Posts Tagged ‘planning’

The Soul of a Project #16: Stand Your Ground

by Gary Monti on May 22, 2012

That phrase, “Stand your ground,” has been big in the news lately. Let’s take a look at it from a professional position. A little background first will help. Consulting can create a love-hate relationship with clients – both management and employees. In fact, that is the norm and it should be unless working with an abbey of Zen Buddhists.

One scenario goes something like this:

  • At first the employees are hesitant, wondering how long the engagement will last and if it will have any effect. They are skeptical, believing senior management comprises “breathe-holders” who will wait until I leave and then go back to their old ways;
  • As progress is being made delineating what is going well and what is going poorly the tone of the conversation in the gossip mill changes. Employees are seeing more clearly what their situation is and appreciate being able to succinctly state such. A hope beings to rise;
  • After a while, though, a skepticism surfaces (the roots of which we’ll look shortly) and the challenges begin, “When are you going to get senior management to change?” Increased pressure is placed on me, the consultant, to get THEM, senior managers, to conform to what is right in the situation. In other words, the employees want a short cut. What is going on is they want the change but are afraid to put skin in the game. Instead of the consultant being a conduit for their voice in the situation, they want the consultant to lead the charge in their battle for sanity.

“This is when confronting the employees is critical. They need to be pushed on an uncomfortable truth – they have to stand their ground regarding the reality of the situation.”

I will eventually be gone. They need to decide what they will do as a unit to help improve the situation in a sustainable manner.

So, what does this “stand your ground” mean? First, let me say, it is anything but aggressive. That goes nowhere. (Well, actually it does – downhill.) It is about standards and ethics. It is about what it takes to get the job done right the first time and respectfully serve the client and one’s company. What does that mean?

We all work to some set of principles with some choosing the light side and others choosing the dark side. Sticking with the “light side” approach, standing your ground means stating the real limits of the situation without emotionality. Each profession on a project has guidelines by which it works. These are anything but arbitrary. The guidelines were created because they work.

Let’s move away from the theory and look at an example, a very common example. As a question it can be stated as, “What does ‘done’ mean?” This can get very dicey. If a manager sees a quarterly bonus looming on the horizon how much will he push the team to declare the project “done” knowing that the team’s future is being mortgaged and the client will not be happy when they find out work performed is less than what the spirit of the situation (or the contract) call for?

When a project manager or team member stands their ground they bring up the shortsightedness of the approach in a business-like manner. In other words, stick with behaviors and consequences.

When the project starts working outside the principle sets important for success; disaster is sitting there licking its chops just waiting to munch on the project.

This confrontation process is anything but easy. It is essential, though. Employees are hired for some form of expertise. It has real limits since an employee is not a CEO.  So, my advice is speak your truth clearly, taking it to the point of putting it in writing, and do it respectfully rather than with your jaw sticking out daring the boss to take a swing. Leave out references to the senior manager’s bonus. That is speculation and gets to attacking character. Just state the truth of the situation. Answer the question:

If everything were okay I’d see _______________ .”

Do a variance analysis between what is and what should be based on the principles involved and run it up the chain of command.

Now, before you go off thinking organizational difficulties are only the responsibility of the employees and they should be falling on their swords every time a paper clip is misplaced, keep in mind next week we’ll look at this from senior management’s position and the real limits of what can be accomplished

Gary Monti PMI presentation croppedThrough his firm, Center for Managing Change, Gary Monti has over 30 years experience providing change- and project management services internationally. He works at the nexus between strategy, business case, project-, process-, and people management. Service modalities include consulting, teaching, mentoring, and speaking. Credentials include PMP number 14 (Project Management Institute®), Myers-Briggs Type Indicator certification, and accreditation in the Cynefin methodology. Gary can be reached at gwmonti@mac.com or through Twitter at @garymonti
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Developing an understanding of the project terrain and all its complexities can be daunting. This is especially true as a consultant since value needs to be shown for each hour spent. There is a trade-off needed between understanding EVERYTHING, making decisions, and moving on in order to be efficient. What to do? The answer is, “Keep it simple.” So how does one go about doing that?

The way that works for me is determining what principles are at work and trusting they will guide me. So what does that mean? The 9 areas of project management as espoused by PMI® can help. I use them all the time for troubled projects. Just ask, “Is there clarity regarding:

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

Simple “yes” or “no” answers suffice. Then ask, “Are these 9 components interlocked in an interdependent way?”

Where you see “no” for either question points to the path that needs to be followed in getting to the crux of the matter. For me, this is where meditation comes into play. By letting go and allowing the two above-mentioned questions dance before my minds eye the fulcrum question in the situation will show itself. This leads to another fulcrum question…and another…and another until a clear picture is generated of what is going on which leads to determining what is needed to improve the situation. By the way, “fulcrum question” refers to pivotal questions that show whether or not principles are at play, if they are the right ones, and if they are interlocked.

