Blog Archive

  • Michael Myers—Performance Review (10/18/2018) by Andy Makar

    In the workforce, everyone receives an annual performance review—even horror icons like Michael Myers. Since 1978, Michael Myers has demonstrated his perseverance in pursuing his sister, Laurie Strode, nearly a dozen times!

    The Horror Icons of America Guild (HIAG) recently completed Michael’s latest performance review, and this lucky reporter was able to secure a copy to share with you!

    Horror Icons of America
    Performance Review
    Employee Info
    Employee Name Michael Myers Department Horror
    Employee ID 10312018 Reviewer Name Jason Voorhees
    Position Held Horror Legend Reviewer Title Supervisor
    Last Review Date August 28, 2009 Today’s Date October 19, 2018
    Current Responsibilities
    ●     Eliminate the family tree including Laurie Strode and any other siblings or relatives.
    ●     Avoid capture by Dr. Loomis and any related psychology and law enforcement staff.
    ●     Successfully escape from mental hospitals or secure police transportation.
    Performance Assessment
    Evaluate performance and achieved goals.
    Mr. Myers displays a tremendous drive for results as observed in 10 different attempts to eliminate his family bloodline.
    He has consistently displayed perseverance and dedication to his work by working extremely late hours and overcoming obstacles (usually in the form of teenage miscreants).
    He demonstrates a commitment to the work by overcoming gunshots, fiery explosions, and multiple stab wounds in his efforts to remain alive. This commitment goes above and beyond the expectation for our employees.
    Despite these strong leadership behaviors, Mr. Myers has failed to successfully capture and eliminate Laurie Strode numerous times, despite the opportunity being presented to him every few years.
    Discuss areas of improvement.
    Improve communication. Though he is fully capable of speech, Mr. Myers rarely communicates verbally. Establishing better communication as he interacts with others will help him achieve his goals. Pursuing a local Toastmasters International club is encouraged.
    Avoid distractions. Mr. Myers should avoid distractions, such as approaching college students in compromising situations. Doctors, nurses, police officers, security guards, and any other people should be avoided. This will enable Mr. Myers to focus clearly on his main goals.
    Apply critical thinking. At nearly 62 years of age, Mr. Myers should have a lifetime of experience to learn from and apply to problems and challenges. He would benefit from better decision making and learn to avoid gunshots or taking on knife attacks head on. Although he pursues work at his own pace, he could achieve his goals faster by running versus his slow mechanical walk.
    Improve teamwork. Given Mr. Myers has failed to achieve his goals multiple times over the past four decades, he should look to leverage a team of movie monsters rather than pursue his target alone. He is encouraged to speak with Vlad the Impaler, the entire Aliens department, and the cast of the Wrong Turn franchise on how to build a team for effective execution. He should also note the failures from Frederick Krueger, Charles Lee Ray, and Norman Bates for future lessons learned.
    Develop future goals with set expectations.
    For 40 years, Mr. Myers has been trying to eliminate his sister, Laurie Strode. Through his previous 10 attempts, Mr. Myers has only been successful once in attaining his goal; however, multiple reboots have resulted in him having to start from scratch. Our hope is that, with the next installment of the Halloween series, Mr. Myers will exceed expectations.
    Comments and Approval
    Provide any additional feedback.
    ●     Employee declined to provide feedback or acknowledge the review.
    Employee Signature Reviewer Signature

    Happy Halloween!

    Michael Myers—Performance Review was last modified: October 18th, 2018 by Andy Makar
  • Ask a PM: How to Manage Dependencies and Assess Risks (10/16/2018) by Elizabeth Harrin

    Dear Elizabeth: The project I am working on is quite complex. Our work overlaps with that of other teams, plus there are a few things in the business that might have an impact on what we are doing. Some of these dependencies might have significant impacts on the project. How do you recommend managing dependencies that put the project at risk?

    First, have a virtual high five for identifying that you’ve got dependencies on your project that could cause a problem. Knowing they are there is the first step to being able to manage them!

    For the benefit of readers who haven’t come across the term before, a dependency is the relationship that defines the order in which tasks are carried out. Task A is dependent on Task B if the start or finish date of Task B must be reached before Task A can be started.

    It’s less complicated than it sounds!

    There are a few things to do here to make sure that you can adequately manage the impact of dependencies.

    1. Identify the Types of Dependencies.

    Let’s start by identifying the types of dependencies you have on the project. That will give us a head start at looking at how they can be best managed.

    There are several different ways of thinking about dependencies. The easiest way, and the way most scheduling software works, is to think of the impact on your timeline.

