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Sunday, December 8, 2013

#038 - Have YOU Exploited your Project Team Today?

Let me ask you an important question:

Have you Exploited your Project Team Today?

Wait a minute, Exploit your Project Team? You are probably thinking - He can't be serious. That's a horrible, evil thing to do, right?

You probably also have visions of unfair wages, an evil boss, overworked and under-appreciated staff, things like that. Unfortunately, that does happen - but it is not what I am talking about.

You really should exploit your team - and a trip to the toy store made me come to view this as a viable management approach. 

Wisdom from the Toy Store

While shopping for a birthday present for one of my children, I came across the following toy that you first assemble, and then play with:

"Exploiter"? My initial reaction was to take offense at the words on the box. My second reaction was to take a photo. Translated instructions from a foreign country are often quite humorous, but it is less common to have the label or name of a product be so obviously "wrong". It was one of those you-have-to-see-it-to-believe-it moments.

I paced around the store, agitated, thinking about what a poor message this was giving to our children - nobody wants to be exploited, and if you exploit someone, you are obviously a bad person - right? 

Listen to the podcast or read the full article on Gazza's Corner Blog.    

Thursday, October 24, 2013

#037 - Your Fifteen Minutes of ... Productivity?

Fifteen minutes of Fame - we all seem to want it, and according to some we are all due our fifteen minutes in the limelight. Well, maybe, or maybe not. I am sure that the law of averages has something to say about that, and more likely some celebrity out there is using up a whole lot of other people's 15 minutes. I am sure mine has already been used up somewhere, maybe yours too. Who knows?

We all day-dream about what might be. However, instead of making the dreams a reality, we often squander countless minutes musing about a possible future - while instead we could have been doing something more productive towards that (or any other) goal. 

Other times, we are either delaying work on an unpleasant task, trying to put off the inevitable, or simply waiting until we "have enough time" to get the task done.

The truth is that it is far more rewarding (and practical) to apply those extra minutes towards the things that you need to get done. Even better, apply the time towards the things you need to get done, and you will find you have more time to do the things you want to do.

For some, this seems hard to do, particularly if the task is difficult or unpleasant, or you are simply procrastinating. We all procrastinate - some more than others, and I will admit I have had my fair share over the years. Usually, it just takes some butt-in-seat glue to stay and get focused on the task, and it gradually starts to take shape - and soon enough you find the task completed.

Listen to the podcast or read the full article on Gazza's Corner Blog.   

Monday, October 14, 2013

#036 - Roadside Checkup: How Clear is your Project Vision?

When I was fifteen, I spent the summer visiting my relatives in Alberta. Nothing unusual about that, as we did that most summers. We would usually drive the nearly 14 hours to Calgary and then spend a few very enjoyable weeks visiting the grandparents, exploring the farmyard and visiting our many aunts, uncles, cousins and other relatives in the area.

What was different about that summer is that our family divided up the visits, allowing us kids to each spend more time with our relatives, one-on-one. I spent a few days with my grandparents, and then one of my Aunts came to pick me up and drive me up to their farm an hour and a half to the north. My parents were going to pick me up later in the week to take me to the next relative.

It was a hot, dry summer, which was not uncommon in the prairies. Her car was brown. Actually, it might not have been brown, it was just coated in so much dust you couldn't see the colour underneath. My grandparents waved from the front steps of the farmhouse as we rumbled away down the gravel driveway, dust rising high behind the car. It was a little hard to see, but I didn't think too much of it. Everything was dusty that summer.

As we drove down the main gravel road and onto the stretch of pavement before we reached the main highway, my Aunt said she needed to stop and get some gas. We pulled into a little gas station and the attendant started to pump the fuel. 

"Just need to clean the windshield," she said as she hopped out of the car and grabbed a squeegee from the bucket beside the gas pump. I remained seated in the car.

She dragged the wet spongy side across the top of the window, and rivulets of mud tracked down the glass. She re-wet the squeegee several times as she progressively sponged and cleared the dust and mud off the outside of the window. 

She looked at the window, frowned, and then leaned into the car to have a look out of the windshield. "You might want to get out," she said as she walked back around the car towards the squeegee bucket. 

I unbuckled myself and got out of the car just as she stepped forward and proceeded to drag the wet squeegee across the inside of the windshield. It, too was covered in dust, and trickles of mud ran down the glass and dripped onto the dashboard. Slightly flustered, she quickly cleaned the inside of the window, paid the attendant and then we got back into the car.

As we drove down the dust-free highway, windows still down but now able to see ahead of us more clearly, I asked her why the car was so dusty on the inside. She replied that the car did not have air conditioning, so naturally driving with the windows down was a good substitute.

