Anyone can manage a project

Project Manager Band LeaderYes, they can, but the size and complexity must suit the Project Manager’s (PM’s) skills and experience.

Small

For small projects the PM may be the person who had the original idea or someone who is looking to gain experience.

These projects might last for a few days or a few weeks, but they will be straightforward and not impact many people. A small amount of planning will be required and must be completed before the project starts properly.

Medium

For simple, medium sized projects the PM could be someone with a bit of experience or someone who is looking for experience and who is carefully mentored.

These projects will last for up to 6 months, will be straightforward, will not impact too many people and will not be contentious. Medium sized projects will need a Plan so that progress can be monitored and reported upon. It is important that the planning stage is not missed, or the project will run into trouble.

Complex and Large

For complex and large projects, the PM should be experienced and have a track record of successfully delivering projects.

These are projects that last longer than 6 months, usually impact many people, can be contentious in their nature and may or may not be straightforward.

The PM may appear to take a long time planning how they will deliver these projects, but time spent at this stage will prevent time being wasted later when the unexpected appears on the horizon. Risks need to be identified and addressed as early as possible.

Project Management

Change Projects

When a project is expected to change the way people work, it is important to also involve a Change Manager.

For smaller projects the Project Manager and the Change Manager can be the same person.  For complex and large projects, it is more effective if these roles are taken by different people who work closely together.

The Change Manager is responsible for ensuring that the people who are expected to put the outcomes into practice understand the changes and are ready and willing to change the way they work. Many a project has fallen down at the point it is handed over to the business because the workforce is not ready, they don’t understand what they are expected to do, or they are hostile because they haven’t been involved.

Change Management will be the topic of my next blog.

Jo is an experienced Project Manager and Change Manager, having managed projects ranging from small, £10k projects to the strategic spend of £Millions.  Jo has led teams of 1 to 20 people and engaged with over 80 impacted groups on one project. Jo’s contact details are at https://www.lothiancm.co.uk/contact/

 

 

Top 3 questions to communicate effectively

Effective teamworkI was working with a team of two; one who I clicked with (A) and one who I struggled to create an easy relationship with (B).  I was struggling to communicate at all, never mind communicating effectively.

I tried and tried, but I couldn’t motivate or inspire B, no matter what I did.

At the end of the project I met A to determine why we worked so well together so that we could replicate it on future projects.  I asked two questions;

  • “How do you like to be given information?”
  • “What information is important to you?”

I asked B the same questions.

On hearing B’s answers, I apologised profusely for getting it so wrong for 18 months.

In all that time, I didn’t realise that talking B through tasks was the wrong approach.  It was right for A, but not B. B preferred written information, lists – something more tangible than a conversation. No wonder I’d found the relationship difficult!

It was from this realisation that I developed WHIZZARD©, to facilitate teams through the process of understanding what they need to communicate and make progress effectively.

By identifying how we receive and process information most effectively, and understanding how this differs from others, we set ourselves up to succeed.

Here are my top 3 tips for communicating effectively with your manager, your team, and anyone else in any part of your life.

What are the key types of information that you like to know above all others?
This might be understanding the bigger picture, financials, timescales, constructive feedback, how the organisation works, etc.
Keep to a maximum of 5.

Why this information specifically?
What need does this information fulfil?
What insecurities does it address?
How do you feel if this information is withheld?
How do you feel when you are given it quickly?
This will help you to understand yourself, your team member or A N Other and how they think.

How do you like your information?
Written; text, pictures, numbers?
Oral; face:face, phone, video link?
Do you like different media for different information types?

By identifying how we receive and process information most effectively, and understanding how this differs from others, we set ourselves up to succeed. We reduce everyone’s effort because our message is clearly understood and easily actionable by the other person. At the same time, we know how to ask for information in a way that makes it easier for us to do our job and meet our objectives.

You can read more about WHIZZARD© at https://www.lothiancm.co.uk/products/

Please contact me through Facebook, LinkedIn or email (joanna@lothiancm.co.uk) if you would like to discuss how I could help you and your team.

 

02/15/2018

 

Should you be doing that?

