Impact of Artificial intelligence on Project Management

Have you been also thinking if project management sector is also ripe for disruption? I have been. Not that basic principles will change but how we do it. Today, we can say that three industrial revolutions hugely improved the living standard and changed the societies in unimaginable ways although it must have been tough at the time to adapt to. We enjoy many benefits of industrial revolutions such as access to energy, fast and reliable transportation, affordable goods due to mass-manufacturing and Internet. No doubt, benefits came with huge cost. Every revolution disrupted the society with changes in work practices, opening new frontiers, introducing uncertainties, at the same time rate of change has been increasing at break neck speed, social systems are struggling to keep up and anything that is couple of years old today seems to lose relevancy.

Technological advances, innovation, cheaper access to computational power and availability of data have made current situation ripe for next revolution. Root of this revolution is digitization as it has enabled us to create a virtual world where we can not only connect to our physical world but see future through predictions.

Fourth industrial revolutions is called by many industry experts as Artificial Intelligence (AI) revolution.  It encompasses connected systems, automation of production line consuming  sensor data and intelligence to make decisions based on data. This has opened doors for predictive maintenance, inventory control, improved co-ordination between plant floor and management, and higher shareholder value to better decision making. Good thing is, all the improvements and lesson learned are part of feedback mechanism to gradually improve the results through self learning system that AI will bring changing the way industries produce, manufacture and deliver.

“How does this influence project / product management?”, is the obvious question you will be asking next.

In my opinion, two ways – first is directly in form of improved project management tools and second, indirectly in form of the sector we work in. Let me elaborate a little.

Project management tools incorporate many automation routines but availability of the Internet, access to big data and capabilities of AI offer a powerful combo. How we manage and control project management tasks are going to be influenced by this combo.  Project management tools of future will no longer be simply user driven, somewhat automated but would be connected systems, offering predictions, adding intelligence and always improving through interactions. Project plans would integrate with calendars, finance systems, procurement systems, risk and issue logs and other task management apps and keep intelligently updating plan and learning all along.  A Siri or Alexa kind of voice activated bot would quickly analyze and answer any question a stakeholder might have. Project planning will be more robust and stakeholders will learn quickly about roadblocks, informing about scheduling risks and prediction based on multiple scenarios with data driven confidence level instead of gut-feels. Project management tool  will be able to schedule meetings based on tasks, include relevant stakeholders, seek input and share updates.

Indirect influence of AI is coming sooner than later. As companies are finding value in data and insights it can provide, Internet of Things (IoT), sensor data and digital transformation of businesses make use of Machine Learning (ML), an essential step to survive Industry 4.0 wave. As AI/ML capable infrastructure and applications are being brought into organizations, these current and future projects would need new project management mind-set.

As teams are becoming agile in nature, project managers are assuming product manager role, organizing work breakdown structure and gathering business requirements would evolve from classic way to  framing the business problem, articulate the value proposition, data collection from data scientist’s point of view, orienting project around business models & algorithm strategy.

Since the discussion is completely altering how business problems could be solved, project manager would need to carefully analyze the problem by asking question, like, could the business problem be solved by other means that are faster and easier to build than AI, understanding the  data and sources, choice of algorithm(s), understanding of biases in the design and working with some new roles like Data Scientists, Statisticians, Domain Experts and Engineers.

In short, it is a new frontier for project managers when dealing with an AI project and project managers got to be more technical and domain aware.

Project management covers many domains and knowledge areas and a project manager is subject matter expert of integrating discipline with deliverables. Technology alone will not ensure success but certain attributes that a PM can offers such as project leadership, stakeholder management, negotiation skills, and empathy would keep him or her an indispensable for the business.

To summarize, my take is project managers will get a lot of assistance in way of better and improved project management tools, letting them focus on what is critical. Role will evolve from managing and controlling to collaborating and contributing while managing the stakeholder expectations.  Project managers who will succeed in Industry 4.0 revolution will likely be those who manage to embrace the Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning aspects of the business needs, being technically savvy, and seeing how a solution can add value not only to business but also to the data engineering and data science teams.

25 Rules for Life

PRINCIPLES OF ADULT BEHAVIOR by John Perry Barlow

  1. Be patient. No matter what.
  2. Don’t badmouth: Assign responsibility, never blame.
    Say nothing behind another’s back you’d be unwilling to say, in exactly the same tone and language, to his face.
  3. Never assume the motives of others are, to them, less noble than yours are to you.
  4. Expand your sense of the poesible.
  5. Don’t trouble yourself with matters you truly cannot change.
  6. Expect no more of anyone than you yourself can deliver.
  7. Tolerate ambiguity.
  8. Laugh at yourself frequently.
  9. Concern yourself with what is right rather than whom is right.
  10. Never forget that, no matter how certain, you might be wrong.
  11. Give up blood sports.
  12. Remember that your life belongs to others as well. Do not endanger it frivolously. Md never endanger the life of another.
  13. Never lie to anyone for any reason.
  14. Learn the needs of those around you and reepect them.
  15. Avoid the pursuit of happiness. Seek to define your mission and pursue that.
  16. Reduce your use of the first personal pronoun.
  17. Praise at least as often as you disparage.
  18. Never let your errors pass without admission.
  19. Become less suspicious of joy.
  20. Understand hmility.
  21. Forgive.
  22. Foster dignity.
  23. Live memorably.
  24. Love yourself.
  25. Endure.
John Perry Barlow was an American poet and essayist, a cattle rancher, and a cyberlibertarian political activist who had been associated with both the Democratic and Republican parties. Wikipedia
Died: February 7, 2018, San Francisco, CA