    Tasks can link to each other in four common ways:

    1. Start to Start: The start of one task links to the start of another task; i.e., both tasks start at the same time.
    2. Finish to Finish: The end of one task links to the end of another task; i.e., both tasks finish at the same time.
    3. Finish to Start: The end of one task links to the start of another task; i.e., the tasks happen one after the other in a sequence.
    4. Start to Finish: The start of one task links to the end of another task; i.e., the first task must start before the other task can finish.

    You can set these types of dependencies within your project management software.

    However, these sequential, task-based types of dependencies are not the things that will derail your project. You can use the same types of dependencies on your schedule to record things that might influence the project from the outside.

    For example, create a milestone for a task that has to be finished on another project and link it with the correct dependency type to the relevant task on your own schedule. You don’t want the other team’s complete plan in your plan, but dropping in a key milestone is enough to flag up that there is something external that has the possibility of affecting your timeline.

    That brings us to the next way of categorizing dependencies, which is more useful for the kinds of things that could be risky for the project.

    Dependencies can relate to the Project or the Company and can be “In” or “Out.” The table below explains more.

    It’s the dependencies that are out of the project and fall into the Company category that have the greatest possibility of presenting a risk to your work. These are things that are not in your control and that you are unable to fully influence yourself.

    2. Consider the Risks.

    Now that you know what your dependencies are and the areas that they affect, you need to consider the risks they present to the project.

    You already have tool to do that: your risks log.

    Look at each dependency and work out what their risks would be.

    For example, if you were building an app for a client, you might be reliant on another project’s completion in order to reuse the specialist code they were creating. In this situation, there is a risk that their work doesn’t finish on time or that the code isn’t reusable after all and you have to start from scratch (adding time and cost to your project).

    Go through the risks assessment process like you would normally do. Add the risks to your risk management software. Allocate them an owner and choose what you are going to do to manage the risks.

    This gives you transparency and a decent record of what you are going to do about the potential problems.

    Personally, if the risks are things that relate to what another team is doing, I would want to keep an eye on them myself as the project manager, even if someone else was named as the risk owner. These kinds of dependency-driven risks are very important to manage.

    So, how do you manage them?

    3. Talk to Your Colleagues.

    The biggest single thing you can do to help address the risks caused by dependencies is to talk to people.

    When your project relies on someone outside the project doing something, or telling you something, go talk to them. Let them know that your project is dependent on something they are doing. They might not have a clue that their work is going to affect yours. Tell them what their actions mean to you and why you care about how their work is going.

    As you all work in the same business, let’s hope that your strategic goals are all aligned. There is no reason why they shouldn’t want to help you out through good communication and collaboration. Keep them updated with what’s happening on your project and ask them to do the same for you. Together, you should be able to manage the flow of information back and forth to keep both projects working smoothly.

    If the dependency relates to something a third party is doing for you, such as an agency delivering wireframes, then the talking principle still applies! Check in with them regularly. Talk to your counterpart in your company who works with the agency regularly, so they understand the impact of any delays.

    When Risks Become Issues

    The great thing about taking your dependencies and managing them as risks is that you are actively working to stop them becoming problems for your project. However, if they do become problems, you already have a way of dealing with them. They become project issues. You may need to change something to accommodate the new problems, but between your issue management and change management processes you’ll be able to come up with a new plan to address the situation.

    You’ve taken all the right steps to raise awareness of the dependency and what needs to be done so it doesn’t become a problem, so fingers crossed that your project will proceed without a hitch.

    Ask a PM: How to Manage Dependencies and Assess Risks was last modified: October 16th, 2018 by Elizabeth Harrin
  • How to Prioritize Work When Everything Is #1 (10/11/2018) by Tatyana Sussex

    All projects—especially large, complex projects—need clear priorities. Easier said than done. You can count on technical projects, no matter how well-planned, to involve change orders, re-prioritization and the regular appearance of surprises. It’s just the natural order of things.

    But still. Knowing how to prioritize work affects the success of your project, the engagement of your team, and your role as a leader.

    One of the biggest challenges for project managers and leaders is accurately prioritizing the work that matters on a daily basis. Even if you have the best project management software on the planet, you’re the one who enters information into the tool. And, you don’t want to fall into the role of crying “top priority” for every other project that comes down the pike.

    Related: How to Better Prioritize Work and Projects

    Just as you have to be diligent and have the right kind of project insight to ensure that nobody’s working on yesterday’s priorities. It takes a lot of practice to get this right.

    To help you manage your team’s workload and hit deadlines, here are 6 steps to prioritizing projects that have a lot of moving parts.

    1. Collect a list of all your tasks.

    Pull together everything you could possibly consider getting done in a day. Don’t worry about the order, or the number of items up front.

