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Saturday, December 15, 2012

Principled Thinking




Principles come from natural laws that are recognizable by all cultures. Principles have been around since the dawn of time. They are timeless and aren’t dependent on us making them a permanent part of our lives.

I believe a most of our problems in society come from the fact that many of our leaders don’t live principle-centered lives.

What are principles that are easily recognized? These are a few: Patience, Kindness, Tolerance, Integrity, Honesty, Encouragement, Empathy…

Principles should guide our conduct, and when they do, they are easily recognizable by others. When our leaders decide to reject principles in order to gain power, influence or money, the organizations they lead are in deep trouble.

Many times leaders attempt to put aside principles to get short-term gains. They believe by making speeches filled with empty promises they will gain the trust of others. This happens all the time in our organizations and results in the same mistakes repeated over and over. Having said that, we keep electing the same people to office over and over, don’t we? Where has this gotten us?

Albert Einstein said, “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them”. To solve the tough problems we need to look at our paradigms and habits and be willing to change them. Sometimes this means firing (not re-electing) our current leaders.

Big problems cannot be solved by small people and small mindedness. Remember, principles aren’t values. The Mafia has values, but their practices certainly aren’t related to principles. As Stephen Covey say’s “Principles are the territory. Values are the map”.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Blast from the Past - 2006



Tell somebody you care, and how much they really mean to you. Let them know how they have changed your life.

If you have children, encourage them with love, and let them know they are a blessing to you.

If you live to make more money, get a (new) life!

If you aren't having fun doing your job, move on to something new.

Reward excellent failures. Punish mediocre successes - Tom Peters!

Embrace change and do all you can to expose unethical behavior.

Don't allow deadbeat managers and/or lazy executives to ruin your career or influence your project.

Don't be a part of the office gossip loop.

Great leaders with ethics and a solid morale center are rare. I have never met one; however I'm sure they exist. Seek them out with everything you have.

Executives have forgotten how to be leaders. Because of this, we have a 200 billion dollar trade deficit, stock option scandals, CEOs going to prison, massive layoffs, outsourcing to India, disloyal workers, and a plethora of corrupt politicians. Make sure before you go to work for an organization you know who is running the show.

Love the unlovable.

Be nutty at work. Somebody will appreciate the break in the monotony.

Find a manager in your company that is doing a bad job and ask them about the middle management shake up that is eminent. Walk away quickly before they can respond.

Look at yourself in the mirror closely for 60 seconds. Feel really bad that you look so old, then remember that life is precious and be thankful to God that tomorrow is a new day.

Challenge authority when it makes sense. Project managers can't be wimps.

Don't respect unrespectable people. Avoid them, workaround them, go through them. They are career killers.

If you like to solve problems and make a difference, work for a non-profit or charity.

Be a blessing to somebody.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Leadership Practices



Great article from Inc.com about changing your leadership style.

You might not feel it day-to-day, but business management is in a major transition.  The old days of command-and-control leadership are fading in favor of what might be better termed a trust-and-track method, in which people are not just told what to do, but why they are doing it.  More formally, we're moving from what was called "transactional" leadership to "transformative" leadership. And there's no turning back.

Business owners certainly have a long way to go, especially in more established companies where old practices die hard.  But you can see increasing evidence that by creating a company with a clear purpose and values, you'll find your employees connect themselves to something bigger, and that increases productivity.  In other words, a culture of engagement leads to greater customer loyalty, and better financial success.

Here's my list of "old school" practices you ought to chuck, and "new school" practices to champion instead:

1. Out: Micro-management, or the need to control every aspect of your company. In: Empowerment, the ability to give your people some rope--even rope to make mistakes without blame.

2. Out: Management by walking around the office; it is no longer enough to be visible. In: Leadership by watching and listening, engaging in conversation, implementing the ideas presented to you, and distributing the results.

Click here for the rest of the article

Thursday, November 08, 2012

More Tom Peters Wisdom

Top Twenty

This list of “success factors” emerged after-the-fact from an interview with a reporter from Moscow in preparation for a seminar I’m giving in Moscow in mid-November 2012. FYI:


Just one “secret” to innovation: It’s a messy world. We’re always operating half informed. Hence, “try more stuff than the other guy” and sort it out as you go forward is the best way to up success odds. (“Ready. Fire. Aim.”—Ross Perot)

Paradox: Superb quality is an absolute necessity, and it requires superb systems; but superb quality with the wrong product flunks. Hence one needs to be organized (quality) and disorganized (innovation) at the same time. (Axiom: Management is art, not science.)

Waste #1: “Great branding”/marketing can not overcome a lousy product—it is largely wasted. The product (innovative, attractive, of the highest quality) comes first—though excellence in product and marketing is indubitably required to achieve a smashing success.

Everywhere: “Excellence” in quality and design is not restricted to the “high end.” Both characteristics can be imbedded in lower-end products and services.

Iron law: All organizations get worse as they become more and more enormous. No cultural differences.

Iron law: Over the long haul, national success is largely built upon SMEs, with growth and innovation associated largely with a large population of vibrant midsized enterprises—Germany’s “Mittelstand” is exhibit #1.

Paradox: Hierarchy is dead. Long live hierarchy. New market requirements and new tools can dramatically reduce hierarchy. Still, I don’t want to drive across a bridge that didn’t have a “command and control” structure to sign off on safety.

But: Hierarchy is often necessary—but relentless hot war must be declared on bureaucracy “24/7.”

“New marketing techniques”: The newest marketing technique is the oldest marketing technique but remains “new” because it is seldom practiced with requisite intensity. Namely, get the hell out into the marketplace and listen & listen & listen to customers. Then listen some more.

Always #1: Any nation’s Olympic team is as good as its athletes. (Duh.) Exactly the same is true with any (as in any!) organization: Investment in and development of great people comes first and is the greatest sustaining differentiator!

Motivator #1: Treating people with respect is always the #1 motivational “tool.”

Why not business: In the army and in the theater and in sports, training is always Priority #1. Why not in business? No organization ever devoted too much effort to training!

