An Answer to Cancer Audit

An Answer to Cancer Audit

For our field project, our team, An Answer to Cancer, supported the Rush-Copley Cancer Care Center through a fundraising event and volunteer service event in effort to promote cancer awareness and generate revenue in support of the fight against cancer. The events were as follows:

Making Strides of Fox Valley 5k Walk: Sunday, October 18, 2015 at Pottawatomie Park in Saint Charles, IL

Support the Cure: Friday, October 23, 2015 at The James Joyce Irish Pub in Berwyn, IL

IMG_8987Project Description

The team first met on September 18, 2015 to choose our field project. Of the six different charities we all brainstormed, we decided to choose one that made an impact on our lives in some form. Our final selection was a charity that promoted cancer awareness. The team figured the timing was ideal to raise awareness towards such a cause since September was Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, October was National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month. With the help of Doug’s connections at Rush-Copley Cancer Care Center, we were able to get kickoff this project and meet with key staff members at the center. On September 24, 2015, the team had their first visit to the center and met with Ryan Alvarez. As the Business Manager who supports the operations and programming of the center, Ryan was very insightful with explaining the services this organization offers to the community and its members. In addition, he provided us with a list of the Rush-Copley Charitable Funds that we could choose to support. After careful analysis, we selected the Waterford Place Cancer Resource Center. Our group was very fortunate to have an individual so passionate about his job and the mission to support and promote cancer awareness efforts.

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Charity Description

According to the American Cancer Society, approximately “1,658,370 new cancer cases will be diagnosed in 2015”. About “589,430 Americans are expected to die of cancer in 2015”. However, according to The World Health Organization, “40% of all cancer deaths can be prevented”. With such alarming statistics, our team decided to raise revenue to benefit the Waterford Place Cancer Resource Center at Rush-Copley. The mission of Waterford Place is to compassionately connect with and offer support, guidance and resources to people with cancer and those that care for them. Waterford Place is a home away from home for cancer patients, survivors, and caregivers by providing a variety of support services including counseling, support groups, free integrated health treatments, stress management classes, and educational programming to improve health outcomes and emotional well-being. We all understood the hardship and difficulty cancer can be for the patient and their loved ones which was one of the group’s main motivation to support the development of a facility that will provide the community a space for physical and spiritual reflection. Simply put, “Waterford Place is where help meets hope.

waterford poster board

Project Objectives and Outcomes

In support of our chosen charity, the group decided on two events:

IMG_7023The first one was a service event to assist as volunteers at the “Making Strides Against Breast Cancer” 5k walk on October 18, 2015. At this event we worked with the American Cancer Society to collect petition signatures requesting Congress to continue funding cancer research. This event allowed us to interact with community members that supported the fight against cancer. In addition, we utilized this opportunity to promote our main event, “Support the Cure”. The walk was a huge success; with 76 teams and 909 participants, the event raised a total of $88,196.68.

Our main event took place on October 23, 2015 at the James Joyce Irish Pub. “Support the Cure” was a social gathering event that our group hosted in efforts to raise funds to support our charity through ticket and raffle sales. Our goal was to generate profit with minimum overhead cost which was possible thanks to The James Joyce Irish Pub who worked with us to ensure a successful event. As a group, we decided that in order to keep overhead cost at a minimal, we would have to seek donations from local businesses. Fortunately, Rush-Copley was able to provide us with a letter stating their tax-exempt status as a nonprofit charitable organization. Using this letter, we were able to collect donations of all food items and raffle prizes towards our event.



Our goal was to raise revenue of $1500 or greater through the combination of on-line donations, ticket sales for our main event “Support the Cure”, and in-kind donations. Our actual amounts were as follows:

Net Cash Donations: $852.00

In-Kind Donations: $1,199.00

Total Collected Value Towards Fundraising Efforts: $2,051.00

Although our ultimate goal was to raise $1500 in cash donations for Rush-Copley Cancer Care Center, we still managed to exceed our original target when we combine collected revenue with in-kind donations.