For example, whenever talking with a particular senior manager I’d leave his office with an unsettled feeling. (This is where faith comes into play.) I’d have the urge to dissect what he said but when I indulged that urge I only got more confused and frustrated. By letting go and asking, “What principles are relevant to his situation?” and trusting what my gut said the fulcrum question(s) surfaced. Sometimes it would feel like someone else was creating it because it arose from my gut rather than my brain.

It is very much like the old detective series, “Columbo,” in that repeated asking about the 9 areas of project management surfaced the dodginess he was using to manipulate situations.

This practice of having faith in the principles leads to another valuable behavior – becoming aware of whom to talk with next. With the questionable manager it might have been a peer or subordinate or even an outside customer.

The point of all this is to trust the principles you believe are relevant. If you are mistaken it will surface soon enough and a change in the principle set can be made. Practicing this simple faith while not necessarily knowing everything will guide you to the right questions, conclusions and options both as to determining what is going on and possible options for improving the situation.

Gary Monti PMI presentation croppedThrough his firm, Center for Managing Change, Gary Monti has over 30 years experience providing change- and project management services internationally. He works at the nexus between strategy, business case, project-, process-, and people management. Service modalities include consulting, teaching, mentoring, and speaking. Credentials include PMP number 14 (Project Management Institute®), Myers-Briggs Type Indicator certification, and accreditation in the Cynefin methodology. Gary can be reached at gwmonti@mac.com or through Twitter at @garymonti
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Note by Will Reed

A few weeks ago, Roger sent me an email telling me he was adapting my One-Year Planning MandalaChart, described in Flexible Focus #64: The One-Year Plan, into a writing and marketing tool for authors. I immediately asked Roger to share his ideas as an ActiveGarage guest post, and he agreed. His post appears below. I think you’ll agree it’s a great example of “tinkering” with an idea and putting it to work in new ways.

Why author’s need an Author MandalaChart


I’ve been following, and learning from, William Reed for most of the last decade. I tend to listen when he speaks. He’s introduced me to numerous creativity ideas and resources, including mind mapping.

I’ve been reading, and saving, his Flexible Focus series since it began. But, I knew that Will had really outdone himself when I saw his One-Year Plan MandalaChart.

The One-Year Plan MandalaChart resonated with me because it addressed several of the most important challenges authors face when planning, writing, promoting, and profiting from a brand-building book: book, including:

  • There’s more to book publishing success than simply “writing.” It’s not enough to provide a clearly and concisely written advice; the advice has to be relevant, and the book has to be visible to its intended readers.
  • Publishing success involves simultaneously addressing multiple tasks. Publishing is not a linear process. Success requires addressing multiple issues at the same time. For example, how authors intend to profit from their book should influence their choice of publishing options.
  • Success requires goals, priorities, and deadlines. In a time-strapped world, it’s more important than ever that goals and tasks be accompanied with deadlines. Without deadlines, days, weeks, months, and years can go by without progress, resulting in a terrible waste of opportunities..

Modeled on, and inspired by, Will’s One-Year Plan MandalaChart, my Author’s MandalaChart provides a visual way to create goals, prioritize tasks, and measure your progress as you move forward.

Author’s MandalaChart matrix

The starting point was to adapt the 8 topics Will addressed in his original One-Year Plan MandalaChart to the specific needs of authors.

Will’s original matrix was addressed the following spheres, or activities, of an individual’s life:

  1. Personal
  2. Financial
  3. Study
  4. Business
  5. Home
  6. Society
  7. Health
  8. Leisure

When adapting the One-Year Plan to my Author’s MandalaChart, I included the following activity areas that authors must address:


  1. Goals. Goals involves answering questions like, Why are you writing a book? and How do you intend to profit from your book? As publishing has changed during the past few years, it’s become more and more important for authors to view their books as new business ventures. Books have to generate income beyond that which comes from book sales. 
  2. Readers. Reader topics include answering questions like Who are your ideal readers?, Why should they read your book?, What do they need to know?, and How will they benefit from your book? Nonfiction publishing success isn’t about how much you know; success is determined by offering the information that your ideal readers need to know.
  3. Competition. Books are not self-contained islands; new books must offer something better than what’s already available. Success requires identifying existing books and analyzing their pros and cons, so you can answer the question, What’s the “missing book” my ideal readers are waiting for?
  4. Message. From analyzing your goals, readers, and competition, you should be able to position your book and organize your ideas into chapters and subtopics within chapters. Your book proposal and press releases must be able to quickly answer questions like, What’s your book’s big idea? and What will readers take away from your book?  
  5. Format. Information can be communicated in lots of different ways, for example, step-by-step procedurals, case studies, personal experiences, question and answer, etc. You can also publish a big book or a small book. Format questions include, How much of a book do you need to write? and How can you simplify your book so you can get it into your reader’s hands as soon as possible?
  6. Awareness. Books are not magnetic, they don’t attract readers like a magnet attracts steel filings. You have to help your reader find you, answering questions like, How can I get my book reviewed? and How can I share my ideas while writing my book?
  7. Demand. Awareness has to be converted into demand, demand must stimulate purchases. Questions to address include, How can I stimulate pre-orders for my book? How can I sell as many books as possible when it’s available? and Where can I sell my book outside ofnormal bookstore channels?
  8. Profit. Finally, authors must leverage books into back-end information products or coaching, consulting, or paid speaking and presenting events. Questions include, How can I help readers implement my ideas? and What kind of marketing materials are speaker bureaus and event planners looking for?

