Posts Tagged ‘management’

Malcolm Gladwell on Criticism

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Here’s author Malcolm Gladwell on the concept of criticism, and how entering a critical dialog with someone doesn’t have to equate to taking a shot at them or their work literally. Good stuff, and while it’s a solid theory most people understand, it’s much harder to put into practice. It requires a good deal of mindfulness and an understanding of our own intent.

This is excerpted from this excellent Brain Pickings post, in which Gladwell talks not only about criticism, but also tolerance and the idea of changing your mind. You really shouldn’t miss it.

The Danger of the Half Step

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Earlier this week, I shared a post on our Facebook page about an article called The 30 second habit with a lifelong impact. It’s a great piece, and you should read it.

This made me think about some of the best advice I’ve ever been given. The kind of advice that makes you go, “Huh, okay” when you first hear it, but years later, after it has marinated in some experience and successes and failures, dawns on you that for the first time, you actually get it. Isn’t this the nature of all real advice?

It was given to me by a mentor, and he’s probably reading this blog right now. The advice is simple. Ready?

Never take a half step.

That’s it. Don’t take a half step. Either take a full step, or don’t take the step.


How to Manage Impossible Clients

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I’ve had this article hanging around my Pinboard (please don’t confuse that with Pinterest, by the way) for a few months now, and it’s time I gave it its due. It’s an excellent piece, as is par for the course with Harvard Business Review’s op-ed content.

Here’s HBR’s John Butman, talking about four often-seen “impossible” client behaviors and the best way to respond:

There is a better way.  Impossible clients can, in fact, be managed; but only if you resist the temptation to fight fire with fire.  Instead, deliver — and let your talent speak for itself.  If you fulfill your end of the bargain, it’s much easier to find positive outcomes when clients behave badly.

Anyone who provides services to clients will be able to relate to this list. Don’t miss it.

What Not Giving Up Really Looks Like

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Leadership and business literature is rife with dictums and volumes about not giving up. The sentiment was even on a now-ancient Successories poster that said:

Go over, go under, go around, or go through. But never give up.

Here, the message is brute force, as if you’re a Navy SEAL who’s going to achieve his mission or die trying. Failure is not an option!

Nice sentiment, and probably motivational for bristling alpha types, but not altogether realistic. In fact, an acumen dressed with too much bravado leads to problems in the long run. Problems that make “not giving up” very difficult due to a variety of consequences that befalls such behavior.

Instead, perseverance is the root of not giving up, but nowhere does it connote not failing.


Focus, Passion and Protecting Your Brand

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If you know us, or you’ve read this blog before – or, heck, even read our tagline – you know we’re big into three things:

  1. Focus
  2. Passion
  3. Doing what’s right, even when it’s hard

We’ve grown MIPRO by relentlessly following these guiding principles, and it’s been incredibly rewarding. Challenging at times, but nonetheless very rewarding.

Because sometimes, to achieve a culture that actually reflects your values and doesnt just end up cute marketing copy, you have to make some tough decisions.


You Can’t Empower People By Decree

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Great mini-lesson from Jason Fried over at 37signals, which he gleaned from the book Turn the Ship Around:

David Marquet, the author and nuclear sub captain, says you can’t empower people by decree. While you might be able to ask someone to make a decision for themselves, that’s not true empowerment (or true leadership). Why? Because you’re still making the decision to ask them to make the decision. That means they can’t move, or think, or act without you. The way to empower people is by creating an environment where they naturally start making decisions for themselves. That’s true empowerment. Leaving space, creating trust, and having the full faith that someone else will rise to the challenge themselves.

Couldn’t be more true if it wanted to.


7 Ingredients That Make or Break a PeopleSoft Upgrade

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It’s a question that will make a room fall silent: what’s the difference between a successful upgrade and one that fails?

We have seen two completely opposite ends of the spectrum between effective PeopleSoft projects and ones that have not succeeded. Historically, we’ve been asked to come in to try to remedy a number of unsuccessful upgrades. It’s almost always ugly, and it happens more than you might think. The upside? As a result of the cleanup work, we have been able to assemble a list of seven best practices that can ensure an upgrade is steered in the proper direction.

