Monday, March 24, 2008

Management: Doing it right

Rick Spence
From the March 2008 issue of PROFIT magazine

It’s the great mystery of business: how do successful businesspeople marshal their hopes, intentions and objectives and turn them into accomplishments?

Brendan Calder has worked on the solution for 40 years. The Toronto-based entrepreneur and mortgage czar has built and sold several companies, from Canavest House to FirstLine Trust (now CIBC Mortgages Inc.), all of them managed according to his evolving philosophy of focusing on results. He has turned that experience into an MBA course at Toronto’s Rotman School of Management called Getting It Done.

Armed with only a math degree from the University of Waterloo, Calder joined Rotman as entrepreneur-in-residence, but was recently promoted to “effective executive in residence.” Why not? His course in organizational effectiveness attracts some of Rotman’s best. And he promotes it by paraphrasing Ernest Shackleton’s famous advertisement for Antarctic adventurers: “MBAs wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages. Bitter cold. Long months of complete darkness. Constant danger. Safe return doubtful.”

Calder is only partly kidding. The crucial trait of an effective executive, he says, is courage: the bravery to buck existing systems by insisting on results, and the guts to be judged by them. “Courage is a necessary condition,” he insists. “Courage plus passion plus process equals results.”
As Calder embarked on a new class last month, I asked him to explain what makes for an effective executive. It’s difficult, but there’s a shortcut for you at the end of this story.

Organizational effectiveness begins with Peter Drucker, the late, great management strategist. Drucker bemoaned the recent emphasis on leadership; he believed businesses must focus on results. He popularized “management by objectives” as a way to get managers to stop focusing on mere activities, and instead seek out actions that move the entire organization forward. (Calder says the concept may have started with the Jesuits. “If you were building a mission in the wilderness,” he says, “the Jesuits would tell you to come back in a year and report on how it turned out.” They demanded results.)

Calder’s course emphasizes four of Drucker’s key points: focusing on results, managing by objectives, making effective decisions and prioritizing top management tasks. Sadly, not all of us are as disciplined as the Jesuits. In most companies, says Calder, “Management doesn’t know what the top management tasks are. They think they have to do everything, but they can’t.” It’s all about role clarity, he says. The hardest andmost courageous step is to “focus on contribution” — the key difference you can make — and then insist on measuring the results of your efforts and on being compensated for them.

Getting It Done also draws on the work of Michael Kami, a Florida-based business consultant who served as chief planner for IBM and Xerox in the 1950s and ’60s. In the ’60s, Kami coined the phrase “the speed of change” and urged organizations to become “fast, fluid and flexible.” He called for better, faster strategic planning by continually reviewing your SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats), adjusting your goals and paying constant attention to market feedback.

But there’s one more side to effectiveness: understanding your personal management style. What creates results for Donald Trump may not work for you. So, Calder’s formula includes the 3-D Theory of William J. Reddin, a British-born, New Brunswick-based management expert of the 1970s. Reddin noted that most people tend to be relationship-oriented or task-oriented, and that both styles are appropriate in different situations. By applying an “effectiveness filter” to individual style, Reddin gave managers the awareness (and permission) to adapt their personal styles to the context. “If you want to get things done,” sums up Calder, “you have to learn to flex your style.”

Fittingly, most of the work in Calder’s class goes on outside the classroom. The 25 students spend much of their time observing Calder’s principles in action at one of several local organizations, such as FirstLine and the Toronto International Film Festival, that have embraced all or most of Calder’s effectiveness formula.

Anthony Pittiglio, a 2007 Rotman grad who now works as an internal consultant with RBC Financial in Toronto, says the key concept he took from Calder’s course is “alignment at all levels”: without alignment, there can be no shared objectives and no results. At first, he resisted Calder’s contention that seeming intangibles such as customer satisfaction can be quantified. But now, he says, he understands that “when you find the key activities that can be measured, that’s how you get a truly output-focused organization.”

Since Calder’s course can hardly be summarized in 800 words, I asked him to reveal his top three tips for PROFIT readers. He responded by tossing a book at me: The Effective Executive in Action, a vinyl-bound workbook that prompts you to take notes and generate your own effectiveness manifesto by following the Drucker framework. Calder’s three tips: “Buy it. Read it. Do it.”

Talent Management Essential for Companies to Withstand an Unpredictable Economy

(CNN Money, 17 march 08)

Taleo Research Analysis Finds Continuous Talent Management Is a Critical Business Function for Companies in Any Economic Climate

Taleo Corporation (NASDAQ: TLEO), the leading provider of on demand talent management solutions, today announced the availability of a Taleo Research whitepaper titled "Talent Management in a Down Economy." In the study, Taleo Research analyzes historical and current data to determine the impact of economic downturns on hiring and how the efficient acquisition and retention of top talent helps businesses thrive in slow economies.

Job creation continues even during challenging economic climates, according to Taleo Research analysis of hiring trends during the last economic slowdown. According to Bureau of Labor statistics, in Q1 2000, during the hiring peak of the last expansion, 8.8 million new jobs (or gross jobs) were created. In Q2 2001, as the dotcom bubble burst, 7.6 million new jobs were still created. Analysis shows that while net job creation can go to zero or negative in a down economy, the total of gross jobs created is still significant as the workforce shifts from sectors that are being hardest hit to areas that continue to show growth. This fuels the need for companies to utilize efficient talent management solutions and practices regardless of economic conditions.

In addition, analysis shows that voluntary turnover is not significantly lower during a recession. In 2007, voluntary turnover across all businesses in North America was reported at 23 percent. In 2001 and 2002 (during the last recession) it was at 22 percent. Regardless of the economic climate, more than one fifth of a company's workforce may still be leaving of their own volition. In order to mitigate financial drain from open positions or poor workforce productivity, companies need a strategic hiring process that captures the best talent quickly.

"Given our analysis that significant hiring still occurs even during the most challenging of times, running a business without a talent management system is an expensive and inefficient proposition no matter the economy," said Alice Snell, vice president of Taleo Research.

To view the complete white paper, "Talent Management in a Down Economy," visit the Taleo Website at:

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Is There a Blue Ocean Strategy for the Health-care Industry?

Dr Sarah layton
23 March 08

It is the object of calls for reform on the presidential campaign trail. Its medical errors come under scrutiny on CBS News's “60 Minutes.” It undergoes the Michael Moore treatment in such biased films as “Sicko.” Yes, health care in America looks like it needs a fresh prescription. “Like it or not, our health-care system has become a price-driven commodity business,” says Florida-based corporate strategist Dr. Sarah Layton.
“Blue Ocean Strategy - an approach which creates brand-new market space where no competition yet exists based on creating value -- is not prevalent in this industry. Nevertheless, it is possible in any industry -- even in health care with its regulations and constraints.” So, how can Blue Ocean Strategy come to health care? “It just takes thinking along the right pathways to determine how to break out of the old competitive Red Ocean and into a new Blue Ocean with no competition,” Layton contends. “I believe that the health-care sector can be ripe for those organizations that have the creativity and wherewithal to leave their competitors behind and launch in a new direction.” The Blue Ocean Strategy concept originated from the research documented in the book, “Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant.”
The cornerstone of Blue Ocean Strategy is value innovation, according to Layton, which creates unprecedented value for the customer while simultaneously creating high profits for the company. The business strategist finds that there is hope for the health-care business. Here are examples of organizations which Layton sees as demonstrating a Blue Ocean Strategy: “NovoNordisk, the diabetics care company that reconstructed the traditional market boundary which had a focus on the physician (the influencer) and started focusing on the diabetic (the user). The result is that NovoNordisk has become a diabetic care company rather than just a provider of blood-sugar testing equipment and supplies. When someone is diagnosed with diabetes, that patient will go to the resource that can provide the best information and care, NovoNordisk.” “One trend on the horizon is the prevalence of women as chief health officers,” Layton says. “Women are making the majority of health-care decisions today. So, having a CHO who can speak effectively with women can potentially reach many more of them.” “There is this particular mental health-care company worth noting,” she says.
“Life Spring: after going through the Blue Ocean Strategy process, it realized that out-of-pocket cost, community reputation for quality and expertise, appointment availability, good locations and facilities and friendly and caring staff became the short list of values they most wanted in a mental health facility.” “A fresh prescription requires new thinking,” Layton says. “Blue Ocean can give health care the fresh water it needs today.”

Ask Dr. Marty: Time Management for Managers

By Martin Seidenfeld, Ph.D.
February 2008

As a manager of others, nothing is more important to you than managing your time well. Always feeling rushed and threatened by deadlines is a sure road to poor performance and personal burnout.

Managers often talk about not having enough time, or seeking ways to stretch their time, or finding ways to save time. But time cannot be saved, stretched, shortened, or otherwise altered; it is fixed and inelastic. Each of us has exactly the same amount of time: 60 minutes in each hour, 24 hours each day, 365 days each year.

When managers or supervisors say “I didn’t have enough time,” what they actually mean is that they didn’t get done what they wanted to. Time is what your job – and your life – is made of. It is, in one sense, all you have. If you waste it and don’t accomplish what you really want to do, then you are not performing well on your job – and perhaps, in your life.

Managers must systematically plan their time. Your individual situation may call for very detailed plans or very loose ones, but without some sort of time plan ning, you will be disorganized and your organization’s productivity will be sub optimal.

Every manager must have a schedule book. It can be as simple as a pad of yellow paper, or as detailed as The Franklin Planner. The important thing is that you have some written method for planning your time. A basic time management sys tem, using these four steps, can help:

1. Listing
2. Prioritizing
3. Delegating
4. Scheduling

First, set aside 10 or 15 minutes each morning to go through these four steps.

Listing means exactly what it says. Write down all the things you hope to accomplish that day. They may be important things or trivial, or take lots of time or doable in just a few minutes. But unless it’s listed it’s too easy to forget.If an item is a major project, break it down into doable bits. For example, if you are developing a budget for your department, you might separate it into reviewing last year’s budget, sending a memo asking about department members’ anticipated needs, creating categories for budget requests, etc.