Lessons Learned

Managing project teams
As a group we met all of the conditions of a high performing team. First order of business was to create a team atmosphere. We selected our project manager who served as the coach of the team. Team members also volunteered for different assignments and other times our project manager assigned task. Every team member was responsible for a specific task and we trusted that everyone met their objectives.  We all shared the same vision once making a decision on which charity to go with. Our team did a great job of taking advantage of everyone’s strength. For example, using certain team member’s social media skills was an effective way to promote our charity and event via Facebook. As a group I think we have all been able to grasp a great understanding of the material covered in chapter 11 – managing project teams.

Developing a project plan
In order to get the finish line there must be a drawn out route to get there. Developing a project plan is key to the success of our project. There are different techniques you can use to map out your plans. For our project we  used the critical path method. The team knew the task that needed to be completed before the next event can occur. For example we set up our donations page prior to being able to post the link on our Facebook page.  I believe all the techniques described in chapter 6 can be applied to any project whether it’s for your company or a home project. AOA or AON is a great way to track and measure lead times on activities to arrive at an accurate ETA for completion.

The method of communication used by the group was primarily email, text messaging, and phone conferencing. Our project manager touched base with team members almost daily to gather updates, set reminders, and provide assistance if needed.


As a reflection on the past 8 weeks, the key piece of advice we would recommend for future teams is to thoroughly develop a well defined plan and prepare for the unexpected. We were given a very limited timeline from start to finish but our team completed both events in under 6 weeks. This would not have been possible if we did not identify the critical path and prioritize the activities that needed to be completed before proceeding to the next step. Developing a detailed project plan that listed all the activities and who they were assigned to was an effective method to ensure we met our project goals. In addition, ensure that you include a contingency plan should any unexpected circumstance occur. Our team faced that situation in the process of requesting donations from local businesses. We established a backup plan that included a contribution from every team member in the worst case scenario. The combination of persistent team members and supportive local businesses helped us achieve our goal and we held a successful event.

This field project was a great experience and opportunity for us to meet and network with other people in support of a great cause!

My thoughts for being an effective leader in project MGT

While looking over my notes for chapter 10, which deals with leadership. I began to compile my thoughts on what I believe what makes an effective leader. Great leaders are able to get team members to perform at their best when they can reach them on a more personal level. An example would be talking to them versus talking at them. Knowing what means of communication to use is key to managing a project. I would rather someone over communicate than not to communicate at all. Getting feedback from the team is also critical. I’ve learned from experience you get more buy in when you collaborate with team members. They feel like they are valued and are willing to go the extra mile sometimes. Another key to success is to build trust amongst team members. When you include your team member’s ideas and strategies you are building trust. Once a project manager or leader has the trust of the team then that’s when task begin to really roll along. When assembling teams for the first time everyone is feeling each other out. It’s not into the project manager builds that trust than you will see productivity increase. On my current job I built the trust of my employees by engaging in talks with them daily not only about the job but topics outside of the job. Then I began to work on other things that would make them more successful on the job. And once they see that I delivered on my promises. The trust levels increases. Now that the trust is there project managers can implement the game plan and began to tackle the critical path tasks. Leadership change for starters is not always welcome on the job. In my opinion more times than not workplaces does not stress change enough. From my own experience every time there is some kind of change whether it is a process or equipment implementation on a work cell. Operators are reluctant and always question why we changed. Great project managers are good at leading change and as mentioned above building trust. Once the team knows you have the project and team best interest at heart, you will then be able to lead change. Honesty is the last element I would like to add. Project managers must always be honest. Not just the project manager but everyone should be honest on the job. In my opinion, what makes people dishonest or with hold information is the fear of hurting team members feeling. To increase productivity of a project and stay on track project managers must be honest with himself and team members. Class I found the below article online an it discusses traits of a great project manager and leadership. What are your thoughts on leadership?

Managers: You are the Weakest Link, Goodbye

A common issue in organizations is corporate politics where promotions occur not because of merit but due to connections. In other words, many times it is not how hard you work but who you know that determines advancement. However, there is an entirely different issue at hand.

People who excel at their job; thus, in their company’s view, earned the right to be promoted often do not know how to lead. Therefore, many managers do not contribute to the success or growth of their team.

It is rare, particularly in smaller companies, for managers to receive formal training in the art of leading a team, forecasting, and/or quality management. According to the article, without this knowledge managers tend to either overcompensate to prove their worth or over-delegate tasks. When managers overcompensate poor decisions are made as they tend to not take into account the thoughts of their team. Over-delegating of tasks leads to an enormous amount of pressure on the other team members while the manager is neither taking responsibility nor adding any value to the project.

