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.


Power of Social Media and Customer Service

November 11, 2009

You might have heard that someone got very bad customer service one day and no one would resolve the complaint at this company.  This person gets upset by the treatment received and decides to write a complaint letter to the president of the company.  In few weeks he receives a note and the issue is resolved by president’s interference.  Everyone gets back to business and few people in the town heard of the story and thats it.

Now go to Web 2.0, someone got bad customer service and received no reasonable response  to the complaint.  This consumer feels mis-treated as his complaint is not treated fairly.  This person sings a complaint song, and shares it on YouTube.   Word about this customer service story circulates the internet through the song shared on YouTube, people in millions watch it and it hurts the organization’s bottom line (over $100 millions) and the brand.  And then this individual gets an apology from the company and complain finally gets  resolved.

This is the power of social media if used correctly. It works both ways.

Here is the complete story  about singer Dave Carroll incident and whose guitar was broken by United Airlines (Link to Huffington Post story) . Watch the  song. 

Here are some key points (and some Customer Service/Help Desk experts can add more) -

  1. Consumer expects good service all the time, although doesn’t give reward or recognize it publically, but indirectly rewards by doing business again and again.
  2. Consumer is generally prepared to handle good and bad customer service; in case of bad service, do not expect more business.
  3. Consumer is wowed by exceptional service only and you can find 5-star reviews online and strong brand following is built/maintained. Facebook Fan page and twitter following of brand can tell something.
  4. Consumer is offended by horrible customer service.  You can find 1-star reviews online and some dedicated websites to complain about product, brand or service can be found.  Some may get creative like David Carroll and make a dent on your brand.
  5. If not sure how to handle the complaint or issue, do not just say No.  Let your boss help you.
  6. If you face customers, genuine attitude determines consumer behaviour to a bigger extent.

I have noticed that consumer tolerance to bad service is inversely proportional to size of brand or organization.  Bigger the brand or name of the organization, higher the expectation of consumer in terms of service.

 Here is another blogger with the same story- http://adgablog.wordpress.com/2009/11/06/how-to-ruin-a-reputation-in-4-days-on-youtube/

What are your thoughts, please share.  Have a great day.


How does it go up the communication chain?

October 15, 2009

In the beginning was the plan, and then the specification.

And the plan was without form, and the specification was void.

And the darkness was upon the faces of the implementors;
And they spoke unto their managers, saying: “It is a crock of cow manure, and it stinketh.

And their manager went to the second level manager, and he spake unto him, saying: “It is a crock of excrement, and none may abide the odor thereof.

And the second level manager went to the third level, and he spake unto him saying: “It is a container of excrement, and it is very strong, such that none may abide before it.

And the third level went to the division manager, and he spake unto him, saying: “It is a vessel of fertilizer, and none may abide its strength.

And the division manager went to the assistant vice-president, and he spake unto him, saying: “It contains that which aids plant growth, and it is very strong.

And the assistant vice-president went to the vice-president, and he spake unto him, saying: “It promoteth growth and it is very powerful.

And the vice-president went before the president and spake unto him, saying: “This powerful new product will promote growth of the company.

And the president looked upon the product and saw that “It was good!

What lessons can we draw from this funny tale?  I am interested to know.

Thanks for reading and have a great day.

Reference- ‘Project Planning, Scheduling & Control’ by James P Lewis, Irwin Professional Publishing, Burr Ridge, IL.


Quotes for Managers

September 23, 2009
  1. Star performers are never expensive, but mediocre performers are unaffordable – Georges Doriot
  2. It is a bad plan that admits of no modification. – Publilius Syrus
  3. A ship in a harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for. – William Shedd
  4. We tell our young managers, ” Don’t be afraid to make a mistake.  But please don’t make the same mistake twice.” – Akio Morita
  5. The best motivation consists of getting a player to understand that his self-interest and the team’s are inextricably bound up. – Walter Kiechel III

Thank you and have a great day.


