Nelson v3.1

Project Management, Technology, Life.
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  • Managing the E-mail Avalanche

    Posted on December 14th, 2009 Nelson Bodnarchuk No comments

    I’m feeling the pressure it at this point in the year, as many of us are preparing for vacation while the constant stream of work builds up. I referring to the barrage of e-mails overwhelming our in-boxes. There are ways to manage this for the long term though here are a few ideas that I’ve implemented or will be implementing…as soon as I catch up on all my email ;)

    Taken from the essay: Taking Control of Your Time, one of the “Results-Driven Manager” guides from Harvard Business School Press, the author suggests these four simple steps to message control:

    1. Begin your day differently: Don’t jump to your e-mail first thing in the morning. Instead, start the day with a blank piece of paper or a blank screen. Write down a strategic goal and develop an operational plan to tackle what needs to be done first or next. Allocate a block of uninterrupted time to work on this goal.
    2. Reply to e-mails at the end of the day: You’re tired then and eager to get home. This means you’ll be better at focusing on the important ones and keeping your responses short. Besides, fewer people will be able to respond immediately.
    3. Teach people how to send you e-mails: One executive decided to respond to every e-mail for a week with a note on its appropriateness. He coded his responses as follows: a “1” meant “Keep sending this sort of critical information”; a “2” meant “Unless I’m on this team, don’t send me this information”; a “3” meant “Send this to the responsible person on my staff, not me”; and so on. His e-mail load dropped precipitously.
    4. Use better alternatives whenever possible: Make a point of relying on face-to-face meetings, not e-mail messages, for anything that involves ambiguity, interaction or emotion. Technology is only a tool, and it shouldn’t determine how we make decisions and manage our time.
  • Agile TV for Software Development & More

    Posted on November 22nd, 2009 Nelson Bodnarchuk No comments

    It’s been awhile since my last post, and it may be a little while again before I publish another post, so I figured that I ‘d highlight a great resource that I ran across in my online travels for new and better ways of applying lean, agile and critical path analysis to projects, software and business management.

    Checkout tvagile.com

    It’s a great directory of videos, interviews and tutorials focused on agile software development approaches and practices: Extreme Programming (XP), Scrum, Test Driven Development (TDD) , Lean Software Development, Feature Driven Development (FDD), Behavior Driven Development (BDD), Continuous Integration, Pair Programming, Re-factoring and several other techniques that can be applied to making your process simple yet effective.

    They even ask for suggestions, and accept contributions from their readers. Just check out their contact page.

  • 5 Ways to increase Employee Productivity

    Posted on October 23rd, 2009 Nelson Bodnarchuk No comments

    From Past Experience as a PM in a range of companies from large to small and dealing with diverse backgrounds such as Power and Energy, to Metallurgy, to Software Development. I’ve learned that low employee productivity isn’t always due to a poor employee. I would actually apply the 80/20 Rule in this case and state that 80% of the time lackluster productivity is due to employee motivation and their effectiveness relates directly to the manner in which they are managed, while only 20% of the time it’s actually just a poor employee.

    Office Space

    It’s easy for employers to look at lackluster productivity and attribute the problem to “poor employees”.  Don’t get me wrong I’m not advocating that you coddle employees like a 6 month old or give them smiley faces each time they do something right, this isn’t Kindergarten it’s the Big Leagues (or at least we should be leading teams like it’s the Big Leagues). So as a manager what can you do to impact the amount and quality of output from your team. Here are five of my tactics that I tend to pull out of the ever expanding tool box that today’s leaders require to get the job done and score the game winning goal.

    1. Give team members freedom over their work. Let them have input on the tasks they perform and how they perform them. Give them choices in assignments or creative control to complete tasks however they wish. This will boost their feelings of ownership and allow you to focus on the bigger picture instead of hovering over their shoulder and essentially treating them like a Kindergartner. I personally follow the 1 planned interruption a day rule, I have one 15 min meeting a day with my teams to sync up our priorities, answer questions and understand their impedance’s so I can help remove the barriers to the teams success. After that I won’t interrupt them for the rest of the day, unless there’s another planned meeting with a specific agenda or the fire alarm goes off.

