90 Percent

Project management, productivity, change management, and more!

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Risk or issue?

There seems to be much confusion between the two but it’s really simple so I will try to shed some light on this topic.

A risk is a specific event that may happen. If it does, it will affect your project negatively or positively , so you want to prepare in order to make sure your project goes well.

An issue is something that must be dealt with. A risk, wether identified or not, becomes an issue.

Here are some examples:
Risk: There may be too many users visiting the website, and the server may not handle it.
Issue: Too many users visit the website and the server crashed, we have to add resources.

I hope this helps!

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Risks: not always negative

A common thinking about risks is that they are all negative and should be mitigated or avoided as much as possible. That common thinking is wrong!

A negative risk is a treat, but a risk can be positive and considered an opportunity so instead of mitigating or avoiding, you’ll want to exploit or enhance.

A good example is the risk of having too many visitors on your brand new website on the day of the launch. Having lots of visits is positive, so it’s not a treat unless it’s poorly planned and can crash the server, so you have to take it into consideration.

You may want to enhance the risk (plan a marketing blast to attract even more visitors) or exploit (use cloud hosting that can adapt resource accordingly, or have more resources ready for the server so you can welcome more visitors). You could simply accept and make sure the website simply displays a temporary message if too many people are visiting at once.

Risks are not all that bad, and even positive ones shouldn’t be ignored.


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4 tips for efficient meetings


Source: mconnors

Meetings are just as important as they can be considered a waste of time. That is because most meetings are not prepared or not done the way it should be, instead, they become uncontrolled discussions.

Here are some tips to help you have efficient meetings:

1. The right people must attend

By doing so, you are making sure your meeting can be easily controlled, and it will reduce ‘noise’, therefore, help the overall communication throughout your meeting. Only the right people must attend the meeting while additional secondary stakeholders must be avoided.

This will prevent unnecessary talking, and never-ending debates by having more focused discussions. Also, it will prevent using up lots of budget for several people that may not actually listen.

A maximum of 4 to 5 person is best.

2. Have a clear agenda

To make sure your meeting goes through all necessary items, it is important to list everything that must be discussed. Here is how to make a good meeting agenda:

  1. Include meeting duration.
  2. Include a duration for each item listed.
  3. Include the meeting’s objective.
  4. Here are some items that should be considered for almost everything meeting:
    • For a project kickoff, or if any new stakeholders are added to the project, going around the table so everyone can present themselves and explain their role is very important to start with.
    • Explain the purpose of the meeting (Project kickoff to align the project objectives, wireframe review, design review, etc.)
    • If time is left, include a point to review questions or discussions that were previously put on hold.
    • Review next actions: clearly repeat what must be done by who after this meeting and correct/complete anything that may have been missed.
  5. Make sure to send the agenda to the client before the meeting so that he request to have items added to it. This may require you to review the duration, but now you can it instead of doubling your meeting’s duration at the last-minute.

3. Monitor the time used for each point

Remember the time you planned per agenda item? It is important to monitor this during the meeting. Think of it as an equivalent to your project schedule that you must respect.

People will tend to forget the time and continue talking or debate, it is important you politely stop those discussions and explain that we must proceed to the next item in the agenda. Anything unresolved must be noted so that it can be reviewed and discussed at a future moment.

By doing so, you will avoid skipping points of your agenda or going quickly around the last items because you are running out of time. Another advantage is it will prevent your meetings from lasting hours which everyone will appreciate.

4. Send meeting minutes

Meeting minutes are another way of saying a written overview of your meeting. By doing so, everyone as a traceable historic of meetings.

It’s useful as a reminder, but a very good reference in the future.

Therefore, it’s important to have someone be responsible of taking notes and sending the meetings minutes to everyone who attends the meeting within 24-48h of the meeting.

The benefits

Some may underestimate the value of having a well prepared meeting. If you are one of those, consider those benefits:

  • You will give your client a good impression of what is to come while working with you, which can be a great benefit not only for the project, but for the company as well.
  • A more efficient meeting means your project will go forward properly after.
  • It avoids wastes of time for everyone, including your client.

