Posts Tagged ‘communications’

The Soul of a Project #2: Speak from the Gut!

by Gary Monti on January 31, 2012

Good communicators survive fact-checks. Good communication, though, is more than listing facts. That was one of the bullet points from last week’s blog. Let’s peel back that opening sentence and see what lies underneath. It is critical for getting to the soul of the project.

There are three components associated with making a connection and communicating spontaneously:

  • Body language
  • Tone of voice
  • Verbal content

Believability has to do with listeners feeling all three components are interconnected and mutually supporting. It’s what is called speaking with integrity. Now, this isn’t moral integrity since a person committed to dark side behavior can show integrity. There is another component needed…being principle-based. We’ll save that for a later blog.

Getting back to the three components the question surfaces, “What does this have to do with the soul of a project?” The answer is, “Quite a bit!” It goes beyond knowing what to do. That portion, knowing, is wrapped up in the verbal content. To convey the project spirit and light a fire under people there is more that is needed. It is conviction. Conviction shows in the tone of voice and the body language. Combining these with verbal content we end up doing something referred to in everyday language as walking the walk.

It’s this walking the walk that comes across as speaking from the gut. The sponsor, PM, team lead, subject matter expert, functional support personnel, etc., all can take a leadership position by speaking from the gut.

The example that comes to mind is the commitment to the Apollo program. I’ve met more than one engineer who was fortunate enough to work on that program. They all say the same thing. The work had purpose. They felt significant.

There were conflicts to resolve and problems to solve. The point, though, is everyone had the same resolve, i.e., they wanted to support being part of getting the first man on the moon. Each, in their own way, spoke from the gut.

They dipped into the pool of uncertainty and pushed the limit of what they knew working to create something even better. They had passion. This passion is different than a blind fanaticism. It is more about being grounded in the present day project realities, determining the goals, assessing the gap, and working to achieve success.

When speaking from the gut a leader conveys this and both supports and inspires those around him to strive for the best. Emotions are allowed to flow. This is important. Why? Emotions show where we are with the situation, e.g., confident, afraid, bored, etc. When speaking from the gut the leader lets others see what is going on inside himself. He becomes the living embodiment of the project. His emotional state is a reflection of the project’s status. This is what brings about the connection. Others equally committed resonate with the leader.

Does this mean a leader is dramatic? Not necessarily. We each have our own styles. When speaking with integrity one is true to his style. That honesty encourages others to do the same rather than simply mimicking and being a ”yes” person. They end up working as a team.

A faith sets in that the project CAN be achieved.

Life is breathed into all the documentation. At that point, the project comes to life.

A new series “The Soul of a Project” begins with this blog – “The Paradox of Communications”. This is something near and dear to me since it is one of the cornerstones of my consulting practice. The common ground with previous blogs is getting the job done.  There is another component as well, one about which I have strong feelings. It centers on the phrase, “soft side of management” and similar statements.

Frankly, I rankle at that phrase, since it has at times been associated with “easy,” or “superfluous,” and, for those of us with testosterone coursing through our veins, it can be considered “a woman thing.” To borrow from Charlie Brown, “Arrrrrrgh!”

It would be greatly appreciated if anyone who actually validated those assumptions to speak out and comment accordingly. Experience has taught that sustained, constructive relationships takes work, a lot of which centers around communications. For that matter, brief, non-repeating communications requires a lot of work. Ever have to deal with a retail clerk who didn’t understand your needs?

The challenge with good communications is reflected in the paradoxes present:

  • Leaders are disciplined and absorb great deals of information, building a mental structure from which they work. The irony, though, is the connection is made with the stakeholder population by speaking from the gut.
  • The spoken word and text are serial in nature. However, good communicators work multiple channels simultaneously.
  • Even when communications is tightly restricted, e.g., Morse code, which is just dots and dashes, those receiving could identity the sender and their mood.
  • Good communicators survive fact-checks. Good communication, though, is more than listing facts.
  • Listening is different than being a human tape recorder. We phase in and out of conversations. Regardless, good communications that are highly accurate occur all the time.
  • Perfect documentation is a goal to strive for, one that can never be achieved. Yet, good teams stay connected and solve problems even when working at a distance.

