Personal Acceleration: Five Ways to Get More Done Each Day

clock-head-tinyThere are many methods you  you can use to get more done each day and here a few suggestions that are simple and effective and won’t cost more money.  In many projects, it may be a task or resource scheduling that prevents completion but the one area with the most control is how much you can accomplish in a day and for most people we are not even tapping into the potential that you have. Here are some ideas to make sure you are operating effectively while managing your projects.
Do Things You’re Best At
Do things at which you excel or no one else can do. The better you are in a key skill area the more you can accomplish.  Because you are better at these tasks  you will be able to get them done with less effort and have fun doing them.  It is important to become relentless at evaluating what work you are doing and who else on team can accomplish that type of work. Identifying what can be eliminated from your day and delegating will create more time and space so you can do your genius work and produce the highest impact and value from your activities.
Work Harder
Work harder than you are working today. You may be thinking this is not possible but it is.  If you can create an environment that allows you to have greater focus you will be able to work with greater intensity and accomplish more.  Being able to focuse without  distraction is a learned skill.  If you think about it, how often does that happen?  Usually you are on phone, email, instant messenger and not focusing on the strategic plan and follow through to make sure resources clearly understand work and will finish early.  You can work harder than anyone else, which is a key to great success that will pay back dividends.

Work Faster
You can work faster.  If you pushed the gas pedal down a little more, what is result?  Small changes in your speed will get it done faster and others will respond faster as well in work they are doing.  As leader of a project, you can develop a faster tempo that will carry through the whole team and often drive a higher commitment to accomplishing work faster.    By focusing on speed, you will need to cut time down on tasks and eliminates a lot of the factor of people waiting till a due date to finish work.  Its adopting a “get it done now” attitude and eliminating distractions.  When you combine working harder and working faster, you can get more done in a single day than most people get done in a week.

Batch your Tasks
You can batch your tasks as in manufacturing theory it is more productive and more is produced. It eliminates the constant shift from start and stop on different activities. By batching and getting like activities done together you can take advantage of learning curve and efficiencies that you can employ to get tasks done.
Make Fewer Mistakes
To get more done, you can focus on doing it right the first time.  You’ve heard it said, “there is never enough time to do it right, but there is always enough time to do it over.”  Take the time to make sure you have latest info and its understood clearly what is needed. Redoing work is never fun and causes frustration.  This can be as simple as verifying you have the latest version of file, validating the analysis or test criteria, checking on design requirements with customer or what ever is relevant to your work. One of the best time management techniques is to do it right the first time.

As leader of your team, it is important you continue to use strategies to boost output and accelerate work as others on the team will learn and model from your habits. Small improvements made across a team of 30 people  drives large boost in overall team output. Take action now and implement an improvement today.

Project: Vacation in New Zealand

When you have worked hard through a big project it is key to go rest and relax doing something you enjoy. My current project is to see as much of New Zealand for 25 days and then spend a week with family catching up for the holidays. So how does vacation relate to project management?  It is a project. You can choose to purchase a tour which is paying a company to plan and book in advance for you or you can self guide and plan it all in advance. Given I spend most of my time planning, I choose to approach vacation with a more casual approach by booking a destination, place ticket and travel guide with some general plans about route. Then I use the time travelling to plan the next destination, travel means and take advantage of talking with locals and other travellers about the best places to go. This ensure I have time for spontanaity and not missing the best places that may not be in the guidebook. I usually use a mix of accomodations sometimes camping, hotels or hostel type places based on what’s available. So far I have packed in kayaking, hiking, abseiling 100 meters, climbing through limestone caves, touring cities of Auckland, Wellington and many small townships along the way. A “helihike” is coming up soon at the Franz Joseph Glacier. I am very excited and looking forward to a great day!  New Zealand is an amazing country full of national parks, tons of lakes, coastal sights and hiking trails. It is also full of adrenalin boosting extreme sports and sky diving seems to be a popular activity with other travellers. The escape from projects and normal routine is inspiring me with many new projects and ideas for when I return. So take this as a reminder to make sure you take down time and go do your favorite activities or plan your next adventure to see the big amazing world out there to explore!  I will post some pics when I return.

