January 25, 2007
To have vision, I have to envision the outcome. This is a key to "Getting things done." I want to accomplish what I was hired to do. By mind-mapping my objective, I can see the big picture much more clearly and can better see relationships. I am using mind mapping using CMAP TOOL. I like this one the best. It's simple and efficient and allows me to move things around easily. But learning how to actually DO mind mapping is the hard part. The key in this is learning and using good linking words. That really draws out ideas.
I started mind mapping on a notepad yesterday, but it took me an hour to transfer it into the computer. Then I printed my mind-map onto a piece of paper and on the way home, I doubled the size of it, with a pen. Now I have to go back to the computer tomorrow night and finish my mind map by reorganizing. I will then take this a step further and define tasks I can accomplish to realize my vision. One of those tasks will be to communicate my vision with my supervisor. The mind-map will also help me to create a well-thought out plan to present.
This is free software you can download. You should download it. I have been applying this technique for a couple years now on everything from religion to bike shop business and it's been very helpful personally. So, what are you waiting for. Go get it. Try it. Let me know what you think.
January 17, 2007
Let's have some purpose
In the book I'm reading right at this moment one of the first and key things we need to ask is "WHY?" are we doing this. What is the purpose? When we ask why and constantly ask why, then many other things get set into motion. For instance the question of "Why are we having this meeting?" determines what you do in the meeting. Seems simple and logical. It also helps to focus our activities. Sometimes it's easy to forget our purpose and get sidetracked on things that have little or no impact on our objective. Sometimes that's ok, but if you want to get things done, it helps to ask why.
January 16, 2007
Prioritizing work tasks
Setting priorities is a constant effort at work. One person commented that "Resources" should not be setting their own priorities. But in every job I've been in, resources do set their own priorities, because invariably they get pulled in many directions, working for many different project managers or are involved in several 'teams' working with others and have obligations to those purposes as well as the projects they have for their own boss. Let's say your Project is to build a house. One of the resources that have to be scheduled for your project is an electrician and another one is a sheet-rock taper. These people don't usually work on just one house and you as a project manager probably don't oversee those other projects they work on. So you are stuck with the priorities these resources make. They may not always make good decisions about their priorities. But they still prioritize what they have to do. So how do you influence resources outside of your direct influence, especially when you want them working on your project and they are pulled in another direction that's taking too much time? I haven't figured this one out yet. Obviously you want to have someone help that person balance their workload and be able to help you get your project done on time. But wanting isn't enough. It seems that with some resources, whoever screams the loudest gets their project worked on first and the resource gets frustrated and everyone gets mad at the resource. It would be nice to have an 'ober-project manager' that oversees all projects and helps make sure the resources are being well used and that their workload is evenly distributed so they can meet the needs of all of the projects they are working on. But too often there is no such person, especially since each project manager is given a project and told to run with it, and they have no influence on the other projects going on that use the same resources. There may be a department manager, but they shouldn't be putting everyone on the same level either by directly managing the priorities of the resources and the project managers. Besides, some of those resources are outside of the department. Like the Electrician. I think where this is leading is that a strong project manager with a performance goal would eventually look for and find resources that can get the job done when it needs to be done. But then again, the project manager is often told which resources can be used for a given project. They may be screwed before they even start. Obviously any Project Manager with a performance goal would choose the most effective resources if they had a choice. And any resource with a strong work ethic theoretically wouild also would want to be on the teams with the best track record for producing results. Do you think? And those resources have to be good at prioritizing their work to be able to handle that kind of team.
I'm still thinking about how often resources prioritize their own work. It happens a lot. Is it a good idea? Maybe not in the short term, for getting your project done, but in the long term, they will get better at prioritizing and they will produce some good results. Provided that the resource actually cares.
January 8, 2007
What to do when unprepared for this
What should I do when I realize that the problem I thought I was facing turns out to be nothing like the problem I thought I was facing? What I am doing is learning. It is really cool to be in this position. Many years ago I would have cursed it. Now, though, I am amazed at the learning opportunity that popped up in front of me. So, I am studying not only project management, but also teams. Because they are related. One thing for sure, just being a team doesn't make it effective.
December 6, 2006
How far down the rabbits hole will you go to solve a problem Alice?
Tonight I was continuing my research on Project Managment, more specifically on Critical Chain Project Management. I still don't quite get it so I'm finding alternate explanations online. Everything I read though is geared toward overall project management. Most schemes deal with resources, like a person who works on an aspect of a project, in one way or another by plugging that resource in and trying to demand-load. But I'm wondering now how a resource itself can apply project management techniques to manage all of the multiple projects they are assigned to. Basically this means I have to break down the more simplistic overall-project schedule with major deadlines into a more detailed critical chain for just the individual resource's tasks that have to be done.
When I first took this new job, I was basically under the impression that there was a lack of experience using the software that we use, causing missed deadlines and projects running over budget. Once I started looking into it, I discovered that software skills are not really the problem. We could throw endless training at this and it would not resolve the problems. I'm still tasked with solving the problems, and I want to succeed, so I started researching Time and Project managment. It's not something I anticipated learning or even desired to learn, but now I do. I have become a team leader in a new job and have been discovering all kinds of things I did not see before I took the job. How can we ever truly see things clearly until we are 'inside.' In a nightmarish-like state, I try to shake off the fears and worrys and make a plan, work the plan and revise the plan, just to survive my new job. How far do I have to go to do my job? New duties require new skills, like Project Management. So I will go at least that far down the hole to see what's next.
December 3, 2006
Liebig's law of the minimum
This morning I started applying the scientific method to my learning of languages. First I gathered 6 books I have on language learning as resources. I listed the references and made notes about them. Then on another page I created a list of problems or 'bottlenecks' in my learning, such as retention. (Theory of Constraints, TOC.) And then tonight when I was researching process change and TOC for work, I ran across a name for one thing I intuitively noticed this morning about my language learning; That in my list of bottlenecks to learning Korean, or even improving my language learning process, the amount of resources available to me were not a limiter. After all I had six books on just language learning sitting in front of me. I have shelves full of language materials in several languages and I rented one Korean video out of thousands available this past week.
Liebig's law of the minimum states that growth is controlled not by the total of resources available, but by the scarcest resource. Increasing the overall amount of resources does not increase the learning. Only by increasing the amount of the limiting resource, the one most 'scarce' in relation to need, can the learning be improved. Several of those are Study time, a good multi-track learning plan, practice, memory and motivation. Language materials alone do not guarantee we will learn and retain and recall later when needed.
Barry Farber in his book, How to learn any language, made a good point. Many people spend a lot of money on books and cassettes and they end up on the shelf or in the closet getting dusty. Liebig's law of the minimum says that the availablilty of materials are not limiting my acquisition of knowledge or growth in my learning abilty, but something else is needed more.
At work, Liebig's law of the minimum applies equally. I list out the resources available and the bottlenecks and realize that it's not the availability of resources holding up the production. Throwing more software at it won't solve the problem. Knowledge of how to use the software effectively is part of the problem but not the scarcest resource.
And so I learn to learn.