Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Felicidadez!!!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!!!!

Project Managers and dealing with dificult people: 1

Just about two days ago during lunch with peers, we were talking about different team members that were going to change roles in the organization. At that time I realized about a role that I was playing while managing a program.
“Shielding people from people” I do not know if it has happened to you or not but sometime when trying to get a group to work with other groups and/or individuals it gets difficult when an individual social or emotional skills are less than desirable. The person can be intellectually astounding and brilliant but in working to relate to others the person cannot operate.
At the beginning of the project, especially when you do not know all the players the Project manager spends some time to understand, learn the qualities of the team members in a individual, interpersonal and team environment. The individuals sometime without really want it creates problems that causes the PM to go into damage control. When you have and individual that is problematic in dealing special with external teams that is when the shielding process begins.
And it works something like this; the person will provide the PM with their opinion, response, contribution and comment. The PM will add the political savvy and adjust the delivery style to fit, without compromising the content. The process of shielding the receiver form any unpleasant or misunderstandings that could cause damage will consume time and effort but in the long term it normally saves time and money because it will minimize the damage control and firefighting needed.

Whose brand is it now? Yours?

Earlier in the year, I was fortunate enough to attend an activity of the YNP of Raleigh, the keynote speaker Britt Carter talked about branding and personal branding. And after that a panel of young professional shared their experiences and opinions regarding the matter.

I won’t bore you to death with a definition of branding or definition to personal branding. But instead give you a few insights I gather and expanded regarding the topic. To me, branding it is a game of perception that it is being played whether you like it or not. At work, at the market, at church, in your home any place where individuals are present. Your brand and the perception of the brand becomes a integral part on how the conversation, interactions and attitudes towards you. This in part will control and influence what the outcomes of the interaction will be. If others are playing even if you are not, why would you leave it to them to determine your brand? So here the case is to treat it like is critical part of a product offering called YOU, take charge and controlled. I encourage you to not leave it to chance, because others will exert their influence and controlled for you. How they controlled? Well there are many ways; one of the oldest ways is gossip. Think about this, long time ago there was tribe of cavemen; compose mainly of hunters and gatherers. You may think about what the cavemen believe a member of the tribe is or is not. That will affect how is going to get treated, respected and care of. The only control the caveperson has is how he/she controls their behavior and delivers on the label the cave person want to live for.

Nowadays it gets very complex with the addition of the digital life, pictures, video, tweets, Facebook, social media and other mediums will makes it difficult to control and to manage it. If you can influence what is out in the public domain, how you are perceive and how you behave, you can somewhat maneuver your brand to improve it or sustain it.  Even though people are going to say what they want to say, whether you like it or not, what matters is how you handle the situation and what the brand says about you. But keep in mind that personal branding should not be left to chance or be purely controlled by others that might not have your best interest. Like a Public Relations (PR) team does to companies, celebrities and organizations you have to be your own PR person. Your reputation and authenticity plays a large part in defining the message that your personal brand is delivering.

The reality is that who you are and how you act have the largest impact on your reputation and your personal brand. For example, you are a very reliable, competent and savvy individual. You get to a familiar or new place and during the interactions with people you notice that they rely on you, seek advice, help and perceive you as a trustworthy person. Why? Because what you have created with your action follows you everywhere and it shows on how you project yourself, even to people that does not entirely knows you. Your brand does that for you.

But, do you really know what your personal brand worth is? As a different with products (People decided with money, buying power, the value of the brand to them), personal brand is very hard to determine the actual worth. Since people, in most cases, not necessary pay with currency for your presence, services and time. Also like products, the value is a very individual aspect of the brand, what it means to one person is different to the other. To some they do not even value their personal brand as it is something of no importance until it start to affect their life and then wonder why people treat them they way they are getting treated.

So how much is your branding worth? How would you determine the value of your brand? Part is money; part is happiness, friendship, actions and other factors. There is no formula that I have come across that defines it or establishes the worth of personal brand. But to me it is very important and it is worth a lot, enough that I need to be conscious about it and proactively manage it.

