90 Percent

Project management, productivity, change management, and more!


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Are you a micromanager?

Micromanagement is a management style whereby a manager closely observes or controls the work of subordinates or employees. Micromanagement generally has a negative connotation.
Source: Wikipedia

Micromanagement often brings frustration, discomfort, and overall less efficiency within a team. It is something I strongly advise against doing, and hopefully this article can help you be aware if you have micromanagement tendencies, or even spot some of your colleagues.

Signs of a micromanager

Here below are but a few of the signs that can help you identify micromanagement:

Need to control everything
One of the top signs of micromanagement is the obsessive need to know/control everything. You feel like you need to be omnipresent and whatever details you are missing are considered failure or unacceptable.

This results in asking too many status reports from the team, constantly calling/emailing them for an update, and having no regards to disturbing people to find out whatever you think you need to know.

Behind your shoulder
When expecting a certain delivery and the due date is close, you may notice some people literally standing behind the person working, and simply waiting for that person to finish, even if it was clearly communicated that more than 5-10 minutes are needed.

Not only does this person annoy his colleague and frustrates him, but while he just stands there waiting, he is not doing anything productive and wasting precious time.

Poor delegation
Someone who needs to control everything will have a tendency to keep the work to himself since it’s easier to control and make sure it’s one ‘his way’. However, when he does delegate, he will dictate exactly how to do it, and if the colleague takes any liberty outside the directions, than the micromanager will tell him to adjust the work or take it back and adjust himself.

Why?

Lack of trust
If the micromanager does not trust the people he works with, either because it is justified or because he thinks he is superior to everyone, than the lack of trust it brings will make him act the way he does.

Because of another micromanager
Sometimes, thee micromanager is actually the one pulling the strings behind, and someone else if doing the micromanagement.

The micromanager hides in plain sight while having someone else take the fall. This can be a very uncomfortable position for the person stuck doing the work. I speak from experience here, believe me!

Obsessive need to control
Some people just have his need to control everything, regardless of what’s going on and with whom they are working. If they don’t control everything, they feel they are not doing their job correctly.

Few tips…

There are a few habits that you can develop that can help you with a micromanager:
Reports: Since they need to feel in control all the time, they feel the need to know everything that is going on, therefore, sending regular status reports (more than you normally would) or constantly adding him in ‘cc’ on mails will satisfy that need, and avoid having him over your shoulder to find out what’s happening.

Stick to your commitments: If you stick to your commitments, from delivering work to status reports on time, this will make you reliable to the micromanager, and the added trust this will give him will diminish his need to control you.

Surround yourself with great people: If you feel you are guilty about not trusting the people you work with, and assuming it’s justified, than it’s time you make a change and surround yourself with a team that delivers and you may find your micromanagement days going away.

Talk to him: This depends on the role you have versus the micromanager’s role, but talking one on one may help clarify a lot of things. Communication is the key, right? You may find out why he is acting that way, or you may make him aware of his behavior; you never know until you have a real open conversation.

In conclusion

Micromanagement is a type of management that needs to be avoided, whether you are guilty of it, or a colleague is, do your best to fix it.

Have you ever worked with a micromanager? Share your story!


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Change: Before, During, After

Source: jscreationzs

Source: jscreationzs

When planning to move forward with a change that will impact your colleagues, it is important to remember that you must manage what comes before the change, during the change, and after the change.

Before

Before you proceed with changing a process, a tool, or anything else, you have to keep in mind that the more informed the others are, the better. In times of change, people need to feel safe in what’s coming and the more unknown their is, the less safe they will feel. Therefore, explain the reasons of the change, the plan, and how they will be supported not only throughout the change, but after.

Make sure people can ask questions or talk to someone to express their concerns or their ideas. How you communicate with colleagues at this stage will give them a first impression on what’s coming, and you want to make sure they have a good first impression in order to reduce resistance.

Another important aspect to plan before the change occur is training the other, and prepare the proper documentation for them (i.e. tutorials). This could range from preparing them on how a new process will work, to teaching them how to use a new tool.

During

While you are in the midst of your change, this is where many questions will come up since people will start to be actively affected by the change. It’s also when the most frustration or confusion can rise so it’s important to make sure people know they can contact someone who will give them prompt support.

