Project Management: Eating an Elephant

elephant pm

Here’s how to plan and deliver your project without a project management certification: just imagine that you have to eat an elephant, and follow these steps.

  1. If the elephant is really big, find the way to have only one elephant dropped on your plate.
  2. Make sure that the elephant is … well, does not move. This step may turn brutal but it is mandatory if you want to stay alive and well yourself (in case this is really an elephant and not just a dead horse).
  3. Take all measurements, including length of tusks and body weight. Plan the cuts (if this is your first time, use a beef chart for initial planning). Never try to eat it yourself. Just having to taste the elephant cuts here and there, you will get full, regardless, I can bet any money, so not a bite.
  4. Plan to keep the tusks though: they look good on your CV.
  5. Calculate how many meals it will make and what kind of meals; based on the findings, figure out how many eaters you will need on your team. When negotiating eaters’ availability with their line managers, make sure the eaters have the guts that are appropriate for the meal.
    Note: Be cautious with diversity and inclusivity. Your team will be naturally effective AND diverse if you select players who are excited to eat an elephant. If their values are aligned, nothing else matters; disregard their racial, religious, sexual or political orientation. However, whatever they tell you, it will probably make no sense to have vegans and Hindus on this particular team.
  6. Depending on the climate, you may need to have the elephant eaten as soon as possible; otherwise it is going to rot, and nobody will want to eat your elephant unless you pay extra. And mind you, the smell will then follow you for quite a while…
  7. You may then decide to optimize your eating plan. Get your newly formed team involved in the process: a properly orchestrated brainstorming session boosts motivation and increases appetite. You must go out of the room with an updated Elephant Cuts Chart and a clear common understanding of who eats what and when. Some toddlers may need to be reminded that a mouthful of half-chewed meat does not count as eaten.
  8. When all the above has been taken care of, eating the elephant goes like a song. Seriously, make it fun. When work is turned into play, your team will be intrinsically motivated and therefore efficient throughout the entire meal.
  9. Do not forget to praise your best eaters when the meal is over. Celebrate their success. Serve them something really special, serve them yourself, each and everyone, and be genuinely grateful because they had the elephant eaten for you.

If you do all the above correctly, the team will be ready to eat an elephant for you again and again, while cheerfully chasing all predators away from you and stomping out office snakes and lizards on the way.
And the fellow tribesmen watching you from the distance will whisper with awe: That’s a really good project manager

Team Values and Performance

Team Values Map

A VP friend complained the other day that “the job is OK but I can’t get myself to the office, every day.” Before that statement, he looked and sounded like a happy senior executive steady and successful on his career path. Not true, he says. He is actually envious of people who have found their direction in life.

How’s that possible for a senior manager with an admirable career track?

Just before that confession, we discussed his Q7 questionnaire results, and his feedback was somewhat disturbing. Among other things, he mentioned that although he has “more respect for Option B,” he wants his “dream teammate” select Option A – as it is “better for the business.” And that, according to my friend, makes it difficult to answer the Q7 questions.

Now I see the problem.

My friend may have a severe misalignment of values with his team. This incongruence leads to personal life-work imbalance, and that my friend can see for himself, the can’t-get-myself-to-office feeling. If not taken care of, this problem most likely affects the entire business, leads to disengagement and poor efficiency within the business, and a poor brand image projected to your customers and the entire outside world.

We will be working on it together. It is a challenging task that will take but as the desire to improve team culture is coming from the top, we will be able to achieve the necessary change, make a good company better.

Check your team with Q7 here.

Always Stand Up for Your Real Team

As a leader, you have to always stand for your team, right?
Wrong.

Rather, first, you need to make sure you realize which team is “your team.”

That may sound counterintuitive but that’s life. Being a manager (team lead, manager, director, etc.), you are in charge of a unit consisting of several individuals. If you are part of an effective organization, your team consists of a few immediate reports, ideally 5 to 10, that you call “your team.” But whatever your role is, you are part of yet another team – your own boss’ team. Thus, you are a member of two teams at least, usually on two different levels, and your real team is the “upper” team. Your position within the “upper” team is the main driver of everyday actions, and your performance there will determine your career progression and professional success.

As I realized working with senior managers in various environments, the “real team” is not immediately clear to many. But it is very important to understand, visualize and accept. If you disagree with this dual team approach, then maybe you are one of the reasons why your organization is less efficient than it would like to be. This is not politics; this is how truly effective businesses work. Continue reading “Always Stand Up for Your Real Team”

Analyzing the Purpose of Starbucks Training

Starbucks training and values

Dan Pontefract gave a good rundown of the recent continent-wide racial-bias training that Starbucks developed and delivered in record time. Starbucks reacted in an exemplary manner, but has the training achieved the goal?

Unless we tacitly agree that the actual goal of Starbucks was to stomp out the public-relations wildfire, their expensive exercise has not changed anything. Not exactly a knee-jerk reaction – but far from being effective in resolving the actual problem.

Here’s what I would consider – if Starbucks want to live up to their image of the “third place”. Continue reading “Analyzing the Purpose of Starbucks Training”

PLACE YOUR STAR ON HUMAN VALUES MAP

CLCTVR 2.0

 

CLCTVR 2.0 tool will show your “true North” and get you aligned with teammates, colleagues and friends.

