Document version control is important, right?

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Document Version Control is important,right? – a short video from Scatterwork.com. One way of creating problems in the working environment is to collect information that others need, to put it into a version of a document, to pass it on to them but if the information is not correct then that creates problems for the person who gets it. Either they do the wrong thing, that takes their time, they have to sort out the mess and go back or they can’t do their work at all.

So maybe to avoid problems we could think of version control in a more emotional way and say “don’t mess things up for others”. When you pass the information, don’t pass problems to them but make sure that they have the right version of it, and this means all the time: attention to detail.

So if you want to discuss this or any other project issues please connect with me through LinkedIn or any of the other methods.

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

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Don’t risk being late!

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This video from Scatterwork is entitled “Don’t risk being late!” We are talking about projects where the triple constraint is well known. I was once talking to somebody who put it this way. He said “in a project you can have it quick or you can have a cheap or you can have it good.” The punchline is: Which two of those do you want? There are other parameters but usually these are the three important ones. Sponsors need to be pinned down and say of the three which two they want. if they say they want all three,that’s not very realistic. All companies have some way of controlling budgets, money, expenditure and so forth so the “cheap” part is covered by the normal process. In the same way, most companies have some sort of quality approach, quality control and so forth. That corresponds to the “good” constraint.

So that leads us to the conclusion that for a lot of project managers,the thing that we need to prioritize is Time. We look after time and then the system’s look after the other ones. So if you’re interested in these topics or want to discuss your own project, please
connect with me through LinkedIn or any other way. 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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Culture Tips for Long Distance Business Relationships

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This video is about culture tips for long distance business relationships.We mentioned before in another video that two complicating factors are time zones and cultures. Here we’re just picking a very small number of culture tips, which are not even prioritized. There are so many things that we can do in this area. The first tip is to devote time to personal introductions:Who are you? Where are you from? Have you family? All those sort of introductions tend to fall away when we just have electronic communication with somebody in the team somewhere else.By giving specific time where that can happen, a scheduled meeting can be a great idea. People can use their LinkedIn or Facebook pages and show that to the others which certainly helps break the ice.

A related tip is to learn about each other’s cultures. I was on programs in both India and Algeria that had been scheduled by head offices somewhere in Europe. On both occasions they were on the eve of big holidays. Naturally enough, the people I was working with wanted to close and go away in the middle of the day and this was completely ignored by the scheduling. If something is scheduled with no knowledge at all of the big festivals in the country,then that tends to send a very negative signal. Another little tip is to communicate spontaneously so that you actually talk from time to time.

One way of doing this is for example you’re working and you get a message over LinkedIn from somebody who comments on something that you said; then you know that they are active there and then. You can call back and you have a good chance of getting them. Scheduling meetings and so on can be very laborious but the spontaneity can be really nice. Another tip is to mix communication methods because skills in different languages vary. It could be that somebody writes well in one language but doesn’t speak it so well; or understands very well but doesn’t write very well and so on.

If for example we have a meeting by telephone or teleconference supported by slides with diagrams, work breakdown structures, Gantt charts or whatever and then afterwards we ask if there are questions and allow time for replies: maybe 24 hours. The questions might come back in written format,there might be a 2nd conference and so forth. This might seem to be “overkill”, that it’s too much. It is if everyone speaks the same language but it certainly is not if the team members speak various native languages. It allows people to latch in and genuinely understand what is happening.

The final tip is to get a good collaboration app such as Podio (or search for “alternatives for Podio”). You have a task that needs to be done; it goes into a database with a message saying “please do this” and then onto that you can hang messages, comments, documents, links etc. If you’re talking, you can click on the person’s image and up comes the video conference. This is much better than email where you have to think “what did that relate to?” and make a mental connection with the topic. Maybe the document you are talking about is somewhere else, so you loose a lot of time just jumping between one another.So clearly, there are dozens of things in this area that could be said but these are just a few short ideas. If any of this is of interest to you, please feel free to contact me. 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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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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Best methods to set up a call for mutiple time zones

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This video is about best methods to set up calls for multiple time zones. The challenge is that except for very local projects contact with other time zones is an everyday experience. Global time zones change depending on the time of year so there’s no single point of reference and in fact in some countries there is no change.

Time zones must be respected for successful live contacts. So here are some examples of the complications that can arise when people are in different zones. Within a zone it’s fine.

China uses one time zone even though the country is several time zones wide so people get up at different times of the day depending where they live.

In India the standard time zone is aligned with a half hour in most other zones. This allows all of India to be on one time zone, which is convenient for India but it’s slightly different if you’re dealing globally.