    2. Challenge employees. Give them difficult tasks that push them further, or load their work funnel until it’s almost overflowing. Don’t make the tasks so difficult that you set them up for failure. However, by pushing them slightly further you’ll motivate them to perform their best and also encourage pride in their work. Again I come back to the 1 planned interruption a day rule, I can only interrupt them once per day because I’ve given them task worthy of their full concentration and they don’t need any unnecessary distractions from an over bearing manager.

    3. Provide each employee with the right motivation. While cash may motivate employees to accept a job or stay in a job, it may not motivate them to put their best foot forward at that job each and every day. Instead, tailor motivation to the personality and lifestyle of each individual employee. Work to understand what’s really important to an employee and use that to create motivational tactics. What works for one, may not work for another. I like to develop what I call a P3 sheet for each employee. A P3 is simply a Personal Performance Plan, and as long as it’s specific to the employee then it will be relevant and help to drive performance from the trenches and help to improve not only the organizations bottom line but help the person improve their skills and level of satisfaction from the work as well. This is a great tactic used by some of the best performing companies out there, Jack Welch discusses this in his book “Winning“.

    4. Convey to employees their value. Explain how their pieces of work fit into the greater puzzle that is your business. Employees that are aware of what they bring to the table will feel more part of the team and truly have an impact on the success of the company.

    5. Recognize and address employees’ concerns. Be cognoscente of employees’ concerns and the problems they may be facing. Once you have an understanding of how they feel, communicate that you are aware of the issues and are willing to work with them to create a better overall environment.  You don’t need to solve all of their problems, however removing barriers and providing a positive, professional and performance based environment will help to set the framework for success. These tactics aren’t something that you do once and then you’re done. To ensure productivity for the long run, you need to be constantly repeating the cycle and going further to nurture the work and demand that your employees perform at only the highest standards. That doesn’t mean them working 17 hr days or skipping vacation, it means to strike that balance and find the optimum point where you and your team get the highest productivity for the time spent working towards the successful completion of the goal.

    Dilbert Motivation

  • The Most Difficult Management Challenge: You!

    Posted on September 25th, 2009 Nelson Bodnarchuk No comments

    I’ve found that no matter how difficult it seems to manage a team, managing oneself is the most difficult management challenge of all. Being objective towards yourself is next to impossible when when you really think about it. Put another way there is an immediate and inherent bias and error with your internal gauge when measuring your own performance. I find that there are extremes, at times I forgive myself for offenses that I’d never accept in others, while other times I’ll hold myself to impossibly high standards of performance setting the stage for failure. To avoid such extremes, one must approach the task of managing oneself as if they were managing someone else.

    The Golden Rules for Managers, by Frank McNair, offers the following suggestions for self management:

    1. Focus on your weak points: admit to yourself where you’re most likely to fail. Identify your shortcomings and surround yourself with people whose talents will help compensate for what you lack in these areas. Continue to grow, in order to mitigate your weak spots until they become areas of strength. Avoid focusing only on your current strengths, this will limit your potential for success.

    2. Set a deadline and reward yourself only if you meet it: the next time you have to complete a difficult less than exciting project, become your own boss and get it done! Set a due date for completion and offer a performance based incentive, such as dinner at a fancy restaurant or show. You’re likely to achieve the goal if the payoff for reaching the objectives is clear, use SMART goals (Specific Measurable Attainable, Realistic and Timely).

    3. Keep Positive, the more negative you become, the less effective you become: in the heat of an argument, we have all said and done things that, if given the option, we wouldn’t choose to repeat. You’ll never meet anyone who thinks better and makes better decisions when they’re angry (With the exception of Ron Hextall). Refuse to allow yourself to react to a situation in a compromised state of mind, this can damage valuable relationships. Remember that, as a manager, you don’t have to get angry in order to give feedback.

    4. Don’t skip holidays: in 20 years, the only people who will remember that you didn’t take your vacation will be you and your family, who will recall feeling shortchanged by your excessive devotion to business. Take time off to experience the joy that comes only from being with your loved ones. You’ll also return refreshed, energized and bring new insights to the table.