There is also a time where you might need to adjust your change (change the change!). With more people coming onboard, you may find out that there is a flaw in the process that needs to be tweaked, or the tutorial created wasn’t as clear as you thought. Adjust this immediately, people will appreciate that these are being adjusted to accommodate them or improve what is happening.

After

Once the change is completed, a bad habit is to think it’s all over and you can “let go”. That is far from true. Even with a proper training and several questions answered, people will need a good amount of support for a while, and it’s important to still give prompt support as it happens. Fortunately, as time passes, support needed will reduce.

Lastly, like any project, it is a very good practice to have a lessons learned meeting and assess what to improve for next time. It’s also very important to gather feedback from the others to find out how they thought the experience was and how it could be better.


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How to give bad project briefs

Briefing the team to start a project is an important step contributing to the project’s success. How the brief is handled can be very indicative of how the project will
go.

However, even if it is very important, some remain unaware of the impact it has on the team to have an unacceptable project brief.

Here are below a few examples of bad project briefs. If you are guilty of anything similar to this, please review how you brief your team, I know you can do better than this. 🙂

1. The “Pass-by” brief

Situation:

  • You happen to pass by the person you need to brief on the project;
  • You stop him in the middle of the corridor and start briefing him on the project right here, right now; and
  • You give him a very high detail description like “It’s a mobile app”.

Result:

  • The brief takes 5-10 minutes;
  • No notes were taken;
  • No next actions were listed nor discussed;
  • The proper team members were not included; and
  • The person being briefed doesn’t necessarily have time for this today and now is stuck with a “surprise” new project he was not aware of.

2. The “Catch it” brief

Situation:

  • You go speak to the person and tell him a project is starting for a client and he should take care of it; and
  • You leave saying you don’t have more information for him…

Result:

  • The person is left completely clueless as to what to do; and
  • He knows he can’t ask questions since you have no more information.

3. The “high…very high level” brief

Situation:

  • You need to have an estimate done for a project;
  • You brief the person who will handle the estimate by informing him that you need an estimate for a “A micro-site”;
  • The person asks for more information; and
  • You answer… “Well it’s a micro-site!”

Result:

  • The person has no idea what to estimate and is frustrated by the lack of information.

4. The “New service” brief

  • You need to have an estimate done for a project;
  • You brief the person who will handle the estimate by informing him that you need to estimate a “Parade Float”; and
  • The person replies by saying “We do web here…” (which is true)

Result:

  • The person has no idea what to estimate; and
  • The person feels confusion around the new “service” we suddenly offer.

5. The “Client approval forward” brief

Situation:

  • You work hard to win a new client, not involving the team in any steps;
  • After much effort to win this new client, he decides to go forward with the project and sends his written approval in a mail;
  • You forward the approval mail to the team asking to start the project;
  • That’s it…

Result:

  • The team has no idea what is going on;
  • They are also discouraged by the “project brief” they just received.

6. The “When can it be done” brief

Situation:

  • You are in a meeting with a client who just agreed to have his websites done by your team;
  • Happy, you fetch the person responsible for production to meet the client;
  • Knowing he is completely clueless of the websites, you ask your colleague: “When can his websites be done?” while the client remains there, smiling, eager to know the answer.

Result:

  • Your colleague is put in a bad position where he is surprised, cannot answer, and must stay professional in front of the client; and
  • Gives a bad impression to client to see how his project started.

7. The “Client wants something else” brief

Situation:

  • Client gives you detailed information of what he needs;
  • You feel the client needs something else than what he his requesting; and
  • You brief the team according to what you think the client needs, and you do not share the original information the client provided to you.

Result:

  • The team is never able to satisfy the client, no matter how hard they try;
  • They are confused by the difference between what the client feedback says and what you say; and
  • Not only frustration build up, but so much time (and money) is wasted because of this.

In conclusion

Project briefs are the first impression of a project to your team, make sure it’s done right. Not only that, can you imagine if the clients knew how bad their project was transferred to the team? They would not feel confident the team could handle it, and they would be right.

Have you ever received a bad project brief? Share your story!

