Blue Demons for a Cure Audit

Our team, Blue Demons for a Cure, chose to support the American Cancer Society (ACS). We organized a few micro-events, leading up to our main event, which was the 5K Making Strides Walk hosted by ACS. Our scheduled events and a brief description are below:

Team

Pilsen Yoga Tribe: We presented our charity and main event at an established yoga community event.

Pink & Drinks: We hosted an event at a local bar where all proceeds from pink drinks (bartender specialty drink) were donated to our team and ACS.

5K Making Strides Walk: We created a team and walked 3.2 miles around the Independence Grove Lake.

Buffalo Wild Wings (BWW): 15% of all food purchases, with the voucher present, were donated to our team and ACS.

In conjunction with these events, we sold merchandise: T-shirts (shown below left) and Dry Cookie Jar Mixes (shown below right).

TshirtCookie Jar

All our efforts were for the American Cancer Society, but specifically for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This nonprofit is over 100 years old and is the largest voluntary health organization in the United States. It goes by three values which is “saving lives by staying well, getting well, and fighting back” (http://www.cancer.org). They state that they have saved over 1.5 million lives in the past decade due to their relentless contributions.

During the planning phase of our project, we made predictions and established success measures. We did not achieve some of them, with some examples being as follows:

  •         5K attendance goal: 30 people (12 people attended)
  •         Total fundraising goal: $3,050 ($2,524 was raised)

Although some of our actual results fell short of our original success measures, we still consider our project as highly successful. We executed our plans effectively and we worked very well together as a team. All members participated in project coordination and event/product marketing, thus gaining valuable project management experience. Most importantly we were able to meet all of our deliverables on time. From this experience we learned a few things that will utilized in our personal and professional lives:

1)      Use the communication medium that works best for your team. A student from the previous MGT 598 class recommended we utilize Trello, as it could minimize the use of lengthy, confusing email chains. Our group did open up an account for that particular reason, but it was impractical for us to completely eliminate the use of email. It was much easier and more convenient for us to email each other via our smartphone. Trello became a calendar or deadline reminder for us.

Chicago Skyliine

2)      Be able to adapt to “mishaps” and bounce back quickly. In the beginning, we were debating between logos and team names. After the initial T-shirt order was submitted, we received feedback from DePaul’s marketing director that we could not use the logo. Our team quickly revised the logo to comply with university policies, selected the design below, and had minimal impact to project schedule:

3)      Expanding your scope is not always a negative thing, as long as you creatively fit the event into your overall goal. By our second week we had the final project plan and it did not include BWW. BWW finally responded to us and said it would donate 15% of food sales on the a specific day to the ACS. We initially scrapped this idea, however, we saw the event as low-risk and a “bonus” in revenue. We scheduled the BWW event on the same day as the 5K Walk to maximize attendance with hungry walkers.

Walk

As we reflect on the completion of our project, we have one primary recommendation for future teams: effective planning is crucial to project success. In a ten-week quarter there is surprisingly little time to execute the main event and the overall complexity of the project can be a significant hurdle. Each team member should have a clear understanding of what the team is trying to accomplish. For our team, we established a well-defined plan within the first two weeks. We were then able to prioritize activities and were able to complete some tasks in parallel. Our thorough planning allowed everything to fall into place.

Overall, it was a great learning experience and a great opportunity to work with new people. We wish you all the best of luck!

Some damn good advice…

http://www.cio.com/article/3001214/project-management/6-tips-to-identify-project-management-red-flags.html#slide1

CIO.com’s slide show article “6 tips to identify project management red flags” seems to sum up our project management class in 6 key steps to avoid PM problems. These tips focus on preventing potential mishaps associated with project management while ensuring projects are carried out smoothly. I found some important and relevant similarities from the tips in this slide show to our PM class project. Here are 3 of what I consider to be the most important of the 6 “red flags” mentioned in the article:

Red Flag: Focus on output rather than outcome

Although project managers must ensure tasks are completed on time, budgets are met, and resources are allocated appropriately, it is of most importance to work toward a desired outcome. The individual steps of project management should all build toward the bigger picture. But when the focus becomes overly consumed with one individual aspect of the project, the goal/outcome soon gets overlooked. For my group’s class project, we did a nice job making sure that we did not lose focus of our overall goal. However, there were times were we caught ourselves up hyper-focusing on individual elements. Specifically, we spent a lot of time preparing what foods to bring and how to sell such foods during our bake sale. Although this was necessary, the real desired outcome was to promote awareness for our cause – obviously the food we sold was irrelevant when strictly considering our desired outcome.