Interesting Excerpt on Leadership Ideas

At Deckplate leadership blog, I found some interesting elements that really hold true through projects and leading groups. Read some of the ideas I liked or  the blog itself at http://deckplateleader.wordpress.com/

“There are a lot of “Be”s in “Being The Chief”, “Being The Leader”, or just plain “Being Successful”, but I believe these five “Be”s to be the most important in creating success:

  1. Be BOLD
  2. Be CREATIVE
  3. Be RELEVANT
  4. Be READY
  5. Be RIGHT

I think of these five “Be”s as being very dependent on each other much in the same manner as the Triangle Of Fire, where heat, oxygen and fuel are all the three mandatory ingredients for there to be a fire. You remove one element from the equation and it is impossible for a fire to happen. You remove one of these “Be”s from the equation and the result is failure.

If you apply these “Be”s in everything you do, whether it be at home with your family or achieving personal and professional goals, you will be successful in your ventures. If something fails however, or if you or your team fails at something, then take a look at this list and figure out which principle was not applied to the best of your ability and work harder in that area to prevent failure the next time around.

Be Bold

Being bold is NOT:

  • Being a jerk to get things done.
  • Being combative with everybody who disagrees with what you do in an effort to stand your ground.
  • Taking unnecessary risks.
  • Sticking out your neck for someone because you feel obligated to do so as a boss.

However, being bold IS:

  • Getting out of your comfort zones.
  • Being visible.
  • Taking on the hard jobs.
  • Being vocal up, down and across the chain of command.
  • Laying it all out on the line every single day.
  • Making a decision.
  • Not being afraid to make mistakes.

Getting Out Of Your Comfort Zones

You want to avoid being a one-trick pony and diversify your skill sets. When you stay within the confines of those things that you are comfortable with you become complacent and short-sighted. Worst of all, you will stymie your personal and professional growth. Get out of your comfort zone by taking the lead on projects that you may not have much experience in, or those jobs within your organization that you think you may not particularly like too much. In the end, the education you receive by learning how to do those things you might not have done otherwise will be priceless.

Being Visible

Speaking of getting out of your comfort zones, get out from behind your computers. Roll up your sleeves and get dirty from time to time. Walk the front lines, visit the troops. This will make yourself available for mentorship and development of your people. Remember, you will set the tone as the Deckplate Leader, and your actions will always….always….speak louder than your words. By getting out from behind your computer and spending time with your people you will be demonstrating their importance in your life because you are a busy person with a busy schedule, yet you still found time to see what life is like in the trenches first hand. And, hey, you might just learn something new about your field from one of your people that you may not have learned otherwise.

Taking The Hard Jobs

The hard jobs aren’t necessarily the jobs that are physically difficult to do, but rather the jobs that are important and need to get done with nobody willing to do them. This is what I like to call “Embracing The Suck” or “Leading In The Suck”. You have to pay your dues in order to gain credibility and increase your sphere of influence. And more often than not these will be those jobs that are WAY outside of your comfort zones.

Being Vocal

Doing the right thing is easy when everybody’s watching, it is much harder to do when nobody is looking though. I would argue that standing up for what is right is even harder. But you must be willing to speak your mind and provide valuable insight up, down and across the chain of command. Remember the analogy of the lumber jacks. They are ordered to cut down a group of trees, so they get all their equipment, figure out the overhead costs, and develop a timeline. Then they run out and start cutting down the trees in a forest. The leader is that person who speaks up and says, “Hey, we’re in the wrong forest!”

Laying It On The Line…Everyday

When you suit up in the morning you must be willing to play ball. I grew up playing baseball and football, and one thing that you learn early on is that once you commit you have to go all out. A half-assed effort will produce half-assed results. Part of what makes people successful is their passion. They show up to do business day in and day out. Mix this with a positive attitude and now you have a potent solution that will be infectious, and spread down to your teams. The Deckplate Leader sets the tone. They set the pace.