Quotes on Leadership from Twitter

Here is some of wisdom tweeted by my favorite people:

  1. Stay on track. Don’t give your critics the ammunition they expect. – Larry Weidel
  2. Your ability to build & lead team to solve complex problems will define you as a leader, deal maker and innovator. – Tim Sanders
  3. Be stubborn about your goals, and flexible about your methods. – Vala Afshar
  4. Impatience only makes you look week.  It is a principal impediment to power. – Robert Greene
  5. Learning is NOT NOT NOT a linear process!!!!!!! – Tom Peters
  6. Stop what you are doing and decide to do something of long term value! What can you do today, that will have an impact file years from now. – James Shepherd

How to Receive Constructive Feedback

20160224_165321-01 Receiving feedback in the workplace isn’t always easy. Sometimes it can be hard to take constructive (or negative) feedback and turn it into a positive response. If you have received feedback that was not up to your expectations, the last thing you want to do is cause an emotional outburst. Here are some top tips on how you can control yourself with negative feedback, avoid confrontation and utilize feedback to become a better employee.

  1. Let your boss express his or her ideas fully: always be sure to let your boss finish what she/he is saying and do your best to understand what is being said. Paraphrasing exactly what you are being told and making sure to let the other person finish is very important. This way you can demonstrate that you’ve heard their opinion and that they had full opportunity to express their opinion.
  2. Always evaluate feedback: Looking for particular reasons for a particular feedback you got is important. Be sure to look at the situation and examine some of the underlying aspects. If your boss has expressed feedback in an emotional outburst, for example, you may want to consider some of the other factors like he/she being under overwhelming pressure from management or poor conditions at home.
  3. Keep yourself in check: Responding to feedback with a negative response can put your job growth prospects in danger. Be sure to keep yourself in check with your nonverbal responses and with the emotion in your voice.
  4. Work to alter behavior: the only way that you can use negative feedback is to work at altering your behavior. Use feedback to find workplace goals and then avoid certain behaviors to become a more effective employee.
  5. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification: If you are unsure of the specifics of negative feedback be sure to ask a number of clarifying questions on how you can improve or specific actions that you are doing that could be causing inefficiency. A good boss will be able to identify a number of alternatives to your behavior or to your workplace practices.

Use these top tips when receiving feedback from your boss so that you can use it to the fullest extent.

Further reading:

You choose the title of this post

Reading a magazine’s very last page and very last item sounded very familiar to me in a different context. It quoted Emma-Jayne Winson, the first female jockey to win the Queen’s Plate, Canada’s oldest thoroghbred race, in 2007. Here it is from May 2015 issue of Canadian Business.

wpid-20150701_121233_20150701151720977.jpg
Ask a jockey: Is it hard to build a relationship with a horse you’ve just met?

“When I took lessons, I remember complaining that I wanted to ride this horse every week, and I never got the same horse. I always got a differet one. But being on horses that maybe I didn’t get along with taught me to be a better rider and to communicate better with animals that weren’t necessarily on the same page. It’s amazing how you can assimilate something so simple into everyday life.”

Now relate this story to the times when you wanted certain key people in your team, but couldn’t; or had to operate with constraints that you felt were slowing you down. I believe every challenge shapes us to be bit more flexible, innovative, disciplined, collaborative and resilient.

One mantra helps instead of complaining or whining, it is change the mindset. Accept that it is not an ideal situation (rarely ideal conditions exist in any environment, be it business or social), but how can you make the best use of it and what way you are going to learn from it. Usually, all such circumstances become good stepping stones.

A picture is worth a thousand words

 Don’t get stuck on design without looking into user experience

image

Don’t start refinement too early or else you may miss out best solution

image

 

How random data can be interpreted depends upon experience and creativity

image

Always remember, keep is succinct as much as possible

image

 

Effective

Credit pictures – Internet. If any of the above shared image is owned by you, please send me complete info and source of image, I will gladly mention credit on this page.

5 Leadership Quotes

wpid-20140522_155401_20140522160647770.jpg

 
It all comes down to the decisions a leader makes. I believe following 5 quotes will inspire you as well.

  1. Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs. – Henry Ford
  2. By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail. – Ben Franklin
  3. Diversity in counsel, unity in command. – Cyrus the Great
  4. Chance favors the prepared mind. – Louis Pasteur
  5. Deliberate often. Decide once. – Latin proverb

 

Art of Encouragement – its more than just saying ‘good job’

Once I was asked a straightforward question that when all are paid to do their job, why we need encouragement or praise here? Why won’t people do what they are supposed to do?

Encouragement

As George Matthew Adams said, there are high spots in all of our lives and most of them have come about through encouragement from someone else. I don’t care how great, how famous or successful a man or woman may be, each hungers for applause.

Some people offer encouragement in a boisterous way. They dole out lavish and effusive praise, bear hugs, and hearty cheers or applause. Other encouragers turn to techniques that are quiet and subtle: a soft smile, a kind word, or a light touch on the hand. But regardless of the form that encouragement takes, it carries amazing potential—the potential to lift a person’s spirits while helping them to stay focused on their goals.” (Quoted Julie Exline – Psychology Today)

Encouragement does following 5 main things to people which has direct relation to success of the organization.

  1. fuels the passion to do better and exceed expectations
  2. sets expectations and helps people evaluate on their own merit
  3. strengthens the self-esteem
  4. reinforces positive work environment
  5. increases appetite for taking calculated risks by being creative and innovative

en·cour·age·ment – (noun) – something that makes someone more likely to do something

praise – (verb) – to express approval of (someone or something)

When it comes to encouragement, it’s either a thank you email or keep up the good work statement. So praising is good and we all like it, which happens after the action or any achievement. Praising serves as encouragement for next venture but it is only for people who have contributed towards that specific achievement. Its like

While encouragement is something done before and during any action taking place to rally our troops to the goal. Anyone can given encouragement.