Got 10 minute to speak with executive?

September 20, 2009

When you got 10 minutes or less to talk to your executive manager, you are well aware of the fact that you do not have enough time to give background of the issue or request and he/she isn’t interested in nitty-gritty detail.

Instead of giving your jargon loaded intellectual talk, paint the picture with words. Try to make it little striking with some recent example. Tell how it’s going to impact him, positively or negatively (again painting a picture with words), and what you need from him.

If you are telling about a problem, tell what solutions you propose.  Watch your gesture and prepare to answer the question with some facts; do not let it come to the point where you say ‘I will get back to you on this.”

Hope this helps and have a nice day ahead.


11 Principles of Leadership

August 20, 2009

 I came across 11 leadership principles of Marine Corps in Guide Book for Marines on the Internet and here is my interpretation of 11 principles.  I am interested in hearing from Marines about their leadership experience. 

  1. Take responsibility – we need to seek and take responsibilities if we need to grow; never shy away, whatever seems challenging will help you expand your perspective.
  2. Know yourself – reflect upon your strengths and weaknesses; seek improvement and understand that you can achieve only those goals that you set.
  3. Set an example- conduct your business in a professional manner; do not loose temper – small minds are bothered by small problems; not only work in your job but also work on your job as well.  Be a brand that people want to associate with.
  4. Develop your subordinates- consider this as part of your job; learn to delegate; as Zig Ziglar said “You can have everything in life that you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want“; give them opportunities to learn & grow;  guide them if they fit somewhere else.
  5. Be available – in every respect; be available to listen to problems and challenges people are facing; to motivate, to lead and to show right direction; to hear criticism; to take decisions and to act on time.
  6. Look after the welfare of your employees - the way you want your boss to look after your welfare; develop emotional intelligence; connect with people and find out what motivates them; do something that touches their lives; help them when they are in need.  Arrogance and ignorance will not take you to the top or won’t keep you there for long.
  7. Keep everyone well informed  – right communication is the key; make sure that the tasks are understood, supervised and accomplished on time and tell why you need all this done; do no assume -  aks and tell.
  8. Set goals that are achievable – always set the goals – people need to know what they are expected to deliver and by when; let people figure out how;  goals should motivate teams to act; measure the results and reward people.
  9. Make sound and timely decisions- that are aligned with the core principles of your organization and with your job descriptions; there will always be more than one right answer – choose the one that benefits the most and not only you; take decisions like a servant leader.
  10. Know your job – be technically and tactically proficient in your job; know your people; know the processes and challenges; know how can you add value to the organization or your department.
  11. Build teamwork- not all people can perform equally but they should complement each other while working towards a common goal; promote team work and diversity; shield your team from external pressure; be flexible with team.

“Leadership is intangible, hard to measure, and difficult to describe. It’s quality would seem to stem from many factors. But certainly they must include a measure of inherent ability to control and direct, self-confidence based on expert knowledge, initiative, loyalty, pride and sense of responsibility. Inherent ability cannot be instilled, but that which is latent or dormant can be developed. Other ingredients can be acquired. They are not easily learned. But leaders can be and are made.” – General C. B. Cates, 19th Commandant of the Marine Corps

Thanks for reading and welcome your input.  Have a great day.


Quotes for Managers

August 14, 2009

 

Here are 6 quotes for I.T. managers from Norman R. Augustine

  1. Hardware works best when it matters the least.
  2. A revised schedule is to business what a new season is to an athlete or a new canvas to an artist.
  3. One of the most feared expressions in modern times is ”The computer is down”.
  4. It has been wisely said that the world is not interested in the storms you encountered but in whether you brought the ship in safely.
  5. If a sufficient number of management layers are superimposed on top of each other, it can be assured that disaster is not left to chance.
  6. The last 10 percent of performance generates one-third of the cost and two-thirds of the problems.