Red Flag: Focus on process instead of people

One might think this is counter-intuitive, but projects are – at their core – completed by people. I had the pleasure of acting as my team’s project manager and what I quickly learned is that our success was only a result of the hard work, expertise, and personal commitment of each of my teammates. The reality is that each person brings a unique skill set to a project and it is essential to allocate that person’s time and energy effectively. For our group project, we assigned team members portions of our project the aligned with their expertise. This enabled us to be efficient and gave each member a sense of responsibility that only he or she would be able to effectively uphold.

Red Flag: Lack of clear communication

The slide show article mentions that clear communication is common and expected when things are going well during a project. But the real red flag occurs when communication falls short during times of difficulty. The ways to overcome this is to identity potential risks/issues early on and communicate them to avoid future failures. Our group encountered various issues during our early planning phase as we ran into roadblocks when trying to secure a venue space for our event. We maintained constant communication by email and phone conferences as we updated one another on the statuses of potential venues. In less than a week, we vetted out 5 different venue options and finally settled on one that fit our needs.

For those who made it this far, did you encounter any of these “red flags” during your group project?

International Project Management – Grab Your Stein and all will be Fine!

Revellers salute with beer after the opening of the 179th Oktoberfest in Munich

I’ll always remember my first trip to my company’s site in Ludwigshafen, Germany.  The circumstances of my involvement were that I was a local expert in the use of the data collection software application used in our facility.  The same software was being implemented at the German site so that our two laboratory facilities would share a database and thus harmonize business practices.  Prior to my departure, I was warned of the gruffness of our German colleagues, whom we had inherited through acquisition of their company.  The Germans were criticized for passive-aggressively clinging on to their old ways, ostensibly because they feared their site would be divested anyway, and they’d all lose their jobs.  It was in this environment that I needed to form some bonds with my German counterparts to help ensure the successful adoption of the new software.

Even though I had traveled throughout Europe several times after college, I was excited to return and experience a foreign culture again.  I didn’t mind that Ludwigshafen was a mostly industrial city, rebuilt after extensive World War II bombing, that didn’t have much to offer in terms of green space or other urban beauty.  I enjoyed just being there, noticing the subtle differences in architecture, automobiles, public transportation, and how people behaved when walking around.  I brought this enthusiasm to the meetings with our German colleagues.  Although they were somewhat cold and reserved during the initial meetings, things really loosened up after we were able to interact socially.  The Germans were quite eager to show us points of interest in the surrounding area.  We toured castles, churches, breweries, vineyards, and museums, and our hosts were very proud to demonstrate their knowledge of these sites.  Beer was consumed on many a late evening.  I was truly appreciative of their hospitality, and our meetings became more open, honest, and productive because of the fun we were able to share.  Elimination of these barriers helped put the software in place, which is still used by our company.

My bond with our German colleagues remains today, more than nine years after that initial trip.  Trust naturally developed also because they were never laid off as they feared.  I have been able to return the favor of hospitality whenever they visit our site.  Besides our conference calls and WebEx meetings, which are important for our continued collaboration, I find myself frequently calling my German counterpart just as I would do to speak with an American colleague.  We’re able to joke about topics like the Women’s World Cup soccer tournament (the USA women beat Germany in 2015).  Furthermore, I sense something is missing when I don’t check in with my German colleagues often enough.  From these experiences, I learned the importance of building and maintaining relationships with remote colleagues, to ensure success in business.

A recent blog post from the Project Management Institute (PMI) describes the challenges and successes of project managers who traveled to and lived in places far more exotic than Germany.  What experiences have you had in your career with ex-US colleagues, and what tips can you provide for improving collaboration with them?