When Encouraging Others, Keep In Mind:

  • False praise discourages others. Praise only real and specific achievements, even if you have to identify individuals and their contributions.
  • Encouragement can be a smile, a nod, a clap or a pat on the back but go beyond saying keep up the good job; if you want people to exceed your expectations.
  • When encouraging be sincere and attentive, take time to recognize.
  • Usually meetings end frantically because no time is left, as a leader ensure its your job to take a moment and say specific words of encouragement.
  • Be consistent and ensure small snafus do not blow the sockets off
  • Timely encouragement is important; a stitch on time saves nine.
  • Observe for signs of discouragement – limited or no engagement / participation, don’t care attitude, body language, etc.

How to Encourage:

  1. Foster collaboration among teams & organizations
  2. Processes and disciplines are required to succeed, but they need to be refined with time and as technology changes. Be the champion of taking down the barriers in achieving efficiency & productivity.
  3. Trust your people and let them make decision.
  4. Delegate some of the work & meetings to your team and ask for information, this will help you grow them and identify star players.
  5. Stay engaged by recognizing people at the right time, giving clear directions and suggestions when required, asking for input and showing respect.
  6. People make mistakes, understand the effort and planning that went in, provide insight and help ensure it does not get repeated.
  7. When needed, take actions required to address the problem. Discipline of the organization must be maintained.
  8. Take the responsibility of your team. Understand where buck should stop.

Encouragement is a valuable gift that we can give without any expense and it rewards both giver and receiver. It builds relationships, drives positive growth, improves corporate bottom line while giving satisfaction to employees. Encouraging right people at right time in a right way does wonders.

More  – http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/light-and-shadow/201311/the-quiet-power-encouragement

How to deal with fools in your life

 

 blog-05611

I was puzzled for many days due to irrational behavior of someone.  I was reading a book by Robert Greene called Mastery and it had a section that helped me keep my sanity.  This prompted me to share the one page of info from this book (mostly as it is) for anyone who is going through it.  This book is very good – for career and personal life, recommend buying it.

Author writes, ” In the course of your life you will be continually encountering fools. There are simply too many to avoid. We can classify people as fools by the following rubric: when it comes to practical life, what should matter is getting long-term results, and getting the work done in as efficient and creative a manner as possible. But fools carry with them a different scale of values:

  • They place more importance on short-term matters-grabbing immediate money, getting attention from the public or media, and looking good.
  • They are ruled by their ego and insecurities.
  • They tend to enjoy drama and political intrigue for their own sake.
  • When they criticize, they always emphasize matters that are irrelevant to the overall picture or argument.
  • They are more interested in their career and position than in the truth.
  • You can distinguish them by how little they get done, or by how hard they make it for others to get results.
  • They lack a certain common sense, getting worked up about things that are not really important while ignoring problems that will spell doom in the long-term.

The natural tendency with fools is to lower yourself to their level. They annoy you, get under your skin, and draw you into a battle. In the process, you feel petty and confused. You lose a sense of what is really important. You can’t win an argument or get them to see your side or change their behavior, because rationality and results don’t matter to them. You simply waste valuable time and emotional energy.

In dealing with fools you must adopt the following philosophy: they are simply a part of life, like rocks or furniture. All of us have foolish sides, moments in which we lose our heads and think more of our ego or short-term goals. It is human nature. Seeing this foolishness within you, you can then accept it in others. This will allow you to smile at their antics, to tolerate their presence as you would a silly child, and to avoid the madness of trying to change them. It is all part of the human comedy, and it is nothing to get upset about or lose sleep over.

This attitude – “Suffer Fools Gladly“- should be forged in your Apprenticeship Phase, during which you are almost certainly going to encounter this type. if the are causing you trouble, you must neutralize the harm they do by keeping a steady eye on your goals and what is important, and ignoring them if you can. The height of wisdom, however, is to take this even further and to actually exploit their foolishness – using them for material for your work, as examples of things to avoid, or by looking for ways to turn their actions to your advantage. In this way, their foolishness plays into your hands, helping you achieve the kind of practical results they seem to disdain.”

You can purchase this book at Amazon.Com

(Credit – Mastery, Author Robert Greene, Published by Penguin Group, New York 10014, 2012, page 163-164)

10 Questions to Answer When Fixing Processes

This post talks about how processes created and implemented in hurry overlook the impact on resources, and do not help in long run. Don’t panic and trap yourself in a complicated web of rules, processes and policies to prevent future happenings when something goes wrong. It becomes quite easy to show the world how well thought and fool-proof bureaucratic system we have put in place to catch problems at each level.  Management asks what checks are in place to prevent this in future, we bring up the slide that shows our safeguards, sometimes without realizing if its sustainable, what goes through such scrutiny.

The day a process failure identified in a process and gets top management’s attention, teams scramble to fix the problem immediately.  All hands on decks! Its stand-down till we fix the issue. Teams become reactive and a lot of work is put in to discover what went wrong and how to prevent it from happening again. This is all good but in hurry to fix the problem and report that all is good, often processes are created that add inefficiencies and add bureaucratic layers, approval processes, workflows, checklists, etc., etc.  We all know that finding the origin of the problem and fixing it there is more effective than putting a process that will catch the issue or problem downstream. 

No doubt that we need to plug the hole(s), fix the processes immediately to keep our business running while ensuring it does not happen in future.  Please pay attention to following thoughts & questions when developing and implementing a solution to fix the problem.