Once a manager is in a position of power it can get inside their head, and they start to believe they deserve more power. It becomes less about how well they preform their job and more about their title. This attitude affects the whole organization and leads to resentment of the management team.

A couple of the biggest keys to success for an operations manager is to be a better decision maker than their subordinates and have the ability to entrust vital knowledge to other team members. Managers are valuable if they can preform the two keys above. However, in many organizations there are managers at all levels that cannot do either well.

Is it possible to spread all of a managers duties, responsibilities and knowledge across a whole team and still successfully complete projects? Without a “ring leader” communication determines success or failure. Some companies such as, Valve Software,, and Zappos have adopted a manager-less system that promotes creativity, unity, and flexibility. Benefits do exist, but the success rate of projects becomes less predictable.

Yet, in reality, managers are needed in many situations; it is difficult to argue with that. However, companies need the right people with the right attitude to fill those spots. It has to go beyond an individual being good at their job. Companies need to focus on a potential manager’s past experience and leadership skills in addition to providing them the tools to succeed. Alternatively, corporations may want to consider cutting some middle men to improve efficiency and rid the themselves of weak links.

New Managers, Common Mistakes

This article goes over a study done by Linda Hill, a Harvard Business School Professor. This study is about those who become managers for the first time, and Linda writes about the 5 common myths and misperceptions that lead to mistakes in their early days. Some of the mistakes that she observed are as follows:

Myth 1: Managers wield significant authority

Linda discovered that many new managers reported that they were shocked by how constrained they feel. New managers have to deal with a web of relationships, with their bosses, subordinates, peers, people inside and outside of the organization. All of whom who have relentless and conflicting demands given to them. Linda suggests that until new managers give up the myth that they have such authority and need to realize that they need to negotiate their way through these people and their demands, they will end up frustrated and facing failure.

Myth 2: Authority flows from the managers position

Linda writes that many managers believe that whatever authority they posses comes from their title. Good managers learn over time that they must earn that title of authority from their subordinates through respect and trust. They must show their character, that they are capable of getting things done, and that they are competent if they want their subordinates to follow their lead.

Myth 3: Managers must control their direct reports

New managers often look for compliance to orders from their subordinates, they must keep in mind that compliance is not the same as commitment. Linda points out that if subordinates do not have commitment, they will not show initiative. And if subordinates do not show initiative, it will be difficult for managers to delegate effectively. Linda suggest that managers nurture a strong commitment to shared goals, rather than following whatever the manager says.

Myth 4: Managers must focus on forgoing good individual relationships

Linda says that managers must focus on on building a team, not on friendships. When managers focus on individual relationships, they lose the fundamental aspect of effective leadership. By shaping the team’s culture of norms and values, managers can unlock the diverse talents that make up the team.

Myth 5: The manager’s job is to ensure things run smoothly

Linda writes that if a manager is only trying to make sure that the operations run smoothly then they are making a big mistake. New managers also need to understand that they are responsible for making changes that will enhance their group’s performance. Many new managers find it challenging because they find themselves having to challenge organizational processes or structures that exist above and beyond their area of formal authority. Linda writes, ‘only when they understand this part of the job will they begin to address seriously their leadership responsibilities.’


I personally found this article helpful in understanding my new manager and I do intend on bringing these points to our next managers meeting to help improve the store’s operations and the effectiveness and commitment of our staff.

Now my question here is, have you ever experienced a manager with that conducted business with these myths? How was that experience? Did you find yourself questioning their ability as an effective manager or did you think their style of management produced positive outcomes for your organization?

The Wisdom of Project Management Maxims and the Importance of Balance

In reading the project management maxims from Chapter 10, I was reminded of the importance of finding balance when serving as a project manager.

Maxim One: You can’t do it all and get it all done – projects usually involve a vast web of relationships.

