Leadership

A lot of people use the word “manager” as a part of their job title or description, but “leaders” don’t get that label simply by being appointed to a post.

Leadership is earned, and is hard-won, by the folks who prioritize and understand the traits and qualities that come with the unofficial title.

Did you ever wonder what separates the leaders from the managers?

You aren’t alone. Here are some thoughts on the matter, from people who’ve worked to understand and define the key differences.

1. Managers rely on control and leaders inspire trust.

Many of the distinctions between the two come down to this central idea. Managers act like bosses by controlling people that work under them and by administering tasks. On the other hand, leaders guide, innovate, and inspire.

They rely upon the trust they’ve built between themselves and their team members to be a force that motivates and keeps productivity high. It really comes down to leading through control, or managing through fear. In any given workplace example, it’s pretty clear to see whether the mindset of the one-in-charge was based in one or the other.

2. Managers keep an organization functioning and leaders work to build a shared vision.

Management and leadership might not be mutually exclusive. Any organization needs a little management so that quarterly numbers are met, goals are set, projects are completed … it’s just that leaders also go a step beyond that, focusing attention on motivating and inspiring employees, working with teams to build a shared vision of the purpose, and future, of the company.

Managers work through items on a to-do list and keep the system running, while leaders go a little deeper. They have their eye on the big picture as well as the finer details. Leaders are also more focused on change, and the future, than managers.

“If the world is not changing and you are on top, then management is essential but more leadership really is not,” says John Kotter, Konuske Matsushita Professor of leadership at Harvard University. “Leadership is always about change.”

3. Managers manage work and leaders lead people.

It’s all in the way you look at it. Is a senior position about overseeing work that needs to get done, or is it about leading the people who do that work? What comes first, the tasks themselves or the people who work to complete them?

Professionals want, and deserve, a job that doesn’t treat them like a machine. They want to collaborate and they want to innovate, not feel like a cog in the wheel. The most appealing employers, according to millennials (which is now the largest generation in the U.S. labor force) are the companies that hit these marks.

Companies like Google and Microsoft are known to be innovative and they provide opportunities for professional development and growth. The focus is on the people and their ideas, not the to-do list.

Leadership

How do you engage and motivate an inexperienced, untrained, and unskilled workforce to produce 300,000 Airplanes in less than five years?

The answer is good First-Line Leadership. In World War II, American industry produced 300,000 airplanes for the Armed Forces. Not only did they produce this unimaginable number of planes but they did this in less than five years with a workforce who were inexperienced, unskilled and unaccustomed to industrial work. And they did this in a business environment of speed, volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. A secret to their success was, rather than trying to train and develop the entire workforce, they developed their First-Line Leadership who then trained, developed and led this workforce to produce these unbelievable results.


But the one real secret behind their success is they taught those First-Line Leaders how to engage and motivate the workforce. They taught them how to get work done through people. They taught them to value people. They taught them the importance of their on-the-job relationships with their workers. They taught them to treat workers as individuals. And, they taught those First-Line Leaders how to handle people problems in a logical, fair and consistent manner. This brilliant approach of focusing on First-Line Leadership to get the workforce motivated and engaged, in all likelihood, helped determine the outcome of World War II.

Organizations are not battling a world war today but they are operating in an environment of speed, volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. And, with a multigenerational and culturally diverse workforce who brings to the workplace a broad spectrum of socioeconomic backgrounds, customs, values, attitudes, educational credentials, work skills, and life experiences that an organization has to align and engage with their business.

But today the top concern and priority of many organizations is employee engagement and retention. It’s reported the issue of employee engagement and retention is the number two priority in the minds of business leaders, second only to the challenge of building global leadership. In this environment the need for good First-Line Leadership has never been greater. In fact, the challenge to improve employee engagement and retention makes First-Line Leaders the key Leadership role in today’s organization.

Project Management

FOUR FUNDAMENTALS THAT EVERYONE SHOULD KNOW

Wish someone would explain requirements management in plain English? Have stakeholders that could benefit from understanding the value at a high-level? Your executives might not care about CMMI, BABOK or the nitty gritty details of functional specifications, but they do care about delivering what was promised to customers
on time. And that’s the value of requirements management.

Too often projects fail due to poorly managed requirements. At the core of the issue is that projects are increasingly complex, changes occur and communication is challenging. In this paper we will discuss the significance of requirements management without using industry jargon, as well as, the four fundamentals
every team member and stakeholder needs to know. No Ph.D. required, no 2-week certification course, just the basics to help your team deliver what you promised.

WHY SUCCESSFUL TEAMS DO REQUIREMENTS MANAGEMENT

Requirements management is about keeping your team in-sync and providing visibility to what is going on within a project. It is critical to the success of your projects for your whole team to understand what you are building and why – that’s how we define requirements management. The “why” is important because it provides context to the goals, feedback and decisions being made about the requirements. This increases predictability of future success and potential problems, allowing your team to quickly course correct any issues and successfully complete your project on time and within budget. As a starting point, it’s valuable for everyone involved to have a basic understanding of what requirements are, and how to manage them.

Let’s start with the basics

A requirement is a document (a.k.a. artifact) that defines what you are looking to achieve or create – it identifies what a product needs to do, what it should look like, and explains its functionality and value. A requirement can be expressed with text, sketches, detailed mockups or models, whatever information best communicates to an engineer what to build, and to a QA manager what to test.

Depending on your development process, you might use different terminology to capture requirements. High-level requirements are sometimes referred to simply as “needs” or “goals”. Within software development
practices, requirements might be referred to as “use cases”, “features” or “functional requirements”. Even more specifically within agile development methodologies, requirements are often captured as “epics” and “stories.”

