Tools - 5MPET (problem solve & risk management) -

Have this tool in your back pocket at all times (ready to go).  When a problem pops up, or if you need to analyze an issue or risk, use the Cause & Effect Tool (also known as Fishbone, or Ishikawa - different names, same tool). Use the acronym 5MPET to help you remember the categories.

A definition of the Cause and effect diagram can include: provides a formalized, structured method to identify potential variations or issues that exist or could occur.  Can be utilized to identify the causes (why is this happening) or can be focused on identifying the effects (what will happen) or a combination of the two. The Categories utilized should be “trigger” words that promote focus on certain areas and when all Categories are completed (worked through), together they cover almost all aspects of a project. Popular categories include:
  • Mother Nature
  • Measurement
  • Method
  • Material
  • Machine
  • People
  • Energy 
  • Time 
NOTE: remember the acronym 5MPET

This type of flowchart tool is valuable for brainstorming, analysis, planning, decision making, presentations, risk management, team building and buy-in, etc. This tool is very good to help focus the work and is quick and easy to use. If in an office environment, then draw out the tool if possible since graphical representations show relationships differently then just verbal and will lead to greater effectiveness and efficiency. 

An example diagram is included below, illustrating the 8 categories and 3 events on the ‘Machine’ sub arrow-line:


Example: if you asked a group of people the question..... 
Q - What happened, why did the breakdown occur?  
Chances are you will get a wide variety of answers and the efficiency of brainstorming is "all over the place". The response of the group could also be in a state of panic and anxiety that the obstacles are too vast, complicated and dis-connected.  

WHEREAS, if you use this tool, you would ask the question....
Q - What happened with the breakdown but please only focus your answers on the category of Mother Nature?
Also state that for 10 minutes, we will only talk about things related to Mother Nature.  If other comments come up that are related to another category, then put them on the "Parking Lot" (write it down somewhere for a later time) and then get right back to the Mother Nature focus.  Also state that the other categories will be visited and addressed but the process is to work in sequence (address each category individually and not at the same time).
Chances are you will get much more focus, efficiency, less panic, better collaboration, better detail, faster detail, etc.

Listed below is a good link that also further defines this tool:

Tools - 15 Steps to Rescue a Project in Crisis -

Many projects don't go according to plan. Some people call it a crisis but that is normal when you are working with unknowns. PMs also get pulled into projects after they already have critical issues with Scope/Schedule/Budget, HR and Communication, lack of discipline, loss of structure, etc.  AND don't forget the skeletons hiding in the closet that will be discovered once the PM starts to ask hard questions and do formal analysis, tracking and check point/audits.  

This is basically when a PM needs to:  Rescue a project in "crisis" (Really dislike that word but unfortunately is still common in the English language - try to minimize words that promote panic, they rarely lead to positive results).

A method/approach that I have personally used in a lot of projects (a little step by step check list) includes:
  1. recognize the reason why the project is in failure:
  2. define the degree of trauma to the organization, team and stakeholders;
  3. confirm the timing and duration issues;
  4. confirm the budget issues;
  5. negotiate your position to define a high level of authority;
  6. define your position of authority;
  7. re-establish and confirm rules of conduct;
  8. re-establish and confirm rules of action;
  9. re-establish and confirm rules of communication;
  10. establish a new team culture and level of trust;
  11. re-establish and confirm scope statement;
  12. identify and address resulting warning signs;
  13. address top 5 major issues;
  14. create IDA (issues, decisions, actions) log;
  15. review details of plans (go through all plans and the appropriate Subsidiary plans exist (see previous blog on Project Management Plan Template and 15 Knowledge Areas)
Listed below is a link to a slide show that has a 5 Stage Turn Around Approach for rescuing a project in crisis.  Lots of pictures at the start but then they do share some good information further on.

Tools - 20 Communication Best Practices -

The power or fluency of speech & ability to communicate expressively is the single most important characteristic a leader/manager has to have to be successful in today's business climate.