Here’s what we’ve learned, in no particular order:

1. Tie your solution to your business objectives. We’ve said it a hundred times: a project can be on time and on budget, but if it does not meet the objectives of the project or business, then it will not be successful. Outline your objectives right from the start, and begin implementing your strategy right away. Companies use PeopleSoft for specific reasons, and after spending several months and countless dollars, everything will be a failure if you don’t meet your objectives. This probably seems obvious, but it’s incredible how often this gets brushed aside during a project in favor of more tactical objectives.

At MIPRO, one of the first activities we conduct during an upgrade is the Blueprint Workshop. The workshop identifies, classifies and prioritizes all of the project objectives, and outlines how we are able to measure each goal (after all, if you can’t measure it, it is challenging to determine if it was met). Finally, we attach project success criteria to the objectives. These objectives are a part of the project charter, which should be approved by the executive sponsor.


The (Beneficial) Power of Frustration

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I have spent the last 25 years of my career either managing implementations or working with customers to ensure a successful implementation.  During that time, my most prominent theory for the use of consultants is that ‘trial and error is not an implementation methodology’.  It’s true.

Many companies consider the use of consultants for various projects like an ERP implementation or an upgrade.  Why bother?  The simple answer is that you are buying the security that comes with experience.  Imagine having the wisdom of your parents when you were 21?  Or having the crystal ball to know all you needed to know to avoid your biggest mistakes?  What would you pay for that?

The world is full of trial and error folks who just want to figure it out on their own.  I know because I am one of them.  The list of software in which I consider myself “self-taught” is longer than I care to admit.  The cost of that education may be even higher.

I bring this up because I read an interesting article about FRUSTRATION.  That’s the emotion you feel at your lack of success.  Sometimes it’s a project at work.  Sometimes it’s a personal project.  Sometimes you’re frustrated with yourself and at other times it’s with others around you.  No matter what, there is a sense of failure.  This article however, points out that there may be value in frustration. Take a second to read it.

In consulting, we talk often about knowledge transfer and the ability to help our customers reach self-sufficiency before disengaging on a project.  It reminds me of the axiom “give a man a fish and he eats for a day but teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime”.  Based on the above article, frustration may not be a negative, but a sign of the learning process.  As consultants, our nature is to want to help people, but this article reminds us that some frustration can be beneficial.  The key is recognizing when frustration crosses into a sense of futility.  When it does, that is when you truly appreciate your consultants and the wealth of experience they can bring to your project to save you from the perils of trial and error.  Those same sentiments apply to my plumber, my HVAC technician, and my auto mechanic.

But those stories, while quite funny, will have to wait for another day. If you haven’t already, read the article. I found it very worthwhile, and I’m betting you will too.

When KPI Really Means “Keep Profits Increasing” (Hint: It Always Does)

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How’d you like that headline?

Yes, you and I both know KPI is an acronym for Key Performance Indicator but the goal for most organizations is to utilize these valuable metrics to keep profits increasing.  KPIs are the lifeblood for any company; they provide the pulse of the business.  All of the various metrics that people analyze provide valuable information to guide decision making and help chart a company’s path toward realizing their full growth and profitability potential.

They exist for no other reason.

This post by Rob Petersen, called 12 Experts Define Key Performance Indicators, provides a simple overview and four-minute video about KPIs. Petersen states that one of the best definitions he has heard is “KPI’s are an actionable scorecard that keeps your strategy on track. They enable you to manage, control and achieve desired business result.”

This article supports the notion that you do not need a lot of metrics. You need to select them carefully, report and take action.

Steps to consider:

  • Desired Business Result: Begin with a clear understanding of the desired result and be specific – how will you achieve your result? If you are clear about where you are going you can construct KPIs that get you there.
  • Actionable Scorecard: Choose a handful of measurements, generally no more than six or so that you believe are the most important to the achievement of your goal.
  • Keep Your Strategy on Track: You have raw numbers – the data. Use this data to measure your progress against the achievement of your desired result. And choose a comparison period: are you comparing this against last year, last month, last quarter?
  • Dashboards: This data provides graphical representations for your dashboard.

Now is always the perfect time to review your organization’s existing KPIs to determine if they are still relevant and it is the perfect time to create new KPIs if your company has not done so in the past.