Freeze


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One great tip to help control scope

Freeze

Source: mparkes

As project managers, controlling scope can be very challenging.

You’ll want to avoid scope creep but if managed properly, scope changes can mean more budget. At first glance, this seems like a good thing, and in a way, it is. But there are a few others aspects to verify.

Be careful

For example, you can negotiate more time to the schedule, but this can result in the project dragging over a long period of time, and actually never end.

Another aspect to watch out more is as scope changes, team motivation diminishes. People need to close down projects and move on to the next challenge.

Still in the subject of team members, depending on how your organization work with resources, team members may not be available past the initial deadline planned. This may result in resource switches that add risk or cost to your project.

Projects should have goals too, and often goals are tied to a time-sensitive subject like an event, a new product, a contest, etc. By dragging these projects, the project goals may not be met.

So the tip? Negociate a scope freeze!

A great way to protect the project is to negotiate a scope freeze with stakeholders. This means that nothing gets changed until the current scope is completed. This doesn’t mean that planning for the next phase cannot start prior to the first one being done, it’s even suggested to start planning phase 2 while phase 1 is being completed, assuming you can secure the necessary resources of course.

Not every stakeholder may approve of this, they might feel secure with the idea that they can ask for any change any time, so it will be important to be diplomatic when discussing this and avoid forcing it upon them. Focus on the success of the project and the dangers of allowing constant changes.

Keep a backlog

If changes are requested or mentioned, it doesn’t mean they should be ignored. Anything that his discussed, even if a scope freeze was negotiated, should be noted in a backlog and reviewed when planning for a future phase.

It would be a great waste to forget all of those ideas.


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New look, new name

Welcome to 90 Percent, the new look for this blog!

The name is inspired from the common saying that project managers communicate 90% of the time which felt right for this place.

Hope you like it.

I also would like to extend an invitation to anyone who wants to write some articles and have them shared here, with full credit of course! Don’t hesitate to use the contact form and let me know you want write articles on anything related to project management, productivity, or change management.


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Continuous improvement – Part 4 – Tips

find-ideas

Source: ratch0013

In case you missed Part 1Part 2, or Part 3,  don’t forget to read the articles!

To end this 4 part article about Continuous improvement, here are several tips that will help you overcome the challenges that you may meet while trying to bring change in your team or agency:

1. Create a habit out of it

Just like everyone can get stuck in the routine of doing everything the same way all the time, you can create a habit of listing ideas, grabbing feedback, or adjusting/fine-tuning anything you can.

For example, every 3 months you can set yourself a reminder to ask people if they have feedback on a tool, or ideas to improve how everyone uses it. As time goes by, pay attention to the evolution of the feedback as it may change from “Everything is great” to “I found out about a new tool…”.

2. Gain buy-in from managers

If you do not have any power to use resources to make change happen, than sell your ideas to people who do have it. If they agree and make available the necessary resources for the change, then you will obviously have a better chance of making it happen.

To gain buy-in, there are several ways to convince someone:

  • Show the monetary gain of the change;
  • Show how things can go faster;
  • Show how better quality will be produced;
  • At the same time, you can use the current situation and show how slow, inefficient, or low quality things are at the moment;
  • Show people’s feedback;
  • Show are things are being done elsewhere and the result;
  • etc.

3. Accept mistakes

One of the reason we don’t want to tackle change is because we are scared of making mistakes. The thing is, you will learn a lot from your mistakes, and what’s important is to adjust right away when it happens.

If a new process just doesn’t work, either fine-tune it, or go back to what it was. Just don’t let it stop you, learn from it and let it bring you even further.

4. Find others

Usually, you will be able to find others who feel changes needed. Discuss with them, gather their feedback, their ideas, and get them on board to help you bring that change to life.

If you think you are alone thinking things need to change, you are wrong. Although at first it may look like nobody wants things to change, a lot do but are scared or just don’t think they can have an impact. People will join in, and make sure to include them as much as possible throughout the process of the change.

5. Think small / Think big

Changes can be very small and they can also be big. Do not neglect the small changes that can fine-tune your big changes into something even better. Just like sometimes the biggest, toughest changes are the ones that are going to bring the best results.

