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Top Management Resource - 2012

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Do YOU Create Failure, By Failing to Be Creative?

Do you Create Failure, by failing to be creative?

An essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail. – Edwin Land Jake watched his teammates go back and forth over how to solve their latest challenge with the new system. He was fairly confident that he had an approach that would work. He felt conflicted. Part of him wanted to bring up his approach and talk it through with the team. The right people were sitting together to help him try to walk through his concept. The other part of him was hesitant. He knew his idea was unconventional. It did not violate any rules or regulations. It was simply different. The proverbial ‘out of the box’ thinking. Just last week one of his teammates had suggested a creative approach to a problem and before anyone else could comment on it, she had been silenced by their project manager who looked at her and in a very condescending tone of voice said, “That idea is pure fantasy.” Jake did not feel like being on the receiving end of a similar comment. Jake waited for the meeting to end. Then he contacted a few of his teammates and asked them to join him for lunch. He warned them that it would be a working lunch and that he wanted to share an idea with them. At the local sandwich shop Jake shared his idea and asked them to help him think it through. None of them asked him why he did not bring up the idea in the meeting. In fact, after deciding that his idea would most likely work, the conversation turned toward how they could get the project manager to pay attention without shooting the idea down because it was new and different and creative. They almost gave up. Eventually they came up with a plan to test the idea and hold a demonstration of exactly how it would work. Look at all of the extra time and energy that Jake and his teammates spent. It would have been more efficient if Jake had felt that it was OK to express creative ideas in front of his project manager. The right people were together in the meeting in order to brainstorm and discuss his idea. His idea could have prompted others in the room to add to it or to come up with other creative alternatives. Some of those ideas would absolutely not go anywhere beyond the conference room. But a few of those ideas would have led to better and more efficient solutions. Of course the good news is that Jake found a way to move forward with his idea. We will never know how many other good ideas simply died because of a project manager who did not appreciate or encourage creativity.  
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What’s in YOUR 90%?

communication-Project-managersA Project Manager spends 90% of his or her time communicating.
Really? Yes really! But if I spend all day talking on the phone and sending texts and emails and attending meetings when I am supposed to get my other work completed?? THAT is a question that many students ask me when this topic comes up. Smart question. I am glad they ask because:
  1. It makes me feel better because I used to have that exact same question too
  2. It opens the door to a very important discussion (which is MUCH more important than making me feel better).
The deliverables that you create as a project manager are meant to help bring the project to a successful completion. The deliverables that you create are meant to make it more likely that you and the team will meet your project objectives. Have you ever tried to meet a goal without a clear definition of that goal? It is pretty frustrating isn’t it? Enter your project management deliverables as a form of project communication. Each deliverable that you create throughout the project is actually a form of project communication. Let’s step through this together. Let’s assume you start with a project charter.  That charter serves as an announcement about the project. Hopefully your charter describes the project, discusses what is known about the scope, the schedule, the budget, the risks, the assumptions and constraints and also your authority as the project manager. Announcement, describes, discusses – these words indicate a communication is taking place. Your charter is approved – excellent! Perhaps you create some initial roles and responsibilities documentation. The purpose is to share information about who is on the team and why. Share information – sounds like project communication to me. Of course you want to go on and define your scope so that your sponsor and other stakeholders have a full understanding of what you and the team are creating as part of this project and equally as important what you are NOT creating as part of this project. Perhaps after the scope is presented for review and approval you create a WBS or work breakdown structure. Your WBS will show how the scope translates into the creation of deliverables and those deliverables are made up of achievable work. Your WBS shows that. You take that and create a schedule and budget, now with all of these deliverables in hand you are telling the world (OK, your world of stakeholders); what is happening, when it is happening, who will do it and how much it is going to cost. Presenting scope, translating scope in work, telling the world what is happening and when? Aha, communications in project management yet again. Let’s stop here. You can apply this type of thinking to each of the project deliverables that you and your team members create. The fact that we have not gone through and discussed every project deliverable possible does not mean that they are NOT forms of project communications too, it is simply that at this point you are either with me and onboard or you have moved on. (I sure hope you are still with me!) If the project management deliverables you are creating cannot be used as project communications, please revisit your approach. Please do think of each and every project management deliverable that you create as an opportunity to communicate. An opportunity to remind, clarify, confirm and inform others all about your project, the importance of your project, the strategic reason for your project, what will happen, when it will happen, who will do it and how we will know. Before you know it when you encounter this statistic: “A Project Manager spends 90% of his or her time communicating.” You will say, “Hmmm that seems kind of low to me.”  
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Do YOU Tell Stories?