This is a good place to stop and ask the questions, “When you are effectively communicating do you know what is going on? If so, do you know what that comprises? And, just how do you know? What evidence is there?”

Asked another way, “What does the flow look like when communications are going well?” Give it some thought. I’ll see you next week!

Project Reality Check #1: The Challenge!

by Gary Monti on December 21, 2010

“Challenging” summarizes project management well. This series of blogs will go into the day-to-day realities of project management as well as the theory and bring to light ways to deal with the challenges.

As the series progresses validation for what you already see and do will occur. So, why write this material if that is the case? The answer is simple: Validation is powerful. Projects require connectivity, which requires being seen and accepted – Validation.  Additionally, there will be a few new things that will prove to be valuable.

There’s Just One Project

Listening to students and/or clients from every continent except Antarctica (would like to go there someday) there is a common theme in the answers to the question, “What makes your projects so challenging?” It breaks down to the following:

  • Lack of clear requirements;
  • Being pushed to start, regardless;
  • Arbitrary end date;
  • Arbitrary budget;
  • Dictated resource pool comprising too few resources of adequate skill;
  • Multitasking.

The response is amazingly consistent and is independent of profession, field of study, market, etc. It has led to telling clients and students, “There is just one project in life and we all get a turn on it.” Human nature is the same everywhere. All that differs is the wrapper (culture). Don’t get me wrong, that wrapper can be quite significant. My point is once the effort is made to get beneath it you’ll always find the same thing, A human being.

The Path

This all can sound pretty bleak and make one wonder, “How does a project manager get the job done?” The answer is simple, “Stick to the principles.” As has been stated in previous blogs, simple is not the same as easy.  That simple path is grounded in the 9 areas of project management. By sticking to those principles and flexing them as called for in a given situation the odds of finding a path to success go up accordingly.

The Areas of Project Management

According to PMI® there are 9 areas of project management:

  • Scope
  • Time
  • Budget
  • Communications
  • Human Resources
  • Procurement
  • Quality
  • Risk
  • Integration

We will explore these 9 areas and see how they relate when working to find that path to success when thrown into a challenging situation.

A Key to Success

The word “challenging” opened this blog. To some extent, it is politically correct. “Nightmarish” might be a better word, when you get down to it. How to enjoy situations, stay sane and avoid project nightmares has been a quest ever since entering project management. The secret, which will be explored in this series, is completing a simple sentence.

If everything were okay I would see ________________.

It took most of the last 32 years spent in project management to get to that inquiry (proof that simple is different than easy).

A few things stand out with that statement:

  • It is an inquiry rather than a command. Why is that important? Leaders do better when asking more questions and giving fewer commands;
  • It is recursive. That one inquiry can be asked over-and-over as the breadth and depth of a project are explored.
  • It applies to both politics and technology. The stakeholder map should map isomorphically (clearly) and correctly into the technological map of the project.
  • Variance analysis is promoted. Using that statement promotes gap analysis, which is at the core of project management.

Variance brings us to the goal of project management, i.e., making sure we know what to plan, plan it, and execute within the time, money and resource constraints that fit with the project. In other words, get the job done. It gets down to two simple equations:

Cost Variance = Earned Value – Actual Cost

Schedule Variance = Earned Value – Planned Value

This series will explore what it takes to put teeth into those two equations. Fasten your seat belt!

Week In Review – Jun 13 – Jun 19, 2010

by Magesh Tarala on June 20, 2010

Buyers for your company: How to build a great list?

by Steve Popell, Jun 14, 2010

In a previous post, Steve discussed the fact that becoming an attractive strategic acquisition candidate should begin with learning precisely what prospective buyers think that means, and how to elicit that information in a series of telephone interviews.  But, an equally important element is determining whom to interview.  This post addresses that question. more…

Leadership and Mythology #6: Panic and Self doubt

by Gary Monti, Jun 15, 2010

When you leave your comfort zone, even little things take on much bigger significance and cause you to doubt yourself. But once you become comfortable dealing with uncertainty, the rewards will be tremendous. Leaving your familiar confines is like being touched by the Greek god Pan. Leaders are characterize by their ability to stand up to Pan.  more…

