10 Early Indicators of Problems & Framework To Solve

October 1, 2011

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.


SWOT Analysis – A Tool Anyone Can Use

May 9, 2011

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

February 18, 2011

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

Bill Clinton Says Project Managers Help Tackle Global Challenges – Voices on Project Management

October 13, 2010

Former U.S. president Bill Clinton sent out a powerful message: Project managers will play a significant role in taking on the toughest global challenges.

Bill Clinton Says Project Managers Help Tackle Global Challenges – Voices on Project Management.


15 Ground Rules for Project Team Management

March 9, 2010

People with diverse professional experiences and background have totally unique perspective on any issue.  When a new team is assembled for any project, its vital for the success of that project that all team member are aware of  the ground-rules for the project; similar to any sport.  You may have to read it to team and give a copy for reference.

Here is an example list that I have used for a project to keep team aligned.    Such ground-rules certainly eliminate unnecessary confusion and your business customer and team members like it defined beforehand.  Make sure, you also follow it and implement it.

  1. Project manager is the primary contact for any project related communication.
  2. All team members maintain their contact info on the team contact list with contact preference.
  3. All members attend required meetings and conference calls; if unable to attend, meeting organizer to be notified.  If key contributor is unable to attend, request to reschedule the meeting.
  4. Any planned day off or vacation must be communicated in advance to project manager so that project plan can be updated and impact to work, if any, can be analyzed.
  5. All project team members have access to project plan and  project logs (in a standard document format) and are aware of the assigned tasks and due dates.
  6. All team members are to be consulted about the reasonableness of the plan prior to management approval.
  7. All team members are required to validate their assignments and time allocated prior to the plan is baselined.
  8. All project team members have the responsibility to proactively notify the project manager about tasks, duration or dependencies they believe are missing (or any other needed changes to the plan) and confront issues directly and promptly.
  9. Project team members have the responsibility to notify any potential difficulties in meeting the schedule for any assigned tasks as soon as it is known by the team member.
  10. Each project team member is responsible for ensuring anticipated workload conflicts with other assignments are brought to the attention of the project manager.  Team members should ask for help if feeling “stuck” or falling behind the schedule instead of waiting for miracle.
  11. All team members are responsible to own, follow-up and provide updates on the assigned task (including but not limited to any identified risks, issues, changes, approvals, clarification from customer).  If any delay is observed, escalate to project manager.
  12. All  meeting minutes, key decisions, assumptions and business rules must be documented and all action items must be followed up and assigned to a resource with expected completion date. These items are usually mentioned in casual conversation.
  13. All project team members understand the scope of work.  Any work performed must be in the project plan and is in the project scope.  Anything that is absolutely needed but not part of the project plan, must be brought into project manager’s attention.
  14. All project team members confront issues directly and promptly.
  15. Only project manager submits all final deliverables to business customer for sign-off or approval.

What are other key things that you have found useful and we can add to this list?

Thank you for your visit and have a great day!


Community Leadership – Lessons Learned

March 3, 2010

How do you play shows some of your character, how do you win or lose shows all of it. – Anonymous

For last couple of months, I have been quite busy with community leadership related work.  I had an opportunity to mentor and advise leadership team on the issue that was dividing the community. I  also had to stand up against the group of people whom I found was neither acting fairly nor was impartial. Per my research, it was abuse of power and leadership role.

It is now over and resolved satisfactorily, but it was a learning experience for me and I would like to share my lessons that I have gathered from both sides, without referencing to any incident.  One side was new and young group of individuals who was selected to lead the community and other group had been in control for over 16 years was not giving up the power and resisting the change.

When I reflect on my decision to support the new and young group get their right, I feel great that I could serve the community. 

Here are some of the common sense lessons I learned from both sides of the issue –

  1. As with each problem, understand the issue; background of politics & people involved and their agendas;
  2. Always be fair, remain truthful and act impartial towards all – if you want to be really helpful;
  3. Read any relevant document being referred; do not just believe what is being told;
  4. Don’t sit on the fence and enjoy conflict, become active if you are passionate about the issue and can contribute;
  5. Talk to leaders and offer your help to mediate; negotiate with win-win mental model;
  6. Not every effort to resolve issue will be welcomed, negotiations will fail miserably, stay hopeful – any conflict has its own life cycle as well;
  7. Expect rumors, allegations and indirect threats – do not waste all of your energy on addressing these;
  8. Talk to community members, educate about the issue, tell the truth and share the facts;
  9. Keep all doors open for compromise; find out what price are you willing to pay to keep community together;
  10. Find influencers in the community, get them on your side and ask for help, validate your interpretation of the issue;
  11. Do not quit or bend against pressure if you know you are standing for the truth and justice, you will face lots of pressure and many curve balls;
  12. Whatever you negotiate, offer or communicate, make in writing;
  13. Do not go negative; don’t get involved with personal attacks on opposite group;
  14. Deliver response to any negative propaganda with facts and positive tone – remember truth is like the Sun and false propaganda as clouds, the Sun will eventually shine, the truth will always prevail;
  15. Do not get into reactive mode, expect urge to say negative – but control it;
  16. Remember truth has to go through tough test before it wins;
  17. Keep your head high, keep thinking positive and stay visible in community or group;
  18. Always remember that difference of opinion is natural human behavior, other people might be thinking you are wrong;
  19. Seek lawyer’s help if needed, you need to get involved in fund-raising, planning course of action is key to success;
  20. Do not twist the facts, do not talk out of context, do not exhibit attitude towards people who aren’t agreeing with your opinion;
  21. Always seek advice of people who can tell the truth and fact of the matter, not your supporters only who speak your mind and tell you one-sided story;
  22. If what you hear is truth and is contrary to your belief, consult and reflect that you are not manipulating the situation;
  23. Establish a core group who offers views of issues without any prejudice;
  24. Listen to truth and act upon it, keep your mind open to everything but attached to nothing;
  25. Do your best in every circumstance even if no one is watching you, do not do things to impress others;
  26. Expect victory if you are truthful, impartial, positive, open and just towards all;
  27. Do not give advice to score point or take credit, keep it simple and make it team effort;
  28. Expect confusion in your group, keep all informed and motivated;
  29. Once you get what you want, do not demean other group but let it go;
  30. It will take some time to heal the divide, but keep focused on delivering value to community;
  31. Do not cling to power but work on empowering others to lead;
  32. Power is to serve community not to rule, you may have to make tough decisions;
  33. When you are serving as a leader, it’s not walking on red carpet – you are there to take on challenges; and
  34. Any choice or decision should be based on good for all not only for you.

When I talked about the issue in my community with friends in other communities, all told me one or other kind of similar story in their community or organization.  I hope my lessons will help or guide someone someday.

Thanks for your visit and comments on the post.


Quotes from Twitter

December 9, 2009

I am on Twitter (follow me) and its very useful tool.  I review tweets on my Nokia E71 Smartphone during my lunch break and keep myself updated.

I get to read very interesting and inspiring quotes along with information that people share on Twitter; and I also thought of sharing some quotes with my readers.  Here they are:

  1. You have three choices 1) complain 2) walk the extra mile or 3) create your own highway. – Rajesh Setty/@UpbeatNow
  2. When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the fire department generally uses water. @mlomb
  3. If God didn’t want us to smile, he would have given us black teeth. @NarinderSingh
  4. Countless studies suggest that much more often than not, people reciprocate. So give, smile, love and help. @sanderssays
  5. Have courage. It permits you to accomplish things even when they take longer than you thought. That’s what life is all about. @kenblanchard

Let me know what your thoughts are and if you are on Twitter.  Thanks.


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