Posts Tagged Habits of Excellence

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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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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Is Your Attitude Squashing You?

Attitude Squashing You?

Attitude Squashing You?

 

 

Is YOUR Attitude Squashing YOU?

 

Do people frequently attribute any of these sayings to describe you at home and/or work – reactive, pessimistic, downer, cynical, defeatist, or grumpy?  If so, your attitude IS squashing you!

Simply put by Coach Lou Holtz – “Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.”

A person’s attitude is their affinity or inclination to respond in positive or negative ways to events, ideas, objects, people, organizations, etc.  A person’s attitude influences their choice of action, and responses to other people, opportunities, challenges, consequences, rewards, and situations.  The key is YOU get to choose your attitude – it does not choose you!

In my experience people exhibit/choose 3 basic attitudes:

 

  1. Explorer – People with an Explorer attitude are proactive participants in life and work, and thrive on opportunities brought on by change.  They take calculated risks and over deliver on their commitments.  They are consistently enthusiastic and energetic people, and their attitude is contagious to other Explorers and some Followers. Explorers look at the ‘glass as half full’, and have what Stephen Covey calls an ‘abundance mentality’.
  2. Follower – People with a Follower attitude are the reactive spectators of life and work, and are usually reluctant to adapt to change. They rarely take risks and are uncomfortable making commitments, instead relying on others to make major decisions and commitments.  Followers need motivating to deliver on commitments, otherwise they tend to coast. Followers see Explorers as successful and may seek them out, and want to work with them.  They also can be negatively motivated by Cynics.
  3. Cynic – People with Cynic attitudes are the victims and carpers of life and work and are annoyed by change.  They are sarcastic and pessimistic people that can drain the energy out of other people, teams or organizations.  They believe risks and commitments are forced on them by others.  And when difficulties arise, they enjoy being ‘told you so’ critics and finding fault, after the fact, in efforts, results and people.  Cynics many times resent the success of others and have what Stephen Covey calls a ‘scarcity mentality’.

Most people demonstrate some of all three attitudes and choose different attitudes based on varying situations and events, but one attitude tends to dominate in each of us.  So if your attitude is squashing you, even occasionally, what can you do?

  1. Reflect On Your Attitude and Honestly Assess It
    1. Self-assessment
    2. Trusted colleagues, friends and family assessment
    3. Admit Your Barriers, and Drivers.
      1. Dominant attitude
      2. Situational attitudes
      3. Barriers to a better attitude
      4. Drivers to a better attitude
      5. Determine Probable Root Causes of Your Barriers
        1. Causes you control
        2. Situational causes
        3. Physical and mental causes
        4. Commit To Make Changes In Your Attitude
          1. Reduce or eliminate cynics in your life
          2. Set short-term goals
          3. Measure goal achievement
          4. Set new short-term goals
          5. Seek outside help, if needed
          6. Put Some Gratitude in Your Attitude

Remember, you choose your attitude – it does not choose you.

 



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Habits for a Successful Career – Habit #7

Develop Your People Skills

Develop Your People Skills

 

Habits For a Successful Career

Habit #7 – Develop Your People Skills

Is one of your top career goals to become an executive, owner or partner in a business venture, or a university president?  Then Habit #7 is a primary concern.  Is one of your near term career goals to become a team leader, project leader, supervisor or manager?  Then Habit #7 is a primary concern.  Whether your career goals shoot for the stars or are more modest, people with successful careers have people skills that are above expectations because 60%+ of their role and responsibility involves People, not human assets or resources, PEOPLE.  You lead people, and manage things.  Habit #7 has seven people skills to be developed, improved, and possibly mastered including:

Order of Importance

  1. Listening to Understand (Covey)This is the most important people skill because it sets up success for the other six skills.  Most people, like many politicians, listen to ‘respond’, not understand.  True listening means asking clarifying questions, restating what you heard and empathizing with others to really understand what they are communicating.
  2. Communicating: Speaking, Writing, Presenting – Once you have mastered listening, then improve your communication skills in conversations, writing for business and making small and large group      presentations.
  3. Selling – Many people do not think selling is an important people or career skill unless they are in ‘sales’,      but people sell ideas and actions every day with colleagues at work, and with family and friends outside of work.
  4. Negotiating – Negotiating skills are the flip side of selling skills, and are very important if you aspire to be in a leadership position in any capacity.  In addition, improving your selling and negotiation skills are prerequisites to the next skill – resolving conflicts.
  5. Resolving Conflicts – All organizations, i.e. people, have conflicts – some small and some large.  The worse thing a successful person or a person in a leadership position can do is ignore or hide from      conflicts.  Improving your skills in this area will help remediate larger conflicts and resolve other without  destroying relationships.  In fact, it can help build trust and credibility.
  6. Motivating/Energizing – As hard as some people try to improve their people skills, many of us cannot ‘master’ all seven skills.  But they cannot be ignored!  For example, as an executive, I never ‘mastered’ the art of motivating and energizing people via public speaking.  To compensate, I brought in speakers that had a great motivating and energizing presence and then I would reiterate their points and lead by example to energize people in my organization.
  7. Mentoring/Coaching – Mentoring is a skill and quality seen in the most successful people and careers.  It is not only valuable to the person being mentored, but in many ways is as valuable to the mentor.  Put some gratitude in your attitude and help others develop their skills by mentoring and coaching them.

How many people skills are you proficient or a ‘master’?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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