Leadership – Piloting the Motorcycle in a Specific Direction: Part 3

Leadership – Piloting the Motorcycle in a Specific Direction:  Part 3

First, leadership is about “leading people, not managing things”.

In previous posts/discussions, I introduced this thought – ALL successful leaders, or leadership teams, provide the same four “leadership whats” for their organization(s) – just like riding a motorcycle.  The “whats” are as or ,more important than a leaders traits, “leadership hows”.  The four “leadership whats” include:  (1) pilot the organization in specific direction(s); (2) provide thrust/power to move the organization in the desired direction; (3) manage/mitigate risks of piloting the organization; and (4) make changes in the organization’s direction, thrust and risk based on current and anticipated situations/changes. 

Each of these four “whats” can be broken down into finer and finer specifics. The last post, Part 2, discussed the initial three “whats” in ‘piloting the motorcycle in a specific direction’.  Arguably, piloting the organization(s) in the proper direction(s) is the most important “whats” a leader, or leadership team, provides.  If an organization does not have direction, or is being piloted in the wrong direction, then success will be fleeting.  But what are some specifics that leaders provide to establish the proper direction(s) of an organization?

Leadership Cycle

Leadership Cycle

 

 

This post/discussion focuses on the last two “whats” – Strategy and Operational Plans

You might think that organization/business strategy is easily defined and well understood, but even a cursory look on the internet will prove you wrong.  Definitions are abundant, not always similar and sometimes vary vague.  So for purposes of this post/discussion, let’s define strategy as:

‘The art and science of determining or planning an organization’s overall (1) scope, road map, and goals, (2) branding, business and organization models,  (3) effective use of limited resources, and (4) performance measures to achieve its vision, mission and strategic goals.’

First and most important, an organization cannot be all things to all people.  So setting a strategy chooses the organization’s scope – focusing ‘where it will play and where it will not play’. This is a further refinement of the organization’s vision and mission to the point that the organization can produce strategic plans (road map) and goals.  Second, as a result of setting its scope, road map, and goals, strategy defines its business model (how it operates), organization model (how it is structured), branding (how it will be known).  Third, strategy provides direction, with some specificity, in how its limited resources will be acquired, retained and used.  And the last part of setting an organization’s strategy is determining the diverse measurements to use in evaluating its strategic performance.  This process of setting strategy is repeated by each business unit and major department to define and align their strategy with the organization.

The last set of “whats” that provide direction are operational plans (OP), also called annual plans, that are completed by every business unit and department.  Operational planning is the process of defining tactical plans and goals, objectives and performance measurements, and aligning them with strategic goals, objectives and performance measurements. OP describes operations, operation initiatives, capital projects, milestones, performance, and resource requirements during a given operational period, a calendar or fiscal year. An OP also includes a business unit’s and department’s annual operating budget and capital budget. The OP must be a collaborative effort between the business units and departments to insure the plans and budgets are in alignment with each other.

In the next post/discussion, we will introduce the second major “leadership whats” – the thrust/power to move the organization in the desired direction.

 



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Leadership – Piloting the Motorcycle in a Specific Direction: Part I

Leadership – Piloting the Motorcycle in a Specific Direction:  Part 1

First, leadership is about “leading people, not managing things”.

In the last post/discussion, I introduced this thought – ALL successful leaders, or leadership teams, provide the same four “leadership whats” for their organization(s) – just like riding a motorcycle.  The four “leadership whats” include:  (1) pilot the organization in specific direction(s); (2) provide thrust/power to move the organization in the desired direction; (3) manage/mitigate risks of piloting the organization; and (4) make changes in the organization’s direction, thrust and risk based on current and anticipated situations/changes. 

Each of these four “what’s” can be broken down into finer and finer specifics. This post/discussion focuses on some specifics of piloting the organization in specific direction(s) which is analogous to steering the front wheel of a motorcycle.  Arguably, piloting the organization(s) in the proper direction(s) is the most important “what” a leader, or leadership team, provides.  If an organization does not have direction(s), or is being piloted in the wrong direction(s), then success will be fleeting.  But what are some specifics that leaders provide to establish the proper direction of an organization?

