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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|

5 Ways to Enhance Virtual Project Stakeholder Communication

Project stakeholders are the people who fund, provide workers, provide resources, are affected by the project’s outcome, and/or oversee the project from a legal or compliance perspective.  As a Project Manager, not having an agreement with any or all of your project stakeholders can have disastrous results for your project and potentially for your career. Communicating with and getting agreement from these diverse types of people can be difficult enough when everyone is at the same physical location.  However, when these people are geographically located around the block, around the country, or around the world, getting everyone on the same page becomes even more complex.  Distance can bring a lack of communication, cultural differences, organizational divide, and dramatic time zone differentials.   All this said, no matter where they are, stakeholders are stakeholders and must be dealt with properly for the good of your project and the good of your career. As the Project Manager, there are a number of things that can, and should, be done to help assure your stakeholders are properly aligned. These activities include: Getting to know stakeholders personally Assuring they understand the project’s purpose and importance to the organization The costs and/or benefits of the project to each stakeholder Verifying that each stakeholder knows his/her role The specific resources to be provided The specific timing of them and where the resources are needed Assure that all stakeholders agree on the project’s priority relative to other projects This previous list certainly contains important business strategies and organizational politicking that [...]

By | 2020-09-22T02:06:45+00:00 August 5th, 2020|

Virtual and Co-Located Team Communication

As the leader of a virtual team, properly interacting with your staff is much more complex and problematic than communicating with a group all working from the same location.   There are, however, many techniques and processes that can be employed to minimize the effect of distance on your ability to effectively communicate with and manage your staff. “Out of sight, out of mind” is one of the most obvious and insidious issues. When people work outside of the office, unless your company’s culture is very accustomed to this, it’s very easy to forget that your remote employees exist.  I don’t mean that this is done in a mean or calculating way.  I simply suggest that if six people are physically planning on meeting in a local conference room, it’s easy to forget to call the seventh person, who will be connecting in via phone. While forgetting to call someone for inclusion in a meeting is somewhat embarrassing, it’s the tip of the iceberg in regard to the issues that can occur. Remote employees may feel isolated and forgotten and leave the company. You may forget to assign them tasks, thus reducing department productivity. Without proper work direction, remote employees, wanting to keep busy, may perform the wrong task or perform the right task the wrong way. One way to minimize the “Out of sight, out of mind” phenomenon is to schedule regular one-on-one meetings with remote team members to assure they are receiving enough of your attention.  Regarding meetings, a quick trick [...]

By | 2020-09-22T02:06:54+00:00 July 28th, 2020|

Virtual Teams and Your Management Style

Managing people, even when they are all at the same physical location, certainly has its challenges, but when you add distance to the mix, the process of managing a team becomes even more complex.  One of these complexities is the potential need to modify your management style to effectively engage, supervise, instruct, and evaluate team members who work at distant locations, whether it be down the street, across the country, and/or around the world. When managing a virtual team, there are a number of things you should consider related to your management style.  Various leadership techniques that work very well in person are much less effective when attempted with employees at a distance.  The list that follows outlines some of these virtual management challenges: Managing by walking around     This is the management technique of simply walking around the office with the goal of interacting with those on your team, providing guidance where needed, and observing them at work as a way of assessing their work ethic and job effectiveness.  As you may imagine, this technique can be very effective if your team is outside your office door or down the hall, but virtually impossible if your team is at multiple physical locations. Communicating with team only by phone and email This technique can be very effective for your virtual employees.  Phone-based communication is a form of human interaction that can help you build trust, develop a working relationship, and quickly communicate information without the need of crafting detailed emails.  Email is also [...]

By | 2020-09-22T02:07:09+00:00 July 21st, 2020|
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