Friday, April 27, 2012
No excuses; Even if you are managing cross boundary, expansive projects and managing Virtual teams.
There are many moving and sometimes, non-moving parts to a virtual team that makes managing them more difficult. Here are a few tips and techniques to follow:
- Set clear project objectives and expectations for your team. Clearly communicate the project objectives, schedules and individual roles and responsibilities. It is important that everyone knows what they are doing, how their work contributes to the project, what other team members need from them, and why. Though everyone can work independently, it is important to keep the links in place and to repeatedly communicate and state the team’s objectives. Failure to do so can be catastrophic for the success of a project.
- Set the rules and tone early. At the beginning of the project it is crucial to let the team members know what is expected of them. Status reports, participation in conference calls, hours of availability, and deliverable schedules are essential parts of managing virtual teams.
- Understand and respect different cultures. This is very important if you are managing team members of different regions and/or in different countries. First Learn and then Honour your team members’ cultural differences and their right for personal commitments and religious practices.
- Choose the most effective technology to aid communication. The anchor of every virtual team is communications and the technology used to support it. Even as fuel prices soar, flying the team in for a meeting each week is not realistic. So, online chat, conference calls and webinars are much more effective. There are a number of technologies available such as Instant Messaging, Online LiveMeeting, Skype, and many other tools that support video and Web conferencing. Check that these tools are available, suitable and work efficiently in all your regions and countries. In addition, there are collaboration tools that allow team members to share and collaborate on documents such as SharePoint, Dropbox and many more.
- Be very specific about time commitments. Never 'assume' or leave something to chance. Make sure that all team members know when deliverables are due. Make sure it is clearly definied in your project plan and, if needs be, draw them their own expanded section. You have failed if you have to remind them the day before. You never, ever want to have them scramble to get something done before close of business the next day. The chance of success will be nil or the quality of the deliverable will be greatly reduced.
- Get the team together on occasion. Although it is expensive to bring remote teams together, it is a necessary element to managing a virtual team. To build and continue team chemistry, gathering the team together strengthens personal relationships and working partnerships in both the short and long term. Never underestimate the importance of building better relationships through team camaraderie and rapport.
- Three hundred and sixty degree communication. The bottom line: you are the conduit for communications, the motivator and problem solver but when the team is working well, stay out of their way. Empower and trust your team to make proper decisions by working with each other and make sure you are not the bottleneck by insisting that all communication be channeled through you. After all you are not the project, you are just the project manager.
Sunday, April 22, 2012
Today would’ve been the 287th birthday of iconic German philosopher Immanuel Kant, father of the Categorical Imperative. To celebrate, here’s a witty and illuminating 3-minute digest of his life’s work from the wonderful Three-Minute Philosophy series.
Saturday, April 21, 2012
Sunday, April 15, 2012
Have questions on how to get started with Rypple Social Goals 2.0? Watch Meghan Gendelman from our Customer Success team as she demonstrates a new way for teams to stay focused on what really matters and make progress on shared goals.
In less than an hour, you'll learn: * What's new in Social Goals 2.0 * Why customers like Spotify use it * How to make it work for you
You can also watch the live Q&A with our VP of Product at the end of the presentation.
While the perilous unknown may be the stuff of sci-fi and doomsday movies, the potential for more mundane or fiscal danger is always around us.
This should not provoke paranoia but rather a healthy sense of vigilance as well as skepticism. Executives need to be vigilant about what could happen next. By all means consider pandemics, earthquakes and wars, but also be skeptical about their effects on their organisations.
For example, if financial executives had been more vigilant and skeptical prior to the fiscal meltdown of 2008 some businesses may not have found their institutions so over-leveraged.
Clearly, we say this from the moral high ground of Hindsight, which is always 20/20.
So what is a savvy executive to do? Three questions come to mind.
What is the worst that could happen to us?
This question prompts many scenarios from a natural disaster to a market crash, or even the entry of a significant new competitor who changes the balance in the market place. What happens then? Executives need to keep their antennae up and do their Risk Assessments and sound Business Continuity Planning.
