Monday, August 25, 2008

A View From the Back

Yesterday was the annual Tour de Shawnee, a non-competitive bike ride around my town. In past years, I have ridden in the front with the fast guys. It was a great ride, because the police made sure all the intersections were safe, they had rest stops with candy and cold drinks, so all I had to do was ride.

This year was a little different. My son works for the local Trek store and they were there providing support. So instead of riding in front, we rode in back and helped out people that ran into problems. It was an enjoyable way to do the ride. We were able to talk more, we got the satisfaction of helping a couple riders out, and we saw riders with a different perspective. They weren’t as concerned with keeping their speed up, having the latest bikes, or the most hi-tech clothing. They were there for fun.

It’s good to change perspectives every once in a while. This is a great technique to help resolve conflicts. Once I was having a disagreement with someone in another department because she wasn’t supporting a new process I was deploying. I had executive support and was just steam-rolling ahead, not stopping to think why she wasn’t on the same page. It wasn’t until I took the time to see things from her perspective that I understood it wasn’t that she didn’t support my process, she just didn’t have the resources to help me out. Once I realized that, we were able to reach an alternate solution that everyone was happy with.

So next time you’re facing conflict, think about the other person’s perspective and how things might look from the back.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Olympics and the Big Picture

Like many people, I have been watching a lot of the Olympics these days. From sports I love like track or cycling, to ones I didn't realize were around, like trampoline. There are so many stories of success out there.

These athletes aren't successful just because they worked hard for the last 6 months. They've been thinking about and preparing for the Olympics for years. We should have this same focus in our careers as well.

In the middle of a big project, it's easy to focus just on getting that project done without thinking about the bigger picture. We need to step back from the day to day chaos once in a while and think about our long term goals. My favorite approach to this is from Steven Covey. Picture your own funeral. What are people going to say about you? What is going to be written on your tombstone? This exercise is a good way to think about what you really want to do with your life.

So as you're watching the Olympics, think about where you want to be in 4 years when the next Olympics come around. Write your ideas down and start planning.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Measuring Success

I received a $30 gift certificate in the mail this week for taking 5th in my age group in a race I did this spring. I was surprised, because it was a big race (around 10,000 participants including walkers) and I didn't think I would do that well. This got me thinking about how we measure success.

In project management, it's always scope, schedule, and budget that determines if a project is successful. But a good project manager knows that isn't enough. The customer also has to be satisfied, but how do you measure that?

One approach I've taken for some time is to define the measures of success as the project is going through the chartering process. This is where key metrics can be identified that can later be used to measure if the project has delivered. In process improvement, the measure can be reducing the number of defects or decreasing the time to complete a process.

So as you're starting off your project, think about all the goals the project should accomplish and how to measure them. With running, my goal is to finish in the top 5% of any race. Anything else is a bonus.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The Zen of Ferris Bueller

I got to my hotel on Monday night and found one of my favorite movies on; Ferris Bueller's Day Off. I like it in part because it was shot in my home town of Chicago, but I also think it's a pretty good movie.

One line comes up at the end of the movie that is pretty deep. After Ferris and his friends have had a great day in Chicago, the damage has been done to the Ferrari, and Ferris is back home, he says "Life moves pretty fast, if you don't stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it."

Monday, August 04, 2008

The Zen of Getting Things Done

So I finished the book Getting Things Done by David Allen. I had two colleagues recommend it within a couple of days and took that as a sign.

An underlying theme of the book is a “mind like water.” I’ve heard this idea used a lot in meditation. Think about a pond when a pebble hits it and the ripples flow out. In meditation, you want to get rid of the ripples; clear the mind.

The same idea applies to Getting Things Done. If you can get things off your mind by capturing them in an effective system, you will be more productive with the things you are doing.

A key is to be able to decide what is the next step for any of the projects you may be working on. For example, every time I start my car, the computer reminds me that service is due. The next step has to be well-defined. It’s not get the car serviced but more precisely call the service department and make an appointment for Friday at 8:00 AM.

So in your next meeting, as your discussing a project, ask the question “So what’s the next step?” and get things done.