When managing a project, equally important as the question of what has to get done is the question of who is going to do it. Project managers who focus on the list of tasks at the expense of the resources needed to complete those tasks often find themselves behind schedule and over budget. Without the cooperation of all stakeholders, projects are likely to fail. Even if a resource is assigned to a project, you will not likely get their best effort unless relationships are established centered on common goals. I have seen project managers attempt to use position power rather than influence to disastrous effect.  Recognizing you cannot do it alone will help you focus on balancing the “what” along with the “who” of a project, leading to better project results.  Establishing clear expectations of how a project will be managed will help maintain balance. In the article “10 Best Practices for Successful Project Management”, Tom Mochal notes the importance of ensuring “the project team and all stakeholders have a common understanding of how the project will be managed”.

Maxim Two: Hands-on work is not the same as leading – more pressure and involvement can reduce your effectiveness as a leader.

This too is a matter of finding balance. Project managers who simply direct from on high are less effective than those who know enough about the project and the work being done to speak from a position of credibility. Making requests without understanding the impact of the request on those expected to do the work leads to resistance amongst the project team.   On the other hand, if project managers become daily contributors, they lose the vantage point necessary to enable them to effectively manage the project. Project managers who are willing to contribute at critical moments in a project earn the respect of the team and help ensure the success of a project. Going beyond that makes a project manager one of the team and not a leader, thereby reducing the effectiveness of the position.

What’s important to you likely isn’t as important to someone else – different groups have different stakes (responsibilities, agendas, and priorities) in the outcome of a project.

You have to balance the needs of all stakeholders; those you report to regarding the project, those who will benefit from the project, and those you need to get the work done.  I have seen project managers focus the majority of their attention on their project sponsor while ignoring the other stakeholders.  In the short run, their close relationship with the sponsor is viewed as positive. However, as other stakeholders became disconnected and the quality of effort and work product suffers, the attention paid to the project sponsor did not outweigh the lack of project results.  Communicating with all stakeholders at each stage of the project helps ensure all stakeholders’ needs are recognized and leads to engagement in project outcomes.

Can a Non-technical Background Stunt Your Growth?

Becoming a project manager is definitely something that interests me.  After spending the last few years working with project managers on a daily basis, I think I have acquired some basic knowledge.  However, where I work, the vast majority of project managers come from a technical background.  Previously, they were engineers who worked their way up.  It makes sense; they know the products and can speak coherently to the customer about specs, processes, etc.  So it has me thinking, how can someone like me with an accounting/finance background become a successful project manager?

So I read a few articles online, and it seems that the overall response is that a person does not need a technical background to become a project manager.  Well, that’s good news, but how do I overcome the technical deficiencies in order to be successful?  The following are a few ideas that I pulled from these articles:

Use your strengths

I mean this in two ways.  First, if you are not technically strong, then hopefully it means you have management/leadership skills.  Use the “softer side” of management to lead your team.  People skills such as managing conflicts, creating a positive, collaborative environment, and motivating are all valuable and useful skills.  The second meaning comes from the people themselves.  I once was told that being a good manager does not mean that you know all the answers but that you are able to surround yourself with all the right people.  The people you are managing are full of knowledge; lean on them to help you through the technical material while you learn the ropes.

Educate yourself

So you might not have a technical background, but if you see yourself staying in a certain field for a while, then it might be time to put the student hat back on.  This doesn’t necessarily mean going back to school to take a class, but it does mean putting forth an effort to learn.  Pay close attention to everything that is going on around you, ask questions when you don’t understand something, and even do your own research.

Admit when you need help

In other words, do not pretend that you know everything.  Acknowledge when there is a gap in understanding.  Show your team you respect them by not faking it; they will respect you more if you ask for the help when you need it.


Overall, if you can utilize your management skills from previous experiences, put forth an effort to learn your new environment, and work to understand your team, then a program management position can be within reach.


What was your background before becoming a project manager?  How has it helped you to succeed?

Have you ever worked with a project manager who did not have the technical background in regards to the project you were working on?  How did you feel it affected the project?



My (Limited) Experience with Project Management in My New Role

There has never been a better time for me to take a Project Management course than right now.  I recently moved into a senior management role for the only separate business unit within my company, Critical Products and Services.  It took just a few days for the honeymoon period to be over and for the issues to become apparent.  Many of the core issues boil down to improper or nonexistent project management and my hope with this post is that some of you may learn from our, and my, mistakes.

