Posts Tagged 'project leadership'

Top 10 Workplace Trends for 2014


According to China Gorman, CEO of the Great Place to Work Institute, the Top 10 workplace trends for 2014 are:

  1. Millennials make their mark
  2. Global goes global
  3. Talent, talent, talent
  4. Investing in development
  5. Values training
  6. Wellness matters
  7. Employers up the ante
  8. Always on work environments
  9. Using inspiration to motivate
  10. Forward thinking

Just based on these 10 trend titles, you can pretty much define what the meanings are behind these trends. FYI, the Millennials are the generation with ages ranging from the early 20s into the early 30s. Some generational models call the Millennials by another name, Generation Y or “Gen Y”. My daughter will turn 32 in April, and is right on the cusp between the Millennials and Generation X. There are several trends in this list that I identify with, starting with “Wellness matters”.  The other two trends in my top 3 are “Investing in development” and “Employers up the ante”.

“Wellness matters” Seems to me that wellness really does matter more these days. In fact, wellness has actually become an employee benefit.  Many companies offer incentives and in-house programs focusing on wellness, such discounts on programs like Weight Watchers, in-house yoga classes and on-site gyms.  My daughter is a big fan of incentives such as these, and it seems that a large proportion of Millennials in the workplace will use these incentives when they are available.

“Employers up the ante” Many companies have gotten better at upping the ante (and raising the performance bar) by recognizing happy employees equal a happy bottom line. The benefits many businesses offer to their workforce are competitive and are a great way to attract new hires and keep the staff that they already have. This also links into the motivation and inspiration trend, don’t you think?

Investing in development” I have been lucky enough to spend time consulting and training with large firms who want to put more efficient and effective project management processes in place and teach everyone how to use those processes correctly. Investing in development and values training fall right in line with what I have been observing. Many companies go to great lengths when developing and training their people. Enhanced staff skills can definitely have an impact on customer service, satisfaction and the bottom line.

I am curious, which of these 10 trends do you identify with the most?  Do you think the trends you prefer are related to your age and generation, or is it a bit more complicated than that?

Susan Weese

Reference: Madell, R. (2014). U.S. News Money Careers. Top 10 Workplace Trends for 2014. Retrieved from http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/outside-voices-careers/2014/01/07/top-10-workplace-trends-for-2014

 

Adding Thought Diversity to Your Project Teams


 “The future of workplace diversity is here, and it’s not what you think. In fact, it’s how you think.” — Alison Griswold

In Griswold’s article, “Why ‘Thought Diversity’ is the Future of the Workplace”, she looks at the idea that diverse thinking methods are the next trend in workplace diversity. What a great focus for today’s project managers and hiring managers as they build their teams and organizations.

Seems to me like the demographic trends in today’s workplace are not the “barn burners” that they used to be. The combination of HR training programs and the existing acceptance and tolerance of diversity found in our younger staffers allows many organizations to thrive on diversity.

That makes these organizations and their project teams ready for Griswold’s thought diversity. “By mixing up the types of thinkers in the workplace, … companies can stimulate creativity, spur insight, and increase efficiency.” Perhaps it is time to vary the types of thinkers we have in our organizations and on our project teams.

Just think of the possibilities of building a team containing thinkers of many different types.  I would like to have analytical thinkers, problem solvers, creative thinkers, detailed planners, and spontaneity seekers all on the same team and see how things go.  Sure seems like varying the types of thinking in an organization or on your project teams will encourage everyone be more innovative and think “out of the box.”

Thoughts?

Susan Weese

Reference:  Griswold, Alison. (2013). Why ‘Thought Diversity’ is the Future of the Workplace. Retrieved March 20, 2014, from http://www.businessinsider.com/the-future-of-workplace-diversity-is-here-2013-9

Lessons in Leadership from Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos


After the Denver Broncos Super Bowl loss earlier this year, it took me a while to realize that there were some positive lessons to be learned from watching my favorite team lose at the very end of the season.  My husband and I are serious Broncos fans, which means we always watch the whole game from start to finish, win or lose. In this particular game, the team and its quarterback provided a number of lessons on leadership and some things I think will work very well on my projects and with my teams.