Making A Decision

Inaction is a horrible cancer that can bring an organization down to its knees. A successful leader must be able to make a decision. There comes a point when the analysis is complete, or as complete as it can be, and it is time to make a decision and execute. Sometimes, if not most times, you will have to be able to make a decision and hope for the best, with a 50/50 shot of your decision being the right one.

“The most difficult part of creativity, or innovation, is having the change last. You have to have sustainable innovation. How do you do that? Well, first, you can’t make changes just for the sake of making change. You know the addage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Everybody wants to make their mark and leave their legacy. But if it ain’t broke then don’t fix it. Maybe your legacy is that you kept a successful program from falling apart and passed on a good product to your successor. I will argue, though, that things can always be better and processes can always be improved. After all, times change, technology improves, old ways of doing things and normal routines become obsolete. It is our creativity that allows us to move with the times.

The second part of sustainable innovation is keeping it simple. The KISS rule applies here. Keep It Simple Stupid. Too much change is a shock to the system. You must manage it and pick away at the battles that you can win. Make sure that your change doesn’t create more work or cost more money. The goal is to become more efficient and cost effective, thereby producing more output with the same level of quality as there was before.

Another part of sustainable change is what we call “buy in”. This is not your father’s world anymore. It’s not a situation where the boss gets to bark the orders and the worker-bees just do it. There must be buy in from your subordinates. This means that you have to solicit the input and creativity of your replacements, our future leaders, to come up with a solution that the majority will approve of so that you have their buy in. More than likely, the workers will still be there after you leave. If you want your change to stick, then it will be those workers that carry out the job and pass it on. And if your successor ends up making a change just for the sake of change then it will not be well received, in a way forcing your successor to continue with your way of doing things or improving on your idea.

Now, I’m not talking about always going with the “group think” mentality. You are “The Chief” after all. If you know your people well enough then you won’t always have to consult them when implementing change because you will already know what the reaction will be. “Soliciting” in this case means talking to your people. Asking them questions and listening, really listening, to what they have to say.”

PM Strategies to Lead Effective Transitions

The role of transition leader is frequently overlooked but important aspect of program management. There are several keys that you can use to be a top performer.

· Gains support from and confidence of others. Change is not accepted and work cannot be done without the buy-in of key stakeholders. Building support early and frequently is a key to ensuring you have management, customers, team members or shareholders when needed

· Collaborate effectively. No matter how good a manager is, people will not follow without a sense of ownership in the organization. Working together at all levels of organization is critical. People look to see results and your ability to get results effectively and break through roadblocks. This is a fundamental to rapid results. In order to collaborate effectively, you need to focus on building relationships with customers, peers, and project team members.

· Takes accountability. As with any effective manager,successful transition leaders take accountability for their own work as well as that of the entire team that he or she manages. If the transition is structure change, project change, team member change there will be a lot of changing elements. To be viewed as the leader, you need to take accountability for the good and bad and keep communication strong.

· Inspires and motivates sponsor, stakeholder, customers and team. In order to manage change effectively in the organization, transition leaders need to have inspired employees and stakeholders. This can be a challenge as many people will view change as negative. The one constant these days is change, so helping people

· Communicates openly and often. Since change is such a complex and fearsome idea for process what it means and connect to what they do and contribute will mitigate the effect and keep project moving forward as it needs to. For most people, it is important for transition leaders to open the flow of communication and let people know what is undecided and what is decided so they are not left to speculation, rumors and growing fear develops. This holds true on a day-to-day basis as well and just becomes more critical during times of change.