During the YPN activity one of the panelists mentioned a story about a co-worker that after many years of service with a company was laid off. Which during these tough times we all know of someone that was or still is affected by this common situation. The interesting portion of the story that grabbed my attention was that the friend has worked for a company for so long that the company’s branding was part in large part their personal branding. So much of the brand, that there was not much of the individual brand left in their personal brand to make it unique. This is a big problem, because with no personal brand and out of the job the road ahead is going to be a long one. It is because the value of what the person brings out to the workforce was in majority stuck to the previous employer brand. And it will take time, precious time to translate, change and modify the brand. That does not mean that because you work for a company you should not adopt some of the brand as part of yours. You should but, be aware to make it your own. Make sure to add enough of your personal recipe/spice to your brand to make it yours. Think about the values, attributes that your brand is and/or will be that you can take with you no matter where you go. Work and act based on those values and the brand you are trying to build or change. Remember, your brand is yours and you are the one that should control it.

At the YPN activity also they mentioned “to have a Personal Brand advisor is a good practice.” To me that was a very interesting concept, a good practice to have a Personal Brand advisor. Do I need a PR person? Do I hire one? Where do I find one? Why? Do I consider myself a celebrity now? Think about this, we look for mentors, coaches and teachers to help us during our lives, professional career and to improve technical skills, but is not that often that we seek for a person to help us with our personal brand. Or simply to help us figure out what action I can take to control, manage and improve the personal brand. I thought that the statement was a very interesting one. What if I can find an advisor/s that can provide with insights that will help me develop a plan to manage my personal brand. People that can provide me with either their expertise, stories that I can use to improve the control of my brand. Thinking about that this blog is part of my brand, to express thought and enable conversation. Why don’t you find one as well? Giving that we want to improve and retain a good branding strategy, should we all strive to improve it. So what are we waiting for? Whose brand is it now?

Who thought that customer service is dead?

This one is going to be a short one (That was what I thought when I started writing), but I believe that it was worth saying something about it. We all know that once in a while a product we buy, the services we procure or experience we live when dealing with companies does not always work out the way we want it or expected. Sometimes products shows up DOA, sometimes the service is really bad and painful. Even if the bar is low and/or sometimes the experience in getting those little annoyances resolved become a mammoth pile of disappointment and frustration.

That is why sometimes we, the customer, keep building the paradigm/filter that prevent us sometimes going over the trouble of taking some action to get the issue resolved.

*Is the pain/trouble worth the few dollars?
*How much is my time worth?
*Will I get treated like they do not care? Like always happens?
*I am a human being, why they treat me like that? Iam the customer.

     These and many other questions run thru our brains every time we have to deal with some issue that involves customer support. You get passed along the next representative that makes you go over the same list of questions that the 1st representative asked or items that you already covered. Things like “Power it off”, “press reset button”, “Did you check that the cables are connected”, “the problem is not with our product, is the __________ (insert your preferred topic here: operating system, network service, health plan you have, you know what I mean).

I have to say that there are rare pleasant occasions in which you get totally the opposite. Once, long time ago I bought a Gateway computer and it was basically kind of a DOA, giving an error and not booting up. (This is back to probably to Windows 95 age, not that long ago) Just to give a reference of my level of computer knowledge, I am not a super expert in computers but I have built few top of the line computers gaming systems from scratch with success. Ok, now that it is out of the way, let us go back to my experience; I was able to figure out that the cable to the floppy disk drive (The floppy disk drive was essential for the computer to work at that time) was not fully inserted. Either due to shipping or was improperly installed, easy fix. But still it won’t boot up and the BIOS was getting interrupted. This issue, since it was an out of box problem and I was unable to quickly find a solution, I decided to call service support.

