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Jul 24 17

So….you think you can read?

by admin

I recently had the opportunity to help someone filling in an application. I’m going to name him Tom. The specific scenario is not relevant to this little story and I certainly would never intentionally embarrass someone by publicly naming them and declaring them to be illiterate.

The reason that I started helping Tom was because I recognized that he was having difficulty answering some of the questions on the form. Being the sensitive person that I am, I asked ‘are you able to read English?’ I didn’t mean to insult him, and in fact in this same environment I’ve had many people ask me for help and tell me straight out that they couldn’t read English. In some cases, it was because English was not their native language, and in many other cases it was because they never learned to read. I am very comfortable with a person admitting that they can’t read and asking for help. What concerned me in this circumstance was that Tom was insulted by my question because he felt that he could read English.

The most basic definition of illiterate is “unable to read or write”. Well, Tom could read English…at about a 3rd grade reading level. Is that literate? At that skill level most people can read most one-syllable words and for longer words are able to phonetically sound them out and decipher the meaning. On this particular form there happened to be many larger words and Tom was sounding them out aloud. And getting a lot of them wrong!

For example, if the correct word was ‘process’ he might interpret it as ‘positive’. If the word was ‘medicinal’ he might come up with ‘medical’. Close yes, but close enough to understand the real meaning of the sentence? No! It was not! And as I stood there watching him struggle and trying to sound out the words, I really sympathized with him and offered assistance because he was answering incorrectly. And the reason was because as he misunderstood the actual word, he then interpreted the context of the question incorrectly and gave an incorrect answer. Answering this form incorrectly was definitely going to have a negative impact on the outcome for Tom.

When I asked him if he would like some assistance with it, he became indignant and angry with me and refused my help. He proceeded to answer incorrectly and I watched helplessly as he burned this opportunity by submitting incorrect information on the form.

It reminds me of trying to read Shakespeare. I decided one time to become more cultured by enjoying the complete works of Shakespeare. I read a few plays and really thought I understood. Then a while later I re-read one of the plays but this time with footnotes and I discovered that while we will find many words in Shakespeare that are still in use today…the meaning was completely different in the Bard’s time. It turns out I didn’t understand at all! I didn’t get a lot of the humor. I missed a lot of the sex. Darn!

Well…here’s my point. Currently there are around 250 million people able to vote for President. The voter turnout is usually just over half of the eligible voters, so about 140 million people elect the president. Think about your state, or county, or city or town. How many people are voting for your elected representatives. On what are they basing their decision?

Do they only listen and not read? That means they have to make a decision based on someone’s verbal interpretation of the facts, which are almost always represented in a very one-sided way. This person voted for this bill. Why? What else was in the bill? Why did they vote that way? What is their real voting record and how will they vote on the bill that you really care about?

If they are reading, then they are not only dependent on the perspective of the writing, they may be misinterpreting the facts because of a basic misunderstanding of the words themselves, or the context in which they are used.

This leads me to believe that it is increasingly important to have discussions and debates. Unfortunately, the ability to have a reasonable discussion is quickly going away. Civil discourse is replaced by heated arguments. Compromise based on mutual interests is replaced by one-sided positional stances. Talking politics over a glass of wine is replaced by polite, trivial, and meaningless dialog because nobody wants to offend anyone.

We need to learn to disagree without being disagreeable. And we need to continue to learn. Sometimes, a 140 character sentence just isn’t enough…especially if a word is mispelled.

Jun 15 17

Agile: the future has arrived!