storytellingAre you a storyteller? Before you protest and assure me that you do not tell lies, consider the question. I asked - are you a storyteller? Not are you a liar? Some people equate storytelling with telling lies. That is not where I am going with this. I want to know if you can tell a good story. I want you to be able to tell a good story. A good story might accomplish any or all of these:
  • Defines a vision
  • Teaches a lesson
  • Motivates
  • Fosters understanding or empathy
That is why I want you to tell stories. A good story starts with some new situation or new information. Typically the protagonist(s) face a challenge. Sometimes the challenge is of their own making or stems from some unresolved issue in their past. In order to overcome this challenge our protagonist(s) must push themselves or dig deep and master some skill or knowledge that he or she has never mastered before. A happy ending means that our protagonist either rises to the occasion or becomes an ever better person due to his or her failure. An unhappy ending occurs when he or she does not meet the challenge and does not become a better person because of it. As a leader you tell stories. Maybe every story is not an award winning drama, but the stories that your team remembers grab their attention and keep their attention. The stories that your team remembers stay with them because they relate to or emphasize with a character in the story. Something like this: “Do any of you know Danny? I bet some of you do. Danny works in our customer service center. If you have ever called in early, it was probably Danny who took your call. He always opens up the office. Well two days ago Danny opened the door and was knocked over by a flood of water. He said he practically body surfed it out to the parking lot. He’s Ok. But as you might have guessed, the office is not. Danny and his team are doing their best to work remotely and our customers are being fairly understanding. Of course we want to help and if Danny can body surf a wave to the parking lot, we can put in extra time to help him and his team have the equipment in place to do their work.” It takes practice. You will know when a story is good when you hear your team members retelling it later or when it comes back to you from another source or even better when your story fosters a change in the behavior in some or all of your team members. Happy Story Telling!  
If you enjoyed this blog posting, then you may enjoy our bi-weekly ezine Turning Point for FREE tips and insights to discover A Path to Peace……!
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The Art of Planning

Planning-word-art-photoArt is not about thinking something up. It is the opposite - getting something down.” - Julia Cameron You have heard it said that project management is both an art and a science. The above quote helps reinforce this, or at least to me it does. It reminds me of planning. Sometimes planning is about getting something down. There are those who will not move forward until every detail of the project is planned. There are those who move forward with no plan. The right person can make a strong case for either approach. It is not easy to make a convincing case for no planning. It is also not easy to make a case for knowing every single detail before you begin to execute your plans. But to those of you who help plan open-heart surgery and nuclear reactors and airplanes, thank you for having detailed enough plans so that the rest of us may live to enjoy your work. For many of us the plans we make at the beginning of our projects will change. That does not mean that we do not try to create meaningful plans. It means we create plans that provide enough information in order to determine whether or not we can meet project objectives and map out an achievable approach to meeting those objectives. When I am teaching a class I like to remind everyone that good planning does help to save time, money and reduce errors. But if plans did not change, we would not have project managers and project management courses. We would have planners and courses on creating the perfect plan. Then we would be done, because nothing would change. That’s not how it works. Good planning is about getting something down. (Did you wonder when I was going to come back to our quote and the comparison to art?) We do the best that we can with the information we have on hand at the time. We do our research and we confirm as much as possible and we get it down in our plan. Then when things change (and they will), it is not about lamenting the change. It is about looking at the plan and the whole plan and understanding how the change impacts our ability to meet project objectives. We update our plan and artfully move on. This week, be artful.  
If you enjoyed this blog posting, then you may enjoy our bi-weekly ezine Turning Point for FREE tips and insights to discover A Path to Peace……!
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Time for an Attitude Adjustment? Make These 3 Changes Today

attitudeAdjustment250x225You want to continue to grow in your career and add to your success. That means adding to your knowledge base and to your toolkit. It means that you exhibit the right attitude. Your success often comes down to who you are as a human being and how you behave. On that note and with a brief imaginary drum roll… here are 3 attitudes to help move your forward. Be Flexible – The way to the top is not always straight up. Sometimes you move sideways, and then up. While you remain in the same position waiting for that promotion, others who are more open minded are moving ahead. Before you disregard an opportunity, consider what you have to gain. Does it allow you to learn something new about your organization or industry, add new skills to your portfolio, expand your network or help you build stronger working relationships? You will be compared to others who have shown that they are not afraid to try something new. Be Likeable - Being likeable is a skillset. You have the ability to be liked. Ability is something you can cultivate it is not an all or nothing trait. Project work is accomplished through people. When everything else is equal, people choose to surround themselves with people who they enjoy. When people enjoy working for you, they are willing to go the extra mile for you and you have a better selection of the most qualified resources. How? Think before you speak. Be sincere and be kind. Treat everyone around you with respect. Be a leader whom others admire. Be Low-maintenance - Ask yourself this: “Do I make life easier for the people I work with, or do I make life more difficult, am I high-maintenance or highly valued?” If you do not know the answer, ask someone you can trust. Napoleon Hill said, "It is literally true that you can succeed best and quickest by helping others to succeed." No matter how important your title may be or how high your salary is, you are serving others. When you come to the office you are there to serve others. When your actions depict service, others will take notice. There it is, 3 attitudes you can adopt right now, today, this week and from this point forward. If you already do all of this, then way to go AND how about teaching this to one of your team members?  
If you enjoyed this blog posting, then you may enjoy our bi-weekly ezine Turning Point for FREE tips and insights to discover A Path to Peace……!
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