Social Media and Tribers #2: DEATH of Email; RISE of branded Tribes

by Deepika Bajaj, Jun 16, 2010

A while back, email was an effective medium to market your products. But not anymore. Because of the rise of junk mail people don’t trust the emails they get. New web marketing is based on the foundation of TRUST with our tribe. In this post, Deepika gives a high level overview of how to go about building trust within your tribe. more…

Flexible Focus #6: Peace in the Elements

by William Reed, Jun 17, 2010

A great way to gain flexible focus is to study elements of words, their roots, nuances, and varieties of expression. This can be done in any language, but in Chinese and Japanese you have the additional dimension of written characters (kanji), not only the elements or radicals which make up the kanji, but the remarkable range of expression made possible in writing with a brush. more…

Author’s Journey #26: Speak your way to book publishing success

by Roger Parker, Jun 18, 2010

Speaking is one of the best ways you can promote your book while planning and writing it. It creates a special bond with your audience, paving the way for book sales and lasting relationships. In this segment, Roger encourages you to speak your way to book publishing success by speaking about your book at every opportunity. more…

Branding – Get the mix right!

by Laura Lowell on October 8, 2009

get the mix rightConstructing the optimal mix is part art and part science.  The art lies in understanding the nuances between the different marketing vehicles, how to craft copy tailored to the marketing vehicle, and how to combine copy with creative for the optimal impact. The science lies in the measurement and tracking of the effectiveness of various vehicles at delivering your message to the target audience in the context of the stated communications objectives.

There are two pieces of information that directly inform how we create the marketing mix.

  1. How does our target customer gather information? : Who do they go to for recommendations?  Do they search online or do they ask for suggestions from colleagues, friends or family?  Who influences the purchasing process?  Answers to these questions help us to target the influencers as well as the target customers.
  2. How does our target customer want to receive information? : Do they want a lot of detail but not very often?  Do they prefer to get more frequent information with less detail?  Do they like phone, email or old-fashioned paper and envelopes?  Again, this information will directly impact the types of marketing vehicles we invest in.

Marketing vehicles have a defined purpose and should be used according to the stated communication objectives.  The following is a summary of the primary marketing vehicles, definitions, purpose described in terms of awareness, demand generation or lead conversion, and examples of each.  This is not an exhaustive list, but is a great start.

Awareness:  Ensure that customers know you exist – eyes and ears

Demand Generation:  Attracting customers to your products/services – call, click or visit

Lead Conversion:  Converting prospects to revenue – customers

Marketing Vehicle Definition Purpose Examples
Advertising Mass communications that broaden perceptions. Awareness

Lead Generation

Broadcast (TV, radio), Print  (newspaper, magazine), Online (banner ads, site ads)
Collateral &  Sales Tools Material describing a product, service, or solution used to support sales and marketing efforts. Demand Generation Brochure, card/flyer, catalog, cover letter, envelope, datasheet, folder, binder, video, presentation, promotional item, poster, banner, magazine, newsletter, competitive brief, instant reference guide, order and configuration guide.
Customer Testimonials Customer endorsements illustrating the impact of the company product, service or solution. Demand Generation

Lead Conversion

Quotes, case studies, success stories, references, speaking engagements.
Direct Marketing A method of contacting individual customers directly and obtaining their responses. Lead Conversion Direct mail, telemarketing, addressable media.
Event An in-person or online occurrence designed to increase awareness, accelerate sales, and build relationships. Awareness Tradeshow, road show, seminar, conference, hospitality, executive briefing, webinar, online seminar.
Incentives Providing equipment, discount or rebates to entice customers to try and/or purchase products, services or solutions. Lead Conversion Demo equipment, evaluation and trade-in, free sample or trial, mail-in or instant rebate or gift with purchase.
Internal Communications Use of any marketing vehicle to keep employees informed. Awareness Broadcast/webcast, leadership meetings, internal websites, newsletters, webinars, etc.
Internet Marketing The use of the internet to promote, advertise and sell goods and services. Awareness

