How to keep everyone on the same page

‘How to keep everyone on the same page’ a short video from In team work commitments matter, colleagues undertake work expected that the others will also deliver and of course this principle applies to life in general not just a business.

So commitments are important and we share them by a combination of person-to-person communication and keeping the commitment visible. So to keep it visible or to keep everyone on the same page, we publish the team commitments in a format that is easy to read, easy to find and easy to review.

If we do this we can keep their commitments in front of people’s eyes but if the commitment is deep inside some document after several clicks it will never be rates and of course we give praise friend praises due to people who meet their commitments and we do that in public.

So to discuss your project issues please contact with me over LinkedIn or any of the other methods.

Thank you.

Dr. Deasún Ó Conchúir (pronounce) is a Collaboration Consultant at Scatterwork, which supports Online Training for Project Management & Team Building.


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Don’t risk being late!

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.


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Be a part of the project takeover!

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.


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Best methods to set up a call for mutiple time zones

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 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.


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How to make your Virtual Team work – Part 2

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 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.


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Scatterwork Guest: Why must virtual teams have soft skills?

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.


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Develop the Ground Rules together

This is a short video from Scatterwork about developing the Ground Rules together for Virtual Teams.

Project Ground Rules are clearly stated behavior limits to which everyone in the project team agrees. We have them to make it easier to live and work together and it helps avoid extremes of behavior. However, rules can be ignored if they don’t make sense.

A place to start is sample team ground rules and there are many of these published and there is little standardization between them. Here you get the names of four different authors and some of the lists that they publish are very, very long.

Here is one suggested group of categories for them in one of those documents: Goals, leadership skills, roles, processes,interpersonal relations, accountability, client involvement.

But of course it really depends on your own project and if it’s a virtual project then you probably need things to do with time zone and being on time at meetings and things like that as well.

But whatever way you develop your rules it’s really best to do its in direct association with the project team members themselves because then they’re more likely to accept them. And when you have your rules do a final sanity check before applying them.

In this case here, a simple rule for dogs on the strand in the west of Ireland has a maximum fine of 1,269 euro 74 cents. Why such a funny number? Well, this is a thousand pounds in the old money before the euro was brought in but the sign post was translated and it doesn’t make sense.

So if you’re looking for support to develop project team ground rules, please contact us. Thanks very much.

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


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Scatterwork guest: How do we Talk about Strategy?

Should we change the way we talk about strategy?

Most people don’t understand strategy. It may sound obvious but the reason why many strategies are never realized is that most people in large organizations don’t understand what the strategy means, even if they know of its existence.

Senior managers assume that their employees understand them when they talk about strategy. Unfortunately this is rarely the case and indeed strategies are often articulated in a way that makes them impossible to deliver.

My name’s Jonathan Norman. I published nearly 120 books on projects and programs for Gower Publishing and I wanted to talk to you about the subject of strategy.

Have a look at some of your current strategies. If they aren’t as effective as they could be, it may well be because they’re written in a language which is far too vague and fails to understand the role of the users in the equation.

Or perhaps on the other hand they are hugely detailed and run into pages of documents so that even the most enthusiastic employees
struggle to see the wood for the trees.

I have used the ideas in Phil Driver’s Validating Strategies to highlight some of the most common problems associated with the way we talk about strategy.

Exploratory Verbs:

Words such as explore, investigate and address are exploratory words. They are useful in early-stage high-level aspirational strategies when the main work essentially involves framing and sense-making the opportunity that the strategy will endeavor to see.

But as strategies move from the aspirational to the more operational, they are of much less value and can signal a delaying tactic to avoid taking concrete action. And using further reviews or investigations to give an impression of useful activity.

Improvement Verbs

Because they point to the need for change but their main shortcoming is that they provide no indication of how that change will be implemented. Think of words like enhance, improve, increase and consolidate. These are all words in this category and all require more specific action-oriented verbs as well as measurable targets before
they can be used at an operational level.

Certainty Verbs

Certainty verbs appear to convey confidence that the strategy will have the desired effect but they are generally illusory. One of the most popular of these verbs is “ensure”. However comforting the word, there is no such project action as “ensure”. Organizations may take actions which have a high likelihood of producing the desired result but they cannot ensure that the community will use the outcome nor can they ensure the benefit.

Collaboration Project Verbs: Collaborate, cooperate, engage have become popular as words in recent years, particularly in the public sector where there’s been a belief that
collaboration, cooperation and engaging are universally good things. This means that they often appear in strategy documents with little indication why they will add value to a strategy or how they will be applied in its implementation or development.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the repeated theme in all of this language involves
exaggerated claims for certainty, outcomes and benefits of projects that will deliver the strategy. It’s only human nature to express confidence and show a tolerance for risk and uncertainty. None of this language is wrong or bad in itself. The danger lies in the meaning that’s intended.

Now this communicates a strategy to stakeholders and strategies that
misuse this language create an environment for projects that are challenge before they’ve even started.

Thank you for listening.

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


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Use Games to Build your Virtual Team


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.


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Scatterwork Guest: How Risky is my Project?

How risky is my project?

When you developing a business case for your next project, take a moment to ask yourself that question: “how risky is my project?”

My name is Jonathan Norman. I published nearly 120 books on projects and programs for Gower Publishing and I wanted to ask you that deceptively simple question: “how risky is my project?”

That’s not the same question as “what are the risks facing my project?” nor is it the same question as: “what is the likelihood that I can deliver to schedule and cost?”

There at least three further sets of questions you need to ask yourself before you can respond to this question

Question 1: How do I feel about risk? Are you comfortable or uncomfortable with taking a risk?

Question 2: how competent are we at managing risk and specifically the risk or risks associated with the project in question?

Something may be inherently risky but if you have done it before and you have learned how to recognize and respond to increased levels of risk, then your attitude towards it will be different.

And thirdly, “risky by comparison to what?” What else are you doing? What other projects do you have in your portfolio?

The point I’m making is that risk is about context, perception & attitude. How you and I and various stakeholders will feel about risk will differ according to your attitudes to risk.

Have a look at the risk attitude model which was developed by David Hilson and Ruth Murray-Webster in their series of books on risk attitude and risk appetite.

According to Ruth and David, how we perceive risk, whether we see something as risk or an opportunity, how big a risk or opportunity is considered is tied up with these fundamental questions:

Have I seen this risk before? What is my automatic reaction and how do I feel about it?

These are powerful questions and I recommend that you ask yourself and others these questions on a regular basis.

Ask the major stakeholders and make sure they understand how risky the project is and double-check that you and they understand each other.

You may also be presented with a complex set of weightings and probability as part of a risk profile. This can be tough to relate back to the project so ask yourself these simple questions in relation to the risk at hand and make sure that intuitively your attitude and your sense of risk accords with the mathematical calculation.

If it doesn’t, then either the risk calculations are wrong or you need to think about re-calibrating your risk response.

All projects imply a certain degree of change and some projects are inherently all about change. Becoming more familiar and comfortable with risk is part of that change.

So there’s one other question you may like to add to the mix in the future. No longer simply ask: “how risky is my project?” but “how risky should it be?” Thank you for listening.

Scatterwork supports Project Solutions for Virtual Teams.


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