Archive for May, 2009

Final Frame

I recently discovered Dilbert mashups. Scott Adams (the brilliant mind behind Dilbert) posts one of his strips each day, and then invites you to replace the third frame with your own punch line.

Wouldn’t this be a great way to find creative and multiple solutions to a problem within a project or program? Post the first few frames of the problem/issue/situation, and then ask team members to fill in the last frame with a solution. Having only one frame in which to ‘solve’ the problem forces each person to focus and communicate their solution succinctly. The group can then browse each other’s strips and use them as springboards to find the best solution.

I haven’t had a chance to implement this, but I have done a few Dilbert mashups. I strongly encourage you to do the same – it’s a great way to energize your brain when you’re stuck on something or just need to reboot. Plus, who can pass up Dilbert?

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Minimize the Mess

I once passed out while I was pouring myself a glass of milk. When I came to, one of the first things I noticed was that the milk carton and glass were sitting upright on the kitchen counter. But the last thing I remembered was both of them in my hands, so they should have been on the floor with me. My brain couldn’t keep me from falling flat on my face (literally), but it did somehow manage to keep me from having a huge mess to clean up when I got back on my feet.

That’s what a great team can do.

They may not be able to keep you from making the wrong decision or submitting something your boss absolutely hates. But they can, and in my opinion should, do what they can to minimize the mess you may find yourself in.

If you’re on a team that doesn’t take the carton and glass from your hands on the way down, here are a few ideas to keep things upright, for both yourself and others:

  • Send a note offering them whatever they need. If they accept, they’ll likely request something small you can help with, or something you could use too (like a 15-minute walk and coffee break). And if they don’t accept, that small gesture may motivate them to extend the offer to you when you need it.
  • Congratulate and compliment. When you fall on your face, it probably feels like everything is wrong, when in truth it’s just your face that’s hurting. Your feet are perfectly fine. In fact, they’re enjoying the break from holding up your weight. Remember that: when one thing is bad, other things are probably good. If a fellow team member’s face is hurting, congratulate and compliment how fantastic their feet have been. And if no one else is doing it for you, remember to do it for yourself.
  • Solicit laughter. Tell a joke, send a funny e-card, forward that video of the chameleon walking in unison with the rap song. Work is just work, though we often forget that when we’re in the midst of a mess. Seeing or hearing something funny brings us up out of that serious-stressed mode. And even if you’re the one most in need of a smile, finding something funny to share will take your mind off the mess and lessen the stress. (Okay, I swear I didn’t mean to rhyme, but now that I have, let’s say it out loud, like a rap. And now imagine a chameleon…)

What do you for team members, or what have they done for you, to minimize the mess?

Manolos or Dickies?

(image from niemanmarcus.com)Manolo Blahniks are designer shoes. They’re meant to be wearable works of art that are purchased and worn for the way they look, not to make your feet feel like they’re walking on clouds.

Dickies are workwear shoes. They’re meant to support the foot and be comfortable over long periods of time, not to make a fashion statement.

So what does this have to do with project management? Well, everything.

Dickies shoe; image from zappos.comIf your user is expecting Manolos and you’re managing a project and team that’s working toward Dickies, it doesn’t matter how expertly you plan, organize, and progress through the project. It won’t be successful.

Project management isn’t just about managing the project, it’s about understanding its purpose and your user’s expectations. If you’re asked to design a pair of shoes, first ask who’s going to be wearing them and what they’ll be doing in them. Provide the wearer with examples of different kinds of shoes and ask what they do or don’t like about each one. Learn what the wearer’s perfect shoe is, and why it’s perfect.

Before you take a single step executing the project, step into your user’s shoes.

You’ll save time, money, brainpower, and possibly your reputation by understanding what your user is expecting.

Oh Google Desktop, how do I love thee?

Let me count the ways: 182 emails, 22 documents, and 14 web pages.

If you don’t know Google Desktop, allow me to introduce you. You know that email from that graphic design firm, Creative…something? The one that you received so long ago it’s buried somewhere in a folder that, despite your organizational prowess, might as well be in Tahiti because you’ll never find it, let alone by 3:00? Well guess what. Google Desktop can find it for you. Before 3:00.

If it sounds good, I’m happy to arrange a setup. If you still need to do a little checking up on it before you commit to anything, here’s its online profile. And if it turns out I’m not a good matchmaker, breaking up isn’t hard to do. You just uninstall it. Although, you might have to use another search engine for a while, just to avoid the awkwardness.

Google Desktop Logo (from wikipedia.com)

(image from wikipedia.com)

Make a list…check!

When you have fourteen piles of stuff waiting to get done, the hardest part is getting started. So don’t start with the piles; start with a list. Here are a few tips to help you create one that’s organized and useful.

  • Make the first item on your list ‘Make a list.’ That way, when you’re done drafting it, you can check something off. You’ll feel like you’re already making progress and the rest of it won’t seem so daunting.
  • Start every item with a verb. When you read back through your list, you’ll see directions telling you exactly what to do.
  • Break tasks into the smallest pieces possible. It will make your list longer, but it will also make it more useful. Let’s say you have to draft a conference proposal, send it to your boss for review, and then submit it. That should be three items on your list, because each one is a separate task. If you follow the verb rule, you’ll find yourself doing this anyway.
  • Include deadlines. If you’ve been given a deadline, be sure you have it noted. And make up deadlines for yourself as well. Not only will they help you prioritize, they’ll keep you on track. If the conference proposal has to be submitted by August 1, you should have it to your boss by July 15.
  • Keep a consistent format. If you start with deadlines on the left, keep deadlines on the left. If you note that you’ve completed a task by crossing through it, don’t start making checkboxes. As soon as your list looks unorganized, you’ll feel unorganized.
  • Consolidate your lists. If you’ve started multiple lists, consolidate them into one. You can still identify different lists for different projects or different bosses by color coding.

Now, go make a list and start checking stuff off!

-jessicaC

PROjects or proJECTS

PROjects are nouns: they’re tasks, undertakings, they have a beginning and an end.

proJECTS is a verb: to cast forward, contemplate, communicate clearly.

So which one is it in ‘pointC projects’?

Well, it’s both. Through this blog, I’ll share tips and thoughts to help enhance your projects and tasks, and take them further than just their end. But I also hope that by doing so, your work is projected forward – to new ideas, conversations, collaborations, and success.

So here’s to future pointC projects and the hope that pointC projects.

-jessicaC