  1. Is team 100% reactive. Root cause analysis is there to help.
  2. Did we understand completely, problem might be the tip of the iceberg.
  3. Is it an issue or problem? What are the statistics telling?  Is it recurring problem or it was a rare occurrence?
  4. Assess the impact on system and organization. Seek external input and consult stakeholders.
  5. Discover why it occurred, could it have been avoided, if yes, then how?
  6. Is there any strategy in place through risk assessment exercise to deal with it?
  7. Where does the problem exist – people, processes, technology, data or a combination thereof?
  8. Is new process to fix problem seems kind of bureaucratic? Are you overdoing it? What it does to efficiency / performance of people?
  9. Is new process stifles creativity in any way?
  10. Are there accountablity, attitude or communication related issues present in the teams?

10 things to do when stuck in a situation

Do not wait until the conditions are perfect to begin. Beginning makes the conditions perfect.  – Alan Cohen (A prominent businessman from Florida)

Once you find yourself at a fork in the road, or clueless about which path to choose from – you wonder …..where should I begin this journey?  I have been there many time.  Sometime stuck or sometimes clueless.  I ask others and choose what fits in. You will be amazed how many resources are available for help and how different perspectives let you find the right solution. Choice is always yours, some times things work out as expected, other times you find out what does not work.  There is no template or documented way as we all have unique abilities and unique challenges. 

You have the solution, all you are doing is uncovering with the help of others. Because it is meant to be like that.

But when should you begin asking? After doing your home work. If you do not do your home work, you will be overwhelmed by choices and might be victim of analysis paralysis. Here are some thoughts to prepare you to ask help from others, in many cases you do many of these things in parallel:

  1. Use mind mapping technique to put thoughts, situation and desired result on paper.
  2. Talk to couple of your trusted friend and seek advice who has been in the similar situation.
  3. Check with a life coach, a professional mentor or an expert is situation requires professional input.
  4. Contemplate and jot down best-case and worst-case scenarios.
  5. Do on-line search, check out blogs, forums, libraries or book stores.
  6. Join a group, attend networking event, take a class where like-minded people will gather; or take a vacation, sleep well and go for a walk or jog with all the advice, a solution may pop-up automatically.
  7. Do not do all thinking in the head alone, jot down your thoughts and give them shape by arranging them as they make sense.
  8. Put a milestone chart for action steps. Start with question mark and end with desired outcome. Then fill with monthly and yearly milestone.
  9. Now describe what needs to be done to achieve those monthly and yearly milestones.
  10. Stay up-beat and keep focused.  Don’t be bothered about nay sayers. Per Nike’s tag line – just do it!

Any decision you take, remember Steven Covey’s 2nd principle – begin with the end in mind.  We all do most of the things but my experience working with others is that folks do not write or do not jot down any of the plan. You got to do it.

Further reading/references:

  1. Seven steps to problem solving – http://www.pitt.edu/~groups/probsolv.html
  2. What is mind-mapping – http://litemind.com/what-is-mind-mapping/
  3. Scenario planning – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scenario_planning

8 Leadership Quotes

  1. Strategy is not the consequence of planning but the opposite, its starting point. – Henry Mintzberg
  2. Run with your head the first two-thirds of a race and with your heart the final third. – Jack Daniels
  3. A good team is a great place to be, exciting, stimulating, supportive, successful. A bad team is horrible, a sort of human prison. – Charles Handy
  4. In adversity, remember to keep an even mind. – Horace
  5. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers; pray for powers equal to your tasks. – Phillips Brooks
  6. The secret of getting things done is to act. – Dante Alighieri
  7. Constant dripping hollows out a stone. – Lucretius
  8. The first great gift we can bestow on others is a good example. – Thomas Marell

Integrity – Key Ingredient for Success

Integrity Ninja
Guard Your Integrity

February is Black History Month.  I was reading on Mr. Frederick Douglass and one of his quote came in front of me.  So profound and tells a lot about personal quality!  If one lacks integrity, will lack true sense of happiness and accomplishment in life. This quality in leaders and managers takes the organization to new level.  This is age of integrity and accountablity.   As a trusted advisor to your boss, friends, or to any institute, your currency is Integrity.

Frederick Douglass: I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and to incur my own abhorrence.

Here are some selected Quotes for Leaders and Managers:

  1. Integrity is telling myself the truth. And honesty is telling the truth to other people. – Spenser Johnson
  2. Integrity is not a conditional word. It doesn’t blow in the wind or change with the weather. It is your inner image of yourself, and if you look in there and see a man who won’t cheat, then you know he never will. – John MacDonald
  3. I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and to incur my own abhorrence. – Frederick Douglass
  4. Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
  5. It’s not what we eat but what we digest that makes us strong; not what we gain but what we save that makes us rich; not what we read but what we remember that makes us learned; and not what we profess but what we practice that gives us integrity. – Francis Bacon

Marcus Aureliu: Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.

How to Stay Healthy for Leaders & Managers

Working more than 40 hours every week? Stressed? Exhausted?  By working more and not paying attention to what your body wants, you are preparing yourself for burnout. Leaders and managers are working to exceed expectations, be more productive and dedicating more time and energy into resolving issues at work .

Eat Healthy

Technology was supposed to get things done faster and make life easier, instead we use available time to multi-task.  Be it commuting to work or flying out for business, crunching numbers for report or firefighting an issue with BlackBerry Messenger while on vacation, preparing for big presentation or making decisions about hiring or firing – we have so many things going on in parallel.  These things take a toll on our mind, body and relationships.

Health is Wealth – you got to maintain balance in life.

