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Archive for the ‘Project Management’ Category

I was camping in a fairly large house, well maintained, surrounded by a number of flowering trees and plants, home to countless birds that treated us to a melodious cacophony announcing their morning foray and home coming in the evening. It was time for the trees to renew themselves – service staff came in the morning and again in the afternoon to sweep off the leaves copiously shed by the tress on the front-yard.  The flowering plants however were still abloom. At times on my touch, a bee would startle me flying out from deep inside the flower.

For one who has lived all his life in Mumbai flats (apartments) where one cannot take ten steps without hitting a wall, one’s auditory nerves constantly assaulted by caw’s of those sullen crows and bark of stray (and house) dogs, this was an overwhelming experience. The spacious front-yard was where I took my mandatory morning and evening walks, my senses enjoying the sights and sounds around.

Get the picture?

The only blot on the scene was the rubble piled up near the neem tree at one corner of the house in the front.  The house owner had not cleared it intending to reuse it in future possibly for patching up parts of the yard.

Yesterday morning, walking near the neem tree I saw a splash of red dried up on the debris. I had not seen it before. Clearly, someone, possibly one of those tradesmen called in for some repair work, had used it as a spittoon after chewing a paan (betel leaf + lime + arca nut shavings + whatever). Unfortunate, but true, in this country one may freely spit in public or even common spaces, but never so within a house. But the perpetrator saw it differently – if the corner was good (?) to pile up the rubble, no one minding, it was ok for him to spit over there.

The ‘Broken Window’ syndrome playing out!

Broken_windows,_Northampton_State_Hospital

From wiki: ‘Under the broken windows theory, an ordered and clean environment, one that is maintained, sends the signal that the area is monitored and that criminal behavior is not tolerated. Conversely, a disordered environment, one that is not maintained (broken windows, graffiti, excessive litter), sends the signal that the area is not monitored and that criminal behavior has little risk of detection.’

A few broken windows, at times even one, left unfixed for some time is a trigger or invitation for many more, if not all, to be broken.

Much is written on this syndrome as a subject of study under criminology and urban sociology.

Outside of crime, the phenomenon may be observed in many other contexts: projects, product development, organizations, communities and even in personal life.

When a project manager leaves unfixed the first infractions on time deadline, quality issues or team indiscipline…, the first window is broken. His team reads it differently. It’s very likely he would, to his grief, witness many more ‘broken windows’ before long on his way down and out.

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Source: wikipedia

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you getting monkeys is not just with hires. Goes for vendors, contractors, third parties…

This is for the managers and executives priding on their ability to squeeze every freebie, concession and discount out of their beleaguered vendors.

Here we go:

The  headman from the painting cum landscaping company  was speaking with the hard-driving customer about the job awarded to them.

Laying-Turf  jokesoftheday.net

In the first room, she said she would like a pale blue. The contractor wrote this down and went to the window, opened it, and yelled out “GREEN SIDE UP!”

In the second room, she told the painter she would like it painted in a soft yellow. He wrote this on his pad, walked to the window, opened it, and yelled “GREEN SIDE UP!”

The lady was somewhat curious but she said nothing. In the third room, she said she would like it painted a warm rose color. The painter wrote this down, walked to the window, opened it and yelled “GREEN SIDE UP!”

The perplexed lady then asked him, “Here I’m telling you what to do and you keep yelling ‘green side up’?”

“I’m sorry,” came the reply. “them…are laying sod in the front and around.”

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Source: Adapted from jokesoftheday.net

 

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A short post from Valeria Maltoni at conversationagent.com draws attention to a paper about health services reforms needed in Canada  wherein Dr. Sholom Glouberman and Dr. Brenda Zimmerman address how problems should be looked at.

The authors in their paper identify problems under three types: a) Simple b) Complicated and c) Complex. These are explained using this table:

Problem Types

The paper shows, in a real-life application in the healthcare domain, how the vicious cycle of ever-resource-hungry ER services – a sore point with many countries in the west – may be transformed into a virtuous cycle of providing needed services. All it calls for is a right perspective, regarding it as a complex problem and adopting an appropriate approach for this class of problems in seeking solutions.

A number of examples are cited to show how a wrong perspective of the problem – often one is seduced by prior experience to regard a truly complex problem as a complicated one amenable to our learned methods – leads to incorrect approaches resulting in undesired outcomes.

An amazing paper, I think, that forces us to relook at how we have been handling many seemingly intractable personal/professional/societal problems with little or mixed success.

Their paper has wide applicability far beyond its subject of medicare in Canada (dated 2013). Is accessible at:  http://publications.gc.ca/collections/Collection/CP32-79-8-2002E.pdf

And Valeria Maltoni’ insightful blog on a variety of topics backed by her enormous experience in the creative execution of integrated marketing and communication programs is available at: http://conversationagent.com

Happy reading!