Regardless of what your team calls them or what process you use, requirements are essential to the development of all products. Without clearly defining requirements you could produce an incomplete or defective product. Throughout the process there can be many people involved in defining requirements. A stakeholder might request a feature that describes how the product will provide value in solving a problem. A designer might define a requirement based on how the final product should look or perform from a usability or user interface standpoint. A business analyst might create a system requirement that adheres to specific technical or organizational constraints.

For today’s sophisticated products and software applications being built, it often takes hundreds or thousands of requirements to sufficiently define the scope of a project or a release. Thus, it’s imperative that the team be able to access, collaborate, update, and test each requirement through to completion, as requirements naturally change and evolve over time during the development process.

Now that we’ve defined the value of requirements management at a high-level, let’s go deeper into the four fundamentals that every team member and stakeholder can benefit from understanding:

1. Planning good requirements: “What the heck are we building?”
2. Collaboration and buy-in: “Just approve the spec, already!”
3. Traceability & change management: “Wait, do the developers know that changed?”
4. Quality assurance: “Hello, did anyone test this thing?”

Does everyone know what we’re building and why?

That’s the value of requirements management.

1. PLANNING GOOD REQUIREMENTS

So what makes a good requirement? A good requirement should be valuable and actionable; it should define a need as well as provide a pathway to a solution. Everyone on the team should understand what it means. Requirements vary in complexity. They can be rough ideas sketched on a whiteboard to structured “shall” statements. They can be part of a group with high-level requirements broken down into sub-requirements. They may also include very detailed specifications that include a set of functional requirements describing the behavior or components of the end product.

Good requirements need to be concise and specific, and should answer the question, “what do we need?” Rather than, “how do we fulfill a need?” Good requirements ensure that all stakeholders understand their part of the plan; if parts are unclear or misinterpreted the final product could be defective or fail.

Preventing failure or misinterpretation of requirements can be aided by receiving feedback from the team continuously throughout the process as requirements evolve. Continuous collaboration and buy-in with everyone is a key to success.

2. COLLABORATION & BUY-IN

Is everyone in the loop? Do we have approval on the requirements to move forward? These questions come up during development cycles. It would be great if everyone could agree on requirements, but for large projects with many stakeholders, this does not usually happen. Trying to get everyone in agreement can cause decisions to be delayed, or worse, not made at all. Gaining consensus on every decision is not always easy. And in practice, you don’t necessarily want “consensus,” you want “buy-in” from the group and approval from those in control so you can move the project forward. With consensus, you are trying to get everyone to compromise and agree on the decision. With buy-in, you are trying to get people to back the best solution, make a smart decision and do what is necessary to move forward. You don’t need everyone to agree that the decision is the best. You need everyone to support the decision.

Team collaboration can help in receiving support on decisions and in planning good requirements. Collaborative teams work hard to make sure everyone has a stake in projects and provides feedback. Collaborative teams continuously share ideas, typically have better communication and tend to support decisions made because there is a shared sense of commitment and understanding of the goals of the project. It’s when developers, testers or other stakeholders feel “out of the loop” that communication issues arise, people get frustrated and projects get delayed.

Once everyone has bought-in to the scope of work, it is imperative for requirements to be clear and well documented. Keeping track of all the requirements is where things get tricky. Imagine having a to-do list a mile long that involves collaborating with multiple people to complete. How would you keep all those items straight? How would you track how one change to an item would affect the rest of the project? This is where traceability and change management add value.

3. TRACEABILITY & CHANGE MANAGEMENT

Requirements traceability is a way to organize, document and keep track of the life of all your requirements from initial idea through to testing. A simple metaphor for traceability is connecting the dots to identify the relationships between items within your project. Here is an example of a common downstream flow:

IDEA – BUSINESS OBJECTIVES – REQUIREMENTS – DESIGN – TEST

You should be able to trace each of your requirements back to its original business objective. By tracing requirements, you are able to identify the ripple effect changes have, see if a requirement has been completed and whether it’s being tested properly. Traceability and change management provide managers peace of mind and the visibility needed to anticipate issues and ensure continuous quality.

Traceability also allows for coverage that provides the ability to make sure the product meets all the vital
requirements. Because requirements come from different people – from the customers to the engineers – each person contributes different requirements to the project. By tracing requirements, you ensure your entire team stays connected to the interdependencies of other items and the people working on those items.

Managing change is important and prevents “scope creep” within projects and releases. Scope refers to “the work that needs to be accomplished to deliver a product with the specified features and functions.”

Scope creep refers to unplanned changes in development that occur when requirements are not clearly captured, understood and communicated. The benefit of good requirements is a clear understanding of the end product and the scope involved. This leads to a better development schedule and budget, which prevents delays and cost overruns.

4. QUALITY ASSURANCE

Getting requirements delivered right the first time can mean better quality, faster development cycles and
higher customer satisfaction with the end product. Requirements management not only helps you get it right, but also helps your team save money and many headaches throughout the development process. Concise, specific requirements can help you detect and fix problems early, rather than later when it’s much more expensive to fix.

Research has shown that project teams can eliminate 50-80 percent of project defects by effectively managing requirements. In addition, it can cost up to 100 times more to correct a defect later in the development process after it’s been coded, than it is to correct early on while a requirement.