Change Can Be A Good Thing

11-2-2015 7-30-03 PM

To me it’s rare that change comes without pain but I have experienced it. For one of my accounts, I noticed that we kept on delivering late to every ship to location. I decided to do a deep dive to understand the root cause and figure out a solution. I started with the “5 Why” and went from there. I worked with our transportation team to get their point of view on the carriers we were using and also with our data management team to make sure the locations were set up correctly. After investigation, the routes for each ship to location were set up incorrectly. This made the system trigger the orders later than needed. Instead of giving our warehouse up to 6 days to ship, we were giving them 3-4 days. I worked with our data management team on the recommended routes and adjusted the system. Now we increased our On Time for delivery from 68% to 97%. This was a huge win because this was a seamless change and didn’t impact the use of carriers or the customers.

Most people who ignore signals calling for change are afraid of change. Change can be scary and difficult to the point where most people just avoid it. They’re afraid the decisions they’re making are wrong and will end up failing. Failure can be a good thing though. You can always learn what didn’t work and move on to the next challenge. Nobody wants to fail, but it’s a part of growth that helps you get to the place where you want to be. I’m sure people think it’s harder to do something different that is more difficult than it is to do something new and less steps.

I was trained to run a report that will inform the sales department of the case fill rate for each account for each month and week. The person who created the report showed me how she ran it and I was to follow her steps. This report was monstrous and complicated but it gave the information needed. In the beginning, it would take me about an hour to run then I had to explain it in an email to the sales force so maybe about hour and half. As time went by, I got better and took me less time to run and send it to the team but still took me about 45 minutes to do it. My co-worker said he had a better way of running the report but I was hesitant because I just nailed down running this report. But I sucked it up and we created a faster easier report and now I love it.

Change can be scary but without it you will never know if something is better.

Remote Project Management

“Remote project management and virtual teams can be a great project model if your organization allows it and your staff is focused on productivity.”  – Brad Egeland

Do you agree with the above statement?  Virtual workplace or some might call it telecommuting was instituted in early 1970s when information technology started to play a greater role in daily operations of the companies.  The Internet has had a revolutionary impact on our daily lives as well as our jobs. Today, some of our occupations would not be existent if Internet was not introduced. As internet connections become more common, workers have ample internet speeds to connect to their corporate headquarters through intranet right from their couch, beach or thousands of miles away from the office.  We are starting to see more and more virtual teams as well as projects that are solely managed remotely.  In his article Brad Egeland gives us few arguments why virtual project management is successful.

  • You have access to the best talent in the world.  Essentially you can hire anyone anywhere and communicate with them without any problems.  This would allow your team to complete your projects much faster since you would have the best talent.
  • Your profit margin increases and you can win more projects.  By utilizing less expensive offshore teams you will be cutting some of the costs.  Also, you do not need any extra space if your project would grow since every employee would be telecommuting from their home.
  • Project managers are freed up for real work when it’s needed.  Without actual commuting project managers can spend more time working on the project.  Time is money and telecommuting not only gives you time but also flexibility on your working hours.
  • The overall cost savings and productivity can be high.  If everyone works on their time then we can assume that they will be working at 100% so the productivity will grow.

Since the invention of the internet, flexible work arrangements have increased and they are still on the move.  With introduction of smart phones, virtual workplace and project management is gaining even more consideration.  Today we can manage our projects from anywhere in the world, while eating dinner, at the gym or even while driving a car which I strongly do not recommend.

Have you ever experienced a project where you never faced other team members?  Do you think there are many cost savings to having remote project management?  Do you feel that you would perform better if you didn’t have set work hours?  How does remote project management software help you do your job better as a project manager?

If you would like to read  more about remote project management I strongly recommend Brads article that can be found here Remote Project Management

 

Risk Management Plan for Software Development Life Cycle

When I was a recruiter for an IT staffing firm, I would always wonder why IT firms would reach out to our office with a hiring manager in need of a contract software developer for one of their projects. These hiring managers were either Project Managers, Program Managers, or Release Managers, that had a group of software engineers that rolled out new software for their company. Our staffing agency sought out for these types of projects, and would find contract workers for these hiring managers on their SDLC projects. There is always a need for contract workers, especially for technology companies that run multiple projects. When reviewing project management topics, risk management seems to be a likely area where project manager’s account for staffing needs.