      This is where I would love for other companies to listn to this, learn something from it an implement similar approach. The representative quickly asked few initial questions, but it was different than any other traditional service support. He 1st took some time accessed what was the issue, listened and asked about what I have already try, asked my opinion, suggested a few theory of what was happening and asked to whether or not I was comfortable in opening the case and mess with few stuff inside the case. All this before happened even before any instruction was given to do or perform any task.  To end the story here after changing a few jumpers in the motherboard we were able to fix my issue and I was an extremely happy customer. My point is, the customer support took the time to connect with me, gauged my technical knowledge and inquired information relevant to the problem that allowed him to provide sound solutions and resolution to the problem. He took the time to treat the customer like a customer. No irrelevant checklist was used; no impersonal process flow and definitely no treating me like one more to go or one more for the metrics. To summarize the experience, it was very cooperative, pleasant experience. We are talking about a product that was DOA and I felt that we were part of a team, being part of the solution and that my opinion counted. Kudos to Gateway for their customer support structure and service back in the 90’s.

     Today’s problem is not the geographical location of the customer support or whether or not they are completely fluent in your preferred language, is that the support is no longer support. It is how support is being address, once customer support becomes a checklist that you need to follow and can not deviate it becomes impersonal and non-inviting, it is starts to be a recipe for disaster and disservice to the customers. I have plenty of bad stories that I can share, but today is for the good ones, not the bad ones.
     And it does not have to be a person responding or interacting with you to make it a good customer support/service. Take for example this other anecdote, the one the prompted me to write this time. Everybody has a daily routine, I do too and when that gets interrupted it is a pain. One of mine is that I like to, at the end of the day, watch a little bit of TV, few shows and then done for the day. I have been a customer of Netflix for some time. I like that I can watch my shows and programs when I find the time at my leisure. Two nights ago something went wrong with the service; it would not load the list or the selections for me to start to watch the shows. I tried few things to make sure the issue was not at my end and verify that it was indeed Netflix not something else. I was curious of what happened, but did not though much about it and went on to find the alternative plan for the evening. The next night while setting up I remembered what happened the prior night and was ready to figure out what action I was going to take if the same situation happened. But everything worked out just fine and the routine continue like it normally and religiously do. So no big deal, very happy with service and all is forgotten, so far so good, right? Well to my surprise today I received the following e-mail,
 

“Recently you may have had trouble instantly watching TV episodes or movies due to technical issues.
We are sorry for the inconvenience this may have caused. If you attempted and were unable to instantly watch TV episodes or movies yesterday, click on this account specific link in the next 7 days to apply a credit to your next billing statement. The credit will be 3% of our $7.99 a month plan that lets our members instantly watch unlimited TV episodes and movies. Credit can only be applied once. “
“Again, we apologize for any inconvenience and thank you for your understanding. If you need further assistance, please call us at 1-866-XXX-XXXX.

                                                                              –The Netflix Team”
  

     When I read the message and I thought, WOW! They did not have to do this at all. Without asking for anything or explanation (I did not check forums, facebook, tweets or other media to see if people were commenting or complaining, so I do not know), an email apologizing for the inconvenience? Providing a credit without me asking for any? Now, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprise and it was completely unexpected. Yes, I have to click to get the credit and is from the $7.99 plan regardless of the plan you have but hey, they did not have to do or say anything at all (like plenty other companies will do) It was very good to see that things like this happens. To see, companies taking responsibilities for their action and or issues to care about their customer base. I can also say that this will increase my desire to keep the service, they accumulated lots of points. Netflix, you did well here, very nicely done.
We all have bad stories, thing going terribly wrong, but do you still have those glimpses of good service and good customer care. Care to share a few of those?

Project Team and Groups Communication

    

      Earlier this month a friend of mine send me an e-mail asking about RACI. This turns out to be a very interesting topic to me and to discuss, not just the tool, but talk about some of the reasons when and why we want to use a RACI in a project, team or group. This actually will go back into team dynamics and synchronization between groups and team members. Here are my 2 cents, which my look like 5, but here it goes anyways.

      When dealing with projects well defined communication, roles and responsibilities are key to increased the success of any program. This does not guarantee success but it does increase the efficiency and chances for success. It is very simple when dealing with projects with only a few individuals, let say 4-6 individuals, that work together specially if they a located in the same building or area and have work together with similar successful projects in the past. This means that everyone knows and understand the final vision/goals to be accomplished.