Thank you for visiting and have a great day.


Don’t Settle – Stay Hungry – Stay Foolish

June 15, 2009

Who does not know Steve Jobs? His vision and life has made a huge impact on our generation. I came across this post. He shares his life lessons with students at Stanford in 2005. No doubt he is wonderful person around and I wish him good health.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

Text of Steve Jobs’ Commencement address (2005)Posted using ShareThis


Changepoint and PPM

June 5, 2009

Last week I completed Compuware Changepoint training. I had read earlier that Changepoint is in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant (leaders) for PPM tools.

Changepoint is a web based tool for project and portfolio management.  The tool enables leadership make right decisions based on dynamic metrics of various initiatives and what value these initiatives add; and realignment of IT efforts with business strategy and vision.  Tool is very intuitive and scalable. 

In Project and Portfolio management, complexity is the key factor that makes changes difficult and time consuming. Just imagine multiple projects going on in  your organization with resources scattered around the teams (or Globe) and you are tracking the progress and reporting the metrics to the upper management.  Management wants to see  report on  status of all the projects underway, return on investment for each project, supply and demand, resource utilization, change management, issues and risks to the projects, etc. to make informed decision on project priorities, strategic planning and funding.

Changepoint makes all the aspect of program management easier by effectively managing your projects and applications, resources and client relationships.  You can find out more at Compuware website.

Disclaimer – I am a Compuware employee and opinions expressed here are my own.


3-Rs for Leaders

May 19, 2009
  1. Read more
  2. Reflect more
  3. Risk more

Leaders ought to read a lot to stay ahead.  Each day is blessed with new discoveries and useful information.  Using the 80/20 rule, find out what is out there that you need to know.  Co-relate how changes in the world going to shape your world. Read more = Plan

Leaders take tough decisions all the time, they are the face of the organization.  Leaders chalk out the course of action in the midst of challenges.  Reflecting on the decesions taken and the one you are about to take is going to determine if you are an authentic leader - who knows where his True North is.  Reflect more = Check

Taking new risks, coming up with new ideas and having the drive to materialize them, thinking out of the box, leading organization into a totally new direction are the key qualities leader has.  Listen more and observe more.  Taking calculated and smart risk is also creativity. Risk more= Do and Act.

These 3 Rs fit into Deming’s Plan > Do > Check > Act; a continous improvement loop.  Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day.


Project Management – Useful Links

April 8, 2009

We learn a lot from the Internet these days and rely on up-to-date information.  Personally, I’ve learned a lot from my fellow bloggers and other websites on Project Management to stay ahead of the curve. 

There are many other on-line resources but  I would like to share following list of blogs/websites that I frequently visit and would like to thank for their time and energy for sharing knowledge and doing the great service to on-line community.  Thank you and keep up the good job!

  1. http://www.betterprojects.net
  2. http://www.pmhut.com
  3.  http://www.thepmpodcast.com  
  4. http://herdingcats.typepad.com
  5. http://www.ravensbrain.com
  6. http://pmcrunch.com
  7. http://www.allpm.com
  8. http://www.amakar.com
  9.  http://leadinganswers.typepad.com

I hope you will also bookmark these sites and learn about the profession. 

Thanks for visiting and have a great day!


Leadership Sans Ego & Insecurity

March 10, 2009

Photo courtesy : cultivategreatness.com

Everywhere we turn our focus to, we hear something negative and how leadership should come forward.  Leadership at every level is already faced with some difficult choices.  It is of paramount importance that when leaders make decisions to change the course, decisions should not have been plagued by personal ego and due to insecurity.

As John C Maxwell says that Ego and Insecurity are the two greatest landmines of leadership; think about any world leader and if he stepped on these landmines or not.  Do you want to?  After a long time when we reflect on the decisions we make today should be matter of proud.

As a leader, we get a chance to serve our people, I mean serve genuinely.  In these times how we act will shape our organizations and societies.  Lets take the right actions while we overcome the short-term issues, we keep long term objectives in our minds.