    2. Identify urgent vs. important.

    The next step is to see if you have any tasks that need immediate attention. We’re talking about work that, if not completed by the end of the day or in the next several hours, will have serious negative consequences (missed client deadline; missed publication or release deadlines, etc.). Check to see if there are any high-pri dependencies that rely on you finishing up a piece of work now.

    Related: Your Guide to Accurately Estimating Projects

    3. Assess value.

    Next, look at your important work and identify what carries the highest value to your business and organization. As a general practice, you want to recognize exactly which types of tasks have top priority over the others.

    For example, focus on client projects before internal work; setting up the new CEO’s computer before re-configuring the database; answering support tickets before writing training materials, and so on. Another way to assess value is to look at how many people are impacted by your work. In general, the more people involved or impacted, the higher the stakes.

    4. Order tasks by estimated effort.

    If you have tasks that seem to tie for priority standing, check their estimates, and start on whichever one you think will take the most effort to complete. Productivity experts suggest the tactic of starting the lengthier task first. But, if you feel like you can’t focus on your meatier projects before you finish up the shorter task, then go with your gut and do that. It can be motivating to check a small task off the list before diving into deeper waters.

    Related: Ask a Project Manager: How Can I Be More Productive?

    5. Be flexible and adaptable.

    Uncertainty and change are a given. Know that your priorities will change, and often when you least expect them to. But—and here’s the trick—you also want to stay focused on the tasks you’re committed to completing.

    6. Know when to cut.

    You probably can’t get to everything on your list. After you prioritize your tasks and look at your estimates, cut the remaining tasks from your list, and focus on the priorities that you know you must and can complete for the day. Then take a deep breath, dive in and be ready for anything.

    How to Prioritize Work When Everything Is #1 was last modified: October 11th, 2018 by Tatyana Sussex
  • Working for the Weekend: Increasing Productivity, Efficiency, and Profitability with a Four-Day Workweek (10/9/2018) by Ben Rock

    The dream of an extra day off each week is more plausible than you think.

    More companies are investigating the idea of a four-day workweek after a New Zealand trusts firm found its employees were happier, more efficient, and more productive after its two-month trial of a 20-percent shorter week.

    Andrew Barnes, CEO of Perpetual Guardian, implemented the trial after discovering research that showed the average British employee is productive only 2.5 hours per day while other studies showed this number ranged from 2 to 6 productive hours daily. Wondering what would happen if he gave his employees an extra day off each week to take care of all the problems that got in the way of their productivity, Barnes took a chance and announced a plan offering his employees Wednesdays and Fridays off so they could work a 32-hour week in exchange for the same productivity of a 40-hour week.

    His risk paid off.

    “Often there are lots of small inefficiencies which never get addressed in a company because they are just really too small for someone to focus their time on,” Barnes told the New York Times. “Now, because there was a prize—namely to have a day off—all of those things got addressed or got identified.”

    Eliminating Inefficiencies Increases Productivity

    According to American Online and Salary.com, surveyors found the average employee wastes two hours each eight-hour workday, checking emails, texting friends and family, making personal calls, or surfing the web. Knowing they would receive the reward of an extra day off for eliminating these behaviors, the majority of these employees reported they would gladly give 100 percent of their focus to their jobs.

    However, employees are not the only ones to blame for inefficiencies in the workplace; interoffice meetings, work-related interruptions, and other distractions also play a significant role in reducing productivity and efficiency.

    Weekly stand-up meetings, a pillar of many startups and small businesses, are often too long, unnecessary, or both. By having a concrete agenda and by holding meetings to a maximum length of 30 minutes (no matter the amount of attendees), managers can ensure everyone stays on task and quickly gets to their day. Companies can also enforce a policy that meetings can only scheduled on a particular day of the week and that they can be booked for only 15 minutes to efficiently discuss the topic at hand.

    In every office, employees will always have work-related questions. Rather than having a subject matter expert who is constantly interrupted, companies can create a pull-based communications strategy that provides wikis and other documentation, which is updated at regular intervals.

    Eliminating these distractions might seem like eliminating interoffice friendships as well; however, at this point management and team members can work together to establish office hours or “interruptible time.” All employees can have a set of signals next to each desk to indicate that a person shouldn’t be interrupted. Also, by setting aside blocks of time on their schedules when employees will be checking email, returning phone calls, and other maintenance activities, businesses can create a company culture that lets everyone know it is okay to stop by someone’s desk and make lunch or happy hour plans, but to save the rest of the out-of-office chatter for those out-of-office times.

