never gonna be exactly what's in the plan. And but there's this tendency that I see more often than I care to of holding people to that plan in really harsh ways, even though that plan is guaranteed to be wrong. And I think that's where those are the things about plans, and activities around plans and behaviors, that that grinds my gears on a pretty regular basis.

Robert Greiner:

Let's get into that. And I want to add a little bit of nuance to what you're saying, though, there is a time where you have to make or meet a commitment. You're contractually obligated for something, you say how many get this thing done? I tell Charles, I'm gonna get this thing done for you. By the end of next week. I think that there, there does come a point where you make an excuse, you can use that as a way to make an excuse for not essentially being a professional. Do you agree with that? Or am I

Igor Geyfman:

there's just some, sometimes you hit toxic waste. Sometimes you hit bedrock, right and all your you made the commitments with good intentions, and the best available data. And let's say multifaceted estimation, techniques, like just things happen. And they happen more often than they don't happen. And I think those are the situations that that I'm talking about,

Charles Knight:

I hear you You're making me think about if we're trying to hold people accountable by pointing to a plan, the something else has failed, if we have to revert back to the plan said this, or the plan says we need to be here. And there's a tying this back to the decision making angle. It's one thing to push information down to the lowest levels. What also needs to be part of that intelligent system or intelligence system that they're the book is advocating for is is the pushing down of decision making authority that is strictly a people system component, that the boss has to tell the team member that you have the authority and you have my support and making these decisions. You don't need me anymore. And I think the plan planning, and the plan can be useful to orient the team around building a shared understanding of what we're trying to do and why and when, and it can be useful to as a check. It's like, hey, are we still on track, quote, unquote, but I agree it should never be used to punish people. Or, yeah, I guess it shouldn't be used to punish people.

Igor Geyfman:

Because it's like, weaponized. Yeah, I'm gonna weaponize this plan.

Charles Knight:

Yeah. If we get to that point, something else like the social dynamics of the team, or the relationships amongst the team and stakeholders, for example, it's just broken down. Because I agree with you, Robert, like there are times when we've made commitments. And I absolutely believe if we make a commitment, we should follow through on through with it, not because the plan says so. But because we looked at another human being in the eye and said, We understand that this needs to get done, and we believe we can get it done. And I want to maintain integrity with that individual. It has nothing to do with a plan at that point. That's more of a mutual respect and relationship thing.

Robert Greiner:

But yeah, let me get more practical though. If you if your car's in the shop, and the mechanic says it's two days and $350 to fix your car, when you show up in two days with $350 cash and they say no, it's going to be two more weeks now and I'm gonna need 3000 more dollars, you're gonna feel duped when our power was out, and there was no guidance on Twitter or anywhere else around when we might get our power back. Like I think there's a very practical thing here where if everyone is a little bit late, like things just spiral out of control. And so how do we reconcile the fact that plans are the process of planning is too bloated? It creates a an artifact that is immediately out of date and practically useless with the reality that things need to get done in sequence for value to be created in the marketplace? Like, how do we reconcile those two things.

Igor Geyfman:

And maybe we should just also talk about, we make commitments too often, if there's pressure to make a commitment, you take your car into the shop, and there's a bit of pressure on the mechanic or whoever's handling your case to, you know, say, hey, it's going to be two days and $350, or whatever, and then some unknown thing that you couldn't know until you took the motor apart. And so maybe on the part of the mechanic, they shouldn't have made that commitment, they, they should have instead said, Hey, I want to really understand the problem. And it could be a range of days. And but as a customer, you probably don't want to, you don't want to hear that, right, you don't want to hear that, hey, Charles, it might be two to 14 days, and it might be 350 to $3,000. And you're like screw this guy, I'm going to go to the mechanic down the street is going to tell me it's two days and 300 bucks. So there's this like, really weird dynamic in play here.

Robert Greiner:

So here's where I think it comes together is if you make all the data you have available to you, as widely available to anyone who needs it in the organization as possible. And you go down to the people in the organization that are responsible for doing the work. And you engage in an exercise with that group of people that says, hey, here's what we need to get done. When can you reasonably get this done? And you can take a range on stuff like this, that makes more sense, like when you're talking about major organizational deliverables usually have a range, or you have some contingency in the plan. And if you get if you start getting things which this always happens, right? Why are we building this, this doesn't make any sense. This is not how users use the system. And you gloss over that or move past it, and just say, No, do what I say get this stuff done, then you're in the realm of what y'all were talking about, which is, you're asking people to do things that that may be unreasonable. And it's on you as a leader to make sure that everyone that reports to you has an understanding of what they're doing and why that's reasonable. If you work with the group of people that are responsible for getting the work done, and they commit to a timeline, and a budget, and a set of functionality and scope, and all of those things, I think is reasonable to expect that they get that done in that period of time. And if things come up, which they will and they do, there needs to be an ongoing discussion, because scope creep is a thing, right, you get more you get halfway through a project or two weeks into a project. And so I wish we had this other thing over here. That's a valid discussion to go and have and you can't just shove that in. And so I think maybe that's where this breaks down is like the decisions. Part of the decision making decentralization has to do with the commitment from the people actually doing the work and cannot be just handed down to them, and then say, hey, if you don't meet this, then, you know, you're we're gonna hold you accountable or punish you in some way. Does that reconcile for you guys? What do you think?