Demand Generation

Lead Conversion

Websites, pay-per-click advertising, banners, e-mail marketing, search engine marketing, search engine optimization, blogs, webcasts, podcasts.
Co-Marketing Funds and tools provided to partners to enable them to execute specific marketing strategies and tactics on behalf of the company. Awareness

Demand Generation

Affinity marketing, affiliate marketing, lead generation, co-op marketing, channel incentives, partner compensation (SPIF)
Market Research Research undertaken with the purpose on increasing understanding of markets, customers, competition, design and positioning of products, services, or solutions. Demand Generation Primary, secondary, syndicated, campaign testing, ad testing, competitive benchmarking.
Merchandising Materials created and displayed in retail locations for the purpose of affecting product selection and purchase. Lead Conversion Brochure, demo, samples, lugon, highlighter, posters, banners, rebate, selection guides, tear pads.
Packaging The physical material used to contain product including materials on-box or in-box designed to improve the customer experience. Lead Conversion Physical packages, inserts, literature, software, stickers, illustrations, installation guides, user manuals.
Public Relations Activities that focus on industry influencers to establish the public image of the company and its products, services or solutions. Awareness

Demand Generation

Press releases, endorsements, article placement, interviews, news conference, press tour, press kits, media briefings, product reviews, 3rd party releases, speaker’s bureau, white paper placement.
Viral Marketing Activities that use pre-existing social networks to produce increases in brand awareness, through self-replicating viral processes, analogous to the spread of pathological and computer viruses. Awareness

Demand Generation

Word-of-mouth with online enhancements, blogs, audio and/or video clips, flash, games, advergames, etc.

All businesses need to develop an “identity” in order to be strategic players in the marketplace. That identity (aka logo) is key in assisting the consumer in recognizing the brand in the marketplace. Businesses such as Nike, AT&T and FedEx have spent much effort researching and developing their successful identities.

What makes a strong corporate identity
? This is somewhat subjective but here are a few examples of logos that have strong identities in the marketplace.

AT&T is recognized globally as a leader in the communications industry. Recently, AT&T modified their logo from using capital letters to lowercase letters. This change can be perceived as one that was made in order to convey themselves as a more consumer friendly and approachable business. AT&T also modified the globe component of their logo from a 2 dimensional globe to a 3 dimensional one. This change can be interpreted as emphasizing the expanding depth of services as well as its global presence. In this case, the company believed it was important to highlight these attributes in a market that is ever changing and constantly growing.

at&t_logos

FedEx, like AT&T, is a leader in its industry and have a globally recognized logo. Their logo is simple with just the letters juxtaposed in a way that creates a negative space in the shape of an arrow in between the e and the x. This arrow in the FedEx logo has been used as a form of subliminal advertising of the brand, symbolizing forward movement and thinking and stability. If you’ve never noticed it before you surely won’t miss it now!

fedex.0

The importance of identity does not apply just to large global corporations but to small, local and regional companies as well. For example, MicroJenisys, Inc., a web development company in business since the mid 1990s that provides solutions for clients as diverse as Verizon Federal to the City Theatre of Miami, is one of those companies. They assist their clients in creating an online identity in order to be competitive and successful in this competitive landscape. MicroJenisys followed their own advice and redesigned their own identity in 2006 after carving a healthy niche for themselves in the market place. This identity redevelopment not only allowed them to stay current in the marketplace but allowed them to reintroduce themselves to their customers as a company aware of the ever changing business world and the need for businesses to change along with it. Their new logo brands them as a concise, forward thinking team. The clever play on the letters m and j emphasizes creative fluidity which is necessary in building a successful brand identity.

mj_logos

When creating a logo it is also important to identify who you are targeting in the marketplace. AT&T is not targeting the same consumers as FedEx. FedEx is not targeting the same consumers as MicroJenisys. Their logos help them in creating their identities in the marketplace. Get the most out of your identity by creating a clear target audience.

This will help you separate your company from your competition and avoid an identity crisis!

Much of the supporting information was provided by Stacy Driscoll. Please click here to find out more about her work.