A Voyage of Discovery

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Projects are a bit like a voyage of discovery – you know where you want to go and have some idea of how you’re going to get there but you don’t know the details. As you move forward, you get more clarity and the more experience you have, the better chance you have of making it work.

I’m talking to you from the N Seoul Tower in South Korea, after a hard week’s work with some clients in Asia and I decided I should do a little bit of tourism. So the first question is: How do I get to the tower?

It turns out that one of the easiest ways is just an ordinary bus route. There are tourist buses but then you have to go to the right place for them and you don’t get in touch with the people. So I decide to do it that way and then I had to find out how to pay for the bus.

You can either pay the driver with money but it’s hard to talk if you don’t speak the language. Or you can get an electronic card which is really handy. So I bought the electronic card but then I discovered that it had no money on it. Apparently you have to buy the card and load it as two transactions. So that meant I had to ask somebody in the hotel to write out a message for me to show the shop telling them what to do.

Then I knew roughly where the bus stop was – it was near a metro station but although it was only maybe 10 m from the exit, it took me about half an hour to find it. I didn’t know what a bus stop looked like and I didn’t know what signs would be on it and if it was the right bus going in the right direction and so forth.

Eventually the bus came along but late. I knew something was happening because the indicator had the number of the bus and then some message different to the other buses. But I don’t know – probably to do with a delay.

Then I had to know where to get off. That was relatively easy because at the end of the route all the tourists got off and went to the Tower which is another few hundred meters away.

So that’s the way a project is and the next time I come here should be much easier:

  • I know how the cards work;
  • I know you don’t need to register them;
  • I know where you can load them;
  • I know you have to have a card;
  • I know how to find my way out of the metro station;
  • I can orient myself on the map.

So I learned a lot. Doing it another time would probably be a good bit easier which is just the way projects are.

Thanks very much and goodbye.

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Actionable Brexit Plan for SMEs

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Brexit Escape Room
Time to plan for Brexit?

Is it too soon to plan for #Brexit?

Whatever way #Brexit unfolds, Ireland is one of the countries most affected, possibly even more so than Britain itself. Because of this, Irish businesses, both north and south, need to implement urgent and unavoidable process changes, over and above their normal business operations. This is likely to lead to overload or emergency, unless the necessary resources are applied AND the planning starts soon enough, even before it becomes clear what specifically needs to be done.

This is different from traditional projects, where the objectives are usually visible by the time the planning begins. In the case of #Brexit, where the implementation date was slipped twice and it may even not take place, the time for this pre-planning is “as soon as possible”.

Book now

This situation corresponds to Scatterwork’s core expertise area of Project Implementation, based on which the BrexitEscapeRoom has been developed. This is a hands-on, dynamic and collaborative workshop for SMEs, combining both training and consultancy.

Participants come with (some idea of) WHAT needs to be done, based on their knowledge of their business, advice from government and EU agencies, trade associations, banks, professional advisors etc.

They take away a thorough #Brexit implementation plan, which they can use to delegate the work and get critical support from customers, suppliers and staff.

Grant Aid

Usually the benefits for Scatterwork’s clients are far in excess of the costs (all business is like this) but because the impact of #Brexit is likely to be so great, government grants which can be applied to reduce the cost even further are being offered:

Book now

When are Brexit Escape Room workshops available?

Monthly through the summer, with additional capacity for September:

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OK, so what is a project?

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Photo by Sweet Ice Cream Photography on Unsplash

The books tell us that a project delivers a product, a service or a change of state. But what does this actually mean?

A product is easy enough and there are plenty of examples. If a business moves its office from one place to another and this means that new furniture has to be purchased, then bringing it to the new office location could be a deliverable of the office moving project. You can check that the item was received in the right place and tick off this deliverable on your list.

Or we can take an example from outside work, where we invite friends to dinner. The food and drink, carefully prepared and brought to the table and laid out so that our friends know that they were expected, could also be considered to be a deliverable. The product is all the food nicely prepared and brought to the table, particularly if arranged by a catering company.

The second category of project delivers a service. This is not as tangible as a project but is very common in business. Consider for example an insurance company which offers an existing car insurance product which is available to anyone over the age of 25 years. After some market research, it is decided that this service should be extended to cover anyone at least 18 years old, so the work involved in the project is to do everything that is needed to extend the insurance offer to this broader age group. For example, we need new publicity, we need to calculate new prices and the conditions need to be changed and agreed with the various business interests, as well as training for the employees and so on. When everything is ready, the new service is rolled out as a package. If somebody between 18 and 25 walks into an insurance company, the insurance is available to them, in other words, a new service has been delivered, most likely by using a project approach.

But what about a change of state, what does this mean?