In other words, the tool will help you see what drives you and your team and if those drivers are aligned. Continue reading “PLACE YOUR STAR ON HUMAN VALUES MAP”

The Recipe for Project Success: 3 Requirements + 10 Values

success values

The three key reasons why some projects fail are:

  1. Requirements
  2. Requirements
  3. Requirements

There is but a grain of joke in this PM joke: requirements are key. In real life, three different sets of requirements could and should be identified during the project initiation.

Requirements-1: The Spec.

First requirements that come to mind are the “standard” ones: what exactly we have to deliver. If the “what” is not defined properly, different interpretations of the requirements will lead to reworks, conflicts, delays etc.

Although requirements definition and requirements management is an important part of the PM’s job, it is important to go one level higher and make sure that we understand the business context.

Requirements-2: The Constraints Triangle.

If you’ve read this far, you are probably not new to the project management. Hence you know that the triple constraints – Scope, Time, Cost – are part of PM life, and that another PM not-exactly-a-joke insists that you can pick only two. Continue reading “The Recipe for Project Success: 3 Requirements + 10 Values”

Shared Values of Self-Made Millionaires

Human Values

There’s an interesting article posted recently on LinkedIn Pulse. Jeff Haden put this in his post headline, making it almost instantly viral:

“8 of 10 Self-Made Millionaires Were Not ‘A’ Students. Instead, They Share 1 Trait.”

The trait, of course, is their willingness to learn.

While I agree with Jeff Hadden, that is not news. Similar observations were made before.

According to Tom Corley’s study of “Rich Habits”:

“85% of millionaires read two or more books a month that help them grow.”

Indeed, Elon Musk, one of today’s most admirable business leaders is known for having taught himself – literally! – rocket science by reading books. Moreover, according to his brother, Elon used to read two books per day when he was a kid. Continue reading “Shared Values of Self-Made Millionaires”

Elon Musk Q7

Elon Musk Q7

A few months ago, I answered this question on Quora: “How can Elon Musk put in 80-100 hours a week and still have a social life or time for exercise, etc.?” My answer collected an incredible number of views and upvotes – a good indicator that this is (A) a hot topic and (B) my answer makes sense to many.

The answer I have for you today may be even more interesting. In part, this is your answer!

Here’s the scoop. (TL,DR version: go to Elon Musk Q7 questionnaire).

Personal efficiency, effectiveness, success – have been my favorite subjects and areas of research for quite some time. A few years ago, when I launched the Collectiver site and online tool, the objective was to find out why some teams are more efficient than others. According to my research and observations as a performance expert, the best-performing teams have significant internal alignment. That alignment I measure by the basic values’ congruence of the team members. Continue reading “Elon Musk Q7”

Canoeing with Mintzberg

Canoeing with Mintzberg

The CoachingOurselves Reflections 2017 – Rebalancing Society conference was an outstanding 3-day event filled with ideas, presentations and passion shared with us by the brightest minds: Henry MintzbergPhilip KotlerDan PonterfractEd ScheinJonathan GoslingMitch Joel and many other prominent thinkers, businesspeople and coaches.

This true feast of sustainable leadership was concluded with a savory dessert – The Great Canadian Canoe Trip, five hours in double canoes going down the Devil’s River in Mont-Tremblant National Park.

Now, mentally going through the experience again, I think that this trip in the end of the conference was more than just for pleasure and relaxation. The unbridled nature, the canoes, and the river flow – all have their profound role in the understanding and “internalization” of the worldview experienced during the main event.

Here are my key takeaways from the Canoe Trip.

1.      Key safety rules in the canoe are familiar to every manager:

  • Avoid sudden movements.
  • Go with the flow.

Nothing new, but that does not mean “don’t rock the boat”; it’s just that any disruption creates unnecessary risks and may lead to an accident, and is not necessary when you are on the right course.

2.      The real leader in the canoe, the helmsman, is the paddler in the stern. He is the more experienced one, doing the steering. Leading from behind, he will be looking over the front paddler’s shoulder all the time, and if the latter does not have a small frame and wears a hat, the helmsman will not see much. Continue reading “Canoeing with Mintzberg”

How can Elon Musk put in 80-100 hours a week and still have a life?

(Originally answered on Quora)

Most probably you want to share your surprise that Elon Musk, who reportedly stayed overnight at Tesla site on many occasions, still looks and behaves like a normal sociable person, gives interviews and is altogether in good health and good spirits, right?

This is because he is fortunate enough to have a solution to the ageless dilemma of “work-life” balance.

For most people, this problem exists, and exactly in this form – work vs. life – implying that the negative portion of your existence, called ‘work’, is balanced out by the positive ‘life’. When the balance is in place, then the negative impact that work leaves on your personality and health is cured by the positive emotions you get from what happens after work. Or that is how the unfortunate majority sees it.

 There’s not much of an overlap between the Life and Work, and as this overlap is not considered healthy, we are advised by holistic gurus that we must disconnect, shut off etc. and not mix the two. Hence, there’s not enough room to have both, we either displace one at the expense of the other, or meticulously separate them, having not enough of either as a result. The rest is a multitude of ‘chores’, neutral in their nature; we just take them for granted, neither good nor bad. Continue reading “How can Elon Musk put in 80-100 hours a week and still have a life?”