Psychological Safety Newsletter #24

Training, Workshops, Exercises and Tools

Psychological Safety Newsletter #24

nassim taleb

This week is a bit earlier than usual due to me having a little holiday, and we have Black talent in tech, a cartoon by Virpi Oinonen, Steven Spear and supply chains, decision making, user experience, product management, and TRIZ!

Also: I need your help! If you use or have used the Psychological Safety Action Pack in your organisation, and you’re happy for us to include your company logo on psychsafety.co.uk, please let me know! And if you would like to provide a quote or testimonial, it would be even more amazing 🙂 




As we announced last week, the Psychological Safety Poster Pack has been completely redesigned byt awesome Deisa Teremarias, and there’s a new “Everything Is An Experiment” poster too! Download it now and use them in your workshops, stick them on your office wall, or use them as your Zoom backgrounds! (Also please share them with your friends!)

Psychological Safety In the Workplace:

This is a great article from Keisha Morant at POCIT (People Of Colour in Tech) with software engineers Ademusoyo Awosika-Olumo and Taylor Poindexter about their career journey and the transition from junior to senior developer. This point from Taylor is spot on: “Focus on fostering true psychological safety in your workplace and recruit outside of your usual recruiting channels to find amazing Black talent. Usually, when I hear of Black people leaving tech, it’s because, in some way, shape, or form, they did not feel protected or valued.

After reading a rather shocking piece in “HR Magazine”, Animah Kosai of the Speak Up Collective wrote this excellent rebuttalrefuting the rather worrying stance of some business leaders and HR professionals that “If you allow every employee to determine what is right for them you will have anarchy. You must stay in control,”. Personally, I’m disappointed to see the number of managers insisting on a mandated return to the office, but I’m buoyed by the overwhelmingly progressive majority that recognise that the world has changed and we can learn really valuable lessons about how work “works”: but only if we prioritise the physical and psychological safety of our people.

Virpi Oinonen is a business cartoonist, storyteller & communications pro, and here’s a good set of illustrations about Why Organisations Must Change.  I particularly like this quote from Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of Anti Fragile and agitator of Resilience Engineering scholars“Avoiding small mistakes makes the big ones more severe.” I have a feeling that Erik Hollnagel, Sydney Dekker or Steven Spear may have made this point before, but it’s true nonetheless. 

 Speaking of Steven Spear, in the most recent episode of the Idealcast, Gene Kim and Dr Spear explore COVID-19 and Just-In-Time Supply Chains, Chaos Engineering, and the Soviet Centrally Planned Economy. This is in-depth, and worth a listen (maybe twice), particularly if you’re into complexity theory and similar, and it also repeatedly highlights the importance of psychologically safe environments in order to raise concerns and generate innovate ideas.

Sebastian Straube wrote this excellent comprehensive guide discussing the influence of psychological safety on product management. I particularly like that he draws in conflict styles into the conversation.

Psychological Safety Theory, Research and Opinion:
 Due to changes in the ways we communicate and our working environments during the pandemic, workplace harassment due to gender, ethnicity or age has increased. With more one-on-one communication occurring in isolation and the lines between work and home environments being blurred, this suggests that employees may act or speak in ways that are much more casual and informal than they normally would in physical work spaces. This article explains why and how this may occur, and suggests applying psychological safety practices to mitigate and prevent any ill-effects as a result.

In this excellent episode of the Analysis podcast, the BBC podcast that examines ideas and influences behind public policy, Margaret Heffernan explores the fine art of decision making in times of uncertainty, asking how governments, businesses and institutions can think better as they try to decide. There are some key points made about making it safe to decide and allowing for failure. 

This looks pretty awesome if you’re into design or UXMagnify, the inclusive design and research conference. Working to magnify and prioritise those left out or who face the most barriers in UX. Subjects include:

  • How might we ensure psychological safety is created for participants in research sessions?
  • How might we shift the power dynamics in design to empower citizens who are marginalised by society?
  • How might we advocate for and receive stakeholder investment for inclusive projects?

Chris Weston at IDC shared this interesting writeup of the IDC Digital Leadership Community Roundup – Creating and Leading High Performing Teams. Some interesting takeaways, but this caught my eye in particular: “The concern in this post-COVID world, however, is that every single creative and development action must be laser focused on a business objective and revenue. As a result, there is a tendency to focus on safe creative endeavours. While this is okay from a budgeting and short-term perspective, it can be stifling. Rather, a creative culture should be encouraged, consisting of smaller projects that result in quick successes or rapid and understandable failures.”

Things to do and try:

This is my new favourite Liberating Structure: TRIZ, developed by Henri Lipmanowicz and Keith McCandless. This is an amazing way to surface risks and current flaws in process in a psychologically very safe way by asking “If we wanted to do this really badly, how would we do it?” Examples include:

  • For reducing harm to patients experiencing safety lapses: “How can we make sure we always operate on the wrong side?
  • For helping institutional leaders notice how it is they inadvertently exclude diverse voices: “How can we devise policies and practices that only work for a select few?
  • For software developers: “How can we make sure we build an application that no one will want to use?

Here’s a handy 7-step refresher on building psychological safety in teams from Rebecca Bridger & Rosie Minikin at Hatching Ideas.

This week’s poem:

  staircase      –      جبل اللويبدة
                                 jabal alweibdeh

                                  the tourists are taking over
the square & i’ve seen it

                          past the frenchified streetlamps
& wallace fountains 

                         i’ve seen it by mama’s childhood
home near duwar al hawooz 

                                  i’ve seen it the window sign
          reading ‘شقة للإيجار for expats only’ 

                      i’ve lived my life so far   an archive
of this city    my face my mother’s 

                             mirrored outside its sandstone
walls bas this city holds its people

                                     differently as it always has
it stages its streets like an exercise 

                                        in circumstance its gaze
                 towards whatever else 

                                                       is west of itself


by Zein Sa’dedinListen to Zein Sa’dedin read ‘staircase’

Finally:

We’re working on a psychological safety meetup. If you would like to be involved, head over to the community:  
https://www.psychsafety.co.uk/psychological-safety-slack-community/ and sign up here: 
https://join.slack.com/t/psychsafety/shared_invite/zt-p0xlx85u-vjkgxHkrpQw4r7C0wU3tAA

As always, check out PsychSafety.co.uk, for more resources and articles. 
Read previous newsletters here, and get in touch if you’d like to share something in this newsletter.

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– Thanks so much to everyone who has already provided such great feedback and advice!

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