Why is it so important to be a WoW practitioner?

Whether we like it or not, or even whether we are aware of it or not, each of has a specific way of working – which includes how we act/react and interact with others, how we take decisions and which of our opinions influence those decisions, and last but not the least the emotions we experience in a given situation.

This keeps happening day after day, week after week, month after month, sometimes even year after year; as if we have been programmed to do so. Over a period of time it keeps changing but not necessarily by our intent or control.

With time our needs also keep changing, but our way of working does not remain aligned with those needs. Sometimes we don’t respond fast enough, other times we may overreact. Mostly this happens even without our knowledge, and we might see the disconnect when it is already too late to do anything about it.

What can we do about it? We have a choice. Either we let what is currently happening to continue as is, or we can learn to understand why we do what we do and use that awareness to change our current way of working appropriately to eliminate this disconnect.

For each of us what makes us happy can be different. But irrespective of our needs, when they are fulfilled, that makes us happy. This is true for us, this is also true for others. If we understand their needs and meet them wherever we can, they would do the same for us.

We and others are part of systems. If we learn to understand how the systems we are part of work, we will no more be prisoners of such systems; we will be in control.

For some time now I have been trying to learn how to do this, and it is giving me a much better understanding of my own as well as others’ way of working. As I do this day after day, I am uncovering better ways to align my way of working to my current & future needs. This is not a onetime activity, but an ongoing process and quite interesting.

If what is said above makes sense to you, and need help from my experience, please let me know by a comment below. I will get back to you and would love to help.


Separate your facts from opinions

One of the key practices of WoW framework is “Separate facts from fiction”. We often tend to mix the two, and in this confusion take decisions which may turn out to be harmful.

The easiest way to take care of this is to start using a new language construct regularly while thinking as well as when we speak. When we think something to be a fact, we should use “I know xxxxx”, immediately followed by questioning ourselves “How do i know it?” The response we get would be in the form “because of yyyyy”. So the complete sentence would be “I know xxxxx because of yyyyy”. Once it comes out in the open, it is so easy to decide whether what we thought as a fact is actually a fact. Quite often it turns out to be just our assumption.
Many a times our mind plays tricks on us and assures us something is a fact, when in reality it is a mere assumption. We believe our mind, and without thinking further go ahead and act as if it is a fact. The changed way of thinking and speaking helps us to go around our mind and see the reality as is.

Here is an example.
Recently on a Saturday, I had to take my personal laptop to a service center for some repairs. I had gone there a couple of times earlier as it was quite close to our previous home, and knew the people there well. After driving all the way, when I reached there I found some other outfit. On enquiring I came to know that the service center had moved very close to our new home. By the time I drove back, it was already closed. Disappointed I returned home and had to wait till Monday because they are closed on Sunday. Some urgent work I had planned to complete on the weekend could not be. I felt so bad about it. All this could have been avoided if I had adopted the new way.

I thought I knew they will be there as before. But actually it was just an assumption. I had their contact number and could have called them. But that option did not occur to me because implicitly I was sure the service center would be there. How I wish I had used the simple language construct and saved myself all the trouble.

Initially we may feel little awkward to use such formal constructs, especially while talking to others. But trust me it is a very powerful way to bring clarity about how our opinions and facts get mixed up. If we are speaking to another person, it is worth spending a few minutes to explain why we will be using this construct to get him/her on the same page.

On the other hand when we believe something to be an assumption, it is so easy to check by saying “I assume xxxxx because of yyyyy”. Saying it to ourselves or preferably to others will make it clear whether our assumption is true or false. If true it is no more an assumption and can be considered as a fact. But more often this will lead to further assumptions which are to be handled in the same way. We may also find the assumptions are a result of our firmly held beliefs which similarly need to be questioned.

Here is an example.
A new colleague at work had promised to complete his work by Friday evening. Based on past experience of dealing with people, I assumed that there is a possibility that he may not have completed his work. So I made alternate arrangements. But he actually had, and not only that but even mailed me to inform that the work is complete and the place where he had kept the document for my review. It was a pleasant surprise. It confirmed that my assumption was a fact. Then I realized that in spite of past experience, I still believed that the new person whom I did not know well would complete it on time. This belief came from my natural inclination to trust people unless proven otherwise. This has its advantages as well as disadvantages. Another person in exactly same situation would have thought and acted quite differently, if he was inclined to distrust people till proven to be trustworthy.

Once we start practicing the new way regularly, we see how our assumptions are influenced by our beliefs, which in turn are shaped by our values and inclinations. Underlying beliefs and values have a strong influence on how we act/react, how we interact, and more importantly how we take our decisions.

After we are comfortable and keep practicing it regularly till it becomes a habit, we can modify it to a more natural way, without of course losing the benefit of questioning. Each person can decide when and how it is to be changed, though sometimes it just happens.

Once we see the power of separating facts from fiction, we realize the risks we carry with unquestioned opinions. There is no time to waste and postpone it.

But next question is when can we practice it? Fortunately life provides so many opportunities. If we notice something happens as expected, but often reality goes against our expectations. That is an opportunity to practice it. Even when things go as expected, it is good to ask ourselves whether there are any factors which were responsible for this and in case those factors are no more there in future to help us. This leads us to see the risks which we tend to neglect otherwise.

How to use WoW to reveal hidden options

Once we understand what WoW is, next question that comes to our mind is where do we start? One simple way I have found quite useful is to separate facts from fiction (our opinions) by calling out what we think they are, followed by verifying them. For example.