Prioritizing consists of organizing the day’s tasks according to their importance and their urgency. Its purpose is to keep you from being busy all day, feeling like you’ve accomplished a lot, and realizing at the end of the day that what you did was relatively unimportant, while some truly significant tasks went undone. Few things are more stressful than realizing you’ve “not had enough time” to take care of something that is really meaningful. This often is mere “crisis management” – the style favored by mid-level managers who never make any higher.

You should consider two kinds of truly important matters: those that help you grow and be better at whatever is your specific function and those that have to do with your relationships. Completing a project report at work might be important, and so might be meeting with your boss, to strengthen that relationship. For personal growth, learning such things as how to use a new piece of equipment can be important. In the long run, as a supervisor of others, maintaining and improving your relationships with your employees and your own boss may be the wisest use of your time.

Urgent matters are those that must be attended to right away and may or may not be important. Urgency may result from a deadline (anywhere from trying to finish a report your manager wants today, to seeing to it that an animal feeding schedule is maintained), a crisis situation (anywhere from a conflict between employees that suddenly threatens to engulf the entire workplace, to running out of paper clips), or simple physical need – what could be more urgent, and yet less important in the ‘Grand Scheme of Things,’ than having to go to the bathroom?

To prioritize the items you have listed, ask yourself, what is the single most important thing that I must accomplish today? Note that there you must choose only one such item, although several may seem awfully important. Pick one and call it your Grand Prize Goal.

Your Grand Prize Goal is one you promise yourself you absolutely will accomplish this day. No excuses, no extenuating circumstances, no limits on your time or energy – nothing will cause you to fail to complete your Grand Prize Goal, short of your sudden, untimely death!

Put your Grand Prize Goal at the top of a new list, and then cross out that item on the first list. Now, consider the remaining items on your to-do list. Choose some Second Place Goals. Add them to the new list, in order of importance, and cross them off the first list. These are things you’ll definitely want to accomplish this day, unless doing them would interfere in some way with your Grand Prize Goal.

Next, choose items that seem important, but not so important that you’ll be seriously upset if the day’s interruptions and emergencies prevent you from accomplishing them. These will be your Honorable Mentions — the ones you have a reasonable hope of getting done. Add them to the new list; cross them off the to-do list.

Now, look at what’s left. This is the stuff you wouldn’t mind getting done, but aren’t going to worry about if they get bumped for more important things. These are your Also-rans.

Delegating: Don’t laugh! Right now, you may be thinking that there isn’t anyone to delegate to. But you can manage it surprisingly often, once you get used to the idea.

Take a good, hard look at your now-prioritized list, and for each item, ask yourself, who can I get to do this task for me? Delegating creatively and effectively is an important and somewhat complex management skill and will be dealt with at length in a future column. For now, just think about which members of your work force might be able to do some of your tasks.

Now, cross those items you have delegated off your prioritized list — but note who’s doing what, and add ‘follow up’ to make sure delegated tasks are done.

Scheduling: If any activities are pre-scheduled, such as a staff meeting or a scheduled conference call, write it in your schedule book, and cross it off your prioritized list. Next, schedule your Grand Prize Goal as early as possible in the day — not just to allow maximum flexibility for unexpected interferences, but also because you’ll want to tackle it when you’re freshest and sharpest.

Next, schedule your Second Place Goals, then whatever Honorable Mentions can fit into the day, and if you can fit in a few Also-rans, schedule them too.

This four-step process (listing, prioritizing, delegating, and scheduling) should only take about 10 minutes, once you’ve had some practice.

Obviously, in most work environments crises happen and things come up that can totally destroy your carefully worked-out schedule. So stay tuned: in my next column I’ll discuss how to block interruptions and avoid time-wasters.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Corporate Leadership: Avoid the fatal flaws of management

(By Harry S. Dennis, III , for SBT)

A manager’s five fatal flaws:

1. Unclear and inconsistent communication.

I’ve written about this issue numerous times the last several years. Deliver the message. Be clear, specific and concise. Say it in 25 words or fewer, if possible. Then make sure your audience understands it.
Now, listen to the feedback. Listen for the intended meaning. Eliminate obvious distractions. Acknowledge your personal hidden assumptions and prejudices. Actively listen by asking probing questions. Listen with empathy for the “heart and soul” of what the other person is saying.

2. Failure to acknowledge change.

The one thing we know about change in the organizational context is that it’s elusive and hard to recognize on a day-to-day basis, but it’s real. To ignore it is to fall behind. It’s important to understand why managers ignore change when they’re surrounded by it:
• Emotion – like fear, anger and uncertainty – gets in the way.
• Perception gets in the way. They don’t see the need for it.
• Attitude gets in the way. They don’t believe it’s for the better.
• Reluctance gets in the way. They want to “wait and see.”To acknowledge change, a management team must do four things. It must identify the change and its source; make it patently clear why the change is necessary and what’s in it for the management team; show how the change itself will be negotiated; and be optimistic about the future.

3. Failure to manage team members differently.

Years ago, when I was the aircraft commander with a crew of 10 on a USAF C-141A Starlifter, my superiors warned me that I should always treat my officers and enlisted personnel on the aircraft’s long global missions the same, according to their rank and station. I never did.
And I don’t do it today in the corporate workplace. Every manager interacts with a variety of personalities. Each requires a different level of attention and “coaching” to maintain high individual performance. What’s important to one team member won’t necessarily be important to the next.

4. Failure to establish clear expectations.

Anyone who has a job should never doubt what’s expected. Here are ways to avoid that problem:
• Be clear and specific when explaining their tasks.
• Have well-defined performance appraisal standards.
• Write mutual contracts with problem employees.
• Measure team goals monthly and quarterly.
• Have a minimum one-year mentor program for new employees.

5. No sound time management principles.

CEOs, in particular, have always struggled to fit 24 hours into a 12-hour day. It simply doesn’t work. The annals of time management doctrine basically stipulate four decision points:
• It’s your time. Know what you want from it.
• Be assertive about the difference between urgent and everything less than that.
• Set your priorities and respect them.
• If something is wasting your time, get rid of it.
Five rights of managersLet’s turn to the other side of the equation. A manager can’t really deal with the five fatal flaws without having certain management rights to pre-empt the fatal flaws in the first place.

1. The right to set clear expectations.

I like the term “managerial paralysis” to describe a manager who is reluctant to spell out job expectations to an employee for fear of a harassment claim. Explaining job expectations is part of communicating well.
There were five specific expectations identified above, and these are all totally acceptable. Not included are issues such as work habits, use of company resources, compliance with company policy, and so on. The bottom line is that if expectations have never been discussed, it’s never too late to have the conversation.

2. The right to expect top performance.

Expecting top performance day-in and day-out from employees is a management prerogative. The caveat is that the company must define performance in terms of specific measurable objectives. That’s where the process typically breaks down. Or more specifically:
• The company talks about top performance in general terms.
• It doesn’t set the “bar” by mutual agreement.
• Employees see that it doesn’t apply to everyone.
• The company doesn’t reward top performance through recognition or incentives.

3. The right to change

Top management is not in business to protect the status quo. It’s in business to advocate change and to advocate this important management right. I’ve already explained how to accomplish change. But for any change process to work, there has to be a change contract, which doesn’t have to be complicated. At minimum, it must include:
• The employee’s participation in the change process.
• Management’s right to change the rules as the situation dictates.
• The employee’s right to discuss performance expectations that are affected as the result of changes.

4. The right to dismiss employees

“Management at will” seems to be old hat these days. But it’s true that if an employee isn’t right for the job, and there’s no other position for that employee, and training isn’t an option, then management has the right to dismiss.
That assumes, of course, that all the fundamental employment policies are in place, and that there have been no extraordinary breaches of management conduct or practice that would lead to a justifiable employee lawsuit.

5. The right to make mistakes

No manager is perfect under any circumstance. Mistakes are inevitable. They’re also fixable, and that’s the sign of a great manager: to admit a mistake and fix it, and to be supported by the CEO in the process. The same is true with employees. They will make mistakes. They should also have the opportunity, working with their boss, to fix them.

These are challenging times for many companies. Sticking with the basics and staying focused will go a long way toward future success. History says so. Until next month, avoid those flaws and exercise your management rights!

80% of Organizations Using ‘Balanced Scorecard’ Reported Improvements in Operating Performance

(AlBawaba, 19/3/08)
80% of Organizations Using ‘Balanced Scorecard’ Reported Improvements in Operating Performance

66 percent of these organizations reported profit hikes

According to recent survey of more than 1,000 organizations, 80 percent of the organizations that regularly use the ‘Balanced Scorecard’ (BSC) reported improvements in operating performance and 66 percent of them also reported an increase in profits. Correspondingly, a significant majority, 61 percent, reported improvements in bottom-line financial results.

“Keeping focused on a strategy is tough,” said Dr. Robert Kaplan, Baker Foundation Professor at the Harvard Business School. “Balanced Scorecard Forum 2008 will provide business leaders with a unique opportunity to develop effective business strategies that are essential to the success of their organizations.” The forum will be held in JW Marriott Hotel, Dubai from 23 – 27 March 2008.

The BSC which is used extensively in business and industry, government, and nonprofit organizations worldwide was originated by Dr. Robert Kaplan and Dr. David Norton as a performance measurement framework that added strategic non-financial performance measures to traditional financial metrics to give executives a more ‘balanced’ view of organizational performance.

In order to introduce businesses in the Middle East region to the BSC concept and how it can help businesses clarify their vision and strategy and turn them into action, Institute for International Research (IIR) is organizing the “Balanced Scorecard Forum: The Art of Strategy Execution” to take place in Dubai on 23rd to 27th of March 2008.

Drs Kaplan and Norton will appear together for the first time in the Middle East and will deliver their insight into business management, through the use of BSC tools and highlight international and regional best practices during their two-day master class from 23 – 24 March. International case studies from Balanced Scorecard Hall of Fame winners Hilton Hotels Corporation Worldwide (USA) and Ricoh Corporation (USA) will follow during the two-day Balanced Scorecard Forum from 25 – 26 March. Regional case studies will also be presented by Microsoft EMEA (UK), Saudi Aramco (KSA), Emarat (UAE), National Bank of Kuwait (Kuwait), Dubai World (UAE) and Dubai eGovernment among others.“Employing the balanced scorecard leads to new business processes that can be used to link long-term strategies to short-term decisions,” concluded Dr. David Norton, the founder and president of Renaissance Solutions, a global consulting organization. “But in order to implement the BSC successfully, a business unit must effectively communicate the organization’s strategies for increasing shareholder value to all employees. That helps to get everyone behind the overall strategy.”

