Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) And Bad Product Decisions

Part 3 – Dealing with FOMO Through Data

Social Media on Phone

My last newsletter  highlighted that FOMO-based decisions are typically driven by emotion. Most often, these decisions add on to the pile of work that people are currently handling, which then causes stress and frustration for people on the team. 

So how do you deal with these scenarios? How do you minimize stress and frustration that result from emotion-based decisions?

The first step is recognizing that emotion can be advantageous. You can examine it and start probing for the deeper reasons that trigger it. Understanding the trigger can help you determine various approaches you may take. 

One useful technique I employ is the 5 Whys technique.  Asking five successive probing questions allows me to get to the root cause as opposed to the outward symptom. I end up learning a few things that are not so apparent.

The second step is to decide on quick data points that may help you reframe and rethink the problem and decision. These data points help validate the decision under a more objective light. One needs just enough info to support and validate – or even change – the decision. 

For example, I found myself chatting with the VP about his wanting to assign a brand new project to a very senior engineer in our department. This new project wasn’t on anyone’s radar, and I had a gut feeling that this new addition would impact what we had already planned for the next quarter. I quickly ran some project queries on JIRA. I showed my executive a particular datapoint – the senior engineer was already on six different projects, all currently going on at the same time. We pored over the data and found out that two of the projects were stalled. The engineer and product manager had been waiting for a couple of months for vital input from the customer. (I was relatively new to the company and didn’t know this.) The customer had undergone a reorganization a couple of months back, and left the two projects in limbo, with no direction in sight for the near term. The engineer was still putting some effort into it based on discussions with the product manager. 

We continued to discuss the four remaining projects. We looked at the amount of effort needed against and the potential ROI. Three of the projects – when compared to this new project – weren’t that high in priority, after a brief chat between the executive and product manager. The executive then decided then to postpone the two projects in limbo, drop the three low ROI items. We all felt better about adding on the new, more impactful initiative in the end.

Notice that in recollecting the story, I introduced the third step – looking at the impact of decisions. In quickly reviewing the project data, and promptly asking more questions form the engineer and product manager, we were swiftly able to come to a decision that made sense. The data allowed us to look at impacts quickly to the current plans that were underway. We managed to streamline other projects in the process. 

Another way to minimize emotion-based decisions is to plan for them. I’ll go over the scenario and technique in my next newsletter. In the meantime, I hope I have provided you with some tips to help you reflect on past situations and see how you could have approached them. I would love to hear from you any insights or “Aha!” moments you want to share as a result of this newsletter topic.

An Example of Online Collaboration Done Very Well

Just because you’re remote doesn’t mean you can’t Collaborate

During the early part of the Shelter in Place, I participated in a highly collaborative design sprint exercise. The whole session was online.

Since the Agile ideal is face to face, who says you can’t have the same fidelity, if not better, of collaborative brainstorming sessions online? See for yourself:





To say that I had fun doing this is an understatement. I got all my creative juices going, and I think I came up with a pretty good idea in the end.

There are three things that you can take away from this highly successful online collaboration. One is an excellent and effective facilitator. He adeptly handled and guided people throughout, giving instructions, helping when needed, and asking probing questions.

The second thing is that facilitator must be well prepared. Notice that all the tooling was in place at the very start. Our facilitator communicated prepared instructions in multiple ways – verbally, textually, as well as visually. Being able to do this requires intentioned planning.

Third is the right tool to use. I’ve seen people try to collaborate similarly with Google docs or spreadsheets, especially in this pandemic. The results were mediocre.

Thanks toRobert Skrobefor holding and facilitating this session. I enjoyed a great learning moment as a participant. You can catch more of what he does on theDallas Design Sprint YouTube channel.

Zoom Design Jam

The Work Remotely Genie Has Now Escaped the Bottle

Remote work is here to stay…permanently

Recently the technology company Square announced that they were permanently allowing people to work remotely. This announcement comes on the heels of Twitter’s similar declaration a week ago.Business Genie

Also, companies like Facebook and Google announced that their employees wouldn’t be returning to the office for the remainder of 2020. Want to make a bet that these companies will now pivot and allow people to work remotely – permanently?

Well, thanks to COVID-19, the Work Remotely Genie has now escaped the bottle completely. It is no longer going to be a perk. It is now ascendant and will become the norm as we redefine a new normal in this pandemic world.

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I’ve seen this for a while now, as early as 2015 or even earlier. I was working in a distributed environment, where my team members were scattered in our Santa Clara headquarters, and in our Guadalajara and Chennai offices. At one point, I became fully remote, where I was the only person on the team in the USA, while the rest of my team were in Mexico.

I already began to think that the Agile ideal of colocated teams was just that – an ideal. 

Agile had to adapt to the world that was getting more distributed and starting to become more remote. I was adjusting to a remote world personally. During this time that I was working, either as distributed or remote, I started figuring out ways to be more Agile in this environment. Some of the things I tried didn’t work as well as I expected, while others succeeded.


“If you want to be working from home, you need to be Agile. If you want to be Agile, you need to think about working from home.”

Steve Denning

Six Deminsions of Change Every Company Will Face

World Agility Forum

How do I know? Well, I got a touching send-off from my Guadalajara team when I was leaving to go on my next adventure. Yes – the lone remote worker getting a very heartwarming and touching send-off – who would have thought that this could happen while working as a remote worker?

I didn’t realize that remote working was becoming a big thing. I only realized this when I attended the Remote Forever Summit in 2019 for the first time. The conference blew my mind. Here were people working entirely remotely AND still being Agile. Some of the things they were doing were things that I had been doing already with my teams.

I got validation that I was going down the right path. I confirmed my hypothesis that colocation was an ideal that would be left in the ensuing dust.

Today, the remote work genie is totally out of the bottle. Thanks to COVID-19, the pandemic situation accelerated this change. 

Companies that don’t embrace remote work options will fail in the long term. I’ve heard this from various leaders from startups and companies while attending conferences and webinars during the Shelter in Place period. The announcement from Twitter and Square validated these points.

Remote work has its advantages. The real estate costs for companies goes down. The work commute disappears, and people will have a better quality of life for both home and work with the diminished stress.

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But these bring up interesting questions and issues as well. The law hasn’t caught up yet to this new work paradigm. Who covers worker’s compensation when one gets injured while working in their home office? Is it you, the worker? Or is it the company? These kinds of issues and questions require answers as the shift to remote work accelerates.

In the meantime, remote work is here to stay. Companies better start looking into this during these times or will be left behind in the long run.

PS – So you may be asking – what’s the difference between distributed and remote? In a nutshell, distributed is when you have people working in offices together. And the offices are all over the world. People in these offices come in during business hours, and they collaborate locally and with other offices. Remote is when you work remotely by yourself, for the majority of your time.