Archive Page 2

Using Networks to Expand Your Influence


Networking (who you know) expands your influence by giving you access to personal and professional resources . . . anytime and anywhere in the world.

We can use social networks to build useful project management relationships that are mutually beneficial. Networking cannot be a one-way thing. The more we create a structure of support throughout our project management world, the more we are able to demonstrate positive influence, build useful alliances and healthy coalitions . . . that can help us deliver projects on target, on time, and on budget.

Our most productive project work is done by, with, and through others. We work with and through others to produce results by:
• Gaining their support and buy-in
• Utilizing their knowledge and expertise
• Receiving their sponsorship
• Understanding what they need from us.

Networking supports successful project influence in three ways:
• Provides rapid access to people and their support when you need it
• Builds your understanding of people’s priorities, perspectives, and personalities
• Enhances your information, expert, and personal power.

Effective project leaders network throughout the project management life cycle.

We network with stakeholders by:
• Identifying them and eliciting requirements
• Acquiring, developing, and managing resources
• Planning risk management.

We network within the organization by:
• Building and maintaining relationships
• Following up on tasks and activities
• Leading the project team.

Relationships and knowledge, rather than positions, achieve results by:
• Finding out what’s going on
• Knowing who to talk to.

You can build up diverse networks within:
• Your immediate environment (office, building)
• Your business or organization
• Your industry
• Broad groups (Rotary, Chamber of Commerce, business groups)
• Online communities.

The more networks the better!

Are you a member of social networking sites (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) and business networks (LinkedIn, Plaxo, etc.)?
Here are some examples of opportunities to network:
• Make contacts at social gatherings
• Attend conferences and technical seminars
• Become known in expert Internet groups
• Utilize online networks to stay in touch with business contacts
• Join professional organizations
• Volunteer for expert committees

According to Remidez and Jones, project management requires communication practices that go beyond transaction confirmation to include managing relationships, building trust, and managing stakeholder expectations. It seems likely that project managers can enhance the communication effectiveness of teams by incorporating social media. Therefore, it is important for project managers to understand the relationships among communication practices, trust development and the affect that social media have on them as they apply to the execution of projects. Not only is it important for practitioners to understand these relationships, but researchers and project management software vendors would benefit from understating the role of social media in managing projects.
Question: What steps can you take to increase your networking and the potential of your networks to increase your influence?

For more on how to use networks to expand your influence, have a look at Learning Tree, Intl. Course #297: Personal Skills for Professional Excellence.

James L. Haner

The Project Manager’s “No Swerve Zone”


Projects can have a lot of moving parts and a lot of people making decisions that impact those moving parts.  People come with their own set of parts, including their personalities, their productivity and their ability to work well with others in a team environment. Some of these complications are just the way things are, but not all of them.  Seems like there are areas where we can try to simplify our projects and avoid being like those drivers who create a lot of noise when they swerve into another lane while making a simple left turn

Watching this driving style got me thinking about the projects I am working on and the people who are members of the project team. Perhaps this need to over-complicate things extends into the project and people realm at work has the same source as people who turn by using your “right of way” lane when the turn lane doesn’t seem big enough.  Why is it that a simple turn becomes so difficult to accomplish in a simple way?  Why is it that a simple project task becomes so difficult to complete on time and within its scope? Why do some people just make things more complicated than they need to be?

Some people come with the built-in ability to take the shortest, most efficient path to their goals.  Other people seem to complicate things for themselves and for others on their way to the same finish line.  I read an interesting article about how effective leaders can keep things simple.  Authored by Elizabeth Cipolla, the article “Don’t Overcomplicate Your Leadership” points out three simple ways for project leaders to stay focused and follow the simple path.

1. Just act. When people make a mistake, discuss what happened and find a solution with the individual or with the team. Then you can move on and get the real work done for your project.

2. Shut up.  Listen to your team and to your people. Sometimes their ideas about what we are doing and how we are doing it are the right way (and the simplest way) to get ‘er done on our projects.

3. React to fact. Watch the emotion and react to the facts and the logic of the situation versus the emotions that can get in the way of effective decision-making and problem-solving on our projects.