I visited a retired executive who was having many health related issues and end up leaving the top position early to take care of the health.  Conversation came to health matters after him talking about all the achievements and sacrifices he had made in his career.  His conclusion was simple, as evident to all of us but neglect always, “Health is Wealth – you got to maintain balance in life”.

I thought of sharing my take on how leaders and managers should pay attention to maintaining good health.  My opinion is if our body is not healthy, our mind is going to work less than optimum.  If our mind is not giving 100% – every thing suffers, from attitude to relationships to our work.

We can help our country, society, organization and family succeed and grow by staying healthy.  Prevention is the best cure.

Here are some reminders, I think we all know basically how to stay healthy:

  1. Sleep well – 7 to 8 hours without interruption prepares your mind to take on new and complex issues.
  2. Eat right and eat light –  Breakfast in morning is must (I had missed many myself in past), lunch and dinner with combination of grains and vegetables. Eat little less than you need to eat. Low sugar, low sodium and low-fat diet.
  3. Drink water –  stay away from any flavoured drink. Tea or coffee once a day is fine.
  4. Walk and take the stairs if possible.
  5. Excercise and stretch out during work day. Enjoy the sun and fresh air.  Take a stroll just after lunch.  Connect with people.
  6. Take deep breaths – for at least 5 minutes.  Metaphorically – your job is to fill your lungs with all the Oxygen you can breathe in so that remote areas of your lungs can get fresh air. Shallow breathing is not doing  good to your lungs.
  7. Think positive and good about anything and everything. Maintain an attitude that all is happening with your pre-consent and you are just watching it unfold.  Do not panic. Enjoy quiet moments, do not jump to your social media or email inbox.
  8. Nutrition helps body. Take your vitamins regularly.
  9. Talk to your good friends and family members – with full attention on conversation and not as a chore. Play with and talk to your kids daily. Try to have one meal with family daily.
  10. Regular doctor visits and physical examinations are essential.
  11. Take vacations – leave work behind, it’s not going anywhere 😉

How Project Managers Can Help Retain the Talented Resources

Michigan Central Train Station in Detroit

Organization rise and fall based on people involved in leading, managing and supporting.

It has become a deciding factor for success in any organization to hire, nurture and retain the great talent.  Organizations have in past gone out of way to attract key talented resources from competitors.

There might be fancy deck of powerpoint presentaton produced by HR professionals on available programs to do all that, but is it the reality on ground? Is it working?  Are key people leaving organization or moving to different department? How can you ensure the success of your initiative if key talented resources do not want to stick around? As a project manager you get to see things first hand if policies or programs are working as expected.

Also, I think, it is not only HR’s function to attract and keep talented folks but project managers play a vital role in it. Job security, clarity of direction, level of engagment, opportunities available, benefits and work environment determine how talented resource make their mind up but Project Managers can also influence talented resoureces stay by  –

  1. Marketing the project, its benefit to customer and organization along with in what way it  can help resource grow professionally;
  2. Keeping the account of talent levels of each resource’s skills, background and career goals to make informed decisions;
  3. Offering or arranging mentoring sessions & directing the focus of talented and motivated employees to groom and engage resources;
  4. Delegating in light of what resources can or can not do, level of hand holding required, comfort level in taking risk for project success;
  5. Keeping the communication lines open, first listen then guide and supervise so that resource feels connected and knows he/she makes the difference;
  6. Accepting that mistakes will be made by resources, plan accordingly and anticipate to develop future leaders and managers;
  7. Finding challenging and creative assignments for talented resources so that resources can grow;
  8. Rewarding and recommending the resources in presence of key stakeholders;
  9. Giving or arranging opportunities to attend conferences, meetings and training to sharpen their saws; and
  10. Explaining how project management fits into the life cycle of product development or any project – it’s not asking for status and producing late tasks report.

This is a list of 10 points to start your thought process, please share what else should be added.  Hope to find out from your valuable contribution through comments.  Thanks for reading.

Learning from 2011 ( #3lessons )

When reflecting on 2011, as most of us do each year, I find the year very successful and I find myself fortunate enought to have made significant improvements in personal and professional lives. It made me interested what others are thinking.  Twitter was good source and here is compilation of 3 lessons hash tag on twitter. I have tried my best to provide credit to all contributors as I noted in tweets.

  • @CJamesCatStrat
    • trust your heart then head;
    • know you can change the world;
    • connect with depth and meaning.
  • @nowaffle
    • make a difference;
    • lover yourself;
    • respect others.
  • @mariemilligan
    • open-hearted risk taking;
    • belief & action in greater good;
    • laugh & love like its your last day on earth.
  • @kevindaugh_herty
    • don’t take anyone for granted;
    • enjoy the moment;
    • have a great haircut.
  • @umairh
    • ignore the haters;
    • listen to what matters;
    • create the future.
  • @ohheygreat
    • be okay saying “I don’t know, can you teach me?”;
    • to what scares you and learn from it;
    • love like crazy.
  • @letuboy
    • go big;
    • embrace failure;
    • be better.
  • @mosharrafzaidi
    • put yourself in others’ shoes;
    • give everyone more than once chance;
    • avoid unproductive negative energy.
  • @kulveervirk
    • add value to whatever you do;
    • life if good if you work for greater good;
    • quality of questions determines what you get as an answer.

10 Early Indicators of Problems & Framework To Solve

We all strive for higher productivity, quality and efficiency.  We implement processes in place to achieve great results but with time, we got to review and renew so that our organization continue to deliver good value to customer.

