10 Ideas to help ensure People in your Organization are Happy

I wanted to discuss a positive theme today and this came to mind – how to help ensure a happy work force. I read earlier this week that happy people are more productive. So I thought about the places I have worked and put together these points. I am sure there are more ideas and I would like to hear them.

1. Build teams that work well together. This may seem naive and impossible but it can be done. Provide team training so everyone knows how a good team should work. Most work places have some people that aren’t team players. Hopefully you have work where they can be independent.

2. Hire happy, positive people and keep them happy.

3. I don’t know many people who work well in an environment led by a micro manager or dictator type leader. A leader needs to care about the people in the organization. The best leaders have a sense of humor and ability to motivate and inspire.

4. If people can make mistakes without being beaten up over the mistake, more creativity and innovation will occur as people learn from their mistakes and fix problems before it is too late. And the work force will be happier not living in fear of making a mistake.

5. Everyone is motivated differently and has a different personality. Do you recognize individuality? Can you get the best out of your people? People need to be rewarded when they do a good job. This varies quite a bit according the each person’s personality.

6. Everyone appreciates the occasional free lunch or other social events and parties.

7. I don’t know any people who like bosses that yell all the time. Do you?

8. I think most people like friendly, approachable bosses. I certainly do!

9. The leaders of the organization set the core values and the culture. You can make it so that people like coming to work.

10. When people are really overworked, they are not efficient and not happy. Of course this is about life-work balance.

Your thoughts?

The Power of Owning your Results

I was recently asked what did I learn early that I have been able to use throughout my career. My answer is the power of taking ownership of your results.

This goes back to a time when I was in an organization where people were very de-motivated. Things just weren’t going well. We were doing some projects that we really didn’t think we should be doing (weren’t feasible) but we had no choice. We had to do what top management said to do.

At one point we landed a very big project with a good deal of risk, visibility and pressure from our top leader. We had a very lean project team and a very tight schedule. There were team members that didn’t get along. Since many team members were thinking more about polishing up their resumes and getting out of this job nightmare, I was very worried about our ability to pull this off. But I am a stubborn and determined Project Manager.

This will sound crazy but stay with me! I took these very cynical Engineers to a motivational presentation. I expected that most of them would just be happy to get away from the office for a day but they listened and really got it. What we brought back to the office was the concept that we owned the results of our work. We, as a team, could do this successfully if we all stepped up and agreed that we were going to ensure success. We realized we had control of our destiny. We were very motivated.

And it worked so it is a very cool story! We had all kinds of trouble (such as learning curve for all the new things we had to figure out, one key team member left one month before the end of the project et.) and worked more than we ever had (many long hours). We were successful, the project was on time and the top leaders were very impressed!
So when I am trying to turn around negative attitude in the workplace and get people motivated, I remind people that things don’t happen to us, we make things happen. A little bit corny but it works!

The Relationship of Change, Motivation and Turnaround

At one point in my career, I was a manager in a small, failing division of a large company. I had just started at the company and had not discovered this issue during the hiring process (ah lessons learned!). But here I was in a not so good situation, needing to figure out a way to turn things around.

I knew the problem to be solved – Projects were usually late and our products did not always meet spec. But what was the solution?

Naturally morale was low so this was one of the first issues to deal with. Low morale and low productivity go hand in hand. It was pretty much like being in a sinking ship. Since the employees couldn’t see how to fix things, chances are that most, if not all of them were busy working on their resumes and job searching. They saw the situation as hopeless; we needed to change that attitude.

Strange as it may seem, a new, very huge challenge helped turned us around. We received a new contract to produce something that we were not at all sure we could achieve. We were concerned about schedule, specs, staffing, risk and a lot of unknowns. I convinced the staff that successful completion of this project could turn things around for the division.

We saw this challenge as a way to show our skills and ability. I continued to drive home the concept that this project was the key to our division’s success. Successful completion of this project would bring good return to the division but would also convince our VP that we were a powerful team. We owned this project and were driven to succeed. The fact that this was the biggest challenge we had yet encountered was a great inspiration. We weren’t victims of failure but rather owners of our own success.
It is a good thing that we were motivated and now thinking positively as our lean staff had to work long hours to ensure on time delivery. I found the value of being a hands-on leader on this project. I figured out all kinds of non-conventional ways to help the team (testing equipment for instance) and more conventional ways such as vendor negotiations to bring needed products in quickly.

