Name your IT projects based on the result you want

At first glance, which of the following projects do you think have the better chance of achieving their needed business results? “Sales Process Redesign” OR “Revenue Growth Enhancement” “Business Intelligence System Implementation” OR “Competitive Analysis Information Gathering” “Employee Inventory Skill List Enhancement” OR “Talent Management Maximization” When looking at the three comparisons above, my contention is that the names listed on the right have a greater chance of meeting their business objects than the project names listed on the left.  The reason for this statement is based on my belief that a project’s name helps define its purpose and helps the project’s manager define his/her team’s vision. When looking at the project names listed above, the names on the left describe the work to be done and the project names on the right describe the business outcome to be achieved.  This subtle difference in naming convention can help the team focus on the “project why”, not just the “project what”.  This simple, seemingly small, difference can help the people working on the project focused on filling the business need, not just completing the business task. In addition to providing project focus, the names on the right also have the potential to help motivate the team.  It’s funny, sometimes in life it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.  As an example, which of the following two rally cries do you find more motivating? “Ok team, let’s get out there and redesign the sales process!” “Ok team, let’s get out there [...]

By | 2020-09-22T02:05:02+00:00 November 2nd, 2020|

Be skeptical and engaged not cynical: It fosters innovation

As the IT Manager of a busy department with too much to do and not enough people to do it, it’s easy to simply say no and walk away when a member of your staff suggests an idea for a new project, process improvement, or potential opportunity.  The problem with this approach is that it sends the wrong message to the members of your staff.  I’m not saying here that you should do every idea that your staff suggests, that would be impossible and, quite frankly, odds are that not all of the staff suggestions would be worth doing.  What I am suggesting is that you do the following:  Listen carefully to each suggestion. Who knows, it may be a really good idea and something that you would like to implement within your department.  Discuss the rationale behind the suggestion. This discussion will allow you to not only gain an understanding of the issue at hand, but it will also give you insights as to how the employee assesses situations, defines problems, constructs action plans, and presents his/her business case.  These insights into your staff member’s abilities is valuable when trying to delegate tasks, provide training,  give performance reviews, and deciding how to promote. Thank the employees for their initiative. Whether you use their idea or not, even whether you like it or not, thanking the employee for taking the time and caring enough to make the suggestion has many advantages, including: You are letting the employee know that he/she is being [...]

By | 2020-09-22T02:05:13+00:00 October 26th, 2020|

Find meaning beyond just the paycheck

The interesting thing about this column is that it’s not only good advice on how to treat those you manage, it’s also good advice for you personally, regardless of your professional level. Let’s begin by talking about you as the employee and then talk about you as an IT Manager.  My question to you is this: Do you find meaning in your job or is it just a way to feed your family?  Don’t get me wrong, working hard to feed your family is a noble and important goal, I have done it myself for most of my life.  The questions behind the question are: Do you like what you are doing? Do you find meaning in your work? Come Friday afternoon (assuming you work standard business hours) are you thankful it’s a weekend because you are sick of your job or simply because you are looking forward to spending the weekend with loved ones? Does your job allow you to employ your best skills and talents? Is there some other job you would rather be doing? To coin an old expression, does your job get you juiced? (excited and energized) My goal here is not to get you to quit your job.  Rather, it’s to ask you to pause from your daily tasks for a few minutes and look at your job from the perspective of your values, interests, career objectives, and goals in life. I’m asking you these questions for two reasons.  First, as human beings, it’s a wonderful thing [...]

