Thoughts - Innovation - don't let others use legacy based mantra's on you

If it ain't broke don't fix it - this approach is not valid in today's world of business.

Imagine if we followed this advice, how many advancements would we not have today.

We often get caught up in every day work and if things are going well, we tend to slow our innovative advancements.  Or this is also where we demote new ideas or move advancements to the corner of our desk.  Funny, since when things are going well, that is exactly when the brain is most effective, positive and open to changing things VS when things are going poorly or in crisis mode, that is when too often we yell out "all hands on deck, we need to change and innovate and do this ASAP and no one goes home until we get something"

What happens if we follow that mantra and just keep doing the work?

  • If you are a business and your process/operation/projects are going well, then somewhere someone is copying it and you will soon be over taken.  
  • If you are government/non-profit, then you are missing out on opportunity cost of faster, cheaper, better quality and society is not going to advance (will stay status quo)
The simplest innovations do make a difference by being cumulative but even more important, they also create an environment that feeds off each other (like a growing energy that needs a spark to be ignited).

During meetings, how much time do you put to open ended questions and then pause, let the people speak. Then pause, then build off the people, promote the collaboration and trusting space where you can speak openly and freely.  

I related this to a walking meeting I just took (Beautiful trees, flowers, grass) and set my mind at ease, gave me new energy and new approaches to tackle a key problem I am stuck on.  And the idea was helped by me watching a magpie.  Such a simple bird, yet able to take a type of apple, smashed it against the sidewalk, then pulled it apart with his feet, then pecked at it to get the internal nutrition.

How do you think that magpie learned that.... likely from trial and error and from innovating new approaches.  

A great Einstein quote is: “To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advance in science.”

Below are a few pics from my walking meeting, with that INNOVATIVE Magpie at the bottom (thanks Mr. Magpie). 

Remember to change it up (physical location drastically impacts the success of your ability to get the creative brain neurons firing)

PS:  if want to check out my walking meeting post previously published, it is located at the end of June

Tools - Quality Accuracy & Prioritization

Why sometimes do we have inaccurate results from our quality assessments?

Why do we often focus our work on something wrong, but do not measure the return on our work investment and thus fail to prioritize and continually re-prioritize as we deliver our work.

Important concepts that are key to understand accuracy and conduct work properly includes:
  • Population sampling – two common types include attribute data and variable data.  Attribute data is counted and is a pass/fail or yes/no result (e.g. number of errors, number of dump trucks).  Variable data can be broken down, it is based on a type of continuous scale, ranges exist and compliance can be rated (e.g. time, weight, etc). 
Note 1: ensure sample size is appropriately sized to align with the trade-offs that you must make (e.g. larger sampling gives more accuracy but takes more time, money, resources, etc).
Note 2: if you don't have the experience then ensure you get strong support from subject matter experts (SMEs):
    • Tolerances and control limits – tolerance is the variation that is acceptable in relation to the project quality standards.  When a variation exceeds the control limits this is considered unacceptable and some type of corrective action must be taken. 

    Another important concept is the ability to know where to prioritize your efforts, manage your expectations and the probability of success in terms of what type of work you are doing when trying to fix something that is not going according to plan (also known as something that has variance to what you expected to happen).  A simple example how to group two types of work variances include:
    • random cause – these are always present and individually are insignificant (people learn to live with them).  Addressing these types of variances takes a great effort for a small value that will be received  (e.g. train was as early as 2 minutes and as late as 5 minutes over the past week);
    • special cause – these are generally unusual or atypical events that are often caused by a random unpredictable reason (not a flaw in the overall process) (e.g. train was late one day 15 minutes due to a mechanical breakdown).
    Note: so based on the variance causes above, you will generally get more "bang for your buck" when addressing special cause variances.  The approaches to the two types of variances will also be very different so ensure to understand that.

    Tools - Quality Systems/Methods

    Quality control focuses on measuring the results of the project work throughout the entire project life cycle to ensure that work is done in accordance to the quality plans and characteristics.  The end product or service must align with what the customer expected and what was documented in the project documentation.

