Thursday, January 24, 2008

PROJECT MANAGEMENT & ORGANIZATIONAL BEHAVIOR: THE RULES OF EFFECTIVE INFLUENCE

Influencing others goes a long way in becoming organizationally effective. And feeling better about your world and yourself.

Stephen Covey is my guru on this and all related subjects that pertain to effective people. Click here to read my blog entry about his highly acclaimed book, "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People."

The power to influence others is important in any setting. Currently, more of my work is within the field of project management and I find that this subject has become more significant.

I’ve listed some practical guidelines below. None originated from me. Their “correctness” comes from their mention in other topics concerning human interactions.

1. In the short-term, you should build common interests through negotiation.

2. In the long-term, work on building trust, confidence, and respect for each other. If you have integrity and honesty, seek to demonstrate those qualities at every opportunity. If you don’t—well, you’re not my kind of a person.

3. Make hard decisions when necessary. However, be empathic with people who are adversely affected by those hard decisions. What’s empathy? To me, it’s being in the other person’s shoes and feeling what they feel and then returning to your own and communicating that you understand how they feel.

4. Avoid making enemies. An opponent is someone who disagrees with you and wants a situation to have a different outcome from yours. An enemy, on the other hand, is someone who has taken your disagreement to a more personal level and seeks to harm you. Discourage your opponents from becoming enemies by demonstrating genuine integrity and honesty. Do not be manipulative or double-cross them.

5. Be a worthwhile ally. This doesn’t mean that you have to offer your wholehearted and unreserved support for every action of your allies. Rather, it means that you should support people when they have worthwhile goals even if you do not directly benefit.

6. Do you know what a “fair-weather” sailor is? This is a sailor who sails only when the weather is safe and nice. Likewise, don’t be a fair-weather friend. Don’t demonstrate that you care about your allies only when the situation is safe. Demonstrate your support even if you expose yourself to political risk. In the long-term, you’ll earn not only their respect but the attention and respect of others.

7. Be generous with your favors. Do not dispense your favors conditionally. Do not dispense your favors on the condition that you expect an equal exchange or quid pro quo. Do favors when they are appropriate and within your power.

8. Ask for favors when you need help. Refrain from reminding those whom you seek help of any previous favors that you did for them. People of integrity will remember and act accordingly.

9. Keep your lines of communication open across barriers and, difficult as it may be, especially during times of conflict.

10. Make it clear by your actions and choices that you will do what’s right and beneficial to the organization.

11. Be aware that others do not necessarily follow the same code of principles that you do. Act with integrity but don’t be na├»ve to the reality of the behavior of others.

12. Do not win the battle and lose the war. There will be life after the most important project. Do not win at the cost of your principles. Take a long-term perspective. I know it's easier said than done. And even when I know, I still make some of these mistakes. That's what being human is, isn't it? We just have to try and keep on trying.



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Sunday, January 20, 2008

PROJECT MANAGEMENT: WHY "QUALITY" IS NOT THE THIRD CONSTRAINT.

From the beginning, project managers are taught about the triple constraints:
1. Time also known as Schedule
2. Cost also known as Budget
3. Scope also known as Performance

Time and cost are self-explanatory. When it comes to the third constraint, different terms are used: scope (the most common one), performance, and, sometimes, quality.

Scope is a description of the project’s objective in terms of the objective’s requirements. If the project’s objective is to create a water-powered car, then the scope includes everything necessary to develop that car. Developing a new engine that runs on water is part of the scope. So are the selection of the car’s body and the final assembly of the engine into the car body.

While the scope enumerates all of the objective’s requirements, it also requires the performance of these requirements. The project team must perform the development of a new engine. The project team must perform the selection of the car’s body. The project team must also perform the final assembly of the engine in the car body.

Would you agree, therefore, that the two, for all intent and purpose, are synonymous? In fact, it may be more accurate to refer to the third constraint as Performance. While scope enumerates the requirements, it is silent about the performance of these requirements. Performance, when identified as the third constraint automatically implies scope and, more importantly, the performance of those requirements.


Then there’s the third term that’s sometimes used to refer to the third constraint—quality. Quality is incorrect.

Neither Scope nor Performance is synonymous with Quality. Performance is what the project has to do. Quality is what the customer wants.

Every project’s goal is a satisfied customer, i.e., a customer that is satisfied because the project's objective was met. Does quality figure in the outcome? It sure does but the measure of quality depends upon circumstances.

Sure, we know that a best practice of project management when gathering the project's requirements is to ensure that fuzzy terms like "quality" are converted into measurable and objective metrics.

The following discussion does not contradict that. I am merely making the case that Quality is not the proper term to use as the third constraint.

PMBOK, itself, specifically identifies the triple constraints as scope, time, and cost (Section 1.3). Then it continues... "Project quality is affected by balancing these three factors. High quality projects deliver the required project, service or result within scope, on time, and within budget."

There is no ambiguity there. Quality is not one of the limiting three. Quality is a goal and not a constraint. Quality can be more closely related to the schedule or the budget, depending upon circumstances. Consider these two examples.

First: quality might be a function of time. Let’s say that you expect your wife to give birth within a two-week window from June 15 to June 30. You have to finish the baby room on or before June 14. You make it but the shelves haven’t been installed and the crib is only partially assembled. Wouldn’t achieving one hundred percent quality mean that shelves were installed and the crib was fully assembled? On the other hand, the project (of preparing the baby room) can be considered successful since it met the project’s objective satisfactorily.


Second: quality might be a function of the budget. Your project consists of replacing the worn kitchen countertops. Both of you decided to replace everything with granite countertops. Unfortunately, the week before your purchase date, the price of granite countertops doubled. That made it exceed your budget so you decided to settle on Corian—another material that cost as much as granite before its price doubled. Quality, in this case, is more closely related to cost. The kitchen countertop project was successful despite the fact that you had to settle for a less-expensive material.

Don't you think these makes sense? I welcome any comments.

Until then, I urge you to keep this in mind. The third constraint can accurately be identified as the Scope or Performance. But it should never be Quality.


To the left is a graphic that incorporates this fallacy. Out of professional courtesy I shall not disclose its source website.


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Saturday, January 12, 2008

HABITS BOSSES LOVE

An excellent article written by Mr. Ross Bonander

I found this article exceptionally useful. It's replete with advice that applies in today's work environment and, more importantly, also applies in the larger context of interpersonal relations.

I'd like to add one point and it highlights the often-said and accurate observation that people don't leave jobsthey leave bad bosses. Relationships are two-way streets. While it's certainly possible for an employee to learn that his/her initially-charming boss is an actual ogre (or vice versa), most people are not jerks. The "bad-ness" of the boss, or the employee, is primarily one of perception and that perception is shaped by the behavior of the other person.

I described the implications of this perception in another article. Click here to read it. In it, I reiterate an observation borne out by organizational psychology, and that is, people typically judge others by their behavior but judge themselves by their intentions.

At any rate, this article
entitled, "Habits Bosses Love," by Ross Bonander, is worth reproducing in its entirety. Credit goes to Mr. Bonander and askmen.com.

SHOWING ACCOUNTABILITY
Your boss has more to do than ensure that your work gets done accurately and on time; he has his own work to do and he has a boss who holds him accountable to that work as well as the work you do. When you deliver on, or before, deadlines and produce results, you contribute to the smooth, efficient workings of the office without drawing negative attention to yourself.

Accountability also means that you take responsibility for your failures as much as you would for your successes. To that end, this touches on one of the habits bosses hatemaking excuses. A boss understands that some situations are beyond anyone’s control, but the difference is made in how you react to those situations.

Accountable people don’t offer excusesperiod. Rather, they do what needs to be doneand that’s why accountability is one of the habits bosses love.
BEING PREPARED

A maxim attributed to Roman dramatist Seneca the Younger suggests that luck or success is the outcome of preparation meeting opportunity. This sentiment can be found among an assortment of other quotes and proverbial sayings, giving it the credence of centuries.What does it mean, and how is it applicable? Any time that you’re scheduled to participate in a meeting, whether it’s as big as a conference or as small as a one-on-one with your boss, you should enter the situation armed to the teeth with as much pertinent information as you can find. By “pertinent” we mean relevant to that particular meeting, to your position in the company and to the industry as a whole. Habits bosses love come in many shapes and forms, but when he doesn’t have to hold your hand and explain new concepts or strategies to you, because you stay abreast of your position and industry, he’ll make you his star employee.Bosses appreciate employees who are prepared for a variety of reasons: it shows dedication, self-motivation and confidence -- three factors that happen to play a huge role in getting you promoted.

WORKING SMART
There are only so many hours in the workday, and your boss shouldn’t expect anything more out of you than to make the most of those hours. Efficiency is one of the many, and most important, habits bosses love. You would benefit greatly if you learn to maximize your time. You can learn this skill with a course in time management, where you will learn to comprehend the working difference between efficiency and effectiveness. Part of that difference is in taking the time to do those things well that require time, as opposed to simply ”getting them done.”

Working late does not necessarily give your boss the impression that you’re working hard. In fact, the more common perception is that you’re working with some degree of inefficiency. If you need extra time to get work done, you’ll make a better impression if you come to work early.

STAYING CURRENT
Staying currentin news, technologies and skill setsis always beneficial, but it is all the more urgent in today’s fast-paced business climate. Sign up for e-mail alerts and newsletters pertinent to your industry and keep an eye out for classes you can take to keep your skill set current. While a few professions require annual competency exams, the majority do not, and anyone can quickly become out-dated due to rapidly progressing technologies.Staying current is one of the habits bosses love because it shows him that you’re motivated, intelligent, interested, and self-confident. If you can suggest new and emerging ideas to apply to your current profession, you help keep your employer on the cutting edge, you make your boss look like a genius for hiring you, and you come out looking phenomenal in the process.
MAKING YOUR BOSS LOOK GOOD
This is something of a catch-all category, one that can be achieved on some level by adopting all of the previously listed habits bosses love and striving o eliminate the hated ones. But it doesn’t end there. In trying to make the boss look good, you risk being perceived as an ass-kissera perception that won’t help you at any stage in the course of your career. In short, no one likes a suck-up, and no one has liked them since first meeting the teacher’s pet in grammar school. Bosses are not bound to find this behavior appealing because of the way it reflects on them, and for this same reason, they’re not likely to reward it. Therefore, learn to resist the urge to trumpet your successes. Rather, take satisfaction in the knowledge that these successes are scoring you points with the higher-ups, and that you’ll be rewarded accordingly.


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Tuesday, January 1, 2008

IMPROVING ON YOUR NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS

It’s that time of the year again. “I’m really going to lose weight this time.” “I’m going to devote more time to my family.” Instead of resolving specific issues how about a sweeping makeover instead?

This makeover is explained in a classic book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”

If you’re ready to do that, read the book or listen to the recorded version. The book is a blueprint for personal development. It’s easy to understand, it's effective, but it requires your commitment to work.

Don't let the challenge daunt you. It’s worth it. It contains a remarkable set of inspirational standards for everyone who seeks to live a full, purposeful and good life. Its lessons are applicable today as they were yesterday and tomorrow.

It explains human principles and values that together create the foundation for your personal success. It shows how your success depends more on your character than on your personality. It explains how underlying characteristics such as integrity, courage, and patience determine your future more than your outward behavior.

“The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” has sold more than 15 million copies in 32 languages and 75 countries and was ranked as the top best seller by the New York Times and Business Week. It was named as one of the two most influential business books of the last century by Executive magazine. It's author, Dr. Stephen Covey, has been likened to a modern-day Plato. Dr. Covey teaches that each of us can live our best life possible by living a principle-centered life. Practicing those seven habits will let us do that.

As the title implies, the blueprint for personal development consists of seven habits. Here they are:

Habit 1 - be proactive
Take charge of your destiny. Hold yourself accountable to yourself. Learn to control your environment, rather than have it control you. Your greatest power is the power to make choices. All choices have consequences. If you want good things to happen, make good choices. Above all, hold yourself accountable to yourself and yourself alone.
Habit 2 - begin with the end in mind
Identify what your values are. Imagine yourself going to a funeral wake. Four persons will deliver eulogies for the deceased. One is a family member, the second is a co-worker, the third is a neighbor, and the fourth is a fellow church member. You peer down at the deceased and realize that it’s you! Now, on a sheet of paper, write down the key words you would like them to say about you. What you’ve just written down are the values that matter most to you.
Habit 3 - put first things first
Now that you know what matters most to you, organize and implement those activities that bring you closer to those things that matter most. Any other activities that don’t are unnecessary and may even be bad for you.
Habit 4 - think win-win
Your achievements largely depend on the cooperation of others. Think win-win. Both of you must gain something from a transaction. When both of you are assured of that, you improve your chances of cooperation.
Habit 5 - seek first to understand and then to be understood.
Of all of our human skills, the most important one is communication. Think about it. We communicate four different ways: (1) by writing, (2) by reading, (3) by speaking, and (4) by listening. Of the four, we’ve all been taught the first three. But how much time was spent learning how to listen? This habit teaches us how to listen—how to first understand the other person before anything else. Practice this and watch how your relationships develop and stay positive.
Habit 6 - synergize
Cooperate. This habit fulfills habits 4 and 5. Synergizing creates a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. You’re usually able to find a better solution together than if you solved it yourself. Or achieved a greater goal than if you attempted it yourself.
Habit 7 - sharpen the saw
Constantly renew yourself. Your self has four parts: (1) your spiritual self, (2) your mental self, (3) your physical self, and (4) your social/emotional self. All four parts need to be fed and developed. Take the time and effort to do that.
Take the challenge. Practice the seven habits and amaze yourself. Good luck and have a fruitful New Year!


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