Search Results for: northernscope

northernSCOPE™ – A customer-facing project measurement and accounting system for Lean, Kanban, Agile, etc.

I’m going to start this post off in a non-traditional way with the p.s., first:

p.s., Don’t forget to register for David Anderson’s free webinar coming up on January 18, 2011.  Listen to the “Father of Kanban” discuss Lean Decision Making
from 12-1pm PST (3-4 pm EST)

– it’s free knowledge sharing by one of our industry’s best minds today!  Register here.

How to report project progress for Kanban, Lean, Agile, and other projects?

It remains a challenge to deliver appropriate business-focused reports to executives during software projects.  For decades, the IT industry grappled with ways to streamline and ease translation of technology into business terms, but today we have promise with new approaches.   There is no question that Kanban, Lean, Agile, XP, Scrum, and other approaches bridge the customer developer gap, and bring the customer in direct contact with development teams.  These and other methods increase mutual understanding, facilitate communication and enhance overall software delivery.

In addition, methods such as the Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI®) and Balridge Quality criteria complement these as well as traditional software development approaches through standardized best-practice processes.

Executives accustomed to numerical results, however, remain challenged at the lack of standardized business oriented metrics for reporting project progress and assessing outcomes.  How can one prove that Kanban, Agile, XP, Lean, or even CMMI® deliver software to meet the needs as well as (or better than) traditional approaches?  How can we prove that functionality delivered today meets or exceeds what is required or replaced?  Where are the business gauges to help executives chart progress towards program or project goals?

northernSCOPE™

One promising method for measuring project progress independently of the work methods is  called northernSCOPE™ and it can work seamlessly alongside of software development to report progress in business terms using metrics suitable for the type of project work. Just as a home buyer needs to know that the finished product meets his/her needs and was delivered at a fair overall cost, so too do executives need bottom-line oriented reporting about the progress and delivery of software.

While northernSCOPE™ was developed and first worked along with traditional software development such as waterfall and spiral, it is easily adapted to work with iterative approaches as well.  The beauty of northernSCOPE™ is that the business can follow along with software development from a functional, business perspective and can track investment by type of work (functional software delivery versus modification versus porting, etc.). What is different about northernSCOPE™ versus traditional measurement reporting is that a “program” or “project” of work is first divided into sub-projects each of which can be accounted for with applicable metrics.

I use a construction analogy to explain northernSCOPE™:  If I need to have a house built somewhere along the east coast of the United States, large enough to hold my burgeoning family (2-3 children), a fully landscaped yard, a pool (if the weather permits), and potentially a guest house, how would a builder estimate and cost out this project for me?  Without knowing what I want and need at this point early in the project (I may not even know what I mean when I say a “house”), a wise builder will subdivide the project into various parts, at least with:

1.      Site selection, purchase, and preparation.  This would include research of available sites, pricing, purchase, and clearing of the land in anticipation of construction (similar to initiation of a project in software project management) – a standalone project paid for likely by hours expended plus the cost of the building site and permits.

2.      Home design and construction, which could be done in many ways from building one room at a time modularized (akin to agile software development) or a floor at a time (more waterfall or spiral like).  Pricing by the square foot would be a good way to manage and report on the progress of this separate project.

3.      Landscaping.  Again, a separate piece of work that would be done completely differently than #1 or #2 above.  Progress would be reported on a percentage complete, number of pallets of sod laid, or number of trees planted, and payment would be made on the same basis.

4.      Guesthouse design and construction.  This would again be a separate piece of work, which would resemble #2 in terms of progress and payment.

5.      Other work (such as furnishing the home). This would be a separate project requiring different tasks and labor and may be done incrementally room by room as progress on #2 is done.  Progress and payment would likely be done based on types and quality of furniture or appliances acquired.

6.      At the end of the project, the homeowner would pay for the work done (and changes would be managed with change orders whose cost would be based on unit pricing according to the work type) as agreed to during the projects.  Note that changes in the choice of trees would not affect the house construction price, and changes in the site selection process would not affect the landscape unit costs.  By unit pricing and measuring each sub-project separately, the homeowner never loses touch with or confidence in the overall project. In addition, the overall construction manager (the general contractor) can continue to work on the various parts of the project without interruption.  He/she will be paid for all the work done on behalf of the homeowner (with their agreement) so there is also flexibility built into the arrangement.