My curiosity lead to me to an article on how project managers account for risks in their SDLC projects. The article addresses risk management as a general approach for all project’s, and below are steps for project managers to follow:
1. Risk identification
2. Negative impacts
3. Prioritizing risks
4. Risk management or risk treatment
5. Auditing the risk management plan

The article states that firms can either have a full-time Risk Officer, or the responsibility be delegated to the project manager. It seems in my experience, the latter is true, where the project manager takes the lead on the risk management plan. Hence, why the contingency plan of needing additional human capital to fulfill the project included a staffing agency. However, the article addresses the importance of having a risk management plan based on the phases of the SDLC. Let’s briefly discuss what these phrases look like, and how a risk management plan is incorporated into each step.

There are five stages in a software development life cycle, and the stages include; inception, design, implementation, maintenance, and audit or disposal. For each of these steps, the article suggests what should be done to develop the risk management plan. In the inception phase, the engineers talk through some the risks associated with the software. The second step is the design phase, where the engineers take the risk into account, and how their software will support or manage the risks associated. Generally, these include a set of checklists that the engineers address when designing their software. The next stage is implementation, and in this stage, there are tests conducted to test where the software can pass the associated risks. The third stage, the article stresses the importance of ensuring the risks are passed, before going live. The fourth stage includes maintenance of the software, and problems generally occur in this stage. These problems are where the engineers debug the issues, and maintain the system to run as designed. The risk management plan takes into account that there will be problems with the system, and understands that if the system needs to be changed or altered, the risk plan accounts for alterations of the system. The final stage is auditing the system or disposing it, where the risk management plan refines the system.

When reviewing how the risk management plan fits into a software lifecycle, I understand why Project Managers can utilize contingency workers for their projects. When reviewing stages 3 and 4, these areas are likely where the project manager accounts in their risk management plan to have contractors mitigate the risk.These stages account for issues arising, and based on my experience as a recruiter, the hiring manager knew who to reach out to fulfill their staffing needs.

Has anyone worked with a staffing firm to mitigate risks in their projects?

http://www.brighthubpm.com/risk-management/72055-best-practices-in-it-risk-management/

What role you play in a team?

A team is a group that shares responsibility for producing something together. Simply working closely with each other, wearing the same shirts, does not make you a team. Teams are unique because each member cannot complete the work without the work of other members. So the roles of each team member plays are critical for building high-performing team. Especially for dynamic project or new teams, the “role” of the word is more worthy of our attention than “job”. The ability of a role is relatively simple needs. And every successful team needs a mix of skills and roles. Therefore, the project manager should focus on diversifying the team member roles, rather than solely evaluating members on their individual talents. Especially just having a set of individual stars is not the key to build high-performing team.

My former boss is an excellent leader. She is experienced at identify people’s talents, skills, personalities. She can always put the right people in the right position, exert their advantages and compose a diverse team. Usually, she defined the work needed to be completed for the project, recognized the roles and what skills are required, then analyzed the character and team roles of every team member. It is worth mentioning she used FPA (Four-colors Personality Analysis) test as a supplementary tool to better and get a deeper understanding of personality traits and the potential of each subordinate. This approach is according to Dr. Carol Ritberger, a world famous behavioral psychologist and author. FPA states that there are four distinct personality types in the world, and each one has a special color: Red or Orange, motivated by power; Blue, motivated by intimacy; Green, motivated by peace; and Yellow, motivated by fun. Each color with their own unique way of seeing situations, expressing themselves, solving problems, and interacting with people. FPA has been widely used it in recruiting and team management in the companies over the world, it effectively helps manager or employee themselves to find out their personal tendencies, weaknesses, what they need from their peers, how they react to certain situations, areas of personal growth and their ideal work situation. Further, he stresses that human’s character is inborn, people just have one or two main characters and others are influenced by a variety of complicated things, such as grow-up environment, life experience, education and so on. So you can also find a way to develop some personality traits of other colors based on FPA test result.

