Posts Tagged ‘Guy Ralfe’

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.

Week In Review – Mar 7 – Mar 13, 2010

by Magesh Tarala on March 14, 2010

Before you fight them… Choose them wisely!

by Himanshu Jhamb, Mar 8, 2010

Not all customers are created equally. While some are very rewarding to work with, others are a drain on your resources. We need to pick them wisely and conserver our resources to fight the good fight. When you see your competitors taking on high maintenance clients, remember Napolean Bonaparte’s quote: “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake”. more…

Change Management #7 – Products: A tip to assure Darwinian survival

by Gary Monti, Mar 9, 2010

In this concluding post of the seven-part series, Gary draws a parallel between Darwin’s theory of natural selection and product management. Gold plating requirements and succumbing to feature creep will ensure failure and end up the dodo way. But following the natural selection way will ensure survival. more…

Once I make a commitment…

by Himanshu Jhamb, Mar 10, 2010

You are measured by your ability to keep your commitments to others. This is possible only if you possess the integrity. It is easy to understand the concept of integrity in physical structures and Himanshu provides a couple of examples in this article. Just like the lack of integrity will cause a structure to collapse, lack of integrity in your life will cause it to collapse. The bollywood actor’s dialog may help you maintain your integrity – he says “Once I make a commitment… I don’t even listen to myself”. more…

Dancing for your Tribe

by Guy Ralfe, Mar 11, 2010

First off, hearty congratulations to Guy for taking the leap in to entrepreneurship. We wish him the best in his new endeavor.

Reflecting upon how he was able to make the transition to his new career, Guy credits the power of networks for his ability to make such a drastic change. Luck does not come calling, but is a factor of who you associate with. Associating with the right tribes and creating an identity that is portable across tribes, is essential component of success. So, get started and make some noise, tweet, call someone – get out there and pick your opportunity – Dance for your tribe! more…

Author’s Journey #12: How to create a content plan for your book?

by Roger Parker, Mar 12, 2010

Before you can write your book, you need to create a content plan for your book. Mind mapping makes it easy to identify and organize your ideas. In this article Roger explains how he used a three step process to successfully create a content plan for his book using Mindjet’s MindManager and Microsoft Word. more…

Dancing for your Tribe

by Guy Ralfe on March 11, 2010

For the 4th time in my life I am resigning and taking a step into the unknown world of no job. This time I am doing it on a small scale, I am only moving my family across 8 states and not between continents. I don’t know what it is – maybe we just have a strong nomadic gene!

I have been working at Maconomy for a little over 3 ¼ years and am closing the door on the most exciting, hectic, challenging and learning chapter in my career. I would like to say a big Thank You to all at Maconomy who have pushed, supported, helped and laughed with me. If  you think you have the heart and attitude to be a business consultant, there are few finer places to refine your skills than at Maconomy

Before I lose you  – this is not about my career, but rather the reflections about making the decision to move and how vital networks and tribes are to being able to perform such drastic moves. For a long while I have had the ambition to branch out and become an entrepreneur but the opportunity has just never seemed to be there (bad luck?). But suddenly this opportunity has presented itself (luck?) and it makes sense to the point that I am willing to trade one tribe for another and turn the world I know upside down.

I hear people saying “you are lucky” and my response has often been “you make your own luck” and I speculate that there is a close resemblance between luck and the company we keep. There is  a lot of talk around tribes in the social networking space which may be a key to how an opportunity appears as suddenly available. I have had the ambition to start a business venture for the longest while, but what has lacked is another tribe in which I have been able to create an identity in which the opportunity can be exposed. Once this opportunity was exposed and I assessed I could coexist within the new tribe the natural movement is to make the transition. Rajesh Setty posted a great article on why nice people will win – the realization of this opportunity for me is just a positive consequence of making those connections and maintaining an existence to another networked tribe.

We have to have an identity and a presence with which people can make a connection and assessments across our networks. If we do not have this people will not think of us and we will just blend into the crowd and the opportunity will pass us by …and be snatched up by the colorful and loud person nearby! This is why it is so important to ensure we maintain a presence in the social networks we choose, and to leave an impression with those we meet and interact with.

Another similar example was our saleslady, who wished to make contact with a company. After a search on LinkedIn she found out that I was connected to someone who had worked at the company. This person had just sent me a LinkedIn invite after a ½ day meeting we had had some 8 months earlier. I really was not sure he would remember me, but I reached out to him to see if he could make an introduction. Surprisingly, he did remember me and was willing to help make an introduction. That is seizing the opportunity …not Luck!