This is similar to how northernSCOPE™ works in software development.  At the beginning of the program or project, work is allocated into categories – software development (which is delivered through releases, scrums, iterations, etc), operations, enhancement, hardware installation, migrating of data, etc.  Each category or sub-project is then assessed in terms of unit pricing (for software delivery $ per function point can be used, for operations $ per hour can be used, etc) and the project commences.  When work in a Kanban environment is done, northernSCOPE™ would divide such work into a category and tracks its progress through to its delivery based on the right units.  Iterative and agile approaches would deliver functionality bit by bit, with progress reported according to functions and features delivered. The beauty of northernSCOPE™ is that it works to envelope what is being done on the project regardless of whether it is being delivered using Kanban, Agile, or other methods, and provides a business oriented view of the project to executives.

We have come a long way in software intensive systems development with the emergence of Kanban, Lean, Agile, XP, CMMI®, PSP/TSP and other advancements.  To bridge the gap with executives and close the circle (so to speak) with the business, northernSCOPE™ offers a solution – it affords one a way to measure and account for project progress independently of the underlying process(es).

Want to know more about northernSCOPE™?  Visit www.qualityplustech.com for related articles (or send me an email) or view prior posts on the subject.  In addition, there are northernSCOPE™ workshops I am planning for US locations in 2011.  Let me know if you would like to know more.

To your productive #Lean, #Kanban, and #Agile projects!

Carol

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Jeopardy for IT projects... the answer is July 15

JeopardyIn the popular television game show Jeopardy, contestants are given short phrase answers and are challenged to pose the associated question.  The half-hour show has been a mainstay on prime time television for many years and boasts millions of viewers.

While Jeopardy provides great no-risk entertainment for contestants and viewers, a real-life “game” of Jeopardy plays out daily in corporations throughout the world, only it’s called something else: Date-driven-estimating!

Here’s how it typically plays out:
Business executive:  “July 15.”  (The Jeopardy style answer)
Contestant / CIO (pondering): “Is that the date you announced that the software would be ready?”
Business executive:  “Correct!  Now make it happen.”

Poor project estimating is one of the pervasive issues in software development – and the situation doesn’t seem to be getting any better despite process improvement models such as the Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI(R)) and formal project management.

It doesn’t seem to matter how advanced or mature is the IT organization – good project estimation is elusive.  When a project does come in according to schedule, it is often a matter of coercion – that is the project manager has cajoled, manipulated or somehow morphed the project schedule to match an often arbitrary end date.

Author Steve McConnell once coined the phrase “Date-Driven-Estimating” and stated that it was the most prevalent estimating method in use today.  In Date driven estimating, management announces the project delivery date and then the project team works backwards to the current date.  The worst-case (and not unlikely) result is when the project can make the date ONLY if it was started several months ago.  The schedule is then retrofitted by piling on more resources along the timeline until everything is included between the start and end dates.  Somehow, such artificial manipulation transforms the impossible schedule into one that can work…

In engineering projects where physical and scientific constraints are fixed (such as the days required for concrete to cure), it is easier to see that such practices are prone to create outright project failures before the project even gets started.  For example, a road construction project cannot be sped up by adding too many resources – physical limitations of engineering construction prevail and building codes govern project progress.  Not so in software development.  In fact, just this evening I met someone from a major financial services company who told me of a software project where the coding commenced within two weeks of the project start – even before they had documented the requirements.  (No, it was not an agile project!)

What can be done when there is a pre-set budget or firm schedule set before any requirements are documented?  From an investment point of view, customers want to curtail costs during the development and still get the software they need to improve their business.

From a supplier point of view, the goal is to get paid for the hours expended delivering the correct solution while being flexible to the inevitable changes that will happen along the way.

The two approaches seem at odds with one another – customers want to be fiscally responsible for curtailing costs, and suppliers want to be responsive to their customers yet get paid for the work they are directed to do.  Firm fixed price projects (even before requirements are known) have been the solution preferred by customers to minimize the risk of budget overruns but all the risk is assumed by the supplier – especially before requirements are known.  But as in any partnership there is no such thing as a win/lose partnership – if the customer wins and the supplier loses – both sides ultimately lose.

