Posts Tagged ‘progress’

Managing a project requires actions

by Guy Ralfe on August 4, 2010

I recently had to jump in and manage a project in deep distress. The project was 5.5 weeks into an 8 week schedule and the project was only barely 20% complete. This was a construction project so easier to measure completion than say IT projects.

When I jumped into the project we were about to be removed from the project, I begged for 48 hrs to produce a recovery plan but settled on a compromise of 24 hrs – this was my first commercial construction project so not much time!  In discussing the situation with the general contractor, they kept on telling us how far behind schedule we were against the original (baseline) project plan. This was the original project plan laid out before the project began.

The conversation was just hopeless to the situation – telling me how late each section is; does not give any direction with which to act to remediate the situation. When I asked what were the priorities and what dependencies existed I received the response “they are all critical!”

When the plan was originally built it was obviously constructed based on a number of constraints and priorities known at the time. Today those priorities were in a very different arrangement due to the impact of not having various sections complete that have an impact on others also working on the project.

What I set about doing was to produce a plan, a recovery plan, that defined the work that needed to be completed and by when based on current priorities so that it still remained a comprehensive plan. This plan set out the new objectives and the “new reality” we needed to produce for a satisfactory outcome – with this defined it was shared with the team who now knew what was required. Looking at the project this way provided tangible targets to manage the resources and production against. The obvious problem was – being told you are late yesterday and again today does not provide you any point of reference with which to act.

Another successful tactic we used was not to focus on the small details but rather identify the three or four key fronts we needed to make progress on and constantly reevaluated the plan every day to determine if we had made enough progress… and also, did we need more people and could we shift the load around between teams?

This was a recovery plan but in essence it is no different than it should be for any project correctly managed. Projects are living and evolving ecosystems – a plan helps us anticipate the future and organize a number of people/organizations for the execution of the project. What we need to remember is that when the situation no longer reflects the plan the plan needs to be adjusted and some actions need to take place as a result or the outcome cannot be the same. To manage projects you need to manage the project and not just read the plan!

I’ve heard few authors say that they “found the time” to write their book! Time is not something you “find,” like a needle in a haystack (or, the New World).

Instead, time to write is something you create, and you create time using tools like planning, commitment, and efficiency.

Here’s a proven, 4-step process for making the time to write that works for me, and many of my clients.

1. Start with a plan

Whether you’re writing a book or a blog post, progress comes quicker when you know what you want to write before you sit down to write.

Your “plans” don’t have to be elaborate, and they don’t have to be formal. As you can see from the content plan I created at the start of this series, a simple mind map is enough to provide a framework for your writing success.

Likewise, if you’re starting a book, your plan might be as simple as a list of the 10 chapters you’re going to include in your book, plus the 7-10 main ideas (or topics) you’re going to discuss in each chapter.

For example, I just added a copy of a mind map I created a few years ago for a major project to my Active Garage Resource Center. It was one of my first maps, but it was enough to sell the project and help me write the project on time.

2. Commit to daily progress

Once you have created a content plan, or framework, the next step is to forget everything you ever heard about deadline-based “writing marathons.” Likewise, forget about “getting away” to write a book and myths like “I write better under pressure.”

I’ve interviewed hundreds of successfully branded authors, and the majority of them don’t believe coffee-inspired writing marathons. Instead, they commit to consistent daily progress, often in working sessions as short as 30 minutes.

Books are best written in short, daily working sessions, not stressful marathons!

It’s amazing what you can accomplish in 30-minute working sessions if you know what you’re going to write about. The act of creating a content plan, activates your brain so it is constantly working in the background, sifting and organizing ideas, searching for the right words, while you’re doing other tasks during the day, and when you’re driving or sleeping.

Fewer expectations equal less stress

One of the reasons that short working sessions are so productive is that there is less stress- -primarily performance anxiety- -involved in short 30-minute working sessions than in vacations or weekends. One of the reasons for this is that if you only expect to write a page or two during a working session, you’re not as likely to be disappointed.

But, if you have vowed to write a book over the summer at a vacation cabin, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. Why? Because the expectation of a completed book leads to the worrisome thought, What do I do if I don’t finish my book? Won’t I be a failure? Won’t people laugh?

Likewise, expecting to write a book during weekends and holidays, creates guilt-based stress because you’re not spending time with your family.

3. Harvest your time

Begin by taking an inventory of your time, locating specific time periods each day when you can commit to 30 minute working sessions. Look for opportunities like:

  • Getting up 30-minutes earlier each day, preferably before the family gets up.
  • Staying up 30-minute later each night.
  • Arriving at the office 30-minutes earlier and closing the door.
  • Taking your lunch with you, and eating a sandwich at your computer.
  • Taking your laptop to a coffee shop or bookstore café during breaks or mealtime.

Then, make both public commitment of specific times each weekday. Don’t say, I’m going to write a little every morning! Instead, specify, I’m going to get to my office by 8:30 AM and check my messages or e-mail until 9:00!