So go make some noise, post a status update, tweet, call someone – get out there and pick your opportunity – Dance for your tribe!

Week In Review – Feb 21 – Feb 27, 2010

by Magesh Tarala on February 28, 2010

The Art of getting what you want

by Vijay Peduru, Feb 22, 2010

Human brain has the tendency to avoid anything that it considers will cause pain. It reaches this conclusion based on instinct and/or past experience. This part of the brain is called the Lizard brain. The Possibilities brain seeks opportunity and freedom. When you want to work out and get in shape or in general, put in effort to convert a possibility into opportunity, your lizard brain may prevent you because it sees pain in the endeavor. You can remove this roadblock placed by the lizard brain by putting the endeavor in the right context.

Seth Godin in his brilliant book “Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?” talks about the Lizard Brain. For a brief Introduction to the lizard brain check this post , this video and this short e-book. more…

Change Management #5 – Project: Three tips to avoid creating Frankenstein

by Gary Monti, Feb 23, 2010

You can avoid creating a Frankenstein if you follow these simple steps:

1. Consider the needs of all the stakeholders when creating a scope of work including competitors and clients. Success includes your needs being met as part of the outflow of providing opportunity for others.

2. Your work must be sustainable, i.e., of good quality.

3. Provide stability, i.e., manage risk effectively.

Dr. Frankenstein driven by ego, pride and vainglory, got isolated from society and this caused him to lose direction and ultimately resulted in his downfall. more…

Growing Pains for Startups

by Guy Ralfe, Feb 24, 2010

Businesses are built around network interactions; each person in the network is a potential communication channel. As the number of people in your organization grows, the number of communication channels grows rapidly according to the formula (N * (N-1))/2 where N is the number of people in the group. This is a potential source of inaction or introducing bureaucracy. Educating the organization on this principle and providing guidance will help employees act confidently in the best interest of the company. more…

Social Media BRANDing – 5 tips to make it work

by Deepika Bajaj, Feb 25, 2010

Many companies have created digital channels like Facebook Fan pages, Twitter, SEO, etc to establish a digital presence. Now, how can they measure the effectiveness and improve? Here are some recommendations:

1. Tie social media activity to revenue growth

2. Know your customers. Don’t limit yourself based on what you know. Instead, try to find who your customers is.

3. Provide relevant content to draw the attention of your customers.

4. Put in place a mobile strategy.

5. Create strong relationships with your customers.

more…

Author’s Journey #10 – How to make the time to write a book

by Roger Parker, Feb 26, 2010

Time is not something you find like a needle in a hay stack. You need to make time for your endeavor by managing your commitments. Here are some techniques to make time to write your book:

1. Start with a plan

2. Commit to daily progress

3. Harvest time

4. Track your progress

more…

Growing Pains for Startups

by Guy Ralfe on February 24, 2010

Lately I have been noticing the interactions and communications in an organization a lot. It reminded me of when I studied for my Project Management Professional (PMP) certification, where the concept of communication paths, for which there is the following specific formula (N * (N-1))/2 where N is the number of people in the group, was introduced to me. Back then I recall wondering how this formula could be so important in the whole project management realm.

Business is basically built around network interactions; each person in your network is then a potential communication channel that you have to keep alive. As a business grows the number of channels increases both internally and externally. Let’s just take a look at internally, for example when an organization moves from a 10 to 20 person organization. Using the formula logic we go from having 45 to 190 communication channels. This increase will place a lot of stress on a management by committee organization, which is the structure found at many startups. This stress ultimately impacts the performance of the organization and no longer does the organization have the image of a ‘Can Do’ but quickly becomes a hobbled ‘bureaucratic’. The main cause of this is the number of interactions, in the now larger organization, needed to make decisions. Continually going back to the group for a consensus just becomes costly and inefficient. These are classic characteristics of government departments where there are exceptionally high numbers of communication channels and requests have to be continually passed up and down the corporate tree to get any decisions.

To help companies get through growth phases here are two things that should be considered to capitalize on the growth and not stymie it:

  • Educate – Get employees to understand that this communication channel complexity exists as you grow. Stress that these communication channels are also the foundation of the success today so prioritize and focus on the critical communication channels and close the costly ones down.
  • Guidance – Provide a vision/code of conduct that is tangible for all employees to understand and embody as a guiding principle for doing business. Having this will allow employees to operate at a higher degree of autonomy, and revive the ‘can do’ mentality synonymous with successful startups.
  • Repeat – Repeat again as you grow as you will have to continually quit more and more channels to remain nimble

The difficult part is not identifying what to do and what to give up on; it is giving up an already existing habit. While I have not experienced this on my projects because the number of members has generally been small and fairly constant, in the growth of our organization it has become very prevalent at how much time is suddenly consumed going from one meeting to another to operate the same business just on a larger scale.