 

Leadership Cycle

Leadership Cycle

 

This post/discussion focuses on the first, three “whats” – Vision/Mission, Values and Culture

Gertrude Stein states – “It is awfully important to know what is and is not your business.”  Vision and mission “whats” provide the cornerstones for any organization and are usually published as vision and/or mission statements.  For example, in Southwest Airlines early years their vision/mission was to “Give People the Freedom to Fly”. These “leadership whats” sets an organization’s purpose and direction that all other “leadership whats” will be based.    Each major business unit and department should have their vision and/or mission statements that support their organization’s top vision and mission.

The next “leadership whats” are an organization’s values that define and provide direction on how an organization’s people behave, think, act and make decisions, and are usually documented and published with the organization’s vision and mission statements.  Organization values can be grouped into sets of “core values” and “operational values”.  Core values, people focused, represent shared beliefs and expectations on how they behave and treat other people inside or outside of the organization, and build relationships.  Examples of core values focus on areas like integrity, treat others with respect, teamwork, have fun, celebrate success, be proactive, work hard, make excellence a habit, great attitude, etc.  Operational values, business focused, represent the shared convictions and expectations of what is important for the organization to be successful/profitable and must be aligned with the organization’s business model.  If the organization excels at these operational values, they can adapt to change, grow and be profitable.  Examples of operational values focus on customer service, innovation, reliability, safety, easy to do business with, low costs, low prices, profitability, etc.  Arguably more important than documented vision/mission and value statements is how an organization’s leadership communicates and lives these “whats” every day – do they “talk the talk, AND walk the walk”.

As the result of and closely related to an organization’s vision/mission, and core and operational values is the third “leadership what” – organization culture.  Culture has been defined by many as “a general term that outlines the collective attitudes, beliefs, common experiences, procedures, and values that are prevalent in an organization”.  Pretty nebulous.  I have found defining organization culture is like defining quality – “it’s hard to define, but I know it when I see it”.  Unlike an organization’s vision/mission, and values that are usually documented and published, an organization’s culture is not.  A positive culture, one in alignment with vision/mission and values, will have its people highly ‘aligned/invested’ in the organization, culture and success.  A positive culture results is an organization that exhibits traits like high trust, loyalty, productivity, performance, results, etc., and lower conflicts, turnover, setbacks, etc.  A dysfunctional culture and/or one not in alignment with vision/mission and values can be a toxic environment  exhibiting traits like trust issues, high level of conflicts and politics, CYA attitudes, ragged performance and results, high turnover, low or negative growth, etc.

These first, three “whats” must be in place before the fourth and fifth “whats” can be determined and effective.  We will cover these remaining “whats” in the next post/discussion.

 

 

 



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Leadership – It’s Like Riding a Motorcycle

First, leadership is about “leading people, not managing things”.  If you doubt this, answer this question – “have you ever tried to manage your spouse?” Right.

Recently, I read several articles, blog posts and replies regarding leaders and leadership.  They all try to express what attributes, or set of attributes, a leader must have to be successful – what I call the “leadership how(s)”.  All in all they attempt to identify and define the ‘X’ number of most important attributes of successful leaders.  Although leadership attributes are important,  I have found that there are many leadership attributes, and sets of attributes called styles, and no single set of attributes or styles guarantees success because the situation(s) leaders or leadership teams face in their organizations, and their organization’s maturity are different from others.