Here is my list of leadership lessons learned from the Broncos loss in this year’s Superbowl and Peyton Manning’s behavior, both on and off the field that day.

Lesson 1: Never stop trying.  As the Broncos got further and further behind, the team continued to play their game.  After watching the Broncos play all season, it was painful to watch their offense be ineffective against the Seahawks.  However, the team stayed on the field and in the game right up to the bitter end.  Seems like a good approach to getting your projects completed, too.  Never retreat and never surrender.

Lesson 2: Be gracious, even in defeat. After the game, one of the first things Peyton Manning did was to walk over to Richard Sherman of the Seahawks and ask if he was okay after injuring his ankle and leaving the game.  After a game in which Sherman led the Seattle defense at smothering Manning and the Broncos offense, Manning still sought out Sherman after the game to ask Sherman about his ankle injury. I agree with Sherman about this: “To show that kind of concern for an opponent shows a lot of humility and class.”

Lesson 3: Don’t play the blame game. People are more important than their mistakes.  I will never forget Manny Ramirez, Denver’s center, hiking the ball over Peyton Manning’s head in the Broncos first offensive play of the game. After the safety, cameras showed Manning and Ramirez on the sideline briefly talking. My guess is the conversation was about not doing something like that again.  Sounds like a good example of how to handle issues and problems on your project team – discuss the issue or problem with no finger-pointing or raised voices.

Lesson 4: Mind your manners. I found it funny how the only team captain among the eight to shake the hands of honorary captains Joe Namath and Phil Simms after the coin toss was Peyton Manning. His mother must approve, I know my mother called me and mentioned this very thing after watching the game.  Good manners are never a bad thing, in football or when working on your projects.

Lesson 5: Get over it and move on. Peyton Manning stopped to sign T-shirts and autographs on his way out of MetLife Stadium Sunday night after the loss to Seattle.  Enough said.

I am looking forward to the next football season and hoping to see the Broncos in the Superbowl once again! Stay tuned…

Susan Weese

Project Outsourcing Does Not Equal Simplicity


How’s that project outsourcing working for you? In my experience, entire projects or just some of the project work can be outsourced for a number of reasons.  Sometimes organizations are required to outsource project work due to a lack of resources, lack of skills or a need to reduce costs. Whatever the reason for outsourcing all or part of your project work, project managers need to be prepared for an additional layer of complexity within their project structure once outsourcing takes place.

I grew up working on Information Technology  (IT) projects, and it was no surprise for me to read that IT takes first place in most studies for the percentage of outsourced jobs. According to many of these studies, the most popular destinations for these outsourced jobs these days are in India, China and the Philippines.

Let’s take a look our projects and see where outsourcing might have an impact on our project, our project plan and our internal project team members.  There are three key parts of our project life cycle: the controlled start, middle and end of the project.

Controlled Start. The controlled start to a project includes the pre-project activities where we determine if this is a viable and worthwhile project for the business. A project’s controlled start where we do more detailed planning for both our overall project and the next stage. At the end of initiation, we should have our project scope finalized, our project plan built, and be ready to get to work.  Outsourcing can add some serious tasks here, such as making the decision to outsource work in the first place.  Once the decision is made, we need to get the approval and the funding for the outsourcing that is to take place.  Then it is time to find the right contractor, consultant or consulting firm to work with.  Vendor selection requires negotiating the proposals, bids and resulting contracts.  And don’t forget to clearly define and agree upon the requirements for the scope of work.

Controlled Middle. The controlled middle of a project is where the technical work gets done, one stage or phase at a time. The project manager is using the plan to measure and monitor project performance and to control what is taking place. When we are outsourcing project work, everything we do needs to include the vendors – regular status, informal conversations, checking the health of the project, dealing with stakeholders, forecasting future performance, and dealing with issues and risks.