Anyone who has worked in the factory will be familiar with testing of products before they are shipped out. They will probably be kept kept in one space until ready for testing, then moved to another space after testing. The products look the same but because they are kept in the storage space for tested products, they can be shipped and therefore have more value.

What has changed is the state. At the beginning each product was untested, and now it has been tested so there has been a change of state.

Another example of a change of state is a training program. Typically we have so many people who come to the training whose knowledge is at a certain level. When they leave the training, hopefully they will have a higher level of knowledge. This improvement is a change of state. The organising of the training might be done on a project basis and the change of state considered to be a deliverable.

But there is another example which I often hear when delivering workshops and that is a wedding. A wedding delivers a number of different things, for example an opportunity to invite friends and relations and to enjoy the event together and this could be considered a type of service, particularly if organised by a hotel. It’s not the type of deliverable which is an item which you can hand over, but when the visitors go home satisfied, they have had a service delivery.

But a key part of a wedding is the very public and formal recording of the change of status of two individuals to one couple. Quite apart from their satisfaction of planning their lives together, there is a very strong legal change of status which happens in this situation. In many countries, if one of a married couple dies, what they owned passes to the other person automatically, which does not happen if they were not married.

So we have three types of project deliverables. The first example was furniture being delivered, a meal being delivered or some other item that can be handed over.

Then we looked at services, for example extending an existing insurance offering so that it covers people of a younger age group. When the extended service is ready to be offered, then that’s the end of the project that was used to develop and introduce the service.

Or the hotel guests at the wedding get a service, including not just the food but the delivery in a pleasant atmosphere, hopefully leaving satisfied.

Then the third category is the change of state where we looked at two examples: testing of material in a factory before it shipped. The product is the same but the fact that it has been tested is a change of state.

And the other example we had was the legal side of a wedding because it has a big impact on many aspects of life, for example inheritance.

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Relaunch of Scatterwork Newsletter

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announcement
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Scatterwork’s contribution to reducing Information Overload

Somebody once said that life is easy: you “do again what works” and you “stop doing what does not work”. It is said that it was Einstein who defined insanity as:

“doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.

Personally, I have enormous respect for Einstein, who developed his world-shattering theories sitting alone at home, after his day job as patent agent.  A visit to the Einstein Exhibition at the Historical Museum in Bern, the capital of Switzerland where he worked, is to be recommended.

Of course, getting inspiration for “what works” depends on easy access to ideas, opinions, events, contacts etc.

Like any business, Scatterwork has its strengths and resources, which make it easier for clients to “do again what works” when implementing projects.  The Website presents our services and the Newsletter shares events, opinions and thoughts so taken together, a link to the searchable archive should make it easier for anyone to identify what we do and decide if it is relevant for them.

This means that the regular issue of the newsletter is an important part of our contribution to “thought leadership” in Scatterwork’s area of expertise, Projects and reduction in Information Overload.

The Newsletter publication has been revamped

To relaunch the Newsletter, a survey of issues which have caused the newsletter not to be published regularly has been carried out and the issues addressed.  This post represents the Relaunch of the Scatterwork Newsletter, which:

  • Consolidates links to new posts (like this one) which have been issued since the last edition.
  • Mails them to our subscribers.  The mailing list itself has also been re-initiated to meet the demands of GDPR and some technical issues which were flagging our mails as spam have been resolved.
  • Places them in the archive, which can also be linked from the website footer.

The Scatterwork website has been restructured

The website should also make it easy to find out what Scatterwork does.  In the light of developments in communications (particularly the shift to mobile devices for browsing) and the development of our client base, the website has been restructured to:

  • to simplify access to information about our commonest services
  • to position the website for a future template update, to leverage from the new editor in WordPress.

Please help us to spread the word!

If you receive this post by email, you are already on our mailing list. To help your colleagues also to be aware of how Scatterwork might be relevant for them, please:

  • review who you know:
    • in another company
    • in the same region or country as you
    • who is involved in projects
  • forward this link Newsletter Sign-up Form to them.

And please do tell us what project topics you would like us to address, thank you.

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3 Tips for faster Virtual Team Problem Solving

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Problem solving can require thousands of personal transactions or messages and research has even higher messaging levels. So every transaction delay time adds to the time it takes to get solutions.

We can see that with this transaction path diagram where the message goes from one person to the second to the third – all of them searching for the solution and every time hopefully they get a little closer to it.

But is there is a big problem: it can take thousands of these transactions. A day has over 86,000 seconds so if the reaction times take days instead of seconds, the solution time increases by a factor of tens of thousands.

So the 1st tip is that business users should learn from social media users, who react in seconds. For example on facebook you get immediate answers. “React in seconds”.