So, what can be done to avoid such a dilemma and achieve a win/win scenario?  One solution is to deliver bite sized, incremental 2-week software releases using Agile Methods (scrums) .  A two-week timeframe is easier to manage and gain an accurate estimate than is a long-term development project.

Another approach is unit pricing…. Unit pricing is based on working with a cost per function point (software sizing) and is a promising and realistic option to reach success.  This approach plus other evolutionary steps are contained in the northernSCOPE model – already successful in Finland, Australia, and other countries.

Watch this space for more about the northernSCOPE approach and upcoming US training workshops.

Meanwhile here’s a couple of earlier posts on the topics:

Isn’t it time we changed the channel and stopped playing IT Jeopardy?

Carol

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EU nations receptive to Scope Management

Greetings from Copenhagen

Bo Balstrop, Carol Dekkers, Morten Korsaa
Bo Balstrop, Carol Dekkers, Morten Korsaa

I have to confess that Europeans are much more progressive and receptive to evolutionary ideas such as northernSCOPE and formalized unit pricing ($/FP) on public tendering of IT projects than the U.S.  Just this week, I met with four different groups and presented the highlights and gains to be made from adopting formalized scope management, and I am hopeful that we (Delta Axiom of Denmark, my company Quality Plus Technologies, and 4SUM Partners of Finland) can begin to offer Certified Scope Management (CSM) training courses in Denmark in the not-too-distant future.  The approach is straight-forward and minimizes the lose/lose risk that accompanies firm fixed pricing of software projects when the requirements are not well-known.

Also interesting was the fact that those most interested in learning more about the method are not even from customer or developer groups that outsource (tender) their software development, but rather companies that do development in-house.  It wasn’t a hard sell at all – the audiences in all four presentations were receptive, open to discuss how northernSCOPE might work in their organizations, and optimistic about how it can succeed in Denmark.  After all, if we can create the demand for Certified Scope Manager (CSM) services with the public or private sectors, then training is the natural next step to create CSM’s to satisfy such demand.

Representatives from one of the nation’s largest government departments that governs taxation, the equivalent of the IRS in the US, were on-hand and expressed interest in knowing more.  I’m not sure why, aside from the “not-invented-here” characteristic (that plagues more than just the US), scope management has not raised anything more than a passing glance in the US.  With all the major expenditures on software intensive systems projects underway with our public administration and Department of Defense, together with rework figures hovering around 40%, you’d think that formalized Scope Management (aka northernSCOPE) would be of interest.  While the economy definitely plays a role to cut interest in training and consulting overall, it is still a question mark in this author’s mind why there is little interest despite ample presentations and workshops I’ve done at technology conferences throughout the US over the past few years.

No worries though… as long as some part of the world sees value in the method today – it matters not where the demand is rising.  It will be interesting to watch as more CSM’s are certified in Europe to see if it peaks any interest in my home continent.

Best wishes for healthy, productive projects.

p.s., Want to know more about northernSCOPE and the Certified Scope Manager (CSM) designation?  Email me for a copy of our northernSCOPE brochure and our CSM training information.

Carol

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ABZ's of Communication for PM's and Techies... O: Outlook and Opportunity - a Personal Story

O: (part two): Outlook and Opportunity

I’ve done p1ublic speaking for years in over 25 countries spanning North and South America, Europe, Asia, and Australia and so overcoming a “Fear of public speaking” has not been a problem for me since childhood.  However, even for someone whose middle school years involved delivering prepared speeches in front of a packed auditorium, I’ve had my share of the jitters and butterflies.

The O words that come to mind when I think about communication for technical professionals are “Opportunity” and “Outlook”, but before I get into how these words relate in today’s post, I’d first like to share with you the story of how I overcame “presentation paralysis” for presenting impromptu or personal presentations.