Success “secret” #1: Work harder/much harder than the other guy/s. There’s more to it than hard work but hard work is the sine qua non. (Again: Think of the Olympics.)

Speed’s enabler: The #1 cause of delays is invariably lousy cross-functional communication—the product developers don’t talk to the logistics people who don’t talk to the sales people. Etc. Etc. Excellence in cross-functional communication must become a day-to-day top-management obsession.

New context, new leaders: Innovation (and execution) today is a collaborative process. Women are on average better leaders than men in collaborative situations. Men take to hierarchies—we invented ‘em. Women tend to lead more by inclusion rather than coercion.

Customer #1: In retail and in products designed for retail, she is the primary consumer. Company leadership and the product-service portfolio should mimic, more or less, this fact. (You heard it here 1st: Men and women are different.)

New context, new skills; The Age of Brawn is largely behind us. Brains and creativity and flexibility have come to the fore. Not only are our organizations unprepared—but our schools get it more or less exactly wrong 100% of the time.

Acceleration: Technological change is accelerating as never before. It is not an exaggeration to say that “all bets are off”; adaptability and renewal are imperative on a short cycle unimaginable only 10 or so years ago. (And we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.)

Mix it up: Company leaders tend to be look-alikes. Only (only!) diversity on any dimension you can name induces creativity over the long haul—from the boardroom to the front line.

“Sexy”: Clever strategies and exciting products are important, but superb execution invariably carries the day. Asked his #1 success “secret,” peerless hotelier Conrad Hilton replied, “Don’t forget to tuck the shower curtain into the bathtub.” Amen!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Dysfunctionals



When you go to meetings, pretend to listen then walk away and criticize those you just met with, that is dysfunction

When you pretend to trust others, but look for ways to poke holes in their beliefs, that is dysfunction

When you reward mediocrity…dysfunction

When you create something that has questionable value yet hold it up as something awesome….hyper-dysfunction

When you support and encourage weak "leaders" that cause upheaval and mayhem …you have dysfunction

When enterprise standards and processes are ignored…you guessed it…dysfunction

When commitments are made than ignored…yep…more dysfunction

When the people in ivory towers refuse to sit down with the commoners... dysfunction

When you reward your team for winning the silent “us vs. them” war… dysfunction is the winner (guess who is the loser)

When you allow a rogue manager to steamroll others inside and outside your department…you have dysfunction

When you treat your staff like mushrooms (leaving them in the dark)…you again have dysfunction

In closing…be real, be relevant, be a team player, and most of all be trustworthy. Nobody respects a talking head. You have to be visible, engaged and respected to be effective and relevant.

Remember, if you aren't visibile you aren't relevant and if you aren't relevant you aren't needed.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Visibility and Relevancy



A good project manager must always rise above petty political partisanship and keep fighting for what is right and best for their project, the project sponsor and the funding organization.

More free advice and personal thoughts...

Never use fabrications, slander, and distortions to sell the value of your project

Never tear down another organization (or person) to build yours (yourself) up

If you aren't visible you aren't relevant. If you aren't relevant you aren't needed

Never pretend to be something that you are not. You can only fool another fool

Never be so cocky as to believe you have nothing to learn from others

If you haven’t learned from the mistakes of the past you are probably already repeating them

If you are not honest, ethical, and trustworthy you can’t be effective at anything except politics

Taking others people's ideas and repackaging them as your own is pathetic, dishonest, and just plain sad

The value of your project’s product can only be judged by end-users, not you

Your reputation is determined by others, not you

Product bells and whistles rarely add value. They usually end up in a product because the designer was lazy and without imagination.

Surround and marginalize your critics. Don't let them define who you are.

Beware of Project Snakes and Sharks. They can wear pants or skirts.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Paradox of Our Time Reposted

I cited the wrong author in a previous post.  This was written Dr. Bob Moorehead.
Geoge Carlin didn't write this and wasn't impressed when he read it.  I like it!

The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider freeways , but narrower viewpoints.  We spend more, but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less.  We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time.  We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness.

We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom.

We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values.  We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.  We've learned how to make a living, but not a life.  We've added years to life not life to years. We've been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor.

We conquered outer space but not inner space.  We've done larger things, but not better things.  We've cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul. We've conquered the atom, but not our prejudice.  We write more, but learn less.  We plan more, but accomplish less.

We've learned to rush, but not to wait.  We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less and less.  These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small character, steep profits and shallow relationships.

These are the days of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes.  These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throw away morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill. 

It is a time when there is much in the showroom window and nothing in the stockroom."

Dr. Bob Moorehead, former pastor of Seattle's Overlake Christian Church

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Project Team Needs


Project team members will perform at their peak when they:

Clearly understand and embrace the project's goals

Understand clearly the expectations put upon them

Understand how success will be measured

Understand the expectations of the project manager and sponsor

Believe their concerns will be listened to and addressed

Believe the project manager and sponsor are 100% committed to the success of the project

Understand that constructive, open, and free flowing communication is appreciated and welcome

Know they will be recognized and rewarded for their achievements!!!

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Project Sponsor Checklist


NOTE - I recently changed jobs and haven't taken the time to post to this blog.  To all the people that visit here and support this blog, thank you.  I will be posting more often in the future.

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Project Sponsor Checklist


Identify the participants and their roles

Identify potential project team members as well as the major stakeholders.  Keep in mind the project manager should have the final say as to the project core team members.

Assign an experienced project manager early

This Project Manager will make or break a project.  Be sure the individual has the expertise to manage the project and works well with others.  Don't hesitate to look at outside sources if a qualified project manager isn't available internally.

Assess the qualifications and experience of the project team members

Along with the project manager, initially assess the experience and character of potential team members.  Keep in mind the importance of well-rounded team players, and their ability to work well with others.

Complete a high-level charter

A preliminary project charter with major milestones and project objectives should always be completed by the sponsor.  After the charter is apporved and issued the sponsor can work with the project manager to identify some of the key tasks for each milestone.  It is understood that this initial "plan" is only preliminary, and will be refined over time by the project manager as he works with the team.