By integrating requirements management into your quality assurance process, you can help your team increase efficiency and eliminate rework. And, rework is where most of the cost issues occur. According to the Carnegie Mellon Software Engineering Institute, “60-80 percent of the cost of software development is in rework.” In other words, development teams are wasting the majority of their budgets on efforts that aren’t performed correctly the first time. For example, a developer codes a feature based on an old specification document, only to learn later that the requirements for that feature changed. These types of issues can be avoided with requirements management best practices.

In summary, Requirements management can sound like a complex discipline, but when you boil it down to a simple concept – it’s really about helping teams answer the question, “Does everyone understand what we’re building and why?” From the business analysts, product managers and project leaders to the developers, QA managers and testers, along with the stakeholders and customers involved – so often the root cause of project failure is a misunderstanding of the scope of the project.

When everyone is collaborating together and has full context and visibility to the discussions, decisions and changes involved with the requirements throughout the lifecycle of the project,that’s when success happens consistently and you maintain continuous quality.

Also, the process is smoother with less friction and frustration along the way for everyone involved. And, isn’t that something we’d all benefit from?

Leadership

A lot of people use the word “manager” as a part of their job title or description, but “leaders” don’t get that label simply by being appointed to a post.

Leadership is earned, and is hard-won, by the folks who prioritize and understand the traits and qualities that come with the unofficial title.

Did you ever wonder what separates the leaders from the managers?

You aren’t alone. Here are some thoughts on the matter, from people who’ve worked to understand and define the key differences.

1. Managers rely on control and leaders inspire trust.

Many of the distinctions between the two come down to this central idea. Managers act like bosses by controlling people that work under them and by administering tasks. On the other hand, leaders guide, innovate, and inspire.

They rely upon the trust they’ve built between themselves and their team members to be a force that motivates and keeps productivity high. It really comes down to leading through control, or managing through fear. In any given workplace example, it’s pretty clear to see whether the mindset of the one-in-charge was based in one or the other.

2. Managers keep an organization functioning and leaders work to build a shared vision.

Management and leadership might not be mutually exclusive. Any organization needs a little management so that quarterly numbers are met, goals are set, projects are completed … it’s just that leaders also go a step beyond that, focusing attention on motivating and inspiring employees, working with teams to build a shared vision of the purpose, and future, of the company.

Managers work through items on a to-do list and keep the system running, while leaders go a little deeper. They have their eye on the big picture as well as the finer details. Leaders are also more focused on change, and the future, than managers.

“If the world is not changing and you are on top, then management is essential but more leadership really is not,” says John Kotter, Konuske Matsushita Professor of leadership at Harvard University. “Leadership is always about change.”

3. Managers manage work and leaders lead people.

It’s all in the way you look at it. Is a senior position about overseeing work that needs to get done, or is it about leading the people who do that work? What comes first, the tasks themselves or the people who work to complete them?

Professionals want, and deserve, a job that doesn’t treat them like a machine. They want to collaborate and they want to innovate, not feel like a cog in the wheel. The most appealing employers, according to millennials (which is now the largest generation in the U.S. labor force) are the companies that hit these marks.

Companies like Google and Microsoft are known to be innovative and they provide opportunities for professional development and growth. The focus is on the people and their ideas, not the to-do list.

Project Management

8 Tips for risk management in 2015

“ In the years before 2014, the agriculture community was drawn into a mentality that corn prices of $5-6 to per bushel were the “new normal,” rather than a temporary price upswing. That type of thinking has changed quite dramatically in past year, as local cash corn prices dropped to below $3.50 per bushel during 2014, before rebounding late in the year, and then dropping again after Jan. 1, 2015. The projected cash corn price for the 2014 crop, which is now in storage, is expected to remain near $3.25-3.75 per bushel until next summer. This is similar to corn price expectations for the 2015 crop year. These price projections suggest that farm operators may need to adjust risk management strategies for 2015 and beyond. Following are some things to consider regarding risk management strategies for the 2015 crop year and beyond.

Calculate realistic crop production breakeven levels. The breakeven cost of producing corn at trend line yields will likely be $4 per bushel or higher for many producers in 2015, and above $10 per bushel for soybeans. There can be a large variation in breakeven price levels among farm operators depending on yield potential, production expenses, overhead costs and land costs. Farm operators should also include a charge for an expected return for their management and labor into the breakeven calculations.

Develop a crop marketing plan with realistic price expectations. It is important for farm operators to establish a realistic grain marketing plan for both the remaining 2014 crop that is in storage, as well as the planned 2015 corn and soybean crop. Grain price targets should be based on realistic price expectations, and the calculated crop production breakeven levels referenced earlier. It is best to have targets set to forward price a portion of the expected crop when profit margins exist; however, it is also important to have a strategy to reduce loss if grain prices stay below the breakeven levels.

Utilize a sound crop insurance strategy. A good crop insurance program using Revenue Protection (RP) crop insurance policies is a very important risk management strategy for crop production in 2015 and beyond. Many producers had RP policies in 2014 with guarantees of $650-800 per acre for corn. Comparable RP policies in 2015 will likely only have guarantees of $550-700 per acre. It may be advisable to look at the higher levels of RP coverage (80-85%) for 2015, in order to increase the guarantees, especially for producers with higher breakeven market prices, even though the insurance premiums will be somewhat higher.

Carefully analyze the choices for the new farm program. There are several different options for the new farm program, including base acre reallocation, updating FSA payment yields, and making a choice on the preferred farm program option for the 2014-2018 crop years. The farm program choices are Price Loss Coverage (PLC ), Agricultural Risk Coverage-County (ARC-CO), or Ag Risk Coverage-Individual (ARC-IC). There are potential large differences in payment likelihood with the various farm program options. Base acre and payment yield decisions must be finalized by February 27 at local Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices, and require at least one landowner signature for each FSA farm unit. Producers must finalize the farm program choices on each FSA farm unit by March 31.