How I overcame Stage Fright to share Personal Stories…Carol speaking in Sao Paulo, September 2010

I was in my late twenties and was enrolled in the Dale Carnegie 14 week course on team building, and each week we had to deliver a prepared speech about a personal story or reflection.  I was surprised to find that I grew incredibly more nervous about sharing personal stories and participating in these activities as the weeks went by, and I’d spend the time between sessions worrying about how I could prepare a story that would be anywhere as funny, entertaining, and insightful as my classmates.

Every person presented every week, and as my turn approached to share a personal part of my life with my classmates, my heartbeat soared and my palms got wet with perspiration.  I couldn’t believe that I – a person who could deliver a prepared speech in front of 100 people flawlessly – could be tied up with angst over a 2-minute sharing story.  As the weeks progressed and my discomfort grew, I realized MY childhood fears coming true – I didn’t feel like I had anything of value to give and I felt that my perceptions, opinions, experiences, etc. were so much more trite and boring than those of my classmates and I feared that I’d be rejected for having them.  (As an aside, I realize that some of the fear of my perceptions being judged as wrong were perpetuated by my then husband who told me as much when we disagreed! But that is a segue into another topic for another time!)

Did my classmates give me reasons to feel this way?  No, it was the baggage I brought from my childhood and background – and it was getting in the way of my ability to fully take part in the sessions.  Throughout the sessions, various people would talk about their “breakthroughs” in communicating with others – friends, partners, family – and I just felt that I was attending, participating (with fearful trepidation when it was my turn to be at the front of the class) but not experiencing the nirvana that others were variously experiencing… until one night.

messageI returned home after my class still pondering how I could craft a creative, witty, responsive, and most-interesting story from my past for the following week, and the breakthrough hit me like lightning when I looked at the front page of the day’s newspaper:  The headline read “Cyclone in Bangladesh Kills Thousands” and I stopped in my tracks. After I got past the first “Oh my God” reaction in the newspaper, a personal realization set in…

Here was I, a single professional person in the Canadian city of Edmonton, Alberta (one of thousands of cities throughout the world) worried about something as insignificant as being judged by a group of 30 peers in a little room once a week (when there are thousands of similar meetings at the same time) – and thinking that my little 2 minute presentation on some little happening in my life – was somehow significant in the grand scheme of things.  How incredibly self-centered!

At that moment, when I realized the plight of thousands of homeless human beings faced with the loss of their homes, their friends, their families, and impending weeks of sorrow and hardship, I realized how ego-centric and trivial my outlook on this little presentation every week really was.  In fact I thought that (as Dale Carnegie emphasizes) the worst case scenario for the next week was ultimately insignificant.  For example if the worst possible thing that could happen would be that as I walked up to deliver my story in class I tripped over the microphone cord, hit my head on the lectern stand, bleed profusely and vomit on the entire front row out of shock, it would ultimately provide a bit of dinner time talking points for my classmates, but that would be it.  So, if that was the worst that could happen (and it likely wouldn’t), it would never be a life-and-death situation anywhere near what was on the front page of my newspaper.

From that moment forward, my outlook on being in front of an audience – no matter on what subject – changed dramatically and I realized that whatever and however I share my stories (unpolished and imperfect), the outcome will really only matter to the “royal we” (me, myself, and I). My fears of being rejected (it has never happened) or looking stupid (okay, sometimes this probably happens) subsided because I realized that my Outlook and my attitude are the keys to a healthy outcome – no matter what.

I am now totally comfortable on any topic in front of an audience (I am no more or less important than anyone in the crowd) and see each presentation as my Opportunity with myself and not a threat.  MY breakthrough came when I realized that the world really doesn’t care about me at all, it’s all about everyone else and how they personally respond and react to what I say from THEIR VANTAGE POINT, not mine.

How can my story help you to improve your communication at work and at  play?  Perhaps it might help to realize that a presentation is only that – a chance to impart a message and share information – and it doesn’t have to be a near-death fear-filled experience.  Share what you know and do your best – that’s all that matters. The reactions and responses are all about your audience and not about you – and when you realize the focus is on them and not you, watch the outcome be positive.