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5 tips for good “Lessons learned” meetings

Lessons learned are an important part of any person/team’s evolution, it’s how you assess what happened , and identify clear ways to become better.

This meeting is often underestimated, even skipped, which prevents people from learning more than they should.

Here are some tips for a better “Lessons learned” meeting:

1. Take notes throughout the meeting

While you manage your project, you will probably wished some events went differently. It could be how you made your schedule, how the team developed a particular module that went wrong, or anything else.

It’s important to note them as they happen so you do not forget them, and note any ideas you might have right away to make it better next time. Don’t worry if some elements do not have solutions associated with them, what’s important is to be able to go through those items with the team while you are doing your meeting so they can contribute.

2. Plan the meeting not later than 10 days after the project

The idea behind this tip is not to wait too much so the team can remember what happened enough to contribute.

What’s important about having a specific objective (10 days), is that it will prevent you from postponing the meeting or simply not doing it because “you don’t have time”.

3. Make it clear

I may sound like a broken record with the “clear” thing, but, that’s how you can make your projects better!

Here, what’s important is to find clear actionable tasks that must be done (or not done) to improve.

Let’s take a scenario where many users complained about errors on a website and you want to list how we can avoid this next time:
Bad way: Test more before deployment
Good way: Plan 2 testing rounds, one to find errors so you can fix them, a second time to make sure everything was fixed probably

See the difference? One can be planned, done, and then improved again. The other one is too vague, which will either be done incorrectly, or not done at all in the end.

4. Include everyone who participated

Use your judgement with this one, if you have a 40 people team, you want to avoid overcrowding your meeting.

You want to make sure you gather as much feedback from every role as possible, and avoid including just managers. So if you have a large team, you may want to plan more than one meeting or include key people who could gather some information from their colleagues before the meeting.

5. Associate solutions for everything

Sometimes, the team may not have solutions for every element right away, but you want to avoid the problem from recurring so you must find solutions for everything. If it’s impossible during the meeting, assign someone the task of doing a little research, and never leave anything without solutions.

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Why clear roles are important in a team

Clarity prevents so much trouble, and although having clear roles seems obvious, there are many out there who work inside teams where each’s responsibilities could use a little tune up.

Here is how to clarify everything:

1.List responsibilities per role
First thing’s first, if you want to make sense of every responsibility and role, you must start by listing everything your team or company’s needs in terms of responsibilities to be accounted for.

Once you have this, You’ll be able to identify which types of people (roles) that you need.

By doing so, it will force you to think what you expect of each role, and assign every responsibility.

Adding descriptions, and expectations to wrap those responsibilities, and you have clear roles.

2.Make an organizational chart
Now that you know who does what, you can plan the hierarchy of the team. This clarifies relationships across the whole company and amongst each department/team.

3.Never let responsibilities unassigned
As time goes by, some tasks will pop-up that may not have been assigned to a role. It is easy to “throw” it to any free resource on the moment but it will eventually pop-up again, so it’s wiser to assign it to a role as soon as possible.

Here are some advantages of clear roles:

1.Helps focus
If your role is clear, then you know who you are top the team, and you know what to do; no questions asked. When a lot of work must be done in little time, your role will help you focus on certain tasks while others take care of the remaining tasks.

It will prevent confusion, errors, and thus, save time. It’s also a great way to keep everyone motivated.

2.Controls expectations
Expectations can destroy teams, projects, or even the best thing that could happen to you if your expectations are completely different.

Inside a team, there are always expectations amongst colleague. You expect the developer to develop, right? Sometimes responsibilities/roles are black & white (developing/developer), but it’s not always the case.

An example is the responsibility of communicating new costs to the client, assuming no change control board is available, sometimes it’s unclear if the account manager or the project manager is responsible for this.

This can cause conflict between colleagues, because each expects the other to do it. These tasks may even be left undone in the confusion, and that could affect your project.