Then Europe and North America both change from summer-time to winter-time, or daylight saving time, but they don’t change on the same date. So that means that the difference between them changes twice a year.

So one simple solution is to send an invitation using an ordinary meeting function through your email, but do it while in telephone contact. Then the person who gets it will see the time and if it’s not right, they could say “please resend that for an hour earlier” for example.

By doing that you can find a time. This is not very good when there are lots of participants or they are in different time zones and indeed it takes a lot of time because both people have to be online to do it.

A better approach is to use an application which presents two or three time options to the invitee and they can select the one they want and click on it. Because these systems check the calendar of the sender, then if a time is selected, it’s a free time. So you cut out altogether the telephone so there’s far less effort. But as well as that, you don’t need to be on line at the same time. However a lot of these systems work for single meetings: one person with one.

Another alternative is to use an application which allows people to view the time of the meeting but when they look at it, their computer will convert it into local time and handle all the time zone issues.

We use this at Scatterwork to schedule our global workshops. The initiator can send a time; other people can look at that time in their own computers. So for example, here you see that the time of the meeting was set for 3 p.m. But on the computer where I viewed, it there was an hour difference between universal time and my time, so it shows me my time as well. Here it just says “by the way, there are eleven days before this meeting”.

Now, if other people get the same link, when they look at it, this line here about your time will be different depending on where they are. So that’s a very convenient thing when the central point has to choose a time and say “this is the time, please check what it is in your time zone”.

A more reliable approach is to use a process to set up meeting times. This involves adding steps in. For example a manager may wish to check their calendar for availability.

To control processes like that needs something more complex and we use for example Kissflow but there are other products out there and they manage the sequence of actions in the cloud and across time zones. So that if for example you say “send out the time for a meeting” and then the next action is to check it, then there is a delay until everybody has said “I’ve checked it”. So that’s more complex but more reliable approach.

This is what one of those workflows might look like. It has several steps in it and it takes some time to set up, but if you have big meetings or important meetings, it might be worth doing this.

So the summary is that simple methods are not really adequate in the global environment. Informal methods take time they take a lot of effort and they are likely to result in mistakes. And the third option is to live with the complexity of multiple time zones and used better tools and methods.

So if you are interested in any of these issues, please do contact us at scatterwork.com and we’d be happy to talk to you. 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

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How to make your Virtual Team work – Part 2

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This is the second short video based on the keynote presentation to the PMI Serbia Chapter Project Society Conference in Belgrade in September 2015.

In this section we’re talking about personal experiences of virtual teams and I’m presenting five of them: the first one involved a research team where everybody was in one city. We used to meet from time to time and in fact physically whenever we could. What was interesting was that when somebody was absent, they joined the meeting by Skype. One time one of the participants instead of being in Switzerland was in China and I hadn’t been notified in advance. I turned up to the meeting, asked where he was and someone said “oh that’s all right; he’ll join in anyway”. With that sort of environment where people are very used to using their smartphones, the interactions and the development of the project can be really very speedy, very fast compared to the old way of doing projects, where people used to hold their decisions until they actually met face to face.

A second format that I experienced involved bringing people together in the chapters of the Project Management Institute over all of EMEA, in other words from South Africa right up to Finland, which involves about a hundred and twenty countries. But this turned out to be particularly difficult because I think the people did not know each other. They spoke different languages, they had different cultures but there were also technical issues, for example some people preferred to join a meeting by telephone, others said yes, that was too expensive but they were quite happy with something like Skype. If you were on telephone, then you couldn’t share the slides and it took a lot of effort even to get consensus on things like how long the meeting should be, how often it should take place and what technology it should use. So that was a very challenging environment.

Another one that I’ve experienced involves PMI volunteers located globally.These people do in fact know each other and they meet each other once a year precisely to get to know each other. It’s called a planning meeting but it would be very hard to work if the people didn’t really know each other. It involves interviewing people and so that coverage can be offered globally.There are three people in each team and any two of them can usually make a meeting, regardless of where the applicant is.

Another format that I worked with was by having all the members of the team in one country.This meant that they shared language, time zone, legal environment and this made the contract issues easier.  From time to time there were face-to-face meetings but the international working was limited by the choice of language. If a project is going to be global, it really needs a global language or one that is at least spoken by the vast majority of the people involved.