Setting and attracting goals

The most important part of Will’s original One-Year Plan MandalaChart was the way it encouraged users to address each topic in matrix from four perspectives:

  • Current status. Where are we now? What are the strengths and weaknesses of our current position? What are the forces we have to deal with?
  • By December. What are our goals for the remainder of the calendar year? What do we want to accomplish by the end of the year?
  • Image for the end of a year. How can we visually communicate our accomplishments after 12 months?
  • Steps to reach this. What do we have to do to achieve our December and our One-Year goals?

In my version, I made a few simple changes, as follows:

  • Situation. (the same)
  • 90-days. This addresses the fact that “By December” implied an August starting date.
  • 1-year. Rather than a visual image, I felt a description of accomplishments during the past 12 months would be most helpful.
  • Steps to success. (Simple wording change.)

Author’s MandalaChart benefits

Writing and self-publishing involve a curious blend of creativity and self-discipline. Success requires a flexible perspective that combines long-term vision and consistent action in 8 different activity areas.

Although all projects are a work in progress, I feel the Author’s MandalaChart achieves its primary goal of helping authors avoid the common myopia of focusing entirely on writing and makes it easy to maintain a “big picture” view that encourages action in all 8 areas. The Author’s MandalaChart makes it easy to describe short term and long-goals in each area.

In addition, it creates an engaging visual to display on your wall as well as share with co-authors, agents, editors, and—when appropriate—your blog and social market community.

Conclusion

In addition to building on Will Reed’s already strong framework and adapting it for a specific vertical market, the Author’s MandalaChart shows the importance of constantly being on the lookout for ideas and tools that you can put to use in new ways.

The power of idea-sharing venues like the ActiveGarage is that it creates a community of achievers, constantly looking for ways to do a better job to address the challenges we all face, including the need to get more done in less time.

Editor’s NoteRoger C. Parker 37-part ActiveGarage Author’s Journey series offers practical advice for writing a book. He invites you to visit Published & Profitable and download a free proof of his do-it-yourself guide to developmental editing, 99 Questions to Ask Before You Write or Self-Publlish a Brand-building Book

rcp-heming-picRoger C. Parker helps others write books that build brands. He’s written over 30 books, offers do-it-yourself resources at Published & Profitable, and shares writing tips each weekday. His latest book is Title Tweet! 140 Bite-Sized Ideas for Article, Book, and Event Titles
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Flexible Focus #64: The One Year Plan

by William Reed on August 4, 2011

The Mandala Chart can be used to help you focus on your priorities for the current year, regardless of how many months remain in it. Using a template adapted from the original developed by Matsumura Yasuo, the founder of the Mandala Chart method, you can get a picture of your status in the current month, where you want to be by December of the current year, draw an image representing the achievement of your goal, and write down specific steps you need to take to reach your goal. Moreover, you can do this for not just one, but for all 8 of the major fields of life, Health, Business, Finances, Home, Society, Personal, Study, and Leisure, all on a single sheet of paper.

The format for the template is shown in the illustration, but it should be copied and handwritten, preferably on B4 or A3 sized paper to give you room to write. The process is the same for each category. Write a brief description or list of points describing 1) Your current status, 2) Results by December, 3) A sketch or image for the end of the year, and 4) Steps you need to take to reach this

You may only need to do this once every quarter, but you should check your progress at the beginning of each month, and reflect on what you need to do to stay on track. This is far superior to a To Do List, because it takes into account the whole picture, the details, and how everything is connected.

Using a traditional linear To Do List puts you at risk of achieving one set of goals at the expense of another, succeeding in your job, only to ruin your health. Or you might set yourself an unrealistic task list, and end up giving up before you make progress on your truly significant goals. In other words, this format gives you perspective as well a focus, something not easy to achieve with traditional goal setting tools. You may also wish to set a theme for each of the 8 fields, a short phrase or key words which helps you focus on the big picture for that field.

Ideally you do this at the beginning of each year, but even if you start late in the calendar year you can still use it, though your focus may be on a more immediate set of objectives. It is still worthwhile, because it gives you practice in thinking in this way, and each year you will get better at it.

