Saturday, June 14, 2008

Cognitive Load - Part 2

If there needs to be a simple measure for the work/services/deliverables rendered then you can self-evaluate yourself using "Cognitive Load" concept.

Cognitive Load simply attempts to answer the question - Does the work give me confidence that it increases my productivity or does it put more responsibility on me to review/check the work thus extending by dependency ?

Cognitive Load is a self-perception quality. How do you do it ? Here are few pointers.

1. Stand up, step back and view the soft copy of the document: Are you happy with it ? Hmm you have done your best, you say. So don't want to comment on it. Better, call a peer and ask what they make out of the delivery from the same distance. Can they point out the distinction in the work ? Can they assume what you have done ? Can they tell the mood of the work ? If there is at least an answer, then there is a good deal.

2. Take a Print of a sample: Going green means do not waste paper. So take a few pages out and see the results in black and white. Do the areas get highlighted properly? Is there a depth that is spotted. Is it easy to read the print copy with minimal attention rather in a distraction environment.

Meaning, is your file now visible to users and can they see the difference that they spotted for you in color soft copy ?

3. Try out an alternate: If there is a paragraph, put that in bullets. Are you impressed? If you have put them in bullets try separating them in a table row and see if they are impressive ?
If you are working on an excel sheet, have you color coded columns or color coded rows ? Are you impressed ? If not, try playing with border styles, colors, thickness ? Still feel you could do better - Did you try fonts sizes and colors ?

4. Give yourself a try: Try showcasing your work and highlight the important user friendly elements. Specifically highlight the following to your peer:
  1. Are the users reaching the right spots with the right cues ?
  2. How many places should the user look around to spot the information ?
  3. How many times you will ask the input for a specific information - Meaning how many forms and fields needs to be filled in by user in one sitting ?

4. Optimize the batch: One of the major foundation blocks that e-Learning business address is the granularity and independency of content as 2-3 minute capsules. Follow this rule. Split your deliveries in multiple chunks and send it for review/approval. If there is a huge delivery,stagger it on a weekly basis. This way you let your managers rest easy and you can work at ease by getting your confidence back.

5. Can you reduce the intermediate sign off posts - This suggestion coming from a manager might sound counter intuitive and surprising. Many milestones are actually intermediate sign off posts to keep project in track. However think about the over heads associated with each intermediate delivery. You need to spend time in reviews, packaging, communication, solicit feedback, rework on the delivery and submit it again going through the release process. Is it worth the effort to do these or take a calculated risk of proceeding further with a commitment that the deliveries are on track. The amount of changes/issues in a major milestone will not exceed the time spent in intermediate deliveries. Hence be careful in setting milestones (refer above point on batch optimization). Think if it is really a milestone or is it part of intermediate delivery in the name of showing progress and achieving a billing point.

The least cognitive load is the best form of process optimization. Do you prefer a Government bank asking you to come over and sign forms or do you prefer a private bank who does the service of collecting documents, photocopying them, obtain your signatures at you convenient place ?

The difference is considered user experience, but in the underlying deal, it is lesser cognitive load that matters.

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