I knew this day would come.

My daughter was missing a clean item of school uniform. While she has over a week’s worth of everything, today one of her drawers was empty, the contents in the laundry basket.

It is not my responsibility to put her clothes in the laundry basket – that is her responsibility.

But it is my fault.

Not for being behind with the laundry, I wasn’t, but for not teaching her to put her own clothes in the laundry basket from a young age.

The situation did make me think about work.

Who should be responsible for the tasks you do at work? Should you be doing them or is it time to delegate? Here are some questions to help you decide whether to continue doing tasks and a checklist for handing them over if it time to pass them on.

Are you doing a task that someone else could, or should, be doing?

To help you decide, answer the following questions:

  • What would you gain by not doing the task yourself? What could you be doing instead?
  • What training would it require to pass over?
  • What ongoing support would you need to provide?

Who should do it and when should they start?

  • Who will do the task best? Will it be completed in-house or externally?
  • Does it make sense financially if you have to pay someone else to do it? Could you earn more in the time you free up than it costs for someone else to do it?
  • When will you pass the task over?

Write down your answers as you will need this information to plan your handover.

How you will pass the task over?

In my daughter’s case, this is as simple as “Please put your dirty clothes in the laundry basket, or they won’t get washed.”

Most office tasks are a bit more complicated.

List out the information you use to complete the task.

  • Where does your information come from? Give file paths, web addresses, etc.
  • Who provides it? Give contact details or web addresses.
  • What day of the week or month do you look for it?
  • How do you process the information?
  • What forms or templates do you use?
  • What websites are involved?
  • Does the processed information need to be reviewed before it is used or sent out to a third party? You should include a review the first few times the task is undertaken as a minimum.
  • Where does the processed information go? Give contact details or web addresses.

It sounds like a lot of work, but keep your eye on the prize of not having to do it yourself any more.  It will be worth it.

Will my daughter learn to put her clothes in the laundry? She’s 11, so I suspect not for a few years yet. Maybe she’ll remember her school uniform though!


The Gruffalo© is a creation of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. It’s a wonderful story, still much-loved by my children.

 

 

KISS to de-stress

Feeling stressed? Then you need to KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid. Ask yourself these five KISSing questions to simplify your life at work or at home.

It is very easy to become overwhelmed by all the things we need to do, whether at work or at home, especially approaching big events – Christmas, financial year end, summer holidays, etc. When you start to feel the walls close in, these KISSing questions will help you to replace that stress with simplicity and inner calm.

What can I leave out?

Are there tasks that don’t really need to be done at all? Do you really need to hand make mince pies or could you eat shop bought ones this year? Do you really need to go to a meeting to discuss what you’re going to say at the next meeting? If you don’t need to do it then don’t.

What can I leave until later?

There are tasks that can be completed tomorrow or after the holiday. Yes, you do need to wrap the presents before Christmas Day. Yes, the accounts do need to be finalised before the deadline. No, you do not need to organise your January night out before Christmas – just get a date in the diary for now.

What can I delegate?

Do you really need to go to a meeting that a colleague could cover for you? Could your partner or children help you to wrap the presents? Could you employ someone to do the work you find time consuming because it’s not your specialism? Someone else would love the opportunity to do that work and would be twice as fast as you are.

How can I simplify what is left?

Now that you have a list that is manageable, can you simplify it further? Are there tasks that are similar that you can do together? If you have to make those mince pies, can you buy the filling? Can you create a formula in a spreadsheet that halves the time it takes to complete those calculations? Can you send a Doodle Poll out to your friends to choose a night in January when you are all free rather than starting a complicated group text?

What do I enjoy the most?

We all have tasks that we enjoy. Book-end your day with these. Start off with something simple and quick, then complete some tasks that you have to do, and finish with a task you find very satisfying. Your memory will be of an enjoyable, productive day.

 

In summary, simplifying your to-do list will bring you a sense of inner calm. It will reduce your stress and that will allow you think creatively about the remainder of your tasks.

These KISSing questions work anywhere, at any time, at work or at home.

The next time you’re feeling the pressure of too much to do in too little time, KISS.