3.Helps delegation
Now that there is a clear list of responsibilities and an organization chart, managers can easily delegate because they know what their power is, and who there are responsible for.

If they can delegate more easily, they’ll be better managers overall, and they will build trust with their team.

4.Prevents frustration
Overall, people will get frustrated and tired of the confusion or undone tasks. All this will be prevented, the team will be happier, and it can even prevent valuable resources from leaving the company.


Get out of your comfort zone

The comfort zone is a great place to be. For those who ignore the meaning, here is Wikipedia’s definition:

The comfort zone is a behavioural state within which a person operates in an anxiety-neutral condition, using a limited set of behaviours to deliver a steady level of performance, usually without a sense of risk.

Now why would you want to escape this safe little paradise? Simple, it prevents you from evolving by keeping you protected with this nice little routine. Don’t get me wrong, spending a good amount of time in your comfort zone is great, and even strongly suggested, but like everything in life, a good balance is better.

When you are in your comfort zone, that means you are doing what you know or what you are good at, and that is not how you will learn or accomplish something new. Depending of where you work, you may not have that flexibility, but try pushing your role farther than usual. For example, if you are used to having colleagues communicate with clients while you take care of managing the production, try asking your colleague if you could be part of the communication. It might be scary/stressful at first, but you’ll get used to it and get better. Your colleague can even give you some pointers to help.

You may make some mistakes, but that’s just fine because you will learn from them! Read my article on errors if you are not convinced.

You’ll eventually reach a new comfort zone, and then you can try something else to get out of it again! It can become stressful for you so balance the amount of time you spend outside your zone. Avoid trying too many new things at once, you may become overwhelmed and get discouraged/scared. Learn to pay attention on how to react, how you feel, and escape your comfort zone accordingly.

Another great situation is when you have a manager that pushes you outside your zone. A great leader will be able to analyze who can do what and point them in the right direction, helping them along the way. That way, the leader makes its whole team evolve. Note that it can also be other colleagues and not necessarily managers that can get you out of your comfort zone.

So, get out of your comfort zone, become better at what you do, or become good at what you don’t do yet!

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Learn to say ‘no’

Although this tip is to help your productivity at work, it can be used in all aspects of your life.

When your schedule is full but you know you still have just enough time to accomplish everything if you hurry and concentrate, that’s when you receive this request that must be done now. Sounds familiar?

What to do? Say yes, work overtime, and complain in your head (or out loud!)? When it happens a second time, and a third…What do you do then? Complain more? Or even worse, accept and not accomplish the task in time?

How about saying ‘no’?

Bare with me, I’m not saying to stop doing what is asked of you and always refuse everything without thinking, especially if the request comes from a superior, but there is a right way to say no and here is how:

Compare priorities

First, requests, especially those that must be done ‘now’, may not be that urgent compare to other tasks. Therefore, it’s important to clarify when the request must be done and why it must be done for that time.

Most often, one of two scenarios will occur:

  1. Your current task will be considered more urgent and it will be possible to compromise to have more time to do the request. Explaining that the ‘phone call tomorrow’ may be rescheduled for example but your project deadline cannot.
  2. The request will be more urgent and you may consider doing your current task later instead.

Compare resource availability

If changing the task’s deadline cannot be considered, maybe somebody else can do it. The person with the request may just be looking for someone to have something done and will take the first ‘yes’.

Here, a possible solution could simply be to suggest asking others instead of adding the work to your already full schedule.

Suggest alternatives

Identifying the goal of the request can give you an idea for a quicker alternative which will make it possible for you to do it right away or buy some time.

For example, a request might be to create a full detailed schedule for a meeting. Here, if the goal is to identify approximately when the client will have to provide his content, then maybe just a milestone list can do the job.

Discussing alternative could also help you find ideas that other available resources may be able to do (refer to point above).

In conclusion

No matter what solution you use, the important thing to remember is to always propose an alternative or compromise and avoid bluntly saying ‘no’.

It will make your life easier, and your colleagues will respect you for this.