The project was a success and did indeed convince the company of our division’s value. We kept our eyes on the goal of turnaround all through the long hours and hard work required to achieve this goal. We had a vision of a better division and made it a reality.

Keeping Calm under Pressure

I am seeing companies out there asking for people who work well under pressure. I thought everyone was good at that because there are always plenty of issues and challenges in the workplace. But I have seen a lot of different attitudes when difficulties occur in the business. Here are some attitudes that are all wrong for dealing with business challenges:
1. Ignore the problem and it will go away. NOT!
2. Hand this off to someone else. You can collaborate with others, run your solution by others but complete handoff is not something you can do and expect to go anywhere in your career. We all need to be problem solvers. If you feel you must push this further up the chain of command, at least offer your ideas on resolution of the problem.
3. Let out your frustrations and rant and yell about who is to blame. I don’t think anyone sees this as working well under pressure but I have been amazed to see high level people get away with this. I do think this is becoming less common though.

So how should you deal with pressure, issues, challenges and downright disaster?
1. Remain calm and analyze the problem. What is the root cause of the issue and potential solutions?
2. Keep a positive attitude and open mind. I got this idea from people I have worked with. They say that when I worked under great pressure, I kept a positive attitude, which in turn helped keep my teams motivated. Negativity is not productive or motivating, generally this just leads to the issues not getting resolved quickly.
3. Negotiate. Some of the biggest pressures I have encountered related to the customer (internal or external) wanting it now (schedule problem) and wanting it cheap (budget problem) and wanting all the bells and whistles (scope problem). I have found that it is good to find out the prioritization of scope, schedule, cost according to the client. Which of these constraints is most critical? If it is schedule, tell them what you can do by that date and how you would phase the rest of the solution. If it is money, convince them they will have what they need without every last bell and whistle.
4. Corporate culture is key to dealing with issues. If the organization punishes people for reporting problems, there will be more problems. If the organization is consistently looking at performance, proactively anticipating issues and risks while planning mitigation and empowering people to solve problems, the business is likely to run smoother.
5. As I mentioned in item 2 above, your best move might be to all take a deep breath and remind yourselves that panicking doesn’t resolve anything. Then get people together and brainstorm solutions.
6. Keep the issue in perspective. Is this something people will even remember in a day, week or month? Is it possible you will laugh about this later?
7. Plan on getting your frustrations out from all the pressure at work by exercising – the number one stress reliever!
What are your ideas for keeping calm under pressure? If employees are constantly seeking this in their workforce, its a good idea for everyone to work on this.

From Concept to Benefit – Achieving Corporate Strategy

The Business Need
Sound strategic planning is fundamental to achieving business objectives. Execution of the strategy is difficult and the complexities created by out of sync and competing activities, processes, functional groups and systems across the organization create many obstacles on the road to success. Constant change, corporate politics, functional silos and many other factors affect progress toward business objectives.

A sound business plan and clearly defined goals are essential, but the key to successful execution is understanding how to accomplish those goals. This post looks at process relationships and information flow across the business from strategic planning to achievement of the strategy, from great ideas to benefits realization. To ensure the business efficiently and effectively achieves its strategy, the organization must optimize the outcomes from their processes across the entire life-cycle.

While organizations put emphasis on improvement of individual processes, improvement across processes and systems is often neglected. This big picture transformation is more difficult to tackle. Over time, standalone systems, functional stovepipes and constant change cause issues around data, communication, processes, systems and performance. While this task of analyzing and improving the full life-cycle is difficult, the results are very valuable to the organization.

The Business Issues
Virtually every organization has information fragmented in multiple repositories and enterprise applications. Many obstacles keep organizations from meeting their basic needs for efficient operations, strategic alignment and profitability. Common business issues include:
• Process Issues:
o Inefficient
o Duplication of effort and disconnected processes
o No standardization, documentation or understanding of process
o Poor metrics and poor performance
• Data Issues:
o Insufficient or bad data
o Difficulty in obtaining data
o No authoritative source of data, duplicate entry
• Technical Issues:
o Insufficient applications and infrastructure to support best practice processes
o Disparate applications and systems

The Holistic view of the full life-cycle
Strategic Planning, Portfolio Management, Project Management and Operations (with many processes under operations). All of these processes contribute to achievement of strategy, thus are critical to business success.

