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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Project Management Requires Discipline

Discipline is the act of encouraging a desired pattern of behavior. George Washington said: "Discipline is the soul of an army. It makes small numbers formidable, procures success to the weak, and esteem to all". In other words, discipline is the glue that holds organizations together. 

We can't have agile and effective project methodologies or organizational processes without discipline. In short, effective discipline requires effective organizational oversight.  Finally, discipline begins at the top and works its way down. Organizations with poor discipline have weak, ineffective leaders at the top.  Weak, unengaged, ineffective leaders kill organizations. Can you say Enron?

Remember, the lack of project discipline is the fault of all project team members, but the cause of a lack of discipline lies at the top of the organization.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Stages of Creating Major Change

The below was adapted from the book "Leading Change" by John P. Kotter (see more information at the end of the posting).

1. Establishing a Sense of Urgency
    a. Examining the market and competitive realities
    b. Identifying and discussing crises, potential crises, or major opportunities

2. Creating the Guiding Coalition
    a. Putting together a group with enough power to lead the change
    b. Getting the group to work together as a team

3. Developing a Vision and Strategy
    a. Creating a vision to help direct the change effort
    b. Developing strategies for achieving that vision

4. Communicating the Change Vision
    a. Using every vehicle possible to constantly communicate the new vision and strategies
    b. Having the guiding coalition role model the behavior expected of employees

5. Empowering Broad-Based Action
    a. Getting rid of obstacles
    b. Changing systems or structures that undermine the change vision
    c. Encouraging risk taking and non-traditional ideas, activities, and actions

6. Generating Short-Term Wins
    a. Planning for visible improvements in performance, or “wins”
    b. Creating those wins
    c. Visibly recognizing and rewarding people who made the wins possible

7. Consolidating Gains and Producing More Change
    a. Using increased credibility to change all systems, structures, and policies that don’t fit   together and don’t fit the transformation vision
    b. Hiring, promoting, and developing people who can implement the change vision
    c. Reinvigorating the process with new projects, themes, and change agents

8. Anchoring New Approaches in the Culture
    a. Creating better performance through customer and productivity-oriented behavior
    b. Articulating the connections between new behaviors and organizational success
    c. Developing means to ensure leadership development and succession

SOURCE: Adapted from John P. Kotter, “Leading Change,” Harvard Business School Press 1996

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Five Good Free Kindle Books (Non-Fiction)

The Truth About Personal Performance (Collection) - by Robert E. Gunther []

Three full books of proven solutions for supercharging personal performance! Prepare for any audience, negotiation, or decision-compel attention and motivate action-manage anxiety or anger-use nonverbal communication-negotiate with people you love (or hate)-build (or repair) trust-make decisions with imperfect data-and much more!

How McDonald's Got Its Groove Back - by New World City []
How did the lumbering fast-food giant McDonald's cure its own sclerosis and become a newly lean, hungry competitor? Its comeback offers lessons for leaders everywhere in focusing on what their customers really want. For example, don't react to competitors, react to customers. When you broaden your market appeal, don't abandon your first customers. Don't skimp on product development.

33 Million People in the Room: How to Create, Influence, and Run a Successful Business with Social Networking - by Juliette Powell[]
Social networks are no fad. They’re a permanent reality: one that offers immense opportunities to smart, innovative businesses. Now, top social networking consultant Juliette Powell reveals how dozens of innovators are driving real ROI through
social networks–and how you can, too.
Powell’s wide-ranging research, including coverage on Barack Obama's successful online strategy in his bid for the presidency, focuses on technology, media and gaming companies, leaders in fashion, beauty, publishing, finance, retail, event planning, and beyond. These powerful narratives illuminate the reality of doing business on today’s social networks as never 

The Personal Credibility Factor: How to Get It, Keep It, and Get It Back (If You?ve Lost It) - by Sandy Allgeier []
Can you be trusted? Right now, someone is asking that question. If they decide to trust you, they’ll work with you, care about you, open up to you…help you live a more successful, more fulfilled, happier life. If not, you’re on your own…
Build the Strong Personal Credibility You Need to Live a Truly Great Life
*Learn the secrets of personal credibility that make trust possible
*Use the plan to earn trust and respect from those you encounter in your daily life
*Enable others to have confidence in you by following the 7 easy steps
*Follow the Personal Credibility Factor’s steps to repairing credibility when you’ve lost it

So What?: How to Communicate What Really Matters to Your Audience - by Mark Magnacca []
It’s tough, but true—the people you’re trying to communicate with, sell to, or convince don’t really care about you. Nor do they care what you’re offering them—until they understand exactly how it’ll benefit them. If you recognize that one hard, cold fact—and you know what to do about it—you’ll make more money, achieve greater success, and even have more fun!

In this book, world-renowned sales consultant Mark Magnacca shows you how to answer the “So What?” question brilliantly, every time—no matter who’s asking it or what you’re trying to achieve. This book will transform the way you communicate: You’ll use it every day to get what you want—in business and in life!

Overcoming Perfectionism: The Key to a Balanced Recovery - by Ann W. Smith[]
Do you have to be perfect to lead a healthy life? Ann Smith discusses how perfectionism may have benefits but is ultimately an obstacle to quality living as it prevents intimacy and lowers self-esteem. This book offers practical hints to letting go of your superhuman syndrome and being imperfect. 

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Poor Project Communications Can Hurt the Whole Team

When project teams are surveyed at the end of failed projects, poor communications is always cited as being one of the major causes. Why does this keep happening? Why is project communications so poorly executed so often. My short answer is that many project managers (and managers) are arrogant, inattentive, and oblivious to the feelings and needs of the project team.

Project managers are busy, and often they don't make time to manage project communications effectively. Also, the project manager may think they are doing a good job communicating, but that may not be the case.

Project managers must remember that the project team is made up of individuals. Each person on the team has a preference for the types of communication they like to receive, and each person processes communications differently.

Some things to monitor that may point to poor project communications are:

Trust - Does the team trust you (the project manager)? How do you know? Everybody will not trust you all the time. Team members that don't trust the project manager will not be open in their communications. They will tend to either shut down, gossip and spread rumors, or challenge the project manager at every turn

De-motivated - Where are we going? Is the team going where we said we were going when we started? Did we clearly state where we were going before we started?

Whining - Despair and anxiety take over the team or key team members. Infighting is prevalent and people are starting to talk openly about the project being a failure.

Incompetence - Team isn't sharing information and learning. Perhaps the team has had little to no training, or the training received was of poor quality.  Perhaps some team members should be fired from the team.

All the above can be overcome, however it requires that the project manager is listening and changing strategy when necessary to get the team back on track. Just because you are a project manager doesn't make you a good communicator, however ignoring problems like the ones mentioned above will make you a bad project manager.

My two cents are, be a leader. Lead through your communication and your ability to motivate your team to get the job done. Be on the lookout for the above warning signs. When you see the signs act quickly, follow-up, then continue to monitor.  Remember people may need to be removed from the team.

Poor project team synergy is the fault of the project manager. There are a lot of incompetent project managers that are hurting our profession because they either refuse to alter their communication styles or are too arrogant to change. My advice to them is to change their ways or leave the project management profession.