Posts Tagged ‘training’

We, at Active Garage had run this promotion for the free eBook earlier in the year and we are running this again, now. If you find yourself wondering that if the eBook has been available for free download since then, why are we saying we are “running the promotion again”? Valid point.

Here’s why.

The author of the eBook, Mark McGuinness, is opening doors to folks interested in Creative Success, once again, for his amazingly valuable course “The Creative Entrepreneur Roadmap”, for a limited period and seats are limited.

Before you go ahead with making a decision of if this course if for you or not, I would suggest reviewing the blog I had written in January about what being Creative means and who this book (and subsequently, the course) is for (yes, it is not for everyone… ).

There are some great success stories form real folks who have taken this course and produced magical results by directly applying what they have learnt from the course. For instance, there is:

Since the course is now open for only a limited time, you could also directly go to the opt-in page to check it out and register.

To your Continued Success…

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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Resilience Engineering #12: Party Time!

by Gary Monti on August 29, 2011

“Party responsibly.” Beer commercials come to mind when reading that phrase. Let’s nudge it a bit and maybe drop the alcohol to show practical application of FRAM, the Functional Resonance Accident Model, initially introduced in blog #7 of this series. Why? In complex situations FRAM helps explain what happens much better than any linear model. Also, it has some added benefits we’ll see in a minute.

Specifically, an example from my RE workshop will be addressed. It has to do with a child trying to get permission to go to a party. This permission is predicated on homework being completed adequately by 5 PM for parental review (see figure below).

What we have here is a FRAM diagram. The goal is to show the dynamics at play and how they can be mapped out for a given situation. Each hexagon is a function. The attributes for each function are:

  • I (Input). Raw material needed to execute the activity, e.g., actual math problems that must be performed for “do homework.”
  • O (Output). The measurable deliverable from the activity.
  • P (Preconditions). Environmental and contextual considerations needed for success to occur, e.g., “work in class,” is a precondition for “study” to be effective.
  • R (Resources). Classic project management resources, e.g., bringing “books/work home” so that study can be facilitated.
  • T (Time). This can be either classic duration, e.g., two effort hours, or calendar time, e.g., one evening.
  • C (Control). The parameters for setting acceptance criteria as well as process requirements that insure an adequate job is done, e.g., all math problems must be performed correctly.

The first thing you might say is, “Couldn’t this simply be done as a network diagram?” It could but a lot would be missing. Specifically:

  • Flexibility. The big plus of this approach over network diagramming is freedom from left-to-right-to-show-the-passage-of-time. It lays out the dynamic and allows for brainstorming in terms of being able to add function points without worrying about chronology. Once the dynamic is completely expressed then a traditional schedule can be made.
  • Heads-up Display. Notice how all the elements associated with a function are provided in one spot. This allows a faster, more intuitive approach to assessing a situation, e.g., there’s no changing of “views” to see important information. This having to flip back and forth can fragment one’s thinking potentially causing the overview to be lost.
  • Impact of Functional Resonance (variance). With this model one can see the effect that changing multiple variables can have on the process, which, in turn, can impact the project.

For example, take the function “Dad Reviews.” This can have variance (functional resonance). If Dad has had a long day at work, is tired, and would like to just sit for a while then “Dad’s Principles,” which is the control mechanism for the review, could resonate from when Dad had more energy and was thinking about how important preparing for college is.

Another example is bringing “books/work home.” There is a great deal of nuance with this function. It is a direct input and resource for “study” providing the material covered in class. It also is an input and resource for “do homework.” This is very rich information-wise. I helps explain the broad frustration parents feel when their child says, “I’m sorry I forgot my books (look of disgust)! It’s no big deal. I’ll call my friend for the problems.” It was trying to make something linear (and less significant) which actually is indicative of something larger in the entire process of learning.

Compounding effects can be illuminated. Look at the 5 PM deadline for submitting the work for Dad’s review. If class was cut so that “work in class” was nullified what impact could that have on making the 5 PM deadline. It could lower the probability of the homework being done on time so the failure to get to the party might have already been determined earlier in the day. Then again, combined with Dad being tired, the cutting class can be compounded and the child gets to leave and essentially “Party Irresponsibly.” See how this works?

FRAM gives a nice picture of the dynamics of a situation. It helps tell the story. In complex situations this is extremely critical because success and failure emerge from the dynamic interplay between the variables rather than residing in any one part.

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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Students from around the world list starting the project without clear requirements as their #1 problem. Last week, in a workshop addressing this issue an interesting response surfaced in about a third of the students. In a word, discomfort. Why would this happen when something that benefits the PM and team is being developed? Let’s explore.