The ability to effectively articulate vision, business imperatives, corporate or project goals and objectives, as well as approach, decisions, actions and follow-up greatly impacts how successful a project is. 

A  leader's ability to articulate these things also depends on the ability to entice team members to provide feedback and interaction (communication is two - way street). Establishing a process to gather feedback is highly beneficial to projects and generates buy-in and improved efficiency.

Voice can make up to 40% of ones personality. Speaking in public is never easy. Some people seem to do it effortlessly and others have great difficulty, but generally, every person that speaks in a professional environment will admit it is a challenge.

Everyone will be required at some point or time to do presentations, public speaking, or impromptu speaking. One must learn as many tools and techniques as possible and more importantly find the time to prepare as much as possible before speaking.

We all know the basics, but a little bit of effort will go a lonnnnnnng way to reward you and increase your success if you take the time to REVISIT tips and techniques how to be a better communicator! 

Listed below are the top 20 Communication Best Practices to improve communication from our perspective:
  1. overcome your fear and believe in yourself (understand that every speaker is different, know your strengths and use them);
  2. eye contact;
  3. prepare ahead of time (document and review, formally present in front of a mirror, practice pronunciation);
  4. be aware of your time (finish within the set goal, know where to look for the time);
  5. match your vocabulary to your audience;
  6. have someone count your crutch words (um, ah, etc.);
  7. watch and adapt to your audience;
  8. plan your communication (objectives, approach to achieve objectives)
  9. organize your thoughts (interesting opening, flowing body, strong close);
  10. use your voice (loud/soft, fast/slow, up/down no monotone);
  11. use your body (facial and body gestures but don’t fidget or pace);
  12. manage emotions (sincere, energetic, enthusiastic);
  13. familiarize yourself with the physical location;
  14. familiarize yourself with as many audience members as possible;
  15. use appropriate visuals or props;
  16. embrace technology but don't let it be a distraction
  17. plan how to manage questions and be prepared to address them;
  18. don’t be afraid to be afraid (a little nervousness is very good);
  19. exercise your voice (hum or say tongue twisters then stretch your jaw/lips/tongue);
  20. smile and have fun. 

Some additional Links to improve your public speaking can be found at:

Psychology Today - 5 tips to reduce public speaking nervousness
Toastmasters - 10 tips for public speaking

NOTE: If you can, join a toastmasters club in your city (goto the website and find a chapter near your), this is one of the most value added investments you can make as a professional

Also below is a good video that covers some tips to physically relax you just before you need to present, plus a few others...

Tools - 26 Risk Management Tools -

Wanted to share 26 formal risk tools that I teach about and highly recommend you take a look which ones work best for your project.  How do you know which tools to use? Many take a good amount of time, money and skill to properly execute! As early as possible in the project life cycle, formally identify and rate the "Risk Tolerance Levels" of:
  • Sponsor
  • PM (if that is you, then yes, do an assessment of yourself)
  • Key Team Members (with highest influence on project)
  • Customer
  • Organization

It is very important to understand the Risk Tolerance levels, then you should be able to understand the level of resources you are able to invest into Risk Management (and ensure you formally document this to help manage everyone's expectations and ensure all are "on the same page"). 

Listed below are some good Risk Tools that can be utilized to help manage risk (generally speaking, as you go farther down the list they start to become more complex and require more specialized resources) :
  1. Historical information review
  2. Brainstorming
  3. Lateral thinking
  4. Delphi Technique
  5. Checklists
  6. Interviewing
  7. Ranking and indexing
  8. SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats)
  9. Flowcharts and cause and effect diagrams
  10. Risk register or log
  11. What if analysis
  12. Pareto analysis
  13. Fault tree analysis
  14. Risk trigger management
  15. Risk Matrix
  16. Risk Decision tree
  17. Sensitivity Analysis
  18. Statistical sums
  19. Expected monetary value
  20. Risk simulation
  21. Probability distribution
  22. Preliminary risk analysis
  23. Change analysis and management
  24. Root cause analysis
  25. Hazard and operability analysis (HAZOP)
  26. Failure modes and effects analysis (FMEA)

Tools - Top 4 Leadership Styles -

These styles directly impact decision making and execution of those decisions.

You need to understand which style you have within the culture of both your project and also your organization - Then you are better prepared to plan what processes need to occur in order to:
  • identify opportunities/issues, 
  • gather and analyze requirements, 
  • make decisions, 
  • act on those decisions.  

Also don't be afraid to adapt and balance between these styles as you deem necessary to manage the risks of stakeholder 1) involvement, 2) approval and ultimately their 3) support.

See video to help explain the styles:

As described in the video above, the top four Leadership or Decision Making styles include:
  1. Autocratic
  2. Consultive
  3. Democratic
  4. Consensus

Below are a few additional support links:

- This link does not use exact same terms but follows same concepts and gives a nice summary of as you move from the top to the bottom, the styles become more collaborative

- This link focuses on Autocratic vs Democratic but gives good definitions

Tools - 5 PM Sources of Power -

When managing people, do you know where your power comes from?   Adapt your style accordingly, be confident in your source.  See video:

Within the video I talk about the top 5 main sources of power often described within project management.  Expert, Referent, Reward, Legitimate & Coercive.

Below is a good article that further describes these 5 sources of power, however Dr. Stimson also adds two sources that are becoming more mainstream (emerging sources of power), the two new ones include: Information & Connection (networking).  See Link:   Sources of Power - Dr. Stimson

A second set of definitions with a slightly different perspective can be seen at:
Smallbusiness 5 Sources of Power

Thoughts - Can you grow GRIT -

This is a follow up to my last blog on Failure & Grit. Next Question: Can we grow this within us?

We learn about PM from experts in so many different fields.  It is such a complex profession and it is becoming a standard for people that want to be in corporate leadership positions.

We must remember it is rapidly evolving in alignment with how business culture is evolving. We often focus on science, math, systems and engineering but now we do much more PM Research and Professional Development in the areas of Psychology, Sociology and the Arts.

As defined in the previous blog, a great PM and Leader will have a strong level of GRIT.

Assess yourself, be aware, then specify the areas you want to grow and evolve. If you are really serious about your growth plan, then have it documented and forecast out 25 years in a spreadsheet with multiple qualifications/outcomes that you must achieve and the paths that you can take (scenarios) in order to achieve the qualifications.

A theory that you can incorporate on how to grow your Grit (and other things) was developed at Stanford, and is called Growth Mindset.  They state that the ability to learn is not fixed but can change with your level of effort and desire that you put into it.

A quote from an article on this includes:
"People who attributed their failures to lack of ability, Dweck thought, would become discouraged even in areas where they were capable. Those who thought they simply hadn’t tried hard enough, on the other hand, would be fueled by setbacks."

See this link for one of her articles, little long but has multiple points within it and also links to more detail if you wish:

  Stanford Article by Dweck

There are a lot more about this topic and Dr. Carol Dweck has videos and such to google if interested.  Now granted this also is slightly complicated by studies of Jaques Elliott, but that will be in another blog.

Thoughts - Failure & Grit -

SUCCESSFUL people don't always have high levels of IQ, Designations, Experience, Knowledge or Skills.  However, true Leaders must have high levels of GRIT.

If you have grit, then bring on project risk & challenge.

How can you define Grit?
- passion and perseverance for long term goals
- sticking with it day in and day out for years and not giving up
- live life like a marathon not a sprint
- knowing that failure is not a permanent condition
- still being confident after you fail
- ability to quickly formulate lessons learned and start again
- take the stresses in stride
- get beat down by others, but if they do not die, they will rise up, avoid grudges and start again
- eat the dead crow when it is still warm, suck it up and MOVE ON

Look for this in your PMs and Leaders.

Check out this great video link:    Key to Success: GRIT

Tools - Top 5 Conflict Management Strategies -

Conflict is a good thing.  It means a difference of opinion. You need that in projects. When conflict occurs, be strategic!  Identify the cause, Analyze, then Select the Strategy to manage the conflict. See 2 min video:


Often people think you need to immediately stop the conflict, jump in and separate the people.  That is old school.  As described in the video, the top 5 conflict management strategies include:
  1. Problem Solve
  2. Compromise
  3. Smoothing
  4. Withdraw
  5. Forcing

New best practices are to enhance passion, confidence and trust in a dynamic team environment. Projects are full of change, risk and diverse resource interactions.  An environment needs to exist and be promoted where people will not take things personally, the opinions raised are just that, thoughts about how things can be done based on your own perspective.

People will always have different opinions and perspectives since each person has differences of:
- experience
- knowledge
- education
- culture
- vested interest
- personality
- priorities
- capacity
- level of confidence
- etc.

So you as a team leader, have to seperate out the emotions and have active, passionate discussions about what is best for the project.  Problem solving demands innovative thinking and it will never come if all of us are on the same page and in the same tunnel.  Break through ideas that are a Win-Win come from building off each other in active discussions, debates and disagreements.  Be patient and don't walk away from conflict, understand that you will get through it and the project will be better for it.

The English language far too often associates negative connotation with powerful words, go against that norm, associate the word Conflict with positive aspects, such as "Passion, Enthusiasm, Desire to do the Best, Not willing to accept something if you don't fully understand, Desire to voice your opinion, Innovation, Questioning, etc".

Dont forget............ after the conflict ends and the decisions are made how to move forward, the Team Lead must ensure all people accept the path the team is going forward with, especially if your opinion is not followed.  You cannot hold regret or bring it up in future or use the "I told you so" - pounce on that and eliminate any of that or you will never have a trusting, collaborative environment. You must ensure all will move together when decisions are made at that point in time. Even if in the future you see it was the wrong decision, this way you can adapt even quicker to the right path and have less debate since you have been through much of it already.

Ahhh, working with Humans, never a dull moment!!!

Tools - Walking Meetings -

Amazing problem solving & innovation come from increased blood flow & relaxed environments.  Do it today, implement a mandatory "Walking Meeting" for all managers/leaders.  Best practice examples:
- Start with minimum of once per week
- Does not have to be far or fancy, has to be outside the office
- Have an agenda and a clear start and end time
- Keep the number of people small
- Be aware of speed (slow down)
- All people carry a pen/paper or smart phone device (record notes, comments, issues, actions, decisions, ideas, etc.)
- Track it, ask for feedback and evolve

Then watch the benefits grow.  Business, personal, health, etc.

At NexLev we ask all managers to do a weekly walking meeting.  Can be a one-on-one, or can be a team meeting. Companies like Google and CEOs like Steve Jobs are tremendous advocates of these.

Why not, it just makes sense.  Example:
- physiologically the human brain functions better when walking vs sitting
- sitting at a desk all day is bad for ergonomics
- best ideas are proven to not come from an office or a desk
- people are happier when doing things a little different (meetings at too often around a table)
- fresh air and being outside is more natural for humans
- etc. 

I just had my walking meeting which was a phone call (so by myself). Here are a few pics of what I walked by:

These images directly impacted how I relaxed while trying to problem solve to a "win - win" solution.  I wanted to stay out and during the call we took a yield-yield solution and turned it into a win-win (otherwise I would have accepted the yield-yield - a great investment of my time).

Take a look on the web to see all the supporting info for walking meetings. Here are a few links that are related:

Ted Talk - Take_a_walk 

Ted Blog - five thinkers who swore by walking meetings

Forbes - walking meetings can save your life

Creativefarm - walking meetings benefits