However, living on a farm (with no air conditioning), you had to keep the windows down to cool off, but of course that let the dust in. With the manual window winders and only one person in the car, it was hard to put the windows up and down as you regularly went from asphalt to dirt or gravel - so she mostly left them down.

Thus the coating of dust throughout the car, inside and out.

Driving with clear visibility in front of you is obviously important - that is why my Aunt cleaned the window once we were off the dusty road. But ask yourself this - how many of us truck on ahead with our projects, "just getting the work done", but with no clear vision of where we are going or what is up ahead?

It might just be time to pull off the road and check those windows.

 Listen to the podcast or read the full article on Gazza's Corner Blog.  

Friday, August 2, 2013

#035 - Protect your project from Zombie Outbreaks


\ˈzäm-bē\ noun
1. Formal.
   a. the body of a dead person given the semblance of life, but mute and will-less, by a supernatural force, usually for some evil purpose.
   b. the supernatural force itself 

2. Informal.
   a. a person whose behavior or responses are wooden, listless, or seemingly rote; automaton.
   b. a person who is or appears lifeless, apathetic, or completely unresponsive to their surroundings. 
   c. an eccentric or peculiar person, markedly strange in appearance or behavior (sometimes confused with Teenagers). 

3. Project Zombie.
   a. a member of the project team whose behavior or responses towards the project are wooden, listless, or seemingly rote; automaton.
   b. a member of the project team who appears directionless or wandering but is attracted by noise and activity.

Zombies Today

Zombies are currently very popular in the media; in the past 18 months alone there have been 32 zombie films created (many of them B films, but a notable number featured in the mainstream theater circuit, and over 160 have been released since the start of 2009). I will admit, I have only seen a half dozen or so in the last few years but my favorites have to be Zombieland (2009) and Sean of the Dead (2004). Soulless re-animated bodies wanting to eat your brains? Sure. Running for your lives to reach a goal or sanctuary, keeping just ahead of the armies of the undead? You bet. However, both films introduce a quirky sense of humour that keeps them from being strictly hide-under-the-covers horror movies. 

Yearning for some piece of normality while you reload your shotgun? That overturned delivery truck just might contain a box of Twinkies.

What about Warm Bodies (2013), you ask? Well, certainly it was an enjoyable film and it had decent humour, but as most of the 'zombies' recovered simply from looking at a pretty girl, you have to wonder if they were true zombies, or if they were just temporarily heartbeat-challenged. On the other hand, the explanation they offered for eating brains was unique and somewhat enlightening. OK, so maybe we will add it to the list.

However, the cinematic undead aside, we have a much more serious problem in real life. Many of our projects suffer zombie outbreaks. They may not actually be undead or want to eat your brains, but they are zombies nonetheless. And even worse, they may be your fault.

 Listen to the podcast or read the full article on Gazza's Corner Blog

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

#034 - Too High, Too Fast - Project Asphyxiation

I have, for much of my life, lived close to sea level. Most people don't think too much about altitude, unless they travel a lot, climb mountains, or are professional athletes. If you live near hills or near mountains, you might not even think too much about a hike or drive up a couple thousand feet, or a few hundred metres or even a kilometre in elevation above where you live. You might not even notice it that much, particularly if you are driving. If you are hiking, well - any trouble breathing you may have can usually be blamed on exertion, and that spare tire you may be carrying.

Certainly, hiking in the mountains around Vancouver, Canada, or skiing at Whistler when I was younger, I never had any problems. The base was a couple thousand feet above sea level, and that was no problem at all. Taking the lift up another 3000 feet (900m) or so and skiing back down, perhaps I felt it, but as I was not that confident a skier I had other things on my mind, like avoiding the row of trees up ahead.

There are times, though, where changes in altitude can have a serious impact on you. 

Specifically, the rate of change is a critical factor that can be life-and-death for you - and also for your projects.

Listen to the podcast or read the full article on Gazza's Corner Blog.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

#033 - Do you have enough Rope? A Lesson in Being Prepared

Have you ever saved a life?

In an emergency, can you do what it takes to help someone? Could you rescue them from a life-or-death situation? Perhaps you might think I am being a bit dramatic, but it's a serious question.

Are you prepared

In July 1983, the 15th World Scouting Jamboree was held at Kananaskis, Alberta, in the shadow of the Canadian Rockies.  

In December 1981, several members of our Venturer company were selected to attend the HikeMaster training camp in July 1982. If we passed the tests - physical and written, we would be part of a dedicated group that would be leading scouts from around the world on hikes and camps in the Rockies at the World Jamboree the next year. We were given plenty of warning so that we had time to prepare - and prepare we did.