Outlook is a matter of the mind – and when you consider that people have so many more things in their life (thank goodness) than to talk about YOUR PRESENTATION, it takes the stress off of you.  If you do a great job of presenting, you’ll leave a memory of the message in the hearts of your audience, if you don’t, it’s likely that your presentation will meld into the woodwork of life and be forgotten. Do you best to be memorable and outstanding (another O word), but should the worst happen (no one gets your message), know that there will be another Opportunity to deliver your message soon.

Wishing you communication success!

Carol

Carol Dekkers
email: dekkers@qualityplustech.com
http://www.qualityplustech.com/

For more information on northernSCOPE(TM) visit www.fisma.fi (in English pages) and for upcoming training in Tampa, Copenhagen, Dusseldorf, Helsinki and other locations in 2010, visit www.qualityplustech.com.
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=======Copyright 2010, Carol Dekkers ALL RIGHTS RESERVED =======

Communication for PM's and techies...O: Oh, and other opportunities

In composing this posting today, it occurred to me just how many communication words start with the letter “O” – opportunity, outlook, orientation, obvious, optimism, (being) outstanding… and oh, so many more.

I’m going to start with the least obvious, the word “Oh”. Being mindful of the saying that “Communication is a two-way street” gave rise to considering “oh” as a relevent word for today.  What I mean by this is that when we say, present, tell, talk, or otherwise send out a message, we need to pause for reaction and response, and then reflect on what we hear.  The deliberate pausing to watch and hear the response provides us the valuable information that we might not otherwise take in.  “Oh…” followed by “that is what you heard” or “I didn’t know you’d see it that way” closes the loop on the communication and conveys interest in the person(s) receiving your message.

As I mentioned in the post on active listening, it takes planning and concentration to truly listen to what the other person says instead of thinking about what you are going to say next.  Have you ever seen one of those comedy skits where two people talk at the same time and when they realize that the other isn’t paying attention, the speed and volume of each one increases?  While it makes for good entertainment, it doesn’t make for good day-to-day communication at work or at home.

As technical professionals, it behooves us to stop, pause and take time to say “Oh” if we want to become efficient and effective communicators.

Watch this space for more “O” communication ideas in the coming days (before we progress to P and the remaining letters enroute to Z).

Wishing you better communication!

Carol

Carol Dekkers
email: dekkers@qualityplustech.com
http://www.qualityplustech.com/

For more information on northernSCOPE(TM) visit www.fisma.fi (in English pages) and for upcoming training in Tampa, Copenhagen, Dusseldorf, Helsinki and other locations in 2010, visit www.qualityplustech.com.
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=======Copyright 2010, Carol Dekkers ALL RIGHTS RESERVED =======

Communication for PM's and techies... N (part deux): Networking

With communication accounting for over 80% of a project manager’s time, it makes sense to focus on clear and effective communication.

N: (part 2): Networking

In today’s technology-infused, internet-savvy, globally wired world, connections to others (or at least the information networks of others) is increasingly important.  And yet, as our dependence on email, voicemail and texting increases, our daily face-to-face interactions with others decreases.  I’ve heard statistics that upwards of 80% of people would classify themselves today as “shy” – and it is increasing as we can cocoon in the comfort of our offices where we can communicate through email and instant messaging instead of walking down the hall to talk to someone in person.  Our global “shyness” is increasing with each new technology “advancement”.

Author and human relations expert, Susan RoAne (www.susanroane.com) wrote the classical books on networking in the 1980’s: “Secrets of Savvy Networking” and “How to Work a Room”.  Since then she’s said that today’s number one fear is “Walking into a room full of strangers”, supplanting fear of death and fear of public speaking as yesterday’s top fears.  The importance of effective relationships and connecting with people is nothing new in business – recall the saying “It’s not what you know but who you know” – yet the prospect of networking and mixing with strangers can be daunting. While most people would say that they are comfortable mixing with other parents at their child’s soccer practice, the same cannot be said for business mixers because the perception is that there is more at stake. Yet, networking skills are some of the most useful communication skills one can have – particularly in today’s uncertain employment market.

