Archives for the month of: February, 2008

“Mutual Benefit and Respect.”

“Do unto others as you would have done unto you.”

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” – The Dalai Lama.

It is important to remember that one’s growth through the 7 habits is exactly that – growth and maturity. Nor are the habits items on a checklist that once completed can be checked off and forgotten. Habit 4 is grounded on the independence, confidence and self-awareness you have nurtured through Habits 1-3 and should be continuing to nurture.

According to Covey, a Win-Win situation is recognizing that there is an abundance of recognition, knowledge, love, control, power, etc. in this world and that interactions with each other do not always have to be a competition (except of course when it is a competition.) Working from a foundation of confidence and self-awareness garnered in Habits 1-3, you will be able to approach situations in which you can work with another to understand their paradigm, clarify your own paradigm, and identify a solution in which you both walk away satisfied. It is important not to equate these “negotiations” with giving in or giving up. It is about working towards a mutual agreement or, potentially, no agreement at all.

I used to work for a consulting firm in which the culture was one that encouraged collaboration amongst its employees and extended this to its customers. The culture was backed up and enforced with concrete examples in knowledge sharing and reward systems. I would often explain to my customers that within our organization “collaboration is power”, not knowledge. If you help another reach their goals and climb higher on their ladder, they will be more likely to extend a hand to help you reach the top and those around you will recognize your contributions as well.

As Project Managers, we have opportunities on a daily basis to put Habit 4 into practice. Working with our team members, sponsors, stakeholders, and managers. Remember, approaching interactions with vulnerability does not equate to weakness. It means sitting at the table with an open-mind. An awareness of your own tendency to cling to an idea or position without budging. Flexibility and compassion. As the Dalai Lama reminds us – If you want to be happy, practice compassion!

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  • Positive work environments and management leadership are strongly correlated with each other and with the three measures of product success. That is:
    • Strong management leadership and positive work environments go hand-in-hand.
    • Companies with positive work environments (and, by implication, strong management leadership) have better commercial success with new products, enjoy better customer satisfaction and have greater technical success than those with less positive work environments (and, by implication, weak leadership).

The above quote is from a study published in the December 2007 issue of the Project Management Journal titled New Product Development Projects: The Effects of Organizational Culture. This article came to my attention through a post on the eight to late blog by Kailash Awati. This is a blog to which I just started subscribing. Thank you Kailash for a nice post. Honestly, I get PM Journal as part of my membership in PMI. For the most part, I glance at the academic titles of the studies and then recycle the publication. Summary posts like Kailash’s are a bit more digestable.

Anyway, the study supports my experiences over the years. Tools, tips and techniques alone do not create successful projects.

Projects need to be nurtured to success:

  • People are the seeds.
  • A healthy, smart culture is the soil.
  • Methodologies, templates, plans, and software are the gardening tools.
  • Leadership is the plant food.
  • The Project Manager is the gardener.

Put First Things First helps you identify and eliminate unimportant activities that rob you of your time. This allows you to focus on what matters most in your personal and professional lives. – 7 Habits Intro Workshop Workbook

What do you do all day? Think about it. Can you give an honest, accurate answer? Are there days where the work day ends and you feel you didn’t accomplish anything? You were at work, right? You did stuff, correct? Did you do the right stuff, is the question.

Habit 3 is all about doing the work that matters most. Putting on your to list and schedule what should be there and sticking with it. Having the discipline to avoid distractions and to politely say no. In this post I’ll summarize this very important habit and then tie it to project management at the end.

Covey presents us with a 4-block time matrix:

Revisiting the programmer metaphor, in Habit 1 we are the programmer. In Habit 2 we write the program. In Habit 3 we execute the program and put it into action. The goal here is to maximize our time in Quadrant II. Quad2 is where we can be proactive and most effective. We are not constantly reacting and putting out fires. We are planned and focused.

This doesn’t mean that fires don’t erupt and have to be put out. That is inevitable and the quicker you accept that the less frustrated you will be adhering to any disciplined planning system. The goal of focusing in Quad2 is that we get to do some fire prevention. We are building relationships, thinking ahead and then focusing our time on the right activities.

As part of Habit 3, Covey encourages us to plan on a weekly basis. Look at your personal mission statement and goals. Understand your different roles, Then, plan accordingly. Be sure to schedule in time for reflective thought and exercise. Don’t make it an “if I get time” appointment. Because, most likely, you won’t get time.

Intuitively, we all know that we can be more efficient with our time. We all want to get out of “catch up” mode. The work doesn’t stop coming, so we need to make decisions as to what tasks we will work. If you aren’t positive what you spend your time doing each day try this exercise. Take a sheet of lined paper. On the left side write the time you start your day at work (i.e. 8:00 a.m.). Then each time you change a task write down the time you changed and what task you become engaged with. For example, if you start your day at 8:00 a.m. reading email then that is your first line. 5 minutes later you answer the phone. Mark that on the sheet at 8:05 a.m. Phone call. Continue through the day. At the end of your day review the sheet and you will get some valuable insight as to truthfully where you are spending your time.

With respect to the practice of Project Management, I equate Habit 3 with the PMs responsibility to keep the project team focused on working within scope and addressing goals, objectives and requirements. Many projects operate primarily in Quadrant 1. Pressing deadlines and customer demands drive the project. My observations are that at least some of the conflict and stress in these projects can be reduced if the team as a whole were focused from the beginning on Quad2. Consider these factors:

  • Risk Management: This is a very proactive activity that is important, but not urgent.
  • Stakeholder communication: Informing and building relationships with the proper project stakeholders can prevent issues and changes late in the project.
  • Team building: Do what you can to orient the team to one another. Ensure that the mentality is that we are in this as a team and there will be a no-blame policy.
  • Consistent project review: Whether you do it yourself or their is someone assigned from the PMO to work with you, you should be reviewing your project on at least a weekly basis. Look at the issues log and risk log. Review open actions and ensure there is ownership and due dates. Talk to your project team to be sure they have what they need and no new roadblocks have appeared

Do you have other suggestions? Let other readers know by posting a comment!