Proper Project Management needs a proper Project Manager.  Most of the projects that existed within the business unit exhibited a “laissez faire” project management style, which is a nice way of saying none at all.   Everyone on every project was the PM for their own contribution.  We had dozens of “Chiefs” and zero “Indians”.  This style can occasionally work on minor projects when everything’s running smoothly, but when it hits the fan all hell breaks loose.  Nobody, even the perfect PM, “wants” to deal with the tough problems, or ask the tough questions, and if a go-to PM that’s accountable for the project doesn’t exist, no one will.  If no one steps up the project fails, period.  I learned quickly that every real project needs a clear leader, a clear communication path, and a clear route for dispute resolution.

Project Management needs to be standardized.  We had 4 PMs in our unit using 3 different PM software platforms.  In and of themselves these platforms can be very effective.  When mixed together the result is a colorful pile of uselessness.  The tools that are used by the PMs and by the teams need to work together seamlessly across the board, otherwise they will be completely ignored and the time spent putting together the project plan was more or less wasted.  Team members neither have the time nor the desire to learn multiple platforms and if a PM is on vacation or traveling good luck finding someone willing to help out in a different software platform while working on their own projects.  Last week we started the implementation of cloud based “teamwork” platform Asana.  The platform is simple and easy to learn but more importantly it’s able to integrate with all types of helpful tools like Instagantt, Google Drive, and Salesforce ultimately making it seem like an effective online solution to our PM standardization issues.  I guess time will tell but at least we’re moving in the right direction.

Last, but certainly not least, Project Management is incredibly difficult.  It takes a certain type of person with thick skin and incredible willpower; great PMs are very rare.  I know am not a great PM, but I hope to be one day.  It takes an amazing amount of patience (you guys know that’s not my strongpoint 🙂 ) and attention to detail to coordinate a difficult project.  Know yourself, know your team, and use each member efficiently and effectively.  Most importantly, never stop communicating with each other.


The exciting nightmare that has been my life for the past 8 weeks.

Project Coach

coaching-word-cloud I was curious to learn what truly makes a good project manager. Should they know all the ins-and-outs of the project details?  Should they be the expert in the field?  Do they need to be up to date with the newest PM systems? As I read different articles highlighting the skills of a good project manager I couldn’t help but see that these are all the skills of a good coach.

I love analogies so, in the spirit of baseball season, I’ll reiterate the best tips I found referencing both baseball and project management terminology.

When beginning a project or season it’s important to build the structure and confidence of your team:

  • Help people learn and develop: If anyone of your team is not walking in with all necessary skills, as the PM or coach it’s important you get them up to speed.
  • Delegate step-by-step: Clear direction is need on a project as well as on the field.
  • Focus on people’s strengths: Know your team members’ skill sets and place them accordingly.
  • Be supportive: In both roles you should always know what is going on with your team members, remove obstacles, and support them to reach their goals.
  • Embrace failure: “My ability to achieve all my goals is a direct reflection of my ability to overcome all my failures…It’s ok to fail, but you should never quit” (Marcus Luttrell). A lesson can be learned from every loss on the field or failed project. There is always something to be learned.

Building team collaboration was another central theme. Again, all suggestions are necessary skills of a good coach:

  • Aggregate and adapt: Both a good coach and PM should bring ideas to the table, but also be able to adapt to new developments or situations and weave these into their game plan.
  • Listen first: Successful coaches and PMs have a sense of their people, what they are capable of, and then give them space to achieve those results.
  • Energize: No energy around a project or among a team is a quick road to a loss.
  • Remain open:  At times you’ll need to shuffle the lineup, swap positions on the field, or test out new skill set on a project. Without openness and flexibility, you may not be achieving the best results possible.
  • Be transparent: It’s curial for a good coach and PM to provide clear expectations and constant direct communication.
  • Have fun: Enjoyment builds team spirit, drive and collaboration.
  • Transcend insularity: Collaborating as a unit is the only way to fully achieve success.

Both a good coach and a good PM work to build a solid cohesive team and that produces results. When you build a strong team you create stakeholders in the project. This doesn’t mean that they always ‘win’; it means they move forward together and assist one another to achieve a uniform goal. A good coach guides the outcome without ever playing. A skilled Project manager, “bring[s] all aspects of the project together to produce a successful performance and result”(Haughey). Both are aiming for the good of the team and the best possible outcome.