When you have clearly defined operating philosophies employees tend to act with more confidence yet still with the best interests they always had for the company, they feel more confident in their ability to take the decision having some point of reference outside of a committee/hierarchical structure. This does not mean the organization will operate without error, on the contrary, it allows employees to make decisions in the best interests of the company to seize opportunity, where previously they wouldn’t have. When issues materialize they will be quick to address and resolve as opposed to trying to hide them in a chain of command structure where there is dissolved ownership.

Stop herding the cats, give them a bowl of food and watch them congregate where you want them to.

Week In Review – Feb 14 – Feb 20, 2010

by Magesh Tarala on February 21, 2010

Are you feeling helpless?

by Vijay Peduru, Feb 15, 2010

Going through the same situation repeatedly, unable to control it, and accepting to suffer through it is called Learned Helplessness. Once you understand this important distinction, you can recognize the situation and take action to unlearn it. Vijay illustrates this with an example of an experiment conducted on dogs by Martin Seligson, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of several books including “Learned Optimism”. more…

Change Management #4 – People: Building a team with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

by Gary Monti, Feb 16, 2010

Implementing change in an organization will bring out the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personas of the team members. This is part of human nature and if you do not plan for this, you will face serious problems reaching your goals. Your leadership is what will help keep the project on track. Gary provides several tips to help you understand the risk and navigate the terrain. more…

Commitments Change Over Time

by Guy Ralfe, Feb 17, 2010

One of the fundamental requirements for increasing our power and value in the marketplace is our ability to make and keep promises and commitments. A promise or commitment is between two parties. And each of them is locked into their stories viewed through their eyes. Between the time a promise is made and it is fulfilled, situations will change for both parties. It is essential to maintain the story for both parties through time or commitments will fail. more…

Selecting a Business Valuation expert

by Steve Popell, Feb 18, 2010

There are myriad reasons why the owner of a privately held company may want or need to have the company valued. Regardless of the reason, finding the right expert will pay off in the quality and utility of the opinion. In this article, Steve offers the criteria for assessment and gives some tips on how to ground your assessments. more…

Author’s Journey #9 – Cultivating the habits of writing success

by Roger Parker, Feb 19, 2010

Essential habits for writing success are Targeting, Positioning and Efficiency. In this article Roger describes how he put this theory to practice when writing his next book #Book Title Tweet: 140 Bite-Sized Ideas for Article, Book, and Event Titles. more…

Commitments Change Over Time

by Guy Ralfe on February 17, 2010

Making and fulfilling commitments is the only way by which we can accumulate power and produce an identity in the marketplace which to a large part determines our value in the marketplace. Commitments (promises) are such a cornerstone to our lives yet we often pay little attention to how we manage them.

Business is about people making promises and accepting commitments, through conversations of action in their lives. Yes there are loads of conversations that take place around the water cooler, but until they turn into something you care about, those conversations will not be contributing to building your identity and power, most of these are just expressive.

Managing and keeping our commitments is fundamental to our personal business success, first we start by trying to memorize our commitments. But the more complex our requests become we need to seek out tools to help us manage such as calendars, notebooks, software. With even more complexity and number we outgrow our tools and hire PA’s /Assistants to help us. When this is not enough we hire more people to make more commitments on our behalf which then becomes the enterprise organization – the business, our power.

Thankfully the map of a conversation for action was mapped out by Terry Winograd and Fernando Flores back in 1986 in their book Understanding Computers and Cognition.

There are only a set number of possibilities at each stage of a conversation, which would lead you to believe this would be easy. However for a conversation to have been successful it needs to have been fulfilled and produced an assessment of satisfaction for the requester after completion.

This is where I witness the challenge coming into business. Time as always is the culprit, and we as humans living in a world of our own stories, see the world as a reflection of our moods and circumstances at any point in time. No matter how well a request is made and accepted between a requester and supplier, over time both will be in different situations from which to assess the commitment and this can lead to many breakdowns.

It is a bit like taking my child to the toy store and asking him which toy would he chose if he could have one choice. In the aisle that we are in he will find the best toy he can see based on his current criteria and space. With the toy locked under his arm we then move off and walk into the next isle, suddenly the toy will be dropped and a new one snapped up – as his circumstances change.

