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

LinkedIn: Connect with 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

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

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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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How to make your virtual team work – part 5

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This is the last of the series of videos based on the keynote presentation to the PMI Serbia Chapter Project Society Conference in Belgrade, September 2015. It is the video where we look at strategies for virtual team building.

One of them is to start with a big bang,in other words just create a team with people in different places and then try and bring them together. A second one is to establish a core team; a small number of people that may be able to do some of the work and then once they’ve got a basis for working together to invite other people into it. And the third one is to evolve an existing organization and consciously make it more virtual.In my view the third of those is definitely easier than the first.

However there may be reasons for doing this one: Skills may be available in different places, it may be an issue of time zones,it might be languages to support a help desk. There may be other issues: maybe one country is particularly skilled in a particular type of service or competence, and it may not be workable just to say everybody must be in one place. But it’s definitely a challenge because the people don’t know each other and individuals are programmed culturally in different ways. Maybe a slower but surer way of doing it is to establish a core team to do some of the work and then to build up the ground rules and the team spirit with this group.When that is moving properly then you can add other people to the team bit by bit. I mentioned before that it may make sense to work with teams instead of individuals because the various nodes of the network will then be in themselves more stable. For example, anybody is going to go on holiday or be ill from time to time and so forth and if there is a team in each location it is easier to address these issues.

Another way of doing it is to take an existing organization and consciously turn it into a virtual team or certainly have much more virtual activity. One way of doing this is to bring people’s attention to the ground rules which were probably written in an environment where they were co-located so actually developing and revising the ground rules in itself is a team building activity to help people move in the right direction. This can be reinforced by using live meetings wherever possible, maybe piggybacking on other events that are happening within the organization where people would be meeting in any case, but certainly it can work much more easily if people actually have the opportunity to meet each other from time to time.

So that’s the last of the videos. Thanks very much your interest and if you want to follow through on any of these, please be sure to connect with me on LinkedIn or through 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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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

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

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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: How Visual Thinking Can Improve Team Trust

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Hi I’m Howard Esbin and I’m a co-creator of a creative trust game for virtual teams called Prelude.

Prelude is a facilitated game for virtual teams that accelerates trust and improves collaboration prior to a new project, training program or educational course. Basically, it improves visual thinking.

The features of the game: In one system there are five human development tools.

-There’s a component for character assessment.
-There’s a component for EQ development or social-emotional skill development, soft skills is another term for it.
-A collaborative team building component.
-A diversity training component and
-a creative training component, all in this one system.

And underpinning the game system and design are twenty virtual team best practices that we’ve identified through original research.

The game process is a facilitated series of activity modules as you see illustrated.

There are four modules in total and the purpose of the process is to take team members from an I-centric perspective to a sense of “we as a team, as a whole” with an awareness of how each member thinks and communicates distinctively and an awareness of how the team as a whole, through this creative activity can best draw upon their shared diverse skill sets.

The benefits are very simple:

There’s strengthened soft skills for that virtual team, improved communication,a better appreciation of diverse assets, an enhanced positive team mental model of itself, more effective collaboration and as a consequence increased well-being.

Thank you 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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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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Develop the Ground Rules together

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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.

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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