Thanks for visiting, and have a great day!


Capture Planning Assumptions

February 23, 2009

Your boss approaches you and tells that workplan is very good but customer wants to know how can we deliver the project sooner than promised?  Now you have to come up with a new workplan or make some adjustments based on new findings.  You put your thoughts together and go on to make changes/update and deliver the final document with required changes. 

And then your boss asks, why this task is due this particular day and why are we taking this long to complete, etc., etc…

You might have answers for most of the questions your boss has asked but it is of prime importance that you document all the assumptions you made while planning, does not matter how small or evident those assumptions are.

I would capture following -

  • why are you making these changes or what is the objective and if these objectives are aligned with customer expectations;
  • what are high-level or global assumptions for the plan being put in place (standardized assumptions);
  • why making change to time/scope/cost;
  • what are risks that can derail the work;
  • what are the opportunities that you are counting on;
  • who are the critical resources you have based your work on;
  • what exceptions from standard process did you make;
  • what compromises are built into the plan;
  • what is the impact on existing process (if any);
  • for budget tail of it : dollars spent per month; and
  • what are the key milestones.

I hope these are the basic questions that we should be able to answer from a Project Management perspective when talking about assumptions.  Let me know what your thoughts are and what else could be added to the list?

Thanks for reading it, appreaciate your feedback.


Choosing Team Lead

January 11, 2009

“People acting together as a group can accomplish things that no individual acting alone could ever hope  to bring about.” – FD Roosevelt

Each team members has unique work style, personal goals, skills, background and experience.  Each team member’s unique qualities and different attributes make a team complex unit where conflict, confusion, criticism will grow and finally bring the project to failure  if team is not led the proper way. 

In many I.T. projects,  Project Manager (PM) has a team leader who assists him or her in coordination of work, driving the team effort, listening and resolving team issues, guiding in making the appropriate tactical decisions, and above all providing expert advice on subject matter, among others.  Synergy and cooperation among team members are the key things for success of the project and for that,  a good team lead should be in place.  If you got a weak team leader, team will not perform and you will be spending all of energy in team issue management.  As a PM, you need to understand that your team leader should -

  1. understand the whole project along with project objectives and goals;
  2. be expert of the overall process who can guide team members;
  3. be able to handle pressure and conflict situations;
  4. understands the team dynamics and works to promote productive working conditions;
  5.  be a good team player and can get status of work from team members;
  6. be capable of resolving minor issues without your involvement;
  7. be able to negotiate and communicate with technical as well non-technical people involved;
  8. be proactive with qualities of a mentor and a coach and
  9. able to provide realistic and accurate feedback on time.

Hope this helps in making you decide whom to choose to lead your team.  Let me know what else can be added to the list.  Thanks for reading and have a good day.


Life is bigger than that!

December 19, 2008

2008 is nearing the completion of business work days and it was one of the eventful year.  We have seen all from US election to Canadian elections, Wall-street meltdown to Automotive bailout, Saturday Night Live comedy to economic worries.  All the stuff, never thought of. 

But when it comes to our professional life, one needs to make sure there are no unexpected surprises.  I have mentored and provided guidance to few people over the year and have also asked for advice from my peers.  Some people either make small issues into big problems or do not even have clue what is wrong.  Here are some of the points to consider-

  1. Get feedback from your boss; have 1 on 1 regularly (weekly or monthly) to align objectives.
  2. Grow your professional network by volunteering at work, in community or join any organization.
  3. Understand that everyone is different; workplaces are diverse.
  4. Totally messed up? If you are honest, you’ll get another chance.   Life is bigger than that!
  5. Do not just focus on getting credit of everything you do or say.  Give credit where deserved.
  6. Be careful about sarcastic sense of humor.  It may be wise to stay quiet.
  7. If you do extraordinary job you get promotion as a result. Its not the other way.
  8. Help others grow and learn.  Don’t be afraid that someone will steal your idea.
  9. Take vacation or take time out.  Its must to revitalize your energies and focus.
  10. Try to listen.  Pay attention to your superiors and peers.
  11. Dress according to your job profile, at least.
  12. Do not make ‘difference of opinions’ at work your personal issue.