· Provides clear direction. People want to know where program or project is headed. They want to know what roles and responsibilities are and they want to do a good job. Often, there can be a lot of distracters and inhibitors to people doing a good job. Stakeholders also need to understand where they are and where the organization is going. The action you can take leading through change is to link vision to goals of program and keep defining and redefining so people can understand and work to the needed results

· Create a culture of urgency – Often change becomes worse when prolonged as it can create a wait and see operating style. Creating the platform of why and what must be done with urgency will help force resolution and implementation more quickly.

· Creates opportunities for wins. The change involved in large scale and complex IT implementations often appears insurmountable to employees. Define interim goals and wins the team and individuals can celebrate. It is important to frequently reward and recognize team members to help boost morale and to keep change initiatives from failing due to a burned-out staff. It will help build momentum and feeling of accomplishment over long term projects.

Change is a constant. You can implement simple strategies to assist surviving tough transition and being the leader to help team thrive through change. It is important to practice these on a regular basis but step it up in a big way through transition times. It will ensure you delivery High Payoff Projects!


Project Tips: Learn to use “No” to keep projects on track

At Project Connections, here is a very practical article for learning and using the word “No”. The common default is that PM want to do it all but that is recipe for failure. In order to boost the success rate of your projects and ensure high payoff results, staying focused and using the hardest word will help you get there. This requires courage to use it and stop saying “yes” to impossible or “yes, but…”  that is misleading to the person hearing it. Read the full post for some practical tips in

The Hardest Word in the Project Management Vocabulary,  by Carl Pritchard, PMP, EVP  at link below

http://blog.projectconnections.com/carl_pritchard/2008/05/the-hardest-wor.html

7 Ways to Evaluate PM Effectiveness

Are you managing a large program? Are you a project manager? Regardless of your role, here are 7 simple ways to evaluate the effectiveness of PM you work with or even yourself. These are some general areas but keep in mind you may need to tweak the question to be more relevant if you manage software projects over construction.

1. How Effective is your Business Strategy to Project objectives defined by PM?

One of the primary functions of project management is to translate the business strategy goals into technical specs, operational goals or specific outcome. If this translation is not clear, stop and ask why and what is the effective translation that would make sense to someone not working on your project. That is how clear you should be able to articulate and will increase the effectiveness of delivering on the goals. The entire effort will be successful only if the business goals are effectively translated.

2. How does PM respond to change in strategy and/ or goals?

Changes in business goals are inescapable, especially in projects that have long timelines. The efficient way to finish a project may be to keep the timeline, however when strategy changes its likely some objectives in project have as well and efficiency will no longer matter if the wrong outcome is achieved. These are critical points in the project to evaluate what can be removed, what is a must have add, how does that impact other projects that are part of the program, what resource and schedule impact are there. If the resource and schedule impacts are not in line and reasonable, you need to review findings with stakeholders and keep adjusting till there is an achievable scope, timeline and budget.

3. How does PM facilitate design and development work?

The eventual success of a project is highly influenced by how well the PM removes obstacles. When time is lost because development team is waiting on scope decision and there is not one, or inspection resource cannot be scheduled for X number of weeks keeping the team on track and able to complete work is critical to high payoff results.

4. How responsive is PM to Stakeholders?

The project manager needs to be responsive to a number of stakeholders, the project team, business sponsors, peers, internal partners such as sales, marketing, human resources and customers. All of these stakeholders may have different priorities, and the project manager has to juggle all of these priorities effectively. Ignoring input and feedback from sponsors and stakeholder is an early warning sign. Watch that concerns are investigated and understood if a response is justified or already covered in planned work. When a stakeholder does not feel concerns were noted, it will escalate later in the project and become more critical.

5. How well does PM work with external vendors, providers that are part of project?

The more organizations that are part of the project, the more complexity there is. The ability to navigate, build strong working relationships is key to collaboration and speed when you need it most.

6. How well does PM Communicate?

Is there proactive communication on the project? When common themes come up, are meetings scheduled, training etc to get the info out to teams that need it? This area is so important and often forgotten in the heat of crisis and managing the minutia in a project, so be diligent in helping PM manage communication frequently and in a timeline manner.

7. How well does the PM solve problems?

Problem resolution skills will be called upon on a frequent if not daily basis in any project. Good project management depends upon proactive and quick resolution of these problems and keep work moving as rapidly as it can. Is the PM persistent? When there looks to be a roadblock to they continue to work to define alternative solutions? Never underestimate what persistence with a bright team can create to keep a project on track.

Is Your Project on Fire? Tips to Navigate the Urgent Crisis in Your Project

Project and fire are not the terms I like to hear together. So you may be thinking what do they have to do with each other? Well, participate and lead a few projects and you will find the inevitable “fire” to happen. Some of the common causes of the fire are a major issue found not planned for, crisis found in testing, something unexpected breaks, management comes in with a demand to meet that there is not time, resources much chance in delivering on. Sound familiar?

Urgent is a word used frequently in personal and professional life as trying to get work done through other people creates so many reasons that we must impart the criticality, importance, timing for our requests to be completed. Is this constant drive to solve the crisis needed? Some theories are projects that are well run avoid crisis and other managers believe it is there job to sustain this type of urgent work environment as more productive to complete projects. I believe there is a time and place for urgent culture but not sustainable continuously.

Dictionary.com defines “Urgent” as a

1.

Compelling or requiring immediate action or attention; imperative; pressing: an urgent matter.

2.

Insistent or earnest in solicitation; importunate, as a person: an urgent pleader.

3.

Expressed with insistence, as requests or appeals: an urgent tone of voice.

Taking the meaning of urgent and thinking of typical situations at home, provides a few examples that can be applied in workplace. You can have grand ideas for remodeling your house or getting in shape, but if you have a storm that damages your house you drop everything and put it out. What choice do you have? Naturally, the crisis moves to the top of the list despite you may have had plans to take the kids somewhere, travel for business, and make an important family function. Naturally, this is the best choice as the problem has to be solved or it will get worse so your immediate attention is required. The problem is most businesses and project managers act as if the organizations are on fire, most of the time. If you allow the problems to continue with fire fighting, they add up and your contribution is firefighting that defines your accomplishments and skill at managing a project. A career putting out fires never leads to the goal you had in mind all along. It is living reactively not proactively. If you are not working your plan you are falling into someone else’s plan and the result will not be what you wanted. Taking control and leadership as the project manager requires that you take control, put out the fire and proactively lay the right ground work to prevent a fire from burning out of control. The key to “Making Things Happen” is to be in control and know how to lead through the fire and normalcy can resume executing the program.

How to put out some common “fire” situations:

A manager who creates continual crisis

This is an opportunity that you need to learn what high level objectives are. Are they changing their mind, are they being influenced by customer, investors, is it lack of clarity for what they want done? A strategy to manage this is to get a view of the external and internal environment. Look forward and develop a plan to anticipate some of the twists, manager concerns so you can agree on strategy and how you will communicate with the individual. Map out what this looks like, where change points are, what impacts are and get on the same page with manager so impacts are understood of their requests on project.

Something breaks, fails to pass required check

Whether you are working on a construction project and something is found in digging the foundation that halts progress or you are developing a new product and regulatory doesn’t pass, in your industry you have a similar gotcha that grinds work to a halt. This a good chance to gather the team in area impacted and determine can it be fixed, at what cost, how much time will it take, what is chance at measure fixing problem, what other alternatives are there. This is critical crisis problem solving. It will vary issue if there is a quick fix or in some cases minimum time must pass to have another inspection, qualification. Either way, there is a cost impact to your business so how effectively you manage quick action plan will make the difference in making it happen and get work done successfully.

If you work in an urgent-only culture, the only solution is to make the right things urgent so you can survive and ensure that team is working to higher level goals. As a leader, your sanity and the endurance of your team will require tough decisions, learning to say no, manage the deliverable and stay on track. It is easy to be derailed but the difference between surviving and thriving will be your response to the fires and laying the groundwork to prevent the fire at all. What other strategies do you use?