Thank you for…

Thank you.  Two simple words. Vastly improved if you make them three by adding the word “for…”

Thank you for helping out on that big project, your idea saved us so much time.”

Thank you for all your hard work this year, I really appreciate it.  It’s great that that I can rely on you producing quality work.”

Thank you for helping me out yesterday with the shopping when my car was broken. I was wondering how I was going to get to and from the shops.”

With the end of the year fast approaching our thoughts often turn to what has happened over the year. Who has helped us when we needed a friend. Who has gone the extra mile; at work or at home. Who has made life a little bit easier. Who do we need to thank.

“Thank you” is good, but “Thank you for…” is better.

When you thank someone for something specific, it means so much to them. It shows that you have thought about what you are grateful for and taken the time to express it. “Thank you” is good, but “Thank you for…” is better.

Think about how you have felt in the past when someone has thanked you for work you have done, for helping them at home, school or work, for asking if they were OK at just the right time. It felt great!

I used to say “thank you” a lot; too often in fact. A too-frequent and simple “thank you” loses its effect over time.  I learned however, that a frequent, simple “thank you” coupled with the occasional thoughtful “Thank you for…” – with the addition of the effect of their action – made my thank yous powerful, desired and appreciated.

When I think back over my life, the people who make me smile when I think of them are the people who expressed their gratitude with a reason. I knew that I had made a positive contribution and that my efforts were appreciated. Often, the thanks were for little things but they made me want to do the big things.  Gratitude really does help to make the spirit willing and the effort increase.

When my children thank me for just being their mum and doing mum things, my patience with their idiosyncrasies increases.

When my friends thank me for an act of friendship, it strengthens the bond between us.

When clients thank me for my work, I have an extra spring in my step and I often come up with better ideas.

“Thank you for…” Three simple words. So much more powerful than two.

Who do you need to thank?

Don’t wait until tomorrow, thank them today. Just remember to tell them why.

Christmas is coming – ask for help!

Whisper it quietly or shout it from the rooftops: “Christmas is coming.”

For many people that means parties. I am not talking about the office party, I am talking about parties with friends, parties with relatives and sometimes parties with both. Cocktail parties, dinner parties, wine parties, non-alcoholic parties and, of course, Christmas dinner.

Parties need to be organised. The hosts must get everything ready in preparation for their guests.

Or do they?

How many times have you asked “Can I bring anything?” only to be told to just bring yourself?

As I write this I can think of numerous times I have cheerily told people to “just bring a smile” and maybe something that their children will definitely eat and drink. I have happily organised everything and been slightly out of breath when it all comes together at the end.

Why do we do it?

I feel upset if I find out after the event that I could have,
should have, brought something with me.

 

Because we are almost all conditioned that if you are throwing the party, you are doing all the catering. It’s goes with the territory. Suck it up and get on with it.

But it doesn’t have to be like that.

Friends, and most relatives, like to help. I feel upset if I find out after the event that I could have, should have, brought something with me.

I am not a mind reader. You really do need to tell me if you want me to bring something. And I will be delighted that you asked me. I will feel useful and happy. If you tell me not to bring anything, I won’t bring anything in case I upset you.

So this Christmas, when you are getting ready to welcome Uncle Tom Cobley and all* to your house, remember that you can ask for help.

One person could bring part of the starter and another person another part. More difficult if you have lobster, caviar and smoked salmon in mind, but they could bring oatcakes and creamed cheese or sliced ham and melon.

Another person could bring bread sauce* or cranberry sauce to accompany the turkey. Yes, bread sauce is a thing – it’s delicious! Pigs in blankets* (they’re real too), red cabbage with apple and onion* or some other accompaniment of their choosing. Your guests may bring dishes that reflect their home country and you may all learn about new foods.

Just one suggestion. Have a list and know who is bringing what.

Otherwise you could end up with scraps for starter, nothing to accompany the main course and mountains of pudding.

 


* Notes:

“Uncle Tom Cobley and all” is a UK phrase meaning lots of people. It comes from the song Widecombe Fair (this version sung by the King’s Singers).

Bread Sauce is a traditional Christmas Dinner accompaniment.