They will also know and understand how they will contribute to achieve the goals. They know how to get things done, who they count with and who they can’t. They understand their skills and the skills of others interacting with them. The small group in a small project will have a pretty good grasp on how, when and what to use in a form of communication. Like a good family they normally work well together and understand their roles as they growth and execute on the program.

     It will be nice to have all projects like that and sometimes project manages will breakdown projects to mimic small project chunks to facilitate execution. But as project size grow, the complexity of dealing with the project grows and realistically getting the program/project divided in small unrelated chunks/tasks is not possible.

 When dealing with mid size projects can use a hybrid approach and combination of tools to manage or establish those. Ideally you can calculate the number of communication channels/nodes/point given the amount of people involved,
                                  
    
 Communication nodes = [N*(N-1)]/2 where N is number of individuals working in a project.
                                  
    
 A three person team will required 3 nodes, while a 6 person team in theory will have 15 nodes. Once you know the nodes you manage the communication flow. The problem with this is that it takes a simplistic look to a large problem when dealing with,

1. A larger group/team (Imagine a group of 20 — that will mean 190 nodes)

2. Organizational structure in which interaction with different department in a business (Finance, Marketing, Engineering, Operator, Technicians,…)

3. Cross businesses in which companies work together (Partners, Joint Ventures, Joint Development, Manufacturing,…)

4. Geographical location (Time zones, infrastructure limitations) 5. Cultural differences (How decisions are made, Who makes the decisions, philosophy of addressing problems,…)

 By the way, each node may need to be treated differently given the conditions and the individuals that are working together. One tool that is available to organization is the RACI, in which tries to tackle some of the issues mentioned above by categorizing the roles of team members and participants. Different people/groups/teams might play different roles depending on the stage of the program, task at hand and type of project. For example Manufacturing might have a say to the engineering team about design the product in a way that can be manufacture.  
                                  
    
This is my take on how I use it with my definition of the RACI roles,
                                  
    
R – Responsible – This person will actually do the work and completion of tasks. This person energy is considerably focus on getting thing done and complete with the item and requirements assigned or that the person is responsible for.

A – Accountable – This person is where the show stop for an specific task. Normally is a PM or a lead. Will make decision to move the program/project forward. Communication dynamics between the accountable and the responsible should be very clear and active. Clear expectations and updates to keep the program moving at the right pace.

C - Consultant – This role is for the gurus or experts in specific technical, business or knowledge area. They have a vote and provide guidance to the project based on their specific role/element of key information they posses. These individuals are most of the time on a need to know and on a request type of communication. Overuse of this individuals could cause confusion and will drag the work. Unwanted or reactive feedback/comment/suggestions from these individuals can cause havoc in the team, change directions, actually slow things down and/or stop progress. The accountable person needs to keep tabs on these individuals.

I – Informative – This role is for individual that are required to have information of the program either because they are key stakeholders but do not work on the project or are accountable for it and/or need the information to make decisions in other projects programs that they are working on. Or might be affected by the outcome of the project/program at hand.

      By establishing a RACI table when dealing with large group of individual/organization/project/program it can easily help minimize the challenges of communications and simplify decision making progress. It can reduce the complexity of managing different organizations, groups, cultural differences and help cluster large groups to allow a more effective communication channel.
                                  
    
There one element that I would probably add to the RACI tool and is the addition of the letter S
                                  
    
S - Sponsors – Which although is similar to the I but also a C. A key distinction is that this person also will have vetoed and influence power to the program. They might posses information that can drastically affect the outcome of the program and can actually cause a big impact to the working group (Positive or Negative) The lead should have open and honest communication clarifying goals and objectives along the way of the program.
                                  
    
Without the sponsor might not be a reason for a project. More information about RACI as a tool http://www.valuebasedmanagement.net/methods_raci.html

Please let me know your thoughts.

Resources? who cares?

