Monday, January 10, 2011

How Will Your Leadership Be Remembered?

Richard Winters died last week. This quiet, humble man was made famous by Stephen Ambrose’s book, Band of Brothers. Dick Winters can be thought of as the leader of the band. Tom Hanks produced an HBO miniseries based on Ambrose’s book.

Sometimes I wonder what people will say of my work after I have moved onto the next client. Will my work even be remembered? Will it be held up as a good example for those who come after me?

Will people remember that my work was delivered on schedule? Nearly all of my projects have been completed within budget. Does anyone remember? Perhaps they will remember how I worked. One of my professors once told our class, before group presentations, “The audience will soon forget your topic, findings, and conclusions. They will long remember how you presented yourself.” I wonder if the same applies to managing people.

I would encourage readers to take a moment and review what Mr. Winters’ men said here about his leadership in the most difficult of times. Can you name anyone who is willing to follow you to “hell and back?” While this may just be a saying, it speaks of profound trust.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

For the Manager Who has Everything.

Sure, you want to give your favorite manager a gift this holiday season. The guy/gal seems to have everything going for him or her. What can you give to add some joy to this person’s life?

Hours of seemingly endless struggle are now over.

Might I suggest a book from Inc. Magazine’s list of The Best Business Books of 2010? A quick review will show 25 books from various management disciplines.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Trust in the Gulf -- Boot on the Neck

Department of the Interior Secretary, Ken Salazar, made the following statement on CNN: "Our job basically is to keep the boot on the neck of British Petroleum to carry out the responsibilities they have..."

Salazar's remark has now been widely circulated. How do you think the Secretary's statement affects the level of trust between the administration and BP?

How would you react if your client or a user group spoke to you like that? What if your manager told you that he was going to put his boot on your neck until you fulfill your responsibilities? I wonder whether the administration considered what effect its violent tone would have on the trust of those involved in the solution. Perhaps the administration doesn't believe trust has a part to play in the success of this unfortunate project.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Project: Stop the Oil Leak

Leadership, Ownership, and Trust are extremely important in successful large IT projects. I concluded this after conducting some research a few years ago (see Sacred PM Practices). In the years since, I have looked around to see how these attributes play out on my own projects, and in the world.

America's eyes are focused on the Gulf of Mexico and the oil spill. The stopping of the leak and cleanup could be considered a project -- it is a temporary effort, there is a beginning, some objectives, and an end. Just for fun, let's call this project, Stop the Oil Leak. During the next few posts, I'd like to share some of my observations of this project, and hope that you will share your own.

On May 27th, President Obama declared, "I am responsible." This would seem to address the attibute, ownership. Once he admitted that, it was clear who is responsible for the success or failure of this project. As an aside, I think BP is the owner of this project, but that probably speaks more of my personal views of accountability, and less of project ownership.

Was this declaration a good move by the White House? Do you believe it relieved the executives and employees of BP? Who do you think owns this project?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Loss to the Consulting Industry

There is sad news out of the consulting world. David Maister, consultant to the consultant, has reached the momentous decision to retire. Dr. Maister has spent the last three decades studying and counseling consulting firms. While I never did get a chance to see him speak in person, I have read his books. Managing the Professional Service Firm was always near at hand while I established my small consulting practice a few years ago. I am confident that his advice kept me from turning down many wrong paths.

For those interested, you can catch a glimpse of him in a few videocasts.

I wish him great success in his well-deserved retirement.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Murder by Numbers

The day before we disembarked from our ship, the cruise director emphasized just how important it is to complete our passenger questionnaires. Apparently, the cruise line's management places a great deal of weight on passengers' responses. Bonuses are decided. Promotions are offered. Staff is terminated. This cruise director even directed us to rate a feature as Exceeded Expectations when it didn't necessarily. After all, "the numeric rating for Exceeded Expectations is the range 100-75. A score of 75 translates to a grade of C in school. That doesn't seem right." The cruise director's ten-minute monologue was followed up by the same message supplied by the maitre d' after dinner.

I once worked for a company that placed a lot of emphasis on project scorecard ratings. Our San Francisco office always received 100% ratings. When our General Manager investigated this apparent success, clients revealed that the San Francisco Practice Manager was strong-arming the results. If ratings were anything below 100%, the Practice Manager would visit the client and talk the client into 100% scores. Unfortunately, metrics-based performance measures revealed little about the San Francisco office's performance and tended to sour business relationships with its clients.

I am all about performance measures. I believe in the ideal, that which is measured, improves. Gleb Reys' Personal Development blog provides some examples for those who would like to see this in action. However, basing performance solely on customer reviews can negate the customer experience. There must be a balance in the organization among customer/client feedback and other performance attributes. Have you ever seen the proper balance? If so, what does it look like?

Friday, October 30, 2009

Greatest Importance for Success

Lewis and Clark knew management. One important management principle shows up in the correspondence between Lewis and Clark as far back as 1803. American readers will remember that Lewis and Clark, with a group of frontiersmen, set out to find a water passage from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean. The timing of the Louisiana Purchase (1803) and the Lewis and Clark expedition (1804-1806) seems as though President Jefferson was telling the men, “We just bought a huge chunk of land. Now go see what we just purchased.” In reality, Thomas Jefferson had pursued several ideas for western exploration years before the purchase was made.

