Archive for November, 2007

Project Managers: Avoid the MESS with Meeting Miser

By way of this post by John Hollon on Workforce.com (Workforce Management magazine): How Much do Bad Meetings Really Cost?, we found the Meeting Miser, a wonderful little tool for calculating the cost of a meeting.

The Meeting Miser is available on Payscale.com, and if you are not careful, you can waste valuable time playing with it!

Using the Meeting Miser, I can see that a meeting at my office in Montreal Quebec, between myself and four colleagues would cost the company approximately $5.00 per minute, or $300 per hour. Perhaps that doesn’t sound like much, but considering the number of meetings that many companies indulge in, and the fact that many meetings have even more participants, the costs can be staggering over time.

More people in our flattening world are gaining an understanding of the MESS (management by Meetings, Email, SpreadSheets) that is eating up our productivity. Tools like Meeting Miser–even if it is just a fun widget–are raising awareness about the real costs of the MESS.

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Faster is the New Fast: The Demand Grows for Project Workforce Management

Our friend, futurist Jim Carroll, has published a new book: Ready, Set, Done: How to Innovate When Faster is the New Fast. This book is chock-full of insights and observations, and skillfully organized into four sections: Velocity, Agility, Innovation, and Activity.

The section on Agility is particularly of interest to me, because it discusses skills: both the skills companies need to deploy to make work happen, and the skills people need to cultivate so that they can get their job done effectively.

A fascinating fact that Jim shared in his talk at our User Conference: 65% of today’s pre-school children will work in jobs and careers that do not yet exist. That means that the types of work we do in the next 20 years (which isn’t that long!) will change dramatically, and rapidly. Consider, already that for myself and my colleagues (all software guys) in my age bracket (early forties), the word "software" was unknown to us, up to early days of high school.

For individuals, they have to be open both to amazing specialization (I recommend the book’s chapter about "Manure Management" for an example), and constant change.

For companies, the pressure to be agile will be felt in the greater competition and faster times to market for each new innovation. And, the skills needed to develop more sophisticated products and services, and deliver them faster, will become more specialized. As we have discussed here before, companies have to be ready to outsource, attract the right skills, and practice project workforce management: the management of skilled project teams.

In the not-so-distant future that Jim Carroll describes, project workforce management is imperative. He writes:

In an era such as this, firms are faced with a future that requires a new form of human capital agility: the ability to deploy the right skills at the right time for the right purpose, regardless of where the skill might be required, or where the skill is sourced. At the same time, organizations are faced with an increasingly global talent base, a reality that demands new forms of collaboration, insightful project management, and deep insight into the effective utilization of those skills. The way to the future is clear: it’s no longer about managing time: it’s about successful skills deployment.

This book will inspire you to transform your company–and yourself–to be ready for the ever-accelerating rate of change in the flat world.

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Tenrox Webinar: Workflow for Project Workforce Management

Project Workforce Managers in the flat world need automated workflow to manage sets of tasks as steps in real business processes, and to engage people from any location in those processes. Graphical Workflow also helps keep these processes streamlined, makes bottlenecks apparent, and eliminates the MESS (Meetings+Emails+Spreadsheets).

Tenrox is hosting a webinar to demonstrate graphical workflow in action:

What You See is What You Get:
Graphical Workflow for More Manageable, Adaptable Business Processes

Tuesday November 13, 2007 at 10 a.m. Pacific, 1 p.m. Eastern

Please read more about the webinar here, and register online.

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How old are you? The impact of age on Project Management

A recent article on CNNMoney.com, "The generation gap at work," brings up some interesting points about the ways generations work together. (I’ve been posting about the buzz on this topic lately.) The article describes some of the differences very well, but finds enough common ground between us to help us work together.

For project workforce managers, who must assemble teams quickly from multiple comapnies and departments, understanding the different work styles between the generations can make the difference between a slow, painful project and a successful one in which inter-generational relationships work.

Here’s an excerpt:

Nearly 60 percent of HR managers at large companies say they’ve observed office conflicts that flow from generational differences, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. Tensions typically stem from perceptions of loyalty and respect – as in, we think the kids don’t have any. Yet the latest research shows that we may be compatible after all.

The author, Dan Kadlec, is co-author of The Power Years, a guide for boomers. Kadlec describes four debunkable myths about the differences between baby boomers and younger generations: that younger workers love change, lack a strong work ethic, disrespect elders, and are loners.

Common sense tells us that these myths can’t be true–younger people want to succeed at their jobs as much as anyone. However, it only makes sense that in their technology-enabled worlds, they would find new ways to communicate and collaborate that would challenge tradition. For example, Kadlec explains that young workers do not generally lack drive or commitment simply because they don’t want to sit in meetings, take every directive purely on faith, or sacrifice their personal time.

As I have said many times, I don’t want to sit in meetings, either. Bravo to the younger generations for forcing the baby boomers to leverage the technology we have, collaborate more efficiently, question the status quo, and balance our personal lives.

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The Fact Gap: A Challenge for Project Workforce Managers

I was recently interviewed for Washington CEO magazine about the book, Rise of the Project Workforce (see link, right). The title of the article is: "Escaping Data Prison: Five Reasons to Implement Real-Time Analysis at Your Organization. Here is an excerpt:

Is more always better? When you’re talking raw business data (much like fat cells, say, or bright blue eye shadow), the answer is an emphatic no. Your company undoubtedly has tons of data. You can probably find a number for any business operation or function under the sun right at your fingertips. Sounds good in theory, but if you’ve ever tried to actually solve a problem by wading through this flood of data, you know the reality is far different. Often, those numbers are just numbers—meaningless in terms of moving the business forward, and paralyzing by virtue of their sheer volume. Most organizations are data-rich but decision-poor, says Rudolf Melik. Without the information they need, leaders end up making decisions based on past experiences, gut feelings, and rules of thumb rather than on the facts. The results are rarely positive.

The article emphasizes the points in the book surrounding what I call "The Fact Gap": the flood of data that comes to project workforce managers in the "MESS" of Meetings, Emails, and SpreadSheets–not to mention hallway conversations and the occasional old-fashioned written note. As a result of this inundation, managers are forced to make judgment calls based on instinct, experience, and memory.

The article draws out key points from the book for closing The Fact Gap: several points related to project workforce management, including the intelligent use of dashboards to streamline communications.

Here is the entire article: http://blog.washingtonceo.com/?p=18.

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Office Politics: Indispensible Skills for the Flat World

In a flat world, each individual must become responsible for his or her own career development, and not rely on an organization to groom them for success. The grooming must come from within. Why? Because as work becomes more project-oriented, the boss-worker relationship is becoming blurred. Teams are staffed and reallocated for each project. Permanent teams are being replaced by ad hoc project teams (the Hollywood Model).

So, just as we did as kids, when team captains would take turns  picking the best players from the group, managers pick the best "players" for their teams for each new project. Individuals have to get smart about being the best possible players for the teams they want to play on. (See also our "Seven Survival Skills for the Flat World.")

An article currently featured on BNET is entitled "How to Win at Office Politics." Kelly Pate Dwyer writes that office politics are not inherently evil, but are "simply about getting from here to there: securing a promotion, seeing an idea come to fruition, or gaining support to make an organizational change." These are certainly important skills for thriving in a flat world.

I recommend the entire article, but here are the five steps Dwyer describes in the article, which is filled with lots of helpful ideas and tips:

  • Figure out why (and if) you want to play
  • Create strong relationships
  • Observe and listen
  • Promote yourself, tactfully
  • Help your colleagues

These are more excellent suggestions on how to survive in a flat world.

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