By | 2020-09-22T02:05:23+00:00 October 19th, 2020|

Don’t mix IT operational and non-operational tasks

Given the technically sounding title of this column, I thought it would be best to begin by explaining my definition of operational and non-operations tasks.  Then, once defined, explain why you don’t want to mix them. Operational tasks are the mission critical activities and department processes that, by definition, take precedence over all other department activities.  In Information Technology (IT) groups it’s running the daily and nightly production.  In Finance groups it’s opening and closing the monthly books and dealing with budgeting and cash flow issues.  In Human Resources groups it’s salary planning, hiring new people, performance reviews, and dealing with unexpected employee related issues. Non-operational tasks are everything else.  It includes all of those things you would like to do within your department to move forward.  This includes project work, documentation, cleaning common office spaces, implementing new processes, other activities that help move your department forward. At a conceptual level, if possible, you don’t want to assign operational and non-operational tasks to the same person.  The reason is that operational tasks, by design, have to come first.  As a result, it becomes very difficult or impossible to ensure that your team’s non-operational tasks can be completed on time. This is the case because it’s very hard to know exactly how much of your team’s efforts will be spent on production-related activities in a given day, week or month. As an example of this concept, I spent many years managing IT groups.  Given the nature of IT in most organizations, it’s very [...]

By | 2020-09-22T02:05:35+00:00 October 12th, 2020|

Have an authentic management style

An enormous amount has been written regarding management styles, best practices, techniques, and theories.  I applaud the authors, social scientists, academics, and business leaders whom have put their thoughts into print and have greatly forwarded the occupation of professional management.  In fact, I have read many of their books and their collective thought has made me a better manager. My first suggestion to you is to become a voracious reader and learn as much as you can from these thought leaders in management and leadership. My second suggestion to you is take this knowledge, combine it with your personal experiences, strengths, weaknesses, values, likes, dislikes, and personality type and define the management style that works best for you. The management style to create should be uniquely you, not uniquely someone else.  You may have had a manager that you so highly respected you made the decision to manage just like him/her.  Alternatively, you may have read a book that you so loved the concepts that you wanted to manage your staff exactly as prescribed in the book’s verbiage.  Lastly, you may have taken a management class, seminar, or webinar that you thought was so noteworthy that you want to follow the exact management formula articulated by the instructor.  I caution you to do none of the above.  You are not your old manager, the author of the book, or the instructor of the class.  You are you and you alone. All that said, combine a little of bit of your old manager, [...]

By | 2020-09-22T02:05:47+00:00 October 5th, 2020|

A fish rots from the head down

If you are an IT Manager, to your team, you are the head of the fish. Giving credit where it’s due, the expression “A fish rots from the head down” is an old proverb of unknown origin, but claimed by various countries and cultures.  Also, my limited research into the biological accuracy of the expression leads me to believe that it’s the fish’s inner organs, rather than its head, that actually rot first.  All that said, this is neither a history lesson nor a biology class so let’s get to the management implications of this great proverb. If your department is having issues related to poor morale, low productivity, low quality, high attrition, or other similar and undesirable predicaments, a good place to begin your analysis is with some personal soul searching.  Note that, by this statement, I am by no means saying you are the problem, I’m just saying that you may be the problem or you are potentially contributing to the problem. The reason I’m asking you to consider the possibility that you may be the cause or a contributing factor to your team’s difficulty is for the following reasons: As a manager, or just as a human being, self circumspection can help you learn more about yourself, which can help you grow as a person and as a professional. Knowing is the first step toward correcting. That is to say, that if after personal analysis you conclude that you are the cause of your team’s distress, you can begin [...]

By | 2020-09-22T02:05:58+00:00 September 28th, 2020|

Learn management by talking to strangers

When I was little my mother told me it was dangerous to talk to strangers. When you are a small child, this is great advice that will help keep you safe and out of harm’s way.  As an IT Manager, however, not talking to strangers can dramatically Reduce your ability to network professional Minimize the chance of finding new potential opportunities Lessen your chances of expanding your professional contacts Decrease the likelihood of widening your professional horizons though chance discussions with interesting people Before I continue, I would like to clarify what I mean by talking to strangers and say, that even as adults, we have to be somewhat on guard and cognizant of our environment.  By talking to strangers, I mean Meeting new fellow employees in your company’s cafeteria Discussing general business topics with the person sitting next to you on a airplane Striking up conversations with people at professional association meetings Getting to know the fellow participants at a professional seminar or class In addition to face-to-face interactions with other like-minded professionals, you can also asynchronously have conversations with new people via professional discussion boards and blog posts. All of the above activities can help you grow as a professional, grow as a person, and related to this column, grow as a manager. Having discussions with people working outside of your professional area, company, industry, and/or country can help broaden your thinking by helping you understand the priorities, needs, and concerns of People of different ages (baby boomers, Gen Xers, [...]