Charles Knight:

I think it does. I, you're also making me think about what Igor said earlier around how this intelligence system is designed to be adaptive, I think plans should be viewed that way, too, is one of the benefits of the agile methodologies is that it has these feedback loops in place that allow the plan essentially to be adapted over time. And I don't know if y'all know much about statistics, I don't. But I know that there's two different types of statistics. There's classical regression and estimations and extrapolation and all that sort of stuff. That's, I think, a lot of the mindset that people have, it's like, we'll plan it once. And it becomes the plan. And then the plan wins. And it rules and it never changes versus Bayesian statistics, which is about, hey, you come up with a plan based off of current information. But then you revise it as you get new information. And in reality, you get new information all the time. That's why a plan goes out of out of date immediately is because everything is constantly changing. And so I think part of what I hear you saying, Robert, and connecting for me is that we should view plans as things that need to adapt, and you need to make sure that you're having the proper information that you need to adapt that plan over time. Or maybe I'm completely missing the mark, and we're talking around each other. I don't know.

Robert Greiner:

No, I think we're aligned man. Because, look there there are situations in the world of planning and doing work in an organization. We've seen plenty of situations where you're already in flight on a project or project And at some point, you realize that effort is useless. You don't have buy in, new customer data comes in, a new technology is released. And what you're doing is outdated, whatever. And a lot of times the decision should be to kill the project and move on move to the next thing, reallocate, people move on to something higher value. But we tend to not do that, we tend to just see things through blind adherence to the plan, because this is what it says, I don't want to get in trouble for having made a bad decision, we're going to see this thing through. We've all seen that. And then we've seen situations where Yes, something a group of people is moving towards an objective, they get new information, something needs to change, you need to change direction, you need to do this, instead of that, you need to prioritize over here, how many times have you needed a dependency to be ready for you by March 1, and they say, it's not gonna be ready till October, or we just may never do it, things have to change and adapt. And so I'm with you on that. I totally agree there. And again, the people that are doing the work should have the most weight in that discussion. But if you take someone in an infosec group, who's very security minded, a security minded practitioner, they're gonna have a completely different opinion on what needs to happen, and where value lies, then someone from the marketing group. And so I think there's a there's certainly a balance there, where if some security folks had their way, a lot of things that are in production today would be shut off right now, and probably rightfully so. But that's just another one of those nuances that shows like, yeah, it's this isn't so simple. And then still, you have to, at the end of the day, get stuff done. Otherwise, nothing's going to happen. You cannot hold ask people to move towards an objective by a certain date, everything would fall apart. If you took that away when your plane goes to France, Charles, and there's Hey, man, sorry, the planes not gonna be here till tomorrow, maybe if something might come up?

Charles Knight:

Yeah, going back to the auto mechanic, the car repair scenario, if somebody told me that it takes two days and 300 bucks, I wouldn't trust them. Like in that scenario, made sense. I wouldn't feel duped if I showed up. And it took longer and cost more. So there's a whole I'm trying to make relate that to this idea of creating an intelligence system. I don't know if it connects or not. But

Robert Greiner:

I think where it stops is you get people to make the decision on what the scope is and what the timeline is, and make a commitment there. But

the people making that decision are the people doing the work, not the leaders who are going off on some off site and coming back with direction for the next year or 90 days. And so if you do that, if you give the people responsible for the work, the autonomy and the authority and the data and information to figure out what needs to happen, then I'm totally like behind that. We do that at work all the time. Like you and I don't make implementation plans, Charles, like if Igor did it would be catastrophe. Right. Like, when's the last time you made a project plan, Igor?

Igor Geyfman:


of all, how dare you?

Yeah, yes, I,

whenever I've had to plan I've, we talked about this actually, in our last podcast, I always had one or two people on deck that I would show it to, that would give me their like thoughts and opinions on because I knew I can't be trusted. Because I would always tell you that it would be done in two weeks. And for $350, that would be the best fix that you've ever seen in your life.

