Be a part of the project takeover!

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Hello this video is about taking over a troubled project and the reason it’s troubled is that it’s not meeting expectations: of time, cost, scope, quality and so on.You have been brought in to “achieve” where the last project manager is said to have “failed”. The key issue here is: who is doing the expecting and what are their expectations? Are they realistic? Are they unrealistic?  Or maybe they have not been properly informed what is happening. So what we’re going to do here is review the project and go right back to the beginning of the planning and reconnect on the expectations at every stage. This will be your project takeover. We iterate through all of that so that by the time we finish, we have a plan which has been agreed. So we will start probably with the project charter – get agreement on that-that is what they say they want – and then we do a scope statement based on that and if necessary in getting agreement we adjust the charter again.

Then we move forward to working out the work breakdown structure so that we know what the work packages are and again we cross check with the scope statement and when that’s all ok, then we move on and review the schedule and so on. At each stage if we get a comment “well, that does not fit what I want”, the question is “what would you like to change?” We can move the pieces around but things that are are not workable or very serious is when somebody says “OK, i want you to work an extra 50% – I want you to do two projects at once – I want you to work all weekend every weekend”. Those sort of comments are not very realistic and if you agree to them,you have a high risk that you will not meet the expectations and then you’re back in the old problem.

So you have to be very realistic there and one approach to that is:when there are trade-offs, to offer maybe three options. If they say that they don’t like any of them you say: “yes, I know that but that is a logical follow on from what you said you wanted”. Now that we’ve got the renewed plan we can start doing the management and we come into the team.This is a well-known model which suggests that if people are of low maturity for projects, then when they come into the work, you give them high direction and low support. You just tell them what to do. As they get better you move over to here, to No. 2. You still tell them what to do but you also support them and show them how to do it and so forth. Bit by bit they get the idea so you continue to give them high support but you drop your directiveness.You are less directive. You help them but you don’t tell them what to do.And then when they get really good,then you can give low direction and low support.

If in this journey you find things don’t work very well, then you can backtrack. Probably the safest place to start is up here because you don’t annoy people. If they are very experienced and you tell them what to do, then you have lost them.   But if you start up here and it doesn’t work you can always backtrack. So if you would like to discuss any of your project issues with us please connect with me through LinkedIn or any of the other ways.
Thanks very much.

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

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You create errors; Communication solves them

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Hello! Here’s another short video from Scatterwork, this time about errors in work and using good communication to solve them.

In a project environment there are deliverables to be delivered, in other words there is work to be done; it has to be done the right way; in the right place, at the right time and so on and the big challenge is usually to fit everything together.

Very often the technology is well known and the company is doing projects similar to the last time so it’s really this meeting of minds which is the hardest part.

Well, we want to understand what the other person is saying and they want to understand what we are saying. They say that there are three different ways of learning; three ways we can think of communicating.

One way of learning is by sound. For example I knew somebody who used to remember telephone numbers by the tone that the dial used to do; they used to have a tone for every number and she used to remember the tune.

She was a musician and that was her way of communicating.

Other people are very vision oriented and it’s much easier for them to understand what’s happening if they get a little picture and this is why PowerPoint slides are so successful.

And then another way of learning is by movement; for example if we say “we’d like you to make a picture of this” and you draw it. The actual doing of that somehow communicates with our body and it helps the memory.

Now, with virtual teams we don’t have that third one but we do have the first two. So what I would suggest is to use a combination of communication styles and to stimulate a combination from the people that we’re trying to understand so that we really understand what they’re saying.

We can get our ideas together and then agree what needs to be done.

Thanks very much.

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

Please share with colleagues, who also get 10% off their first booking.

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Scatterwork Guest: Beware of Project Bias

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Project Bias or how our psychology undermines perceptions and decisions.

Projects are meant to be diligent,almost scientific undertakings with carefully planned business cases, weighted risks and detailed procedures and governance. But the reality is that everyone is biased and these biases affect the way we see the world, the assumptions we make and the basis for all our decisions.

The problem with any bias is when it’s unconscious. If you know for example that you tend to be over-optimistic in your view of the future,then you can make sure other people know this about you and you can take particular care to make sure you have mitigated any risks may cause.

My name is Jonathan Norman. I’m the publisher at Gower Publishing and I’m going to share a couple of striking examples of project bias and offer you some advice on how to deal with it.

We all like to believe what we want to believe and as a result we all fall foul of confirmation bias from time to time.

Arguably project managers are more prone than others because there’s so much pressure to provide hard evidence when he you’re making a business case or advocating a change.