BSC allows better measurement of a firm’s capabilities to create long-term value by identifying the key drivers of this value. The drivers are then translated into four categories of measures- customer, internal/operational, innovation/learning, and financial. The financial measures are typically focused on short-term results; while the other three categories are coupled to future oriented activities needed to successfully sustain the firm.

“Strategy Maps and Balanced Scorecard have been instrumental for us in strategically monitoring the progress of our eGovernment initiative,” said Okan Geray, the Strategic Planning Consultant at Dubai eGovernment. “Balanced Scorecard has also assisted us in aligning our strategy with our resources, competencies and internal processes in order to pursue our vision of “Easing the lives of people and businesses interacting with the Government”.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Improving Management Performance


Quality of management is the prime mover of success in enterprise. It does not in my belief, matter whether the management's accent is Japanese orAmerican, or German, or French, or British, or whatever good management is good management. High-performing world winners come from all over the globe. Of course, there are national influences that condition the people's attitude to enterprise,cultural, historical, geographical-these explain agreat deal but do not explain the fact that goodmanagers everywhere overcome these to produceresults, and often seem to have more in common withone another than the contrast between the countrieswould suggest.

No wonder, therefore, that we have become obsessed with anatomising excellence. What are the common denominators of success? We lust after its secrets.We make out checklists of the desirable features ofthe competition some successful companies even drewup checklists of themselves a sort of laundry listof clean linen to be washed in public.

Management is currently heavily-breathing, heavily engaged in either checking-up on such lists ordrawing-up lists of their own. I find these lists fascinating in three ways. First, we expect too much of them. Such lists are not always useless, but, at best, they are always only sign-posts. They do not go anywhere. Something else must move management to act.

And, anyway, what list can cover the 360 variety ofbusiness situations: for instance the once-sound, mature business in need of a shake up, or even arescuing turn-round is different from the(embryonic) start-up of a venture; the organizationof a competitive public enterprise or, an essentialpublic service is different from a multinationalcorporation which can decide to change the formulaof a cosmically competitive drink- just like that. It was Solon, the constitution maker in ancient Greece, who when asked to draft a constitution,would nail the question by asking specifically, "Aconstitution for what?"

The second fascination of checklists for me is that they are always a bit of a shock. Their obviousnessis mildly shocking. And there is nothing wrong withobviousness: a litany of home-truths is arguably what we managers need. Actually, managers know wellenough what makes for quality and for money's worth,for success and for failure. Good management is not a bag of tricks, or of secrets, or of surprises . Good management in enterprise is such stuff asplatitudes are made of. Certainly, the litanies are what the manager is getting these days, and, if the market speaks truth, it seems to be what he and she likes.

For example,"In Search of Excellence", by Peters and Waterman,is a record breaking best seller. It explores agalaxy of international business and bringsmanagement back to earth with good, old home-truths.Belief is what makes things happen, belief in thebusiness, and that springs from keeping faith withthe customer. "In Search of Excellence" is born-again Samuel Smiles, racier and wittier, morefun but basically the one same clear message; thesecret of success is professional skill committed toa belief in the job and in the mission of theenterprise. This emphasises the third and most significantaspect of the best of current checklist; their recognition of management being as much a test ofcharacter as it is of professional technique.

This welcome emphasis emerges most clearly in anothercurrent and readable best-seller; "The Art of Japanese Management", by Pascale and Athos, who werein fact close with the ex- McKinsey team of Petersand Waterman. Pascale and Athos set off on their ownsuper-star-trek of international success inmanagement (not only Japanese, incidentally). Their formula is presented brilliantly as well. Their anatomy of success fairly hisses with S's, somehard, some soft. The hard S's are strategy, structure, and systems of management: the soft S'sare specified skills, style, staff, andsuperordinate goals. ("We chose alliteration", they say, "on the theory a little vulgarity enhancesmemory." Vulgarity-surely not. Blimey, I can't believe any well-brought up manager will dare dropany S in the blinding future) Athos and Pascale,like Peters and Waterman, are downright about management being an art, the title of their bookmakes that clear enough.

Outstanding organisations must be strong in strategy, structure and systems,but to rely on these is illusion; "the bestcompanies also have great sophistication on the foursoft S's." Academics and journalists traditionallyconcentrate on the mechanistic parts of managementfor some the soft S's are just froth. "That froth",this splendid Harvard team tells us, "has the powerof the Pacific". And, I would add, the Atlantic. Weon this side of the world are also witness to atransformation in the way management is seeingitself and is set on improving itself. Thesignificance in the best of the checklists is theirshift towards widening its scope and role of themanager. Recession and relentless competition havetaught British management more about the crucialcomponents that the hard S's stand for; they havealso taught us hard lessons about values of the soft S's.

Put another way, the shift is from the mechanics ofmanagement to entrepreneurial qualities. Improvingmanagement means developing the principle andpractice of entrepreneurial change and innovation.Naturally, the process is bound to vary in businesssituations, but in principle its relevance appliesto management in private and public enterprise, tomature industries as well as those aglow in thesunrise sectors, to large and small organizations,and also the public administration. Its applicationis now a central purpose to what we are about in theBIM. It is relevant, too, to the individual manager. Forhim and her, I suggest it involves a five point,self-demanding programme: 1. The continuing improvement of the individual'sprofessional capability - this means more than theessential mastery of functions, it calls forunderstanding of the technical and human values atstake in leading change at every level ofmanagement. On this first point, the other pointsdepend. 2. The personal commitment as a manager to close thegap between the world of work and the world ofeducation - it is not a question of "beinginterested in education and training as well as myjob." It is a vitalising part of the job, within theenterprise and in its external relations. 3. The widening awareness of the internationalhorizons of management, I have said before, nomanagement is an island; of course no manager iseither. International standards are vital tocompetitiveness. International markets andinternational organizations set the pace. 4. The ceaseless practice of communication - themanager is a communicator or nothing. There is noleadership without communication. In a modernworking community, constantly changing, this realityis more than ever a mark of a successful enterprise.What matters more than words are the qualities ofthe relationships expressed what a manager means isconveyed by amenities, by design and style, byaccessibility of authority, by example. In thehigh-tech, information future, flatter smallercommand structures are going to be possible.Communication will be what is expected ofmanagement; and a manager will communicate withmembers of any working community, not because theyare employees or trade unionist only, but becausethey are citizens at work and have the citizensright to information. This relates to the lastpoint. 5. The need to define the social policy ofenterprise this a manager has hitherto not seen withthe clarity and urgency that the priority nowcarries. For example, 200 leading companies arecommitted to the organization of Business in theCommunity BIC has special aims in enterprise andemployment but it is an outstanding illustration ofthe new realism in management. The agenda of socialpolicy is growing; priorities of the socialconsequence of change, of the environment, of equalopportunities of charity and sponsorship, ofestablishing flexible patterns of work-these aregiven increasing attention by the successfulenterprises Inevitably the individual manager has ajob to do in defining his or her role in this socialdimension. Improving management performance calls for aresponse from the individual manager as aprofessional of international standards, as aneducator, as a citizen- not only in the localcommunity, but as a competitive citizen of theworld.

PS - "A management not concentrated on improving itself is not worthy of the name: better call itbureaucracy, damn it, leave it and competition willclean up the mess."

PPS - "A manager who has not experienced the forcethat being changed can give is no manager: he's notup to his job which is changing andleading-moreover, he's in for a big surprise."

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Think better

Why is it important?

Today's fast-paced work world means that the ability to think on your feet, react to a range of situations as well as spot an opportunity at five paces are integral to being a modern manager.
We are often required to make quick decisions under pressure, and such decisions must be based on a proper analysis of the facts rather than on conjecture or preconceptions. Sharpening your thought processes will help ensure you know the right thing to do at the right time and help to apply new ways of thinking to situations that arise.
Many of us believe that we have little control over the way we think. This isn't the case, and learning more about how your mind works will also help with self-improvement and career advancement.

Where do I start?

An analysis of your thought processes begins with heightened self-awareness and an assessment of your thinking style and how you usually solve problems. Do you take an analytical approach or does it tend to be more intuitive? Are you experimental? Or is your style more reflective?
If you've never taken one before, perform an online emotional intelligence test. The higher your emotional intelligence rating, the greater your self-knowledge and self-awareness, both of which are key to understanding your thought processes. Similarly, psychometric questionnaires such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) will help you learn more about your core mental functions.
"Knowing your default preferences and habits, you are in a better position to broaden your thinking skills toolbox," says Phil Smith, senior consultant at business psychology company YSC.
Explore other viewpoints
Avoid taking the path of least resistance. A common trap we all fall into is to simply look for something that confirms what we are doing rather than challenge it.
The 20th century philosopher Karl Popper alerts us to this tendency to look for evidence to support our actions, explains Rachel Short, senior consultant at YSC.
"When often one piece of contradictory evidence would be enough to make us reject our line of thinking and look elsewhere," she says. "We need to challenge our almost automatic tendency to filter out pieces of data that do not support initial assumptions and challenge our own most comfortable assumptions."
Train your brain
Like any part of your body, your brain will respond to exercise. Put yourself in the position of being challenged mentally whenever possible. Take on new tasks, reappraise how you approach existing ones, play devil's advocate in meetings rather than accept the party line and force yourself out of your comfort zone and into situations where you know you will learn something. Look at different perspectives and listen to the points of view of others. Open your mind, be experimental and don't limit your thinking. Above all, don't be afraid to fail as fear will limit your thinking. Stimulate the mind even when not at work whether by reading more or doing a crossword or Sudoku puzzle at lunchtime or even playing computer games.
Record your experiences
Make a note of how you react to significant situations at work and what your decision or actions led to, whether the outcome was positive or negative. When things haven't worked out for the best, are there any trends or traits in your thinking and subsequent actions that you can pick up on? What caused you to approach the problem in this way? Did you make assumptions and base a decision on previous experience rather than challenge what went before. Visualise what the outcome might have been if you'd been more experimental in your thinking. Study the professionals.
While it is easy to get swamped by some of the theories that surround thinking and how the mind works, reading up on the work of experts such as Edward de Bono, who pioneered the concept of lateral thinking, and Tony Buzan, originator of the Mind Map, will further enlighten you as to how your mind works and offer plenty of mental stimulation.
If you only do 5 things
1 Develop your self-awareness.
2 Refrain from looking for affirmation of your theories.
3 Place yourself in mentally challenging situations.
4 Keep a log of the effect of your actions.
5 Devote time to mental activities outside of work.

Expert's view: improving your thinking
What should be done?
Apart from developing self-awareness about your thinking style, set up challenging mechanisms, get others to play devilÕs advocate, test yourself against rigorous standards, raise your goals, take on more challenging problems, take on different kinds of problems, and deliberately try to learn things you normally do not enjoy.
Research shows that the gradual decay of mental ability with age can be significantly slowed by remaining deliberately mentally active.
How can improvements be measured?
One method is to keep track of critical incidents when your thinking has let you down or led you astray, and analyse and reflect on them to see if you can spot any patterns.
Another is to be disciplined about keeping before and after mental records. If you are devoting time to mental training, can you point to the kind of result where you are expecting a difference? Is there a difference?
Top tips:
Don't assume what has worked in the past works now or will continue to work in the future - always look for current supporting (and undermining) evidence.
Beware the sunk-cost effect - don't fall into the trap of investing more effort into shoring up a poor decision when it is rational to cut your losses and start over.
Engage others to challenge and broaden your perspective. Get everyone to brainstorm individually before sharing, as this improves the range and variety of ideas.

by Rachel Short, Senior consultant, YSC

Monday, March 17, 2008

Managing Human Resources: Personnel and performance management

Any expert in 'human resources' (once simply known as 'personnel') can explain the importance for business results of 'interpersonal problems'. In simple non-jargon, getting on badly with others at work is a well-trodden path to business and personal failure.
To activate the dreaded problems, just be 'insensitive, manipulative, critical, demanding, authoritarian, self-isolating, or aloof', according to two of those HR experts. By the same token, adopting the opposite behaviour should achieve the magic aim: getting the best from those who work with and for you.
The key lies in the word 'authoritarian', a fault especially prevalent, it seems, in Europe. True-blue authoritarians never explain orders, expect those who receive commands to do exactly as they are told, ruthlessly punish failure and capriciously reward success - again without explanation.
Some of these tough nuts make fortunes: like Linda Wachner, the Warnaco textile tycoon, who once ordered a manager to head office and kept him waiting three days for a two-minute interview. Tom Watson, the founder of IBM, had similar rude habits ('They're well-paid,' he said when Tom, Jr. complained about the waiting minions). But so did the awful, disastrous Robert Maxwell.
Don't make the mistake of assuming that authoritarianism equates with success. Brutes might well do better with the anti-authoritarian methods of properly organised feedback, review and appraisal. In fact, one study of 437 companies showed spectacular before-and-after results from introducing this so-called 'performance management.'
Productivity soared by 94.2%, while the shareholders were better off by a quarter. The study's authors, though, report that the managers involved didn't think much of the procedures, rating them only 'slightly effective' or 'somewhat effective' in helping to achieve a company's ambitions. So what produced the bumper results?
The researchers, quoted in the Harvard Business Review, say that people need to know clearly what's expected of them: to be told clearly how they have lived up to expectations - or haven't: and, in the latter case, to discuss how to improve. Mismanaging subordinates, by ignoring this trio of needs, isn't going to help them, the mismanagers, or the business.
But there's a fascinating point about those expectations. Pitch them high. That doesn't mean setting impossible targets, but it does mean high rating of people's ability and potential. Do that, and you'll benefit from what Professor Dov Eden, who teaches at Tel Aviv University, calls 'the Pygmalion effect.'
To turn Eliza Doolittles into stars, try regarding them as such. Working with the Israeli military, Eden found that soldiers whose potential was rated 'high' received superior grades, and got more out of their training, than comrades whose rating, so their instructors were told, was only 'regular' or 'unknown'.
The catch was that the ratings were fictitous, entirely random. They plainly influenced the attitudes of the instructors, however. The same thing happens with managers and the managed. It's another proof of the old adage, 'Give a dog a bad name.' Give a dog a good name, though, and he becomes even better.
The crafty Eden arranged for soldiers to be told, again at random, that they had high potential for success. The blessed 'considerably' outperformed course members who believed themselves to be only average. In other words, if somebody is under-performing, maybe it's because they're underrated - by you and consequently by themselves.
That helps explain the irritating phenomenon, which every boss has experienced, of the man or woman who is sacked for under-performance, but proceeds to work wonderfully well elsewhere. Review, feedback and appraisal will help avert such waste, but you need something extra: reward
One school of thought pays more for performance against clear targets. Another advises paying extra only for super-performance. A third says that super-performance should be part of the expectation, and that bonus payments should only come from profit-sharing schemes. Whatever the system, the interpersonal success formula includes sharing that wealth.
Also, consider the virtues of another piece of jargon: 'upward appraisal.' Not only do subordinates get their performance reviewed, but so do the bosses - by the bossed. That should finally scotch the authoritarians who think that in all circumstances father knows best. He doesn't. --(ThinkingManagers)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Tom Peters: Gain Respect by Giving It

Azim Jamal - The Corporate Sufi

Azim Jamal - Untapped Potential

Azim Jamal talks about Purpose

Azim Jamal - Igniting Your Power

Azim Jamal is a sought-after inspirational speaker, management consultant and executive coach. He is also an international best-selling author. His dynamic, inspiring and thought-provoking message has been heard by over one million people worldwide. His work has been recognised by leading thinkers in the field of human potential including Dr. Deepak Chopra, Dr. Wayne Dyer, Jack Canfield, Brian Tracy, and management guru, Dr. Ken Blanchard.

Tom Peters: Innovation is Actually Easy!

Tom Peters: The Brand is the Talent

Tom Peters: Business Today - Too Much Talk, Too Little Do

Tom Peters, a self-described "professional loudmouth" who has been compared to Emerson, Whitman, Thoreau and H.L. Mencken, declares war on the worthless rules and absurd organizational barriers that stand in the way of creativity and success. In a totally outrageous, in-your-face presentation, Tom reveals: A re-imagining of American business; 2 big markets - underserved and worth trillions!; The top qualities of leadership excllence; Why passion, talent and action must rule business today.

Tom Peters: Educate For a Creative Society

The Truth About Success

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Antony Robbins - inspirational words of wisdom

Henry Ford - inspirational words of wisdom

Robert Kiyosaki - inspirational words of wisdom

Napoleon Hill - inspirational words of wisdom

Dale Carnegie - inspirational words of wisdom

Jim Rohn - inspirational words of wisdom

Zig Ziglar - inspirational words of wisdom

Robert Kiyosaki : Rich Dad Poor Dad seminar in 96

Zig Ziglar Setting Goals 1 of 3

World-renowned motivator Zig Ziglar guides you through a simple formula for achieving ANY goal.

Zig Ziglar Setting Goals 2 of 3

World-renowned motivator Zig Ziglar's hilarious take on procrastination.

Zig Ziglar Setting Goals 3 of 3

World-renowned motivator Zig Ziglar talk about how we all have a need for dreams.

When they say manage, they mean take the lead

by Susan Miller

I began writing this column on an entirely different subject. But with only a couple of paragraphs completed, I received the news that my husband's 26-year-old son had just landed a regional sales manager position for a major motorcycle company. With a Bachelor of Music degree under his belt and two years of selling motorcycles, he will soon be working with 16 dealerships in a six-state region to help them grow sales.

With that being said, you might think today's topic would pertain to some aspect of sales, perhaps the misleading notions surrounding the shift from sales to sales management. Nope. We covered that one last May.

Today's column encompasses the advice I would offer this, or any, young person about the enormous opportunity and potential challenges that lie ahead. So if a stepmother were to be asked, this is what this stepmother might say.

Don't let the title fool you. It may be called sales management, but this is a leadership position. Dorothy was not in Kansas anymore, and you're not in the motorcycle business any longer -- at least not entirely. You're in the people business now and you lead people; you manage things. Plan to spend 70 percent of your time leading, and 30 percent managing.

American author, salesperson, and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar said, "You can get anything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want." I believe this is where 99 percent of new managers fail -- in confusing who is serving whom. Understand that you are in a leadership role for the sole purpose of helping others become successful. Their success is your success. No one comes to work every day to fail. Help them succeed.

Learn the business of your industry's business, but become a life-long student of leadership. With demanding professors, college exams and finals behind you, only you can hold yourself accountable to this task. I promise if you commit yourself to becoming a student of leadership and practice what you learn, you will be a more effective leader than a man twice your age who believes a title is all he needs to demand results. Read everything you can on the subject of leadership. Listen to CDs. Attend seminars. Prepare yourself. It is better to prepare than repair.

Get to know the key people you will work with, and not just their names and positions. Meet them and engage in meaningful dialogue, doing 10 percent of the talking and 90 percent of the listening. Find importance in everyone, and work to acknowledge those things that are important to others. Always remember that every person is a person before they are a parts manager or a sales person or a finance clerk or a mechanic.

Set a goal of cultivating trust in all your business relationships. Understand that the first questions others will ask themselves of you are, "Can this person help me?" "Does this person have my best interest at heart?" and "Can I trust this person?" Author Stephen Covey illustrated the importance of these questions when he wrote, "It simply makes no difference how good [your] rhetoric is or even how good [your] intentions are; if there is no trust, there is no foundation for permanent success."

The mind reader: a profile of Edward de Bono

He's credited with being the father of lateral thinking and claims to have saved companies millions just by changing their mindset. So how is Edward de Bono unlocking this creativity? Louise Druce finds out.

Imagine your organisation could save millions of pounds just by thinking. It sounds a little far-fetched but Edward de Bono is living proof that anything is possible if you put your mind to it in the right way.

De Bono is credited with coining the phrase 'lateral thinking' 40 years ago and today is still regarded as a leader in creative thinking, innovation and the direct teaching of thinking as a skill, amongst companies and governments alike.

In fact, his teaching techniques have proved so popular, he now has his own army of trainers spreading the word. And, if their feedback is to be believed, the results are impressive. According to de Bono, a company in Arizona saved a whopping $84 million dollars by taking his methods onboard and adopting a different approach to a project; similarly, a Canadian company saved $20m in its first year, while in South Africa, a workshop using lateral thinking tools generated 21,000 new ideas in just one afternoon.

"In Norway, they had an oil problem they had been thinking about for weeks," de Bono continues. "One of my trainers introduced [creative thinking] techniques and within six minutes they had a solution that saved them $10m."

Brain-storming is not enough

Born in Malta, de Bono followed in the family footsteps and was awarded a medical degree at the country's Royal University before going on to gain a degree in psychology and physiology and a DPhil in medicine at Oxford in the UK. During this time he became fascinated by the way the brain functions and wrote The Mechanism of Mind, published in 1969, in which he demonstrated how the nerve networks in the brain formed asymmetric patterns as the basis of perception.

He has gone on to author over 70 books, which have been translated into numerous languages. The appeal of his work, according to his own website biography, is its 'simplicity and practicality' as his methods can be used by anyone from four-year-olds to Nobel laureates. The focus is on 'improving the elements that constitute a perception and the formal design and application of the frameworks required towards innovative and creative action'.

Not only can his methods be found on many a school curriculum across the globe (it's compulsory in Venezuela), they have been sought by the who's who of big business, including Boeing, Nokia, Rolex, Siemens, Nestle, Goldman Sachs and Ernst & Young, among others.

Surely the question is, then, if introducing creativity and innovation in the workplace is so simple and can guarantee successful results that could save big bucks, why is it still being stifled or non-existent in the British workplace? De Bono admits there are still a lot of people who aren't aware of his techniques or haven't had the right training so they are doomed to failure. "It's like mathematics or anything else," he explains. "You've got to learn the technique and then apply it."

But there are other forces at work, namely a stubborn and backwards-looking mindset. When speaking at a recent Leaders in London conference, de Bono pointed out many organisations work on the principle that if they collect enough data in their computers, this will set the strategy. "Unless you see the data in different ways, you will be stuck with the same old notions," he argues.

De Bono also accuses people of paying lip service to creativity and innovation. "They talk about it but they don't know a lot about it," he says. "There is the old-fashioned idea that brain-storming is enough or that creativity is just chance – some people are creative, some are not and one day you'll have an idea and there is nothing you can do about it. All this can be changed."

Wearing a different hat

The provocation technique is one of de Bono's favourites. This is where provocative statements are used to build new ideas by exploring the nature of perception and how it limits our creativity. However, the most popular of his methods by far is 'The Six Thinking Hats': an alternative to instigating raging arguments in the meeting room just to get your point across.

As the name implies, each team member separates their thinking into six 'hats' or categories, which are identified using a colour system. For example, the white hat signifies information known or needed, while the red hat signifies feelings, hunches and intuition, and the green hat focuses on the creative process. When each hat is introduced, the team switches to this mode of thinking to tap into collective knowledge, rather than being at odds.

"Each person is thinking in parallel, constructively, not all going against each other," de Bono explains. This eliminates egos and, according to some participants, can cut meetings to a quarter or even a tenth of the usual time. It can also be applied on a wider scale, as proved after the catastrophic tsunami in December 2004. "In Sri Lanka, the aid agencies were squabbling and didn't know what to do," says de Bono. "The government invited one of my trainers to teach the six hats and in one day they had a plan of action. Now the government insists all aid agencies have to learn the technique."

Although he has his own followers to teach his methods and despite now being in his 70s, de Bono is still in great demand as an author, speaker and advisor, and clearly still enjoys his work. "My approach to creative thinking has got stronger seeing people do all these things, that they can do these things and it produces results," he says. "I am even more sure [the techniques] work now because there is so much experience with them."

Even with the constant jet-setting, he still manages to find downtime to keep the creative juices flowing. "Obviously I can think while I'm travelling, not when I'm writing," de Bono adds. Although he says when he does switch to author mode, he likes to find somewhere with a view to sit down and write. In January alone, he wrote four books while in Malta. "It fits in," he adds. "Thinking isn't restricted."


Whatever Happened to Quality?

"Quality is everyone's responsibility."-- W. Edwards Deming

Quality is more than just a statistical analysis tool for manufacturing lines. When done right, quality should encompass the entire enterprise.

By Brad Kenney

April 1, 2008 -- Some 50 years after the advent of the total quality management (TQM) movement championed by W. Edwards Deming, manufacturers of all different sizes and stripes are still being dogged by high-profile manufacturing quality defects. The list is long, and getting longer every week, and crosses every manufacturing vertical. At least a token "quality program" is de rigueur for U.S. manufacturers, but many are still at lip-service level agreement with the means required to reach the necessary ends. However, talk is cheap -- recalls are not.

'From tainted beef to spinach, from lead-painted toys to poisoned pet food and blood thinners to exploding laptop batteries and malfunctioning medical devices, the costs in scrapped product, consumer lawsuits and lost brand equity from defects and recalls are huge.
Persistent, expensive and well-publicized recalls are striking companies with even the most stellar quality reputations. Toyota, the progenitor of a legendary quality-focused production system, has suffered a rash of defects that have caused the company to drop in Consumer Reports' Annual Car Reliability Survey ratings -- an important market barometer for its consumers.

On a perhaps less dangerous but equally costly front, Microsoft's X-box 360 video gaming platform suffered a high-profile manufacturing defect that at one point had up to one-third of all units suffering from a "fatal error" (device owners called it "the red ring of death") that led at least indirectly to markedly weaker competitive positioning in the crucial holiday selling season, as well as a warranty extension that is estimated at more than $6 billion in unplanned accruals.

Many of these manufacturing problems are coming from global supply chains, which is a failure as much of management as it is the defective products themselves. However bleak the situation may seem, all is not lost. Indeed, the responsibility for quality manufacturing finally seems to be taking hold across all levels of the enterprise.
Quality Goes Upstream
Talk to the manufacturing community about quality's place in today's environment and a clear pattern emerges -- companies are finally grasping the "shared responsibility" aspect of Deming's teachings. If quality is truly everyone's responsibility, then the idea goes beyond the shop floor and into the front office, the service department and everywhere else that provides value to customers and shareholders.
Ron Atkinson, chairman of the American Society for Quality (ASQ), has been watching this trend unfold. He describes the path that the idea of quality management in manufacturing has taken over the years.

"When I started in manufacturing 35 years ago, there was a policeman installed at the end of the line who looked at the parts and said, 'That one is OK, that can be shipped and that one can't.' Gradually, it got to, 'Let's find better ways to do the checking,' and then to, 'Let's find a way to predict what the parts are going to look like when they hit the end of the line,' so we started doing defect prevention. Now where we're at is that quality is expanding to cover everything, including outside of the actual manufacturing process, to 'how do we improve the quality of our HR services and support services? How do we improve the quality of the decisions that are made?'"
According to Atkinson, concepts crucial to establishing a top-quality manufacturing line have been driven upstream, and expanded to become part of an overall continuous improvement strategy. "Quality has become a systems approach, rather than focusing on one part at a time and whether it's dimensionally correct. Quality is continuous improvement."
Defining Quality
Juergen Boenisch, executive manufacturing consultant and chair of the Society for Manufacturing Engineers' Toronto chapter, also has been witnessing the expansion of quality's scope to meet the needs of today's customer-centric manufacturing enterprise.

"Quality can be many-fold," he says. "Quality can be how conforming my product is with the customer expectations, but quality is defined differently in a call center, so the first questions to ask are, 'What is my quality? What are we going to measure? What do we want to improve?'" This can be, according to Boenisch, an aspect of product design, engineering or equipment tolerances, but also can be service-centric, and have as much to do with talent and human capital management as precise and rigorous tolerance-testing mechanisms.
Boenisch's own definition is surprisingly simple: "Quality is whatever my customer is paying me money for." However, he admits that this expanded idea of quality starts to creep into areas that are less quantifiable than, say, a non-conforming part. "Customers call and complain and they say, 'Your service stinks.' But how do you measure that?" And as the manufacturing industry shifts with the rest of the economy and becomes more service-and customer-centric, executives and experts alike are seeing the need for spreading the quality message across the enterprise.
How best to get this quality mission accomplished? Boenisch hearkens back to the gospel of Deming, who preached a hybrid approach of quality control methods and employee empowerment that has perhaps found its fullest expression in the Toyota Production System (TPS). In his work as the chair of a "Human Side of Lean" committee for SME, Boenisch often makes the point that while line-level manufacturing quality control techniques have gained widespread adoption -- the ubiquity of defect reduction strategies is proof of their spread -- the employee-engagement part of this equation has been given short shrift.
"You need a standard process, sure, but at the end of the day, you need the people that catch the ball whenever something comes out of the ordinary," says Boenisch. He notes that while the idea of quality is still mostly stuck in the defect-reduction paradigm, "I am very certain we will see a very clear shift from our process view, which we have today, towards a people-centric view in the future."
Rework and Morale
Larry Coburn, vice president of operations at high-tech audio equipment manufacturer Crown Audio, has seen the need for strong management and employee commitment in his company's recent quality improvements. The market in his industry was driving the development of more complex products that need to be produced more cheaply, and these twin trends put so much pressure on his manufacturing operations that things were breaking down. Their first-pass yields had gotten so bad that their rework inventory had piled up, and even became a major line item on the balance sheet.