Early indicators of unhealthy organization requiring a thorough check of processes

  1. Increase in employee overtime
  2. Over budget and late delivery of products
  3. Higher help-desk call volume due to various issues
  4. Higher employee turnover or absenteeism
  5. Frequent customer complaints or low customer satisfaction
  6. No feedback from employees for improvement or disengaged employees
  7. Low worker morale due to work environment conditions
  8. Poo or declining sales
  9. Negative buzz on social media
  10. Direction-less employees due to lack of leadership

The moment you see these symptoms of productivity drain, you got to spring into action.  What actions you take mainly depends largely on your unique situation which may include feedback surveys, quality training, leadership training, communication training, team building activities, and developing new / refining processes, empowering employees. Never go the route of micro-managing.

Here is framework I follow to find solution

  1. Assess the situation with the help of subject matter experts
  2. Frame the problem in broad terms and why it need to be addressed now
  3. Describe the desired outcome if problem is solved to the satisfaction
  4. List three best options to solve the problem
  5. List pros and cons of each option
  6. Get consensus on the single option from the team
  7. Explain why this chosen option will work and what are its constraints/risks
  8. Implement or empower the implementation

I would be interested to know from your experience what other indicators can be added to this list and how do you solve the problems.  Thanks in advance for sharing your valuable thoughts and stopping by.

This list is based on my personal experience and is not through any scientific study.

The Best Advice I’ve Ever Been Given..

  1. Don’t ask for what you don’t want.
  2. You carry five balls in the air; all but one is made of glass. Glass is health, family, friends, spirituality. Rubber is career. Juggle well.
  3. Be passionate but not emotional.
  4. Master hard skills early in your career. Master soft skills to get ahead later in your career.
  5. Know when to ask questions – sometimes in a group, sometimes one-on-one.  There is big difference in perception and outcome in these two situations.
  6. Always do what you say you will do.
  7. Take lunch – you are not that important.
  8. Read the cover of sports page every day (no joke!).

I was reading Canadian Business magazine‘s The Next Power Elite cover story and found these gems at the bottom of the page.  I could not resist sharing with my readers. Credit for the content goes to August-September issue of Canadian Business.

How to Become a Trusted Advisor?

How to build trust with the Boss or Customer? What do you think of your boss or customer? 

I guess more important question for your success is – what does your boss (or customer) think of you? Does your boss (or customer) trust you? Trust is invisible currency of faith. Once you have earned it,  you become trusted advisor. It takes time to develop trust, but can be lost in a flash.  Trust makes work life more enjoyable, gives satisfaction and makes one more productive.   I believe that if someone genuinely applies below given 7 pointers, sure will gain trust. 

He who does not trust enough, Will not be trusted. – Lao Tzu

Lets imagine customer is also a boss.  Getting a good boss is mostly in our hands.  I say mostly, because there might be some bosses with whom you can not connect at all because their wavelength is quite different from yours.  In spite of it, I think one must take initiative to build trust and get connected with boss instead of waiting for boss to realize how invaluable and resourceful one is for the team and organization. 

So how to become trusted advisor?  Answer is – by cultivating trust.  My understanding is “Giving trust leads to earning trust“. You got to understand the uniqueness of every individual in terms of how one thinks and operates.

Here are 7 key pointers to build trust over time with your boss and work on addressing the questions –

  1. Be reliable and competent: can your boss count on you? can you get things done you are supposed to do?
  2. Be accountable: are you ready to own your mistakes? are you concerned about success of your organization?
  3. Learn to anticipate: do you know what questions will be asked on the subject? are you strategic thinker?
  4. Be solution oriented: are you just posing questions or problems? do you strive to help resolve issues?
  5. Seek feedback and be candid: are you engaging your boss? are you holding back something from your boss? 
  6. Be professional: are you delivering value to your boss/organization? are you respectful to your boss on his/her back?
  7. Be a good communicator: do you understand how your boss wants to know things? do you connect with your boss?

And what you do if you and your boss are on totally different wavelengths? Keep doing good job and move on when opportunity arises, simple is that.  Its nothing wrong with anyone, we all are unique and bring different perspectives to life and its ok to be on different wavelengths.

Hope you like the post, if you think there is any other valuable point to add, share it.  Thanks for reading and feedback.

Tweets of Wisdom

Backyard Plant

Here are some of the tweets from the people I follow on Twitter.  These tweets are incredible pearls of wisdom that we can use to direct our thoughts, actions and reflections.

1.  Mediocrity asks “Is it profitable?“. First, try asking: “Is it worthwhile? Will it matter? Is it meaningfully better?@umairh

Profound questions one can ask! Questions we ask ourself are the key to our success. If we change the questions we ask, we can change our life.  Recently watched HBR video called Wise Leadership [video] on similar topic. This interview asks – Is profitablity the  result or ulimate goal of our business?  Check out keyword Phronesis.

2.  Nurture your mind with great thoughts, for you will never go any higher than you think. @Billy_Cox

Our actions are guided by our thoughts (as well as profound questions) and eventually we become what our mind dwells upon most of the time. Isn’t it questions posed by @umairh in (1) a perfect fit to initiate great thoughts?

3.  All the wisdom in the world isn’t worth a dime if it doesn’t produce results. @BrianTracy

My favorite Brian Tracy has influenced millions & millions with his wisdom. As managers, we enjoy some nice talking  to us but all talking won’t do it. We got to get results.  Wisdom does mean action or inspiring others to take action and manifest quality products that add value.

4.  A person’s character is best judged when he is in power & how he uses this power in the daily walk of #life @rlalita

This is very timely thought, we all are given authority/power in our life and work. See this quote with the perspective of 1, 2 & 3

5. Try & try again is a great philosophy so long as you use a different plan for every try. @LeadToday

This quote tells about perseverence and keeping mind open to new ways of doing things to get to the desired results.  It might be pushing the particular item to back for some time. You know some times we got to inentionaly delay the things because environment is not ready to thrive.  Remember planning also includes if things do not work out the way we expect what are our options and how would we pursue them.

