Sunday, November 30, 2008


I came across an interesting analogy when talking about communications. Words are second hand, or dead, when talking about our real thoughts or concepts just like a bucket of water is dead when compared to a raging river.

That email you sent, voice mail you left, or blog post you wrote probably doesn't capture what you really intended to say. Seth Godin had an interesting blog post on this recently.

So how do you ensure your message gets across? You can look at the replies to your blog posts, make your voicemails to the point, or take time to really read that email before you hit send. Personally, I don't leave long voicemails and I hate receiving them. Emails shouldn't be more than a few (short) paragraphs. The same goes for presentations.

Woodrow Wilson captured it best when he said "If I am to speak ten minutes, I need a week for preparation; if fifteen minutes, three days; if half an hour, two days; if an hour, I am ready now." I have seen speakers ramble on because of a lack of preparation and emails ramble on because someone didn't take the time to organize their thoughts. I'm an advocate of pecha kucha and I hope to see this catch on.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Good Time for Process Improvement

A lot of people are focused on the economy and how things aren't looking so good. Companies like Sun are reporting layoffs. There isn't a lot of growth going on right now, but this can be a good thing.

When companies are in growth mode, a lot of energy goes into recruiting, onboarding etc. I was at Sprint PCS when they were in this mode, and it can be pretty crazy. However, when this growth slows down, there's a real opportunity here. Companies can use that time that would have been spent reviewing resumes, conducting interviews, or bringing new people on board to focus on other things; specifically, process improvement.

Taking the time now to improve efficiencies can help a company increase profits because they're increasing revenue without adding more resources. As a starting point, look at all the processes that already exist. Figure out which ones most closely align with the company strategy, figure out ROI of the improvement projects, and then go in deep to identify improvements to specific processes. Later, when you're ready to start growing again, you'll be in a much better position to support it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


I was working with a new client yesterday and heard about an unusual metric they are tracking on their project.

They have a running tote board showing the names of the team members. They are tracking the number of negative comments that are made be everyone; things like sarcastic wisecracks, cynical comments or pessimistic opinions. They want to track if this metric goes up if the project becomes challenged.

Like any metric, the key will be what they do with it to manage and change behavior. If they see the number go up on a weekly or monthly basis, will they take action to bring the metric back down? This could be a good indicator it's time for a team building activity or some other break in the routine.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


"Whether we like it or not, there is hardly a moment of our live in which we do not benefit from others' activities" - The Dalai Lama

I've had a couple of team building activies on my project recently. Last week one of my developers rolled off the project, so we had a farewell dinner for him. A couple of weeks ago, it was a taping of the Late Night Show with David Letterman. This week we are going to go out as a team after work and catch the latest James Bond movie.

As project managers, we would be nowhere without our team. I am fortunate that at Lombardi Software, I am surrounded by a bunch of really smart people that can't help but make me look good. It lets me fit that roll of servant-leader, trying to do my best to see that they have everything they need to be successful.

So what have you done for your team recently? Have you told them how much you appreciate them? Have you taken them out for dinner?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

What are you waiting for?

I watched a video earlier today of a friend of mine jumping out of an airplane as part of a skydiving group. I'll admit skydiving isn't high on my list of things I want to do, but I admire him for doing it. He isn't a young guy either, he's a retired Army Colonel (did you say thanks to a vet yesterday?).

So are there things you've thought about doing but haven't gotten around to for whatever reason? Why wait? Think about the worst outcome, is it that bad? OK, so skydiving could turn out bad, but they have a lot of safety precautions.

It's only by accepting risks that we can also achieve greater rewards. I remember when I turned in my paperwork to leave the Navy. It was risky since I didn't have a civilian job offer at the time. However, I landed on my feet. I wouldn't be where I am today without having taken that first step.

Running projects can be the same. Risks can be opportunities to exceed the goals of the project. What risks can you take on to achieve a higher level of success?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Veteran's Day

Here in the US, November 11th is Veteran's Day, a day to honor all of those that served in our military. I am proud to be part of this group, having served in the US Navy from 1987-1995, including a deployment to the Arabian Gulf during the first Gulf War. My wife is also a veteran, we met while stationed in Japan together.

So if you know a veteran, say thanks. If you are a veteran, thank you for your service.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Compromise can kill your project

As project managers, we all know about how to compromise, working with disparate stakeholders and coming up with a solution that meets their needs, is technically feasible, and won't break the bank.

However, are there times when we shouldn't compromise? There are times that if we give in too much, we fail to make anyone happy.

I was on a process improvement project one time, representing the business users as we were improving the process for testing software before it was put into production. One of the recommendations of my improvement team was to co-locate business users with the software vendor as part of the testing team. The complication was that the vendor was half-way across the country so co-locating meant temporary housing for a couple months in another city.

Management's reaction was that this would be expensive and couldn't we do it with conference calls and email. However I and one of my other team members felt strongly that co-location was the only way to get the results we were looking for. Rather than compromise, we kept lobbying until we were able to convince management to agree.

So there are times to compromise, but there are also times when you have to stand for what you want or be willing to walk away with nothing. The key is to know the difference.

Friday, November 07, 2008

A new article

I had an article published yesterday at Projects at Work. The article is based on an interview I had with David Allen, author of Getting Things Done.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

What are you passionate about?

This question was asked of me when I was interviewing for the job I now have (I must have given a good answer). It wasn't just "what are you good at?" but what gets you up in the morning and excited to get to work?

Think about when you were a child, what did you like to do? Did you like sports? Heading out to the woods on your bike? Boy/Girl scouts?

Back when I was in the Navy, I had a supervisor tell me to figure out what I liked to do and bring that to whatever job I was working at. In the field I was in, you would typically have a new assignment every year or so. I figured out early on I liked to help solve operational problems through technology. This involved understanding the big picture and how to improve operations, something I continue to do to this day.

Another way to think about it, if you were writing a novel about yourself, what would your story be? If you can envision that, why not make it a reality.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A Mark Twain Quote

Whenever you find that you are on the side of the majority, it is time to reform - Mark Twain.

I came across this quote today and found it interesting in light of the elections here in the US yesterday. I think the results say that Americans were ready for a change, time to reform.

What about at work? Is everyone going in the same direction? Is that going to bring improvement to the organization, or does someone have to change things up? It's the organizations that don't see the need for change that end up suffering. Think about the record companies. They were happy to make large profits on records and then CDs. They didn't see the need to reform when MP3s started to show up. A radical shift to the industry was brought about by reformers.

So if you're following the processes and procedures because that's the way it's always been done, think about how you can change things for the better.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Comfort Zone

I was out mountain biking yesterday, and due to some wet trails, I was on the ground a couple of times, even got a nice gash below my knee from hitting a rock. One of the other riders that was also on the ground a few times said "if you aren't falling, you aren't pushing yourself enough."

I came across a similar quote in Tribes. The quote was "If we're not uncomfortable, we aren't doing enough leading." It's that whole comfort zone thing again. We have to get our of our comfort zone to be effective, as leaders or bikers.

After my second painful fall yesterday, I did back off and become conservative in my riding for the next hour. After that, I got past my fear of falling and was pushing again, and having much more fun. Just like in life, it was only my fear that was holding me back, not my ability.