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Peter Drucker cautioned that managers need to be concerned less about predicting the future and pay more attention to “The futures that have already happened”. Well it’s happened again; the future is here! Agile is out of the box and is no longer an arcane idea restricted to a radical cohort of software developers who claim to finally have the answer to on-time and on-budget project performance. The wide acceptance of Agile methodologies is evidenced by the Project Management Institute offering the PMI_ACP, an Agile-based certification, and the inclusion of Agile methodologies as a valid alternative on Federal contracts.
The major principle in Agile is to be able to deal proactively with continuously evolving inputs and goals. As requirements are amended, added, and updated…so must the project baseline be amended and updated. Agile is not coming, it is here. Whether you plan to implement a hybrid approach combining the positive attributes of traditional project management with agile concepts or your goal is to become a purely agile environment, you are sure to be exposed to agile over the next few months.
We encourage you to check out this month. The home page leads to a couple of great, albeit short (thus adding to the greatness), articles about the challenges and rewards of introducing agile into a development environment. Is there an area of project management should we not be agile? Can Agile principles be applied in your environment? Definitely something to think about.
I’d love to hear more about your agile implementation. Is it pure or hybrid? Was it easy and well-accepted or did you have to drag your team members kicking and screaming into it? And most importantly – what value-add did the changeover provide?

Jun 13 17

Are you a Happy Project Manager?

by admin

Science indicates that the happier we are, the more productive we tend to be. Reference the work of Professor Wright at Fordham or the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley. When we are happy, our lives are more balanced, we do higher quality work and our output is more sustainable. So the question becomes HOW to make ourselves happier? Studying happiness is one way and there are a few tips listed in the attached article. And curious project managers the world over are wondering….HOW DO YOU MAKE YOURSELF A LITTLE HAPPIER AT WORK?



Aug 26 16

The Cost of Doing Nothing

by admin

The cost of doing nothing

While it is a fact that the value of effective project management and impactful leadership training can be measured in dollars and days these quantitative metrics only tell a part of the story. In fact, the direct costs are only the tip of the iceberg when we consider the real costs of ineffective communications.

Studies show that organizations with mature communication processes are as much as 25% more effective in meeting original goals. On-time and within budget execution can be improved by more than 30% through effective communication. (PMI Pulse of the Profession™ In-Depth Report: The Essential Role of Communications (2013)

It’s easy for almost anyone in a leadership position to observe this phenomenon and understand the impact. When effective and timely communications are taking place the team knows what to do. They understand expectations and work together collaboratively to solve problems. The people encourage and help one another. Motivation, innovation, and creativity are evident and abundant as the team holds itself accountable and responsible to deadlines, values, and goals.

While this truth is obvious to all it is much easier to discuss than to implement. Organizations grow and evolve like trees with the trunk being the core values, missions and visions. Branches grow in multiple directions at varying rates depending on their circumstances and environment. Relationships with other branches and in some cases luck (not being on the side of the tree that gets struck by lightning) affect the rate and direction of growth. Smaller branches representing projects and teams each with a set of leaves to enable and facilitate the growth and productivity of those branches.

As organizations grow, mature, and evolve, communication between branches can become obscured. Without an effective communications process and protocol, communications can become strained and even scarce. In the absence of real information, people tend to fill in the gaps with obsolete data. Rumors and gossip become rampant and all of this results in declining team performance.

Effective communications are often cited as the root cause for a plethora of symptoms including low employee morale and high turnover. The ability to facilitate effective meetings, resolve interpersonal conflict, and understand how to get things done quickly and effectively in fast-paced environments is challenging, rewarding, and absolutely essential to marketplace leadership, reduced employee turn-over and excellence in execution.

And so, the cost of doing nothing? 25-50% reduction in efficiency. This means either increasing the size of the staff or risking team burnout through overwork. Using only a 10% improvement attribute, this means that for training investment of $10,000 you get back $100,000 of value for every $1 million dollars of budget. While more difficult to measure, the intangible aspects of the ROI including improved morale and reduced turnover must not be overlooked! These hidden costs can literally bring operations to a halt. There is no question about the value of implementing an effective communications process. The only question is how soon can we begin evaluating and evolving your processes to help your teams achieve new levels of excellence, engagement, and employee satisfaction?