6. Enlightenment is not an escape from pain but an understanding of pain & in spite of it -living with a never-ending feeling of love for life. @tonyrobbins

Its all how we define pain (or problem). Its our paradigm. Not there yet, but whatever I have grasped from reading – at a certain juncture in life, a time comes in life when one realizes that pain is medicine while comfort leads to suffering. And again, its all how one defines pain and comfort and what are thresholds per our paradigms.

7. You weren’t put here to polish up PowerPoint decks, sell disposable junk, or glad-hand. You were put here to matter, serve, and love. Start. @umairh

Finding purpose or discovering our ‘Ture North’ is what we need. We are put here to matter (do significant things that make world a better place – even for one individual), serve (without any strings attached or expectations – otherwise its business not serving) and love (without ego and selfishness). Last word is even more powerful that is  START!

If you like these tweets, please follow them on Twitter.  If you are new to Twitter, then start here http://twitter.com/ and watch this video for more info http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J0xbjIE8cPM

My twitter handle is @KulveerVirk

SWOT Analysis – A Tool Anyone Can Use

Do not begin any major task without this analysis tool!  This tool will generate the list of valuable ideas and strategic direction to achieve your goals. We can say SWOT Analysis is a tool that helps our project, business objective, venture or organization in 4 ways:

  1. Evaluate the Strengths so that you can capitalize on them,
  2. Identify the Weaknesses so that you can address them,
  3. Discover Opportunities so that you can invest accordingly, and
  4. Analyze Threats so that you can plan to mitigate them.

SWOT comes from Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Threat.  It is 2×2 matix which we use to gather the data on 4 areas by asking questions.  You can do it through brainstorming session and use required data from customer feedback, surveys, industry research, market trands, etc.

I stumbled upon this great 5 min video by Erica Olson and thought of sharing it with you along with other resources.

Strengths and Weaknesses are internal while Opportunities and Threats are external to the business objective or the task for which SWOT analysis is being done. It is as simple as asking good questions!

 This video will explain a lot and referresources for mastery –

Excellent Resources:

  1. Basics  – http://erc.msh.org/quality/ittools/itswot.cfm
  2. Process – http://www.andyeklund.com/creativestreak/2009/05/swot-analysis.html
  3. Small Business Startup SWOT Questions –http://www.selfemployedcafe.com/swot-analysis-template/
  4. Template and Practical Example – http://farm-risk-plans.usda.gov/pdf/swot_brochure_web.pdf
  5. http://www.rob-berman.com/questions-to-ask-during-swot-analysis/

Fountain of Wisdom

Rose & Robert Skillman Library in Detroit has engraving “The Fountain of Wisdom Flows Through the Books“. To drink from this fountain, I continue to read books and here are some that I have completed recently and would like to share with my subscribers and visitors.  I have more detail posted here.

These 3 books are totally unique but fit in for a balanced approach towards any leadership or managerial role that you play in your life.

  1. Buy-In: Saving Your Good Idea from Getting Shot Down John P. Kotter, Harvard Business Press, 2010
  2. Power: Why Some People Have It and Others Don’t Jeffrey Pfeffer, HarperBusiness, 2010
  3. It’s Not Just Who You Know: Transform Your Life (and Your Organization) by Turning Colleagues and Contacts into Lasting, Genuine Relationships Tommy Spaulding, Crown Business, 2010

Why Should You Read These 3 Books?

Buy-In:  A leader or manager has to sell the idea, proposal or get an agreement.  Getting people buy-into is the critical task.  You will learn two things – first, how to protect your good ideas from being shot down and second, how to win the support of stakeholders when it really matters.  Naysayers will use 4 strategies of fear mongering, delay tactics, confusion and/or ridicule to derail the idea.

As we all know that good idea alone will not survive. This book offers 24 major attacks or objections (that people use time and time again) and how to handle them properly. Link provides 24 responses to these attacks.

Skillman Library in Detroit
Skillman Library in Detroit Courtesy: Wikimedia

Power:  For a leader or manager, being power less is not an option. If you can influence any decision, you got some power. Projects and initiatives of people who are associated with people of authority gets their way in any organization.  Some might have the different opinion of the use of power (i.e. Machiavellian style), but lets use the perspective that if you have power, you can do more good to your cause, organization and society. I will add quote from Baltasar Gracian:

The sole advantage of power is that you can do more good.  The Art of Worldly Wisdom, 1647

This book contains excellent advice and analysis about gaining power in corporations and politics.  You may not agree with all that is said like perception is reality (but for how long?), but its a good read and use what you feel appropriate with good intentions.

It’s Not Just Who You Know: Leaders and managers accomplish a lot by building rapport at all the levels, they are resourceful and get the work done for greater good.  This book fits right where both other left.  If you believe that great relationship in life make all the difference, you will enjoy it. Author does not give out any specific formula but shares his own experiences and then elaborates on how one should apply them in life. I used this book to learn from someone’s life how genuine interaction helps build great relationships.

This book is not you scratch my back and I scratch you back type but follows Carnegie’s classic How to Win Friends…

Author shares many inspiring stories and all underscore that relationship building begins with your genuine and sincere attention on the others and it’s not about you. Do not push for the things that you want, figure out what they need.  Also, author stresses that exploiting relationships for quick personal gains or favors will eventually ruin the foundation and it soon becomes transactional business relationship.