My car driving experiences lately have been entertaining to say the least.  I have watched other drivers take simple turns to the left or the right and make them into overly complicated efforts. This is especially true when they swerve out of their turn lane into my lane and force me to swerve my own vehicle in order not to have a collision. What’s up with these folks?  I think they need to “react to fact” and stay in their own turn lane for everyone’s sake and safety!

Happy simplification and welcome to the project’s “no swerve” zone!

Susan Weese

Reference:  Cipolla, Elizabeth, “Don’t Overcomplicate Your Leadership”, The Post Journal, 22 September 2013,  retrieved from http://www.post-journal.com/page/content.detail/id/628610/Don-t-Overcomplicate-Your-Leadership.html?nav=5003

10 Tips to Deal With a Snoopervisor


snoopervisor (noun) : a supervisor who lurks about in a sneaking and meddlesome manner in order to spy and gain information about his/her employees. Henry said he tries to keep to himself while at work because he is always afraid his snoopervisor will get some dirt on him. (from www.m-w.com)

snoopervision (snoo.pur.VIZH.un) n. A management or regulatory style characterized by intrusiveness or excessive prying. —snoopervisor n. —snoopervise v. (from wordspy.com/words/snoopervision-asp)

A snoopervisor is a project manager who is motivated by fear and is always trying to catch you in some kind of mistake.

Snoopervision – the most dreaded management style in the project leadership world. Research suggests that the greatest stress factor on any project is “Having a snoopervisor for a project leader.”

A snoopervisor constantly checking on the project team members to see that they carry out his decisions. Someone has said, “snoopervisors are generally so narrow-minded they can look through a small knot hole with both eyes.” Do you know anyone like this? Some project leaders “lead” project teams this way to help overcome frustrations, or because of ignorance of a better way to lead.

If you have a snoopervisor for a project manager, what can you do about it? Calvin Sun, from TechRepublic, offers these 10 tips to cope.

1: Avoid responding in kind

If your boss acts like a jerk, becomes abusive, or is freaking out, your initial impulse might be to do the same thing. Fight that temptation, hard though it might be. Repaying “evil for evil” accomplishes nothing and only makes the situation worse. If you maintain your professionalism, it will make a positive impression on those who are watching or those who hear about it — including possibly your boss’s boss.

Here’s an extreme example, but one based on a true incident. Suppose you’ve just sat down at a restaurant with your boss, and the latter becomes agitated that there are no menus. Rather than get agitated yourself, perhaps because the boss is blaming you for the lack of menus, try to stay calm and simply say, “Boss, the menus are on the way.” Repeat as often as necessary.

2: Document your work

Keep track of your accomplishments and of compliments you get from co-workers or managers of other departments. Record the date of these incidents. When documenting these items, try to record as well the significance of the accomplishment. What problem existed at the time? What would have happened had you not acted? How did your action have a positive effect on the entire organization? Keep this information on a system other than your work computer or company network – that is, keep it in a place where you can still access it even if you leave or are terminated.

3: Use objective measures

When documenting your accomplishments, try to use objective measurements. If you’re on a help desk, for example, “I resolved that ticket promptly” is a meaningless statement. However, “I resolved that ticket in three hours, compared to the departmental average of five hours,” carries more credibility. If you’re in a call center, similarly, a statement that “I answered 80% of my calls within the second ring” is preferable to “I answered my calls promptly.”

4: Confront with evidence

It’s easy for a boss to yell at you based on statements you yourself make. It’s harder if you confront the boss with detailed data, in particular data that has objective measures. So when your boss complains that you’re not answering calls promptly, share your data. In doing so, you’re telling the boss implicitly (or, if you’re brave enough) explicitly, “Boss, you can be angry all you want, but the data favors my position.”

5: Be clear about performance measurements

The objective measurements are also important when you are setting your performance measurements. Having subjective standards makes it easier for your boss to rate you poorly. Having objective standards, assuming you’re doing your job and meeting them, makes it harder for the boss to do so.

6: Keep your network active

Maintain your connections with other people in your company, or even outside your company. Stay active with alumni from your school or college. Be active in community affairs. Doing so keeps you visible and can help you find another job in the event you decide you need to or you’re forced to part ways with your boss.

