Posts Tagged ‘delivery’

Save Energy, be on the Offensive

by Guy Ralfe on March 17, 2010

In rugby there is a saying “it is easy to play well behind a winning pack”. For those that are not familiar with the game in each side there are 15 players of which 8 of them, “the pack”, work to maintain the possession of the ball and create space for the running backs to break through the oppositions defenses. One of the facts of sports, is that it consumes far more energy defending your position than it takes to continually attack your opposition.

I observed a situation recently on a project, that demonstrated this exact same principle. I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise as projects are a team sport in  a way just competing against the opposition of time, resources and money. The project I observed had slipped somewhat over time and now that the final delivery was more firmly set in sight, it was apparent that not all could be delivered by the required delivery date.

The delivery date was fixed, but how the project and product managers presented the situation to the stakeholders was that if they wanted to meet the date they would have to forfeit some functionality requests. The stakeholders did not like the position as they had already settled on the bare bones delivery, as the project had consumed all available slack to the current point. Naturally this placed the stakeholders in a difficult position.

What seems to get lost in this play is that now the direction and decision capability is placed 100% in the stakeholders hands. Another key point is that the project had originally committed to delivering the functionality as part of the original scope, but now it is seen as a type of “scope creep” or “nice to have” and must be relinquished. Clever positioning by the project and product managers.

What I was also fortunate enough to witness is the behavior of the teams supporting this project. Because the project manager had lost control of the project over time, the project manager role turns into this ongoing defense of the current status and a slow ongoing erosion of deliverables. Like playing behind a losing pack in any sport, defending your situation on a project consumes time and energy – think of all the ancillary requests to your team members to test things out and provide feedback on how long xyz will take for the next project meeting. All this activity consumes rather than producing for the project and the situation just continues to get worse over time.

As a Project Manager you have to take charge and be the one to declare the future of the project with the support of the stakeholders. Don’t quit on the original commitment, rather try and declare what can be done for the delivery date and plan to make good on the original promise. This way you are in the driving seat and your team will feel compelled and motivated to play your game in the offense.

Don’t be on the defense, it will wear your team out – take charge and lead the offense to capitalize on the effort you have available. It is essential the project manager,” the pack”, is leading the way and creating opportunity for the team not stifling it with indecision.

Remote is Not as Far as You Think!

by Himanshu Jhamb on September 18, 2009

working remotelyOne of my friends who’s usually a ‘half-glass-full’ kind of person recently came to me in a seemingly ‘full-glass-empty’ kind of mood.  I was obviously concerned. After a couple of rounds of therapeutic beers (where I actually showed him what a ‘full-glass-empty’ really looks like) he opened up to the cause of his rare mood. He had just started a job where he was required to manage a project team … remotely! Not having worked in that configuration before, he was, obviously, feeling the teething problems of his new configuration. What made it even more challenging for him was that even his higher-ups were remote so not only he had to manage his team remotely but also he had to manage-up remotely.

Working remotely has its share of challenges. There is no doubt about it. Having managed remote teams for over 4 years now with varying team sizes, I can surely say that apart from the obvious challenge that you remain deprived of the tantalizing water cooler conversations; there are some unobvious ones that you need to be careful about lest they have the power of biting you where it hurts the most. However, with appropriate care, one can manage these challenges quite well. Here is the ABCD… of it:

(A)ctively Communicate: Take matters into your hands when no one does. Take initiative. A rule of thumb that I follow is: If it’s important and has taken more than 3 emails back and forth and is still not complete -its time to pick up the phone and call.

(B)e Reachable… always: Let your co-workers have your latest (and accurate) contact information so that they can reach you… it should be as convenient as walking to your desk, if you were not remote.

(C)ommunicate… and if needed, over-communicate: Yes, you will have people tell you (or maybe they’ll tell others) that you repeat yourself. Get comfortable with that complaint. Its usually a good sign when people tell you that – because it usually means you don’t have to worry about if you might not have communicated at all, which is a bigger problem.

(D)eliver on your commitments: This one obviously applies regardless of if you’re remote or not. However, this becomes even more critical if you’re remote because the level of trust you need to accumulate from your remote colleagues is more. Once you deliver on your commitments consistently and repeatedly, people will stop caring too much if you’re present in flesh and blood.

(E)ffective & Efficient Action: Since you will have little face to face time in your ‘remoteness’ make sure every action you take counts. In that, it needs to be effective and efficient. Hone your emailing and speaking skills. That’ll help you become more efficient (and effective).

(F)requent Communication: Here’s a powerful practice: Regardless of whether your boss asks or not, checks on you or not, takes status or not – Communicate frequently with him. Volunteer status updates. Ask questions that are relevant to business. Listen to him and help him do what he does, better. If you do this just frequently enough, it will be one less thing he would have to worry about… and that’s a good thing for you!

Yes… whoever said “Distance makes the heart grow fonder” did mean it in the business sense also! You just need to make sure you embody the practices to do so!