Look for ways to reduce production and overhead expenses. There is a wide variation in corn and soybean production costs from farm to farm, and the higher production expenses do not always translate into higher yields or greater profits. Several small to moderate adjustments in production expenses can make a significant difference on corn and soybean breakeven levels. Overhead costs for machinery ownership and expenses can be another major variable in farm profitability.

Pay attention to cash rental rates and land costs. One of the biggest variables in farm profitability is land costs, either cash rental rates or land ownership costs. Based on farm business management records, there is a wide variation in average land rental costs from farm-to-farm. Farm operators should look at breakeven levels realistic before finalizing 2015 land rental rates, or before bidding unrealistic land rental rates on new farm land that becomes available. Similarly, farm families must closely analyze the future farm cash flow ability when making land purchases in today’s land market.

Keep the “current position” (cash available) segment of the farm business strong. It is important to pay close attention to the current ratio and the level of working capital in the farm business. If there is a big decline from year to year, it is likely a warning sign of more serious farm financial difficulties. It may be advisable to use excess cash revenues from the farm operation to pay down short-term operating debt, or for prepayment of crop expenses, rather than making extra payments on real estate and term loans. Also use caution on cash expenditures for capital improvements and non-farm assets.

Don’t forget about family-living and non-farm expenditures. Family living and non-farm expenses can be a big hidden factor in farm profitability. Many crop farms have enjoyed record profitability in recent years, which has allowed farm families to up their annual expenditures for family living and lifestyle expenses, and to make some non-farm capital purchases. As profit margins get tighter in the coming years, it is important to adjust the needed allocations for non-farm expenses accordingly. “

Project Management

Project management strategies

High school seniors grouse about college SAT tests and don’t realize that questions with only one correct answer are some of the easiest problems they’ll deal with in real life. Projects almost always solve open-ended problems that have more than one correct answer. Fortunately for project managers and their teams, some answers are more appropriate than others. By evaluating alternatives in light of the project objectives, a project team can determine the best solution. Once you’ve selected a solution, the project strategy is where you document your choice in the project overview and plan.

Identifying Alternatives

Once you know what the project is supposed to accomplish, a few brainstorming sessions with stakeholders can reveal more suitable solutions to consider. For example, consider the backyard remodeling project. The problem is a mud hole that prevents the family from enjoying the outdoors together. A family meeting to discuss the project could begin with each person’s idea of a fun backyard: a garden, a grill, swings, and a tree house. But some family brainstorming might lead to a solution that incorporates a common area for the entire family along with backyard niches for each family member.

Brainstorming is one of the best ways to extract creative ideas from a group of people. Chaotic can be the descriptor of choice as people throw ideas out at random, but some rules increase the effectiveness of the technique.

■ Clearly communicate the purpose of the brainstorming session.

■ Set a time limit to focus brainstorming activity.

■ Assign someone to facilitate the discussion. A facilitator welcomes all ideas and prevents criticism of others’ ideas regardless of how wacky they seem at first, which in turn makes everyone more comfortable about participating. The
facilitator also records all the suggestions on a flip chart or white board, so that participants can view them.

■ When time is up, the group can categorize, merge, and refine the ideas into a list of options for further study.

Factors for Selecting a Project Strategy

The project strategy that stakeholders select must satisfy a gauntlet of conditions. The winning strategy must satisfy the primary business objectives and most of the other project objectives, but there are other tests to pass as well. Here are some factors to consider when evaluating project strategies:

■ Is the strategy feasible? Feasibility is important if you’re considering a solution that’s unusual or untried. Feasibility studies determine whether the strategy will work before committing too many dollars and resources to a particular approach.

■ Does the strategy satisfy the project objectives? Without an implementation plan, you don’t have details about a strategy’s deliverables, cost, schedule, or quality. Stakeholders must make educated guesses about how well a strategy satisfies the objectives.

■ Are the risks acceptable? Every strategy has its risks. An informal risk analysis of all the possible strategies helps stakeholders eliminate precarious solutions.

■ Does the strategy fit the organization’s culture? If the organization has always written its own applications, a strategy that uses outside vendors is unlikely to succeed. Similarly, senior management that swears by technology might dismiss solutions that focus on process improvement. Cultural and psychological factors are not only tough to quantify but also tough to overcome. If stakeholders decide on a strategy that doesn’t fit the organization’s norms, success requires strong commitment from management, the project sponsor, and stakeholders.

Project management

The benefits of risk management in projects are huge. You can gain a lot of money if you deal with uncertain project events in a proactive manner. The result will be that you minimize the impact of project threats and seize the opportunities that occur. This allows you to deliver your project on time, on budget and with the quality results your project sponsor demands. Also your team members will be much happier if they do not enter a “firefighting” mode needed to repair the failures that could have been prevented.

This article gives you the 10 golden rules to apply risk management successfully in your project. They are based on personal experiences of the author who has been involved in projects for over 15 years. Also the big pile of literature available on the subject has been condensed in this article.

Rule 1: Make Risk Management Part of Your Project

The first rule is essential to the success of project risk management. If you don’t truly embed risk management in your project, you can not reap the full benefits of this approach. You can encounter a number of faulty approaches in companies. Some projects use no approach whatsoever to risk management. They are either ignorant, running their first project or they are somehow confident that no risks will occur in their project (which of course will happen). Some people blindly trust the project manager, especially if he (usually it is a man) looks like a battered army veteran who has been in the trenches for the last two decades. Professional companies make risk management part of their day to day operations and include it in project meetings and the training of staff.