    It is important to note that quality assurance focuses on developing and implementing quality related processes and activities while quality control focuses on ensuring that results from quality tasks achieve their desired objectives (examples of control focus on validation, verification, defect management, preventive maintenance, etc).

    Quality   Systems
    Quality control systems are a collection of formalized processes to help measure specific project results and confirm how they align to the project quality standards established.  The project team must ensure the level of quality required is understood by all stakeholders and is also realistic when aligned with project constraints (e.g. resources, time and budget).  The quality system should evolve as the project complexity changes and work is completed and thus requires reviews on the effectiveness, efficiencies and value (in alignment with the project objectives and stakeholder needs).  Example aspects of a quality control system include:
    • lists and describes the quality characteristics and measurements that are required as part of the project;
    • coordinates tasks and help resources execute, monitor, control and close them;
    • supports resources with the tools and functionality to facilitate information collection, analysis and calculations;
    • empowers people to take an active role in quality;
    • provides detailed comparisons with actuals verses planned in terms of quality characteristics and specific measurements;
    • supports the organization to help shift the culture, attitude and understanding of quality.

    Quality Methods
    There is much quality research and expertise available (e.g. National Quality Institute, Malcolm Baldrige, ISO 9000 series, European foundation for quality management, etc.). 

    Two of my favourite quality graphing tools include (LOVE graphs, humans love to see visual displays in combination with hard data, tell them what the results are and what they mean, then show them visually and let it sink in):
    • control chart – line graph that illustrates the results and control limits (mean, upper control and lower control limits);

    • pareto chart – bar chart displayed by order of severity (80/20 rule);

    Other examples include:
    • histogram – graphical display utilizing bar charts;
    • run chart – run charts showing trends;
    • scatter diagram – correlation between 2 variables;
    • statistical methods and formulas;
    • flowchart;
    • cause and effect diagram;
    • checklist;
    • inspection;
    • test;
    • defect repair review.

    PMTip - Collaboration & Communication

    Top Project Challenge = Communication

    Top Project Opportunity = Increased Collaboration

    Reminder, you cannot have good Collaboration without good Communication.

    In almost all project management conferences, they ask what are the top challenges or reasons of project failure and most of the time, Communication will be within the top 3. This is not only common to Canada but the world. 

    There is also irony in this, since we normally take for granted how communication should be sooooo simple.  We often end meetings or assign tasks and end off with the statement:  "Okay, is everyone clear, if not please speak up". 

    Then we think that we did our job by saying that silly statement.  We forget that humans don't like to speak up when they feel dumb or they did not understand.  Maybe 50% of the group understands and runs with it, 25% watches the ones running with it and then they are okay, then the other 25% struggle because it was not clear or formulate their own ideas to fill in the gaps they have and then go about doing their own thing (which often is not aligned with the initial plan).

    I also am a coach for my kids hockey.  When on the ice with kids, ready to do a hockey drill, it is amazing how often I have seen coaches give instructions, then end off by saying "Okay, is that clear, does everyone understand".  And then there is silence - so Coach assumes it is clear.  At times when I am on the ice, even I do not understand or the instructions were too long, but I am afraid to put up my hand to say, can you please explain it again or break it down into smaller parts.

    Then sure enough, the coach blows his whistle and rushes all of us into the drill, the kids start the drill and over half are doing it wrong.... then the coach gets frustrated or just ignores it and half the kids get no growth or learning from the drill.

    How do we learn from this and not get frustrated and try to do this with limited time and budget!!!! Also how do we deal with the growing need to leverage knowledge, skills, experiences, perspectives, interests, etc. from outside your normal team.

    One exciting thing is that times have changed rapidly due to technology and more and more people understand what is a methodology or a system and what tools are available to support.

     It does not matter if you are working on projects internally, or with other groups in the province or country or other groups outside your country...... we all need to have systems and expectations in place that will help us manage our communications......... and thus will enable more effective, efficient and value-added collaboration.