"We had areas that were designated for rework that were so large that they were getting on our inventory control list because they were major entities in terms of dollars in inventory," he recounts.
In fact, the problem was large enough to conceal what Coburn and his team call 'hidden factories' -- millions of dollars of untapped production and sales potential existing within their production line.
"We started analyzing these hidden factories and we actually identified $4 million of cost related to poor quality," Coburn says.
To stem the tide of red ink, Crown Audio embarked on a drastic plant-floor triage process that involved stopping production entirely, so as not to generate any more rework. They then analyzed and tested the defective inventory, broke the components up into groups based on the common problems they exhibited, and used those groupings to analyze potential process improvements and defect reduction strategies before plugging them back through the process. Once they finished, they not only had saleable inventory to get out the door, but also had a pretty good handle on the parts of their process that needed changing, says Coburn.
"When we started, we had months and sometimes close to a year of backlog that needed to be fixed and repaired," he relates. "Now we are talking in terms of hours of rework in front of us."
However positive and dramatic this change, Coburn and his management team also realized that it wouldn't help much if the scrap and rework inventory piles kept growing, he says, which is where he says the less-tangible "employee engagement" part of the equation comes in.
The first aspect is enabling them to do their jobs. "We're continuing to empower our workers to get real-time data at their fingertips so they're making good decisions without two-week-old data, or without estimating or just evading what they think the problem is," he says. Rather than having his workers hanging their heads, Crown Audio's management team is now in the enviable situation of having different lines and shifts brag about their first-pass yields to each other.
Sustaining this motivated, engaged workforce is itself a team effort, says Coburn, who says that he has learned over the course of Crown Audio's continuing quality initiative that solidly designed manufacturing processes backed up by an engaged and empowered workforce is the essential combination to move any company forward. Quality truly is everyone's responsibility, and everyone appreciates a job well done.
"There is nothing more frustrating than working hard and then knowing that what you did, did not work out or did not come through."
Coburn stresses this point in no uncertain terms. "Morale is everything in quality," he says. "People want to do a good job, and we have to enable that."

(Industry Week)

Talent and Transformation

A recent survey of HR leaders found that talent management is seen as the key to making HR more strategic. It also found that leaders at large organizations were more apt to use recruitment-process outsourcing than at smaller ones.

By Stan Lepeak

Making the human resource function more strategic is a perennial goal in most organizations. "HR transformation" is commonly identified as a key means to make HR more strategic. The challenge, however, is defining what transformation really is and then determining how to successfully undertake it.
EquaTerra and Human Resource Executive® together conducted a market study in late 2007 to explore the HR transformation topic. The study, based on an earlier one conducted by both organizations in 2005, assessed the realities of HR transformation, how organizations were pursuing it and the role that alternative service-delivery models, such as shared services and outsourcing, played in enabling it. It surveyed approximately 450 HR leaders based primarily in North America, 29 percent of whom were vice presidents of HR and 53 percent who were HR directors or managers.
The latest study, similar to the earlier one, found that while the majority of respondents felt their organizations viewed HR as a strategic asset, there was still a strong desire to further transform the function to improve its efficiency and effectiveness.
Many barriers were identified, however, including how to define, fund and gain executive support for transformation efforts. There were also differences of opinion as to how much transformation was about truly improving strategic capabilities versus just cutting costs.
These findings demonstrate that one of the key challenges HR organizations face in trying to become more strategic is defining exactly what "strategic" means. This definition will obviously depend on the organization, its size and its industry, as well as its current business and operating environment.
What makes HR strategic also depends on whose opinion is being asked. Some stakeholders view operational excellence as the key to being strategic. Their focus is on keeping costs down while increasing process efficiencies.
Others view the key to becoming more strategic as expanding the role of HR beyond operational activities to better support strategic business initiatives. To them, routine HR operational activities should take a back seat to more strategic work around talent and organizational effectiveness.
The challenge for HR leaders, therefore, is to define what "becoming more strategic" means in the context of their department's current situation and in the eyes of the key stakeholders and decision makers within their organization as a whole.
Even when HR leaders define the "what" of being strategic, they continue to struggle with the "how" of enabling it. HR departments have many tools and options at their disposal to transform and improve their processes. These run the gamut from process redesign and reorganization to investing in more (and hopefully, better) information technology to support the deployment or expansion of service-delivery models such as outsourcing.
The challenge lies in defining the right tools for the job and deploying them successfully while recognizing that most organizations have already tried many of these options with mixed results.
With these questions and issues in mind, EquaTerra and HRE launched the updated market study to determine how leading HR organizations today are addressing the what and how of making HR more strategic. The study assessed the importance of "total talent management" as a key enabler of strategic HR and the role of alternative- service-delivery models in improving organizations' talent-management capabilities.
HR Performance
The market study first assessed respondents' opinions regarding the performance of their HR operations from the perspectives of HR people and processes as well as HR/IT applications and systems. Respondents were consistently more satisfied with HR people and processes than with HR/IT. The mean score for people and processes was 3.19 on a 1-to-5 scale where one represents not at all satisfied and five represents extremely satisfied. On that same scale, HR/IT had an overall score of just 2.59.
These responses represent a decline from the 2005 study, wherein people and processes scored 3.41 and HR/IT scored 2.83. While some of this variation between the two studies is attributable to different samples, the decline also highlights that, overall, little progress has been made in many organizations over the past three years in improving HR performance.
HR groups in general fared well relative to their strategic importance to the organization, with the majority of respondents indicating HR is viewed as a strategic asset in their organizations. These response levels were little changed, however, from the 2005 study, which suggests that, while progress has been made, HR still has a way to go before it's considered truly "strategic." Indeed, many respondents who selected "other" as a response indicated that HR was "emerging," "evolving" and "progressing" as a strategic asset, but was not fully there yet.
Defining "Strategic" HR
While HR groups must clearly define what strategic means in their own organizations, the study's findings point toward a growing consensus about what "strategic HR" is. When questioned on what would make HR more strategic to their organization, more than 70 percent (see Figure 1 ) of respondents indicated it meant becoming a leader in total talent management (e.g., recruiting, performance, learning and succession planning).
Respondents from larger organizations (more than 5,000 employees) placed even more emphasis on talent management than smaller organizations.
Tactical proficiency and effectiveness in managing core HR processes -- typically where the bulk of daily HR activity is spent -- ranked fourth.
Respondents were also queried on which core HR processes and activities contributed most to making HR strategic. Talent management again came out on top (see Figure 2 ), cited by more than 70 percent of respondents, as did organizational effectiveness (e.g., workforce and performance management). Playing an advisory role for executives also scored well, while more routine HR tasks scored much lower.
Drilling further into the total talent-management theme, respondents were asked to rank the importance of talent-related issues and challenges in making HR more strategic and improving overall organizational competitiveness.
On a 1-to-5 scale, with one being not at all important and five very important, talent scored 4.39 overall, which points to improving total talent-management capabilities as a top opportunity to make HR more strategic. The question then becomes, "How to do so?"
Of Talent Management and RPO
HR organizations face many challenges in improving efficiency and effectiveness in any core area, especially something as diverse and complex as talent management. When asked what the key barriers to HR transformation were, survey respondents cited a lack of resources and funding, inadequate supporting HR/IT systems and a lack of executive support and sponsorship. These were similar to barriers cited in the 2005 study, underlining the ongoing nature of these challenges.
So if these challenges are recurring and formidable, how can HR groups overcome them? One approach is to look at the different means available for delivering core HR services. Ideally, these different models can not only improve process efficiency and effectiveness, but also free up HR resources to focus more strategically on critical topics such as talent management.
The market study assessed the role and value of alternative HR service delivery models -- shared services, HR/IT and HR business-process outsourcing -- in transforming HR to make it more strategic. Adoption rates for shared services and outsourcing varied significantly depending on the HR process addressed, and the size and industry of the organization.
Overall, benefits administration was the process most frequently supported through shared services, identified as deployed by 35 percent of respondents and planned by an additional 8 percent. Payroll was the process most frequently outsourced (24 percent deployed, 8 percent planned). The rates were higher, often significantly, for larger organizations and for commercial/non-public-sector organizations.
When asked to rank the importance of these alternative-delivery models in making HR more strategic, respondents scored them in the mid to lower end of the five-point scale. Respondents were also specifically asked about the importance of recruitment-process outsourcing to improving total talent-management capabilities. Figure 3 illustrates the perceived importance of each of the service-delivery models. Larger organizations and those in commercial industries again placed more positive emphasis on these models than did smaller ones and those in the public sector.
Relative to RPO, 19 percent of all respondents said their organizations had outsourced much or most of their recruiting-related activities. Thirty percent of respondents from organizations with more than 5,000 employees and 35 percent with more than 20,000 employees noted they had undertaken RPO.
The two key reasons cited by respondents whose organizations had not undertaken RPO were "not needed" (48 percent) and "too expensive" (34 percent). When the respondents who had undertaken RPO were asked to identify the benefits they sought from it, the majority (64 percent) cited "accelerate the recruiting and hiring process," while 58 percent chose "focus on more strategic aspects of recruiting" and 46 percent chose "improve service."
These respondents were also asked to list the specific hiring processes they'd outsourced to an RPO provider and rate (on a scale of 1 to 5) the results achieved by the vendor. All of the processes (which included sourcing, hiring, executive recruiting, staffing, contingent labor, drug testing/background checking and pre-employment testing) received average ratings of 3 or higher.
So, while a large number of respondents have not undertaken significant levels of RPO, those that have done so have experienced fairly positive results.
Relative to future RPO plans, the majority (53 percent) of organizations that have undertaken RPO intend to maintain their current levels of investments for the foreseeable future. Eighteen percent planned to maintain current levels, but renegotiate deals with their current RPO service providers or possibly switch to a different provider. Twenty-seven percent planned to expand RPO efforts into new areas) and less than 2 percent planned to curtail their RPO effort and bring the work back in-house.
Given that RPO usage was defined for the study as encompassing much of the recruiting process, it's not surprising that the expected expansion levels are lower than those for other types of outsourcing.
The role and importance of talent management in making HR more strategic is not surprising in today's market. Finding, attracting and keeping good people have always been of paramount importance to companies across all industries, and are even more important today, given the fact that competitive differentiation depends on the quality of an organization's talent.
Improving total talent management will be key for organizations during the next five years. HR groups that excel at this will be viewed as strategic, and alternative service-delivery models have the potential to be an important element of an improved talent-management capability.
Stan Lepeak is a managing director at EquaTerra, a Houston-based outsourcing advisory firm.