What do you look for in a good project manager?

What do you strive for to be a good project manager ?

What qualities has the best project manager you’ve ever worked with had?
What qualities have your best coaches had?
Are some of these the same? What are the differences?

Do you think that coaching should be necessary skill of a good project manager?


My Zynga! How does one fall so fast?

Words With Friends. FarmVille. Scramble With Friends. We’ve all heard or played these games, or we have watched our friends on Facebook or Twitter interact with these games. These games are created by Zynga, a company that is nearly six years old based in San Francisco, California. This past week Zynga’s CEO Mark Pincus announced an 18% job cut for employees throughout the gaming company.

Who or what could possibly be the cause of such an 18% job cut? Pincus, in his blog announcement, acknowledged the fact that Zynga has struggled with adapting and entering the mobile space like many other companies. Larger companies, such as Facebook, have also admittedly publicly to have struggled to get a firm grasp on the market that caters to smaller devices that have smaller screens where users expect a fast, seamless and intuitive experience – with less ads. Is this lack of leadership on Pincus’? Or could it be Zynga’s lack of innovation?

This move to lean the company is certainly one thing – focusing on the future. By decreasing the size of the company today, Zynga was able to fairly compensate the newly departed associates. By making this move now, Pincus believes that Zynga is saving money in the long run. He believes making the deep cuts now will allow Zynga to take the risks it was once able to take before it expanded.

There are many similarities in this recent move by Zynga, and the the past few recent years of Chicago based, Groupon. These small start-up online companies expand exponentially all too quickly which brings up the questions, is it lack of leadership? One difference between Zynga and Groupon is that Pincus acknowledging the issues, and addressing them head on from the get go where as it can be argued that Groupon’s first CEO (yet to be replaced), Andrew Mason, failed to take the initiative to help his company early on. Mason, after months of criticism, left by similar fashion – a blog letter written to employees riddled with his off-based humor.

Companies that scale too quickly can easily lose their focus and their identity. Pincus is taking a risk to help his company in the long run. It is a difficult decision to make, but could potentially be the right one to correct Zynga’s projection path. Do think Pincus is making the right move?

“So-called Leaders” – Should They be Feared?

Leaders: The people in our office that we report to, sometimes look up to, but always try to please. Why are they in charge?

Someone believed that they had the ability to manage those underneath them, so they were anointed from above. Liz Ryan, expert on the new-millennium workplace and former Fortune 500 HR executive, explains, “Let’s not forget that what’s significant about the conferred-from-above leadership status is that it gives extra power to the person who’s been named leader. That power is inextricably linked to fear”

Is a person chosen for this position because they are influential  or because they successfully know how to instill fear in others? Fear should be eliminated from this equation, but is still prevalent in corporate management today. Workers are afraid that if they do not impress the person an charge, than they will be punished, or in the worst case, fired.  Those in leadership positions should be focusing on more important things: making sure they’re team is working productively together, and easing tension between members whenever it arises. Unfortunately, fear in this setting has a way of reducing productivity rather than promoting it. A leader should be put in this position because they are knowledgeable about the tasks assigned for the team. They are experienced and trusted.

In her article, Ryan describes the great number of leadership conferences and workshops she has attended. They are filled with ‘so-called leaders’ that are given quick tips about how to manage others, but few actually have these characteristics to be an effective supervisor. They are feared, but lack knowledge and influence. Often times these people are put in highly-regarded positions, but do very little in terms of work.

This bureaucratic style of leading is diminishing. Ryan explains, “The age of human workplace is here.” It is imperative that we escape this fear-based culture and focus on teamwork. While one person is in charge, anyone can lead when it comes to ideas and projects, and it is the leader’s job to facilitate this. If a person is not afraid of getting fired, they can freely express their ideas without their superior’s power constantly weighing down on them. A leader should be used as a knowledgeable resource and a coach that is willing to listen but is focused on the success of the group. Personal gain should take a back seat.

We will continue to report to our superiors, hopefully look up to them, and always try to please them out of respect, not fear.

This can all be rooted back to a few basic questions: Should fear be completely eliminated when it comes to leading, or does it have some positive effects as well? What makes a successful leader? How productive can someone be living in fear?