The 2nd tip: use collaborative applications which generate email notifications and that everybody can work on the same ideas and documents at once. For example, Google Docs for text documents, Mindmeister for mindmaps, Cacoo for drawings; Basecamp for Project Management, Questetra for Workflows and so on.

Then the 3rd tip is: that each person turns on all the notifications and forwards them automatically to on inbox, and then here’s the big one: test all the communication pairs between yourself and everyone else, so that if you send a message that they get an email notification that doesn’t go into to spam, for example.

Because if it does, its delay there of days makes it impossible to solve the problems. Not just difficult, but impossible. And then of course, when you get a notification click on it immediately because it will bring usually directly to where the topic is within the application, which saves your user time.

So if you found this issue of interest or you have any other project issues, please feel free to contact me. Thanks very much.

Dr. Deasún Ó Conchúir (pronounce) is a Collaboration Consultant at
ScatterworkOnline Training for Project Management & Team Building

Email: deasun@scatterwork.com
Tel: +41 79 692 4735

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It’s all in the Communication

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I’m just preparing to go to a conference and that’s for communication; that’s to fill out in between all of the millions of emails and telephone conferences and so forth.

A chance to meet real people face-to-face.

It’s also a chance to hear presentations, sometimes good, sometimes not so good, and a conference always brings surprises as well. Maybe an insight to something or an opportunity to think something through that has been on the long finger for a long time.

Communication is also an issue among schoolchildren. A recent report in Switzerland looked to find out if the social networks are replacing personal communications and the answer is “no”.

People have communications with each other and then the social network is a way of keeping in touch with them.

But they don’t start from there, not for real communications.

And then the same thing applies in the political world. There have been very big movements globally in various elections and referenda in recent times and it seems that some of the comments that are coming out is that the way of communicating with particular groups in the population was maybe much, much more direct than the traditional elevated way that we tend to use in a working environment.

So all of that is very relevant to how that we work in the modern world and I’m looking forward to your comments and your experiences on that below this blog.

Thanks very much.
—-

Dr. Deasún Ó Conchúir (pronounce) is a Collaboration Consultant at
ScatterworkOnline Training for Project Management & Team Building

Email: deasun@scatterwork.com
Tel: +41 79 692 4735 Talk to me
LinkedIn: Connect with me
Sign-up: Newsletter
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Objections to Training in Cyberspace

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Scatterwork gets a lot of comments about why Training in Cyberspace can’t work so it makes sense to listen to what is being said. A lot of them boil down to personal issues and here are five of them.

One is that the participant has the freedom to be engaged or not to be engaged; to come on time or not to come on time and thats related to self-control.

If during a program, they get involved in other things because nobody can see them, then clearly the training interaction or the learning interaction is not going to be as effective.

The third one is that it can be very impersonal to be on the receiving end of training through cyberspace. That can be very appropriate for example for a webinar where there’s a thousand people online but if you’ve got a team and they need to learn things, it is not as good that they are just on the receiving end, a bit like a cinema.

A fourth objection is the one of responsibility. Again it is a bit like the freedom. People have the responsibility to learn – that is always true of course – but it in a live training environment somebody will notice that it is not working very well and they might cajole or pull people in. But in the cyberspace environment nobody is going to notice.

Another objection we get is that it can be very isolating. You are doing your learning, you don’t really know who else is involved, and this makes it harder to follow up. So in Scatterwork we have a few guidelines that help us when we are preparing learning in cyberspace. We make sure the participants get to know each other personally.

This can be by for example showing each other their Facebook pages or something more than “hello let’s start the business”.

We hold training for teams, not for individuals because by being part of a team it makes learning much better, particularly topics that are in any case targeted at teams – such as project management.

We build in processes to keep the participants in touch after the training event. It is not adequate just to say “you guys can be in touch with each other” – you really need to provide some sort of structure for it to happen.

And likewise for programming the time, somebody who’s doing a program also has to do some private learning. It does not work too well just say “you should do some programming of when you’re going to learn”. It’s much better to build that in as part of the progra.

So if you want to discuss any of these issues with me, then please feel free to connect – I look forward to hearing from you.

Dr. Deasún Ó Conchúir (pronounce) is a Collaboration Consultant at Scatterwork, which supports Project Solutions for Virtual Teams.

Email: deasun@scatterwork.com

Tel: +41 79 692 4735 Talk to me

LinkedIn: Connect with me

Sign-up: Newsletter

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Are you ready for virtual project management training?

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A project is a unique undertaking where part of the uniqueness is the particular combination of people. They will probably have different understandings of how to run the project, different experience and different styles and the people need to develop into a coherent team.