     It is sometimes frustrating to be working in a medium or large company or business and see resources/people with great potential got to wasted in the vast ocean of conformity and lack of challenges. As a people manager or leader you have the greatest challenge, responsability and opportunity of your career in your hands, people. Genuinly developing people I believe is rather an art than a science or a skill set. Although there are plenty of books about it; How to develop people, How to develop teams, Teamwork In action, Leadership Pipeline, Ways to Develop People and so and so, it really takes more than reading or getting tools in hand to be successful at it.
Do not get me wrong, I am not good at it either but I had a share of really good bosses and bad ones too to learn enought to produce my own conclusions. From which I learned a lot of it comes during my job and career in a people manager role and developing high performing teams. Now what I am going to share with you it is just a brief/short of few key points that I have learned and that I believe can be key to initiate development in your organization, resources and individuals that are reporting in one way or another to you.

1) Every individual is an individual: Get it in to your head, there is no short cut, you must spend some time with your team in an individual conversation to understand their strengths, weakness and potential. The key during this conversation is mostly to listen. And then listen some more. One thing you are going to find out is that the perception that you might have on the individual might be wrong or change with time. You might learn something new that you omitted in the past or were unaware off. You will also learn about what motivates the individual and what is the career path that they think would like to follow. That information is essential to develop and determine how to approach the individual, their performance and development.

2) Conduct an assessment: Consciously divide your information in the three main areas;

  • Strengths: these are great attributes, skills and knowledge that the individual have or projects that you can select to encourage, enhance your group/organization. Now because is a strength in the overall scheme it might not necessary something that the individual needs to continue development. But in some cases you want to increase the efficiency or impact of the strength.
  • Weaknesses: It is very important to truly understand this list, because you do not want to necessary spend too much time and/or effort in improving or addresing items in this list, unless is essential to the job/role of the employee. You need to make a critical decision regarding what to do. For example you might decided to work on it, supplement by pairing some else with strength in the area or do nothing at all. And by doing nothing at all, I do not mean ignore it, but intentionally making it irrelevant to the job at hand, to the development and to the career goals.
  • The last list is one of great importance because is the “I do not know what to do with” list. Here there are item that you as a manager will have in the back burner as point of reference. There is no use at this point in time for this information but it will help you decided as opportunities for development arrives. For example, you might have an employee that during the conversation he/she mentions that would love to become a people manager. They have lots of project leadership experience, but has never led direct reports. (Which by the way is different than being a leader) At that point in time you might caught or sense a fear of providing positive/negative feedback to a person, co-worker or partner. Something that every people manager should be comfortable doing and that great managers do very tactfully and effectively. At this point in time you might do not have the tools or ability to enhance or complement the request. It is also not a strength or weakness, because it has not being tested or evaluated. There is no performance or metric to make a baseline. But in the future as an opportunity might arise you provide the employee the opportunity to coach a new team member or find someone in the organization that is looking for a mentor in a specific area in which your employee is good at. Here is an opportunity that you can use to provide the employee the opportunity to gain the confidence while providing knowledge cross sharing and leveraging of one of his strengths. This of course will require coaching and/or follow up conversations, but you get the idea.

3) Take Action: With the information at hand, as previously discuss it is time to have our eyes open for the opportunities to share. These can be in a form of a job, role, training, networking, partnering, coaching, listening, reading material, and the list goes on and on. Every day there are opportunities for learning, development and increase the experiences of our team members.

Remember, take action and take care of your resources. They are your best asset, no matter what business you are in.

As a year comes to a close

It has been a great year of learning and challenges. It was just 365 days ago that a new chapter in my life started. The capacity and capabilities of the human being are always tested not in good times but in challenging ones.

I had the opportunity to take a leap in faith, believe that “yes we can” and make as many bold moves as possible to achieve success. This is why going back in the last year makes me think about human behavior, skills and aptitude.

In one extreme side you have a group of people that always see the glass half full. These are going to be the go getters, the ones that even if they get knock down they will rise and perform even better than before. It is very important for these individuals to keep moving, very active and optimists. This does not mean that they are not realistic, but they will believe in themselves and will achieve even in the dire conditions.  Fortunately these individual will always see and seek opportunities that will enable them to achieve their goals.

A friend of mine saw in the news this business owner that suffered a blow to his restaurant business. Over the night the main restaurant caught on fire burning most of the facilities and setting him back big time. Instead of closing or waiting for the insurance money (Hopefully he had insurance) He got in the next morning and figure out how to be open for business and continue to generate cash flow.

Another group is the Half Empty kind of people. Like the other group these are realistic people, but the main difference is how they react to any given situation. These people get knock down easily and it takes them a fair amount of time to get back on their feet. They will see life in neutral ways, bordering in pessimistic. Although they might think all bad things happen to them they will stay and do their best to continue the journey, often being grateful for what they got. They will take the opportunity if presented to them although once in a while the opportunity will pass by without notice.

Then you got this group waiting, literally waiting, at the left side of the chart.  As another friend of mine said to me that this group is the “Dry to the bone kind of a glass” type of individuals. These are the victims of a ongoing conspiracy that the universe has against them. Unfortunately they live in a gloomy type of bubble and nothing seems to help. Nothing is right for them, nothing is good enough and they are afraid of taking any chances or even take a look at the opportunity. They wait for things to drop in their laps or they let life or happiness past by their side. It is sad for me to see individuals behaving like that. You recognize them when people will provides them with help, goods and support and nothing positive comes back in return. And by that i mean that since they are always pessimist and negative they will take the help but after that they will sit once again looking for one thing that is not going right. No effort should be waste in trying thing, new one or old ones.

As the author Robert Greene says on his book “The 48 Laws of Power”, his law number 10 “INFECTION: Avoid the unhappy and unlucky”. His reasoning is that a person puts so much effort into helping or getting this group out, or break the cycle that it will demoralize you and drag you down or so much effort is put into the matter that we miss other opportunities. My take on this is to try once and if no positive reaction or a hint of effort is perceive, move on and help the next one in line.

One key element is that the majority of people think they are always behaving as “half full glass” individuals when in reality we might fluctuate between both. But it is hard to see ourselves in the mirror and make that decision solely on what we think or see without the inputs of other and consciously measure what you have delivered and goals achieved.  If we always thrive to search for the opportunities, continue to achieve our goals and always, always on the look to improve our lives and others near you, only then you might be able to say you are behaving “half full glass” attitude.

So as I group into three different types, tons of attributes into a single description, things gets more complicated than that. But it will allow me to think over the past year and kind of wonder whether I am “half full, Half Empty or Bone Dry” type of a glass.

What about if we all take a bold move today and at least pursue an opportunity to achieve our goals.

The experience of time

It is true that sometimes people would like to hide their mark and scars of time. But in reality thie marks and scars are the one that provided us with the experiences and learning that makes us who we are.
If we go by life without taking the moment to reflect, extract all the possible learnings that the day to day provide us with, then we can easily say that time has been wasted.
I want to give thanks for my life and the marks that life has provided me with. Because with out thoses I would never be able to consible me a happy person.

Go out and be proud of the time, the larnings and the challenges that life provide to you, because those are the memories that will remain at the old age.

Cheers,

1st Post in this Blog

As for 2010, I declare it, the year of change and adventure. Not because any politics or protests or war or markets or financial crisis or technical advances in the world. Simply because it was a year in which I found myself applying strategy and tactical implementation and adapting to achieve results not only at work, but in personal goals and life.
I am planning to start blogging the process of slowly write a few things that I have learn throughout my career and life. I have to be honest and declare that I do not have a complete path for the content of the blog, but I will construct it as we go.

Sometimes it might feel that I will be narrating a few timelines and stories. Sometimes, more like a statement or thought but either way, take what you like and drop what you don’t.

As the web is an open forum, at least that is what I believe. I encourage you to come from time to time and comment, improve, suggest and enhance the conversation/blog.

With that I leave it for now. I am looking forward to write a few things along the way and enjoy the conversation.

Cheers,

Search
Archives

You are currently browsing the archives for the Uncategorized category.