Rule 2: Identify Risks Early in Your Project

The first step in project risk management is to identify the risks that are present in your project. This requires an open mind set that focuses on future scenarios that may occur. Two main sources exist to identify risks, people and paper. People are your team members that each bring along their personal experiences and expertise. Other people to talk to are experts outside your project that have a track record with the type of project or work you are facing. They can reveal some booby traps you will encounter or some golden opportunities that may not have crossed your mind. Interviews and team sessions (risk brainstorming) are the common methods to discover the risks people know. Paper is a different story. Projects tend to generate a significant number of (electronic) documents that contain project risks. They may not always have that name, but someone who reads carefully (between the lines) will find them. The project plan, business case and resource planning are good starters. Another categories are old project plans, your company Intranet and specialized websites.

Are you able to identify all project risks before they occur? Probably not. However if you combine a number of different identification methods, you are likely to find the large majority. If you deal with them properly, you have enough time left for the unexpected risks that take place.

Rule 3: Communicate About Risks

Failed projects show that project managers in such projects were frequently unaware of the big hammer that was about to hit them. The frightening finding was that frequently someone of the project organization actually did see that hammer, but didn’t inform the project manager of its existence. If you don’t want this to happen in your project, you better pay attention to risk communication.

A good approach is to consistently include risk communication in the tasks you carry out. If you have a team meeting, make project risks part of the default agenda (and not the final item on the list!). This shows risks are important to the project manager and gives team members a “natural moment” to discuss them and report new ones.

Another important line of communication is that of the project manager and project sponsor or principal. Focus your communication efforts on the big risks here and make sure you don’t surprise the boss or the customer! Also take care that the sponsor makes decisions on the top risks, because usually some of them exceed the mandate of the project manager.

Rule 4: Consider Both Threats and Opportunities

Project risks have a negative connotation: they are the “bad guys” that can harm your project. However modern risk approaches also focus on positive risks, the project opportunities. These are the uncertain events that beneficial to your project and organization. These “good guys” make your project faster, better and more profitable.

Unfortunately, lots of project teams struggle to cross the finish line, being overloaded with work that needs to be done quickly. This creates project dynamics where only negative risks matter (if the team considers any risks at all). Make sure you create some time to deal with the opportunities in your project, even if it is only half an hour. Chances are that you see a couple of opportunities with a high pay-off that don’t require a big investment in time or resources.

Rule 5: Clarify Ownership Issues

Some project managers think they are done once they have created a list with risks. However this is only a starting point. The next step is to make clear who is responsible for what risk! Someone has to feel the heat if a risk is not taken care of properly. The trick is simple: assign a risk owner for each risk that you have found. The risk owner is the person in your team that has the responsibility to optimize this risk for the project. The effects are really positive. At first people usually feel uncomfortable that they are actually responsible for certain risks, but as time passes they will act and carry out tasks to decrease threats and enhance opportunities.

Ownership also exists on another level. If a project threat occurs, someone has to pay the bill. This sounds logical, but it is an issue you have to address before a risk occurs. Especially if different business units, departments and suppliers are involved in your project, it becomes important who bears the consequences and has to empty his wallet. An important side effect of clarifying the ownership of risk effects, is that line managers start to pay attention to a project, especially when a lot of money is at stake. The ownership issue is equally important with project opportunities. Fights over (unexpected) revenues can become a long-term pastime of management.

Rule 6: Priorities Risks

A project manager once told me “I treat all risks equally.” This makes project life really simple. However, it doesn’t deliver the best results possible. Some risks have a higher impact than others. Therefore, you better spend your time on the risks that can cause the biggest losses and gains. Check if you have any showstoppers in your project that could derail your project. If so, these are your number 1 priority. The other risks can be prioritized on gut feeling or, more objectively, on a set of criteria. The criteria most project teams use is to consider the effects of a risk and the likelihood that it will occur. Whatever prioritization measure you use, use it consistently and focus on the big risks.

Rule 7: Analyze Risks

Understanding the nature of a risk is a precondition for a good response. Therefore take some time to have a closer look at individual risks and don’t jump to conclusions without knowing what a risk is about.

Risk analysis occurs at different levels. If you want to understand a risk at an individual level it is most fruitful to think about the effects that it has and the causes that can make it happen. Looking at the effects, you can describe what effects take place immediately after a risk occurs and what effects happen as a result of the primary effects or because time elapses. A more detailed analysis may show the order of magnitude effect in a certain effect category like costs, lead time or product quality. Another angle to look at risks, is to focus on the events that precede a risk occurrence, the risk causes. List the different causes and the circumstances that decrease or increase the likelihood.

Another level of risk analysis is investigate the entire project. Each project manager needs to answer the usual questions about the total budget needed or the date the project will finish. If you take risks into account, you can do a simulation to show your project sponsor how likely it is that you finish on a given date or within a certain time frame. A similar exercise can be done for project costs.

The information you gather in a risk analysis will provide valuable insights in your project and the necessary input to find effective responses to optimize the risks.

Rule 8: Plan and Implement Risk Responses

Implementing a risk response is the activity that actually adds value to your project. You prevent a threat occurring or minimize negative effects. Execution is key here. The other rules have helped you to map, priorities and understand risks. This will help you to make a sound risk response plan that focuses on the big wins.

If you deal with threats you basically have three options, risk avoidance, risk minimization and risk acceptance. Avoiding risks means you organize your project in such a way that you don’t encounter a risk anymore. This could mean changing supplier or adopting a different technology or, if you deal with a fatal risk, terminating a project. Spending more money on a doomed project is a bad investment.