Some background about the method will help. It teaches simultaneous development of a scope of work and determination of a possible political path providing a high probability of successful implementation of the proposed scope of work. No small feat, just ask any project manager!

Scope and Politics

Developing scope in a no-scope environment entails using a method developed by the astrophysicist Fritz Zwicky. It is called Morphological Analysis. The short version of how to use it goes something like this: using the variables associated with the project think of all possible scopes in the situation. Go through and eliminate those that have contradictory requirements, e.g., simultaneously tall and short. This will reduce the list of possible scopes dramatically.

Now, switch to game theory. List the stakeholders (players) who can impact the development of the project and its execution. By stakeholder, list the way they are playing their particular game (strategy), and the reward (payoff) they want. Generate a 3 dimensional grid, comprising player, strategy, and payoff. Now the fun begins!

Map the list of possible scopes into the strategies and payoffs.  List the scopes that have the highest probability of surviving the games being played. This typically leaves a very short list of possible scopes. Pick one and start promoting it. Keep the other scopes as possible backups should a shift in plans be needed.

Seems straightforward enough and, for many it was. So why would some attendees experience discomfort?

Fear and Honesty

In her classic book, When Things Fall Apart, Pema Chodron states:

“Fear is a natural reaction to getting closer to the truth.”

In the workshop confusion, discomfort, fear, and some anger arose. The class was paused and a chart session was used to find out what was happening. Students gave a range of responses. Here are a few:

“Looking at gamesmanship so directly pushes on me. I have to go into my unconscious incompetencies and decide what to do about the politics. This is good.”

I made a career-altering decision 8 months ago and things have been tough ever since. This class, though, is validating I made the right decision and will continue implementing it.”

“I work with a nice guy who isn’t pulling his weight. We have the same boss, whom I like, and she wants him to do better but nothing gets done. I am feeling a lot of pressure. This class is getting confusing!”

“Why this game stuff? We have technical work to get done and I just don’t see where politics applies.”

“I don’t see where any of this is relevant! Just how am I supposed to use this?”

That first respondent is very self-aware. She stayed with her discomfort and did quite well with the material. Prima fascia, she would make a good team member. The last respondent left in anger at the next break.

But the other respondents, what about them? There isn’t enough space to go into them right now. Instead, it would be better to close with a list showing a few responses people may choose in a no-scope situation. Having this list may help you profile your own situation and determine how far you could get with a given scope based on the stakeholder population, time, money, and resources present. Here are a few of the possible positions people can take:

  1. Is a natural in this situation and is on board;
  2. Has a fear of dealing with politics and reacts by actively work against the project;
  3. Can see benefit but is afraid to go to those uncomfortable spaces where politics is addressed and stalls;
  4. Is afraid but sees the benefit of pushing on themselves and working through the difficulties and is willing to push through;
  5. Only likes working in defined situations and goes blank in no-scope environments.

Maybe by keeping the above in mind and looking at your own power, authority, time, and resources you can gauge just how far to push with which scope. Ideally, you’ll do reasonably well and live to see another day and manage another project.

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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In our last post we discussed the first two areas where savvy organizations are helping newly hired Gen Ys enter the workforce – – –

A) Getting them contributing (and feeling valued) very quickly and

B) Establishing clear standards for behavior so the new hire fits into the culture.

Now we’ll talk about the third area where Gen Ys sometimes need help – – – building good people skills.

C) People skills – These are hard to change because they are deeply intertwined with how we see ourselves, the world and other people.  People skills are formed, and then selectively reinforced, throughout life.  But people can change.  I have found that annual classes teaching proven inter-personal techniques for everyone is a great idea and are most effective if taught in a lighthearted, humorous style.  Humor relaxes us so we lower our defensive guards and become more receptive to new ideas.  There is evidence that such training can bring about lasting changes in how we relate to others if those changes are doable, result in better relationships and are continually reinforced.  So enlightened organizations are providing new Gen Ys with both training and with frequent nudges that reinforce the good behavior and correct the areas where they need to improve.

Frequent Feedback

Actually, that is a key point across all aspects of working with Gen-Ys:  frequent feedback. Tell them what they did right or wrong and how to improve. Our Gen Y students have told us:

  • “I cannot believe my boss waited for a year to tell me about 2-3 things I was doing wrong!  I could have been improving since I first got here but I had no idea I was doing those things wrong.  What a stupid process the ‘annual performance review’ is here.”
  • “Nobody says squat around here about what we do right or wrong until the ‘review’ and that only happens every calendar quarter if we are lucky.  I’d like to hear every month what I am doing right and wrong.  Then I can do something about it.

This need for frequent feedback goes back to the issues we discussed in Part 1 of this series of posts:  an ego that needs frequent reinforcement from others in order to feel secure.  So for the first six months, sit down every month with each new employee’s mentor and ask about the employee, how others feel about them, how well (or poorly) they are working with others, early strengths and weaknesses that may be emerging, etc.  Then meet one-on-one with each new employee, and discuss how they see themselves, their progress, fears, suggested improvements, etc.  And here’s a technique I’ve used:  schedule the 2-hour employee “performance discussion” at 4 pm on a Wednesday (“hump day”) and then continue the chat for an hour at a nearby bar or lounge where a medicinal glass of merlot or a beer will bring out the Gen Y’s real thoughts about the organization, him/herself, processes, procedures, and becoming a valued member of the team!

Choice of a Mentor/Boss

The choice of mentor is crucial but the first boss is even more so, impacting a new employee’s career perhaps more than anything else.   A poor communicator and/or insecure, overly judgmental boss can drive a new hire out the door for greener pastures.  Unfortunately, it has been our experience that the older the boss is, the more likely he/she is to make snap judgments about people and, hence the more dangerous is their assignment to supervise a new Gen Y employee fresh from college.  The difference in peoples’ perspectives usually increases with the age gap and if too wide, the two generations may not be able to relate well and no rapport is established.  Gen Y behaviors, while age-appropriate, may then trigger irreversible impressions and inaccurate conclusions in the boss’s head.  Gen Ys are still very much a “work in progress” when they leave college and often for 3-5 years after that.  Give them an initial boss who sees them that way and will help gently shape them properly.

Arranging for new Gen Ys to initially work with other Gen Ys initially also makes for an easier transition than immediately assigning them to multi-generational teams, but emphasize from the start that working well with others of all ages, not just with other Gen Ys, is essential to being promoted and given more responsibility (and more fun assignments) in the organization.

When a new person of any generation joins an organization, an unwritten agreement is formed.  Each party agrees to do their share in making the “marriage” work.  So far we have talked about what the organization can do for the new Gen Y worker.  In the next post we will talk about what the newly hired Gen Y person must do to ease the transition into that new job.

Copyright: Solid Thinking Corporation

Mack McKinneyMack McKinney is on a personal crusade to eliminate conflict and stress in our lives. Mack’s mantra is “People treat you like you TRAIN them to treat you!” His company Solid Thinking Corporation teaches creativity, concept development, relationship management and high-performance project leadership to major US corporations and the US government
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Spirituality in Business: As the Paradigm Shifts

by Rosie Kuhn on April 6, 2011

If I were you, perched on the edge of your seat, curious enough to click on the topic of Spirituality and Business, I’d be readying myself for what – I’m not quite sure. I know I’d have a couple questions in mind.  I’d be curious about the philosophy or beliefs of this individual. I’d also be curious about what this topic has to do with me, personally. I’d wonder if this is going to be some righteous, woo-woo individual who’s going to preach some dogma about what’s right and what’s wrong in the corporate or business world. Is she going to tell me to meditate or pray before, during and after every meeting? That’s what I would be wondering if I were you.

Spirituality in Business

My beliefs and interpretations regarding spirituality and more specifically, spirituality in business emerged through my own personal experience of exploring the edges of my comfort zone, and also through the empowerment of many individuals who’ve felt the need for a thinking partner as they began to bushwhack a spiritual path of their own. My perspective is pretty simple; Regardless of the context, be in personal or corporate, I define spirituality in the most foundational and pragmatic terms possible. Spirituality is living in faith; faith not as religion but faith as in practicing trust. Shifting from what you know to what you don’t yet know, letting go of what you may be firmly attached to for something that may be tenuous at best, takes faith. I say a leap of faith is the essential and most fundamental practice of spirituality. That’s it!

For me, what’s required to even consider the possibility of engaging in life from a spiritual perspective is the willingness to be curious about who you are and how you be you. It’s being willing to consider cultivating awareness by exploring how you choose to choose what you choose. This practice of being curious leads to self-realization, which leads one along the continuum of enlightenment, one degree at a time. Another aspect of spirituality that’s just as important is the practice of actualizing your self – taking actions in the direction of how you want to be – maybe even who you want to be in the world.

Practice

You can hear that I am emphasizing the concept of practice – exercising and developing the muscles required to be curious and cultivate awareness, and to exercise the muscles necessary to put this newfound awareness into action. Both practices take faith and the implementation of our faith leaping muscles.

Here’s a good example:

Research shows that only one person in five find fulfillment in their work. What that means is that to some degree, most of us are unhappy and unfulfilled with our jobs! Is that a spiritual issue?

Let’s say that you are one of those who are unhappy in your job; how does your unhappiness impact on a) your relationship to the work you are doing; b) your relationships with your co-workers, managers, bosses and direct reports; and c) your relationship with yourself, your family and your friends?

When you are unhappy, what’s the quality of that experience? How do you be unhappy? Seriously! Everyone’s answers will be different, but more often than not I hear the following: I am withdrawn; withholding; shut down; unavailable; and numbed out. My creativity disappears; I eat more; exercise less; and I waste a lot of time at work. So what’s that got to do with spirituality?

Here’s another question: If you are one of the unsatisfied, what is the source of that unhappiness or that lack of satisfaction. What is it that creates that lack of fulfillment?

Again, each of us will have our own unique list of responses to this question, and what I hear quite often is: I really don’t care about the product or service of my company; the company treats its employees like we are robots; This place has no soul; I’m here for the money and the prestige of my position but I have no passion for what I’m doing; No one listens to my ideas; I’m not being challenged in the way that was promised; I’m afraid that if I leave my current position I’ll never have the stability or security I now have; I can’t make the kind of money I want doing what I’d really like to be doing, so I’m stuck.

Being stuck, unhappy and unfulfilled actually are choices we make based on our wants and desires. Too often we have more than one desire that wants fulfillment, and through the practice of choice-making we have to priorities our desires. Listing our hierarchy of desires will give us a good picture of what has us choose to choose what we choose.

It doesn’t matter if you are an individual, a small business or a large corporation; on an ongoing basis you will be choosing to choose what you choose in service to your hierarchy of desires. The questions is: Is your choice-making process currently working for you? If it’s not working for you, would you consider seeing things differently in service to having more fulfillment?

You can say no, I’m not willing to see it different. That’s good to know. However, I may ask another question: what has you say no – what has you not willing to see it differently?

Faith

Our commitment to limiting ourselves to only what we know keeps things just as they are. Just the willingness to consider possibility takes faith. It causes change and disruptions. Most of us would like a change but we don’t want the disruption that comes with change. For many of us, maintaining invulnerability is at the top of our list of priorities. Exploring, experimenting, expanding our comfort zones requires a willingness to take risks, to be vulnerable. All new beginnings require vulnerability and a leap of faith.

Research and statistics indicate that kindness and compassion within the work environment is profitable; people are happier, more creative and are more likely to stay longer with their current company. Great! With all of this being true, how does an individual, a business or organization begin bringing spirituality into the work place? From my perspective it’s best to start with the practice of being curious about how you be and what you do. Enjoy the adventure

Editor’s Note: This is the start of a new Series “As the Paradigm Shifts” by Dr. Rosie Kuhn, who will be taking you on a Spiritual journey in the land of Business, in her subsequent articles.

Photo Credit: Missy McDonald Sauer

Rosie KuhnThis article is contributed by Dr. Rosie Kuhn, founder of the Paradigm Shifts Coaching Group, author of Self-Empowerment 101, and creator and facilitator of the Transformational Coaching Training Program. She is a life and business coach to individuals, corporations and executives.
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In the last post we talked about the special needs of new Gen Y workers.  Now we will look at how every new employee, Gen Y included, is judged in their new organization.  Then we will see what savvy teams are doing to help newly hired Gen Ys hit the ground running.

Upon arrival at a new job, every new employee is judged (I know, we shouldn’t “judge” people, but we do).  They will be scrutinized by established members of the organization in three areas:

  1. Why are they even here? They require salary and benefits.  What do they bring and contribute to the operation (education, technical skills, certifications, clients, special abilities)?
  2. Will we be able to rely upon them?  What kind of person they are (how is their head wired, what are their values, integrity, reliability)?
  3. Are they going to cause problems with our other people?  How good are their people-skills (how well will they work with others)?

Knowing that every organization’s current employees will be judging new people in at least those three areas, the organization should be proactive.  For each area where the new person will be judged the organization should bias the system in favor of success for them.  Give them the strongest possible start in each area. Let’s look at these one at a time:

The Gen Y’s work contribution

Find ways to put new hires to work, in their chosen field, the first week. But only do so with help from a mentor, just a few years senior if possible, who is already adapting nicely in the organization.  Before any formal training begins, have the mentor show the protégé the facilities, introduce peers, demonstrate his (the mentor’s) job, in short – launch the socialization process.  This mentor’s own, specific job in the organization is less important than having good people skills and good work ethics.  You are trying to set a good example.  And remember that new people view the organization in ways established employees no longer can.  So listen for suggestions from new hires, even fresh from school GenYs, as to how the organization can improve.  When a great idea emerges, adopt it and publicize it. (In fact, documenting and showing the disposition of EVERY suggestion in an organization is a wonderful way to demonstrate that every suggestion is important; also noting why it was implemented, deferred or rejected can be a great morale booster.)

The Person

Assume the new Gen Y is a reliable, reasonable person of integrity and reinforce that with organization-specific ethics training immediately.  Studies have shown that a person’s failure to perform can almost always be attributed to either poor training or poor motivation:  they either (1) don’t know exactly what is expected of them, so they don’t do it or (2) they know what is expected but are not sufficiently motivated to do it.  So tell them what you want in the initial in-briefings about ethics, integrity, reliability and honesty.  Then show them people in the organization living those values and being rewarded for them.  People usually rise to the benchmark their peers and bosses set for them.

You won’t know an employee’s deepest values until they are tested in some way but you can often shape a Gen Y’s still-impressionable sense of right and wrong.  You do this with a clear position written in simple English (not by lawyers) for every behavior the organization will (and won’t) tolerate.  These points can be part of an initial briefing or provided by a mentor or boss and they must be reinforced constantly by management.  Some examples could include:

  1. Expense accounts – don’t pad them. Keep thorough records and spend the organizations dollars as carefully as if it is your family’s money.
  2. Speak plainly – say what you mean and mean what you say. (* with one exception, discussed later).  Don’t use big puffy words, don’t “spin” your positions and don’t exaggerate.  Don’t understate things either. Be factual and be evidence-based.  Steer away from drama of all kinds here.
  3. You are unknown here.  From the very start, build a reputation as a hard worker who pitches in to contribute, without complaint, who speaks plainly and honestly, who shows up early and stays late.  Succeeding here can be thought of as a marathon with occasional sprints.  You must be able to do both.
  4. When you need help, ask for it.  We are a team here.

Well, you get the idea  . . . . This sharing of values and standards, repeated and demonstrated over time, is how individuals are brought into a team with shared goals, interdependencies and mutual rewards.

The organization and the new hire must agree to “meet halfway” in the process of individuals joining the team.  In our next post we will see what savvy companies are doing to help new Gen Ys improve the people skills they will need to succeed and we will look at the number one thing a newly hired Gen Y can focus on to quickly be accepted in a new job.

Copyright: Solid Thinking Corporation

Mack McKinneyMack McKinney is on a personal crusade to eliminate conflict and stress in our lives. Mack’s mantra is “People treat you like you TRAIN them to treat you!” His company Solid Thinking Corporation teaches creativity, concept development, relationship management and high-performance project leadership to major US corporations and the US government
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Leader driven Harmony #6: Failure is required (Part I)

by Mack McKinney on January 7, 2011

Failure is Required!

If any of the following is true about you, you are in danger:

  • Your parents worried a lot about your self-image when you were growing up, so you got lots of encouragement
  • Your parents helped you with homework and projects so you could get a better grade or win the grand prize (and you often did!)
  • Everyone on your sports teams got a trophy for something (best helper, trying the hardest, etc.) so nobody would feel left out at awards banquets
  • Your parents set you up in your first business(es) and made all the tough decisions for you so you wouldn’t fail

These actions by loving, caring parents and coaches and teachers throughout the 80s and 90s have inadvertently helped create a generation of emotionally-dependent Generation-Y people (aka Gen-Yers or “Millennials”).  If you grew up during this time, you are likely affected.  But the condition can be corrected and no surgery is needed.  You just have to fail at a few things and you’ll be OK.  But you need to carefully choose the things at which you might fail (sounds bizarre, doesn’t it?).

In his outstanding book “Outliers” Malcolm Gladwell talks about his discovery that seasoned professionals (airline pilots, doctors, etc.) don’t really get good at their craft until they have accumulated roughly 10,000 hours doing it!  That is the equivalent of 5 years of five-day weeks, 8 hours each day.  And you can bet that, hidden in those hours are many successes and many failures.  Let’s look at just one profession, aircraft pilot, and talk about the training possibilities and we’ll look at two types of students:  those allowed to make mistakes and those prevented from making mistakes.  We’ll then compare the training they get with the way YOU have been treated by your teachers, coaches and parents and show you why that puts you in danger of being a failure in life!

When you learn to fly, your instructor’s technique is absolutely crucial in preparing you for the real world of safely flying an aircraft around the sky, navigating from place to place and talking to controllers and other pilots.  Most flight instructors, military and civilian, use a combination of teaching techniques, pushing students when their proficiency permits, allowing students to make small mistakes and learn from them, etc.  But unfortunately there are also two extreme teaching styles that we should avoid:

  1. The “Nanny Instructor” who intervenes constantly and prevents the student from making any mistakes
  2. The “Deep End Instructor” who teaches flying like some people teach swimming:  throw the student in the deep end of the pool and don’t intervene unless they are about to die.

We will leave the “Deep End Instructor” discussion for another day.  But a quick examination of the “Nanny Instructor” and a comparison to some parents and teachers and coaches, is interesting.  First, what do we see when students trained by Nanny Instructors finish their training?

  • They are not Prepared. Since they have not been allowed to make many mistakes and have a tiny mistake insidiously multiply into bigger mistakes, they are not prepared when that happens to them when flying alone.  So they are not prepared for many things that can go wrong in the air but more importantly they are not mentally prepared with the confidence they will need to think through the completely unexpected problems they will sometimes face.  If all mistakes are preceded by the instructor saying “now be careful – – – your airspeed is dropping” or “now the needle is moving so let’s start our turn to the runway” then the student will never hear the stall horn on approach (scaring the crap out of you as it warns of an impending, possibly deadly approach stall).  And the student will never have the scary experience of flying through the course to the runway and having to then figure out exactly where he is and then remember that he hasn’t started his descent on time and then overflying the runway and having to call the controller and embarrassingly ask for another approach.
  • They Panic: These students are more likely to panic when a series of problems hits them in rapid-fire succession because they have not been allowed to see those big problems develop in training because the instructor always intervened.  Unfortunately, panic can cause the brain to almost shut down, often leading to fatal mistakes (the aircraft crash of Robert Kennedy Jr. comes to mind).

In the next post we will show how YOU may be like my pilot friend John, who could have killed himself had it not been for the excellent training he had received.  We’ll also see if YOU are in danger because people have NOT let you fail sufficiently as you grew up and why you now may be perfectly set-up to fail big-time in your life. It is like an earthquake:  experts don’t worry about the geologic fault zones that rumble and shake frequently because those faults are releasing energy all the time.  Instead they worry about the quiet fault lines, where pent-up energy is increasing and could let go with catastrophic effect.   Are YOU that pending earthquake?  Are you being unknowingly set-up, by well-meaning family and friends, for a major failure?  And if you are, what can you do about it?  We’ll show you in the next post.

Copyright: Solid Thinking Corporation

Mack McKinneyMack McKinney is on a personal crusade to eliminate conflict and stress in our lives. Mack’s mantra is “People treat you like you TRAIN them to treat you!” His company Solid Thinking Corporation teaches creativity, concept development, relationship management and high-performance project leadership to major US corporations and the US government
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Business Intelligence or lack thereof?

by Brian Beedle on March 29, 2010

In these difficult economic times, companies are creating processes that are not consistent with the ways in which they have traditionally managed their business.  Whether you are the CFO or an entry-level analyst, everyone must actively learn how to re-engineer and strategically manage in this new economic environment.

The expectation of companies’ Board of Directors is simply to increase top and bottom-line revenue (and by extension, profitability), with little concern for everything in the middle. Before you can even consider instituting measures to contribute to the Board’s expectations by implementing cost savings initiatives, it is necessary to develop a well thought out and orchestrated operating plan.  There are many approaches to this. Some companies prefer the “top-down” method, where management dictates the spending of the operating units and it is then up to the operators to manage within their allocated budgets. On the other extreme, management may prefer to push down the responsibility of planning to the operators and ask for a “bottoms-up” approach.  This approach requires the operational managers to develop assumptions and create a detailed operating plan with very little finance intervention.  Typically, the results of the “bottoms-up” approach may not be what you expect, but merely a wish list that even Santa Claus cannot deliver!  Sure, these may very well be extreme cases – most likely the process your organization uses falls somewhere in the middle. In any case, it is imperative that the process be organized and well executed.

PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT:

Q: “Why would a company be willing to invest the capital in a tool that provides little or no tangible Return on Investment (ROI)?”

A: This question is certainly justified, and the answer is surprisingly very simple: This perception is incorrect.  There is statistical proof which supports a direct correlation between implementing performance management tools and its downstream, positive impact to shareholder value.  Among this positive impact is increased accuracy of strategic capability.

Taking the leap to performance management is a major commitment for any organization and should not be made hastily or taken lightly.  Performance management initiatives do require careful planning, decisive action, and ongoing support from within the organization.  When it comes to performance management implementations, there is a fine line between success and failure.  A well planned-out and executed implementation will yield great success and gain acceptance.  However, a sub-par, marginal implementation with little or no added user benefit, will lead to frustration for the legacy users, leading to further resistance to the new technology and potentially the perception of a failed implementation.  The fine line between success and failure is extremely important to keep in mind.  Moreover, there are several factors that also need to be considered before beginning the journey to performance management, so that the end product delivers results not only in a positive ROI, but also in true business “intelligence”, and not a lack thereof.

A few of these factors are:

  • Before the decision is made to move forward, it is important that a thorough assessment is conducted of the current business planning and intelligence environment. One of the most common mistakes that many stakeholders encounter when implementing this type of a solution is poor design.  Take this opportunity to think outside of the box. Challenge the operational business managers who are responsible for preparing the physical operating plans and forecasts to research what is needed to successfully manage their business. Take a look at your current reporting – does it provide value?  You may be surprised to find out that the need of the finance team may differ greatly from the needs of the overall operation.
  • When preparing a proof of concept and statement of work, a best practice would be to set milestones and plan in phases. Establish reasonable expectations.  It is okay to under promise and over deliver.  Keep in mind, less may be more. Over complication of models and tools may only cause frustration and not be helpful in gaining user acceptance.
  • A successful implementation will require commitment by leadership within the organization. It is true that many of the leading enterprise planning and business intelligence solutions companies pride themselves in offering applications that are typically implemented and maintained by finance departments and require little or no IT support. This in many cases may be true, depending on the skill set of your administration team. However, for small to mid-size companies, these finance department resources may not be available as in larger organizations. Engaging network/server and database administrator resources up front will result in a far easier and more successful configuration of the environment. Before purchasing any hardware, it is advisable to discuss the requirements with your server team/consultants to ensure that your solution is being configured optimally, yet in the most economical fashion.
  • Provide training to users with relevant materials and be sure to seek feedback.  (Just because a solution is implemented, does not mean there is not room for continued development and improvement.)

Some of the points discussed in this article may sound quite elementary in concept,   however it is important to step back and not lose focus of these basic principles –  ultimately gaining a deep understanding of what it takes to successfully implement performance management initiatives.

Brian-BeedleThis article is contributed by Brian Beedle, Vice President and Senior Partner at Datacenter Trust. Brian has an extensive background in financial management in many industries including entertainment, travel and leisure, health care and technology. Brian is a practitioner of financial systems implementation and administration, and experienced with many of the top performance management tools on the market today. Follow Datacenter Trust on Twitter @datacentertrust
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Week In Review – Jan 17 – Jan 23, 2010

by Magesh Tarala on January 24, 2010

Learning without training

by Wayne Turmel, Jan 18, 2010

The traditional training model where companies identify competencies everyone across the organization needs is over. The audience for training is no longer the companies themselves, but the individuals in them. This has changed the way the players (Executives, Training Department, Training Companies and Individual Learner) look at training this year. In essence, training has shifted from a B2B model to a modified B2C model. more…

BLOGTASTIC! Help others succeed first

by Rajesh Setty, Jan 18, 2010

It is not a dog eat dog world in the blogosphere. If everyone thinks only they should succeed, then we’d be competing so hard against each other that no one will win. Instead, acknowledge the value you see on other blogs. The way you do it is by linking to their blogs on your posts. Don’t expect a reciprocal link thought – that ‘s not how blog links work. Focus on creating link-worthy content and your readers will link to you. First you give some and they you get some – in that order. more…

Quality #13: Reviews can be fun (if done right)

by Tanmay Vora, Jan 19, 2010

After 12 awesome posts last year, Tanmay is back with his first post this year and the 13th in the series.

Reviews are an integral part of product/service quality improvement. The purpose of a review is to make things better. Here are a set of common sense rules to adopt in the review process in the software world.

  1. Review early
  2. Stay positive
  3. Keep review records
  4. Review the work, not the person
  5. Train the reviewers
  6. Review iteratively
  7. Review the review process

more..

BLOGTASTIC! Avoid mudslinging

by Rajesh Setty, Jan 19, 2010

Slinging mud at other bloggers may help you generate traffic in the short run, but you won’t be able to retain quality visitors for your blog. You may be tempted to use your platform to vent your frustrations, but it is not a powerful move. You can demonstrate thought leadership without hurting anyone. more…

Measure for Success

by Guy Ralfe, Jan 20, 2010

Doing your best is not going to bring you success. It is at best a cop out. You may feel content about yourself. It is very difficult for humans to be objective for their own sake. What is needed is that you do what is right. Put in that extra degree, go that extra mile and you will see absolutely phenomenal results. Guy brings out this concept brilliantly in this post through a personal experience. more…

BLOGTASTIC! Earn links to your blog

by Rajesh Setty, Jan 20, 2010

A link is a give and treat it accordingly. Just like you would not approach a stranger and ask for a gift, you should not ask for a link from a blogger. Consistently writing compelling and link worthy content and providing a high “return on investment for an interacation (ROII)” will automatically get you links. So, focus on earning links rather than asking for them. more…

Take Care of your Top Employees

by Robert Driscoll, Jan 21, 2010

The worst economic situation in 70 years, has forced companies to do more with less. Employers have retained the top performers while eliminating the bottom performers. This has put enormous pressure on the top performers who cannot wait for the market to get back to “normal”. Companies should take action to identify top performers, define risks and take necessary action to mitigate the risk. more…

BLOGTASTIC! Don’t impose your rules on other bloggers

by Rajesh Setty, Jan 21, 2010

If you are getting something for free, then you lose your right to complain. Bloggers give away their knowledge and expertise and so they can set their own rules for their site. You can make up your own blog’s rules. Your rules can help you, or they can hurt you. Make sure that your rules help you gain more power. Don’t drive readers away with your blog’s rules. more…

Author’s Journey #5 – Choosing the right publishing alternative

by Roger Parker, Jan 22, 2010

Authors should not be carried away by the latest publishing hype. There are several formats in which to release your book – E-books, Trade publishing and Self-publishing. Each of these have their own pros and cons. Ultimately choosing the right publishing option boils down to just 2 issues: cash-flow and task preferences. Roger has created several worksheets to help authors realistically run the numbers and make the right decisions. more…

BLOGTASTIC! Don’t apply the rule of reciprocation for blogs

by Rajesh Setty, Jan 22, 2010

Just because you help your friend, it doesn’t mean they will help you in return. The same concept applies in the blogosphere. While there are no guarantees of reciprocation in the blogosphere, being nice on and off the blog really helps in the long run. more…

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Quality #13: Reviews can be fun (if done right)

by Tanmay Vora on January 19, 2010

Last year, in November, I posted 12 posts on QUALITY in the form of QUALITYtweets, on Active Garage. It didn’t quite seem right to stop just there… when there is so much still left to say about QUALITY!

Here are the first twelve 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…
  11. Quality #11: Driving Change Through Leadership
  12. Quality #12: Middle Management and Quality Culture

#QUALITYtweet Make every review meeting a learning

experience by reviewing the product

and process, not people.

We create, we review and we make it better. Reviews are an integral part of product/service quality improvement. The core purpose of any review process is to “make things better” by re-examining the work product and find out anomalies or areas of improvements that the creator of the work product was not able to find.

Establishing a good review process in an organization requires management commitment and investment, but for returns that it generates, the effort is totally worth it. In software world, a lot of emphasis is given to formal inspections, but they work best when a formal process marries with a set of common sense rules. Here they go:

1) Reviewing early

Reviews in early phase of product development means that findings are less costly to resolve. The later defects are found, more expensive it gets to resolve those defects.

2) Staying positive

The art of review is to report negative findings (problems) without losing the positive undertone of communication. Negative or destructive criticism will only make the process more burdensome. Stay positive and keep the process lightweight.

3) Keeping review records

When a lot of time is spent on reviewing, it makes sense to track the findings to closure. Recording the finding helps you to effectively track the closure and trends.

4) Reviewing process, not the person

Always question the process and not the person. Human beings are bound to make mistakes, which is why reviews are required. So accept that mistakes will happen. How can we have a more effective process so that these mistakes are not repeated? That is the critical question.

Imagine that Bob is the reviewer of John’s work product and consider the following conversations:

Bob: “John, I reviewed the code of invoices module developed by you. Again this time, you have not implemented the architecture correctly. You committed the same mistakes that were also found in the registration module earlier.”

OR

Bob: “John, I reviewed the code of invoices module developed by you and your team. We have found some anomalies in the architecture implementation. I just wanted to know if the team had undergone the workshop on our standard architecture. If not, we should invite our systems architect to take a small workshop on system architecture so that the team has better clarity on how it can be best implemented.”

Two conversations with a totally different outlook. The first conversation tries to blame the producer where as the second conversation tries to assess the process and take corrective actions.

5) Training and more training

Reviewers can make huge mistakes if they are not trained. If you don’t invest in training your review teams, you cannot expect them to do it right, the first time.

6) Reviewing iteratively

Review often. During the course of product building, product needs may change. New ideas may be implemented. Keep review process constant amidst all these changes. Discipline is the key.

7) Reviewing the process of reviewing

Are we reviewing it right? Are we reviewing the right things? Periodically, assess the results and the benefits of having a review process. Assess how reviews helped improve product quality. In process assessment, also identify if people are heavily relying on reviews. It that is the case, it is a bad sign.

Success of any process depends on 2 E’s – Efficient and Enjoyable. Same holds true for your review processes. Review is a control mechanism, and hence the focus on getting it right the first time is still very important. A good review is just an internal quality gate that ensures that internal customers (reviewers) are happy with the final product. If your internal customers are happy, your external customers will be happy too!

Tanmay VoraTanmay is a Software Quality Management professional based out of India. He hosts QAspire Blog and tweets as @tnvora. He is also an author of the book #QUALITYtweet – 140 Bite-Sized Ideas to Deliver Quality in Every Project
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