At 15 and 16, we were becoming reasonably experienced campers, and we all attended a St John's first aid course. We also had to do a weekend "solo" hiking pre-camp (no adult leaders), to help prepare us for being self-reliant and leading groups of scouts - including their adult leaders.

Little did we know we would be testing our skills, teamwork and those First-Aid lessons in earnest in only a few short months - in a real life-or-death situation.

 Listen to the podcast or read the full article on Gazza's Corner Blog.

Monday, February 4, 2013

#032 - Sense, Sensibility and Perception: There's no accounting for Taste

A colleague of mine has no taste. None at all - either he lost it in early childhood or he never had it, he can't exactly remember. 

I am not being mean about his clothing or sense of style - I am being quite literal. His taste buds do not work at all. When he eats, there is only texture, no flavor. "Food is simply fuel" as he says it - there is no particular enjoyment to any particular food, just the satisfaction of no longer being hungry.

"How horrible," I thought, "to never be able to taste chocolate, fruit or delicious, exotic foods". 

And then a few years ago, as a side effect of some bug going around, I completely lost my sense of taste as well. Usually your sense of taste is diminished when you have a cold, as smell is a big part of the sensation. But it wasn't that - my taste buds actually stopped working completely - and the smell part of it went too. Nothing but texture was left - not even spicy food registered, other than some watering eyes.

Fortunately it only lasted around 4 weeks, but I can tell you I was worried it might not come back. Life without the taste of good food...and chocolate! Of course, I could imagine it very well as I was experiencing it first-hand, but I did not like the prospect of life without tasting. While I suffered the effects, food was definitely just fuel. No enjoyment at all.

I was thinking a lot about my colleague during that time - wondering if he missed it, or simply did not know what he was missing. 

Other friends or colleagues are color-blind, some red/green, some other mixes, and a rare few have strictly black and white vision. A few others are partially or entirely blind, either through accidents, disease or blind since birth. Countless others wear glasses, as I did until laser surgery - when I had reached the point where things were still a bit blurry at the "best" setting on the optician's fancy machine.

Some other friends and family are deaf, either mostly or partly - and my kids certainly have selective hearing when there are jobs to do around the house!

I have not come across anyone personally who has a diminished sense of touch, but I understand that there are many people with this condition as well.

When we are dealing with people, we never know exactly how they each experience the world - what their perspectives are - and not just with the physical senses. 

One thing that is undeniable, though, is that your perception of the world around you affects how you respond in any given situation - and it also affects your approach to projects and challenges.

Listen to the podcast, or read the full article on Gazza's Corner blog.   

Sunday, February 3, 2013

#031 - New Year, New Project - Don't forget the PARTY!

Happy New Year - and welcome to your new project! 

The start of the calendar year often marks the start of new projects; the old year is done, the new year is fresh and full of potential. Everyone is rested from the break and raring to go...ok, perhaps recovering is the right word. However, it is still a great time of year to kick off new projects, with most people full of energy and optimism. Who knows - your New Year Resolution might even have been about your project. (Ya, right!)

Many people finished up the calendar year with a lot of social activities and parties; the closer you got to the end of the year it seems the less work was done, or at least it was harder to get work done. I know exactly how tough it was - I was in the first month of ramping up on a new project, looking for information, while everyone else was winding down from the year and starting to disappear on holiday.

Now it is a new year, people are returning from holiday, refreshed or recovering, in any case coming back to work to hit the ground running (or at least at a moderate walking pace).

So what do we need to do to get our new projects off on the right foot, to help make sure they are successful?

Quite simple, really. What we need is...a Project PARTY.

Listen to the podcast, or read the full article on Gazza's Corner blog.   

Monday, January 7, 2013

#030 - Working with Teams: Interview with Chris Cattaway

Today's interview is with with Chris Cattaway, an expert in building successful teams.

Chris's experience ranges from designing and project managing multi-million dollar telecommunications systems to leading disaster response teams in Africa and Asia. He is a PMP®, a Registered Prince 2 Practitioner, and graduated as an Otago (NZ) MBA in 2003. 

Recognizing that both hard and soft competencies are necessary for sustainable performance improvement he is also licensed and accredited to facilitate workshops using world-class psychometric typing systems. Using the Clarity4D model, Chris uses four "colour energies" - Red, Green, Blue and Red as a model for analyzing behavioral preferences and helping teams work together more effectively.

Through his business, Global Achievements, Chris works throughout the Asia-Pacific region and internationally, "envisioning and catalysing transformational change" through capacity building for individuals, teams and organisations, and programme management. 

Chris presented at the PMI New Zealand Annual Conference in Wellington in September 2012.

Join us and listen to Chris Cattaway as he discusses the four behavioural "Colour Energies" and learn why it is important to have a good colour mix on your project teams.

Chris Cattaway
Twitter: @GALDAC