The biggest category of responses are the ones to minimize risks. You can try to prevent a risk occurring by influencing the causes or decreasing the negative effects that could result. If you have carried out rule 7 properly (risk analysis) you will have plenty of opportunities to influence it. A final response is to accept a risk. This is a good choice if the effects on the project are minimal or the possibilities to influence it prove to be very difficult, time consuming or relatively expensive. Just make sure that it is a conscious choice to accept a certain risk.

Responses for risk opportunities are the reverse of the ones for threats. They will focus on seeking risks, maximising them or ignoring them (if opportunities prove to be too small).

Rule 9: Register Project Risks

This rule is about bookkeeping (however don’t stop reading). Maintaining a risk log enables you to view progress and make sure that you won’t forget a risk or two. It is also a perfect communication tool that informs your team members and stakeholders what is going on (rule 3).

A good risk log contains risks descriptions, clarifies ownership issues (rule 5) and enables you to carry our some basic analyses with regard to causes and effects (rule 7). Most project managers aren’t really fond of administrative tasks, but doing your bookkeeping with regards to risks pays off, especially if the number of risks is large. Some project managers don’t want to record risks, because they feel this makes it easier to blame them in case things go wrong. However the reverse is true. If you record project risks and the effective responses you have implemented, you create a track record that no one can deny. Even if a risk happens that derails the project. Doing projects is taking risks.

Rule 10: Track Risks and Associated Tasks

The risk register you have created as a result of rule 9, will help you to track risks and their associated tasks. Tracking tasks is a day-to-day job for each project manager. Integrating risk tasks into that daily routine is the easiest solution. Risk tasks may be carried out to identify or analyse risks or to generate, select and implement responses.

Tracking risks differs from tracking tasks. It focuses on the current situation of risks. Which risks are more likely to happen? Has the relative importance of risks changed? Answering this questions will help to pay attention to the risks that matter most for your project value.

The 10 golden risk rules above give you guidelines on how to implement risk management successfully in your project. However, keep in mind that you can always improve. Therefore rule number 11 would be to use the Japanese Kaizen approach: measure the effects of your risk management efforts and continuously implement improvements to make it even better.

Innovation

How did Andrew Carnegie, the man with the world’s largest steel empire, rise from no money, no opportunity, and no connections — to the richest man alive?

I’ve spent hundreds of hours researching Carnegie’s success, and here are the 5 best lessons from the man himself.

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1. Get Out Of The Shade

One afternoon, a young man walked into Carnegie’s office to interview him about his success. Carnegie could have told the young man about his journey from poverty to riches or about his wild dealings with John Rockefeller. But instead, Carnegie talked about something else.

His optimism.

Carnegie said the most important thing in his life was his “ability to shed trouble and to laugh through life.” He said that seeing life through a lens of positivity was worth more to him than millions of dollars.

“Young people should know that it can be cultivated,” Carnegie said. “The mind, like the body, can be moved from the shade into sunshine.”

And it makes good business sense, too. By not getting weighed down by the negative, Carnegie could keep his focus on the positive, bounce back from failures faster, and see opportunities where other people didn’t know they existed.

Ask yourself: do you sometimes slip into pessimistic thoughts and negative self-talk? Are you missing opportunities because you let your mind fall under “the shade”? How much would your business grow if you taped a note above your desk that reads: “move your mind into the sunshine”?

2. Tell Him to Keep the Ten Thousand

Carnegie and J.P. Morgan were once partners in a business. One day Morgan wanted to buy out Carnegie’s stake, so Morgan asked how much he wanted for it.

Carnegie said his shares were worth $50,000, plus he wanted an extra $10,000 on top — so a total of $60,000. Morgan agreed to the terms. But the next morning, Carnegie got a call.

“Mr. Carnegie, you were mistaken,” Morgan said. “You sold out for $10,000 less than the statement showed to your credit.” Morgan had calculated that Carnegie’s stake was actually worth $60,000, and with the additional $10,000, that made $70,000. So Morgan sent Carnegie a check for the full $70,000.

Carnegie responded by telling Morgan to keep the extra $10,000 — which, adjusted for inflation, is over $130,000 today. Morgan replied, “No thank you. I cannot do that.”

When reflecting on this story, Carnegie wrote, “A great business is built on lines of the strictest integrity.” He learned from Morgan that it is better to lose money in the short-term if that means maintaining your reputation for the long-term.

Think hard about this: Is your business doing everything it can to ensure that reputation comes before profits?

3. Follow the Rule of Nine-Tenths

There was a story that changed Carnegie’s life. It’s about an old man who lived a life of many tragic events. People in the town pitied him, but the old man said, “Yes, my friends, all that you say is true. I have had a long life full of troubles. But there is one curious fact about them – nine-tenths of them never happened.”

Carnegie learned from that story that most of the problems and “what if’s” we imagine almost never occur. Our brains have a tendency to dream up the worst-case scenarios and act accordingly — yet most of those almost never happen. And even if they do occur, they’re almost never as bad as we imagine.

By reminding himself of the “rule of nine-tenths,” Carnegie freed himself from the fear of the unknown and was able to take the risks he needed to achieve his radical success.

Be honest with yourself: Do you get caught up on the “what if’s”? Would your life be better if you followed the rule of “nine-tenths” and reminded yourself that most of those problems won’t actually happen? Are you willing to make a commitment right now to live by that rule?