How would we react?
Very often companies do have BC or disaster plans but are they robust and up to date? Do they stipulate what happens when resources are not available or executives and employees are separated from each other?
Do we have the right people in place to recover?
This is perhaps the most important question. Very often members of a leadership team are equipped to manage when the going is good, but what happens when the bad gets into fear and panic?
The senior leader must ask if these people have the right mindset to adapt to evolving and changing circumstances.
Flexibility becomes an imperative, but so too does resilience. You need leaders who can cope with setback and maintain the discipline to persevere.
Big questions provoke big picture thinking. Very often such questions will cause real unease, or at least a sense of disruption and that is healthy.
If a catastrophe strikes disruption will be significant. So what will you do to survive?
Saturday, April 14, 2012
The event has been the subject of books and movies, but it also provides a few stark illustrations regarding project management mistakes and oversights.
Here are seven lessons that relate to the sinking itself and three that involve the recovery of the victims.
1: You need to know what you’re measuring
The lack of lifeboats is a well-known matter, and it certainly played a role in the number of deaths. However, according to the regulations that applied at the time, the Titanic DID have “enough” lifeboats?
According to the standards in effect at the time, the WEIGHT of a ship, not the number of passengers, determined the number of required lifeboats. Needless to say, these standards changed as a result of the inquiries into the disaster.
This principle applies to your own projects. In his classic work The Mythical Man-Month, Frederick Brooks points out how far too often a project reaches the point of “coding 90% complete,” only to remain that way forever.
Brooks says, milestones should be objectively measurable. If you do not have valid measurements for your project, you will run into problems.
2: Assumptions will kill you
A few hours before the collision, wireless operator Jack Phillips received a message from a nearby ship, telling him of icebergs in the area.
However, Phillips at the time was taking care of messages to and from Titanic passengers and in doing so, was communicating with a lighthouse at Cape Race, Newfoundland.
Unhappy with what he considered a bothersome message, and assuming it was unimportant, Phillips replied brusquely, “Shut up, I am working Cape Race!”
As a result, Phillips never received the iceberg warning the ship was trying to send.
How often have you seen things blow up in your face because of assumptions? Maybe you assumed that a particular system was using a newer software release than it actually was.
Maybe you assumed that another department or someone else, would take care of ordering cable. Maybe you assumed that the vendor received our critical email message and didn't need you to call to check.
Assumptions are important in your work, but if you proceed on the basis of them, make sure everyone is clear about what assumptions you are making.
3: Distractions are dangerous
Of course, when we look back, we can always find fault with the actions of Titanic officers and crew.
Clearly, they must have known about the risks of traveling through “Iceberg Alley” so, they should have focused the wireless operators less on passenger messages and more on communication with other ships.
The Phillips incident, therefore, illustrates another hazard to project management: that of being distracted.
How often do you start your work with the best intentions of completing your to-do list, only to become sidetracked by chatting with co-workers or surfing the Web?
And you are not alone in facing distractions. If enough members of your team encounter enough distractions, your project will gradually wander of course and fall behind.
4: Little things add up
A number of small factors played a role in the Titanic disaster. Allegedly, the lookouts had no binoculars, because those binoculars had been left behind at Southampton, where she began her voyage.
Jack Phillips interrupted a ship trying to send him an iceberg warning and neglected to deliver an earlier warning.
While no one factor can be said to have “caused” the disaster, the effect of all of them made the disaster all the more likely.
Brooks asked rhetorically, “How does a software project get to be a year late? One day at a time.”
He explained that if a major event or problem occurs, a project team rallies and steps up its effort.
However, such a team can fail to appreciate the issues of small delays and how those small delays add up.
In other words, the small delays are just as critical as the large ones, meaning that adherence to milestones is critical to the success of a project.
5: Stakeholders should be kept informed
Following the iceberg collision, the nurse for the Allison family, in first class, took one-year-old Trevor Allison from the family stateroom without saying where she was going.
