Keep Calm and Carry On!

Keep-calm-and-carry-on-scan.jpgKeeping your clients calm is a key skill that every project manager needs to learn.  This simple tool will help you do just that.

Most people, and especially Type A people,  need to know that things are in control at all times.  The old adage “no news is good news” couldn’t be further from the truth as far as project stakeholders are concerned.

If the apparent lack of action causes your clients to start writing emails you have just added a whole host of problems.  Instead of getting on with your work you will, instead, be spending time “on the back foot” providing multiple status updates and generally playing defense. That is not where you want to be.

A simple tool to avoid this is putting time on the stakeholder’s calendar.   Marking out a clear time when things will be discussed lets them know that you are on top of things, provides a clear timeline, and creates space for you to actually complete the work without interruption.

Let’s take a simple example.

deadline.jpgYour team needs to create a high-level design for review. They have told you it will take a week to complete.
Book a review meeting 6 or 7 working days from today, including the client and relevant team members.  Boom!  

In one quick step you have achieved the following:

  • Let the client know you have things under control
  • Avoided emails and requests for information that would burn time and energy
  • Provided the design team the time they need to get the work done unmolested
  • Created urgency with the team to complete things on the schedule they provided to you, practically guaranteeing that they will have that on time
  • Let people know that if they give you a date, you will hold them to it

It’s simple. It’s effective. And it takes almost no time at all.  What could be better than that?

 

 

 

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Above the Fold

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“Above the fold” is an old concept that can still be used give your emails more punch!

For newspapers, the most important space in the entire paper is the upper half of the front page. Papers are often displayed folded so that only the top half of the front page is visible. Thus, an item that is “above the fold” is one that the publisher believes will entice people to buy the paper.

But why is this important in a world controlled by electronic media?  

Because the concept of being “above the fold” still holds true today, and may even be more important in a world saturated with excessive email traffic.  

When sending an email you need your “call to action” to be at the top.   This goes double if your audience will be reading on a mobile device.

Need someone to approve your budget?  Include that message in the first few lines of your email, and then follow with all of the pertinent information on why the money is necessary.  If you lead with supporting information, it’s likely they will never get to the bit where you need them to take action.

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The same applies to your web pages.  Want action?  Then make sure the call to action appears before the user has to scroll down.

Like it or not today’s world is all about convenience.  So if you want action, don’t make people have to work for it.

 

 

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Solid Foundation Drone Building Class

Is drone building as cool as skateboarding?  Probably not!  But who says you can’t have both?

via Solid Foundation Drone Building Class – Avios Aerial MediaAvios Aerial Media21624008_10155033600844786_804616408_n.jpg

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Equifax’s Instructions Are Confusing. Here’s What to Do Now.

By sitting on information about a massive data leak for two months, Equifax put over half the population of the US at serious risk of fraud. Now it turns out they may even be able to turn this into a money making proposition!

So, yes, your worst suspicions are now confirmed. Equifax may actually make money on this breach. We would expect nothing less from the credit reporting industry, with which few of us would choose to do business but nearly everyone has to sooner or later.

via Equifax’s Instructions Are Confusing. Here’s What to Do Now. – The New York Times

Similar to how it is illegal for criminals to make money from their notoriety, I think it’s time we had something similar for companies.  At the very least, any monies made need to be funneled into a fund to take care of the victims.

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The Clean Disruption of Energy and Transportation

Did you know that there was only one automobile in the 1900 New York City parade, and just 13 years later there was only one horse?

Seven years ago I predicted that self-driving cars would be the norm very soon.  But as Tony Seba correctly points out, it is the merging of different technologies that really bring innovation and disruption.

Combining self-driving, solar power, ride sharing and the amazing longevity of electric vehicles it seems clear that the future of transportation is about to undergo massive disruption.  And if Tony is correct, we are going to see major changes in just a few years!

This video is long…but well worth watching.

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Filed under Automobiles and motorcycles, Technology

The RAG Status Primer

rag-faces.jpgRed, Amber, Green (RAG) status is a basic part of any Project Manager’s toolkit.

Used properly the RAG status keep stakeholders informed, increases your chances of delivering on time and improves your love life.

OK, I made up that last bit…but your improved success rate at work certainly couldn’t hurt.

The following conversation occurs surprisingly often.

Me:  “Why is that task showing green?  We both know you can’t possibly meet that date.”

PM: “I can’t turn it red yet because we haven’t passed the due date…”

helpIf you’re a PM and you think that sounds right…you’re doing it wrong.

The objective of the RAG status is not to tell what has happened, but what is likely to happen. It is a call for help.

As soon as you believe a date cannot be met you should change the status.

Help can come in many forms.  Extra resources, reprioritization, escalation by a senior manager, a hug etc.  But the sooner you make the call the more chance you have of bringing that task back on track.

So what are the definitions?

RAG can be used for many different things but, if we stick with just date scenarios, these are a good starting point.

Status Meaning Action
Green Under control None
Amber Off track and deadlines may be missed.  Be ready. Team to work on the problem to bring things back on track.  Extra help may be needed.
Red Off track.  Deadlines will be missed without remedial action. Escalation to the controlling group (steering committee, senior executives, etc.)  to bring additional resources to bear.

As a Project Manager, you should not be afraid to turn something amber or red.  In fact, I would say it is your duty to do so as soon as you are aware you have a problem.

Asking for help is a sign of strength, not a sign of weakness.  It takes a confident person to put their hand up and admit they can’t do it alone.  

But, for the sake of your career, don’t spring this on people in a meeting, talk to the project sponsor and key people ahead of time and make sure they agree with your assessment.  Project steering committees are not the place to surprise people that have an influence on your future!

Used appropriately the RAG status can bring problems under control and turn you into a hero.

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Why not just turn things red all the time and get all of the resources and assistance you can?

Two words…Cry wolf!

Turning things red too early on a regular basis is going to seriously tick off people and practically guarantee that when you really do need help, you won’t get it.  Use it…but use it sparingly.

Now go forth and improve your project outcomes…and your love life!

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My Father’s Dragon

8 years ago I convinced Greg to record a children’s audio book for a group called Librivox.  Librivox provides thousands of free audiobooks that are in the public domain.

The book was called My Father’s Dragon, by Ruth Stiles Gannett.  It’s a fantastic story about how a boy uses his smarts to overcome various obstacles and it is made extra special (IMHO) because it is read by a young child.

Today I stumbled across that old recording on my phone and wanted to see how it was doing.  If I’m reading the site correctly it looks as though it has now been “read” over 70,000 times!

If you have young children I would recommend giving it a shot.  I bet they will love it!

If you would prefer to download it see the page on Librivox here:

https://archive.org/details/my_fathers_dragon_0909_librivox

 

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