Jun 20 16

5 Tips for Improving Your Project Communications

by admin

Image result for communication

Everybody’s talking about it…the problem. We all know what the problem is and it seems ironic that the problem that everybody is talking about is communication! Ask anyone involved in the American workplace today and they will tell you that the problem is communication. In one form or another the problem is communication or more often, the lack of it. The PMI has studied the problem with respect to project management and it turns out…the problem is us! We, the Project Management Professionals, are not communicating properly. Or efficiently. Or effectively.

One of the ways in which we are communicating poorly is by communicating too much. Why? Because when we hear that the problem is communication we inherently respond by communicating more! This seems logical to the point of obvious and yet for the most part, it is ineffective and, well… just plain wrong. By communicating too much, too often, to too many people we become completely ineffective communicators!

Communication involves the successful transfer of information. It requires message transmission, reception, comprehension, and acknowledgment. Without all of the components working properly the system fails. If your inbox is flooded with hundreds of messages how many and how much of each do you read? How carefully do you listen to your team members when you are under pressure to get something done and they interrupt you with questions? Do you stop what you’re doing? Five minutes after they leave your office can you remember what you discussed?

Project managers are struggling to keep up. Time management seems impossible and the effort feels futile because saved time quickly translates to more work! For that reason, we focus on priorities. If we want our communications to be effective they need to be the priority for the recipient! That person is carefully guarding their own time and likely to be filtering messages based on importance to them. Not its importance to YOU!

So here are five tips to get YOUR messages through!

  1. 1. The right information to the right people at the right time

Prioritize your messages. When emailing, save the message to draft and read it completely before sending. Read it from the perspective of the recipient and determine if your message is complete and concise. Will they understand it without all of the background information in your brain?

  1. 2. Be brief, be sincere, be seated

The famous quote from FDR is really about public speaking, and it applies to all communications. The briefer the better. Think about when and how your message is likely to be read. The 140-character rule is a great place to practice. Make all of your communications tweetable. The reason people don’t like long emails is that they are hard to read at red lights.

  1. 3. Stop, Look, Listen

This advice is typically given to prevent being run over by a train. Now the train that’s coming is some problem on your project that your team member is trying to tell you about…and you’re not going to understand it unless you do these three things when they come to talk with you. Stop what you are doing. Look at the talker…make eye contact. Listen actively, aggressively, intently. Ask questions. Make sure you understand the issue!

  1. 4. Don’t get your daily exercise by jumping to conclusions

As a Project Manager you are going to hear about problems. Lots of problems. Some of them are real, many of them are not. To help you decide if you need to take action, ask yourself a question…is this issue causing now, or going to cause, a performance problem for your project. While there may be action required by you, if there is a performance problem you MUST ACT quickly and decisively. You have many challenges in this position and you simply cannot afford performance problems on your team.

  1. 5. Think now, speak later

If you pause before you speak it not only gives you time to think about your response it projects an image of intelligence. If you are in a hurry to get out of a conversation, chances are your response is formulating in your mind while the speaker is talking. This results in interference in your brain. This “noise” often prevents us from doing a good active listening job which leads to our response not being perfectly appropriate to the situation. In the words of Abraham Lincoln “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.”

Dave and Lisa write from Frederick, the home base for their company, Leadership Techniques, LLC. Join Lisa and Dave for their upcoming class, Collaborative Communications Strategies. Their entertaining and engaging presentation style elicits interesting interactive discussion from the attendees so that everyone can learn more effective ways of communicating both in and out of the workplace.

Effective communication is the key to success for today’s Project Manager’s. Come and discuss your challenges and discuss what is working and what is not. How are intra-generational communications fitting in to your environment? What benefits and challenges are brought forth by having baby-boomers working side-by-side with Gen X, Y, and Z? How does dialect fit in? How about flexibility? Today’s work environment is becoming increasingly flexible for individual employees which makes planning meetings very challenging indeed!

Come and help solve your communication challenges. Let’s talk about it!!