Here’s a list of ideas to help you to make your next networking event a success:

  • Everyone is a stranger:  Considering that many people at a networking mixer are in the same boat as you can ease the discomfort of approaching a stranger.
  • Approach someone standing alone and start conversation in a neutral way:  It is easy to open with “have you been to one of these events before?”
  • Initiate conversation with a neutral and positive topic: avoid asking someone what they do for a living and instead open with a neutral topic such as the weather or a current (non-political) news event. With the number of unemployed professionals today, it is wise to open with a topic that has less potential to embarrass
  • People like people like themselves: find commonality early on – for example if you notice something you may have in common (for women you may tell someone that you like their handbag, for men, you may comment on tie colors, for example)
  • Offer to help the organizers:  Volunteers are often needed to assist with registration, directions, greeting people, etc. and extra help is usually appreciated.  Arrive early and offer your help – the worst that can happen is that you meet a few of the organizers and can feel comfortable early on; the best is that you will be busy assisting as part of the event’s “insiders”
  • Introduce people to each other: knowing the level of overall shyness (80% or more), if you are comfortable introducing people to each other, do so with gusto. People appreciate being introduced because it saves them the work of approaching a stranger themself
  • Join in with a group by standing in an open space (don’t break a closed circle) and listening before adding your comments
  • Realize that rejection and acceptance are both possible – and either one speaks volumes about the other person(s) and is not personal to you.  Remember the words of Michael Jordan on basketball and taking risks:  You’ll always miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”. It’s worth the risk to make new contacts
  • Exchange business cards with new contacts (and have up-to-date ones with you. There is nothing more irritating than meeting someone and they immediately need to “cross out” and write in new information on their business card)
  • Don’t linger, mingle:  be aware that friendships take time to nurture so don’t monopolize any one new contact’s time.  While it feels comfortable to meet someone who is willing to talk to you, be aware that they are also there to meet people. After a few minutes of discussion, move on to meet others – the person will typically approach you if they wish to continue the conversation further.
  • Write down information about where you met the person (and any tidbits of knowledge you exchanged) on the back of the business cards you receive (as soon as possible) after the event so that you can recall who the person is later. A pile of scrambled and mixed business cards isn’t good for business later.  (Key point: do NOT do this in front of people, especially with new contacts from Asia as the business card is an extension of the person.)
  • Be helpful to others: people love to talk about their own business(es) and will often approach you to sell you on their company or product. Let them do so and give them information to help them (such as a lead or idea)- interest in others invariably ends up attracting others to you.
  • Follow-up with the people you meet – especially if you’ve promised to email or otherwise give them information.

What do you think – are these tips helpful?

Do you have any tips to add?  Please post them as a comment !

To your successful projects!

Carol

Carol Dekkers
email: dekkers@qualityplustech.com
http://www.qualityplustech.com/

For more information on northernSCOPE(TM) visit www.fisma.fi (in English pages) and for upcoming training in Tampa, Copenhagen, Dusseldorf, Helsinki and other locations in 2010, visit www.qualityplustech.com.
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=======Copyright 2010, Carol Dekkers ALL RIGHTS RESERVED =======

ABZ's of Communication for PMs and Techies... N: (part 1) Nots

With communication accounting for over 80% of a project manager’s time, it makes sense to focus on clear and effective communication.

Today’s post refers to N= Nots (as in do not’s)…

This posting is a series of reminders of what not to do for effective communication (Often negative reminders have more “stickiness” than positive ones!):

  • Don’t assume that your message reached the recipient when you don’t get a response (it may have been waylaid);
  • Don’t overlook body language in communication (body language accounts for more than 50% of what message is received);
  • Don’t rely on technology without following up (computers are fallible);
  • Don’t take a lack of feedback as acceptance (trust but verify!);
  • Don’t overlook the potential that cultural differences can have on your communication (culture can change the message interpretation remarkably);
  • Don’t ignore your instincts when it comes to audience reaction (your gut feel is often correct);
  • Don’t “wing” it with important messages (practice makes perfect);
  • Don’t underestimate your audience (be authentic);
  • Don’t talk down to your listeners (treat them with respect);
  • Don’t use TLA’s and FLA’s without explaining them (TLA is a three-letter acronym and FLA is a four-letter acronym. Acronyms are dangerous in communication because they can have MANY different meanings);
  • Don’t assume that listeners from other countries will understand American idioms (they don’t);
  • Don’t rollout communication plans before you test them first (it is much more cost-effective to re-plan than to have to do damage control);
  • Don’t rely on theoretical models – use historical results as predictors of future behavior.