Essentially confirmation biases are inclination to put unjustified weight behind selected pieces of evidence because they support or confirm some aspect of our Project. I suspect that illusion of control is the most challenging bias for project managers not least because people expect us to be in control.

But don’t ever be tempted to assume that because you’re planning your schedule map out the way a project will run that you control the project.

Remember, if you ever find your risk riding superhuman power to your ability to deliver outcomes the benefits associated with your project and only be realized by the users and if you think you can control customers, employees or other users,then clearly you are deluding yourself.

In many situations including projects, people resist change and this is a really compelling reason to do it, most often because we believe the changes will make things worse.

Look at the recent FIFA elections and the re-election Sepp Blatter. How many of those voting were more concerned about what the absence of Sepp might do to the continued commercial success of FIFA and investment in football in their country than they were by the prospect of a fifth term with Sepp.

I’m not telling you about project bias to trip you up or make you feel bad about yourself or other people but here are five simple tactics you can use to mitigate the problem.

The first thing is to recognize that project bias happens. Everyone is subject to bias.

Secondly, try to keep things simple. Bias is far more apparent in situations where decisions and solutions are transparent.

Thirdly, ask yourself what happens if i’m wrong or if we are wrong. Just because something is unlikely doesn’t mean it will never happen. Make sure you have a backup plan.

Fourthly, check the sources of your information. Risk registers and benefit maps can look imposing and authoritative but to what extent are they based simply on someone’s perception as opposed to actual research.

Finally be suspicious of your bias, particularly if it is pronounced and particularly if you’re dealing with a genuinely new situation but it’s hard to categorize on the basis of prior knowledge. But don’t discount you bias out of hand. Biases are developed from our experience of prior events so they can be very useful radar systems if something is going wrong.

Thank you for listening.

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

Please share with colleagues, who also get 10% off their first booking.

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Sharpen your Cultural Sensitivity

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Hello and welcome to another short video from Scatterwork, this time about sharpening your cultural sensitivity within virtual teams.No work takes place without people and everything that happens in the working world is initiated by people and even when there is deep automation, what work is done and when is decided by individuals.

A key competence that allows that in humanity is the ability to communicate and how we communicate is profoundly affected by our cultural programming.So communication can be smooth when both sides use the same program but unconscious use of different programs can lead to profound problems and misunderstandings.

Now, culture has many dimensions: how we eat dress, speak, live, legislate and social rules for hierarchy, religion, motivation,morals, beliefs, attitudes etc are all cultural dimensions and the fact that there are so many has big, big implications for the complexity and risk of virtual teams.

The risks are multiplied by the number of dimensions so the more complexity there is, the more likely we are to trip up on something and the resulting communication risk is huge even in moderate size teams so we ask the question: how are we going to survive? And here we have a few tips. One of them is to dedicate a virtual meeting time to
listening to members, for example explaining why a particular day is a holiday where they live.This will
give us hints about background,history, locality, religion and so on and so on from the other place and of course if we do the same they will have the benefit of understanding us better.

Agree to delay the reaction to “funny” or unusual behavior.It may be something was totally
unacceptable but we need to stop and think.It may have been that what they did was meant to bring a completely different reaction because of our different programming.

Recognize that you yourself are programmed and are not culturally neutral.You can ask others what they find culturally exotic in your behavior.
And ask others who know the other cultures to brief you.This is a very easy way to find out.People who have worked in the other cultures that are in your team and see what they have to say.So Scatterwork supports Project Solutions for Virtual Teams.

So if any of this is of interest to you,you have all the contact details on that page.

Thanks very much.

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

Please share with colleagues, who also get 10% off their first booking.

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Use Games to Build your Virtual Team

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Hello and welcome to this short video from Scatterwork about using games to build your virtual team. Virtual teams needs defined operating agreements, they need to implement rituals and they need to share planning.

Now, operating agreements, ground rules or whatever you like to call them are essential so the people operate in more or less the same way.

For example somebody may have made strenuous effort to get to a meeting on time or maybe they had to put a baby to bed or change your flight. So not sticking to the agreed time can have big consequences so it’s better to have rules.

Rituals help the momentum when systems fail.So for example when a call is held at the same time every day but the link drops out but because it’s a ritual,the parties spend several minutes trying to reestablish contact.

If it wasn’t a ritual they were just go offline and the work would not get done. And then chairing the planning:
engagement is lacking if planning is simply imposed but that’s much more true in the virtual environments.

For example how work is done can be very local so telling people what to do is not always the best way to do it.

But when it’s completed, it’s shared with the whole team and that’s an issue for the team as a whole.

So the question is: where is the glue that holds the team of people together and the suggestion is that games can be used to help build a virtual team. Think if the games that people play at parties to speed up the process of getting to know everybody. And these days there are a lot of shared applications so that several people can log in at once and use them and they’re great tools for games.