Getting a project up and running is always a challenge. Ideally everyone understands the requirements and they bring their varying experience and styles to develop a solution.

In practice, the team will not reach the “performing” stage without passing through “forming” and “norming”. A project is not simply a collection of technical objects and processes, but a team effort of people who probably never worked in quite that configuration before.

One of the ideal ways of building a team is to provide the group as a whole training about the project, what is wanted and how it might be delivered. By adding some technical project management training, the team have to opportunity to share their competence and to support each other in a way not possible if the project is managed as if it were simply a technical undertaking.

Even before the term “virtual project management” came into fashion, many projects had team members in different places, multitasking and meeting only from time to time. This seems to work best when most of the team know each other. Similarly, if most of the team share something in common (e.g. the employer), the virtual training can also be very effective.

In reality all projects these days have members who operate individually and work in different places, maybe even in different countries. The term “virtual team” is effectively redundant but it is still not always easy to bring these people together for face-to-face training.

Virtual project management training has great advantages as the logistics are far easier than traveling to meet in one place. With proper organisation and infrastructure, the benefit:cost ratio can be better than face-to-face events.

Dr. Deasún Ó Conchúir (pronounce) is a Collaboration Consultant at Scatterwork, which supports Project Solutions for Virtual Teams.

Email: deasun@scatterwork.com

Tel: +41 79 692 4735 Talk to me

LinkedIn: Connect with me

Sign-up: Newsletter

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How to select your remote team members

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I am going to give 4 pointers about how to select remote team members.

The first of them is competence. You always need competence among people working with you but when remote, they cannot see when you are available and ask for your assistance.

They they might not be online all the time and people have different rhythms; they might be in different time zones and so on. So the person needs to be able to do the work on their own.

The second is good chemistry, because it’s very easy in an electronic environment to misunderstand somebody, particularly when there are different cultures involved or people have a different choice of words. If there is good rapport, it will be easier to keep the communications under control.

The third one is: communication itself must be reliable. There are two things here. One of them is that the status must be reported: “I have just started this” or ” I have just finished that” and finishing something and not telling the next person in the chain blocks the work. The other person just doesn’t know.

And the other thing about communications is that when you speak or write you have to be able to understand each other. Maybe there are culture and language differences. It is fine if the communication is slow but what is not good is when people really don’t understand each other and they muddle along and create problems.

The fourth requirement of course is honesty. We can check, we can get background checks and references and things like that. In a remote environment it is harder to check up.

One way to work it out is to get these indicators of honesty and then to give a small task out and over a period of time. Working together you get a feel if the person is honest. People are very, very sensitive to honesty and dishonesty among others.

So there you have four tips: competence, good chemistry or rapport, reliable communications and honesty.

Thank you.

Dr. Deasún Ó Conchúir (pronounce) is a Collaboration Consultant at Scatterwork, which supports Project Solutions for Virtual Teams.

Email: deasun@scatterwork.com

Tel: +41 79 692 4735 Talk to me

LinkedIn: Connect with me

Sign-up: Newsletter

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How can your team get more done?

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How can your team get more done?

I am going to give you four tips. The first of these is responsibility, that is responsibility not only for doing the work but for making sure that it is correct. In the old days, bosses used to give out work and then come back to check it.

That has several disadvantages including that it’s dispiriting and it also causes delays, because you have to wait for the boss to come and then the boss effectively becomes a roadblock so the work gets slowed down. So that is not a very good idea.

The second tip is to have clearly defined small tasks. In a virtual team, it seems to work better when the tasks are much smaller than they would be if you are working in the same place. In the same place (“colocation”) you can check as you go along but in the virtual world, somebody starts a task and might get interrupted and then come back to it and so forth. So it seems to work better that the work is broken down into smaller tasks than otherwise.

The third thing, of course, is competence and part of competence is suitable training. People come into the work, they have the background, they know the company and so on, but it may be that what you are doing is new and they need some introduction to what it is; some background information. So competence and training.

The fourth one is standardized tools Just think of how difficult it is if two or three different people in the team use different applications for something as simple as setting up the time of a meeting. That can waste a lot of time: copying and pasting, importing calendar events and so on. So it does make sense to work out a minimum set of standardized tools.

Think of it like the telephone, which just works. It should be the same when you’re working in a virtual team.

So there you have the four tips: responsibility, defined tasks, competence & training and standardized tools.

Thank you.
Dr. Deasún Ó Conchúir (pronounce) is a Collaboration Consultant at Scatterwork, which supports Project Solutions for Virtual Teams.

Email: deasun@scatterwork.com

Tel: +41 79 692 4735 Talk to me

LinkedIn: Connect with me

Sign-up: Newsletter

Recommend: Share and earn commission.

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