To your successful projects!

Carol
Carol Dekkers email: dekkers@qualityplustech.com
http://www.qualityplustech.com/

For more information on northernSCOPE(TM) visit www.fisma.fi (in English pages) and for upcoming training in Tampa, Copenhagen, Dusseldorf, Helsinki and other locations in 2010, visit www.qualityplustech.com.
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ABZ's of Communication for PMs and Techies... M: The four M's of Messages

With communication accounting for over 80% of a project manager’s time, the importance of — GOOD communication cannot be overemphasized.  Good projects begin with good communication!

M = The four M’s of Messagesmessage

Marketing has three M’s, real estate has 3L’s (location, location, location!) and Messages have 4M’s:

  • Meaning
  • Medium
  • Modality
  • Motivation

Meaning:

Ensure that the content of every message you communicate conveys the meaning you intend to convey.  Double check that what you say in the message as understood by the receiver is the same as what you intended.  How can you do this?  Two ways are to use feedback (see the “F” posting) and active listening (see the “L” posting).  Communication is a two-way street and depends on both the sender sending the right message and the receiver decoding it to get the right meaning.

Medium:

Based on the three styles of learning (see L posting: Learning styles) and the rule of three (it takes three exposures to a new concept before listeners begin to really hear the message), it is important to use more than one medium or way to communicate your message. This is especially true if you are communicating a new corporate concept or something where you need to move your audience to action.  To gain momentum, communicate the same message using a variety of media such as:  email (visual), meetings (auditory and kinesthetic), presentations (visual and auditory), newsletters (visual), informal discussions, etc.  Consistency of your message across the various forms is key!

Modality:

This is the frequency with which you communicate the message.  For new concepts make sure to communicate the message often with at least three exposures.  If it is a long-term concept or initiative (such as a process change at work) that you are communicating, it is important to continue to communicate both the concepts and the progress of the initiative throughout the project.

Motivation:

Motivation answers the question: why are you delivering the message? Undoubtedly you know why you are doing the communicating but does your audience?  Normally we don’t give this much thought, but your own motivation behind what you communicate can be a critical success factor.  If your goal is to communicate honestly and openly with your audience then this will become part of the unspoken message that is delivered. If, instead your motivation is clouded with ego and pomposity, then that will come through in your delivery. Ensure that your motivation is sincere, and if it is not, perhaps you are not the person best suited to deliver the message.

Try to keep the 4M’s of messages in mind when you communicate – meaning, medium, modality and motivation are keys to success!

To your successful projects!

Carol

Carol Dekkers
email: dekkers@qualityplustech.com
http://www.qualityplustech.com/

For more information on northernSCOPE(TM) visit www.fisma.fi (in English pages) and for upcoming training in Tampa, Copenhagen, Dusseldorf, Helsinki and other locations in 2010, visit www.qualityplustech.com.
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=======Copyright 2010, Carol Dekkers ALL RIGHTS RESERVED =======

ABZ's of Communication for PMs and Techies... L (part 2): active Listening

What is GOOD communication?

If you can’t answer this seemingly “simple” question, how can you as a manager do 80% of your job (communicating)?

In this second part of the letter L, we take a look at what many people consider to be the passive side of communication:  Listening – with an eye to making it an active part of the equation.

L = Active ListeningActive Listening

Often we mistake hearing for listening – but there’s a big difference.  As I pen this article, I am sitting outside on my deck in Florida and I “hear” an ongoing orchestra of cicadas and crickets –complete with crescendos and chorus.  It’s like a natural mix of electrical sounds intermingled with a subtle Latin maracas beat of the crickets.  But, while I’m hearing these sounds in the background, I’m not really listening and there is no communication going on with me.  (The insects are communicating with each other.)

Listening is a whole different concept when it comes to communication.  We can have passive listening (one way communication where the speaker delivers a message) or active listening (which is the subject of this post).  Active listening implies that we are not only hearing, but also deciphering a message and providing a response.  Wikipedia defines active listening as  (I’ve added the emphasis):

Active listening is a communication technique. Active listening requires the listener to understand, interpret, and evaluate what they hear. The ability to listen actively can improve personal relationships through reducing conflicts, strengthening cooperation, and fostering understanding.