However, I have found that ALL successful leaders, or leadership teams, provide the same four “leadership whats” for their organization(s).  A leader is like a motorcycle rider and provides the same four “whats”. The motorcycle rider: – (1) pilots the cycle in a specific direction(s); (2) delivers thrust/power to move the cycle in that direction; (3) manages risks of piloting the cycle; and (4) makes changes in the cycle’s direction, thrust and risk based on current and anticipated situations/changes.  Now substitute organization for motorcycle/cycle, and leader, or leadership team, for rider.  If a leader(s) fails to provide any of these four “whats”, the chances of the leader or organization being successful are slim to none.  Successful leaders provide their organization(s) with the proper direction(s), and the right amount of thrust, while allowing appropriate calculated risk taking.  And then they have the courage to make changes when an organization’s situation(s) changes.

 

Leadership

Leadership

 

Leaders need to understand and focus on the “whats” which can be broken down into finer and finer specifics which I will address in the next set of discussions.



The Elephant in YOUR Project – Part 3 Risks

Project Risks

Project Risks

 

 

The Elephant in YOUR Project – Part 3 Risks

Many project managers use complexity and risk synonymously.  They are related, but not the same. Project risks are qualitative and quantitative issues or events which could lead to negative consequences.  Risks can be prevented, mitigated, or repaired if they become an issue. Increased project complexity does not create risks, but increases the severity and impacts of each risk on the project efforts.

Your project risks can be weighted and objectively measured.  A project’s risk and be grouped into five categories:

  1. People/Team Risks – morale, skills and experience, staffing, contractor capability, etc.
  2. Process Risks – scope creep, project management, project planning, project controls, scheduling, etc.
  3. Technology Risks – technology quality, technology newness, expectations versus requirements, etc.
  4. Finance/Budget Risks – budget approval, budget adequacy, scope changes, reporting, etc.
  5. Legal Risks – contract negotiations, contract management, terms and conditions, etc.

Once identified, risks management and reporting is the responsibility of the project sponsor and project manager(s).  Risk prevention, mitigation and repair are the responsibility of all project team members as assigned by the project manager(s).  Each significant risk should be formally reported and tracked in every project status report, and discussed effectively with the project steering committee.

So is your project a House of Cards, or are you managing project risks effectively?

 

For a free example of a Project Complexity Assessment and Project Risks Management Tool, download at:

Palomino Free Downloads

 



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The Elephant in YOUR Project-Part 2 Complexity

Complexity

Complexity

 

The Elephant in YOUR Project – Part 2 Complexity

In Part 1, we discussed the research and statistics of project success or lack thereof.  For decades projects or change have repeatedly been challenged and over half do not meet all of their expectations or are failures.  My experience indicates one of the primary reasons, or The Elephant in Your Project, for these continued poor results is the lack of formal project complexity assessment and aggressive project risk management – the responsibility of the project sponsor and project manager(s).

In Part 2, we expand on a project’s complexity and how it affects the ultimate outcome of your projects.  In review, a project is a process or series of processes.  A process’s complexity – defines, qualitatively and quantitatively, the relative difficulty, time consumption, resource requirements and skill requirements necessary to successfully complete.  The more complex the process or project – the more difficult, time consuming, resources intensive and more experienced skills are required.  Complex projects are rarely successful and many times are failures.  Of course, the lower the complexity, the greater chance a project meets all of its expectations.

Three major components determine a project’s complexity and can be objectively weighted and measured – (1) Operational/Technical complexity; (2) Business complexity; and (3) Organization complexity.  Within these components, complexity is primarily the result of the “4-S’s”: structure, size, scope and skills. Criteria examples include:

  1. Operational/Technical – Technology requirements, technology distribution, operations impacted
  2. Business/Process – Business units impacted, business process maturity, number of people/users impacted
  3. Organization – Project manager’s skills/experience, project duration, project team size/location, project team skills/experience

Project complexity must be assessed up front during overall project planning. Complexity components must be addressed and reduced at that time before being locked in after the project(s) begins.  Some obvious ways to reduce complexity are:

  1. Break project into smaller, more manageable efforts which reduces project team size.
  2. Reduce each project effort scope and duration, and thus people/users impacted.
  3. Staff each project effort with more highly skilled project team members and/or provide training.
  4. Staff project with highly experienced project manager(s) and team leader(s).

