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Stephen Wise Blog

Integration Professionals. We dramatically improve traction.

American in Paris

Focus on Outcomes

Traction Tips

A weekly action idea to improve traction on your important initiatives by Stephen Wise.

  The new and wonderful musical, An American in Paris, is doing the rounds. It weaves multiple love stories with a Jazz and Ballet fusion leading to true love outcomes.  

Milo falls for Jerry, who's in love with Lise, who is engaged to Henri. Lise shares mutual affection with Henri but falls in love with Jerry. Jerry's friend Adam is also falling for Lise. Lise the ballerina, is oblivious she is the focal point of all the story lines. Despite the complications, true love wins out in the end. In the opening scenes of the musical Jerry sets his strategy to find and win Lise. However he gets lost, becomes indecisive, and is distracted by other interests. Has this ever happened to you in business? Getting lost in the details, uncertainty over the correct next step, or being distracted by new opportunities? Unfortunately, I see it every day. So, here is my guaranteed formula for success. 1. Focus on driving the outcomes 2. Accept Uncertainty 3. Agile Mindset

Focus on outcomes

Craft a hi-level plan. List the activities required to achieve the desired outcomes.

Accept Uncertainty

Accept uncertainty. Our ability to achieve goals proscribed in the plan can vary significantly.

Agile Mindset

Re-work your plan frequently.  Consider changes in the environment and your leanings along the way. Switch around your priorities. re-evaluate desired outcomes to reflect new realities.

Weekly Traction Action

Fuse the improvisation of Jazz with the perfection of Ballet to manage your corporate outcomes. Your weekly action: 1. Ensure all your desired outcomes have an accessible, hi-level, end to end plan. 2. Schedule regular times to evaluate whether you are on track and make course corrections to get back on track. I recommend or implement these actions all the time on client initiatives. Hopefully, it will work to improve outcomes for you too.

I love Email

Please send me an email and tell me about if you have success or trouble with this action. I’m always interested to see what can happen out in the wild.  

Stephen Wise

Integration Professionals

https://IntegrationProfessionals.com

Aruba

Race to Resilience

Traction Tips

A weekly action idea to improve traction on your important initiatives by Stephen Wise.

  Has it ever happened that your adequate plan takes a wrong turn and just keeps getting worse with every move you make? It is critical to under stand the concept of Resilience so that you have built up your resilience muscles in advance. 

Heading to the Airport

We left for Pearson airport right on schedule. It was about 5am, cold and clear. The trip would take about 20 minutes. The international flight was in 3 hours - I was heading for a long planned vacation in Aruba. My daughter was my driver and she would drop me off and return home with the car.

Change of Plan

On the way she mentioned she was worried the car was low on gas.

Waze

We took the nearest exit on the 401 where I knew a gas station would be nearby. While filling up I turned to the navigation app Waze for help to help get back to the airport. I wasn’t familiar with the area but Pearson is pretty big place; an airport should be hard to miss. Waze instantly computed a route and declared 31 minutes to destination. The detour was going to be a lot longer than anticipated, and I was suddenly annoyed with myself, “Bad decision to get unnecessary gas when the most important thing was to get to the airport on time”, I was thinking.

Wrong Turn

We turned left, left again and then another right and so on. Eventually Waze declared Mission Accomplished right on scheduled time. I peered out in the dark and nothing was familiar. There were no strings of lights from other arriving and departing cars, no familiar airport way-finding signage nothing. Waze had delivered us to the service entrance at the back of the airport. At that point, speed limits became speed suggestions, and I raced to re-trace our path, get back on the 401, and re-enter the proper Pearson departure queue. Once back at arrivals, I lept out of the car.

Arrivals

A very friendly Air Canada rep radioed the gate and ensured my bag was accepted after the cutoff. The sprint through security and customs was heart pounding but successful. Eventually, I took off for Aruba and it was everything people say about it.

Recovery

When you enter stressful events how do you react? Do you cope as best you can and then collapse? There is a better way. I learned from Richard Citrin, an expert in Resilience, that the right approach is to expect stressful situations to occur and prepare in advance to navigate through them and recover.

Resilience

When you are planning your next task, remember to build in enough time for reality. Also, prioritize so that you do the most important things first.   Thanks for reading. Subscribe to my newsletter for more traction tips at www.IntegrationProfessionals.com Stephen D Wise

The most powerful leadership skill an expert Project Manager needs for success

No one can be an expert in all fields. A Project Manager is a skilled expert on leading teams to initiate, plan, execute and close projects. These are among the most important skills, but not the most powerful. If you aren’t feeling well you go to see your General Practitioner (GP). Your GP understands the big picture and upon identifying a specific issue or risk with your health may refer you to a specialist. In this analogy the GP is like a Project Manager – they do not need to be an expert in every field and one difference between okay GP’s and excellent GP’s is the speed and quality and follow-up related to the referral. All Project Managers will tell you that the most commonly used skill on a project is communication. However, neither communication nor planning are the most powerful skills in the arsenal. The true multiplier, the most powerful skill, is the ability to learn from others. The ability to learn from others enables the PM to absorb the nuances of the culture, mitigate the hidden risks of the processes, and allow for the complexity of the technology. When a diverse project team gets together it doesn’t matter who is the smartest or most senior in the room. What matters is learning from everyone’s skills and experience and channeling that back to the team so the whole is greater than the sum. The most powerful leadership skill is the ability to apply the greater whole in order to reach the objectives of the project quicker and with less risk of failure.