The point here is that just because you have made a request and received a promise or commitment to fulfill, you have to maintain the story for both parties or commitments will fail. Another point to watch out is that we talk of conversations for ACTION – Actions is what produces satisfactory outcomes, lookout for inconsistencies in actions. Such an example would be a client requesting a tightly managed project however they will not commit to signing a scope document…

Week In Review – Feb 7 – Feb 13, 2010

by Magesh Tarala on February 14, 2010

Is using Social Media an impediment to your Organization?

by Himanshu Jhamb, Feb 8, 2010

Social media is still not widely utilized in the business world. Organizations are resistant to deploying them because they either don’t see a value for it or they feel their employees will be distracted by them. The reality, their opinions don’t matter. Social media is here to stay. The earlier they realize that it is simply a channel for having online conversation, the better it is for them. more…

Change Management #3 – Technology: Too Good To Be True… Two Deadly Misconceptions and Their Remedies

by Gary Monti, Feb 9, 2010

One of the biggest misconceptions of all time is that technology solves problems. Nothing can be further away from the truth. On the contrary, people solve problems and technology aids in building the solution – it is just a means to an end. The second and less visible but equally important misconception is that technology will somehow change people’s fundamental behavior like sense of responsibility, cooperation, etc. When implementing change we need to be cognizant of the networks and political structures in the organization. With change, the concern for self increases and even small changes can cause disproportional increase in stress and will cause unpredictable behavior. Technology is an amplifier. Applied properly, it can make a good situation better. Misapplied, it can make a bad situation worse. more…

Breakdowns in Social Media Conversations

by Guy Ralfe, Feb 10, 2010

The world is shrinking fast and the pace of communication is increasing proportionally. Even in the online world, it is easy to misunderstand or misconstrue what the other person means. You may be thinking about the same thing and expressing them differently or vice versa. Guy has brilliantly illustrated this through a few examples. This pitfall gets amplified in the online world. So, be extra cautious and make sure you don’t miss opportunities because of it. more…

Intimacy scores with Social Media

by Deepika Bajaj, Feb 11, 2010

Intimacy and Social Media? Hmm… What’s the connection? We don’t typically these words used in one sentence. But, think about it. This is what social media is. It brings us closer together with our friends and acquaintances. We are able to check on them every day, learn what’s happening in their world and provide support, guidance or empathy. Your online presence is an online YOU. It is just like seeing yourself in the mirror. This let’s you be more intimate with yourself! Online media is an amplifier of the social nature of human beings. more…

Author’s Journey #8 – How much of your book have you already written?

by Roger Parker, Feb 12, 2010

If you have been in your profession for a while, you will be surprised to know how much content you already have. Just dig into your hard drive and check your emails, memos, reports, blog posts, etc. After you have located existing content, consolidate them so that you can identify their usability and where they belong in your book. This will help you realize that book writing does not have to be an all consuming endeavor. more…

Breakdowns in Social Media Conversations

by Guy Ralfe on February 10, 2010

In general the growth of the internet in people’s lives has been closely segregated by demographics, primarily age and location. The old didn’t think they would ever learn how to use these new tools yet alone see the benefit in them and those living in the poorer nations just took longer to get access to the internet. But today you have to go quite far out the way to get away from a connection to the internet which in itself has become a much simpler task, coupled with the user interface becoming so intuitive that more and more of the older generations are now using the internet and its wonders too.

In a recent special article in the Economist, it quotes that if Facebook was a country it would be the third largest by population and this is just one of the social media networks out there. What this brought forth for me is that even though we are can now easily connected to many more people in our networks, our networks are generally age and geography independent as a result.

I have had two interesting situations in the last week that opened my eyes to potential breakdowns in the fast paced and fleeting electronic interactions of social media communications. I am a South African living in Boston, USA. I illustrate in real life what a long distance social media network relationship is like if we were to live them, as I come from a far away land where I call things by different names and I speak with a funny accent to the local American community.

The other day I was at the Home Depot store, where I made an inquiry to a store attendant about the ‘fall’ required in a particular DIY plumbing application. The store attendant looked at me blankly and did not understand me. He actually gave up on me until I picked up some parts and showed him what I was asking – “oh you mean the ‘pitch’ he replied”, YES!

The very next day we were interviewing and we asked the applicant if they had any experience performing data queries? The applicant looked at us blankly, and responded NO! Then my colleague gave some examples just to dig a little further, to which the applicant responded like running a catalog inquiry? YES.