Master these 10 processes to sharpen your project management skills

by Tom Mochal

Small projects don’t necessarily require much knowledge of project management or much project management discipline. But as a project gets larger, formal processes and techniques become essential. Different project management methodologies organize and structure these processes in various ways, but we’re going to focus on 10 basic areas:

1. Define the project
2. Plan the work
3. Manage the workplan
4. Manage issues
5. Manage scope
6. Manage risks
7. Manage communication
8. Manage documentation
9. Manage quality
10.Manage metrics

In general, if you can master these areas, you can succeed in most projects. You may not have to worry about managing documentation or metrics on a small project, but the larger your project, the more you’ll need to focus on all 10 processes.

Notice that our list doesn’t include analysis, design, testing, or implementation. Those who have worked on projects probably know that they typically include analysis and testing. However, there is a major distinction to be made. Analysis and testing are part of the actual project work effort (also called a project lifecycle). These phases change depending on the project type. If you have a full lifecycle project, you could perform the full range of analysis, design, construction, testing, and implementation. On other projects, you might do only certain components. For example, if you were performing a research and development project, you wouldn’t be doing implementation. If you were performing a study, the project might end after the analysis phase.

Do you see something missing?

Two processes are sometimes included as a part of basic project management: people management and contract and procurement management. People management is an important skill for project managers, but it’s not specific to project management. After all, any management-subordinate relationship requires people management. The distinction is that it’s a project “manager” skill, but not necessarily a project “management” skill.

We’ve also excluded contract and procurement management from our list. In most organizations, project managers need to know about the management of contracts and vendors, but they aren’t responsible for it. A legal department and/or procurement department is usually responsible for these disciplines.

Timing and sequencing of the processes

Except for the first two categories — defining the project and planning the work — the 10 major project management areas don’t fall into a sequential path. Processes 3 through 10 can be done in any order, and in fact, are done in a parallel and ongoing manner throughout the project. For example, if a major problem pops up, you must use issues management regardless of what other aspects of project management you’re using before, during, or after that time. Let’s take a closer look at each process.

Note: This information is also available as a PDF download.

#1: Define the project

As the project manager, you must make sure that the work is properly understood and agreed to by the project sponsor and key stakeholders before the project work begins. You’ll work with the sponsor and stakeholders to ensure that the project team and the client have common perceptions of what the project will deliver, when it will be complete, what it will cost, who will do the work, how the work will be completed, and what the benefits will be.
The larger the project, the more important it is that this information is mapped out formally and explicitly. All projects should start with this type of upfront planning to prevent problems caused by differing viewpoints on the basic terms of the project. The major deliverable from this step is the Project Definition (some companies call this a Project Charter).
At a high level, the purpose of defining the work includes:
Understanding and gaining agreement on project objectives, deliverables, scope, risk, cost, approach, etc. This is the most important part of defining the work and is where most of the time is spent in gaining common agreement.

Determining whether the original business case is still valid. For example, a project that requires 10,000 effort hours might make business sense. If the more detailed definition process results in a more refined estimate of 20,000 hours, the project may no longer be feasible.
Making sure the resources you need are available when you need them.
Providing a high-level baseline from which progress can be compared and scope can be controlled.

Gaining agreement with the client on the processes used to manage the project.
The effort required to define the work depends on the amount of information and the level of detail that need to be understood and documented. The duration required to define the work depends on the length of time necessary to discover and document the information, as well as the time required to gain agreement and approval from the client.

It may be difficult to define exactly what the final deliverables look like for large and complex projects. It is also difficult to estimate the total cost and deadline date. If that is the case, you can break the project into smaller projects. The projects that are done first should then be much easier to define. The projects that are to be completed in the future can be defined in detail as they get closer to execution.

At the end of the definition aspect, you should have a Project Definition that defines the expectations of the project in terms of objectives, deliverables, scope, risks, costs, deadline, and roles. This document should be formally approved by the project sponsor and other key stakeholders before the project team proceeds. At times, you can get frustrated because of the difficulty in gaining agreement with the client on scope, timeline, and cost. But that is exactly the reason this definition work is done ahead of time. Think of the problems you would no doubt encounter trying to gain agreement with the client on scope, schedule, or cost when the work had started and the deliverables were actually being produced.

#2: Plan the work

When you define the project, you make sure that you have an agreement with the project sponsor on what work should be completed in this project. In this stage, you determine how the work will be completed. This involves building the Project Workplan. You’ll take different approaches according to the size of the project. For example, the workplan for small projects can be built using a project management package like Microsoft Project, a spreadsheet, or even a piece of paper.

If you don’t have a workplan template to use as your starting point, you can use the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), a technique for looking at the project at a high level and breaking the work into smaller and smaller pieces until you can get the full picture of the work. The entire team can collaborate on this exercise. I recommend breaking down the work into lower levels until each remaining activity is less than 80 hours, and it is clear what is required to complete the activity.

Once all of the work has been uncovered, you can sequence the activities and identify dependencies between them. At this point, the WBS has been converted to a Network Diagram.
Next, you add resources (workers) for each activity. If you know of certain resources, you can add them by name. If not, you can use generic names as placeholders. You then add the effort hours and the beginning and ending dates for each activity.

Your workplan is now ready to go. You’ll know what work you have to complete (Project Definition) and how you’ll get the work done (Project Workplan).
The relationship between defining and planning the project
You may find that you can’t complete the Project Definition without starting to lay out the overall Project Workplan. In many cases, you’ll need to work on these two deliverables simultaneously. As you gather information about scope and deliverables, you’ll need to start laying out a timeline so that you can get your hands around estimated effort and duration. When the deliverables, scope, assumptions, and approach are complete, you should have enough information in the Project Workplan to estimate the budget, effort, and duration, which you’ll use in turn to complete the Project Definition.

#3: Manage the workplan

At this point, you’ve finished defining the project and planning the work. The major deliverables in place are the Project Definition and Project Workplan. Some project managers think that defining and planning the work means that the hard part of managing the project is behind them. That is definitely not the case.

You’ll never be a successful project manager if you don’t keep the workplan up to date. Remember, the workplan is only a deliverable. It describes the work that needs to occur, the order of the work, how much effort is required, and who is assigned, but it represents only your best guess as to how to complete the remaining work at any particular point in the project.
The more complex your project is, the more change is going to be required in your workplan over time. As the project manager, you must evaluate the workplan on an ongoing basis (perhaps weekly) and determine the current state of the project.

During this weekly review, you’ll update the workplan with the current state of work that is completed and in progress. You’ll evaluate the remaining work to see if the project will be completed within the original effort, cost, and duration plans. If it can, you are in good shape. If it can’t, you must implement corrective action.

Of all of the skills of managing the project, this one is perhaps the most fundamental. Depending on the dynamics of your project, you may be in the position of having to constantly use your experience and creativity to get the project completed within expectations. One week, your project may be on track. The next week, you may have work assignments that are late and issues that have surfaced.

If an activity on the critical path is a week late, you can’t sit idly and allow the entire project to be a week late. Instead, you must evaluate the resources and options available and get the project back on track. If you’re good at it, managing the workplan can be one of the more challenging and rewarding aspects of project management. If you don’t relish the detailed work that is required, you may find it much more difficult to be successful.

#4: Manage issues

An “issue” arises when a problem will impede the progress of the project and can’t be resolved by the project manager and project team without outside help. If a major problem emerges, you have no choice but to resolve it. The only question is whether you’ll actively apply issues management to the situation or flounder through indecision and uncertainty about how the issue should be resolved.

Issues management has two major components. The first is having a process to uncover issues, determine their impact on the project, examine alternatives, and bring in people to make the best decision under the circumstances. This is all part of the project management procedures that should be defined and agreed to ahead of time. These procedures ensure that issues are recognized and resolved as quickly as possible.

The second component of issues management is applying specific problem-solving techniques. This includes some understanding of techniques such as Fishbone diagrams, Pareto charts, and root cause analysis. Having an understanding of one or more of these techniques allows you and your team to understand the nature and cause of the problem, what options are available, and what alternative would be the best course of action.

One important thing that all project managers discover is that having a process to resolve issues doesn’t mean you’ll successfully resolve every one. Sometimes, there are great alternatives to issues and your job is to help discover the best one. In other instances, there is no good resolution to a major problem. On occasion, your final choice is to pick the solution that causes the least harm or is the best among poor choices. Still, your issues resolution process and your problem-solving techniques will allow you to determine what options are available so that you at least understand the repercussions.

#5: Manage scope

Scope describes the boundaries of the project and defines what the project will deliver, what data is needed, and which organizations are affected. Given a set of resources and time, an infinite number of things can be delivered.

Scope change management starts with scope change definition. If the project manager hasn’t done a good job defining scope, it will be difficult to manage scope during the project. The purpose of scope change management is to protect the viability of the current, approved Project Definition. When the project was defined, certain expectations were set for what the project was going to produce for a certain cost and in a certain timeframe. Both you and the project sponsor have those expectations in mind when the Project Definition is developed and approved.
During the life of a project, there may be a need for items that are different from, or not included in, the original Project Definition; this is to be expected. If this occurs, the client should not expect that these items can be delivered using the previously agreed on resource and time constraints. The project team will identify the new requirements and determine the impact to the project if the new requirements are included. The information is then taken to the sponsor for approval.

Remember, the sponsor is the one who approved the funding of the work to begin with. Therefore, he or she is the one who should approve any changes to the original agreement. If the business value of the change is high enough, the sponsor should approve adding the new requirement to the project, as well as the incremental budget and timeline needed to complete the work. Everyone will then be in agreement and everyone’s expectations will have been reset.
Of course, sometimes it doesn’t happen so smoothly. Common problems include:

Scope creep. Large scope changes are easy to spot. However, when the changes are small, sometimes you find that you’re including them without realizing it. Scope creep means that you’re accepting small changes that end up having a significant cumulative effect on the project. You and the entire team must be diligent to guard for all scope changes — big and small.

End-user scope approval. The project sponsor is the person paying for the project. However, once the project begins, the team spends more time with lower-level clients and end users. Some project team members believe that scope changes are fine if the end user approves them. This is not the case. Unless the sponsor has specifically delegated the approval authority, these people can’t approve scope changes. They can raise scope change requests, but only the sponsor has the funding authorization to approve incremental work.