4. Jump On ‘Flashes of Lightning’

When Carnegie was hired for his first job, the interviewer asked him how soon he could start. Most people would have asked for a couple of weeks to transition. But Carnegie’s answer? “I can start right now.”

“It would have been a great mistake not to seize the opportunity,” Carnegie wrote. “The position was offered to me; something might occur, some other boy might be sent for. Having got myself in I proposed to stay there if I could.”

Carnegie didn’t overthink it. He preferred to act quickly and risk something going wrong than to act slowly and risk losing the opportunity entirely.

And this rule worked in reverse, too. When Carnegie realized he owned shares in a company he didn’t like anymore, he told his partner to sell all the shares right away. When his partner said there’s no rush, Carnegie shot back, “Do it instantly!” And good thing he did… that company soon went bankrupt.

Of course, it’s important to study the facts, but if you’re presented with a real opportunity, don’t risk losing it by taking your time. As Carnegie would say, jump on the “flash of lightning.”

How many opportunities do you think have passed you by because you didn’t jump on them right away? Are you ready to act like Carnegie and make your answer “I can start right now”?

5. Find Your “$2.50” Motivation

Early in his career, Carnegie was given a bonus of $2.50. When he gave the bonus to his parents to help support the family, he said “no subsequent success, or recognition of any kind, ever thrilled me as this did… Here was heaven upon earth.”

And from that point on, Carnegie knew he wanted to be rich. But not for himself. He dreamt of making the money for his parents, so they could live a good life.

As soon as Carnegie identified that external motivation, his drive turned into high gear. The key is that he wasn’t motivated to help himself. He was motivated to help someone else.

So whether you’re doing it for your parents, your children, or to help people who don’t even know your name — you need to have that motivation clearly in your mind to fuel you through the inevitable hardships on your journey to success.

Are you clear on who your “$2.50” motivation is? Who are you doing it all for, other than yourself? If you don’t know, figure it out. And if you do know, how can you remind yourself of that “$2.50” motivation everyday?

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Andrew Carnegie is proof that if you work hard, keep your mind “out of the shade,” take risks, act quickly, and build a reputation of the strictest integrity — anything is possible.

And the craziest part? Carnegie is just one example of how it’s possible to work your way from poverty to radical success.

 

Leadership

Most of us have experienced that sickening moment when you realize you’ve made a serious mistake. Perhaps it was a typo that threw off a financial forecast, or maybe you forgot to reserve a venue for an important meeting that’s scheduled for the following day. The details are different for everybody, but at some point, we’ve all felt that rising tide of dread and panic.

Mistakes and pressure are inevitable; the secret to getting past them is to stay calm.

New research from the Harvard Business School shows that most of us go about staying calm the wrong way. People who welcome the challenge of a crisis—so much so that overcoming the challenge excites them—perform far better than those who try to force themselves to be calm.

“People have a very strong intuition that trying to calm down is the best way to cope with their anxiety, but that can be very difficult and ineffective,” said study author Allison Wood Brooks. “When people feel anxious and try to calm down, they are thinking about all the things that could go badly. When they are excited, they are thinking about how things could go well.”

Staying composed, focused, and effective under pressure are all about your mentality. People who successfully manage crises are able to channel their emotions into producing the behavior that they want.

In other words, they turn their anxiety into energy and excitement.

This can’t happen if you don’t engage your logic. Yes, making a big mistake is embarrassing. You might get yelled at by your boss, and the mistake might even show up on your next performance appraisal, but, in all likelihood, it’s not going to result in your getting fired, losing your house, living out of your car, or in any of the other catastrophic thoughts that fuel anxiety and keep you from getting focused.

If you struggle with putting things into perspective, just ask yourself two simple questions: What’s the worst thing that could happen as a result of this? Will this matter in five years? Your answers should put a stop to cataclysmic thinking. You’ll probably realize that you’re panicking due to the anticipation of public embarrassment more than anything else. Once you get over that, you can build confidence by picking up the pieces and making things better.

To help put things in perspective, think about situations that were worse than yours were. More than likely, the people at your company who have made serious mistakes are still there and doing just fine. Those legendary mistakes usually have few long-term effects on otherwise good employees. Remind yourself:

‘There’s more to me than this situation. One honest mistake won’t define me.’

Next, you need to recognize that people are less focused on you than you think they are. It’s easy to see yourself as the center of the maelstrom. You’re embarrassed, and you’re worried about your job. The more you feel judged by others, the more intense your anxiety. But your boss, and everyone else, will spend far less time worrying about you than they will about trying to improve a difficult situation, which is what you should be focusing on in the first place. You need to realize that they won’t have much time to think about you until after the dust has settled, and by that time, you’ll have become part of the solution.

Now, you need to magnify your logic. Nothing helps you maintain the right frame of mind in a crisis like logical thinking. Once you’ve forestalled the panic, it’s time to ask yourself important factual questions: What exactly happened? What are the possible repercussions? Is there still time to avoid those repercussions? If so, how? Who needs to be involved? If it’s too late to head off the repercussions, what can be done to mitigate the damage? Don’t let your mind run off with ridiculous self-accusations.

Finally, take action. Once you’ve figured out the facts and screwed your head on straight, it’s time to own up to the situation. Putting off the hard work of cleaning up the mess just gives your sense of dread more power; pouring your energy into making things better is both empowering and a wonderful distraction from any anxiety that might surface. Remember, getting excited by the challenge of rising from the ashes will improve your performance dramatically.