     Key examples to help with communmication:
    1. Treat it formally and professionally (respect it) - this is difficult since it comes naturally to all of us (like walking) however we can still use methodologies, planning and professional tools and techniques to improve it and take it to the next level  (e.g. try to research speed walking and you will see how complex it can be and why it is also recognized as a professional sport - yes this will take effort and resources and it should be part of your operations and project budgets)
    2. Instill systems (a formalized approach as to how the communications will be carried out)
    3. Leverage tools and technology (simplest tools can include checklists, most complex tools include social media type softwares that link to back-end databases - you do not have to marry the tool or technology, use it for a project, get the value, then keep it on your belt for the future and move on)
    4. Have a plan with milestones when to continually review your systems and update/evolve them (your collaboration will start to grow and become more successful however, you will never reach perfection and will always have to work at it)
    5. Do not get frustrated and be patient, remember to have a good communication there are three parts that are fully integrated/overlapping:  Sender - Message - Receiver.   If the process is not successful, all three parts must take accountability since they all must blend together to be successful and there are always ways to improve any of the three parts - but we always must balance them in accordance with the priorities (e.g. time, money, quality, risk, etc).

      A great link that talks more on this is:

    Tools - PM Software Helping or Hindering

    Type in a web search related to PM software and the responses are overwhelming.

    It is easy to get confused as to what is a PM software.  Essentially, almost any software can be considered a tool for Project Management, but we must be clear as to what is the focus of that software.  What is the purpose, the value and the results that you want to achieve in relation to that software.  So first you must look at your project, your company culture, the team and of course your personal internal knowledge, skills and experience.

    It is rare to have one software meet all your needs for managing a project.

    One of the first things to clarify, is when people use Microsoft Project software they often call that file the Project Plan.  This is not a best practice.  Microsoft Project is a great software for producing schedules, it can also be leveraged to produce multiple types of reports that can manage resources, earned value management and other scheduling associated aspects.  If you leveraged Projecet Server, then you can also get into another level of enterprise project management. However, it is recommended that the best software for developing a project plan is a word processor type of software, such as Microsoft Word.  From that type of software, you develop a master plan and subsidiary plans.  Most of the time, the project plan becomes a folder on your computer desktop, from which you have multiple types of softwares that are used for each subsidiary plan that you develop.  For example:

    Type of Plan - Type of Software
    • Master Project plan - Microsoft Word or Google Docs or Open Office
    • Scope/WBS - Microsoft Visio or Power Point or Libreoffice Draw
    • Time/Schedule - Microsoft Project or Project Libre or Open Workbench or Basecamp
    • Cost/Budget - Microsoft Excel
    • HR/Organizational Design - Microsoft Visio or Power Point or Libreoffice Draw
    • Procurement/Security/PDF  - Adobe PDF or CutePDF or Foxit or Nitro
    • Risks - Mindmap or Mindjet 
    • Communication/Collaboration/Contacts - GoogleDocs or Dropbox or Chats or MSN or Facebook
    Note:  one of the most important softwares that I recommend you incorporate is the last one, it is often overlooked but when it comes down to it, the biggest reason projects fail is related to communication and collaboration.  Projects involve people - people are generally poor at communication (don't let anyone tell you different) and communication/collaboration is the platform of everything we do on a project.

    The key thing to remember is that software will not manage your project.  First you must have a methodology and a system, then you can look at how software will save on: time, money, resources, quality, efficiency, effectiveness, analytic capability, safety, claims, admin, stress, anxiety, intellectual property, lessons learned, templates, etc.

    When properly used, software WILL bring benefits to how you manage projects.  Be careful in that you do not have to bring in an entire ERP system even for very large projects.  This is also a common error in that software turns projects into admin nightmares and the Project Manager becomes more of an administrator then a manager.  We often see this in larger, more traditional based companies that follow very rigid internal systems and do not have a business model that asks for the ability to be agile, dynamic or adaptable.  I have managed 100 million dollar projects with the softwares listed above - the key was the project systems that were in place.

    Remember, strong PMs leverage software to enable project systems, processes, guidelines, policies and other PM tools.

    A good link is below, touches on the theme of this post and also gives more examples of tools that you could utilize: