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Jurgen Appelo calls himself a creative networker. But sometimes he's a writer, speaker, trainer, entrepreneur, illustrator, manager, blogger, reader, dreamer, leader, freethinker, or… Dutch guy. Since 2008 Jurgen writes a popular blog at www.noop.nl, covering the creative economy, agile management, and personal development. He is the author of the book Management 3.0, which describes the role of the manager in agile organizations. And he wrote the little book How to Change the World, which describes a supermodel for change management. Jurgen is CEO of the business network Happy Melly, and co-founder of the Agile Lean Europe network and the Stoos Network. He is also a speaker who is regularly invited to talk at business seminars and conferences around the world. After studying Software Engineering at the Delft University of Technology, and earning his Master’s degree in 1994, Jurgen Appelo has busied himself starting up and leading a variety of Dutch businesses, always in the position of team leader, manager, or executive. Jurgen has experience in leading a horde of 100 software developers, development managers, project managers, business consultants, service managers, and kangaroos, some of which he hired accidentally. Nowadays he works full-time managing the Happy Melly ecosystem, developing innovative courseware, books, and other types of original content. But sometimes Jurgen puts it all aside to spend time on his ever-growing collection of science fiction and fantasy literature, which he stacks in a self-designed book case. It is 4 meters high. Jurgen lives in Rotterdam (The Netherlands) -- and in Brussels (Belgium) -- with his partner Raoul. He has two kids, and an imaginary hamster called George. Jurgen has posted 145 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

Emphasize Good Practices

05.04.2013
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In many working environments people’s focus is usually is on fixing problems. This makes sense, because continuous improvement allows organizations to survive and thrive. However, a focus on things that could be improved usually comes down to a focus on failures and mistakes, and this mindset can have some serious side effects. Being a perfectionist, I have sometimes been guilty of this myself. I have “raised the bar” for me and for others until the bar was so high that Godzilla could do a limbo dance underneath while carrying a space shuttle.

However, I noticed a strange thing when I urged people to stop screwing up. I found this didn’t motivate them at all! I realized getting better isn’t just about reducing what goes wrong (making mistakes). It’s also about increasing what is right (using good practices). And every now and then people need a reminder that they’re doing just fine.

It’s no wonder the culture in many organizations feels negative when the focus of discussions is mainly on mistakes and problems. Workers feel they are held accountable for not being perfect. Instead of having a constructive view on improvement, people end up with a defensive frame of mind. They evade taking responsibility, and for every perceived problem they point at others who must have caused it. Because people’s minds are focused on self-defense instead of improvement, things will not get any better, and the organization will just make more mistakes.

I believe we should emphasize the good recipes over the mistakes, because you get more of what you focus on. If you focus on mistakes, people will make more mistakes. If you focus on good practices, people will invent more good practices.

It seems evident to me that we should emphasize the good behaviors, not the bad ones. We should celebrate good practices, not punish mistakes.

Published at DZone with permission of its author, Jurgen Appelo.

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)