Ensure an issues tracking system is put in place

Ensure the project manager develops a method to track all issues and their resolutions.

Ensure there are regular project progress meetings

Work with the project manager to ensure that regular status meetings are held with key stakeholders, the sponsor, and core project team members.

Setup a regular schedule for status reporting.  Establish the criteria for regular status reports and the information they should contain.

Conduct a project kickoff meeting

Officially start the project with a meeting of all project stakeholders. The project manager and project team should be introduced, the milestones reviewed with estimated completion dates (dates at this point are just guesses), and expectations as to the level of participation and responsibility.

Monday, June 25, 2012

101 Common-Sense Rules for Leaders

The Manager's Cheat Sheet: 101 Common-Sense Rules for Leaders


By Inside CRM Editors

Management is all about connecting with the people on your team. So how do you effectively manage a team? With common knowledge, of course. These are a few back-to-basics rules that will help you develop management skills that really matter.

Body Language
Like it or not, your body speaks volumes, even when you are silent. Here's how to express an attitude that's appropriate for a leader.
1. Stand tall. Keeping your shoulders back and holding yourself up to your full height will give you an air of confidence.

2. Take your hands out of your pockets. Putting your hands in your pockets is often seen as a sign that you have something to hide.

3. Stand with your arms crossed behind your back. This will help you adjust your posture, and it leaves your hands in a position that is open and not intimidating.

4. Make eye contact. Always look directly into the eyes of the people you are speaking with. This shows you're interested and also gives you a sense of confidence.

5. Sit up straight. Even if you're at an 8 a.m. meeting and feeling tired, it's important to sit up straight in your chair. Slouching makes you look disinterested and can give off an unwanted air of laziness.

6. Face the person you're talking to. This shows you are interested and engaged in the conversation.

7. Shake hands firmly. For many, a handshake is a reflection of the person you're shaking hands with. You don't want to come across as unsure or overbearing, so make sure yours is professional and confident.

8. Always smile. Smiles are contagious and will make others feel positive when you're around.

9. Look your best. You don't have to be model perfect every day, but you should dress appropriately and neatly. Clothes can have a big impact on the way you're perceived.

10. Walk confidently. Keep your head up and take even strides.

Meeting Deadlines
No one will be happy if your team has to rush around at the last minute to complete a project. Follow these tips to make deadlines less stressful for everyone.
11. Only promise what you can realistically deliver. Don't create deadlines that you know you can't meet. By only promising what you know you can do, you'll be able to finish on time.

12. Set clear goals. Once you know what you need to accomplish, it helps to know how and when you want to do it. Put your goals down on paper and make sure everyone on your team gets a copy.

13. Organize a team. Many of your employees will have unique strengths and training that can make them great assets to certain projects. Pick a team that has the right skills to carry out the job.

14. Delegate tasks. Spread work among your employees in a way that doesn't leave anyone overburdened while also allowing the project work smoothly.

15. Create milestones. Creating milestones for you and your team will help you keep track of your progress and also give you a sense of accomplishment as you reach each milestone.

16. Keep communication open. Keeping everyone in touch with the status of the project is key to making sure it's completed on time.

17. Do it right the first time. Planning ahead will help prevent you from delivering a substandard product. Having to redo something for a client costs money, and, more than likely, future business opportunities.

18. Stay organized. Staying organized will help keep you from wasting time chasing down important documents and information.

19. Make sure expectations are clear. Be sure that each member of your team knows what their specific responsibilities are. This will save time and prevent tasks from being overlooked.

20. Create a plan. Compile your goals and milestones into a comprehensive plan for attacking any project you are given. This way, you can make sure you're staying on schedule and that all of your employees will be clear about how and when things should be done.

Getting Along with Employees

A happy office is a productive one. Everyone will be more cheerful if you follow these simple rules.

21. Don't make your employees come in on days they're normally not scheduled to work or call them while they're on vacation. A surefire way to make employees resent you is to invade their personal time for nonpressing work. Unless you have something that absolutely has to be done, let time away from work stay that way.

22. Don't play favorites. Playing favorites can bias your judgment and impair your leadership abilities. Treat your employees equally.

23. Give credit when it's due. Don't take credit for your employees' ideas or hog their limelight. This action not only fosters resentment but also makes you seem untrustworthy.

24. Don't micromanage. While it's fine to keep up with what your employees are working on, don't constantly look over their shoulders.

25. Never discuss employee matters with their co-workers. This kind of gossip always gets back to the person and will make you look unprofessional.

26. Don't interfere with employees' work. If your employees are getting work done, don't stress about how it gets done. Even if it's not being done they way you'd do it, it's best to let employees use their best judgment.

27. Don't push unreasonable deadlines. You don't want to spend all of your time at the office, and neither do your employees.

28. Keep your promises. Barring some catastrophic event, you should always keep promises you make to employees, especially about pay and benefits.

29. Keep work about work. Don't require employees to run your personal errands. Take care of your own personal business or hire an assistant.

30. Reward hard work. Make sure your employees feel valued for the work that they do. Employees will be more willing to put in extra effort if they know it's noted and appreciated.

31. Provide motivation. Sometimes employees need a morale boost. Provide them with encouragement to get a project rolling.

Manage Yourself

Being a good manager isn't just about what you can encourage other people to do, it's also about managing your own performance.
32. Be accessible. Don't hole up in your office all day — come out and visit with your employees. Let them know that they can always come to you with problems and concerns.

33. Be open to constructive criticism. It may not always be what you want to hear, but listening to constructive criticism gives you the chance to learn and grow from your mistakes.

34. Accept responsibility. Part of being the boss is accepting responsibility for the mistakes of all that you manage, not just your own.

35. Know there's always room for improvement. No matter how good you think you are, your job can always be done better. Always be willing to learn.

36. Improve your skills. Learning is a lifelong process. You're never too old to take a class or ask a co-worker to help you improve your knowledge.

37. Explain things simply. Don't use big words or technical jargon just to sound smart and impress others. Your employees will understand and perform better if you explain simply and clearly what you need.

38. Instruct rather than order. You may be the boss, but you don't have to be bossy. You'll have more success if your requests are more tactfully delivered.

39. Include your staff in your plans. Don't make your work top secret; let your employees know what's going on and how they are expected to contribute.

40. Know your subordinates' jobs. You don't want to be caught with inferior job knowledge.

41. Be flexible. It's fine to be firm in what you expect, but allow for flexibility in how it gets done.

42. Get regular feedback. Your employees and superiors can give you valuable feedback on how to improve your performance. Use this to your advantage.

43. Know your limitations. You can't be everywhere doing everything all at once. Know the limits of your time and abilities and say no to things you know you can't do.

Boosting Productivity

Getting the most out of your day can be difficult with a busy schedule, but you can use these tips to help you maximize your time in order to be better available to employees.
44. Get the most out of meetings. Be organized and prepared for meetings to increase effectiveness and time savings.

45. Focus your energy on things that matter. Don't let trivial tasks take time away from things that are really important.

46. Identify your time-stealers. Everyone has little things that detract their attention and make them lose focus. Figure out what these are and work to eliminate them, if only for a few hours a day.

47. Be punctual. Being on time is a big deal. Never keep people waiting for appointments or meetings if you can help it.

48. Respond to your correspondence within a reasonable amount of time. You don't have to be chained to your inbox, but make sure you respond to emails within a few hours whenever possible.

49. Do only what is necessary. There are times when going above and beyond works, but doing so on a daily basis can derail your progress on more important issues. Get the key things done first, then see if you have time for additional things.

50. Stick to schedules and routines. While they may not be the most exciting things, schedules and routines can help streamline and improve your productivity.

51. Organize and manage your schedule. Use any tools and utilities you have at your disposal to prioritize your day and keep track of what you need to get done.

52. Plan more than you think you can do. While this may sound stressful, it can actually be a great motivator. If you manage to get everything done, you'll enjoy a great sense of achievement.

53. Get to work early on occasion. Sometimes an uninterrupted half hour in an unoccupied office can help you get key things done or allow you to plan your day before there are any distractions to slow you down.

54. Know that sometimes stress is good. While too much of anything, especially stress, can be bad, sometimes a little stress can be the motivation to get you moving, allowing you to get more done.

55. Do your least favorite tasks first. Get your most tedious and least desirable tasks out of the way earlier in the day. After that, everything else will be a breeze.

Managing Finances and Resources
Whether you're a business owner or a manager, staying on top of tangible items is vital to success. These tips can help you keep track.
56. Set up a realistic budget. While it's good to be optimistic, don't plan for more spending than you know you can afford. Make sure you plan for emergencies and contingencies as well.

57. Save costs where they matter the most. Don't just pinch pennies for the present. Make sure your savings will pay off in the long run. Compromising on quality might cost you later on in repairs and replacements.

58. Spend only when it's necessary. Don't spend if you don't need to. Every bit you save goes toward your profit.

59. Find alternative sources of finance. Sometimes even successful businesses need a little help. Business loans and investors can help you through leaner times.

60. Stay true to your contracts. Not only will you gain the respect of your clients, you'll also avoid legal battles that can be a serious financial drain.

61. Make sure employees are well compensated. Employees deserve to be rewarded for hard work. Make sure yours are well compensated for their time and they'll be more productive and happier to come to work.

62. Learn to do more with less. Quality is much more important than quantity, so make what you have count.

63. Assign equipment wisely. While it might be nice for every employee to have a PDA, budgets often don't allow for such conveniences. Make sure the employees that need tools the most have access to them.

64. Invest in solid technology. This doesn't always mean the latest technology, but what your office needs to do work effectively.

65. Update when necessary. Using obsolete equipment and programs can really slow you down. Update when it makes sense so you won't get left behind by competitors.

66. Don't be wasteful. Every sheet of paper, paper clip and pen is a cost on your budget. Use materials wisely and don't waste them out of haste or carelessness.

Communicating with Clients
Whether you're a business owner or a manager carrying out a project, one thing is always the same: The client is dominant voice in decision-making. Learn to communicate with them effectively and you'll set a good example for the people you supervise.
67. Remember that the customer is the boss. At the end of the day, your job is to make the customer happy. Act accordingly.

68. Differentiate your products. Don't get lost in a sea of products and services like yours. Make sure you stand out from your competitors.

69. Retain customers as much as you recruit new ones. While you always want to bring in new business, it's very important to maintain relationships with loyal customers.

70. Provide effective channels of communication. Make sure your clients can contact you easily and quickly if they have a problem, concern or question. They can also provide a valuable source of feedback.

71. Maintain customer data. Use this data to make your customers feel special by remembering occasions like birthdays and anniversaries. It's also helpful for keeping track of purchasing preferences.

72. Segment your customers. Not all customers are alike. Divide your customers into groups that allow you to provide attention and services that meet each customer's unique needs.

73. Provide effective after-sales services. Don't let contact fall off after the work is complete. Make sure your client stays happy.

74. Listen attentively. Pay attention to exactly what clients are asking for to help you better meet their needs.

75. Don't be afraid to say you don't know. It's OK not to know the answer to every question. It's better to say you don't know and get back to a customer than to try to bluff your way through a conversation and have to backtrack later.

Keep Up with Change
There is no way to stop the world from changing, so follow these tips to keep up and ahead of the game.

76. Don't fight change. You can't stop markets, trends and technology from changing, so learn to go with the flow.

77. Adopt a predictive managerial style. Don't wait for things to happen to make a move. Anticipate problems and provide contingency plans.

78. Test your contingency plans. Waiting for disaster to strike is a dangerous way to find out if your emergency plans will hold. Test them out from time to time to fine-tune them and make sure they're still relevant.

79. Identify the positives. Even the most negative changes can have positive aspects to them. Being able to identify and maximize them can help make adapting less painful.

80. Be quick to adapt. Learn to adapt to changing situations quickly and be able to change plans on the spur of the moment if the situation requires it.