7: Don’t burn bridges

If you do part ways with your boss, you might be tempted to “unload,” given that you have nothing left to lose. Fight that temptation and try to be gracious. Did you learn anything at all of value from the boss? In particular, was there a time when you thought the boss was wrong, but it turned out the boss was right? Say so. Though not impossible, it would be really hard for even a bad boss to react negatively to such statements by you.

Being gracious will make a huge impression on others. Besides, you never know if you might run into that boss again later in your career.

8: Learn from the experience

A corollary to Murphy’s Law tells us that “Nothing is ever a waste of time. It can always serve as a bad example.” In your case, take some time to analyze why your boss is a bad boss. Just keep in mind that people have different perspectives. Your boss might be reacting to factors and influences you might be unaware of. While that fact doesn’t excuse bad behavior, it can explain it. In any event, doing such analysis can help you if you later become a boss, because you’ll have figured out what NOT to do.

9: Use humor to cope

Humor is a great way to deal with unpleasant situations — hence the need, in movies and television, for comic relief following a tense scene. Rather than be upset about a past encounter, try laughing about it. You could even take it one step further. For example, you could predict what area the boss will first be upset about tomorrow or what time the boss will first become upset that day, then comparing your prediction with what actually happens. While it could be politically risky, you could even start an office pool with co-workers who have the same difficulties – such as establishing an over-and-under on the number of times the boss blows up.

10: Be careful when talking to the boss’s boss

Do not slander a servant to his master, or he will curse you, and you will pay for it.

You may have a chance for a one-on-one meeting with your boss’s superior. If so, that person might ask about your boss. Be careful what you say. Be aware, in particular, that criticism of your boss could be taken as criticism of your boss’s boss and could cause you even more problems. Remember the old saying, “Don’t criticize your wife’s judgment. Look who she married.”

If you do choose to say anything at all about your boss, focus on the behavior rather than the person. Rather than say, “[Boss] is really disorganized,” it’s probably better, if you say anything at all, to say, “It’s hard to focus when priorities keep changing.” But a far safer alternative is to encourage any desirable behavior from your boss. For example, you could say, “Boss’s practice of doing [x] really helps us. I hope he/she keeps doing that.”

For more on how to deal with a snoopervisor, have a look at Learning Tree, Intl. Course #290: Management Skills.

James L. Haner

Making “Rules of Thumb” Decisions


We all have our own “rules of thumb” or heuristics that we use to make business, project and even personal decisions. Funny how using those rules can result in making poor decisions, isn’t it?  Over the years, I have found that decision-making always comes with an “it depends” clause and an optional “do nothing” clause. I have also discovered that sometimes my own “rules of thumb” can produce questionable decisions and results on my projects.

Recently, I read an interesting article about using heuristics to make decisions called “Decision Making 101: Rules of Thumb” by Dr. Woody. In this article, the author categorizes “rules of thumb” decisions in a very clear and usable way based upon his interview with Mitch Maidique, executive director of the Florida International University Center for Leadership.

According to Maidique, “rules of thumb” are a decision-making shortcut that people use versus a gut feeling or intuition. These “judgmental heuristics” are based upon each person’s personal experiences. Seems as though it is those personal experiences that can actually get the decision-maker into trouble. Like anything that is based upon one individual, the “rules of thumb” developed from those experiences range the gamut from being quite pertinent to being unrealistic.

In order to effectively use your own “rules of thumb”, you need to understand and sort your rules into a set of usable buckets. In some cases, you will need to challenge your rules and see if they hold up to logic and scrutiny. Maidique recommends that you sort your rules of thumb into three buckets: green, yellow, and red.

Green: Think of your green “rules of thumb” as your positive fallback rules when you are in a new situation.  For most of us, these rules were learned as children and reflect the basic values and manners from our upbringing. It is amazing how these rules can lead to positive outcomes most of the time.  For example, one of my own green “rules of thumb” is to always be honest with people. I have always found this rule to hold true in almost any decision-making situation – personal, project or business.