To keep things humming, don’t be so hard on yourself. Nobody’s perfect. Even the most successful people make serious mistakes. Henry Ford’s first car company failed after just 18 months, Oprah Winfrey was deemed “unfit for television” in an early reporting job, and Walt Disney was fired from the Kansas City Star for his lack of creativity. Beating yourself up might be a tempting option, but it never accomplishes anything, and it certainly doesn’t make you any calmer. Instead, keep your energy focused on the future and the things you can change.

Bringing it all together

The ability to manage your emotions and remain calm under pressure has a direct link to your performance. TalentSmart has conducted research with more than a million people, and we’ve found that 90% of top performers are skilled at managing their emotions in times of stress in order to remain calm and in control.

Nobody likes making mistakes. But no matter how big the mistake is, succumbing to panic isn’t going to help. Giving in to catastrophic thinking undermines your ability to make good decisions and to move forward effectively. Instead, use these strategies to stay calm so you can assess the situation, develop a plan, be accountable, and get busy making things right so you can move on.

 

Project Management

How to Hand over Your Project The Right Way

You may have already experienced it, but there will come a point at some point in your project management career where you will need to hand over a project to someone else.

There are many different reasons for this including: Your workload is looking too heavy and senior figures have decided to pass it over to someone else; the project would be align better with another PM’s skills, or the client has made the decision that they would like someone else to manage the project.

Imagine you’re about to replace a Project Manager for an ongoing project or even starting in a new organisation. What are the questions you will be asking or the information you will need in order to carry out the job the correct way? If you weren’t briefed by the former PM, I’m sure you wouldn’t feel as confident to take on the role.

It’s important that you give the new PM all the information you can to ensure they can carry out their job properly. In this article I will look at the best way to manage a project handover to the new Project Manager.

Make sure a ‘Project Handover’ is part of your methodology

You will usually find that in most organisations they will already have a project handover process as a part of their project methodology. There are a lot of key steps involved and these all need to be documented to make sure nothing gets missed.

You may not want to openly admit it but if you know you won’t be working on the project any more, your enthusiasm for the job will probably disappear. Having a method in place for you to follow will ensure that the transition goes as smoothly as possible.

A team of colleagues in a business meeting.Have a meeting with your team

The first step in handing over a project to another Project Manager is to organise a meeting with all team members. This is a meeting designed to go through project status updates and task status updates so you can pass all of the information over to your replacement.

If you have a good routine of weekly project meetings in place, this should be fairly straight forward. If you don’t, then perhaps it’s something you should incorporate into your project week. It could save you a lot of time in circumstances like this.

Remember to state the importance of team members being in attendance, bribery in the form of biscuits is good I hear.

Make sure the project is up to date with the most current information

This is mainly focusing on the administration part of the project. But you will need to make sure all if it is done.

  • Revise the project schedule.
  • Update resources and resource plan
  • Budget analysis and forecast is up to date
  • Make sure the risk and issue logs reflect any current or previous changes in the project

When looking at items such as the project schedule and resource plan, writing down some notes to accompany it would be great. Outline some of the methods and ways specific things are done.

Involve the new PM in all communication early on

You can actually start to prepare your new PM a few weeks before. If your IT department has set the new PM with an organisational email, copy them into emails with your client or team members.

If an email address hasn’t been created for them, save all of your emails in a folder and send them over when are eventually set up. They may not thank you on the day when they see 245 emails before they’ve even got through the first five minutes, but they will appreciate it in the long run.

Also try to involve them in a couple of conference calls between your client and team to give them some status updates. This is the perfect opportunity to introduce the new PM to team members.

If they feel comfortable with that set up, you could propose that you take over the first conference call and then ask them to lead the second to reflect the transition.

Make yourself available to them for the initial transition

I appreciate that in some cases this may not always be possible. Especially if your first thought is to get the heck out of there. However, if you are able to, an overlap between yourself and the new PM is highly recommendable. Not only will your replacement appreciate it, but also your team too.

If you’re still in the same organisation as the new Project Manager, make sure you are available for them via phone or email for at least the first couple of weeks. They may not get in touch with you at, but at least they will have some reassurance that if they do get stuck, they know you’re always at the end of a phone call.

You will be there if there are any questions are asked and will also be able to introduce them to the new team. This is a great way to make those involved in the project feel more at ease in what can be a highly stressful and difficult situation.

Give them the inside scoop on the team

You should prepare something for the new PM documenting team members various skills and activities that they are involved in. It’s also good to have a meeting to discuss the different personalities within the team as well as the overall politics and project culture to make sure they are well prepared. They may also choose to take it upon themselves to judge everyone for themselves and draw to their own conclusion but at least you’ve given them some foundation to work with.

business meeting.fwThey will need to know everyone involved in the project, contact numbers and email addresses on both your side and the client’s side. You may also want to create a (private) list delving a bit further into personal details such as their communication style, their role and attitude, the frequency of communication. This will help to keep the logistics of the team flowing nicely and not having too much of an impact on it.

Project Handover Checklist

  • Project initiation document
  • Business case
  • Risk and issue logs
  • Project schedule
  • Resource plans
  • All documents involved in initial project plans
  • Change requests throughout the project
  • Financial reports and processes
  • Deliverables of the project have been accepted by both the client or sponsor
  • Project status reports have been reviewed with your team and are up to date
  • Financial reports and processes complete
  • A list of contacts and their job roles
  • Staff evaluation and performance reports completed
  • Introduce PM to the client
  • Introduce PM to team members
  • Suggest next steps for the new PM

A project transition can be daunting, for you, your team members, your client and most of all the new Project Manager. You can’t change the situation but you can certainly try to make it easier to ensure there is as little disruption as possible.