The image in Step 3 is quite important as well, because it gives you a visual anchor, a point of mental focus. It also breaks the monotony of pure text. When you create your One Year Template, be sure to leave enough room to list 5 to 8 phrases, as well as to illustrate your goal. You can write small, but you don’t want to feel cramped in when thinking about your future.

You might also score yourself in your current status on a scale of up to 100 points in each field, indicating where you stand over all, as well as where you need to focus your efforts and time. Once you complete the exercise, you will be ready to transfer your action steps to your Mandala Diary or Day Planner. This would also be a good place to store your One Year Plan, so that you can take it out and look at it from time to time.

Again the steps in filling out the template are:

  1. Take an assessment of your situation in the current month. Score yourself on a scale up to 100 points.
  2. Describe as specifically as you can what you would like your situation to be in December of the current year.
  3. Blend steps 1 and 2 into an image that represents achievement of your goal, and how you will feel.
  4. Write a specific action plan of what you need to do between now and then to make it happen.

Taking care of what is important in one area can make life easier in another. Likewise, neglecting one area can negatively affect another. When you experience this for yourself, you will better understand the principles in the Framework of Wisdom, such as the Principle of Interdependence, and other principles which we have covered in this series.

The more you appreciate how each area is connected, the better you will understand how success in one area can positively affect the others. This will alter your thinking, and improve your action steps to keep everything in balance. Taking action steps in one area which simultaneously contribute to other areas in your life is working smarter, rather than harder.

For most people it isn’t easy to get perspective on life. Nor is it easy to set goals, create a specific action plan, and stay motivated to take the action steps required. However, all of this becomes easier once you get it on paper, where you can see the big picture, focus on the details, and appreciate how each part is connected. The One Year Plan is one of many templates available for the Mandala Chart, and it is one of the best ways to make sure that you are attending to everything that is important, without losing sight of the whole.

William ReedWilliam Reed specializes in applying practical wisdom from Japanese and Asian culture to solving the problems of modern business and living. He is the author of the Flexible Focus column on Active Garage, the syndicated column Creative Career Path and the book A Zoom Lens for Your life. William is also a Representative Director and Co-Founder of EMC QUEST Corporation, which provides Coaching for Communication and Change, World Class Speaking™, and Accelerated Action with GOALSCAPE™.
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5 Steps to Sound Growth for Small Businesses

by Matthew Carmen on July 4, 2011

Over the last several months, I have mostly written about the financial, strategic and operational needs of mid-sized and large companies.  What about small business?  Companies with, say, 10-150 employees…what in these areas can best serve them?  Of course there are the obvious: the ability to track expenditures, report on company spend, rudimentary budgeting, payroll, etc. Certainly these are very important, but really, the owners and stakeholders of the small business should be able to handle this on their own – or with minimal help.   The most important need for small business owners is to work with someone well-versed in things financial, who can offer a growing business the ability to formulate strategy and then develop sound finance processes, procedures and who can offer the right tools to turn strategy into practice.  In this way, the finance person participates in the growth of the business and helps take the company to the next level.

This resource discussed above is the hardest to articulate to small business clients.  They usually want someone to tell them how much they are spending, on what, and how they can spend less on the same services.  These are important questions, but somewhat short-sighted.  What the client should be asking, (and I like to ask questions to get them thinking this way) is:  How can I get my company to the next level?  The proverbial next level of course means something different for each company: it may be $10 million in sales for one, higher margins for another, or opening up new markets for another still. Regardless, I’ve found that there are 5 key steps that must take place in order to reach ‘next level’ status:

  1. Decide what the next level is, specifically.  What is the direction in which your company wants to go?  There will be some type of desired growth, what is it?  Does this growth match the company’s mission and values?  Formulating your goal is most important; if the goal is unclear, there is no way that a strategy can help achieve that goal.  Sure, some goals are reached anyhow simply by dumb luck, but as you probably guessed, it is not a scalable process.
  2. Develop a strategy to reach a clear goal.  This takes true leadership from within.  Once a goal is formulated, a well-thought-out strategy or detailed plan is needed to get there.  What will it cost to reach our goal? What skills are required (marketing, product development, operations, etc)?  How much time with this endeavor take?  Once these large questions are answered, a program or project management team should be able to take over and develop a detailed plan of action.
  3. Plan of action. The program team in a small company (usually 1 or 2 people) will need to develop the timeline for the actions that need to take place, and who will actually perform the work.  This program team may be made up of internal employees or outside contractors/consultants.  There are many tools which help in this area as well, including Microsoft Project and others, that can help organize tasks and timing.  Once a plan is developed and approved, the real work starts.
  4. Communication:  The plan and assignment of roles must be clearly communicated to the entire organization.  This serves multiple purposes: it lets those that will be involved understand their roles and what their expectations are, and it also lets those not involved know what the future state of the organization will look like. Finally, it lets management know how they should start planning for future roles in a fashion that will evolve along with company goals.  Expectations of everyone will change during this process, typically for the better.
  5. Reporting and Tracking:  This step entails reporting on the progress of the strategic implementation.  The best tools for this are a balanced scorecard and separate financial reports.  A balanced scorecard will track the inner workings of the strategic implementation – what is going on at the operational, leadership and learning levels, how the organization is changing and ensuring it is on track to meet goals on time.  The financial reporting piece will let leadership know if they are spending what was approved and in the right areas.  Analysis of both these reporting mechanisms will allow for operational changes as the external environment changes (competition, products, legal, etc.)