What color are you

In addition, one of the dimensions for determining whether a team is high-performing is capacity for continued cooperation. That is, team members want to work together in the future after accomplishing a project. They do not feel exhausted from all their resources, but get better at working together, they feel belonging and strive to learn from mistakes or from each other. So they can consistently continue to succeed.

If you are curious about FPA, please check the reference below, it has the test and results analysis.

Reference:

About FPA: https://general-psychology.knoji.com/which-color-personality-are-you-red-blue-green-or-yellow/

Learning Project Reporting on the Fly

I recently became the project manager for a project that was started this past August. The project contributes to a strategic corporate initiative and has high visibility. Given the project had already been in progress for 2 months, I assumed that much of project plan and reporting structure was already in place. This was not the case!

There was progress being made. However, there was no formal communication/reporting protocol with upper management and the various project stakeholders were not working to an aligned plan. Before I formally took over the program, my manager and I reviewed the overall status and decided we needed to hold a workshop to bring all team members/stakeholders together.

We held a two-day workshop with the goal of formalizing the project plan and WBS to meet the target launch date and shipment quantity. The workshop was very successful and the team left feeling aligned and empowered. However, there was also a feeling of uncertainty.

As project manager I was given the task of developing a dashboard to communicate the project status on a weekly basis: project timeline with key milestones, materials procurement, CAPEX (capital expenditure), and hiring. Being new to dashboard development, I embraced the challenge and compiled the required data.

Much like the examples found in the textbook, my dashboard includes a Gantt chart for project milestones. Within the Gantt chart I also included initial production quantities, weekly spend requirements for materials purchases and CAPEX expenditures, and weekly hiring requirements. Additional tables were included to better quantify the information in the Gantt chart. I was amazed at how much information could be displayed on a single chart!

Once the dashboard was complete, the reason for the team’s uncertainty at the workshop’s conclusion was clear: the project was significantly behind schedule and under-staffed.

How could such a discrepancy exist? No detailed planning was conducted at the beginning of the project. Yes, key milestones were defined along with primary deliverable, but the detailed investments required to support the project were not effectively communicated until the workshop. At this point, the only way to refine the project plan was to proceed like Dilbert:

Dilberthttp://dilbert.com/strip/2011-08-18

After working backwards and compiling a daunting list of overdue expenditures, the team leveraged the dashboard to inform upper management of the current project status. Naturally they were not impressed and requested the team to drive improvement. We are now in catch-up mode and working to fulfill the initial plan as much as possible. The team is in a difficult situation as product performance has been agreed to with the customer, and senior management has mandated that all costs be minimized while fulfilling the target launch date and quantity.

We are committing to the realistic schedule/quantity and reporting this as baseline during our weekly meetings. Now we just need to get senior management on board.

Have you ever worked on similar projects that were behind schedule, over budget, and under-staffed? Please share your experience!

 

Water, Water Everywhere but not a drop to drink

Water? Yeah it comes out of my sink. I use it to shower. It makes my coffee in the morning. That’s about it…I think.

One of the biggest challenges faced by many water professionals is the lack of public appreciation for the value of water. Most people have no idea about the amount of work (and business opportunity) that goes into treating water, moving water, storing water and distributing water. In this lack of appreciation for the water field, I will expose two key points from my experiences in the water field.

In developing the new division for Darley, there are challenges we face internally and externally.

Internally. Trying to change the old school mindset that Darley is more than a fire company. These new markets have different mind sets, different demands, different regulations. With all these “different” factors, we needed a top to bottom reformatted approach to how we think about the market. How should we phrase our marketing? How should we present information? How much is too much information? What does the market want? Who is the actual customer? How can I reach these new customers?  How should I be spending my time on a daily basis?