I firmly believe if we are serious to improve ourselves, we can start afresh anytime.  Its never too late and Life is bigger than that! 

Thanks for reading and let me know what you think.


Communication Skills for Managers – Learning From Barak Obama

November 17, 2008

I was looking into posts on Mr. Barak Obama’s communication style and how it contributed towards Obama’s victory.  Did Obama address people in all 4 categories of DiSC Model?  These categories are Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Conscientiousness

Each person in his/her category wants to hear in a specific manner.  Some people need direct answer while others need some encouragement and hope and so on.  Please see the table at the end of the post and read more about DiSC Model

While doing so, I found very interesting Wall Street Journal video on the topic titled  “Learning From Obama’s Effective Communication Skills“.
 

To summarize, what project manager can do -

  1. giving good positive message
  2. clear and compelling tone
  3. giving substance along with style
  4. speaking with confidence and authority
  5. not in hurry to speak- patience
  6. pause between sentences: at least 3-4 seconds
  7. stress the right words
  8. relate to people and places
  9. make it simple to comprehend
  10. identify what is not right with other approach

Here is the table what people mainly like to hear/communicate around- 

Major Category

Like to hear words and actions around

Dominance

challenge, power, direct answer, authority, assertive, active

Influence

empathetic, people focused, receptiveness, accepting

Steadiness

stability, methodical, calm response, careful approach, thoughtful

Conscientiousness

logic focused, skeptical, clarity and quality, questioning

What are your findings?  What did you learn? Lets share.

Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day.


Elected – Board Member @ PMIGLC

October 20, 2008

When  I checked my inbox this morning, I found an official email from PMIGLC election committee congratulating me that I have been elected as Vice President – Communications for the 2009-2010 term.

Some of you might know that I volunteer at  Great Lakes Chapter of PMI (Project Management Institute) in Detroit. I started volunteering as ‘Director of Webservices’ almost over 2 years ago. 

It is very unique and enriching experience when you are leading a team of volunteers for an organization that is non-profit; and I hope I will be learning much more next year when my term begins as Vice President.

I am delighted that I will have the opportunity to work with highly accomplished professionals at the board-of-directors and to contribute to the project management community. 

Thank you!


Fast, Cheap AND Good

August 5, 2008

Good, Fast or Cheap

Can’t pick any two? You also need all three – fast, cheap and good? 

It has been very commonly used set of options in I.T. when offering an alternative or usually when dealing with issues from outsourced service.  Someone will come and say – “Pick any two!” 

Sometime ago I was involved in a project where we had to pick any two options and it was very hard to leave out the third one.  Many times we had to leave ‘cheap’ and other times ‘fast’,  for us ‘good’ was essential and paid the price accordingly.  We had to compensate for third left out option through continuous improvement.  I kind of thought that this is the  dilemma every one will be facing.  But it is not the case as I am finding out.  Things are getting better.

Read the rest of this entry »


Practical Wisdom – three types of people

July 14, 2008
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar @ Detroit

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar @ Detroit

I attended “Practical Wisdom For Getting the Most Out of Life” seminar by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar in Detroit on July 9th.  It was good to see and listen him in person.

His way of talking is like giving sutras (formula) for something.  I know condensing some information and giving it in the short form is not easy.  Some people enjoy detailed discourses and some enjoy condensed info i.e. sutras.  Remember, different strokes for different folks.  His daily sutras (link) are available in many languages.