In preparation for the trip, Lewis and Clark exchanged a series of letters regarding expedition objectives, needs, and timeframes. In one such letter, Clark shares "a judicious choice of our party is of the greatest importance to the success of this vast enterprise." Lewis responded in agreement.

Selection of staff is of “greatest importance?” Do you hold such beliefs? If you do agree with Clark, do you act on those beliefs? I have oftentimes been encouraged to make a job offer to a candidate after a single interview. Ideally, I would like to meet the candidate on two or three occasions. If I must spend the next few years working with a person, I want to make sure I know that person before he or she is invited in the door.

If your experience has been like mine, your most frustrating problems are related to people? When I think of my best projects, it is always the projects where I was able to work with good people.

How important is selecting the right people? Were Lewis and Clark off course on this one?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Towers Perrin's Top-10 List for Employee Engagement

Another firm that chimes in about employee engagement is Towers Perrin. Like Accenture, Towers Perrin also has a top-10 list for employee engagement.
  1. Senior management sincerely interested in employee well-being
  2. Ability to improve skills and capabilities
  3. Organization’s reputation for social responsibility
  4. Employees' input into decision making
  5. Quick resolution of customer concerns
  6. Setting of high personal standards
  7. Excellent career advancement opportunities
  8. Challenging work assignments that broaden skills
  9. Good relationships with supervisors
  10. Organization encourages innovative thinking
Most of these ten drivers directly impact the employee (e.g., 1, 2, 7). A couple of the top-10 drivers speak to the environment of the employer (e.g., 10). The odd one here, the one I didn’t expect to see, is driver #5. Resolution of customer concerns has not appeared on any of the other employee engagement lists that I have reviewed. I suppose it is difficult to be engaged to an employer that has difficulty resolving the problems of its customers.

What is on your top-10 list for employee engagement? Has Towers Perrin captured everything on your own list?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Accenture's Top-10 List for Employee Engagement

I found that Accenture’s Human Performance service line has considered how employee engagement affects profit, productivity, and innovation. They have found a direct relationship between employee engagement and profit, productivity, and innovation. Accenture’s analyses have shown that the higher an organization scores on the ten areas below, the higher the employee engagement rating.
  • Recognition and rewards must be linked to job and business performance
  • Hr systems must provide managers with the information they need
  • Learning opportunities for current and future positions must be available
  • Provide tools for staff to find the information they need to perform their jobs
  • Frequent and effective performance appraisals must be provided
  • High-performance physical workplace must be created
  • Significant changes in the organization must be communicated to reduce their impact on morale and performance
  • Pay attention to each employee’s career planning and development
  • HR policies must be fair for all staff members
  • Recruit individuals with the same goals as the organization

Does this look like a complete list to you? What about trusting one’s manager? What about having a good working relationship with one’s boss? I once read that an employee always joins a company, but always leaves a boss. I think a person’s relationship with his manager carries a lot of weight. Where is that topic in the Accenture’s list?

What do you think?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Sacred PM Practices – Bottom Line

Most project managers, project management instructors, and publishers of project management material are spending much effort on management topics that are of little importance to the success of large IT projects, and little energy on those topics which are present in many of these successful large IT projects – leadership, ownership, trust.

I am not suggesting that knowing how to create a project plan, or managing project risks are not important. I have come to believe that topics like leadership, ownership, and trust are little understood. How much time do you, or your project manager, spend on creating a sense of ownership among team members? Do you spend any energy cultivating trust?

We started the discussion of the research project, Sacred Management Practices, in a posting on January 25, 2009. This summary posting represents that last planned post about the the project. We have enjoyed some great discussion around the topics presented. You can find the full presentation at under Sacred PM Practices.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Sacred PM Practices – Topics for Consideration

Traditional project management resources seem to address topics that do not necessarily support the successful execution of large IT projects.
  • Project Management Institute claims to be the world’s leading publisher of project management information. Its books, newsletters, training courses, and seminars focus on traditional concerns such as resource estimation, risk management, and scope management.
  • American Management Association’s books, seminars, and self-study materials focus on traditional project management activities – setting measurable project objectives, estimating project costs, and the use of a Work Breakdown Structure.
  • Software Engineering Institute strongly promotes the establishment of repeatable (i.e., standard, documented) processes for such areas as project planning, project tracking, and change management.

Project management resources do not adequately address the qualitative findings of this study.

  • There are many resources written about leadership. The resources however, tend to address military leadership and the leading of whole corporations.
  • There are few resources that address ownership. Some of the leadership books do include a sentence or a paragraph about why ownership is important to an organization.
  • There are extremely few project management resources that address trust among project stakeholders.

Do you also find this to be the situation? If so, why? Is it simply easier to describe how to create a work breakdown structure than it is to describe how to create an environment of engaged team members?