Stephen Wise

https://www.IntegrationProfessionals.com 

Turnaround: Leading a Project Recovery

It’s true! Most every failed project had an earlier phase as a troubled project. I will look at techniques a Project Manager can use to gain control of a troubled project and lead a turnaround. Does this sound familiar?
  • The volume of identified defects has swamped testing or development or change control.
  • No-one on the project team has a firm view of when the project will be finished.
  • The budget is red and no-one knows how much additional work is still required.
  • The customer is losing confidence and showing signs of buyer’s remorse.
  • Team members are working excessive hours of overtime, email wars are breaking out, and personal relationships are unraveling.
  • The Executive is no longer on the same page as to the status and outlook for the project.
  • Vendor contractual misunderstandings are emerging and creating additional challenges.
If you have a troubled project, crisis is imminent and your world needs to change. Sooner rather than later management will request increased and more detailed updates. Customers, team members, and other internal stakeholders, such as audit, will soon be checking old project emails and asking additional questions. Now is not the time to become defensive. You are the Project Manager, and now more than ever, the stakeholders need you to lead them through the turnaround steps to project recovery. Step 1 – Initiate Recovery
  1. Seek guidance from the project team, business owner, and corporate methodology on an appropriate approach to initiate recovery planning. This step shouldn’t bog you down. Equally important as the guidance gained, is the communication you share with the stakeholders. That is, “You are leading the team into project turnaround and recovery mode.”
  2. In order to understand the status of the project and the nature of the recovery required, interview key stakeholders and analyze key project documentation such as project org chart, Charter, Work breakdown Structure, Issue log, Schedule (planned and actual Activities, resources, assignments, timing, and costs), and Change Log.
  3. Ensure the Project Team and executive reflect on the status of the project as measured against the business case benefit. Many events have occurred since original assumptions and it is possible that changes in market needs, technology, and enterprise risk, et cetera, render the existing project as unviable.
A very common mistake is to rationalize the continuation of a project due to the vast money and effort expended to date. Never use the amount of time and effort spent to date as a reason to continue a project with a broken business case – the money that has been spent can’t be recovered, however, it is possible that additional money about to be spent could be re-allocated to bring relatively more benefit to the organization. If the business case is broken, recovery is not possible, and your job as Project Manager is to ensure an updated business case is approved or the project is stopped. Step 2 – Planning Recovery Assuming that the Executive, Sponsor, and Project Team are in agreement with implementing a project recovery, it is time to gather the stakeholders in a series of planning sessions. It is crucial that all stakeholders are represented in the re-planning exercise and that they are representing their relevant departments in committing to the new estimates in the plan. The Project Manager has several levers available to make change over the original project plan. I recommend working each of the three levers below.
  1. Reduce Scope Facilitate review of the incomplete scope elements by the team. Identify and validate dependencies, resource requirements, and alignment to the business case. Request or impose a haircut to the scope of the project.
  2. Increase Schedule Seek deep clarity on the reasons and alternatives to any “drop-dead” dates articulated by stakeholders. Review duration estimates and resource leveling for the remaining work. It is common for team members to underestimate overall time required and to spread individuals too thin across numerous tasks. Unless the customer is willing to accept reduced deliverables, avoid planning backwards from a “drop-dead’ date as this is likely one of the factors that sent the project schedule into trouble in the first place.
  3. Increase Productivity Tailor the approach to meetings, documentation, bug tracking, task assignments, and overall communication for ways to make it easier to get the work done. A caveat – if the team is working on the wrong things or running into problems that impact others, now more than ever, it is up to the PM to surface these things and help to resolve. Now is not the time to tailor your approach by skipping status meetings or decreasing PM follow-up activities.
As an output of the re-planning exercise a new plan must be built. To ensure the new plan will not fail, it must have buy in/commitment from all appropriate stakeholders; and it must be maintained and updated rigorously by the Project Manager. Step 3 – Execute the Plan Over and above the tremendous efforts from those doing the work, the success of the recovery depends on the persistent monitoring and tracking of the agreed recovery schedule and issue log. Avoid the noise - a good PM must repeatedly step-up and exert pressure to steer the team away from the many potholes that seem significant but in actuality, are not really blocking the path of the project. Conversely, the PM must be prepared to step outside their own comfort zone to influence stakeholders for the sake of the project when tasks are slipping or issues aren’t being resolved in a timely fashion. The essence of project recovery turnaround is to demonstrate leadership and renew the team with a refreshed analysis of the situation, a re-invigorated sense of purpose and shared commitment, and a clear and detailed plan to reach the end of the project. Finally, I note that I have not addressed reporting and metrics unique to project recovery. This will be covered at a later date. Stephen Wise Integration Professionals http://www.IntegrationProfessionals.com/ http://www.IntegrationProfessionals.com/Twitter/

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