    Fewer, yet More Productive, Hours Increase Profitability

    “A contract should be about an agreed level of productivity,” Barnes said, when discussing payroll and hiring practices. He explained that, when hiring staff, supervisors should negotiate tasks to be performed, rather than basing contracts on hours spent in the office.

    CEO Jason Fried supports this philosophy as his company, Basecamp, operates on a 32-hour, 4-day workweek from May to October. “Better work gets done in four days than in five,” he wrote in a New York Times op-ed.

    Closing the office every Friday or having fewer staff members in the office two days a week can also save on utilities and other infrastructure expenses. Barnes noted significantly lower electricity bills during Perpetual Guardian’s two-month trial.

    Because they have more time off to psychologically disconnect from work, employees experience less work-related fatigue and burnout, resulting in lower employee turnover and a significant decrease in expensive hiring costs. Employees are also less stressed, which reduces health care costs as well.

    By having a 32-hour, 4-day workweek at their 40-hour salary, employees are found to be happier with their jobs, more productive and efficient, and give better customer service, resulting in lowered overhead costs, such as utilities and other expenses, and increased client and customer satisfaction, which garners greater profits.

    Working for the Weekend: Increasing Productivity, Efficiency, and Profitability with a Four-Day Workweek was last modified: October 9th, 2018 by Ben Rock
  • 7 Essential Time Management Strategies (10/4/2018) by Susanne Madsen
    Get the right things done in less time

    To get ahead in your career, deliver your projects successfully and to get a promotion or a pay rise, you must learn to consistently focus on the activities that add the most benefit to your projects and your clients. The better you are at maintaining focus and managing your time, the more you will achieve, and the easier it will be for you to leave the office on time. Not only does effective time management allow you to get better results at work, it also helps you withstand stress and live a more fulfilling life outside of work.

    The following strategies will help you get the right things done in less time.

    1. Start your day with a clear focus.

    The first work-related activity of your day should be to determine what you want to achieve that day and what you absolutely must accomplish. Come clear on this purpose before you check your email and start responding to queries and resolve issues. Setting a clear focus for your day might require as little as five minutes, but can save you several hours of wasted time and effort.

    2. Have a dynamic task list.

    Capture the tasks and activities you must do on a list and update it regularly during the day. Revisit this list frequently and add new items as soon as they appear. Make sure your list gives you a quick overview of everything that’s urgent and important, and remember to include strategic and relationship-building activities as well as operational tasks.

    [Further Reading: Time Management Tips From a Pro]

    3. Focus on high-value activities.

    Before you start something new, identify the activity that would have the most positive effect on your project, your team, and your client if you were to deal with it right now. Resist the temptation to clear smaller, unimportant items first. Start with what is most important.

    • To help you assess which activities to focus on first, ask the following:
    • What does my client or my team need most from me right now?
    • What will cause the most trouble if it doesn’t get done?
    • What is the biggest contribution I can make right now?
    • Which strategic tasks do I need to deal with today to help us work smarter tomorrow?
    4. Minimize interruptions.

    The more uninterrupted time you get during the day to work on important tasks, the more effective you’ll be. Identify the activities that tend to disrupt your work, and find a solution. For example, avoid checking emails and answering the phone when you’re in the middle of something important. Once you have broken your flow, it can be difficult to reestablish it. Instead, discipline yourself to work on a task single-mindedly until it’s complete.

    5. Stop procrastinating.

    If you have difficulties staying focused or tend to procrastinate, you may benefit from creating an external commitment for (deadline) yourself. For instance, schedule a meeting in two days’ time where you’ll be presenting your work and by which time your actions will have to be completed. It’s also very effective to complete the most unpleasant tasks early in the day, and to allow yourself small rewards once you’ve completed them.

    6. Limit multi-tasking.

    Many of us multi-task and believe we’re effective when we do so, but evidence suggests that we can’t effectively focus on more than one thing at a time. In order to stop multi-tasking, try these tips: Plan your day in blocks and set specific time aside for meetings, returning calls and for doing detailed planning and analysis work at your desk. Whenever you find yourself multitasking, stop and sit quietly for a minute.

    [Further Reading: Multi-tasking is Killing Your Business]

    7. Review your day.

    Spend 5-10 minutes reviewing your task list every day before you leave the office. Give yourself a pat on the back if you achieved what you wanted. If you think your day’s effort fell short, decide what you’ll do differently tomorrow in order to accomplish what you need to. Leave the office in high spirits determined to pick up the thread the next day.

     

    This article first appeared on Susanne Madsen’s Developing Project Leaders blogSusanne’s latest book, “The Power of Project Leadership” is available through Amazon.

    7 Essential Time Management Strategies was last modified: October 9th, 2018 by Susanne Madsen
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