81. Stay tuned to external factors. Your business is affected in many ways by outside factors. Keep abreast of these so you can anticipate any sudden market changes that would affect how you need to manage.

82. Put in place a Research and Development plan. Encourage innovation and creativity to stay ahead of the demand for newer and better products and services.

83. Keep an eye on the competition. Don't let the competition get the best of you. Keep up-to-date with what they're doing and use it to your advantage in managing your business.

Resolving Problems
Whether problems are internal or external, they can make your management duties a nightmare if you don't handle them correctly. Here's how to stay on top of them.
84. Stand up for employees. If other departments or managers are bearing down hard on your employees, stand up for them.

85. Fix what's broken. Don't waste time placing blame. Take care of fixing the problem before dealing with any possible repercussions.

86. Manage and control your emotions. Don't let anger or frustration affect your problem resolution. If you are emotionally invested in a situation, cool down before discussing it or bring in an outside mediator.

87. Learn when to step in. Some problems might resolve themselves if you just let them be, but you need to be aware of times where you'll need to step in and take control of a situation.

88. Take the blame. If you've made a mistake, fess up. It'll give you more time to work on fixing the problem instead of talking your way out of taking the rap.

89. Get the facts first. Before you pass judgment on a situation, make sure you have the whole story. Listen to employees and refrain from questioning anyone's integrity without first ensuring that you've gathered all the data.

90. Rise above the crisis. Learn to separate yourself from the problem and rise above the fray. You'll be able to think more clearly and make a better decision on how to rectify the issue.

91. Don't ignore problems. A small problem can easily snowball and become something much more difficult to fix.

92. Try to depersonalize problems. Let employees know that the problem isn't with them but with their actions. Don't make it personal.

Go Above and Beyond

Managing people isn't just about getting the job done. To truly be a great leader, sometimes you need to go above and beyond what the job calls for.
93. Lead by example. You can talk until you're blue in the face, but the best way to get a point across is to be the model to emulate. Let employees follow your lead.

94. Get your hands dirty. Sometimes you need to show your employees that no one's above doing unattractive tasks.

95. Make a difference to your employees. Don't just be a generic manager — stand out as a leader and role model for your employees.

96. Gain your employees' trust and respect. You'll have a much easier time managing employees when they respect your rules and boundaries and trust your leadership.

97. Be empathetic to personal problems. Whether it should or not, what happens outside of work can have a big affect on the quality of work produced. Be sensitive if employees have personal issues that keep them from concentrating on work.

98. Be unique as a manager. Every position demands something different and you should be proud to be adept at your particular role rather than trying to emulate other managers.

99. Remember that ethics matter above all. Be honest and reliable in all of your business and personal relationships.

100. Be on the lookout for new ideas. You never know where your next great inspiration will come from.

101. Get to know your employees. Learn more than just their names. Get to know your employees' family backgrounds, likes and dislikes. Doing so will make you more personable.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Pete's Estimating Laws - Humor?


This post can also be found at Project Connections. While meant to be humorous, it has many facts that need to be kept in mind when estimating your project.

1. Everything takes longer than you think (sometimes a lot longer)

2. Thinking about everything takes longer than you think

3. Project Managing and leading a project team is a FULL TIME job, and then some

4. Software Engineers are always optimistic (generally REALLY optimistic)

5. Schedules are (almost) always wrong

6. If you under-estimated an early task when you wrote the WBS (schedule), you probably under-estimated middle and later tasks. Revisit the later phases of the schedule as early as possible when you discover early phase schedule (estimate) errors

7. Business types (upper management) REALLY do use your estimates for planning. For example, head count, money, customer deliverables, shipping dates, ordering materials, scheduling manufacturing lines, advertising timing, etc. Be able to express your level of confidence on various estimates when you provide them to others

8. Initially, a good schedule estimate is 80% confidence for near term deliverables, 60-80% for long-term deliverables. Revisit the schedule and revise your estimates after the Initiation Phase (Kickoff) and again after the Design Phase to improve on these early confidence levels

9. Don’t let yourself be bullied into committing to something you cannot achieve

10. Don’t bully someone else into committing to something they cannot achieve

11. Notify “Need To Know” people AS SOON AS POSSIBLE if there is a significant problem or potential problem in meeting the schedule. Remember that there was a certain degree of optimism in the schedule originally. Note: It's an art to not over-do this

12. Let team members know that you, the project manager, expect early notification of schedule problems as a courtesy. You decide on the severity or risk of the problem and its impact to the schedule, what actions to take, and what contingencies are appropriate

13. Most people’s estimating skills improve with experience; some don’t

14. Learn your own estimating flaws and compensate for them. Then learn the flaws in your new estimations and compensate for them. Repeat continuously while employed as a project manager

15. Learn others' estimating flaws and learn to compensate for them. Mentor them on improving their flaws and then compensate for their improvements. Repeat continuously while they are on your project team

16. In some environments, some people are hedging their estimates, some people are expecting them to hedge the estimates and some people are doing neither. It’s an interesting problem to get all of them to stop this behavior and have people give honest, best-effort estimates. Laws 14 and 15 are useful for dealing with this variability while you are working to get your team members to be more honest with you. Laws 13-16 are part of the "people aspects" of the project management job - like it or not, we have to deal with these "real world effects" on the projects we manage

17. Be wary of anyone who wants 100% confidence in an estimate. 90% confidence is an exceptional human achievement for any complex task, even with extremely good data

18. Look up the word “estimate” in the dictionary. You may find it useful in a meeting

Monday, June 11, 2012

Simplify Your Project Management Processes

There was a popular survey some time ago that asked leaders in several mid-sized companies about their success. One of the main reasons that many were successful is they focused on simplicity in everything they did. The study concluded that simple, focused companies were more profitable.

The Pareto or 80/20 Principle can help us realize the power of keeping things simple.