Increased project complexity does not create risks, but increases the severity and impacts of each risk on the project efforts.  We will further discuss project risks and risk management in Part 3.

 



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The Elephant in Your Project – Part 1

The Elephant In Your Project

The Elephant In Your Project

 

The Elephant in Your Project – Part 1

The high ‘failure’ rates of IT and business projects have been documented for over four decades by numerous studies and publications.  The Standish Group International reported in 2001 that around 23% of projects are failures, and 49% are ‘challenged’.  Doing the math indicates that only around 28% of projects meet their expectations.  A more recent IBM study in 2008, Making Change Work, indicated that on average 41% met all expectations and 59% missed one or more expectations, or failed completely.  Even worst news from IBM was that companies that were ‘novices at projects for change” had only 8% of projects that met all expectations.  Houston we have a problem!

My experience indicates one of the primary reasons, or the Elephant in Your Project, for these continued poor results is the lack of formal project complexity assessment and aggressive risk management – a responsibility of the project sponsor and project manager.  The IBM study, only one of a few, also indicated that the lack of recognizing the project’s complexity was a major factor in a project’s success or failure.  Yet only 18% indicated their efforts fully addressed project complexity and risk.

Every project, IT or business, is a process – a process with varying degrees of complexity.  A process’s complexity: defines, qualitatively and quantitatively, the relative difficulty, time consumption, resource requirements and skill requirements necessary to successfully complete.  The more complex the process or project – the more difficult, time consuming, resources intensive and more experienced skills are required.

Many project managers use complexity and risk synonymously – but they are not.  A project risks:  are qualitative and quantitative issues or events which could lead to negative consequences.  Increased project complexity increases a risk’s possible impact.  Risks can be prevented, repaired if they become an issue or mitigated.  Complexity is not an event and is harder or impossible to prevent, repair or mitigate once the project begins.

So why do most project sponsors and managers do a lousy job of complexity assessment and risk management?  A few reasons are:

Lack of awareness, skills, training and/or experience

Internal politics

Lack of formal assessment/ management process that is consistent and repeatable

Lack of assessment/management reporting and tools

 

Part 2 will discuss more on assessing complexity and Part 3 will discuss risk management.

 



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Do You Embrace Constructive Feedback?

Direction for Improvement

Direction for Improvement

 

 

Do You Embrace Constructive Feedback?

I’ve read a number of articles recently that profess that constructive feedback fails to improve people’s performance the vast majority of time.  And others even say that all constructive feedback is destructive and an oxymoron.  Really?  I could not disagree more.

Consider this quote from a past article by Mark Murphy, CEO of Leadership IQ. Employees need a lot more feedback about their performance. According to a new study by Leadership IQ, 51% of employees don’t know whether their performance is where it should be. That’s pretty shocking, so I’ll say it again: We asked 3,611 workers across 291 companies to respond to a series of survey questions, including the question “I know whether my job performance is where it should be.” The results? 51% Disagreed while only 21% Agreed (27% were in the middle).

Successful people not only want constructive feedback on their performance, they embrace it.  They know constructive feedback will help them repeat good performance, identify areas for improvement, and help them grow and reach their career goals.  When your performance consistently improves, so does your future.

Now don’t get me wrong. Constructive feedback can be delivered poorly and have the opposite impact than was intended.  When this happens usually the person giving the feedback tries to ease into areas for improvement by sugarcoating the feedback or starting with a positive feedback that finishes with a “but” and an area for improvement.  That’s why I always encourage people to do an honest self-assessment before any formal feedback session.  Then concentrate only on positive items or areas for improvement that were significantly different from your self-assessment.

All of us should embrace constructive feedback.  And if you are responsible for giving constructive feedback, learn how to properly deliver feedback and give it frequently.

Update May 18:  Even Bill Gates agrees – http://www.inc.com/jana-kasperkevic/bill-gates-proper-feedback-is-key-to-improvement.html

 

 



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