Yellow: Everyone needs to recognize that “rules of thumb” are often specific to a certain environment, such as our workplace, our business associates or our families. Yellow “rules of thumb” are context-driven and situational rules.  These rules can backfire on us if we use them outside of their specific context. One of my yellow “rules of thumb” is to remember that I am no longer the manager or the subject matter expert when I am at home eating dinner with my family.  The decision-making rules that work well in my office or client site do not always translate well at home.

Red: User beware! The red “rules of thumb” are in this bucket for a reason. Red rules are driven by our emotions versus being driven by logic and experience. You need to recognize and filter your “rules of thumb” that are driven by or impacted by your emotions, particularly the negative emotions like anger, revenge and fear. I can see how this happens, particularly in my personal life. It is easy to allow the red rules to govern the decisions you make concerning family or team members, particularly someone you are angry with or whom you think has wronged you in the past. According to Maidique, the red “rules of thumb” are often used by people who believe they are above the law or don’t have to follow the same rules as everyone else. Does this describe anyone you know?

As part of identifying and categorizing your own “rules of thumb”, the author recommends that you ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are your typical fall back “rules of thumb” for making major decisions?
  • What life experiences do these “rules of thumb” come from?
  • When have these “rules of thumb” worked for you and when have they worked against you?

Making good decisions a mix of both art and science. Perhaps it is time to take a look at and categorize your “rules of thumb”.  Then you can keep the rules that work well for you and stop using the rules that do not work well.

Happy categorizing!

Susan Weese

Reference:   Decision Making 101: Rules of Thumb” by Dr. Woody, retrieved from http://www.foxbusiness.com/personal-finance/2011/02/14/decision-making-rules-thumb/

Building a “Just Right” Set of Project Requirements


How hard can building a complete, comprehensive, consistent, and understandable set of project requirements be? We all know that our project requirements should not just be a jumble of information.  The trick is making sure that we structure and organize those requirements properly so they define what is needed at the correct level of detail. Effective business analysts are masters at defining the level of abstraction or detail for their project’s requirements and then using that information to select the right requirement modeling technique or techniques.

The BABOK® Guide can help you get this job done as part of structuring and organizing requirements. This standard defines business, stakeholder, solution and transition requirements, which provides you with a starting point and a set of “buckets” for the different levels of abstraction or detail found in your project requirements. For example, business requirements are high-level and focus on the big picture of what an organization requires in order to address a business need. Solution requirements are far more detailed, providing a basis to design and develop the capabilities needed in a new solution and its components.

Business analysts can then factor in their selected levels of requirements abstraction and the names of those levels into their requirements elicitation and analysis activities.  Once you know what you need and the level of detail you are seeking, you can also determine what requirements modeling approach and techniques will support your requirements development efforts.

Remember, models are abstract and simplified views of what capabilities are needed in your project’s solution. There are five general modeling concepts that the BABOK® Guide recommends you consider using as part of your requirement modeling activities. Each concept  or area of focus has one or more specific modeling techniques that can be used.

User Classes, Profiles, or Roles. These models categorize and describe the people who directly interact with the solution, grouping them by their needs, expectations and goals for that solution. Roles often correspond to project stakeholders, and are identified during stakeholder analysis. User classes, profiles and roles are used by a number of common requirements analysis models, including organization models, process models, and use cases.

Concepts and Relationships. Concepts show us something in the real world, such as a person, place or thing. They define facts relative to that something and its relationships with other concepts. Business analysts can take this approach one step further, using data models as part of requirements analysis modeling to describe the attributes associated with a particular concept or set of related concepts.

Events. Events are triggers that prompt the business or a solution to respond to the event and do something, such as processing a customer order that has just been placed online. Events can be internal or external to the business, and can occur randomly or at regularly scheduled times. The stimulus-response flow of events is used by a number of common requirements analysis models, including scope models, process models, state diagrams, and use cases.

Processes. Process models are like a series of events without any trigger. Processes are series of repeatable activities performed by an organization involving its people and systems. Processes describe who does something and when that something must be done. Processes are used by a number of common requirements analysis models, including organization models, state diagrams, and use cases.

Rules. Rules guide how people make decisions within an organization. They guide how information about something can change and define the range of valid values it can change to. Rules often reflect organizational priorities, and are often embedded in process models, state diagrams and use cases.