It can be challenging to rely on an external person or a company to get your project work done.  Outsourcing adds some overhead to the project manager’s day job, including managing the administrative overhead of outsourcing for accounts payable purposes. Someone has to educate the outsourced staff members on our internal project processes, procedures, goals and operational requirements.  It can be a challenge to track project progress without direct authority over the outsourced staff members.  What do you do when you find yourself, the project manager, relying on project team members that may not be “visible” to you or that you have never actually met face-to-face? You may find yourself juggling priorities as you managing your outsourced team, your in-house team and any resulting issues that occur.

Controlled End. A controlled end to a project is when we are wrapping up a job well done. We are taking stock of achievements, reporting on the effort, ensuring objectives and acceptance criteria are met and transitioning the final product of our project into its operational life.  If you are outsourcing work, be sure to plan for knowledge transfer to operationally maintain your project’s solution and deliverables after your outsourced team is gone.

Seems like outsourcing is just like any other tool project managers use for project definition and delivery. As such, outsourcing must be carefully weighed, planned and managed as part of your project to ensure project success.  So, how’s that project outsourcing working for you?

Susan Weese

What are the Three Kinds of Focus Every Project Leader Needs?


According to Daniel Goleman’s new book FOCUS: The Hidden Driver of Excellence,

1) An inner focus for self-awareness and self-management;

Many consider flow to be an ideal state. That’s when your concentration is utterly absorbed – and you’re most likely being challenged. You’re better able to tune out your mental chatter because you’re fully engrossed in a task. That can feel great since you’re not only being productive, but you’re also not distracted by negative self-talk or ruminations.

The opposite is when we are facing a challenging situation or a fearful experience. An “emotional hijacking” renders us unable to function appropriately. We can overreact or underreact, demonstrating nonassertive behavior. Here is a way to remember fear:

FEAR = False Evidence Appearing Real

  • Imagining the worst that could possibly happen
  • Create mental stories not based on fact
  • Limiting our ability to think rationally
  • Scaring ourselves into inaction

We need to become more aware and begin to anticipate those circumstances in which emotional reactions are just that – reactions. Understanding our emotional and mental habits and setting an intention to recognize them will help us respond appropriately to the real not imagined circumstances we are facing.

2) A focus on others for empathy, clear communication and interpersonal effectiveness;

Goleman tells this story. Think of two people who work in your organization: one a level or two below you, and the other a level above. Now imagine getting an email from each of them. Ask yourself how long it would take you to answer those emails.

Chances are the one from above you respond to right away. And the one from below you are likely to answer when you can get around to it.

That difference in response times has been used to map the hierarchy in an organization. And it reflects a more general principle: we pay more attention to those who hold more power than we do – and notice less those who hold less power.

Here is what Ruth Malloy, global managing director of the Hay Group Leadership and Talent practice, has to say about the positive behaviors of a boss (project leader) that make us stay at our jobs.

Best Boss (Project Leader)

  • Takes an active interest in me, listens to my perspectives and concerns
  • Is self-aware; open to feedback, has a sense of humor about himself – comes across as genuine
  • Inspires me around the goals of our organization; lays out a vision that I find consequential and energizing.
  • Provides feedback and support in a way that is encouraging and helpful; empowers me
  • Has a positive outlook, even tempered – even under stress

3) and a systems focus.

“Systems blindness is the main thing we struggle within our work,” says John Sterman, who holds the Jay W. Forrester chair at MIT’s Sloan School of Management.

One of the worst results of system blindness occurs when project leaders implement a strategy to solve a problem — but ignore the pertinent system dynamics.

“It’s insidious,” says Sterman. “You get short-term relief, and then the problem comes back, often worse than before.”

The problem gets compounded by what’s called the “illusion of explanatory depth” where we feel confidence in our understanding of a complex system, but in reality have just superficial knowledge.

After some practice, you can improve the three kinds of focus every project leader needs.

James L. Haner


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