So here’s one: your virtual team needs to introduce its members to others (think Facebook terms) so put the members in groups of three and by having them in separate groups, then you’ll get more ideas than if you put them all in one team.

Then tell them within each team to connect with each other by text or voice and then find out how to connect with
Google slides or some other application, where several people can join in at the
same time and then develop a page to introduce the people in the team. And then afterwards bring all the teams back together and hold a competition to select the best page.

But this is very useful because even the fact of producing a page together with photos and text generates interaction and the interaction, notice, cannot even start without real time communication. And the team learns how to access a cooperative working space which can be used for other things.

So if you find this interesting remember that Scatterwork supports Project Solutions for Virtual Teams and the contact details are on this page.

Thanks very much.

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

Please share with colleagues, who also get 10% off their first booking.

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Why meet for group assignments?

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Hello, this is another short video from Scatterwork, this time about distributing work in a virtual team environment during group assignments. For example at a kick-off project meeting where everything has been decided and we really want to get the work moving as quickly as we can.

The trick, or the strategy, here is to recognize the type meeting this is. This is effectively not a group assignment but a one-way meeting. Of course there will be questions and so but this is completely different from a problem solving type of meeting; different interactions will be required.

Now, to make it work there has to be proper structure and support. People have to be invited correctly they have to turn up on time. There need to be proper minutes and then there needs to be a strong chairperson and so forth. If this is not the owner of the project, then that person or the project manager has a much better chance to actually do the work, provided there’s a service like that in the background.

So that’s somewhere we at Scatterwork can help you, is to make these meetings a success. If you have a big project, a lot of people, you need to get it moving fast and it will benefit from not having to travel, well then this is a scenario that might suit this.

I look forward to hearing from you, thank you.

Dr. Deasún Ó Conchúir (pronounce) is a Collaboration Consultant at Scatterwork, Switzerland who supports Virtual Working for Virtual Teams globallyReach out by setting up a short call or e-mailing deasun@scatterwork.com.

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Leave unsafe travel environments behind

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Here is a short video from Scatterwork about the benefits of avoiding unsafe environments while traveling in the interest of training or coordination of virtual teams. We all know that it’s never 100 percent safe to travel. Everyday of the week there are car accidents and trains and much evidence of unsafe travel. We just have to accept that and get on with our business. Very often the alternative is poor telephone conferences, not very effective web meetings and so forth. One of the ways of counteracting ineffective meetings is to build more structure into how the meeting is held, how it’s supported and so forth. This is a skill that a virtual team will have. So, I’d like to suggest that to you. If you have project activities that need to be supported and you’d like to do it without traveling, do get in touch with me and we’ll see how we can help. Thanks very much.

In the modern world, the optimal solution may not be traditional
face-to-face training that everybody likes and finds very effective, but
virtual training. Please help us to rank our list of virtual training
features: Can Virtual Training replace traditional events? (5 minute survey)

Also, if you have any queries, then please select a time to call or send a message.

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How to schedule global meetings

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Hello this is Deasun î Conchœir from Scatterwork to talk about an issue that should be simple but frequently causes a lot of effort and frustration, how to schedule meetings across time zones.

The first guideline is to recognize that scheduling is an iterative process. So that means messages that come over and back. It requires quite a lot of messages to find the exact time. This can’t be done instantaneously. People who sit in the same office they say yes, no, check that out and so on. But, when you’re working in a distributed environment it takes longer for the process to take place. In addition to that, we have to treat it as a process and not just something that happens in the background.

Guideline number two is to use a scheduling tool that converts time zones automatically to find possible meeting times. If this is done, then the individuals get suggestions and they can read them in their own time zone and so on. It really is not practicable to send things are you available in this time zone. And, of course, if there are errors, the meeting doesn’t take place.

The third guideline is to offer as many time options as possible. If a very limited number of options is sent out, we find that no solution emerges and then we have to repeat two or three days later. So, it saves time just do it in the beginning.

The fourth guideline is to broadcast the options as far in advance as possible. I’ve seen situations where people need three or four meetings over a period of a couple of weeks, maybe six weeks in advance. People always have their diaries full closer to the current time. So, by going out as far in advance as possible, it gives a better chance of finding workable times.

Guideline number five is to not allow individuals to dictate their preferences before starting. If they do, then that limits the choice that is setup and the process doesn’t start. It’s much better to try and recognize these but not to force it on the system and offer lots of options. It may turn out that most of the people are available for a particular time and we have to go back and negotiate. In fact, not even the boss should be allowed to dictate times at the beginning. It should really be done on an open basis and that we find works best.