On the lighter side, when someone asked the secret of happy married life – Sri Sri Ravi Shankar summed up for men - “nurture the emotion of woman” and hint to women – “pump the ego of man”.  We did some breathing exercise, learned about Surdarshan Kriya (a form of yoga) as well.

Here is a short paragraph from one of the books that I picked up “Celebrating Love“; -

“There are three types of people – the wise, the crooked and the immature.  The wise man continues doing good work whether he is scolded or praised.  Crooked people need to be praised to get them to do good work.  And from time to time immature people need to be both praised and scolded for them to do something good.”

(isn’t it a good management tip from a spiritual guru?).   Here are some links if you want to explore more -

Official website – http://www.srisri.org/
More info          - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sri_Sri_Ravi_Shankar
His initiative     – http://www.artofliving.org/

Thanks for reading and have a good day!


The 7 Habits For Managers

July 11, 2008

Stephen R Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is classic and most of us have read and learned from it. 

 This week, I listened to his another audio book The 7 Habits for Managers: Managing Yourself, Leading Others, Unleashing Potential. Its based on ‘classic 7 habits’ and with focus on management. 

I would recommend to listen to this audio book to refresh 7 habits and learn how managers can apply these habits.  If this is new to you,  here are classic 7 habits and start with reading ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’

Habit 1 – Be proactive
Habit 2 – Begin with the end in mind
Habit 3 – Put first things first
Habit 4 – Think win-win
Habit 5 – Seek first to understand, then to be understood
Habit 6 – Synergize
Habit 7 – Sharpen the saw

These habits are to be used as pointers for our actions.  We got to make sure that our employees understand the value of these habits and learn from these. 

Thanks.


DiSC model – Management Styles

June 30, 2008

I completed DiSC (stands for Dominance, influence, Steadiness, and Conscientiousness) training last week and fount it interesting.   DiSC confirms one thing, different strokes for different folks.

DiSC is a system to help you find out similar and unique characteristics among people.  It also shows person’s behavioural preferences and helps to identify different management styles that can lead to obtain better results through interaction. 

According to the DiSC model, there are four management styles – by Dominance, by influence, by Steadiness, and by Conscientiousness.

Series of questions lead to a specific DiSC profile, that tells you what is your score and what is you dominant style of management and what are your supportive styles. 

D – Dominant : these people are active and questioning; these are direct and competitive in nature.  These people want to ‘get it done’.

i - Influence : these people are active and accepting; motivated, enthusiastic, sociable and lively. 

S - Steadiness : these people are thoughtful and accepting; patient and even tempered, accommodating. 

C- Conscientiousness : these people are thoughtful and questioning; kind of private with analytical abilities and task oriented.  Main objective is to ‘get it right’.

As we know everyone is unique and all have different ways of interacting.  Imagine, I interact with a person who has dominant  style of ‘Conscientiousness‘ (private and task oriented).  I pretend to be of ‘influence‘ (sociable and enthusiastic) dominant style; my interaction with that person can not be productive as I may not be providing the specific instructions that other person needs. 

Why is that?  Because people with dominant ‘infulence’ style mix personal talk with business discussions, becoming informal and emotionally expressive leaving the ‘Conscientiousness’ style person unclear or confuse as Max requires specific task oriented info and does not express himself emotionally.

How it will help me?  It lists what are key strengths, what things are overused, what could be the limitations and what changes should be made in management style that make one more effective.

Have you ever taken DiSC and Meyers-Briggs assessment?  What are your thoughts? Did you benefit from it?  Please share your thoughts.  Thank you for reading. 

More info -

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DISC_assessment 
  2. One of the best books on the application of DiSC is by Keith Ayers titled “Engagement is Not Enough.

Intro to Earned Value Analysis – Part 1

June 23, 2008

We got to measure the progress of the project and report it to upper management along with controlling it.  Project might seem progressing well, tasks completing on time and we are spending money for that.  Earned Value Analysis (EVA) gives us an integrated view of cost and schedule performance.  Lets go over some basic definitions in this post.

