Monday, 17 December 2012

Season's Greetings and a Helping Hand

Season's Greetings and a helping hand from Unlike Before
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Our way of saying thanks to our loyal readers this season is by making a financial contribution through Kiva; an organisation whose mission is 'to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty'.

Our contribution will help provide microfinance to those striving to create opportunity and better lives for themselves and their families.

We found Kiva when we were given a Kiva card and realised the good work they do towards anti-poverty; helping others helps all of us.

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Kiva is a gift that
has the potential to change lives.

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Tuesday, 20 November 2012

PMTV and Why Some PM's Suck

Being involved with initiatives such as PMTV (Project Management TV) and WIPM (Women in Project Management) are great for two reasons:
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1. I get to meet and interact with many genuinely nice people I otherwise wouldn't come across; and
2. Together we get to share our combined experiences and expertise in a variety of ways for the benefit of others. 

This is exactly what happened when I joined forces with Jon Hyde, Bernardo Tirado and Naomi Caietti for PMTV on October 16th. 

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Knocking the Stuffing out of Change

‘Change’ is bandied about so much and comes with such baggage is it any wonder people get shivers down their spine at the first hint of it. Yet change is everywhere. So why does it have such negative connotations and why is it so difficult? 

From my perspective change conversations can be categorised into two groups – the practical experience and the theory. The discussions I prefer to have are around the former rather than the latter. As a delivery specialist theory doesn’t quite cut it when you actually have to deliver outcomes on the ground and adapt as situations come up. I’ve nothing against theory so long as it supports getting stuff done. Getting stuff done isn’t always that easy because things do change along the way – that’s reality. In order to keep up and still get stuff done we must adapt.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

A Little Bit of History Repeating

There’s a song titled ‘History Repeating’. It’s performed by Dame Shirley Bassey and the Propellerheads. As noted in the Wikipedia entry on the Propellerheads, “the term ‘propellerhead’ is slang for a nerd”. This will make sense to anyone who’s ever worked on any initiative involving technology. But it’s not the band name or even Dame Shirley Bassey that’s triggered this post; it’s the title of the song and in particular the chorus
and I've seen it before
and I'll see it again
yes I've seen it before
just little bits of history repeating

In our daily work as managers, leaders and change agents we must stop being surprised when we see and experience time and again the same underlying problems, issues, challenges (call them what you will) with projects and change initiatives. We’ve seen it all before and we’ll see it again, it’s just bits of history repeating.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

The Executive Factor

Ever wondered how it’s possible to add value through the work you do to an organisation, another person or indeed yourself?  Whether we’re permanent staff or have a bit more flexibility in our employment options it can be frustrating to watch as our ability to create and deliver valuable work is inhibited or stopped by the barriers erected or entrenched positions taken by others. It’s one thing for an organisation to have an appetite for getting things done, it’s quite another for them to actually enable it.

Which is how a recent conversation with a colleague of mine in the USofA kicked off.  Rob Schachter, of RBS Consulting, and I first connected on LinkedIn, as you do, and have been volleying our theories and experiences across the Atlantic for some months. The one significant thing we agree on is that Executives who give a damn make the difference to the work of change agents and whether that work will be a success or failure. Yes that’s right, they give a damn. They give a damn about getting stuff done. They get out of the way so others can do what they do best, and they care about how that stuff fits in to the bigger picture.

This post is a snapshot of our conversation. It shows how working with and for an Executive (sponsor or otherwise) who gives a damn makes for a positive work experience where value is palpable. Following are some of the lessons, principles and good (what’s best today may not be valid tomorrow) practices we derived from our experiences for the benefit of others seeking to succeed with their initiatives.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Buzz-off Buzzwords

It’s been an interesting few months. I’ve travelled from one end of the planet to the other 3 times (soon to be 4), visited with family and friends, met loads of new people, worked with some amazingly talented individuals and had what can only be described as an overabundance of stimulating conversation. 

Some of those conversations have included more than their fair share of buzzwords. It’s reminded me just how widely buzzwords, phrases and consulting speak are used. The fact they’re used isn't really an issue. It’s how, when and why they’re used that causes problems.

Why can't people just use plain language? Why do they have go populating everything with vacuous words that actually add no value to the sentence let alone the conversation?

Monday, 9 April 2012

Bureaucracy of Process

There’s no advantage to introducing a framework or process if adherence to the process is more important than the process enabling the delivery of business benefits. Yet many companies get caught up in the hype of the process and forget why they introduced it.

Take Governance as an example. When it comes to projects some form of governance is critical to, at the very minimum, check the right things are being done. But breathe the word ‘Governance’ and a world of images flash by, people roll their eyes and groan, and various mutterings, most of them negative, can be heard in the corridors. Whatever it’s labelled in the end governance will resolve some problems and create others but so too will the introduction of any new process.

Companies can do a lot to help overcome the ever present lack of interest and negativity surrounding change by getting their house in order before blindly setting off down the implementation track. While not an exhaustive list the following are some simple pointers to keep in mind when introducing any program, project or operational framework or process.

1. Reason 
Define the problem the process is there to fix. What are the current problem areas? Why are they problems? What is or is not happening because of them? Without this level of clarity at the decision making level no one else is going to understand what triggered the decision and the problem the process is there to resolve.

2. Purpose
Define what the process is there to deliver. There may be a multitude of things that are wrong and ideally the process will fix all of them. This list needs prioritising. If the process is expected to deliver improvements in a number of areas each area needs to be drilled into until there is one or maximum two areas of initial focus. Attempting to improve all areas at once is a failure waiting to happen. Bite off small chunks at a time and as one begins to deliver move on to the next.

3. Roles and Responsibilities
The R&R’s - Easy to say, difficult to define, even harder to implement. Focus on defining the roles first and be specific. Who’s involved at what point? Where are the authority and threshold levels? Get clear about how the roles connect with other key roles and activities in the business. Responsibilities need to be specific. Waffle-words and consulting speak don’t tell anyone anything and add no value.

4. Reporting
This is the third R in the list - Who needs to know what, when, from whom and based on what criteria. Again, be specific. Minimise the pretty charts, checklists and over-convoluted reports. A good piece of advice recently heard was to ask the question: How would you like to hear the bad news? Get that defined, pay attention to exceptions and check compliance against the previously defined purpose.

5. Lifecycle
As each focus area is addressed it’s inevitable that some activities or ideas will work better than others. It’s important to remain flexible and willing to adapt as things change. Without this the process is pure bureaucracy and the anticipated improvements will be outweighed by the process.

Regardless of the process being introduced it needs to be clean, simple, clear and flexible. Without these as guiding principles the process will turn into a bureaucratic nightmare with people quickly figuring out ways to get around it.

What approaches have you taken to minimse bureaucracy when introducing new processes, frameworks or operating models? What worked and what didn't?

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Book Review: No Wishing Required

Written by Rob Prinzo No Wishing Required: The Business Case for Project Assurance is a semi-fictional work underpinned by a problem that affects many IT related projects - a lack of solid yet pragmatic project assurance. 

Prinzo’s background is complex software implementation projects for large Corporates and Government Agencies. The lessons he’s learned and experiences he’s had throughout his career are well observed and addressed by the books central characters, Jenny and her manager and mentor Bill Parker.