She and Trevor boarded a lifeboat and were rescued. However, because Trevor’s parents didn’t know about it, they spent the rest of the time looking for Trevor, turning down chances to escape in a lifeboat.
As a result, the parents and their other child, three-year-old Loraine, died when the ship sank.
Your own project might not be as critical as a sinking ship but your stakeholders need to know about the status and progress of your project. Keeping them informed will keep them happier.
6: Other people’s perspectives matter
One of the victims of Titanic was 23-year-old John Law Hume, a member of the band. A few weeks after the sinking, the company that managed the band sent a letter to his father, asking for payment for his son’s band uniform.
Even although such a request made financial sense from the company’s perspective, it almost certainly sounded insensitive to Mr. Hume.
In the same way, when explaining aspects of a project, especially by technical members of your project team, try to see things from the other person’s perspective.
If a client asks a question, try to see beyond the question itself to the motivation behind the question.
If a technical person is explaining a function of a system or program, make sure the explanation avoids jargon. Clear communication will lead to happier clients.
7: Moving targets can hurt you
The Titanic was one of three new ships the White Star Line had built, around that time. The company’s strategy was to emphasize luxury, not speed, as a selling point.
Yet during that maiden Titanic voyage, White Star chairman J. Bruce Ismay reportedly pressured Captain Edward Smith to increase speed.
This higher speed quite likely contributed to the collision, in preventing the ship and crew from reacting quickly enough.
In your projects, beware of “scope creep.” A typical customer, if there is such a thing, will say, “Can you make just this one small change please?”
The fact is, any change is rarely “small.” It typically involves making other changes to other parts of a system, results in greater complexity, and requires more testing.
Make sure that your customer knows that in a project world governed by quality, time, and budget, at least one will have to yield.
Be sure your customer understands the implications of a requested change, the need for change control and ensure that the customer’s expectations are appropriately set.
8: Traceability is essential
A few days after the sinking, rescue ships based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, set out to recover victims and to return them to Halifax.
As each victim was recovered, he or she was numbered accordingly. The recovery crew recorded information and a description of the victim in a ledger book and then bagged personal effects with that same victim number.
If that victim was later buried in Halifax, and 150 victims were buried in three cemeteries there, then that victim number was engraved on the grave marker.
The victim number allowed researchers and others to link victim and property descriptions, to the cemetery location.
The same kind of traceability is important in your projects. How familiar are you with the strategic objectives of your company?
Can you find a logical connection between the requirements of your project and those strategic objectives?
Of course, the connection might be a distant one, but there should be a connection nonetheless but if you can find no such connection, you start asking yourself whether that requirement really is part of your system.
9: Methodology is more important than technology
When the recovery crews were recording victim information, they used regular ledger notebooks and pens, obviously, no one had iPads, computers, or barcode scanners in those times.
Nonetheless, the methodology they used had solid reasoning behind it, so it proved highly effective.
In the same way, you might want to use sophisticated planning and tracking software and tools.
More important, though, is that your plan be resilient. The best software in the world will not save a poorly designed plan.
10: Documentation may have lasting benefits
The documentation of the recovery records are still kept in Halifax, at the Public Archives. Researchers in Halifax and from around the world still visit and review this documentation, one hundred years after the fact.
A few years ago researchers made use of these records, and DNA analysis to identify the “Unknown Child of the Titanic.”
No one enjoys documenting a project or system but it is a necessary part of it. Documentation is often the 'most' important part of the project because it will exist long after the project team has been disbanded.
Documentation probably won't need to exist for a hundred years, but it should still serve the purpose of helping your customers understand their system and allow them to build on what you have already accomplished.
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
81 billion minutes spent on social networks and blogs
64% of all mobile phone time is spent on apps.
42% of tablet owners use them daily while watching TV.
For the first time, the numbers of laptops have surpassed desktops within TV homes.
social media, women rule. As you can see in Nielsen’s report, women too rule Gen-C. Specifically, they rule social media and online video and TV viewership.
With smartphones, men and women are tied in adoption.
With tablets however, men rule.
Meet Generation C: The Connected Customer - Brian Solis