Social constraints for your meetings


One rule that I have about meetings is it should start on time so it can end on time.  We all know that is easier said than done.  If you have a daily stand-up meeting, which is timeboxed at 5 to 15 minutes, you can not afford to have people showing up late.  They need to show up on time.

But what if there is that one person on the team who does show up late… every… meeting?  Do you punish him or her?  Let’s make them pay a dollar every time they are late.  Do you think that is a good idea or a bad idea?  Have you tried it?  I have.  It surprised me when it didn’t change that person’s behavior.  If anything, it just ensured they would be late.  Why?

By paying me the dollar, that person no longer felt obligated to arrive on time.  Everyone else, while still adhering to the culture of acceptable behavior, arrived on time.  Everyone else on the team, felt equally obligated to arrive on time because I was on time.  They felt that they owed it to me to be there on time.

So, how do you correct this negative behavior?  I like to zone in on something that makes the violator uncomfortable.  I’ve made them sing.  I’ve made them dance.  I’ve stopped the meeting when they’ve arrived late and then made them go from person to person on the team and say “I’m sorry for wasting your time”.  This may sound a little over-the-top but they slighted everyone on my team.  Everyone else was there on time; they should be as well.

I’m including a link to a TED video with Clay Shirky.  You don’t need to watch the whole thing.  What 4 minutes starting at 6 minutes 50 seconds.   He mentions the study A Fine Is A Price by Uri Gneezy and Alfredo Rstichini in 2000.  It is exactly what I’m talking about.  It defined the difference between social constraints versus contractual constraints.  Nothing like a research study to spice up the next meeting.

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Always have a plan B when negotiating

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Too many times people, including project managers, freeze like deer in the headlights when asked what their contingencies are.  Rather than get all dramatic, in the event you may not get your first choice, you should know what your other choices are and assign pre-qualifying criteria to them.  Be prepared to negotiate…EVERYTHING. I hate making emotional decisions.  I do make them but not until after the logical decisions have been exhausted.

It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to negotiate a new salary or deciding where you and a group may have dinner for the evening.  You should know what your options are and negotiate the best outcome.

If given the choice between A or B, when I want C, I commonly abstain.  This frustrates people, maybe because they are used to groupthink and they are trying to avoid conflict.  Some may think I’m being passive-aggressive or an obstructionist.  Actually, if I know what I want, I just won’t settle (when I don’t think I have to).

The PMBOK offers a few helpful negotiation points in Section G.8.

  • Analyze the situation.
  • Differentiate between wants and needs – both theirs and yours.
  • Focus on interests and issues rather than on positions.
  • Ask high and offer low, but be realistic.
  • When you make a concession, act as if you are yielding something of value, don’t just give in.
  • Always make sure both parties feel as if they have won.  This is a win-win negotiation.  Never let the other party leave feeling as if he or she has been taken advantage of. (I don’t always do this)
  • Do a good job of listening and articulating.

Know your choices.  Don’t settle.

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Giving Back to the Project Management Community

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To give a little back on Friday, June 24, we’re giving away ten (30-day) promotional PMP flashcard memberships. These will be fully functional memberships. You’ll have access to all 2,000 PMP exam flashcards. You’ll have access to real-time progress. The only drawback is it will only be a (30-day) promotional membership. But, if you’re preparing for the ®PMP, this is your chance to save 10 bucks! (the cost of unlimited access at PMPrepFlashcards) We all know, with the cost of a PMI membership, the PMP exam, and other preparation materials, you’re going to need it. Since Twitter has been so instrumental in our success thus far, we’re limiting this promotion to Twitter account holders only.

3 Simple steps
Get 1 of the 10 promotional memberships

  1. Have a Twitter Account
  2. Log into PMPrepFlashcards with your Twitter Account
  3. Send us an email identifying your Twitter Account Name and we’ll flip the switch

Let us know if you want us to tell others that you got a FREE 30-day membership.

3 Simple steps
Get a free unlimited account or money

  1. Create a PMPrepFlashcards account (Does not require Twitter login but it’s easier)
  2. Get someone else to sign up for a Premium account ($10)
  3. Have them send us an email with your account name.

Think of it as a referral fee. If you get others to sign up, and you have a PayPal account, we’ll start sending you $5 for each. Don’t forget, they have to send us an email with your account name.

Graphic source:

Doing AB Testing

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Advertisement 1

So, as you can see, we’re getting a little better at graphic development.  I guess you get what you pay for.  So, if given the choice, which would you click?  We’re finally at a point where the PMPrepFlashcards product is stable at version 1.1.1 and we’re very happy to introduce it to new customers.  But, how do you do that?  How do you get people to a new website?  One way is to get potential customers to have ads.

Advertisement 2

Here are 2 ads that have appeared here on The Critical Path.  Through recommendation, I added my name to the ads.  Nobody knows who HueCubed or PMPrepFlashcards are.  I’m doing some A/B testing to see which is more clickable.  Is it the flashy ad or the plain ad?

Do me a favor, choose one!  By selecting number 1 or number 2, Google Analytics should tell me which is the most popular.  Who needs a poll when I can just review the Analytics?

If you want to let you feeling known publicly, I welcome comments below.

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Nine Destructive Behaviours


Geoff Crane, in the time I’ve known him, has opened my eyes to the area of project leadership many ignore.  Geoff looks at things from a human perspective.  I know it sounds odd but many of us make objective, quantifiable calculations.  Geoff does as well but he doesn’t ignore his gut feelings.  He writes about his knowledge and experiences on his blog Papercut Edge.

Geoff recently wrote a series about destructive behaviors (behaviours for my colleagues in Canada) project leaders need to avoid; 9 of them in fact.  As I read each, I found myself nodding my head over and over again.  Yep, he nailed that one.  Yep, he nailed that one as well.

How did he do it!?  How did he describe situations that could have been taken from my biography?  Too bad I didn’t have Geoff’s book several years ago.  I could have avoided all 9 destructive behaviors.

  1. The Sack
  2. The Magpie
  3. The Deer in Headlights
  4. The Hungry Vulture
  5. The Premature Solutioner
  6. The Terrier
  7. The Wanderer
  8. The Anticipator
  9. The Reluctant Puppet

When he decided to publish the series as an ebook, I was flattered that he asked me to write the forward.  Do yourself a favor.  Read his blog.  Read his ebook.  You’ll be glad you did.

Forward from Nine Destructive Behaviors

To be successful as a project leader, you need to know destructive behaviour when you see it. And there is no better tool for this than Geoff’s ebook! The Latin saying, ‘praemonitus, praemunitus,’ loosely translates as ‘forewarned is forearmed’. “9 Destructive Behaviours Project Leaders Need to Avoid” is an essential read for any individual wishing to be a successful project leader.

Get a free copy here!

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Let’s do what makes sense


I sat in a meeting Friday afternoon to meet the new guy over at the vendor’s office and give my assessment to my client.  It never gets boring, listening to rhetoric from a vendor.  They usually speak to my client, not with my client.  A few months ago, after I asked the vendor a very specific question about the sloppiness of a metric, the vendor replied  Do you have a problem with that!? Well, actually, I think both of us (the vendor and I) have a problem.  We’re both here to ensure this client gets quality work.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a software build, documentation, or even a graph is a slide deck.  The vendor lamented and the metric actually makes sense now.

The new guy, though perhaps giving us lip service, actually established himself as a bridge builder and communicator.  He said he wanted to know our concerns so we’ll all be in step.  He gave us his email address and mobile telephone number, telling us not be hesitate contacting him.  When we pressured him on a request we’ve been demanding from the previous leadership, he said they would figure out a way to get it done.  When asked of our first steps going forward, his response was…

Let’s do what makes sense.

What a refreshing response. No “let me get back to you”. No “let me check with my boss”.  It was a direct answer.  It was ambiguous but I thought it was acceptable considering the situation.  Compared to hearing traditional responses like “Ya, we can do that” when asked to if the vendor could make a change or deliver something, this guy actually said Let’s do it.  If we can be in agreement as to what makes sense, we’re golden.

At the end of the day, I don’t care what they can do.  I care what they will do.  Let’s hope we’re turning over a new leaf.