Check out Learning Tree’s introductory business analysis course if you are looking for a great way to get started or fine tune your skills as a business analyst on your projects.  This course allows you to practice and fine tune your skills in writing and modeling the requirements for your projects and their proposed solutions.

Happy requirements modeling!

Susan Weese

Five Short-Term Coping Mechanisms for Project Management Pressure and Stress


Every successful project leader faces pressure and stress when attempting to deliver projects on target, on time and on budget.

Use these five specific strategies to help yourself deal with pressure and stress in the short term.

1.       Be your own supporter: Be a friend to yourself rather than beat yourself up!

YOU have to be on YOUR own side to be a successful project leader. No one knows YOU better than YOU know YOU. Accept YOUR strengths, limitations, and project challenges.

2.       Acknowledge your concerns by writing them down: Consider using a personal journal. Develop an action plan to reduce the problem. Make a list of all the good things you have.

You may not know what is causing your stress, exactly how your body responds to stress, or how you cope with stress. To find out, www.webMD.com suggests you use a journal to keep track of each time you feel stressed.

Write down:

  • What may have triggered the stress. Guess if you aren’t sure.
  • How you felt and behaved in response to the stressful situation (symptoms of stress).
  • What, if anything, you did to cope with the stressful situation.

Look over your notes to learn how often you are feeling stressed and how you are coping. Ask yourself which ways of coping with stress work best and which don’t work or have other effects you do not like.

The more notes you take, the more you can learn about your stress patterns. Keeping the journal for 1 to 2 weeks is best, although taking notes for even 1 or 2 days can be helpful.

3.       Release your emotions: Disperse aggression that can result in stress. Counter anxiety with laughter.

  • Music. Write a song about what is bothering you. Music has the power to move you deeply and has the power to heal.
  • Confide in someone. If you feel you can’t talk to the people in your “Friends & Family,” look somewhere else. Be honest with yourself.
  • Talk to pets or nature. If you’re uncomfortable talking to people, try an animal or nature.

 4.       Distract yourself: Occupy yourself with useful activity. Focus on a time past your current problems.

Here are some suggested thoughts and involvements to consider from Stress Management for Dummies:

  • Recall something in your life you’re grateful for
  • Remember something good that happened to you
  • Think of something you’re looking forward to
  • Go to the gym
  • Read a book, newspaper, or magazine
  • Watch some television
  • Go to a movie
  • Talk to a friend
  • Work or play on your computer
  • Play a sport
  • Immerse yourself in some project or hobby
  • Listen to some favorite music
  • Work in the garden

5.       Set aside ‘worry time’: Cut down on worry by limiting the time you give to it. Challenge your worries – what good are they doing?

When people with adjustment disorders, burnout or severe work problems used techniques to confine their worrying a single, scheduled 30- minute period each day, they were better able to cope with their problems, a new study by researchers in the Netherlands finds.

The study made use of a technique, called “stimulus control,” that researchers have studied for almost 30 years. By compartmentalizing worry — setting aside a specific half-hour period each day to think about worries and consider solutions, and also deliberately avoiding thinking about those issues the rest of the day — people can ultimately help reduce those worries, research has shown.

“When we’re engaged in worry, it doesn’t really help us for someone to tell us to stop worrying,” said Tom Borkovec, a professor emeritus of psychology at Penn State University. “If you tell someone to postpone it for a while, we are able to actually do that.”

The new study was published in the July issue of the Journal of Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics.

Self-reflection:

It’s important that you build self-awareness of how to respond to pressure and stressors in your life. Giving your best performance in all areas of your life is what being an excellent project leader is about.

To help you cope with pressure and stress, please take 10 – 15 minutes to reflect on and respond to the following questions:

  • What are the current stressors in your life?
  • What other stressors might you have to face in the near future?
  • What are the current stressors that affect you personally on your project?
  • What impact does workplace stress have on your working environment and your personal life?
  • How well do you deal with pressure?

For more on how to handle pressure and reduce your stress, have a look at Learning Tree, Intl. Course #297:  Personal Skills for Professional Excellence.