There are three basic things that we need from project plan - Earned Value (EV), Planned Value (PV) and Actual Cost (AC).

EV  - Budgeted value (in $ or hours) of work performed a.k.a.  BCWP
AC- Actual value (in $ or hours)  of work performed a.k.a. ACWP
PV- Budgeted value (in $ or hours) of work scheduled or planned a.k.a. BCWS

These three key values enable us to calculate Cost Variance (CV) and Schedule Variance (SV).  This variance gives us info on if we are on track.

Cost Variance CV = EV-AC
(i.e. budgeted cost of work performed minus actual cost of work performed).
Positive variance means we are below budget and Negative variance means over budget.

Schedule Variance SV = EV-PV
(i.e. budgeted cost of work performed minus actual cost of work scheduled).
Positive variance means we are ahead of schedule and Negative variance means behind schedule.

Positive variance (in $ or hours) is usually considered good.  But when we have to compare progress of multiple projects, CV or SV of one project won’t make any sense when compared with other projects because they could be of different size in terms of budget and schedule.  To overcome this issue of comparing different projects regardless of their sizes, indexes are used.   Instead of subtracting, we divide the same numbers.

Cost Performance Index  CPI = EV / AC

Schedule Performance Index SPI = EV / PV

If CPI  is 1.0, we can say we are on track with respect ot cost; if CPI > 1, we can say we are under budget plus better cost performance.  If CPI<1.0, we are over budget and need attention.

If SPI  is 1.0, we can say we are on track with respect ot schedule; if SPI > 1, we can say we are ahead of schedule plus better schedule performance.  If SPI<1.0, we are behind schedule and need attention.

If CV or SV is negative or CPI or SPI is less than 1.0, I would monitor the trend of CV and SV for over couple of weeks to see the trend and then take some action.  If CPI or SPI is greater than 1.5, we still need to evaluate why is it so?

We use EVA by plotting project schedule on x-axis and cumulative (weekly or monthly) budgeted spend plan according to base-lined data from project plan. 

We need to remember one thing, Garbage in, garbage out.  If project is poorly planned, EVA can not come to aid.

Thanks for reading and let me know what you think, any suggestions for improvements and corrections are truly welcome. 


Five Powerful Leadership Quotes

June 17, 2008

Five very powerful quotes, read and ponder. 

  1. “A leader takes a little more than his share of the blame, a little less than his share of credit.” – Arnold Glasow
  2. “There are no bad soldiers, only bad officers.” – Napolean
  3. “The key to success is to get out into the store and listen to what the associates have to say.  It’s terribly important for everyone to get involved.  Our best ideas come from clerks and stockboys.” – Sam Walton
  4. “If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.” – Yogi Berra
  5. “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it is.” – Wayne Gretzky.

Trust is very important for teamwork

June 17, 2008

When a team outgrows individual performance and learns team confidence, excellence becomes a reality. – Joe Paterno.

Who else can say better than JoePa?  He is absolutely correct, but key thing is outgrowing individualism.  When a team is motivated to work together, everything seems possible and there is quite a different feeling. I have been blessed to work with some of the best people who knew how to empower team and have experienced how team’s common goals produce stunning results. 

Very first thing is to cultivate the trust in the team.  If there is no professional trust among group members, team will never perform at par. 

We have to be little bit open to our team members (my own perspective). if we become totally professional by delegating tasks and demand results with ‘paid for the work done’ attitude, team will not work.  You got to use some emotional intelligence, you got to connect with the employee.

Next, you being the boss,  have to guide and empower the team.  Every team member comes with unique skills, personality, objectives, understanding.  You got to know who needs direction, and who needs nod; who needs to be left alone and who should be slowing down.  Check Situational Leadership II post on my blog.  You are the one who will make things happen through this dynamic team.

Thanks for reading and I welcome your comments how you made your team perform above expectations and what factors were important to you.

 


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