Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Peak-End or How to deliver in then leave a testing role.

The curious nature of our monkey brains never ceases to amaze me. One model for our thinking that caught my attention a few years ago was an idea called Peak-End. It’s the simple idea that we remember only the peak of any experience and the end. There is a complication here, what we remember is the memory of the event, not the experience itself. There’s been a lot said about the remembering self and the experiencing self, I’ll let you Google it.

The significance here is that your employer is also an owner of a monkey brain which possesses a remembering and experiencing self. You might want to keep that concept to yourself though.

We’d like to think that when we leave a role, the employer or client will remember the experience of us working for them. We hope they’ll be mindful of the many days we delivered consistently, provided all those reports on time, finished the testing on time every time, worked late, etc. I’m here to tell you they won’t.

What they will remember is the big event, the highpoint or possibly the low point. Think back to your prior employments and contract engagements, what do you remember? I remember big launches, major defects, moments when unexpected change happened. We do this because everything else, all those day to day things that were just getting-the-job-done were just like any other day and nothing to really remember. They were not a significant experience to remember.

That will happen, the core to a good delivery is the consistent and steady achievement of the task you’ve been set. If we do nothing else, we need to achieve what we were asked to do.

However, we’re looking to be remembered, right? To do that we need to work the Peak-End rule a little.

Do one thing amazing, then celebrate success
During a project or contract engagement work hard to do at least one thing really, really, really well. Do it so well that it re-shapes your thinking about how that one thing is done. Push yourself, put the hours in, do the research, deliver something no one will forget. Do this and you’ll create a peak in the experience that will form part of the ‘remembering’ later on.
This could be anything, finding an show stopping defect, finishing all the tests when it looked impossible, fixes a deployment issues and safeguarding the release. The best tactic is just to keep doing the best you can, keep pushing for excellence and you will hit on that one amazing thing.

Next, celebrate success. It’s no good doing awesome if no one recognises it for that it is. SPINACH – Self Promotion is Not a Crime Here :) If you’re a manager call out the successes of your team, if you’re a team member make your great work known. Maybe that’s to the team in stand-ups, weekly reports or conversations with your manager.

End on a Crescendo
Eventually, we all leave jobs or engagements. If you’re getting pushed off a role or leaving on your own, treat it the same and push yourself to do good work even more.

As we know about Peak-End, we know it’s critical to end well. You must end on a high, even if that’s just a really solid wrap up and handover. How many people have left a role with a half-arsed handover? What do you think of that looking back? Not positive I guess and likely clouds your opinion of that person.

Now if you can, think of someone that left on a high, doing great work, still putting in (even more) energy. What do you think of them? Someone you’d like to hire again or work with in the future? That’s the value of the End being strong and not just fizzling weakly out.

Hey, all’s well, that ends well, as they say.


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Image stolen from - http://www.smidswater.nl/blog/ikea-bespeelt-ons-perfect/