If you have traveled internationally lately you will have noticed HSBC Bank’s advertising campaign “The World’s Local Bank” that seem to cover most airports today. This campaign illustrating these differences brilliantly as in the sample below.

In our online social conversations we need to be mindful of peoples backgrounds, particularly as the amount of time spent in these conversations today are briefer and shorter, many opportunities may be missed.

Week In Review – Jan 31 – Feb 6, 2010

by Magesh Tarala on February 7, 2010

Social Media ROCKSTARS!

by Deepika Bajaj, Feb 1, 2010

Social media ROCKSTARS are no different from traditional ROCKSTARS. They possess the same characteristics – Talent par excellence, Performance and Energy. They continuously produce new material, perform brilliantly that crowds love them and energize their audience. People like Kevin RoseMatt Inman and bloggers like Chris Brogan or Marshall Kirkpatrick are the genuine social media rockstars! more…

BLOGTASTIC!: Make more friends in the blogosphere fast!

by Rajesh Setty, Feb 1, 2010

Face to face conversations are valuable for networking, but this strategy has some constraints. Online conversations on the blogosphere gives you the ability to start and engage in multiple conversations with people far and wide, asynchronously. Rajesh leveraged this for his “Quought for the Day” project. Leverage your blog to communicate, collaborate and utilize your blog as a catalyst to enhance your relationships. more…

Change Management #2 – Morphing Organizations: The Executive Samurai and Complexity Theory

by Gary Monti, Feb 2, 2010

To take your organization through change, you need to be a “samurai” who is an expert at even-tempered decision-making. You need to be a martial artist in the sense that you need to adapt your methods to circumstances while maintaining core principles. Then, like Zen practitioners, be imperturbable. Now, you can take a tip from complexity theory on how to best organize: let the people do it themselves. more…

BLOGTASTIC!: What you don’t know might hurt you

by Rajesh Setty, Feb 2, 2010

If you are in the blogosphere, you need to keep abreast of the happenings in this arena. This is not any different from other domain like hardware, software, etc. Considerations for your blog should include SEO, RSS feed, mobile accessibility, etc. There are numerous resources like Squidoo: Blogging Starter Checklist that provide you the information – you just need to look for it. more…

Lessons From Our Past

by Guy Ralfe, Feb 3, 2010

A wise man learns from others’ experience, while a fool does not learn even from his own. In the latter case, history repeats itself. Guy narrates his travails with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA). Over the past five years, rates have increased and service has degraded in some areas. All indicators point to a repeat of what happened in 1897. It would be interesting to see when MBTA wakes up to reality. more…

BLOGTASTIC!: The right tools

by Rajesh Setty, Feb 3, 2010

We all need need the right tools to excel in our professions and blogging is no exception. Some areas where you need to consider using good tools are infrastructure, tracking, subscriptions and optimization. If you don’t consider yourself a geek who is fascinated by tools, get professional help. more…

Information: The Most Precious Thing Your Company Has

by Robert Driscoll, Feb 4, 2010

Cloud computing is one of the most hyped technology currently. Computing is usually compared with electricity as a utility, but that is not a valid comparison. Electricity is a dumb commodity and who cares if it is stolen. But data on the on the other hand is immensely valuable. When moving your organization towards cloud computing, move slowly and start with applications and data that are not the lifeline of your business. Move at the pace of your comfort and not at the pace the providers recommend. more…

BLOGTASTIC!: Blogging stats can be addictive

by Rajesh Setty, Feb 4, 2010

Though it can be addictive to keep watching the traffic stats to your blog grow, that metric is not where the value is. You need to dig deeper and understand where your visitors come from, what posts they are reading, where they click through, etc. These analytics will help you understand your readers better and enable you to position your blog for greater success. more…

Author’s Journey #7 – Who can help you write your book?

by Roger Parker, Feb 5, 2010

When writing non-fiction books, understand that you don’t have to write every single word in your book! You can get help from a variety of sources. Consider co-authors, ghost writers, assistants and crowdsourcing. They provide key benefits of providing a different perspective and efficiency. Before you make the choice, identify your goals, choose the right option and structure the relationship appropriately. more…

BLOGTASTIC!: More help than you will ever need

by Rajesh Setty, Feb 5, 2010

We all need help with everything we do. Same holds true for blogging. Your blogging success depends upon what you are willing to invest in getting help. Your investment could be time to learn it all by yourself, or you could spend money to get good help. Irrespective, don’t forget the opportunity cost of your time or money. The old adage “when the student is ready, the teacher arrives” fits brilliantly with the blogosphere. Are you ready to leverage your blog and open new doors? more…