    5. Fire yourself if required: at some point, many people find that they’re in a job that is not satisfying. Most people stay due to a fear of change. That can happen even if the job is CEO and it’s your own company. If you reach this point, you should “fire” yourself—either by finding a way to fire yourself up with renewed enthusiasm for the work, or by actually firing yourself from the job. If it’s the latter, you need to find a job you like better, whether within your own company or elsewhere, and then attack it passionately. You only live once and in life there are no dress rehearsals, so spend your time doing something that you love doing. If you do you’re more likely to enjoy life more fully and make a positive difference in those around you.

  • Winning Management Lessons

    Posted on August 4th, 2009 Nelson Bodnarchuk No comments

    Seven winning management lessons, that work in any business. Quick, to the point and open for interpretation:

    1. Have a succession plan in place.
    2. Make sure new hires fit in with your organization.
    3. Even when business is good, don’t stop looking for new opportunities.
    4. Recognize when it’s time to cut your losses.
    5. Don’t overlook the Details.
    6. Figure out what motivates each employee.
    7. Have a contingency Plan that lowers Risk.
  • The 8 Rules of Lean Project Management

    Posted on July 28th, 2009 Nelson Bodnarchuk No comments

    The eight rules of Lean Project Management (LPM), re-posted from the Project Times, Summarizing the Rules of Lean Project Management by Claude Emond. A great set of  rules for any PM to follow:

    Rule # 1: the “Last Planner” Rule. The one who executes the work is the one who plans the work. This saves time, money and resources due to reduced waste.

    Rule # 2: the “Tracking Percent Promises Complete (PPC)” Rule. Do not track time (effort) or cost; track small promises that you can see over time.

    Rule # 3: the “Expanded Project Team” Rule. Expand the project team to include and integrate all significant stakeholders, as part of the team as early as possible.

    Rule # 4: the “Humans, humans, humans” Rule. Humans execute projects, and project deliverables materialize through humans and for them. So be considerate to humans as, without them, no project can be a success.

    Humans from CK-Blog.com

    Rule # 5: the “Rolling the Waves” Rule. Roll the waves. Make your choices and commitments (promises) at the last responsible moment. Make them in the form of work packages that will deliver the desired results anticipated with a high degree of certainty. Plan the work, execute the work, learn and adapt, plan the work, execute the work, learn and adapt, plan the work, execute the work…succeed!

    Rule # 6: the “Opening, Adapting and Closing Often” rule. Open-Adapt-Close, Open-Adapt-Close, Open-Adapt-Close… all the time. The IPECC (Initiate, Plan, Execute, Control, Close) cycle is a recurring process; this recurrence is the true key to successful projects, lean-influenced or not. In order to close a project, you have to open-adapt-close formally at the phase level, to open-adapt-close formally at the work package level, to open-adapt-close for each required deliverable (small concrete promises), to open-adapt-close each required activity undertaken.

    Rule # 7: the “Executing Your Small Promises on Single-tasking Mode” Rule. Execute your small promises on single-tasking mode. Once your deliverables are cut into smaller pieces, deliver them one after the other, as much as possible. By cutting your project work in smaller pieces/promises, you will save on set-up time each time you are interrupted, thus accelerating delivery. This accelerating effect can be increased furthermore, if you also try to execute these promises, one after the other, this saving an additional amount of set-up time. In a multi-project/multi-tasking environment, the most productive strategy is to single-task, doing these multiple tasks in series, when possible.

    Rule # 8: the “Using LPM Principles to Implement and Adopt LPM” Rule. Live and use what you preach to implement LPM; by “walking the talk”, you will succeed in increasing the speed and extend of LPM adoption and ensure a lasting and fruitful change.

  • Technorati Blog Claim

    Posted on July 13th, 2009 Nelson Bodnarchuk No comments

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  • The Myth of Multi-Tasking & the 80/20 Rule

    Posted on July 9th, 2009 Nelson Bodnarchuk No comments

    Every Morning on my way back to the office from the gym I drive South on HWY 400 for approximately 5 min, sometimes 15 if there is a problem on the main roads. The one thing that I notice are the amount of people that use mobile devices, eat bowls of cereal or are smoking while trying to update their play-list on their i-Pod. This post isn’t about the obvious dangers of attempting to operate a motor vehicle at approx. 120km/hr on a busy road while focusing on other less critical tasks, nor is it meant to offend anyone who regularly practices this type of multi-tasking. What this post is about is the myth and dangers that go hand-in-hand with multi-tasking during your working hours. Here’s MSNBC’s take on The Myth of Multi-Tasking.