By | 2020-09-22T00:17:49+00:00 September 22nd, 2020|

Accomplish More in Less Time by Climbing the Productivity Pyramid

The establishment of an ongoing, organization-wide productivity improvement program requires the right company culture, a continuous improvement mindset, innovative thinkers and the active support of senior management—but this is not enough.  To be successful, it must also have a defined set of processes, the ability to measure and communicate your results and a clear understanding of how each productivity enhancement provides value to the organization. These processes are established on each of the seven steps on the Productivity Pyramid, which—if followed—creates a company environment where more is done in less time. The Productivity Pyramid concept states that for productivity improvement activities to be effective and long-lasting, they can’t be randomly performed. These activities must be organizationally grounded, systematically implemented and administratively supported. They must align with your corporate goals and culture, be implemented with formal plans based on anticipated results and able to be repeated going forward. In addition to describing the steppingstones toward the creation of a successful productivity program, the Productivity Pyramid can also be used to assess your organization’s current productivity maturity. The seven steps can help you craft a plan for the future, and also asses your current productivity abilities and needs. Step One: Goal Alignment The alignment of individual, project, department and corporate goals is a mainstay of the strategic planning process. This is also true for your productivity goals. As a result, as you define your productivity related activities, you must also prioritize them based on the answers to these two questions: a) Does this productivity [...]

By | 2020-09-22T02:06:11+00:00 September 8th, 2020|

Eight Step Process to Maximize Delegation Effectiveness

One of the great things about being a manager is that you can delegate various types of tasks to other people, instead of having to do them yourself.  This may sound like a rather cavalier statement, but it’s true.  As a manager, to do your job efficiently and effectively, you must delegate various types of tasks to your staff.  If you don’t delegate, you will be overworked and your staff will be underutilized.  In fact, you do a disservice to your staff if you don’t delegate because to inhibits your staff’s ability to learn new things and grow as professionals. Like all management activities, delegation must be done in a thoughtful, ethical, and forward thinking manner.  To that end, consider the following tips when delegating tasks to your staff, contractors, vendors and others. 1. Clearly define what can and cannot be delegated: As a manager, be mindful of what should and should not be delegated. For example, specific tasks may contain proprietary information that should not be shared at your staff’s organizational level.  As a second example, there are tasks that your team members may not be qualified to perform, thus setting them up for failure.  Lastly, don’t just dump unwanted activities onto your staff to get them off your plate.  Your team will eventually figure this out and it will hurt your credibility as their manager. On the positive side, delegation can be a powerful tool to maximize your team’s productivity, enhance their skill set, help them grow professionally, and free [...]

By | 2020-09-22T02:06:22+00:00 September 1st, 2020|

Creating a Productivity IT Culture

What does productivity mean to you?   To me, it means more time, money and resources to get other things done.  For example, if I have five people working toward the completion of a specified task and can find a way to complete it using only four people, I can have the fifth person working on something else.    Productivity is the art of doing more with the time, money and resources you have at your disposal. Make no mistake, productivity requires change.  If your organization views the ability to change as an important business attribute, then ongoing productivity improvement can be the status quo. If your company is set in its ways, refuses to streamline its processes and shuns innovation, then productivity improvement is not required. Given today’s business environment, a company that does not progress will soon stagger under its own weight and fade away.  That said, if you are working at or own this type of firm, the best way for you to be productive is by updating your resume.  Conversely, an internal productivity culture that continually strives for optimal efficiency gives your organization the opportunity to enhance its market position, maximize its profits, increase its market share and position it for future growth and success. There are six cultural attributes needed to give your organization the ability to accept the small and sometimes large changes that productivity enhancements require. 1. Cultural Awareness: One of the most important business attributes of people leading the productivity charge is cultural awareness.  This is [...]

By | 2020-09-22T02:06:33+00:00 August 25th, 2020|
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