“Pigs in blankets” are cocktail sausages rolled up in bacon. No good if you can’t eat, or don’t like, pork but heavenly to those of us who do.

Red cabbage, apple and onion cuts through the fat and tastes wonderful. You can eat this at any time of the year hot or cold.

 

A traditional Christmas Dinner when I was growing up was comprised of:

Turkey

Gravy

Stuffing

Roast potatoes

Boiled carrots

Brussel sprouts with roasted chestnuts

Roasted parsnips

Red cabbage, apple and onion

Bread sauce

Cranberry sauce

 

Christmas pudding

Ice cream (under 18)

Brandy Butter (over 18)

Pouring cream

 

Don’t forget the Christmas crackers!

The most important thing

“I’m really sorry Mum.”

“I didn’t mean it. It just happened.”

My poor daughter sat on the sofa in our living room having just been very sick. She had no warning. I felt awful that she thought she had to apologise.

The problem was the rug. A beautiful Persian rug, bequeathed to me by my mother 3 years ago. I was constantly telling my daughters to look after the rug, to not spill anything on the rug, to be careful when in the living room in case the rug was damaged. Now the rug was less than beautiful, for the moment.

Yesterday I realised that the rug is not important. My daughter is far more important than the rug.

I stood by my miserable daughter, looked into her eyes and reassured her. “I care about you far more than the rug. I love you. It’s just a thing, you are my daughter.”

“I care about you far more than the rug. I love you.
It’s just a thing, you are my daughter.”

What is most important in your life?

Your family?
Your pets?
Your version of my rug?

Yesterday I was forced to take a long, hard look at myself and realise that I was sometimes putting belongings above those I love most. Today, I know that they are just things, expensive yes, but still just things.

It is hard to change years of conditioning that our belongings are important.

It is Thanksgiving today in the States. Christmas is on its way. What are you going to be thinking about most? The people you are with, the people you are missing, or the gifts you did, or didn’t, receive?

What is most important to you?

Are your belongings really that critical to your happiness?

Is your attitude to your “stuff” sending out the wrong signals to those who you care about?

I know my answer. My husband, my daughters and my dog are top of my list.

Just don’t ask me which order they’re in!

“Make it Happen” Made it Happen for me

“Make it Happen” groups are small, self-coaching groups of local women who support, coach and encourage each other to be successful. My Make it Happen group has really made it happen for me.

 

“Make it Happen” (MiH) is an initiative run by West Lothian Women in Business (WLWiB). Small groups of business women, usually 4 or 5, are introduced and encouraged to meet for mutual business support and coaching sessions.  MiH put me in a group with three lovely ladies; Gina Morrow (Bookkeeper), Liz Kerr (Counsellor) and Pam Jenkinson (Personal Development Consultant).

 

We were all at a crossroads with our businesses; we all needed to be invigorated in some way. MiH provided us with a framework for meetings so that we could coach and support each other while receiving coaching and support in return.

 

We meet regularly, every few weeks, catch up and see what progress we have made and what we plan to do next. We know we must deliver at the next meeting and it makes us get on with it!

 

We have laughed, drunk tea and coffee, nibbled cakes and biscuits and had eureka moments together. Each of us takes a turn to explain what we have been doing and where we are stuck. We all receive coaching from the other women in our group so that we can work out how to progress. We are very fortunate to have Pam in our group as she is a Professional Coach. Alongside Liz, who is a Professional Counsellor, we are well equipped to cope with whatever is thrown up. Gina ensures that we all understand our business obligations and provides excellent bookkeeping tips.

 

Since joining my MiH group I have:

  • Finished WHIZZARD, my product for optimising team performance
  • Launched Lothian Change Management’s website
  • Launched Lothian Change Management’s Facebook Page
  • Started to blog
  • Secured a 3 month contract with a large, Scottish organisation for scoping and gap analysis

 

Are there networking groups in your area that you could join?

 

You just never know who will inspire you to act and get started on fulfilling your dream.  What have you got to lose?

 

Working with others might just Make it Happen for you too.