    I believe that the less interruptions one has, the more focused they are, the more they’ll complete and the quality of what they complete will be higher. As a rule I only have one meeting at the beginning of the day with my team, and let them call others if required. Also just because one has several windows open on their screen doesn’t mean they are focused or getting the job done. As for multi-tasking I can only do one thing at a time, call me old fashioned.

    There’s two parts to this equation though, the first part is focusing on one thing at a time with little to no interruptions and the second is actually doing only value added activities.

    I once had a great manager that said to me: “Probably 80% of what you do during your work day is unnecessary, so if you can focus on that critical 20% you’ll have more time to get more done.” At the time I didn’t fully understand what he meant as all of the things I had on my To Do List were there for a reason. On closer inspection of my list I found that most of what I was doing was non-value added work that cost allot of time for little benefit, or in finance lingo these activities had a low ROI. So from then on I’ve reviewed my To Do List daily, sometime more, to ensure that only the priorities are on it. So what to do with the other less critical items, well you’ve got options:

    • Don’t write them down, and if they’re important enough then they’ll come up again. (37 Signals does this and it seems to be working out for them so far)
    • Create a separate “Parking Lot List”, just in case. (the Six Sigma Methodology uses this tool, I like it for when you’ve got a large group in a room and you don’t want to focus, and spend time, on non-priority issues)
    • Prioritize the list (A, B, C or 1, 2, 3 or !, *, #) and focus on the most critical first.
    • Create an ice berg line to distinguish what you’re going to focus on first (usually you move the most critical items to the top so they’re above the line).

    You can also use a combination of these (this is my personal preference) but the key is to review the list and be objective. Remember focus on that 20% that will generate value for your team, project or whatever the case may be.

    Another key is where possible, or required, get others involved in the process. You’ll gain a different perspective, most likely improve the quality of the list and build morale with out doing something like a company roast. Do this and your To Do list will quickly become a To Done List or even better a To Don’t List.

    If you’re not sure of what I mean by company roast, reference this clip from The Office.

  • New Avatar Walking Cycles

    Posted on June 19th, 2009 Nelson Bodnarchuk No comments

    The development team added the new walking cycles for each of the 5 Avatars for the Paws and Tales Games, and I have to say, they outdid themselves great work guys. It also didn’t hurt that we were working with original assets for each character.

    You can check them out by signing up for a free account at pawsandtalesgames.com and then selecting each character. If you were on the game prior to this addition you’d notice the difference as the older avatar didn’t walk as much as they shifted side to side while hovering accross the screen.

  • Paws and Tales Games Press Releases

    Posted on June 15th, 2009 Nelson Bodnarchuk No comments

    I’ve recently taken on the role of Product Manager for an online game, pawsandtalesgames.com. As a product manager, I’m responsible for the product design, development, quality and marketing. Since I submitted the Project Charter approximately a year ago, I’ve seen the product go from a few scribbles on a white board to a it’s current state online. As much fun as the development and testing stages were the current marketing stage of the project is the most challenging for me as my marketing experience in the trenches is shallow to say the least. However, since I believe that specialization is for insects, I believe that I’m up for the task at hand: to drive as much traffic to the site as possible in the next 6-12 months to increase the current user base of approximately 100 to approximately 100,000.

    My first step was to submit a press release to the various online news-wires to create some internet chatter. my first few online press releases are located here: Providential Pictures Announces New Paws and Tales Games MMOG Website, at providential-pictures-announces-new-paws-and-tales-games-mmog-website. Here’s a few more that will be posted by Wed. Jun. 17th at http://www.prleap.com/pr/137137/ and at www.onlinepressreleases.com.

    I’ve used the following sites and included a few stats just in case you’re ever in need of some quick and inexpensive PR.

    • free-press-release.com, basic package is $0, paid options range from $1-$30
    • PRWeb.com, basic package is $80, great customer service, two day submission delay with basic.
    • prleap.com, basic package is $49, 1 day submission delay with basic.
    • prlog.org, free and user friendly, you are fully responsible for your post
    • onlinepressreleases.com, basic package is $0 EURO’s, and user friendly

    Most of these site have tracking stats for your Press Releases, however it’s still early on so I’ll reserve comment on the stats trackers until a later date.