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Project-Management premium.wpmudev.org

There was a news item recently in the press about Tata Consultancy Organization (TCS) planning to lay off 30,000 professionals accompanied by words on the ‘big corporate for-profit exploiter’ from some of those impacted or to-be guys for the human element in the story. The guys, it seems, are largely managers with 8 to 10 plus years of experience.

The company has denied it saying the annual weeding out exercise would be only to the extent of 2% to 3% of total strength as it has done in preceding years.

Let us assume for a moment the company is true to its word and there are no compelling reasons of business downturn warranting a bigger-than-usual axing.

While the development is certainly unfortunate especially for the affected, it is hardly surprising. And I’m sure it is neither sudden.

Why does this happen?

When it comes to weeding out, the organization looks at the value an employee brings to the operations in a series of assessments. This is even more significant at senior levels as these guys are pricier and hence most vulnerable.

The avenues available to a senior (a project lead or a manager) to enhance his contribution are essentially in two directions: a) He contributes to the project he is managing/involved or b) He contributes to some corporate objectives not linked to his project. In many organizations seniors are mandated to wear both the hats to get more out of their strengths and maturity.

As far as direct contribution to the project goes, opportunities are many:

1. Of direct and high impact for the organization of curse is to mine the project/account to increase the billing incrementally/strategically. Or, to wow the customer on scope,cost, time, performance or quality parameters of the project.

There are a number of other ways to step up the value (not in any order):

2. Reduce income leakage by handling the lost hours.

3. Increase productivity by using tools, cutting waste, streamlining processes, etc.

4. Flatten the cost pyramid by substituting more junior resources in place of seniors

5. Get the customer to sponsor an incentive plan and other recognition schemes for the team. While the costs incurred in these schemes are low the returns are manifold.

6. Develop it as a reference account/project by putting together, solution stories, application/technical notes, and other marketing/sales assets.

7. Get the customer to agree to site visits by prospects.

8. Get the customer to speak in the organization’s promotional events.

9. Generate newer views of the project by formulating imaginatively metrics to address his pain areas. For example, mapping the change-requests to physical pieces of code would be useful in pointing out which modules are hit by poor articulation of requirements, lack of coding skills or sheer business volatility.

10. Reduce the hassles of dealing with the team in some perceptible manner. For example, cut back on the communication load.

11. Alter some service parameter to customer’s advantage like coverage/turnaround times.

12. Engage the customer to gain a business perspective and his plans, to support mining efforts.

13. Harvest reusable/training assets.

14. Validate and refine quality assurance/productivity/staffing/estimation/methodology models/norms.

15. Groom junior resources in technical and soft skills. In one project, juniors took turns to be present when the lead reviews with the customer to improve their reviewing, communicating and objection handling skills.

16. Stand by him by going beyond the letter during his crisis time.

I’m sure you have a few other ideas too. The opportunities are many limited only by imagination.

So what is holding you back, friend?

If the project is a dead-end kind offering no scope for any initiative at all over an extended period of time, it’s time to move on to another project or even organization.

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neocreo_Round_Table_Discussion

BLAMESTORMING

[verb]

Sitting around in a group, discussing why a deadline was missed or a project failed, and who could be (made) responsible for the same. If it is not ‘an unfortunate combination of factors’ someone not part of the discussion (example: the customer) is usually a preferred candidate.

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Credits: arcamax.com, openclipart (neocreo_Round_Table_Discussion, discussion bitterjug)

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 WBS

Any organization, mature or not, from time to time gets into initiatives.

These initiatives focus efforts often for short duration for quick results and some run over longer timeframes. Their impact, by no means, light.

Examples:

Reduce incidences of sudden leaves of absence of its employees.

Improve employee engagement in terms of contributing case-studies.

Manage a project escalation to satisfactory closure.

Implement a risk assessment model in projects.

Etc. etc.

Unfortunately it is also true many initiatives peter out without delivering results for various reasons becoming the staple for humor in office corridors and canteen. No dirt attaches to anyone.

Even a cusrsory examination of these initiatives shows they exhibit certain common characteristics:

– An initiative is expected to deliver intended results

– The timeframe for achieving the results is also constrained.

– There is a team of resources to roll out the initiative.

– Importantly, not by magic, there is a set of tasks that need to be done to reach there.

If this is not like a project, what else is it?

A project view of the initiative immediately gains the established rigor of planning and monitoring. Additionally it demands the commitment of various stakeholders towards their roles at every step. Any non-performance is easily visible thru the monitoring process.

Why not give it a try when you kick off your next initiative?

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