The process is finished once the project goals are met.  (Have the new systems been put into production, etc.?) Now the claims made by the new strategy need to be monitored closely, and the results examined likewise.  Is there progress being made towards our goal?  If yes, is this progress happening as planned? Faster? Slower? Perhaps the new systems now in place allow for amending goals upward, or results in better returns on investment. If so, what a great problem to have, right?  Continued reporting and vision are also required – and once new goals are established, the process should ideally begin anew.

So you see, the finance person at a small company must wear many more hats than his/her counterpart in larger organizations.  In the scenarios above, there is a good chance that the finance person will also serve as the program manager for the strategic implementation, or at least play a key roll in that implementation.  The risks are often greater for a small company, but the rewards for the company can be greater as well – and isn’t that what owning a business is all about?

Matthew Carmen launched Datacenter Trust along with Marc Watley in February, 2010 and serves as Co-Founder & COO as well as Managing Partner of their Financial Intelligence practice. Datacenter Trust is a recently-launched consulting and services delivery firm, providing outsourced server hosting, bandwidth, cloud services, and IT financial intelligence and analysis services to growing businesses. Follow Datacenter Trust on Twitter @datacentertrust
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Can Agile cause damage?

Yes.

Is Agile a good method?

Yes.

How can both statements be true?

Let’s look.

First, let me say I have a great respect for RAD, Extreme Programming, Agile, etc., because the methods reflect acceptance of and dealing with a common reality.  That reality is the gap between initiatives or high-level project statements (40,000 foot view) and what it takes to get the job done (working in the trenches). Life moves at such a fast pace there is little time or tolerance to do definitive estimating, i.e., laying out ALL work in work packages of 80 effort hours or less and stringing them together logically to create a network diagram. The pressure that is usually put on the team comes from the desire to see action and deliverables being generated as quickly as possible. The belief is time might be wasted planning due to analysis paralysis. There’s something more to it, though.. the senior management has the desire to move ahead with more initiatives and wants to delegate its responsibility to think things through at a detailed level. In other words a greediness can be present to get as much from the team with as little input as possible.

The Agile method creates a realistic solution to such a situation by getting the team to work quickly with the caveat that the recipient of the deliverable will be available to sign off on progress made and give clear indication of what they desire next.

Baby Steps

The problem that can arise is reflected humorously in the movie, What About Bob, where a successful psychiatrist (for this blog representing the team) loses his mind while attempting to deal with a highly dependent, manipulative, obsessive-compulsive patient (representing the customer, end-user, or sponsor).

In the movie, the psychiatrist is famous for his book, “Baby Steps,” which defines how patients can be moved back to health by making small, corrective changes in their behavior. The problem is the patient takes advantage of the psychiatrist’s dedication to get more of what he wants without taking responsibility and making any changes in his own behavior.

No, this does this mean that customers, senior managers, and end users are mentally deranged. The situation is more in line with having to deal with a demanding, ever-changing business environment and expecting IT to keep up with the demands. If these demands are legitimate then what is the problem?

Flexible or Fragmented?

The issue has to do with the potential of taking a good thing too far and having it turn into a weakness. This is the basis of an interesting psychological tool, the Strength Deployment Inventory (SDI). Flexibility IS important as is acceptance of the difficulties associated with doing long-range detailed planning. So, again, Agile provides a definite “plus.” The problem arises when there is an over-reliance on the intense, tactical approach. What can happen is reinforcement of a nearsightedness regarding requirements along with the belief the team can work without getting immediate feedback on their work. If the team reacts to this and pumps up to get more intense about making the method work a negative feedback loop can build which is of no help to the project.

The Solution: Balance

In the end stability is needed. Why? When the success of a method exists solely in the dynamic of extreme, short-term actions there is the risk of no end-to-end stability. Documentation becomes increasingly difficult to perform because many targets are moving simultaneously. The organization can behave as if it has ADHD.  On the flip side, strategizing without getting into the details risks going nowhere.

The solution lies in getting back to some classic project management approaches to insure a coherent strategic overview is maintained and system performance is truly auditable. It is similar to laying roof shingles. A line needs to be drawn as a reference point across the entire roof. If not, roofers can lay shingle by shingle and swear they are following a straight line. However, after going 15 or 20 feet in this manner they can drift from the straight line with absolutely no awareness they are doing so. This drift eats time and money.