Robert Greiner:

So what you just talked about, you did what I think we're all coming organically coming to the conclusion of needs to happen. You have accountability, for some level of delivery, that's on contract, there's their scope and a piece of paper in a budget, right? You don't get any more and you're on the hook for doing that work. You bring people in who are experts who you can trust, who are going to actually do the work and you ask them for their level best guess on what it's going to take to get done. And then invariably, when you're three, six months in and something drastic changes, you go run interference, and you have the conversation or renegotiate timelines and things like that, which is totally appropriate. What's not appropriate is nothing came up. No extenuating circumstances happened yet, we're still going to be six months late like that just can't, that that can't be a thing. And so in my mind, you did the best practice that the book so poorly articulated, which is you decentralized control, you push down authority to make decisions, you made information widely available. And then you took the feedback and recommendations of your team. And you went with that, and you may end up when you went through this exercise. I have to believe that stuff came up to where you're at. Hey, Jim, I don't think you're thinking this through completely. Do you know you have to do a manual penetration testing? Like before you go to production over here? Did you put that into your plan? Did you put integration testing into your plan because you've these big things go wrong before and so you're able to coach and guide and prod and see at maybe at a higher level or that what the downstream impacts are whatever you can bring that knowledge and wisdom and insight into the discussion, but ultimately, you're trusting the plan that the team makes. And I think if you do that you're in a good spot. Once everybody's in agreement, though, I think that's when you've made a commitment. And if you if something extenuating doesn't come up, and you're not renegotiating, which I think is totally fine. You're on the hook to get that stuff done.

Igor Geyfman:

I, as we're discussing this too, I thinking, we have this thinking preferences model that we use, that has four different thinking preferences, and one of them tends to be process oriented. We call it green. And the four thinking preferences, I think, are equally represented in the general population. 25 point? Yeah,

Robert Greiner:

yeah, they have to be otherwise the model doesn't work. Yeah.

Igor Geyfman:

And I do wonder if it is the people that have that particular orientation, that tend to be the ones and I think none of us have it, if those folks tend to be more reliant on plans, and more likely to, let's say, weaponize clans against the rest of their team, and so on.

Robert Greiner:

I think there's something more nefarious going on here, where in the quest for certainty and de risking, I think that the poor, the ineffective leader will take the plan, as a way to use a stick to make sure people do what they want them to do, because they have no other way to control or influence the behaviors of others.

Igor Geyfman:

I see. And then that's where Charles's

comment around so if you're, if the plan is being weaponized against you, there's a plethora of other things that have already gone wrong.

Robert Greiner:

Yes. But if you assign some work to, you have to remember to a lot of what we're solving at work ourselves problems, right? Like, we're not sending people to Mars here. And so if you, in your experience, if you've seen things take between two and six weeks, and someone on your team is on week eight, right? It's probably not something inappropriates going on there, right? Something is out of whack there. Could be their fault could be your fault, probably your fault. But there's there needs to be an adjustment that again, at some point, you have to be practical here and the rubber meets the road and and you have to meet your commitments, when you have people signing up for things they didn't agree to. They're trying to raise concerns about. And you're pushing that down, I can be a little bit more sympathetic there. But again, at some point to get that stuff done. So did we reconcile chapter now.

Igor Geyfman:

what's interesting is, I think we're all on the same page here anything out, and that we all agree that plans are completely useless.

Robert Greiner:


Igor Geyfman:

But planning and creating adaptive systems, and pushing down decision making. And giving people the best, latest intelligence and empowering them is useful, and that does win, and hard to do.

Robert Greiner:


easy to do. If you're my whole career, I was incentivized to be the person with the answer. Who can fix this defect the fastest who can solve this problem the fastest? And now, it's more effective to have someone on your team be the person to have the answer. And that's a very hard adjustment to make. Charles, why don't you get once you give a recap of what you think you heard today, since this is all fresh for you, and then we'll give our final verdict?

Charles Knight:

Yeah, I think I heard that they conflated or confused or maybe you all misconstrued planning as decision making, which, for me is a leap. It's a leap too far, probably planning is not decision making. Planning can facilitate, or plans can facilitate decision making. But I'm a fan of decentralizing and pushing down information and authority and empowering people on the ground who are closest to the action to make the decisions. I think that is the only way to go in a complex world.

Igor Geyfman:

Can I ask a question, Charles, may be a contentious question. Is a plan not just a collection of sequential deterministic decisions? And deterministic would include like the Who?

Charles Knight:

I think so. But I think it also depends on what you put on that line item. It's I guess, what's the question behind the question?

Igor Geyfman:

I just don't think it's a misrepresentation to some degree to call a plan to conflate those two things. Obviously, they're different. But a plan, I think, is a series of decisions that are pre made that are like that.