Your daily writing sessions don’t have to be at the same time each day; your working sessions on Monday might be between 7:30 and 8:00 AM, but your Tuesday working sessions might be 8:00 PM to 8:30 while the family is watching television.

Once you’ve made a commitment to daily progress, and shared it with others, you’ll find it much easier to keep your project on track.

4. Track your progress

Since we all find the time to do what we want to do, it’s important that you keep yourself motivated.

That’s why the final step is to find a way to demonstrate your daily progress. One of the ways you can do this is to add a check-mark, or a strike-through, to indicate finished chapters and topics on your content map.

Another way to show progress is to print what you’ve just written during each writing session on 3-hole punched paper, and store them in a 3-ring binder.

Each time you open the binder and insert new pages, you’ll enjoy a feeling of accomplishment, as you see your finished pages mounting up.

Conclusion

All the “how to write” books and workshops in the world won’t get your book written if you don’t make the time to make the time to actually write your book. The 4-step process of planning your content, commiting to short, daily working sessions, harvesting your time, and tracking your progress is a formula that works. But, it’s up to you to put the process to work!

Quality #11: Driving Change Through Leadership

by Tanmay Vora on November 23, 2009

change through leadershipWelcome to the penultimate post in this 12-part series on QUALITY, titled #QUALITYtweet – 12 Ideas to Build a Quality Culture.

Here are the first ten posts, in case you would like to go back and take a look:

  1. Quality #1: Quality is a long term differentiator
  2. Quality #2: Cure Precedes Prevention
  3. Quality #3: Great People + Good Processes = Great Quality
  4. Quality #4: Simplifying Processes
  5. Quality #5: Customers are your “Quality Partners”
  6. Quality #6: Knowing what needs improvement
  7. Quality #7: Productivity and Quality
  8. Quality #8: Best Practices are Contextual
  9. Quality #9: Quality of Relationship and Communication
  10. Quality #10: Inspection can be a waste if…

#QUALITYtweet Critical question: Knowing that

people will change only if they want to, how do you

make sure they “want” to change?

Process Improvement is a “change” game and implementing change isn’t always easy. In case of process improvement, the challenge is to change habits and behaviors of your people. That makes it even more difficult.

People change, not by “force” but by their “intent”. With force, people may dispassionately comply with your processes, but for true involvement, their intent needs a direction. With this as a given, critical questions are:

  • How do you make sure that you implement change by driving intent of people?
  • How do you make sure that people are passionately involved in change?

The answer to these is “Change Leadership”. Leading a change means undertaking right initiatives, mobilizing resources, addressing soft aspects like motivation, overcoming hurdles and aligning the teams to make it happen. How can change leadership drive process improvement initiative? Here are a few pointers:

  • Accurately define what needs a change: Apply 80:20 rule to identify what needs improvement. It is easy to align people when they know that they are improving the right areas that have maximum business/operational impact.
  • Create a change time line: Humans work best when they work against a time line. We often tend to get complacent when there are no deadlines. Reasonable pressure helps us become more creative. Create a time line by when change will be implemented with a step-by-step action plan. This also creates a sense of urgency.
  • Engage people: People tend to commit themselves to things they are involved in. Involve practitioners and managers in defining the change. They are the ones who will be impacted by the change. Engage them by explaining them the larger context, vision and business need. When they know the larger picture, they can align their actions accordingly. They also need to know the “What’s in it for me?” part. How will they become more effective? How will this change help them improve their performance? They want to know this.
  • Review progress periodically: If you don’t monitor your people, you give them a reason to slow down. Have short and effective meetings (in group or one-on-one) with people involved in change. Take a stock of how things are going. Understand their problems. Help them do better. They get help and you get the broader picture. If you hit some roadblocks, you still have chance to re-align. Review early and often. This is also your opportunity to share progress and motivate people involved in improvement initiatives.
  • Lead: Give them the context and set them free. Micromanagement on tasks can kill creativity and morale. Be there to help them, but let them do it on their own. People learn the most when they try to do it themselves. They will make mistakes. Help them overcome and share the lessons learned. Set right examples for them to follow.
  • Share rewards: when you link participation with rewards, it will help you get voluntary participation from people. But after they have participated, it is only your leadership abilities that will keep them going. You will still have lot of people who will willingly participate.
  • Keep rotating teams: Once a change cycle is implemented, induct new team members in the improvement team. You maximize the opportunities for everyone to get involved in defining improvements. Broader the participation, wider the acceptance of change.

Last but not the least, people engage when they see continuity of effort. If your improvement initiative is temporary or ad-hoc, people will not engage beyond the first cycle. When people see consistent results from a process improvement group, they willingly participate.

Process improvement is a journey and not a destination. Who you travel with matters a lot. Choose the right people and get them to swing into action. Your business will thank you for that!