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.

Canada Cost Post-Saving Math

Freising, Munich area, Germany

(On the photo, a post(wo)man delivering mail to the residents of Freising, Munich area)

Door-to-door mail delivery to urban customers has been phased out in Canada in the last five years.

This was a major cost-saving initiative of Canada Post. As a performance improvement specialist, I doubt its value for Canadians.  Without a doubt, there is a better way to improve efficiency, instead of going into this cost cutting death spiral, as Tom Peters put it in his book “The Excellence Dividend.”

Since 2013, the only rationale offered by the Crown Corporation was that two-thirds of Canadians don’t have mail delivered right to their doors already, so the other five million should not complain. And a local public servant obligingly added at the time that this is even better for the elderly citizens – to have a daily walk to the communal “super-mailbox”…

But I digress. Let’s just do the math. Continue reading “Canada Cost Post-Saving Math”

What Would You Do With ONE EXTRA HOUR, Daily?

New Eisenhower Matrix

If you promise to spend this extra hour with your family (or at least out of the office), I will tell you what needs to be done. And it is free, no purchase necessary. Your only investment is a pen and paper.

I have done this exercise several times with various clients, and the results were always positive. On average, you become 10% more time-efficient after the first attempt, and that is about one hour per day for a real-life professional.

The exercise will take you 7 minutes and 7 days: 7 minutes to finish reading this post and then 7 days to implement what you have read. Continue reading “What Would You Do With ONE EXTRA HOUR, Daily?”

If Zuck Were Project Manager, He’d Learn More ‘Tricks’

Sheryl Sandberg (Facebook COO) once praised her boss for “trying to make meetings as productive as possible.” According to her, Mark Zuckerberg “asks people to send materials in advance so we can use the time for discussion” and “we try to be clear about our goal when we sit down for a meeting–are we in the room to make a decision or to have a discussion?”

At first, I thought Ms. Sandberg was being sarcastic: Can you really call those “efficiency tricks”? But then I had to admit that outside a limited ‘club’ of a few strong managers I have worked with, almost none of the business meetings that I have audited could be considered efficient.

Now the good news. The ‘tricks’ that make your meetings productive are not new or hard to learn, you can easily get ahead of Zuck (although he may be getting some extensive coaching right now); it is just a matter of self-discipline. Well, almost.

Just think about your next meeting as if it’s a project.  

Continue reading “If Zuck Were Project Manager, He’d Learn More ‘Tricks’”

What did I do to James?

What did I do to James?

I have not yet met a single manager who would not complain about ‘boring’, ‘endless’ and ‘useless’ meetings they have to host or attend on a daily basis. And yet most of them are literally just a few words away from making their meeting a really effective communication and teambuilding tool.

I once worked with a senior leader, let’s call him James, who had daily ‘planning’ meetings with his extended team, first thing in the morning. Continue reading “What did I do to James?”

Advanced Project Management Secret: Shared Values

Values PM 2.0

 

Requirements can make or break your projects. Depending on your personal level of PM maturity, you will make sure that you have clarified them on one, two, or three levels. Here’s what can further improve your chances to deliver the project successfully: shared values of the team.

The secret is in the proper composition of your team. Assembling the right team is highlighted in a recent McKinsey report as one of the key practices that define the “art” of project leadership.

Granted, you will not always have the luxury to hand pick the team members. In the worst case, you are parachuted into a failing project and have to make do with what you have. Even in this worst-case scenario, what I suggest here will help – if you take personal values of your team members into consideration.

In short, personal values are needs, and they refer to desirable goals that motivate action. Thus above all, you need to make sure that at least your core team members’ values are aligned with the Goal of the project.

Continue reading “Advanced Project Management Secret: Shared Values”

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”

What are the best tips and tricks for increasing productivity and time management?

Here are a few off the top of my head. I am glad you’ve asked because it’s good to go through the list every once in a while.

1. Always have a plan. Thinking before doing requires some time and internal discipline but gives you an edge over the “doers” who act without thinking. Continue reading “What are the best tips and tricks for increasing productivity and time management?”

Dan Ponterfract: “FLAT ARMY”

Required Reading

Over the weekend, I have read Dan Pontefract’s book “Flat Army.” I was looking forward to reading an inspirational text about change management, corporate culture improvement and employee engagement, but the book appears to take the reader further. Continue reading “Dan Ponterfract: “FLAT ARMY””