Some popular statistics that relate to the Pareto Principle are below:

80% of beer is consumed by 20% of the beer drinkers

80% of classroom participation comes from 20% of the students

80% of traffic jams occur on 20% of roads

20% of your clothes will be worn 80% of the time

80% of sales are generated by 20% of the sales staff

80% of problems are generated by 20% of the employees

80% of problems come from 20% of the customer base

Now that we know this, how do we make things simpler? Try looking at your business processes to eliminate waste and complexity.  Questions to ask yourself and your organization when seeking to simplify your business processes are:

What are our processes?

Who are our customers?

What systems do we use?

Do we have the right systems in place to support our business?

What services do we offer internally and externally? Are they still valuable today?

Look for the 20% that adds value and eliminate or redesign the rest.

We are looking to automate, minimize, isolate, reduce, redesign, throw away, reinvent, rejuvenate, refresh, retire, or reallocate those things that are not helping us to achieve simplicity. Achieving simplicity can be hard, but the rewards are worth the effort.

Monday, June 04, 2012

One Hundred Rules for NASA Project Managers

Reposted again for those that haven't seen it.  Very good list of rules we all should follow!

The Project Manager

Rule #1: A project manager should visit everyone who is building anything for his project at least once, should know all the managers on his project (both government and contractor), and know the integration team members. People like to know that the project manager is interested in their work and the best proof is for the manager to visit them and see first hand what they are doing.

Rule #2: A project manager must know what motivates the project contractors (i.e., their award system, their fiscal system, their policies, and their company culture).

Rule #3: Management principles still are the same. It is just that the tools have changed. You still find the right people to do the work and get out of the way so they can do it.

Rule #4: Whoever you deal with, deal fairly. Space is not a big playing field. You may be surprised how often you have to work with the same people. Better they respect you than carry a grudge.

Rule #5: Vicious, despicable, or thoroughly disliked persons, gentlemen, and ladies can be project managers. Lost souls, procrastinators, and wishy-washies cannot.

Rule #6: A comfortable project manager is one waiting for his next assignment or one on the verge of failure. Security is not normal to project management.

Rule #7: One problem new managers face is that everyone wants to solve their problems. Old managers were told by senior management—"solve your own darn problems, that is what we hired you to do."

Rule #8: Running fast does not take the place of thinking for yourself. You must take time to smell the roses. For your work, you must take time to understand the consequences of your actions.

Rule #9: The boss may not know how to do the work but he has to know what he wants. The boss had better find out what he expects and wants if he doesn't know. A blind leader tends to go in circles.

Rule #10: Not all successful managers are competent and not all failed managers are incompetent. Luck still plays a part in success or failure but luck favors the competent hard working manager.

Rule #11: Never try to get even for some slight by anyone on the project. It is not good form and it puts you on the same level as the other person and, besides, probably ends up hurting the project getting done.

Rule #12: Don't get too egotistical so that you can't change your position, especially if your personnel tell you that you are wrong. You should cultivate an attitude on the project where your personnel know they can tell you of wrong decisions.

Rule #13: A manager who is his own systems engineer or financial manager is one who will probably try to do open heart surgery on himself.

Rule #14: Most managers succeed on the strength and skill of their staff.

Initial Work

Rule #15: The seeds of problems are laid down early. Initial planning is the most vital part of a project. The review of most failed projects or project problems indicate the disasters were well planned to happen from the start.

Communications

Rule #16: Cooperative efforts require good communications and early warning systems. A project manager should try to keep his partners aware of what is going on and should be the one who tells them first of any rumor or actual changes in plan. The partners should be consulted before things are put in final form, even if they only have a small piece of the action. A project manager who blindsides his partners will be treated in kind and will be considered a person of no integrity.

Rule #17: Talk is not cheap; but the best way to understand a personnel or technical problem is to talk to the right people. Lack of talk at the right levels is deadly.

Rule #18: Most international meetings are held in English. This is a foreign language to most participants such as Americans, Germans, Italians, etc. It is important to have adequate discussions so that there are no misinterpretations of what is said.

Rule #19: You cannot be ignorant of the language of the area you manage or with that of areas with which you interface. Education is a must for the modern manager. There are simple courses available to learn computerese, communicationese and all the rest of the modern "ese's" of the world. You can't manage if you don't understand what is being said or written.

People

Rule #20: You cannot watch everything. What you can watch is the people. They have to know you will not accept a poor job.

Rule #21: We have developed a set of people whose self interest is more paramount than the work or at least it appears so to older managers. It appears to the older managers that the newer ones are more interested in form than in substance. The question is are old managers right or just old? Consider both viewpoints.

Rule #22: A good technician, quality inspector, and straw boss are more important in obtaining a good product than all the paper and reviews.

Rule #23: The source of most problems is people, but darned if they will admit it. Know the people working on your project to know what the real weak spots are.

Rule #24: One must pay close attention to workaholics—if they get going in the wrong direction, they can do a lot of damage in a short time. It is possible to overload them and cause premature burnout but hard to determine if the load is too much, since much of it is self generated. It is important to make sure such people take enough time off and that the workload does not exceed 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 times what is normal.

Rule #25: Always try to negotiate your internal support at the lowest level. What you want is the support of the person doing the work, and the closer you can get to him in negotiations the better.

Rule #26: If you have someone who doesn't look, ask, and analyze; ask them to transfer.

Rule #27: Personal time is very important. You must be careful as a manager that you realize the value of other people's time (i.e., the work you hand out and meetings should be necessary). You must, where possible, shield your staff from unnecessary work (i.e., some requests should be ignored or a refusal sent to the requestor).

Rule #28: People who monitor work and don't help get it done never seem to know exactly what is going on (being involved is the key to excellence).

Rule #29: There is no greater motivation than giving a good person his piece of the puzzle to control, but a pat on the back or an award helps.

Rule #30: It is mainly the incompetent that don't like to show off their work.

Rule #31: There are rare times when only one man can do the job. These are in technical areas that are more art and skill than normal. Cherish these people, but get their work done as soon as possible. Getting the work done by someone else takes two or three times longer and the product is normally below standard.

Rule #32: People have reasons for doing things the way they do them. Most people want to do a good job and, if they don't, the problem is they probably don't know how or exactly what is expected.