Darley experienced many failed product launches and marketing efforts because we did not adapt our thinking to the new marketing opportunity. Therefor as a team, our marketing and web department came together to sit back and think “What is our water identity and how can we best portray this to the market?” By bringing together our internal resources, this has allowed Darley to define our position to the marketplace and work as a team to grow sales to the industry. Darley is working better as a team to support the new market endeavors and this has allowed me to focus more on water partnership and business development.

Lessons learned: Tap into internal existing resources. Allow yourself to utilize your time most effectively. Cut the cord on a bad marketing effort before you sink too much time into it.

Externally: The water market is ruthlessly competitive; and it’s only starting to heatup. Based on market studies, the Water industry is expected to grow into $375 Billion dollar industry next year. Because of the growing nature of importance for water in every industry sector, many new companies are emerging and more companies are adapting into the water world. Due to this growing shift to water, this highlights the importance of two things: 1) find a niche 2) make sure our products are doing what we say they will do.

1) In finding a niche (such as military, disaster response and humanitarian) we can focus our resource on small segments of the water sector as opposed to casting too wide of a net.

2) In dealing with the water sector, we are entering a world where the end user is going to consume the end product. This requires a high level of oversight to ensure that the product is producing clean water and meeting industry standards. We may have been to relaxed when first encountering this water quality issue, but fortunately nothing bad happened.  We have since implemented many more quality control issues. The last thing we want is an unhappy (potentially dead) customer.

Lessons Learned: Be different. Fight for the niche market. Don’t take anything you say to the public lightly in regards to capabilities because it could come back to haunt you.

This article highlights the challenges of the industry and what companies should do to focus on building market opportunities. http://www.wateronline.com/doc/the-biggest-challenges-facing-the-water-industry-0001.

FINAL Food for thought:  Have you ever thought about how water affects your industry?  Is water important to your company (your personal life)? What if your company had a supply chain shock of no access to water?  How important is water to your business?

Attributes that make a Project Manager successful?

According to this article, successful project managers are those who can deliver their projects on time, within budget, meet or exceed the stakeholders’ expectations and who can successfully supervise the project. These kinds of managers know how to bring together all the stakeholders in the project, and lead the team to meet its goals. In addition, they know that leadership and people skills are an important attribute. If the project manager doesn’t understand the stakeholders, even if they deliver within budget they may not be meeting their client’s needs. Below are a list of attributes the author suggests a project manager should have in order to be successful.

1. Set a Clear Vision
Project managers should have a clear vision of the direction they are heading; commit to this vision and find ways of achieving it.

2. Be Organized
Organization is an important characteristic of a great project manager. He/she needs to prioritize the work for their team, stay focused on the big picture, and stay in control of the project at all times.

3. Be Honest and Reliable
Project managers should mean what they say; fulfill their promises, and hold team members accountable. By doing so, the team will respect the manager’s integrity.

4. Become a Natural Leader
Project managers should be optimistic leaders who are highly valued by their company. They should have the ability to influence and interact with stakeholders, and the ability to improve their team’s performance by encouraging participation so they can reach their milestones.

5. Be a Good Communicator
The project manager should have a clear vision of the project before they communicate so they can explain it in a simple way and it can be understood. They should be able to listen to the client, and prepare a plan to achieve their goals. He/she can use emails, reports, and meetings to effectively share their ideas, make decisions and bring resolution.

6. Understand Business Strategy
A project manager should understand their company’s strategy, and see how his/her project aligns with the overall strategy. He/she should be able to look beyond the skills needed to manage projects and understand the company’s business.

7. Be Pragmatic
A project manager should be flexible, and be able to meet deadlines and budgets when things do not go as planned. They should share their experience with others on how they were able to overcome obstacles with the resources they had.

8. Have Enthusiasm
The project manager should demonstrate confidence in their team, and provide an encouraging environment. He/she should trust their team, and provide the support necessary for them to succeed.

9. Be Empathetic
A good project manager needs to understand the stakeholders concerns about a project and address them. By understanding what motivates their stakeholders they will be able to influence others to complete the job.

The author states several attributes of a good project manager. Are there any additional attributes you feel a project manager should have?


http://www.projecttimes.com/articles/career-corner-attributes-of-an-exceptional-project-manager.html