When interacting, people often are not listening attentively. They may be distracted, thinking about other things, or thinking about what they are going to say next (the latter case is particularly true in conflict situations or disagreements). Active listening is a structured way of listening and responding to others, focusing attention on the speaker. Suspending one’s own frame of reference and suspending judgment are important to fully attend to the speaker.

In corporate settings, it is the “thinking about what we are going to say next” that dominates and obstructs communication more than anything else. Rather than truly digesting what the speaker is saying, too often we concentrate on what our response will be and how to craft the words so that they come out well.  Group settings such as meetings, especially when the hierarchies are strict and “fiefdom” mentality prevails (turf protection) give rise to a lot of dysfunction with “active” listening.  As a result, communication gets crossed when the goal becomes speak, speak, speak instead of speak, actively listen, respond with questions.

Good communication is the result of respectful interaction on a “two way street” – the speaker speaks a message and the recipient decodes it and responds to make sure that the message as delivered is understood to be the same as the speaker’s intended meaning.  Often what we say is not what we meant to tell – there is a disconnect in the sender/receiver process – and the feedback to what is said is the clue to effective communication. When the loop is broken because there is no digestion and feedback, communication breakdowns occur.

If you are the speaker, it is important to encourage active listening.  If you are the listener, it is incumbent on you to set aside your secondary purposes (preoccupation with other things, blackberry or pda usage, deciding what to say next) and concentrate on what is being said.

After all, isn’t the reason for communication to communicate?  We can all do well to listen actively and improve our part in the communication process.

To your successful projects!

Carol

Carol Dekkers
email: dekkers@qualityplustech.com
http://www.qualityplustech.com/

For more information on northernSCOPE(TM) visit www.fisma.fi (in English pages) and for upcoming training in Tampa, Copenhagen, Dusseldorf, Helsinki and other locations in 2010, visit www.qualityplustech.com.

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=======Copyright 2010, Carol Dekkers ALL RIGHTS RESERVED =======

ABZ's of Communication for PMs and Techies... L (part 1): 3 Learning styles

With communication accounting for over 80% of a project manager’s time, the importance of GOOD communication cannot be overlooked.  Good projects begin with good communication!

L= 3 Learning styles

Have you ever tried explaining a new concept to someone and they just don’t understand? Then someone else walks in, gives the same explanation, and the other person gets the concept right away?

What probably happened was a disconnect in learning styles.  You  explained the concepts in YOUR learning style and the new person communicated in their learning style which happened to be the same style as your listener.

There are three dominant learning styles:

  • Visual (learning by seeing);
  • Auditory (learning by hearing);
  • Kinesthetic (learning by doing).

Visual Auditory KinestheticWhile we all use a mixture of the various learning styles, we tend to gravitate to one style when we communicate with others. One clue to your own or other’s dominant style is in the words we use:  Visual people may say “I see what you mean” and describe things with colors, shapes and visual clues. Auditory learners may say “I hear what you are saying”, while kinesthetic learners often express things in terms of feelings such as “I know how you feel.”

The type of learner you are provides clues to how we need to focus our communications with others. Knowing that there are 3 learning styles and that we prefer one particular style tells us that there are two learners who may not as easily connect with how you communicate.

Any planned communication should aim to reach all three types of learners through a variety of media:  written (visual), spoken (auditory), and discussed (kinesthetic).

Food for thought the next time you think that a single email will suffice in your communication plans.  Ensure that everyone is included by addressing all three styles of learning and you’ll find the commitment and receptivity of your audience increases.

To your successful projects!

Carol

Carol Dekkers
email: dekkers@qualityplustech.com
http://www.qualityplustech.com/

For more information on northernSCOPE(TM) visit www.fisma.fi (in English pages) and for upcoming training in Tampa, Copenhagen, Dusseldorf, Helsinki and other locations in 2010, visit www.qualityplustech.com.

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=======Copyright 2010, Carol Dekkers ALL RIGHTS RESERVED =======