Team members not being accountable. A common cause of missing deadlines is that the team members end up doing more work than required. For example, a team member may be asked to create a report. As he or she is creating it, the client asks for new information. The team member tries to accommodate the client, and the work ends up being late. This happens when team members think that only the project manager needs to worry about scope change management. They need to understand that it’s everyone’s responsibility.

The root cause of many unsuccessful projects is poor scope change management. Defining and managing scope effectively will increase the chances that your project will meet expectations.

#6: Manage risk

Risk refers to future conditions or circumstances that exist outside the control of the project team and that will have an adverse impact on the project if they occur. In other words, whereas an issue is a current problem that must be dealt with, a risk is a potential problem. Reactive project managers resolve issues when they arise. Proactive project managers try to identify and resolve potential problems before they occur. This is the science and art of risk management.
Since smaller projects usually don’t have long durations, there is less opportunity for problems to develop. Larger projects usually have risks lurking just over the horizon. Risk management involves identifying all potential risks to the project, determining how likely they are to occur, and understanding the impact on the project if they occur.

With that information, the project team can determine which risks should be actively managed. For example, a risk with a high probability of occurring and a large impact on the project should definitely be managed proactively. On the other hand, a risk that has a high likelihood of occurring but a marginal impact on the project can probably be ignored.

Once you identify which risks you want to actively manage, you can invoke five general responses:
Leave it. You would leave a risk if you determined that your project would not be harmed if the risk occurred or if there was nothing that could be done to address the risk and you’re willing to take the chance that it won’t occur.
Monitor the risk. In this case, you don’t proactively mitigate the risk but you monitor it to see whether it’s more or less likely to occur as time goes on. If it looks more likely to occur later, the team must address it at that time.

Avoid the risk: Avoiding the risk means eliminating the condition that’s causing the problem. For example, risks associated with a particular vendor might be avoided if another vendor is used.
Move the risk: In some instances, the responsibility for managing a risk can be removed from the project by assigning the risk to another entity or third party.

Mitigate the risk: In most situations, this is the approach to take. If a risk has been identified and is a concern, you can develop a proactive plan to ensure that it doesn’t occur.
As with scope changes, there is nothing inherently wrong with having risks on a project. Clients don’t expect that a project will be risk-free. What matters is the project management response. If risks are identified and actively managed, the project has a much better chance of success. If risks are ignored, the project will be negatively affected when the risks turn into issues. At that time, there may be fewer options for resolution without impacting the project.

#7: Manage communication

Properly communicating on a project is critical for managing the clients and the shareholders. If they’re not kept well informed of the project progress, there is a much greater chance of problems and difficulties due to differing expectation levels. In fact, in many cases when conflicts arise, it’s not because of the actual problem, but because the client or manager was surprised.
There are two levels of communicating on projects. First, all projects should communicate status. Second, if your project is larger, more complex, or more politically charged, you need a higher and more sophisticated level of communication defined in a Communication Plan.

Status meetings and status reports
All projects need effective communication from the project team to the project manager and from the project manager to the rest of the stakeholders. Status reports and status meetings need to do more than just say whether the project is on track. This is the time you communicate everything you think needs to be known about your project. You communicate about adherence to the project’s budget and schedule, accomplishments from the last reporting period, planned accomplishments for the next period, new risks, current issues, and current scope change requests.

The information and presentation must be communicated with the audience in mind. Therefore, you would expect that a weekly status meeting with your team would include discussions at a fairly low and detailed level. Status reports you send to the sponsor and management stakeholders will necessarily be brief and high-level.

Communication Plan
Large initiatives, especially the kind that require organizational change, must include an overall Communication Plan that takes a multifaceted approach to communication. The process for building this plan includes defining all your stakeholders, determining what information they need, brainstorming ways to deliver that information, and then deciding on a set of communications that cover as many stakeholders as possible in the most resource-efficient manner.

Depending on the audience, the communication falls into one of three areas.
Mandatory. This includes status reports, budget reports, and legal and auditing requirements.
Informational. This is communication that provides extended information for people with a need to know more. Examples include a document library, frequently asked questions (FAQ), and a project Web site that contains relevant project information.
Marketing. This is communication designed to build enthusiasm for your project. Examples include publishing success stories, building a positive image, distributing management testimonials, and using a project logo.

Communication must be handled proactively by the project manager and must be planned and executed with a purpose in mind. If you communicate effectively and proactively, you’ll find that the entire project runs more smoothly and with less conflict and frustration.

#8: Manage documents

Many project managers take document management for granted until they’re inundated with hundreds of documents. It’s better to estimate the volume of project and project management documentation you think the project will produce, establish the proper processes and rules to organize the documentation, and then manage the documentation during the project to ensure that it doesn’t get out of control.

Project managers on smaller projects don’t need to give as much thought to managing documentation. As projects get larger, the documentation definitively needs to be actively managed. Problems at their simplest include documentation that gets lost or is hard to find and work that ends up being duplicated. At its worst, document versions get out of order, document updates get over-posted and lost, and confusion and uncertainty reign.

This is an aspect of project management that may be supported by a tool, such as a document repository. However, tools can be just as confusing if proper techniques aren’t used to store documents in a manner that allows them to be easily retrieved.

Document management involves simple and complex tasks. A simple activity, for example, is a document-naming convention. If you have 10 people on your team and each one submits a status report each week, it’s not long before you have hundreds of documents. It’s easier to organize the documents if everyone uses a common naming convention. Should the name of the document start with each person’s name? If so, then each person’s historical status reports will sort together and be easier to find.

Or perhaps you’ll want to search for status reports from particular points in time. In that case, the status reports should start with the date. Then all the status reports for a particular reporting cycle will sort together.

Another part of document management is understanding the types of document tools you’ll use. For example, you might define Microsoft Word as your standard document editor. If your team is cross-functional and includes clients, vendors, and suppliers, these types of document management rules become more vital.

Other factors must be considered to successfully manage documents. These include where you’ll store the documents, how they’ll be organized, access and security rules, keywords/indexing, naming standards, versioning, completion status, retention/purging, backups, and standard template formats.

#9: Manage quality

Quality is represented by how close the project and deliverables come to meeting the client’s requirements and expectations. In other words, quality is ultimately measured by the client.
The project team should strive to meet or exceed the client’s requirements and expectations. Sometimes there is a tendency to think that “quality” means the best material and equipment and zero defects. However, in most cases, the client doesn’t expect, and can’t afford, a perfect solution. If there are just a few bumps in the project, the client can still say that the project delivered to a high level of quality.

On the other hand, a flawlessly designed, defect-free solution that doesn’t meet the client’s needs isn’t considered high quality. The purpose of the quality management step is to first understand the expectations of the client in terms of quality and then put a plan and process in place to meet or exceed those expectations.

Because quality is defined by the client, it may seem that it is completely subjective. However, plenty about quality can be objective. This requires first breaking down the generic term of “quality” into a number of areas that define the characteristics of quality.

For example, you can think of a quality computer application in terms of response time, look-and-feel, ease of understanding, level of help documentation, and absence of defects. Once you’ve defined the more tangible characteristics of quality, you can look at each of them to determine how they can be measured with more objectivity.

Quality management is not an event: It is a process and a mindset. A consistently high-quality product can’t be produced by a faulty process. You need a repetitive cycle of measuring quality and updating processes.

Collecting metrics is vital to making the quality management process work. So, the ninth and tenth aspects of project management, managing quality and managing metrics, are closely tied. If you want to do a good job of managing quality, you must measure.

When the project is initially defined, the project team must understand the expectations of the client in terms of quality and plan the activities to meet those expectations in a Quality Plan. The Quality Plan contains completeness and correctness criteria so that the project team knows what the quality expectations are.

The Quality Plan also contains the two general quality processes: quality control and quality assurance. Quality control activities ensure the deliverables produced by the project meet client expectations. An example of a quality control activity is an inspection of each component that will be used to complete a final deliverable. Quality assurance activities ensure that the processes used to create the deliverables are of high quality. An example of a quality assurance technique is a checklist that contains all of the steps that a deliverable must complete before it reaches final acceptance.

One of the purposes of quality management is to find errors and defects as early in the project as possible. Therefore, a good quality management process will end up taking more effort hours and cost up-front in the project. However, focusing on quality early has a large payback as the project progresses. For example, it is much more efficient to spot problems with the business requirements during the analysis phase of the project than to redo work to add missing requirements during the product testing. It’s also much cheaper to find a problem with, for example, a computer chip when the chip is manufactured than to replace it when a client brings the product in for service after a purchase.

#10: Manage metrics

Gathering metrics on a project is the most sophisticated project management process and can be the hardest. Because metrics can be difficult to define and collect, they’re usually ignored or handled poorly. All projects should be gathering basic metric information regarding cost, effort, and cycle time. However, you must also collect metrics that determine how well the deliverables satisfy the client’s expectations and how well the internal project delivery processes are working. Depending on the results, you can undertake corrective action or process improvement activities to make the processes more efficient and effective.

Managing metrics and managing quality are related. It is difficult to improve the quality of your deliverables or your processes if you’re not gathering metrics. Metrics are used to give some indication of what the beginning state of quality is and whether quality is increasing or decreasing.

Many metrics can be gathered on a project. The project team should identify and collect a balanced set that provides the most value. To determine the right metrics for your project, you:
Identify the project success criteria in terms of product deliverables and project execution. That is, determine what your deliverables need to look like for the project to be successful. Also determine how your project needs to be completed to be considered successful-for example, budget and deadline expectations.

Brainstorm a set of metrics that provides an indication of the state of each success criterion.
Look for a balanced set of metrics that provides indications of success in terms of cost, delivery, quality, and client satisfaction.
Prioritize the potential metrics to come up with a list that provides the most value in the most cost-effective manner.

Set targets to allow you to determine success. Metrics are rarely of value alone. The value comes in measuring where you are against a preferred state or agreed on target. Add collection activities to the workplan to ensure that people are responsible for the metric collection and analysis process.

In general, metrics management is of less value on smaller projects because there isn’t enough time to capture the data, analyze the results, and make appropriate process improvement changes. Longer projects give you time to use a feedback loop. The most value is gained if the metrics are used to drive improvements on an organization-wide basis.