And a fifth environment that I’ve had contact with was a network of teams. In the previous example it was a network of individuals but this has a disadvantage that if one person is away, than their skill-set drops out and they don’t really have anyone that they can brief. But by having contacts along the same lines but with teams means that when something needs to be covered, then another person in the team can be briefed and brought in. Also if there are problems or challenges or arguments, then it’s easier to change the people involved because there are more people there and that makes it easier to resolve.

However a feature of this type has been commercial differences an some of them very much unexpected. For example, between Europe and the United States there are very different ways of using banks. United States people use checks a lot; in Europe they have been superseded by electronic transfers completely. People publish their bank account number because all you can do with it is put money into it. In the United States there is a preference not to publish bank account numbers. So those sort of things can mean that the commercial interaction is that little bit more difficult.

So if you wish to discuss any of your own project issues with me please, to connect through all the usual methods either through our website at scatterwork.com and email phone, call or connecting by LinkedIn. I look forward to hearing from you, 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

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Scatterwork Guest: How to start your Meeting with a Virtual Icebreaker

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Icebreaker games are something that you would normally do in a collocation.

Today we’re going to do that online in an online meeting, something quite different. Some of the things you’ll see on the screen are cues for us to be able to have some fun together. We can see which locations we are from; we can see Macdara is in Switzerland. I also have a fortune cookie; everyone gets a fortune cookie, another item for us to discuss before we start the game.

Once all participants are online (we can have up to 10 participants) we will go ahead and start the icebreaker game. I just get a warning saying that people won’t be able to start, if I start it.

The first element which we are going to do is something called the dream vacation,talk about her dream vacation together; that’s the name of this particular ice-breaker and everyone has an opportunity to type in what their dream vacation will be.

I’ve got mine pre-done. I’ll go ahead, and type it in, as well as my friend will also type theirs in. Once I’m done typing, I hit continue – its waiting for everyone to do their responses.

On this screen we get to find out who’s done which dream  vacation. Obviously with two people it doesn’t make as much sense as if you had five or ten people on the screen. I’m going to go ahead make my guess and say that I like it and then I continue on to the next screen and I’m waiting for my friend – there we go.

As the moderator I get to choose to expand on my experience. In this particular instance I’ve always wanted to go to Tahiti. I want to experience the local culture, be able to do some scuba diving, just see as much as I can about the islands. I’m not much of a  beach dweller so I wouldn’t spend too much time there.

Once I hit next it goes on to the next individual to expand on their experience. They would talk about how they wanted to go to the north pole before it melts and when that person is done they hit next and that goes in the same same way through all the participants. So Macdara,  go ahead and hit next.

Then we get a summary of what’s happening. We can see who’s done what, who’s got correct guesses.

There’s been “likes” received. Once we get to this stage we’re able to continue with our meeting more invigorated. We’ve been able to learn a little bit more about each other.

I’ve learned quite a bit about co-workers like this. I learned that I’ve got friends that are pilots that I never knew are pilots before; that were certified scuba divers I never realized that before so it’s been an excellent experience for me.

I hope you enjoyed it thank you, Gerard Beaulieu of Virtualicebreakers.com.

 

Scatterwork supports Project Solutions for Virtual Teams.

Email: deasun@scatterwork.com

Tel: +41 79 692 4735 Talk to 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

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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

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Scatterwork Guest: Why must virtual teams have soft skills?

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My name is Howard Esbin and I’m the creator a virtual team game.

Virtual Team members need trust to collaborate effectively. The research shows that the lack of trust is fundamentally the greatest challenge that virtual teams globally are facing today. The research also shows that there is a direct correlation between social emotional intelligence on virtual teams, that’s soft skills, and the degree of trust that may manifest.

The research also shows that if there is limited soft skills,chances are trust will be affected and there will be a significant lack thereof. The challenge for virtual teams, leadership and training is that there is insufficient time to build relationships. There is an inability to read nonverbal cues and there’s a lack above water cooler moments. The goal for effective training is to actually create virtual water cooler equivalence and to promote symbolic communications.

The research further shows its symbolic communication and the equivalent water cooler moments are going to be tied to a variety of soft skill applications. Our original research has identified twenty best practices and when one looks at these in total,they’re all about engaging and connecting the whole person and virtual team emotionally at the start a project. These best practices help a virtual team,essentially of virtual strangers, break the ice and therefore provide the equivalent of water-cooler moments using online play, games and creativity.

In summary, why must virtual team’s have soft skills? To be productive virtual teams need to trust each other. In order to trust, virtual team members must be self-aware and pacific, appreciate their differences and communicate honestly. These are all soft skills. Thank you.
Virtual Teams (1)

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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