James L. Haner

Care and Feeding of Your Company’s Intrapreneurs


While many managers may not currently be familiar or comfortable with the concept, it certainly is time for change where the intrapreneur is concerned. It’s time to update the management training courses, seminars and books and get folks on the bandwagon. Intrapreneurs are your corporate innovators; the people who are lateral thinkers, have great ideas and know how to make those ideas a reality for your business.

In their post in the Harvard Business Review blog titled “Recognize Intrapreneurs Before They Leave”, Vijay Govindarajan and Jatin Desai take a closer look at the risks companies take when they do not perform the proper “care and feeding” of their in-house entrepreneurs, who are also called by the term “intrapreneurs.”  The authors list the top 6 behavior patterns of successful intrapreneurs.  These patterns are very interesting because they are not what I thought they would be.  Here these patterns are, in summary, for your review.

  1. Money Is Not the Measurement. I totally get this one. According to the authors, the primary motivation for intrapreneurs is “influence with freedom.” Rewards and money are great, but they are not the reason why an intrapreneur is an agent of change within an organization.
  2. Strategic Scanning. I have worked with these agents of change and watched them always look one step ahead of everyone else to the next best thing. Wish this was a skill that could be bottled up and sold to everyone. Just think of the great ideas we could come up with by being one step or more ahead of the game when it comes to change.
  3. Greenhousing. Intrapreneurs remind me of gardeners, bringing the seed of an idea to fruition over time before sharing that new idea with the rest of us. As the authors say, intrapreneurs “…tend to ideas in their greenhouse, protecting them for a while from potential naysayers.”
  4. Visual Thinking. I am married to a visual thinker and it is truly amazing to watch my husband combine brainstorming, mind mapping, and design thinking in order to solve a problem or do something differently.
  5. Pivoting. Intrapreneurs feel no need to stick to the normal path or corporate strategy – that’s what makes them such effective agents of change. The authors list a few examples of pivoting.  For example, Steve Jobs pivoting Apple from an education and hobby computer company to a consumer electronics company.
  6. Authenticity and Integrity. Intrapreneurs are typically not mavericks. After all, you can be honest and true and still be a corporate innovator and “get ‘er done” staff member.

Perhaps it is easier in some roles to be intrapreneurial and appreciated by your company, especially if your job was always intended to be that type of job.  When that is not the case, it may be difficult for the person having innovative ideas and their managers to know exactly what is expected and how to handle successful internal innovations.  I suppose one response to this could be to minimize the visibility of the situation and keep moving on in “business as usual” mode.

Seems to me that intrapreneurs create momentum for other folks within the organization. There are folks out there who are creative, enthusiastic and ready to take risks to do great and wonderful things within the organization. For their fellow staff members, the opportunity to ‘come along for the ride’ and possibly find an incentive to become their own agent of change is an excellent opportunity indeed.

Does your organization promote an environment where its intrapreneurs feel safe to share their ideas, both good and bad?  Financial bonuses also provide incentive for folks to share these ideas, although intrapreneurs don’t seem to care so much about the money.  Striving for a win-win is the way to go, although it seems like a delicate balance in some companies. .

It almost seems as though having intrapreneurs in your business creates a sort of Catch-22 situation. The intrapreneur is giving their idea to the business to do with as they will, so it isn’t actually just their idea once it is shared, is it? I wonder if this causes many folks not to share their ideas so they can still keep them as their own.  I would hate to think about how many great things were not shared that could benefit not just the individual but also the organization and its customers.

Susan Weese

Reference:  “Recognize Intrapreneurs Before They Leave” by Vijay Govindarajan and Jatin Desai, retrieved from http://blogs.hbr.org/2013/09/recognize_intrapreneurs/


Learning Tree logo

Project Management Training

Learning Tree offers over 210 IT and Management courses, including Project Management training and Business Analysis training.

Enter your e-mail address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by e-mail.

Join 265 other followers

Follow Learning Tree on Twitter

Archives

Do you need a customized Project Management training solution delivered at your facility?

Last year Learning Tree held nearly 2,500 on-site training events worldwide. To find out more about hosting one at your location, click here for a free consultation.
AnyWare live, online training

*PRINCE2® is a registered trade mark of the Cabinet Office.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 265 other followers

%d bloggers like this: