Plan to Fail


We live at a lake property so we’re pretty far in the sticks.  We have an HOA, which contracts work for snow removal and stuff like that.  Last year we had several snow storms in the Washington DC area.  The HOA was not prepared for several snow storms in succession and we found ourselves stranded for 4 days.  Yes, 4 days!  But, it wasn’t all bad.  After the first storm got us, I reached out the HOA and recommend they keep the community informed of what was happening.  Though we may not see a plow for a day or 2, we would at least know it.  Each time we had a storm, the HOA got better at informing us of what they were doing.

Here we are, a year later.  The forecast was for 6-12 inches of snow.  I was curious if the HOA had refined their communications and snow removal practices from the year before.  I kept thinking to myself.  People don’t plan to fail; they fail to plan.

We certainly did get the snow.  It’s close to 12 inches.  I left the office early to get home before the snow (thunderstorms) arrived.  As the snow stacked higher and higher, we began hearing reports of people abandoning their cars on the roads leading to our house.  (They clearly failed to plan accordingly)  We even saw one of our neighbors get stuck at the bottom of our hill, blocking the plows from getting to our neighborhood.

So, how did the HOA refine their communications process from last year?  Did they fail to plan accordingly?  To the contrary, I feel they did a great job.  They designated community representatives.  We are encouraged to have an open dialog with them.  The HOA did send out emails informing everyone when the plows were going to arrive.  This year they took it one step further, by creating a feedback loop.  When our neighborhood was not plowed, due to the abandoned car, I contacted my community representative.  Though I had to leave a voicemail, she called me back within 30 minutes.  She assured me our neighborhood will be plowed this afternoon.  Without the feedback loop, they would have not known there were any issues.  And so, our HOA process improvement continues.

Communications vs. Customer Satisfaction

Communications Level Customer Satisfaction
0-Way (None) Very Unsatisfied
1-Way (Email distribution) Satisfied
2-Way (Telephone conversation) Very Satisfied

Conflict in Value Perception

Deployment Start

Deployment StartThis weekend I witnessed a true conflict in value perception.  We’re not talking values like:

– We treat others with respect
– We are humble

Rather, it’s about what the Customer (Product Owner), the Vendor (Core Team), and the I (Facilitator) believe has value.  I see direct value, like actual delivery of product, and indirect value, like mitigating risk by facilitating communications.

We started a deployment cycle that is going to take some time.  The team activities are clearly defined and level-of-effort have been estimated.  Dates in which potential risks could arise have been identified.  This is all good.  Until an activity begins, we won’t be certain if a risk will be fully realized.  This is why I’m a really big proponent of daily communications.  Every morning, we have a 15 minute (status) meeting.  (The culture demands that we call it a status meeting so I’m good with it.)  The extended team is distributed (3 locations) so this is a little challenging.

Though I stressed to everyone the importance of daily communications (at a minimum), this weekend I was a little shocked at what happened.  Deployment activities were taking place over the weekend.  There was a trigger point for a risk that had been identified.  During the Friday status meeting, the Customer informed the team that they would not be on the status call.  Though I had agreed to be on the status call, this was a bit of a paradox.  I am a facilitator.  Per the contract, I can not act on behalf of the customer.  IF the team ran into a roadblock over the weekend, the customer would not know until Monday morning.  We could potentially be delayed by two days until the customer could provide feedback and direction.

So, what happened over the weekend?  The team did indeed run into a roadblock.  But, they were empowered enough to get the work done.  Because risks had been previously identified, a mitigation strategy was in place.  The team was able to bring in team members, over the weekend, without having to consult with the customer.

I still believe if the deployment is going to be a success, all parties must be fully committed.  We’re all in this together.  I’ll never ask a member of my team to do something that I wouldn’t be prepared to do myself.

Something David Bland said at the APLN DC meeting really resonated with me this weekend.  He said,

When dealing with distributed teams, keep the feedback loops tight.

David could not have been more right. We dodged a bullet this time around. Empowering the team allowed us to do this. But, the customer took an unnecessary risk, by intentionally lengthening the feedback loop from 24 to 72 hours.

Like the image? Find it at Pictofigo

Feedback is Good Against Zombies


FeedbackI know people who basically show up at the office and get feedback from their superior once in a great while.  When they do get feedback, it’s usually negative because they are not doing what the boss wants.  People, you can’t expect your team to operate in a vacuum.  Don’t let an annual review be the only time you talk to your team and rate performance.  If you do rate performance regularly and provide feedback, there will be countless opportunities for improvement.  There should be a constant exchange between managers and subordinates.  As a manager, you should be constantly asking people if they have everything they need.  Ask them how you can help them do their job better.

We all know that only zombies come programmed to know exactly what to do.  They eat brains.  That’s what they do.  They don’t need to read a how-to-be-a-zombie handbook, provided by management, to find out what is expected of them.  They already know!  You can’t say the same for non-zombies.  Give your people feedback and do it often.

Bob, you’re doing a good job nailing that plywood over the windows.  Now, don’t forget to cover that cat door.  We don’t want any midget zombies getting in here.

See, that wasn’t so bad, was it?  If you had waited until Bob’s next annual review, you’d be overrun by midget zombies within a day.  That would be a clear failure of leadership.  You should feel obligated to provide continual feedback to your team and not become a zombie snack.

Like the image?  Find it at Pictofigo

Tool Of The Week: Tweet Effect


Because I feel it is important to help others, I figured I’d start doing something new.  It’s not a new idea in the grand scheme of the Internet, but it is something new for me.  I’m going to attempt to promote tools, people, or businesses on a weekly basis.  I’m not being compensated accept for maybe some good karma.  I am exposed to some brilliant people and products on a daily basis.  I have to believe someone will benefit from this series.

This week will be about a product I went searching for.  I noticed I had a drop in Twitter followers and  I needed to know why.  Was it something I said?  Well, the short answer is YES.

Tool of the Week 1 TweetEffect

Tweet Effect

I found a product that simply states “Find out which of your Twitter updates made people follow or leave you. “ It didn’t require that I provide my Twitter credentials, only my Twitter ID.  It then gave a well formatted timeline of my tweets, the number of my followers, and the changes that correspond with my tweets.

I think this tool is excellent.  It provides the feedback necessary for me to change my Twitter behavior.  I discovered two possible behaviors people following me (or used to follow me) don’t like.

[1] My former followers didn’t like it when I retweeted my own post.  I’ll admit, I was trying Tweetmeme as a new feature and that one backfired on me.  The result was 3 unfollows. In the future, if you want to retweet my posts, I welcome it.  But, I won’t be doing it myself.

[2] My former followers either didn’t like the appearance that I alienated someone or the fact that I had four hash tags in my tweet.   The back-story is The Triple Constraint blog had a post titled Top Project Management Twitterers.  I was included on the list and was very flattered to have been mentioned.  It was retweeted and I posted a thank you.  Unfortunately, there are a LOT of people that could have been on that list that were not.  When one of the people I follow expressed that the roll call of PM Twitterers felt like being back at school waiting to be picked in P.E., I felt like a complete heel.  I posted a semi apology and asked if anyone knew of a directory of PMs.  The result was 4 unfollows.

So, I’m here to recommend Tweet Effect []to all those Twitterers who are curious about what they tweet about and how it might impact those who follow them.  The feature is free of charge.

Let me know if you found this post helpful.



Categories: Misc Tags: Tags: , , , ,

Meeting PMP Eligibility Requirements


Process Group Activities GraphWhen I was completing my PMP application, back in 2006, I recall reading the eligibility requirements and asking myself where I had the greatest gaps in my project management experience.  PMI did a good job of listing the process groups and activity “buckets” in which I could associate my time.  To visualize my strengths and weaknesses, I identified each activity provided by PMI as a process group subcategory and then associated project hours within a spreadsheet.  Though PMI had a requirement that I document experience in each of the process groups,  I had a personal requirement that I improve where my skills were lacking.

This post isn’t about my strengths or weaknesses, though you could assume by the graph that it would be Initiating and Closing.  It is about my identifying my experience gaps and helping you identify yours (in the eyes of PMI).  If you’re a PMP or an aspiring PMP, take a look at the attached.

Step 1: Review the Process Group Activities PDF.  It will define the subcategories.

Process Group Activities PDF

Step 2: Associate subcategory hours on a project basis.  The formulas are already in the worksheet.  All you need to do is add your hours to the Project Data sheet.

MS ExcelActivity Breakdown By Process Group

Step 3: Review the Graph on the tab titled “Graph”.  If you don’t identify your strengths and weaknesses from the data sheet, you will certainly see them in the graph.

Best Regards,