As a leader, you do not want to accomplish a lot in business but also would like to have strong relationships similar to great balance sheet or super annual report.  If you miss out building genuine and sincere relationships at all sectors of life, work and business included, you will be alone at top.

References:

  1. http://www.kotterinternational.com/KotterPrinciples/BuyIn/AttacksAndResponses.aspx

Press Release : Kulveer Elected to Lead Michigan’s Largest Project Management Chapter

Have you ever created a press release before?  As I began my role in the chapter as President Elect on Jan 01, 2011, I thought of creating a press release and see how it looks.  First attempt, let me know what you think. (Note – my personal opinion and does not reflect of any organization or enterprise).


Detroit, MI. (2 January 2011) — Board of Directors of Great Lakes Chapter of Project Management Institute (PMI – GLC), the largest project management member association in Michigan, elected Kulveer S. Virk as its new president for 2012.

The Board chose Kulveer Virk for his keen strategic insights regarding building member and organization value, formulating and leading operational vision, strategy and direction. “Kulveer is a very hardworking, committed and inspiring volunteer leader. He brought great ideas to the chapter in the communication area including social media strategy, made improvements that resulted in cost savings” said Arun Das, PMP, Past-President for the chapter. “He also shaped other initiatives that originated from the ideation of strategic items identified during the last couple of years.”

Kulveer said he will build on the Board’s overall strategic direction and provide executive leadership to advance PMI-GLC as one of the largest and most influential project management chapter in the region.

Kulveer has been vice president of communications for PMI-GLC since 2008. Kulveer has nearly 15 years of experience in project management, strategic planning, and business process reengineering, operations and software development. During his tenure, Kulveer has been instrumental in implementing solutions to cut cost, redesign services, and embracing social media.

Apart from serving the PMI-GLC board, Kulveer manages a global project at Ford Motor Company in Michigan. His previous experience includes consulting, medical, engineering, city government sectors.

“I am extremely pleased that PMI-GLC’s Board has expressed the confidence in me to take PMI-GLC to next levels of volunteer and stakeholder engagement, increase in member value, positioning to meet the challenges of next decade.” said Kulveer. “I look forward to enhancing our strategic relationships with organization and businesses leaders to highlight the importance and benefits of Project Management and role PMI-GLC plays in the region.”

About Project Management Institute (PMI) & Great Lakes Chapter (PMI-GLC)

PMI (www.pmi.org) is the world’s largest project management member association, representing more than half a million practitioners in over 185 countries. As a global thought leader and knowledge resource, PMI advances the profession through its global standards and credentials, collaborative chapters and communities of practice and academic research.

PMI-GLC (www.pmiglc.org) is Metro Detroit chapter of PMI established in 1979 and serving around 2000 members across Michigan and Ontario, Canada. PMI-GLC offers annual symposium, dinner meetings and forums on project and program management topics apart from various other events for networking and membership orientation.

How to Publish Project Manager’s Daily Newspaper?

Have you dreamed about publishing your own newspaper? Here is quick way to publish one.

Some days ago I got a link on twitter to an online newspaper about social media content.  I was impressed and thought its lot of work put in by the author to compile so many sources and presenting in an attractive layout.

Last week I tried it and published my own daily e-paper for project managers.  Click here to see what I came up with http://paper.li/kulveervirk/projectgurus 

Isn’t it impressive?  This is quite easy to produce and took less than 2 minutes, thanks to www.paper.li for this services.

Most of us use either Twitter or Facebook (or both in many cases). This tool organizes links shared on Twitter into an easy to read newspaper-style format. Newspapers can be created for any Twitter user, list or #tag  to read and share. It assumes that you have account setup on either of the service.

This service can be used with Twitter or Facebook, since I use Twitter, I utilized my Twitter lists. All I did was setup an account, entered values to read stream of my Twitter account’s list that has many project management resources subscribed.

Step by Step:

  1. Go to www.paper.li and sign in using your Twitter account.
  2. Click on ‘create a newspaper’ link
  3. Click on ‘create a custom newspaper’ button
  4. Enter Title for your newspaper
  5. Select the people on Twitter that can contribute to the paper, I used Twitter List @projectgurus that I have created. I also use #PMOT (hash-tag).
  6. Click on ‘Publish Paper’ to complete and that’s it.
  7. You can automate it to be sent each day on a set time.

How does it make your life easier as a project manager? 
This tool scan the Twitter list/hash-tag or user list each day based on your preferences and gives you a readable format newspaper – most relevant. 
Does it replace the following of your twitter feeds?
No, it provides selected content and mainly where links are embedded in tweets to the other websites.

If you need to find out more about it – here is link to FAQs (http://paper.li/faq.html)

How Project Starts

This is how projects usually start, do not get discouraged by it or feel overwhelmed. You will never get everything fully documented and nicely presented to proceed, you will get pointers and its your job to find who can compliment or add to your major project.

Project Management
Credit : Today’s Cartoon by Randy Glasbergen

Credits: From “Today’s Cartoon by Randy Glasbergen”, displayed with special permission. For many more cartoons, please visit Randy’s site @ www.glasbergen.com

Quotes for Project Managers

  1. Do not count your chickens before they are hatched. – Aesop
  2. The 50-50-90 rule: Anytime you have a 50-50 chance of getting something right, there is 90% probability you will get it wrong. – Andy Rooney
  3. If you want a guarantee, buy a toaster. – Clint Eastwood
  4. Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment. – Barry LePartner
  5. Success is the sum of small efforts – repeated day in and day out. – Robert Collier
  6. I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it’s been. – Wayne Gretzky
  7. Before anything else, preperation is the key to success. – Alexander Graham Bell
  8. If your ship doesn’t come in, swim out to it. – Jonathan Winters