I Know (fact) and ask ourselves (how do I know)

I (assume / believe / value) and ask why do I have (that opinion)

A real life scenario will make that clear. 

Situation: Lack of self-organization

Team unable to take decisions though capable of taking

E.g. who will work on which task?

Typical conversation:

Team Member-1: Nobody told me which task to work on.

Q: Who is supposed to tell you?

A: I assume scrum master will tell.

Q: Why do you assume so?

A: I believe it is Scrum master’s responsibility.

Q: Have you asked her?

A: No, but I will check, and then ask the right person.


Team Member-2: I am new to this project.

Q: Did you ask other team members?

A: No. I know they also wait for the team leader to tell them what to work on.

Q: What if the team leader is not in office?

A: We wait till he comes.

Q: Don’t you think you could save time if team knew which items who should work on?

A: True. That is what we used to do in our previous project. Team leader would assign tasks in the agile tool.

Q: Have you suggested that in this project?

A: No, I believe this is the way this team works, so I should do the same.

Q: Would you like to suggest it to the team leader?

A: I assume he would not like a junior member of the team do so.

Q: Would you like to try it and see what happens?

A: That’s a good idea. If it works I will make a good impression on the team leader.


Team Leader: I am accountable for the results so can’t take any risk till the team matures.

Q: Do you know whether team is immature, or you are assuming it?

A: I know they are immature.

Q: How do you know?

A: I believe it takes years of experience to become mature, as I have.

Q: Do you think all those who have many more years of experience are more mature than you?

A: Of course not. I know quite a few who are not as good as me.

Q: So length of experience is not the only criteria for maturity?

A: Hmm, I guess so.

Q: How about allowing them to take some decisions which you think they are capable of? This may help them mature more quickly.

A: It may work, it may not. But too much is at stake because my promotion is being considered at present.

Q: So you value looking good more important than being effective?

Continue reading “How to use WoW to reveal hidden options”

What WoW means to me and how is it helping

As I am putting together the WoW framework and am one of its early practitioners, let me share my perspectives and experiences while using it.

To begin with I started closely observing various situations I passed through during the day, starting right from the time I got up in the morning, and continuing till I went to sleep at night. Initially it was very difficult to be an observer, while simultaneously being intimately part of the reality that was unfolding. But by constantly reminding myself that I am also an observer, slowly I started getting it. It was a very different and interesting experience to be in two roles at the same time. But it was also motivating when I started seeing things I was blind to earlier.

I have always found “Why?” to be a very powerful question to reveal the hidden connections. I started doing that with everything I was observing. For example, when I found that I tend to repeat same behavior in a given situation again and again, I asked myself why possibly I may be doing so. After some time I realized that without my being aware, I seem to have decided to choose one of the many behavior options in that situation. Over time it had become a habit and I had even stopped thinking about it.

So next question was “Why did I do that?” Probably at that time it was a right choice. But I had never tried to look at it again to see whether it was still a valid choice. My mind just kept giving same instructions based on what had worked so far.

I noticed that what I observed with my actions also applied to my interactions with others. It was just a copy of earlier behavior in a similar situation. My mind had gone to sleep and was just mechanically repeating its instructions.

One day I had a startling experience. I met a person who had a great resemblance with someone I know well, and for some reason dislike him. Surprisingly I felt the same dislike for the person I had just met for the first time. Something in me established a non-existent connection and reproduced the same emotion. When it became clear what was happening, I could now keep it aside and deal with the new acquaintance without any bias. As it turned out, he was a nice person and we had a good relationship thereafter.

As I started understanding the decisions behind the actions & interactions, the next “Why” was about the decisions themselves? Soon it started becoming clear that our assumptions beliefs and values (which collectively I like to call as opinions), are the source of everything else. They are the key to understanding our visible behavior. Let me give a few real life examples.

Yesterday I had gone to a path lab to get blood reports. The sample was taken previous night. But yesterday evening I was told that the report is not yet received. Some waiting and further questioning revealed that the person at the report desk assumed it was yesterday’s sample and kept looking at reports for the day only, while it was lying there all along in another bunch of reports. Surprisingly even though I had mentioned it, the assumption that it was report for the same day was so strong that her mind had blocked out date of sample.

This example clearly shows the power of our assumptions. But even more interestingly it highlights the need to understand not just our ways of working, but also be watchful for others’ way of working that directly impacts us.

Another example that I come across again and again shows us the power of our beliefs. Majority of us believe that those who are senior to us and / or have more years of experience are more knowledgeable and mature. This belief is so strongly ingrained, especially with us Indians, that we never even question it though the stark reality sometimes is quite the opposite. Add to this the value attached to respecting the elders, and we have a deadly cocktail. I enjoy watching the TV serials for this same reason. They are a reflection of our social and cultural ethos. One such current serial on Sony TV recently had an episode where an elderly person behaved during a marriage ceremony which resulted in completely spoiling relationship between the two families. But not a word was said just because he could not be questioned being an elder. How unfortunate that we never even think of reviewing such beliefs and values.

It is so important to know our opinions, and see how they are influencing our decisions, which in turn lead to our repeated behaviors. Unless we do that there is no hope of having any permanent change for better. From time to time, we may decide to change our actions & interactions, but often they turn out to be like New Year resolutions. For a couple of days our enthusiasm will keep it going, but soon the old habits bring us back to square one.

I will keep coming back with more insights and more examples about the WoW approach for our life and work. Stay tuned.