Why your online post content matters

There is a saying:

“Sing like no-one is listening, dance like no-one is watching and email like it will be read out in court.”

I would like to add:

“Post online as if your grandparents, parents or children will read it.”

Posting online is very quick and simple, but beset with possible booby traps.

I have read some comments on a professional Social Media platform recently that have made me feel uncomfortable, as if I was being voyeuristic, reading comments meant for a private message.

In these days where the social media platforms are so interlinked, what is you post on Twitter can easily find its way on to Facebook, LinkedIn to Instagram, etc.  You are only ever one click away from being a global sensation – hopefully for the right reason!

One of the most positive posts I have read was in response to the subject of trolling, from Andy Foster “Only seen it once when I first started using LinkedIn daily, I showered my troll with so much flattery, that they couldn’t take it and went away.” Being positive works – you can get your point over just as well without upsetting anyone.

On LinkedIn or on your company’s Facebook, Twitter or Instagram page, be professional and remember that you are advertising your services at all times.  What you post reflects on your business. What you post on your personal Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages doesn’t need to be professional, but it does reflect who you are and how the world will see you.

Here are my rules for posting on line:

  1. Be as positive as I can be; I don’t see the need for any more negativity in this world.
  2. Do not show anyone else in a bad light. I ask myself if I would like someone to write it about me; if the answer is no, then I re-write it or delete it.
  3. Tailor my comment to the audience and platform – professional, personal, quick, etc. bearing in mind that posts transfer between audiences and platforms.
  4. If I am sharing, do I want to share with one person, friends or the public? Although I am aware that as soon as a post is shared, it can be sent anywhere without my consent.
  5. I remember the saying “If you can’t say anything nice, say nothing at all.” and I add “If you can say something nice, say it.”

Remember, it is a minefield out there so be careful what you post. The booby traps are many, the penalties can be high, but the rewards when you get it right can be life-changing in the best way.

It may not be read in court, but your grandparents, parents or children might take exception and so might future employers or clients.

What is this thing called love?

I guarantee that if you ask three people to read the title of this blog, at least one person will stress a different word in the sentence than you did.

This is a magical sentence that changes its meaning depending on which word you stress.

WHAT is this thing called love?

What IS this thing called love?

What is THIS thing called love?

What is this THING called love?

What is this thing CALLED love?

What is this thing called LOVE?

The written word is fraught with possible misunderstandings. Some people seem to delight in taking offence at the slightest opportunity even when it is not intended. If you find that sentence offensive, then re-read it and think about what it means J.

Don’t be afraid to use emojis, italics, underlining, bold text, etc. to clarify your intent and remove any doubt about your intentions. Remember that CAPITALS CAN BE INTERPRETED AS SHOUTING.

I know that some people find emojis unprofessional, but the use of a wink or a smile can transform text that looks grumpy into the intended light comment or joke.

I was on the receiving end of a comment in an email string about 10 years ago that included the whole office. I found the penultimate comment upsetting as did many of my colleagues who were upset on my behalf. It turns out that the comment was made half in jest and a smiley or a wink would have taken the sting out of the comment.

The final comment? That was the Area Manager bringing the email discussion to a close as he also found the comment offensive on my behalf. The person who wrote the comment was “spoken to”, although not at my instigation. All for the omission of a wink or smile!

When I write an e-mail or text I consider the following points:

  1. Would it be better if I spoke to the recipient directly? If yes, then I will phone them.
  2. Is the objective of my message clear from the outset? Am I asking them to do something? Is it just for information? Will they know in the first couple of sentences?
  3. Am I clear about the action I need them to take? Is it clearly signposted?
  4. When I read it back, is there any ambiguity in my message? If yes, I take the time to re-write the message to clarify my meaning. Time spent at this stage can save a lot of time explaining myself later!
  5. Does it sound right? Is it professional, friendly, assertive, etc? If I am writing a message of complaint I don’t want to sound like their best friend, but equally I don’t want to sound grumpy when e-mailing a client.

The next time you write an e-mail or dash off a text, re-read it before you send it to check that the recipient will read it with the same meaning that you wrote it.

It may just save you a lot of time and effort later.