A 5,000-year-old quote from the Upanishads sums it well:

“By standing still we overtake those who are running.”


Gary Monti PMI presentation croppedThrough his firm, Center for Managing Change, Gary Monti has over 30 years experience providing change- and project management services internationally. He works at the nexus between strategy, business case, project-, process-, and people management. Service modalities include consulting, teaching, mentoring, and speaking. Credentials include PMP number 14 (Project Management Institute®), Myers-Briggs Type Indicator certification, and accreditation in the Cynefin methodology. Gary can be reached at gwmonti@mac.com or through Twitter at @garymonti
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Keys to a successful Strategic Planning Process

by Steve Popell on January 5, 2011

The time-tested strategic planning process includes the following elements.

  • Vision (3-5 years)
  • Mission (3-5 years)
  • Long-Range Goals (3-5 years)
  • Short-Term Objectives (next 12 months)
  • Task Assignments (to accomplish the Short-Term Objectives)
  • Action Items (What do we do Tuesday?)
  • Follow-up (to compare actual performance with plan)

Some give short shrift to the Vision and Mission as “touchy-feely” and somehow remote from daily operations.  This is a mistake.  In fact, developing a clear Vision and Mission, and communicating the same to all employees, can play a critical role in the company’s future success.

The Vision

Any worthwhile strategic planning process must begin with your Vision for the company at some specific date in the future.  What will be your company’s identity?  When customers, suppliers or professionals hear your company’s name, what image do you want them to conjure up?  What overriding quality do you want front of mind?  In other words: Who is this company?  Here are a few examples of vision statements that speak to this identity question.  Note that none of these statements says anything specific about what the company does for a living or about the customer base.

  1. We make the defense of the U.S. homeland stronger and more flexible.
  2. We help our clients’ teams to function more cohesively and effectively.
  3. We improve the quality of health care in America.
  4. We make transit passengers safer.

When your employees fully understand (intellectually and viscerally) your company’s Vision, they will be able to see how optimum performance in their individual jobs will contribute to the fulfillment of that vision.  This connection is critical for long-term job satisfaction, high achievement and career track progress.

When an outsider sees and understands the Vision, the first question that comes to mind is “How do they do that?”  This is where the Mission comes in.

The Mission Statement

The Mission statement describes your company’s function in concrete terms.   Using the same examples, here is a group of Mission statements that address the question “What does this company do, and for whom?”

  1. We train dogs to assist Customs inspectors to locate drugs and explosives.
  2. We deliver workshops to privately held companies on verbal and written communication, listening skills and teamwork.
  3. We make timely delivery of top-quality components to medical instrumentation OEMs.
  4. We manufacture shatter-proof glass for public transit vehicles.

Marrying the Vision and Mission statements is essential, because it helps to get across to your employees how truly important each of their jobs is in the grand scheme of things.  For example, these dog trainers are obviously in support of the drug and explosive interdiction business.  But, interdiction is a means, not an end.  The end is that we are all safer in this country.

In this example, you want your employee to make the connection that “If I do my job really well, I will be saving lives. I may never know the names or, even, the home towns of those I save, but they will be alive because of me/”  If your strategic planning group crafts meaningful Vision and Mission statements, you will create an environment in which this kind of connection will be a small step, not a leap.

Good luck!


PhotoPopell This article has been contributed by Steven D. Popell. Steve has been a general management consultant since 1970. Steve is a Certified Management Consultant, business valuation expert, and inventor of ExiTrak®– a process designed to assist the privately-held company owner/manager to build an attractive strategic acquisition candidate

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Project Leadership #3: Courage and Stupidity

by Himanshu Jhamb on November 1, 2010

Contrary to the first impression you might have got looking at the title, I am not going to spell out courageous actions and Stupid actions on projects.  That would be too common. My mission is to reflect on my Project Management journey and share valuable insights I have gained from my mistakes (admittedly, more so) & successes in my journey.

In this article, I am going to talk about how being stupid is actually the first step in being courageous.

There are times when you come to a point where you simply have to act out of courage. Any amount of planning, foresight, anticipation or execution skills simply just don’t cut it. You find yourself in a zone where you go on your gut, just because… well! There is no because. You just do it. That is not to say that you (as the picture suggests) start playing Russian roulette with your projects (well, that would be a bit stupid!). Though, if you think about it, you really cannot be courageous and have zero risk of looking stupid, at the same time.

Here are a few circumstances that might sound familiar in the context of this article:

  • You ask what others might term as a “Dumb question”. Yes, it takes courage to ask dumb questions… you are always at risk of looking “Dumb” in front of someone who thinks you should have known the answer.
  • You take a stand for your team in front of your boss… or your boss’s boss, which might mean you disagree with him/her. Yep, very thin line indeed. Cross it and your head might be handed to you on a platter OR you might end up saving your project by being courageous.
  • It might appear stupid to bend the rules a little when it comes to being a little flexible with your team. Think ROI. What seems stupid at first glance, quickly becomes courageous once you think of the trust and loyalty you might end up earning from your team, in return. Sure, you might end up being admonished by the “Powers-to-be”… but sending a bold message that you’ll stand for your team & get their trust in return. You do the math!
  • Asking a lot of questions can occasionally be seen as (and usually is) being stupid. And that is usually a good thing. That’s the first step in being courageous enough to get the answers you need to manage the project.
  • Over-communicating is sometimes termed as being stupid by your own team members. I get that all the time, though, the very next thought that crosses my mind is “Aah! That means at least I have communicated!”  A Zen moment follows.
  • Micro-managing. My personal favorite. Let’s face it – Sometimes, in order to get the project back on track, you have to get into the trenches and steer the way. That’s “Courageous” indeed. Though, you do have to cross the chasm of appearing like you are micro-managing before you can show the doubters and non-believers the other side.

The last one reminds me of the time when I was handed off this project in distress – midway through the project. The customer was feeling just one emotion at that time. Livid. Is that an emotion? Maybe not. But, I digress.Point is, I had an unhappy customer and the reason they cited was that “Nothing was getting done”.

After a bit of digging I realized that because my team member was at the client site (The business world lovingly terms this arrangement as “Staff-Augmentation” or more intimately “Staff-Aug”), he was a victim of poor project management – primarily emanating from the fact that he would be getting his weekly goals from pretty much everyone on the client team while he was eating lunch, walking down the halls or perhaps even in the restroom. No wonder “nothing was getting done”. Once I saddled in, I took care of it by making sure that all traffic to him was routed through me. My involvement obviously meant that my colleague had one more level of indirection added to his work that he had to deal with – ME! His reaction – “Himanshu, you are micro-managing”. We sorted the matter out immediately… fast forward one year – The customer went from “Nothing is getting done” to being a cheery one and investing >$1M over the course of the project.

So, yes, while you are running the project, there will be hurdles along the way that will have “STUPID” written in big bold red letters, on them. You need to have the courage to see them in the eye, acknowledge them and then take that leap of faith to scale them to complete the race you are in.

Himanshu JhambThis article was contributed by Himanshu Jhamb, co-founder of ActiveGarage and co-author of #PROJECT MANAGEMENT tweet. You can follow Himanshu on Twitter at himjhamb.
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Forget Project management. Let’s talk Project leadership!

by Himanshu Jhamb on September 10, 2010

I equate managing to something that is not fully expressed. It leaves out that something, that edge that is needed for getting you across the finish line. The difference in what you do is simple, the result is transformational.

There is a difference between managing the project versus leading the project. Leadership is out there… it screams responsibility and accountability. It is about reaching out and getting what you need to get the job done, fearlessly. Management usually turns out to be working with what you have and making the best out of it (whatever that means!). Leadership is about creating solutions, management is about figuring out solutions. The difference is simple, the result is transformational.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not going all critical on project management. After all, it wouldn’t do me much good if I criticize my own bread and butter, now would it! My point is simply that project managers need to essentially become project leaders. Once you get that distinction, the landscape of what needs to be done suddenly transforms (and so do the results). From personal experience, I spent the first few years of my project management….errr… managing projects. Then, I realized that what I was doing was not doing full justice to me or my client(s)… that realization was the starting point for me to take action so that I lead my projects and not only manage them.

That introduction brings us to the purpose and genesis of this series. Over the subsequent posts, I will share my journey of how I transformed the way I did things in various areas… and I will share the challenges, the fears & the situations I had to face and how I overcame them (some successfully, some not so successfully) with personal examples. Like any other sharing, the real fun and value lies in engagement. The real learning will BEGIN only when you participate in this conversation. So, if you like (or for that matter, dislike) what I write, I invite you to participate, regardless.

To give you a little preview, here are the topics I plan on touching in this series. I will keep adding more depending on what comes to my mind and the level of engagement we reach.

  1. Unforgettable Kickoffs
  2. Relentless Planning
  3. Courage vs. Stupidity: The thin line
  4. Bidirectional trust
  5. Community of Help
  6. Anticipating Change
  7. Kick Panic
  8. Fearless Negotiating
  9. Improve your Improvisation skills
  10. Navigate like the conductor

Enjoy the posts!

Himanshu JhambThis article was contributed by Himanshu Jhamb, co-founder of ActiveGarage and co-author of #PROJECT MANAGEMENT tweet. You can follow Himanshu on Twitter at himjhamb.
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The publication of your first book marks a milestone in your life and in your career. You’ll probably never forget the excitement you felt when the first box of books arrived and you reached in and could hold your book in your hand.

Hold that thought! Because your feeling of joy and satisfaction will soon be followed by the question, What am I going to do next?

Where’s the second act?

At some point, your agent, clients, friends, and publisher are going to ask you, What are you going to write next? It’s not an easy question to answer, here are some of the things you should be thinking about:

  1. Write or market? Should you devote more time to marketing your current book, or should you move on to new projects?
  2. Topic. Are you going to write about the same topic, or a different topic?
  3. Format. Will you write another book, or will your follow-up project be an audio, video project?
  4. Distribution. Are you going to self-publish your next project, continue with your current publisher, or seek another publisher?

Some of the answers to these, and other, questions may be beyond your control. Depending on your agent’s, or your, savvy, your current publishing contract may limit your options. Unless the dreaded “Right of first refusal” clause was deleted from your contract, for example, you may be limited in your publishing options.

Likewise, if you don’t have clear copyright ownership of your book title, or, at least, the key words in it, you may not be able to take the title elsewhere or use it for creating your own back-end events, products, and services.

Your book’s sales also make a difference. The sales of your book will influence your desirability and bargaining power with your current publisher and your reception at other publishers.

Is your title expandable?

Most important, Were you looking to the future when you chose the title for your first book? Did you choose an accurate, distinct, and memorable title that you can expand into a series of books? Was the core idea of your first book so specific that it won’t survive the test of time? Or, did you choose a title that describes a condition that will be around a long time?

The ideal book titles balance brand and specificity.

  • Narrow book titles, like How to Get Rid of the Water In Your Basement, doesn’t provide many opportunities to build your brand. These titles are so literal that there is nothing to remember.
  • Branded titles, however, emphasize an attitude, approach, or perspective, such as the 5-Thumbed Homeowner’s Guide to Getting Rid of Water in Your Basement. Now, using a title formula, you can do what Jay Conrad Levinson’s Guerrilla Marketing series, the …for Dummies series, or Robert Kyosaki’s Rich Dad, Poor Dad series, did and create a series of best-sellers that can be added to over the next 20 years!

When you’ve chosen a branded title, you can create a series of 5-Thumbed Homeowner Guides to building outdoor patios, renovating bathrooms, or converting a spare bedroom into a home office!

Should you re-invent the wheel?

Thus, when selecting topics for follow-up books, avoid the temptation to reinvent the wheel. Instead, look for ways you can build on the brand you began with your first book or e-book.

The following are some topic ideas you can use when choosing a topic for your follow-up book:

  1. Go deeper and narrower. In your follow-up book, you can explore a particular aspect of the process described in your original book, going into greater detail than you did in your original book. Often, a topic that you covered in a single chapter of your original book- -or, even- -just part of a chapter, can form the basis for your next book.
  2. Different formats, different prices. In contrast to going deeper, you might explore ways to write a less expensive version of your original book, perhaps one designed to appeal to newcomers to your field. If your first book was an expensive Handbook, for example, your follow-up book can be a Weekend Guide. By offering a lite version of your original book, you can appeal to a particularly price sensitive market.
  3. Narrower market focus. Another alternative is to narrow your focus, and focus your next book on a particular market segment. If your first book introduced 10 ideas or tools, for example, for online marketing, your follow-up books could apply the ideas or tools to particular business categories or occupations. A series of books on home maintenance, for example, could be created targeting different geographic areas, i.e., cold climates, warm climates, humid coastal locations, etc. Jay’s Guerrilla Marketing series, for example, has been adapted for financial planners, non-profits, performers, and writers. There are also versions targeting techniques, like online marketing.
  4. More helpful. Even if your original book contained exercises and questions intended to help readers apply your ideas to their specific situations, there’s usually room for improvement. In this case, consider offering a workbook containing worksheets and planning sheets readers can use in conjunction with your original book.
  5. Case studies and profiles. One of the best ways to return to the theme of your original book is to describe the experiences of readers who read your book and followed your advice. Undoubtedly, new ideas and perspectives will emerge as you interview your original readers, which will add interest to the follow-up book.
  6. Updates. New challenges, opportunities, technologies, and trends are constantly appearing, and new case studies are likely to emerge. In some situations, there are opportunities for yearly updates. In other cases, however, you can wait for new tools to establish themselves before writing a book describing their impact on your field.

The importance of planning ahead

Planning has been a constant at every step in this Author’s Journey (see previous installments in the Author’s Journey series). Whether you’re picking a topic, analyzing the competition, creating a table of contents, or setting up a blog, you start with a plan. Serendipity will always present itself, but it’s essential that you look to the future when planning, writing, marketing, and profiting from a book.

rcp-heming-picRoger C. Parker helps others write books that build brands. He’s written over 30 books, offers do-it-yourself resources at Published & Profitable, and shares writing tips each weekday. His latest book is Title Tweet! 140 Bite-Sized Ideas for Article, Book, and Event Titles
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