When we send out requests for availability, we should have a time limit on the reply, for example, 24 hours. Otherwise, people will come back four or five days later and undo the effort that you were putting into the scheduling.

Guideline number seven has already been mentioned in passing. If we look at the feedback from this process and find most people are free for a particular time, we can go back and ask the other person are they really, really not free at the given time. It might have been a preference rather than an absolute. For example, people don’t like to work late at night. But, obviously if they are in an airplane they usually can’t talk.

Guideline number eight is to close the process and say this time was decided. Then, send out a separate invitation with that time. This will make sure that it will show up in everyone’s calendar with their time zone.

So, there you have it. Treat setting up meetings as a process. Do it over a longer period of time. Use a tool that converts time zones and insist on having a wide variety of options.

So, I hope that works for you. If I can help you in any way, please feel free to contact me.

In the modern world, the optimal solution may not be traditional face-to-face training that everybody likes and finds very effective, but virtual training. Please help us to rank our list of virtual training features: Can Virtual Training replace traditional events? (5 minute survey)

Also, if you have any queries, then please select a time to call or send a message.

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Flexible Scheduling with Virtual Training

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Deasún Ó Conchúir from Scatterwork, with another short video about the benefits of virtual training. This time, we’re looking at the flexible scheduling and availability of the trainer, compared to on site events. For on site training, there is always an overhead of time, for travel and for the costs, and this is factored in, and it results in less flexibility, less scheduling flexibility for the trainer.

It can happen, that the trainer that you need, and the availability pattern, cannot meet your requirements, but by going for a virtual event, the availability and flexibility is increased. Training can be done, realistically, in shorter sessions, and the loss of time due to travel disappears completely. In summary, virtual training allows more flexibility in scheduling, and that gives another plus point when you’re setting up your event. Thank you.

In the modern world, the optimal solution may not be traditional face-to-face training that everybody likes and finds very effective, but virtual training. Please help us to rank our list of virtual training features: Can Virtual Training replace traditional events? (5 minute survey)

Also, if you have any queries, then please select a time to call or send a message.

Invite your colleagues to sign up for the Scatterwork Newsletter and they will also get a 10% reduction on their first workshop.

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Scatterwork Guest: How do you see your project?

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My name is Jonathan Norman from Gower Publishing,  a guest of Scatterwork GmbH, and I’d like to introduce you to a new platform we have developed for project and program managers, GpmFirst. In order to do so, I’ve taken a particular theme, which is the question of how do you see your project, and how do others see your project. I’ve chosen this subject for a couple of reasons. It introduces the premise that human psychology is a powerful influence in projects, and their success or failure, and it also underlines one of the key features of the new project community of practice that I mentioned.

Let’s just tackle these elements in order. In each case, I’ve used screen dumps from the community practice to illustrate my points. First of all, how does our psychology influence projects and their success or failure? Have a look at this image that was created by the wonderful writer Gareth Morgan, and is used in our book, “Images or Projects”. Imagine that this is a picture of your project, what do you see? A pig, but it isn’t as simple as that.

Have a look at each of the people around the edge of the image, let’s call them the stakeholders of your project. Put yourself in their shoes, and now look again at the pig, what does each of them see?

To the farmer, the pig represents his livelihood, a source of income. To the butcher, the pig represents a series of joints and cuts, bacon, ham, and so on. To the vet, the pig represents a potential patient. To the little girl, the pig represents the start of a nursery story, you get the point.

The point I’m trying to make is that you need to put yourself in the shoes of your stakeholders and ask yourself, how do they see my project, do they see it differently from the way I see it? What implications does this have on how I should communicate with them, or manage my project?

Once you understand the importance of perception, you’ll understand the idea of a playlist, which is a feature in the platform, www.gpmfirst.com. Rather than simply presenting content in the site in the way that we, our moderator, or our expert authors think it should be presented, we’ve included a feature that allows you to add any elements of the site, chapter, books, user generated articles, videos, community discussion threads, and indeed external links into your end playlist, which you can commentate.

Think of it as your own personal scrapbook of how you see a given theme, or a problem, in project management. Once you’ve created your playlist, and here’s one I created earlier using chapters from our books around the theme of perception in projects, you can share it with others by social media or email, and it will become a part of the searchable content on the platform, so that other users can benefit from how you see projects, or an aspect of project management.

Thank you for listening. If how I see projects peaked your interest, than I hope you’ll take a moment to visit this site to explore the new platform, and to get a sense of how you might use it. I’ve included my contact details on this final slide, so if you’d like to know more, than just go to the website, or contact me directly by email. Thank you very much.

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