July 28, 2014

More evidence of performance does not mean there is more performance

3D Pie Chart
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I have been on troubled teams who are often commanded to produce reams of data and documentation for their every move to date, forecast every move going forward, and track every movement against that plan in leghty detail. Once all this documentation is in place, the project appears to be much more organized and coordianted, however, overall performance rarely improves.

The moral: Documentation isn’t the solution to a performance problem. [Read more]

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Project problems can’t be solved with an operational focus

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Very often, projects are assessed by using metrics that are not about identifying unique & temproary activities. Rather, persistent, on-going measures such as average weekly costs or hours worked or material dollars spent are used to determine if a project is running as it should.

Unfortunately, these sort of measurements are more attuned to understanding operations because they establish linear costs over time. Project have peaks and valleys, spikes and low points, periods of tremendous activity and periods when they have very little at all.
[Read more]

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Do you envision the ideal?

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If, as you encounter problems, you are simply responding to each one in turn without much sense of how to learn and grow from it, you will only find yourself meandering from problem to problem forever. In fact, you will likely find the same problems keep popping up – to be countered with the same solutions. Consequently, a boring, mindless do-loop results. In the end, this dynamic leads only to activity for the sake of activity – and not for purposes of driving towards some goal.

Activity for its own sake will, inevitably, be revealed as a waste [Read more]

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Why your PMP prep doesn’t feel like reality (and why it shouldn’t)

A Break in Reality
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I feel lucky to have the benefit of my time spent trying to understand the Lean paradigm because it is offering so much insight into what the PMI framework is trying to do. It is establishing a standard. It is offering a methodology for managing projects against which all other management styles, and outcomes, can be measured. In a way, it depicts the ideal – if all projects, everywhere, operated in the way the PMI describes, then all projects would deliver on time, within budget, and with inputs from all stakeholders at every level of the organization – including customers.

Is that reality? No. Of course not. [Read more]

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What to do when you don’t know the way to go

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My 3-year-old is following in his 7-year-old brother’s footsteps and taking an intense interest in Nickelodeon’s Dora the Explorer. After a couple years of not having to listen to the theme song ad nauseum, we’re back into the thick of things.

For those who are not familiar with the show, Dora frequently goes on adventures and isn’t certain which way to go. In those situation, she calls upon her trusty map, which shows her the way.

If only we were all so well prepared. [Read more]

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Weekend yard work shows: If the plan is solid, stick to it

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Whether at home or at work, we find ourselves with plans that are obsolete the moment they are created. We abandon them when something we hadn’t accounted for pops up, which we somehow believe means the plan is invalid. Odds are, it is not. It might need to adjust a bit to establish flow, but it shouldn’t be thrown out entirely. Also, unless the unexpected thing is a catastrophic failure for your entire plan – ignore it. If it’s important, it will become a critical interruption soon enough. If it is not important, it will resolve itself or just go away entirely.

Simple rules for productivity apply everywhere. If you are working at home or working hard for someone else – the rules don’t change. When you run to the store for a wrench – go in, get the wrench, and leave. Don’t browse the power tools, pick up a pack of widgets because they are on sale, wonder what it would cost to replace the whatever – just take care of whatever it is that helps you accomplish your plan. The rest is just noise, and it can get deafening. [Read more]

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Just say NO to manually adjusting data and reports – 4 reasons why

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We have all heard the phrase; “you can’t manage it, if you can’t measure it”. I also believe that “you can’t manage, it if you are always adjusting it”.

When you work in a culture that is very numbers driven or reliant, there will always be pressure to adjust your data or reporting to account for outliers, one-offs, process errors etc. This is a very slippery slope. You can not eat a single potato chip and you can not make only one adjustment.

When data and reports are “clean”, i.e. with no manual adjustments, the data is objective and we treat all parties/divisions consistently and fairly. When we add in manual adjustments, we immediately convert objective data into “suspect, subjective data with inconsistencies. I am very uncomfortable making critical business decisions using inconsistent, manually manipulated data (and you be should too).

Here are 4 reasons why you should not create an adjustment culture in your organization: [Read more]

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Work on Fewer Projects and Get More Done

Bottle Neck
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Good Intent Unintentionally Sabotaged – Have you observed this in your organization? Each year the Leadership Team goes through a planning process. With good intention, they launch a number of initiatives to achieve stretch goals. Work begins with great enthusiasm but soon becomes mired down. Reality hits, priorities are diluted and the rhythm of bureaucracy sets in.

“Idea darlings” are aggressively pursued by the Leadership Team and move to the front of the queue. The rest of the projects languish … or worse. Sure, as time permits they’re continually worked on. Yet they’re not predictably getting done. And perhaps worse, execution effectiveness drops off as expected organizational learning is lost and then repeatedly must be regained.

It is not uncommon for organizations to underperform on project intent. Many times there are simply too many things being worked on at once, consuming attention and resources, and giving rise to increasing conflicts and bottlenecks. Perhaps some of these situations sound familiar to you? [Read more]

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Metrics are Scary and Should be Avoided at All Costs (Not)

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Metrics are such an important element of continuous improvement. Wait…Metrics might be the most important element of continuous improvement. Why? Because continuous improvement by definition is the measurement of improvement — and if you aren’t measuring, how will the organization know how far it has come or where it needs to go?

Most organizations struggle mightily with the topic of metrics and sometimes it’s surprising just how much. I think it happens for a number of reasons. [Read more]

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Position Yourself for Performance Transformation through a Fact-based Plan

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By the time we meet most organizations, they want to get going with their transformation immediately. They often want to rush to implementation without a roadmap, resulting in the classic gotcha of “activity vs. action.” However, without clear direction, activity often swamps out action and fritters away resources fast. Few then remain to make a positive difference, and no lasting benefits accrue. To be effective, organizations need an implementation approach that predictably advances what their enterprise should be doing. [Read more]

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