Charles Knight:

Yeah, maybe what was not clear to me and this discussion is, what then is the problem with plans? I think what I remember that they have this example of a key person goes off into the wilderness, has all the information, makes the decisions, put them in sequence into into a plan, brings them back and says, here's the plan. And I think that's what they say is really bad. I wouldn't call that the best plan, though. That's just a plan developed in isolation. And I think I think we all would agree, that's bad. So anyway, yeah, I guess I'm confused with the whole planning decision making thing but if we just talk about decision making, absolutely. That should not be centralized, that should be decentralized. And you should design systems to allow people to make the best decisions so that they can when they need to. As opposed to trying to do that upfront at the top of the organization and the big fan, there's a lot of challenges to that though. Even when we do that we push down implementation planning down to the people who are closest to the technology, for example, when we see the plan, we may not like it. And so if we haven't yet talked about some of the challenges that I think are second order effects of doing what they're suggesting, but I'm still a fan, it's the right thing to do, I think, to try to accomplish, you know, solving some meaty problems,

Robert Greiner:

one out of 10, what's your rating on the chapter?

Charles Knight:

I'd say? It's probably a nine, I believe in what they're saying, even though the way that they framed it, I'm just struggling with but that's probably just because I didn't read it.

Robert Greiner:

Alright, Igor, what about you?

Igor Geyfman:

Yeah, I'm gonna say eight or eight or nine. And I had a conversation with Greiner right, before we jumped up on this call. And I said, I'm gonna have a hard time disagreeing with Charles, on his take on this, because the actual take from the chapter is, like, fairly non controversial if you're a reasonable person, so yeah, eight or nine.

Robert Greiner:

So I'm going to give it a five out of 10. I was I'm really annoyed, actually, at this chapter. I agree with everything they're saying. I agree with the conclusions we've come to based on what we've read and discussed maybe is a better way to say it. I don't think the argument was particularly straightforward. And like the first chapter, I thought was such a strong start, the initial assertion of the of the chapter is 100%. Right? That's what that's what the five points come in. Like we put way too much value, way too much reverence on plans and planning, and they're too rigid. And they're generally not helpful. And we've seen in there too happy path, right? Like all of those things. Yeah. out of the five points, I may be able to give you their you get all five for having uncorrect assertion the inside of the chapter. It's all it's a rehash of things we've seen before. There's no unique, like, what push information down decentralized decision making. Talk with your team frequently? Yeah, of course. Yeah, that's all right. But the fact that there's no clear delineation between planning and decision making, like even though they're close, Igor, I agree with what you're saying, that's a miss for me. And also, there's no articulation of like, how you have to get stuff done, like things have to happen, like, how does that all work out in the real world? And at what point? Is it reasonable to hold someone accountable for a specific outcome, or set of behavior. So I think this chapter left a lot on the table, that could have fairly easily been addressed. And so I think it's five out of 10, although I think our conversation today turned in, started at a two out of 10, which is very confusing to me, which is my fault. And I think it ended at an eight or nine out of 10, because we put some things together. Charles, the revelation of this is about decision making, not planning, I think was huge. And if the, if the chapter had been articulated in that way, I would have been totally fine. But for me, it was just it fell really flat. I'm kind of confused and frustrated, ready to get on to the next one.

Igor Geyfman:

I think maybe just the title leads you astray.

Charles Knight:

Yeah, I'm prepared for more of that throughout. I think we've talked early on about how these are meant to capture people's attention and be a little click Beatty and controversial. But underneath, there may not be controversy. I'm just unprepared for more of that and setting my expectations that way so that I'm not disappointed. And but I am hopeful that we will uncover something and I'll learn something that I haven't heard before. But even then, hearing something that I've heard before is not a bad thing. So I'm optimistic.

Robert Greiner:

And they've been nailing the assertions, right, like the intro around engagement. And it was like a good problem. The point at the first chapter about people not caring what company they work for, but they care about the teams. They're on this one around. Decision Making needs to be decentralized that great assertions, really great assertions. They're they're backed up in just like a weird way though. All right. Yeah. I'm glad you like the chapter more than I did. So maybe a personal shortcoming.

Charles Knight:

It's all your fault.

Robert Greiner:

Yeah, it's

fine. Great seeing y'all today, Igor. I hope you you make it to Cabo. And Charles, I help you make it to France soon enough.

Charles Knight:


Igor Geyfman:

See ya.

Charles Knight:

All right.

Robert Greiner:

Have a good one. That's it for today. Thanks for joining and don't forget to follow us on Twitter @wannagrabcoffee or drop us a line at [email protected]

Next Episode All Episodes Previous Episode
Show artwork for Wanna Grab Coffee?

About the Podcast

Wanna Grab Coffee?
Join us for weekly discussions about careers, leadership, and balancing work and life.
A podcast about all of the topics we discuss during our mid-day coffee breaks. We bring you stories, thoughts, and ideas around life as a professional, leadership concepts, and work/life balance. We view career and leadership development as a practice that spans decades and we are excited to go on this journey with you.