Rule #33: If you have a problem that requires additional people to solve, you should approach putting people on like a cook who has under-salted the food.

Reviews and Reports

Rule #34: NASA has established a set of reviewers and a set of reviews. Once firmly established, the system will fight to stay alive, so make the most of it. Try to find a way for the reviews to work for you.

Rule #35: The number of reviews is increasing but the knowledge transfer remains the same; therefore, all your charts and presentation material should be constructed with this fact in mind. This means you should be able to construct a set of slides that only needs to be shuffled from presentation to presentation.

Rule #36: Hide nothing from the reviewers. Their reputation and yours is on the line. Expose all the warts and pimples. Don't offer excuses—just state facts.

Rule #37: External reviews are scheduled at the worst possible time, therefore, keep an up-to-date set of business and technical data so that you can rapidly respond. Not having up-to-date data should be cause for dismissal.

Rule #38: Never undercut your staff in public (i.e., In public meetings, don't reverse decisions on work that you have given them to do). Even if you direct a change, never take the responsibility for implementing away from your staff.

Rule #39: Reviews are for the reviewed an not the reviewer. The review is a failure if the reviewed learn nothing from it.

Rule #40: A working meeting has about six people attending. Meetings larger than this are for information transfer (management science has shown that, in a group greater than twelve, some are wasting their time).

Rule #41: The amount of reviews and reports are proportional to management's understanding (i.e., the less management knows or understands the activities, the more they require reviews and reports). It is necessary in this type of environment to make sure that data is presented so that the average person, slightly familiar with activities, can understand it. Keeping the data simple and clear never insults anyone's intelligence.

Rule #42: Managers who rely only on the paperwork to do the reporting of activities are known failures.

Rule #43: Documentation does not take the place of knowledge. There is a great difference in what is supposed to be, what is thought to have happened, and reality. Documents are normally a static picture in time that get outdated rapidly.

Rule #44: Just because you give monthly reports, don't think that you can abbreviate anything in a yearly report. If management understood the monthlies, they wouldn't need a yearly.

Rule #45: Abbreviations are getting to be a pain. Each project now has a few thousand. This calls on senior management to know hundreds. Use them sparingly in presentations unless your objective is to confuse.

Rule #46: Remember, it is often easier to do foolish paperwork that to fight the need for it. Fight only if it is a global issue which will save much future work.

Contractors and Contracting

Rule #47: A project manager is not the monitor of the contractor's work but is to be the driver. In award fee situations, the government personnel should be making every effort possible to make sure the contractor gets a high score (i.e., be on schedule and produce good work). Contractors don't fail, NASA does and that is why one must be proactive in support. This is also why a low score damages the government project manager as much as the contractor's manager because it means that he is not getting the job done.

Rule #48: Award fee is a good tool that puts discipline both on the contractor and the government. The score given represents the status of the project as well as the management skills of both parties. The project management measurement system (PMS) should be used to verify the scores. Consistent poor scores require senior management intervention to determine the reason. Consistent good scores which are consistent with PMS reflect a well-run project, but if these scores are not consistent with the PMS, senior management must take action to find out why.

Rule #49: Morale of the contractor's personnel is important to a government manager. Just as you don't want to buy a car built by disgruntled employees, you don't want to buy flight hardware developed by under- motivated people. You should take an active role in motivating all personnel on the project.

Rule #50: Being friendly with a contractor is fine—being a friend of a contractor is dangerous to your objectivity.

Rule #51: Remember, your contractor has a tendency to have a one-on-one interface with your staff. Every member of your staff costs you at least one person on the contract per year.

Rule #52: Contractors tend to size up the government counterparts and staff their part of the project accordingly. If they think yours are clunkers, they will take their poorer people to put on your project.

Rule #53: Contractors respond well to the customer that pays attention to what they are doing but not too well to the customer that continually second-guesses their activity. The basic rule is a customer is always right but the cost will escalate if a customer always has things done his way instead of how the contractor planned on doing it. The ground rule is: never change a contractor's plans unless they are flawed or too costly (i.e., the old saying that better is the enemy of good).

Rule #54: There is only one solution to a weak project manager in industry—get rid of him fast. The main job of a project manager in industry is to keep the customer happy. Make sure the one working with you knows that it is not flattery but on-schedule, on-cost, and a good product that makes you happy.

Engineers and Scientists

Rule #55: Over-engineering is common. Engineers like puzzles and mazes. Try to make them keep their designs simple.

Rule #56: The first sign of trouble comes from the schedule or the cost curve. Engineers are the last to know they are in trouble. Engineers are born optimists.

Rule #57: The project has many resources within itself. There probably are five or ten system engineers considering all the contractors and instrument developers. This is a powerful resource that can be used to attack problems.

Rule #58: Many managers, just because they have the scientists under contract on their project, forget that the scientists are their customers and many times have easier access to top management than the managers do.

Rule #59: Most scientists are rational unless you endanger their chance to do their experiment. They will work with you if they believe you are telling them the truth. This includes reducing their own plans.

Hardware

Rule #60: In the space business, there is no such thing as previously flown hardware. The people who build the next unit probably never saw the previous unit. There are probably minor changes (perhaps even major changes); the operational environment has probably changed; the people who check the unit out in most cases will not understand the unit or the test equipment.

Rule #61: Most equipment works as built, not as the designer planned. This is due to layout of the design, poor understanding on the designer's part, or poor understanding of component specifications.

Computers and Software

Rule #62: Not using modern techniques, like computer systems, is a great mistake, but forgetting that the computer simulates thinking is a still greater mistake.

Rule #63: Software has now taken on all the parameters of hardware (i.e., requirement creep, high percentage of flight mission cost, need for quality control, need for validation procedures, etc.). It has the added feature that it is hard as blazes to determine it is not flawed. Get the basic system working first and then add the bells and whistles. Never throw away a version that works even if you have all the confidence in the world that the newer version works. It is necessary to have contingency plans for software.