Vary the sizes of the changes you tackle. Even a small change sometimes keeps you motivated for the next change, just like finishing a small task during your day.

6. Think of others while planning

Unless the change is only going to affect yourself, think of others when planning how the change will impact everyone. The others will make your change live or disappear, if you neglect them, they will surely make your change revert to its original state.

How? Simple, talk to them, ask them what they like, don’t like, what’s their opinion on the path your change has taken, if they agree or disagree, ask them to test whatever your doing, involve them. Avoid doing this behind everyone’s back and then imposing the change suddenly without the proper training/support; your change will surely fail and everyone will just keep doing what they were doing before.

7. Ask these simple questions: “How can we be better?” or “How can this be better?”

The title says it all; just by asking yourself (or others) this question, you can be surprised of how many ideas can come out of it.

Do a brainstorm session and use those questions to start some discussions, and you’ll see there are many ideas that will pop out.

Also, ask these questions even if things are going well; just because a tool is great or a process is going well, doesn’t mean it can’t be even better.

In conclusion

This concludes the 4 part article on continuous improvement, I hope you enjoyed. Do share your ideas or stories of when you brought change within your team.

Where to start?


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Continuous improvement – Part 3 – Where to start?

Where to start?

Source: Stuart Miles

In case you missed Part 1 or Part 2, don’t forget to read the articles!

So you want to tackle continuous improvement, you have many things that could use an efficiency boost, you have people willing to help… So where do you start with all this?

Treat continuous improvement as a project

It’s the same core idea as changing a website, it’s a project! So if you keep this in mind, you will have an easier time figuring this out. Just like you would with your project, start planning.

First you would normally gather your client’s needs. Here, your clients are probably your colleagues, or maybe even just you. You need to gather requirements and create a list of all the ideas to improve anything around you.

To help you, gather feedback and ideas from others, don’t limit yourself to your ideas only. Although I’m sure you have many great ideas, you will find that most ideas you will want (or need) to fight for will come from others.

From there, just like managing a project and it’s many tasks, you have to prioritize, and assign people responsible for those tasks.

This can be tricky if you have no authority or power inside the team. If this is the case, than gaining managers’ buy-in can prove to be very useful. Show them the list you made and explain how it can positively affect the team to improve certain aspects of your daily lives.

This buy-in will help obtain the resources needed to make the improvements.

Once improvements have been clarified and resources are available, set objectives of when they can be done, just like you would when managing your project. Here, you’ll want to create a schedule. Note that it’s not impossible that creating the schedule may come before finding resources, this can actually be a tool to gain buy-in by showing that the change can be done within only one month for example.

By the way, as the work gets done, you will probably have to adjust that schedule too, just like you would a normal project, maybe even more, as mentioned, it will often be pushed aside by other projects that are considered more important, so you have to work around that. It’s nothing new in the project management world, so adapt to the circumstances, do your best, and keep communicating to your team until you are all done.

Also, you can even throw-in some risks management in all this, just like any projects, there can be risks that could be mitigated. For example, the new tool you plan to use could have a similar functionality to the old one but with a very distinct difference that may frustrate your team members; so mitigate the frustration by making sure to point it out in training and showing how to use it differently as opposed to letting them hit the issue and complain.

Making the change is half the work

As you work improving something, one important thing to keep in mind is that releasing a new tool, changing a process, or adjusting anything can be relatively easy; the next big step is maintaining it, which means, plan for what happens after. This includes training team members, giving support to the team who needs to adjust, or even having to make changes to adjust to feedback or issues faced.

The change/improvement cannot be simply “released” hoping that everything will go perfectly, it must be supported and maintained just like you would a mobile application for example, and you need to “fix bugs”.

So again, threat all this as you would when managing a project. Here, you would manage stakeholder expectations, plan maintenance, plan post-launch fixes, etc.

An important thing here is too always keep gathering feedback and improve the change with it (yes, you will need to change the change!). Mobile apps developer use the precious feedback given in the app-store and update their mobile application accordingly; this makes their app much more popular amongst the users. Here it’s the same thing, don’t think feedback was important only before the change, it’s just as important after as it will help people keep the change rather than requesting to go back to what it was before.

 

Stay tuned for part 3!