Rule #64: Knowledge is often revised by simulations or testing, but computer models have hidden flaws not the least of which is poor input data.

Rule #65: In olden times, engineers had hands-on experience, technicians understood how the electronics worked and what it was supposed to do, and layout technicians knew too—but today only the computer knows for sure and it's not talking.

Senior Management, Program Offices, and Above

Rule #66: Don't assume you know why senior management has done something. If you feel you need to know, ask. You get some amazing answers that will astonish you.

Rule #67: Know your management—some like a good joke, others only like a joke if they tell it.

Rule #68: Remember the boss has the right to make decisions. Even if you think they are wrong, tell the boss what you think but if he still wants it done his way; do it his way and do your best to make sure the outcome is successful.

Rule #69: Never ask management to make a decision that you can make. Assume you have the authority to make decisions unless you know there is a document that states unequivocally that you can't.

Rule #70: You and the Program Manager should work as a team. The Program Manager is your advocate at NASA HQ and must be tied into the decision makers and should aid your efforts to be tied in also.

Rule #71: Know who the decision makers on the program are. It may be someone outside who has the ear of Congress or the Administrator, or the Associate Administrator, or one of the scientists—someone in the chain of command—whoever they are. Try to get a line of communication to them on a formal or informal basis.

Program Planning, Budgeting, and Estimating

Rule #72: Today one must push the state of the art, be within budget, take risks, not fail, and be on time. Strangely, all these are consistent as long as the ground rules such as funding profile and schedule are established up front and maintained.

Rule #73: Most of yesteryear's projects overran because of poor estimates and not because of mistakes. Getting better estimates will not lower costs but will improve NASA's business reputation. Actually, there is a high probability that getting better estimates will increase costs and assure a higher profit to industry unless the fee is reduced to reflect lower risk on the part of industry. A better reputation is necessary in the present environment.

Rule #74: All problems are solvable in time, so make sure you have enough schedule contingency—if you don't, the next project manager that takes your place will.

Rule #75: The old NASA pushed the limits of technology and science; therefore, it did not worry about requirements creep or overruns. The new NASA has to work as if all projects are fixed price; therefore, requirement creep has become a deadly sin.

Rule #76: Know the resources of your center and, if possible, other centers. Other centers, if they have the resources , are normally happy to help. It is always surprising how much good help one can get by just asking.

Rule #77: Other than budget information prior to the President's submittal to Congress, there is probably no secret information on a project—so don't treat anything like it is secret. Everyone does better if they can see the whole picture so don't hide any of it from anyone.

Rule #78: NASA programs compete for budget funds—they do not compete with each other (i.e., you never attack any other program or NASA work with the idea that you should get their funding). Sell what you have on its own merit.

Rule #79: Next year is always the year with adequate funding and schedule. Next year arrives on the 50th year of your career.

The Customer

Rule #80: Remember who the customer is and what his objectives are (i.e., check with him when you go to change anything of significance).

NASA Management Instructions

Rule #81: NASA Management Instructions were written by another NASA employee like you; therefore, challenge them if they don't make sense. It is possible another NASA employee will rewrite them or waive them for you.

Decision Making

Rule #82: Wrong decisions made early can be recovered from. Right decisions made late cannot correct them.

Rule #83: Sometimes the best thing to do is nothing. It is also occasionally the best help you can give. Just listening is all that is needed on many occasions. You may be the boss, but if you constantly have to solve someone's problems, you are working for him.

Rule #84: Never make a decision from a cartoon. Look at the actual hardware or what real information is available such as layouts. Too much time is wasted by people trying to cure a cartoon whose function is to explain the principle.

Professional Ethics and Integrity

Rule #85: Integrity means your subordinates trust you.

Rule #86: In the rush to get things done, it's always important to remember who you work for. Blindsiding the boss will not be to your benefit in the long run.

Project Management and Teamwork

Rule #87: Projects require teamwork to succeed. Remember, most teams have a coach and not a boss, but the coach still has to call some of the plays.

Rule #88: Never assume someone knows something or has done something unless you have asked them; even the obvious is overlooked or ignored on occasion, especially in a high stress activity.

Rule #89: Whoever said beggars can't be choosers doesn't understand project management, although many times it is better to trust to luck than to get poor support.

Rule #90: A puzzle is hard to discern from just one piece; so don't be surprised if team members deprived of information reach the wrong conclusion.

Rule #91: Remember, the President, Congress, OMB, NASA HQ, senior center management, and your customers all have jobs to do. All you have to do is keep them all happy.

Treating and Avoiding Failures

Rule #92: In case of a failure:

• a) Make a timeline of events and include everything that is known.

• b) Put down known facts. Check every theory against them.

• c) Don't beat the data until it confesses (i.e., know when to stop trying to force-fit a scenario).

• d) Do not arrive at a conclusion too fast. Make sure any deviation from normal is explained. Remember the wrong conclusion is prologue to the next failure.

• e) Know when to stop.

Rule #93: Things that fail are lessons learned for the future. Occasionally things go right: these are also lessons learned. Try to duplicate that which works.

Rule #94: Mistakes are all right but failure is not. Failure is just a mistake you can't recover from; therefore, try to create contingency plans and alternate approaches for the items or plans that have high risk.

Rule #95: History is prologue. There has not been a project yet that has not had a parts problem despite all the qualification and testing done on parts. Time and being prepared to react are the only safeguards.

Rule #96: Experience may be fine but testing is better. Knowing something will work never takes the place of proving that it will.

Rule #97: Don't be afraid to fail or you will not succeed, but always work at your skill to recover. Part of that skill is knowing who can help.

Rule #98: One of the advantages of NASA in the early days was the fact that everyone knew that the facts we were absolutely sure of could be wrong.

Rule #99: Redundancy in hardware can be a fiction. We are adept at building things to be identical so that if one fails, the other will also fail. Make sure all hardware is treated in a build as if it were one of a kind and needed for mission success.

Rule #100: Never make excuses; instead, present plans of actions to be taken.

Jerry Madden, Associate Director of the Flight Projects Directorate at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center