Weaknesses in Strategic Planning, Portfolio Management, Project Management or Operations will result in problems in the other areas as there are information feeds and dependencies between these functions. In addition, the processes in each of these major areas must be efficient and must provide quality information to the other areas. The table below provides the typical issues for each of the processes.

Function/ Process
Typical Process Issues
Strategic Planning
• Objectives not clear, not understood by the organization
• Organization is unable to interpret the strategy into what needs to be done
Portfolio Management
• Not using objective criteria for investment selection
• Selection criteria not clearly related to strategic tie and benefits realization
• Not sizing the portfolio correctly to match resource capacity to demand
Project Management
• Overlapping projects, redundant projects
• Projects not aligned with strategy and not meeting customer needs. Projects working at cross purposes
• Resource conflicts, poor project performance
Operations
• Transition process not sufficient for smooth roll-out
• Rush to get to production can result in problems after roll-out

The strategic goals are meaningless to the organization unless they are clear, understood by all and interpreted into the activities required to achieve the goals. This means that executives should not throw high-level strategic goals out to the organization with the directive to make it happen. Instead, they should have a clear idea of the major activities designed to meet the strategic objectives to ensure the organization is headed in the right direction. Leaders in Strategic Planning and Portfolio Management can work together to clearly connect the strategy with the required tactical activity.

Portfolio Management will determine the optimized Portfolio of investments based on analysis, valuation and prioritization of the business needs. To prioritize investments, a scoring model is developed based on the organization’s definition of value. The model will provide strategic alignment and will represent the benefit provided by the investment.

Portfolio reviews and analysis require up-to-date information from Strategic Planning, Finance, Enterprise Architecture, IT Governance and Project Management. Finance provides available budget information to be used in determining how many items in the portfolio can be funded. Enterprise Architecture provides capabilities and Enterprise Architect requirements used in Portfolio Management selection process while Portfolio Management provides portfolio performance to capabilities and requirements to Enterprise Architecture. In some organizations, IT Governance will utilize the investment scores to prioritize and grant funding to investments.

When funding decisions are complete, approved projects move to the Project Management process in the life-cycle. Project Management is complex and key to achievement of the business needs. Therefore, best practice processes are key to achievement of the corporate plans.

Performance Management

Performance Management is an element in each of the processes as metrics and analysis are required to ensure each area is achieving its goals and to ensure benefits realization from the system as a whole. For decision makers, Portfolio Management will provide benefits realization metrics including financial benefits. Portfolio Management measures progress toward corporate goals based on the metrics for each goal and reports this information to Strategic Planning/Executives. For each Project, metrics will be established to ensure the project team is meeting the project goals. Project Performance is measured and analyzed to develop corrective actions and ensure risks are managed. This Performance information is reviewed in Project and Program reviews to ensure Project Management performance is optimized. Performance information is fed from the Project Management system to the Portfolio Management system (and/ or the Program Management system) to allow decision making for the portfolio and programs. In Portfolio reviews, project performance is taken into consideration and failing projects may be stopped.

Building the Holistic Life-cycle Solution
How do you build the holistic life-cycle process to optimize sharing information across processes, eliminate duplication of tasks, and improve each process while optimizing across all processes? First, ensure high-level sponsorship with a clear understanding of the value of this effort from the top down. As this solution provides both strategic and tactical benefit and provides significant financial benefit, this holistic approach should be an easy “sell” to the leaders of the organization. However, the new life-cycle design may require breaking down barriers between functions and may bring major changes in governance and decision-making. Good Change Management planning can help ensure success of the new solution.

By mapping the current processes, systems and data flow, you will reveal gaps, duplications and problem areas. Analysis of this current situation will determine required improvements to establish the optimized life-cycle. Keep in mind that the goal is to improve individual processes as well as tying the processes together and developing good information flow and process coordination across the life-cycle.

This improved life-cycle will provide benefits of strategic achievement, a portfolio of investments with the highest ROI and improved efficiency across the organization. The transformation effort is not easy to achieve but well worth the effort.

How to get the Organization to see the benefit of Change

Excellent firms don’t believe in excellence – only in constant improvement and constant change.
Tom Peters

Major change is always difficult. While the status quo may be incredibly boring, we tend to feel more comfortable doing things the way we have always done them. Anything new has that huge element of the unknown. We can conjure up all kinds of horrible outcomes when management announces that change is coming. But this is the glass-is-half empty view of change. Organizations don’t implement change efforts for the sake of change. There had better be a good reason! However, it is going to take time for the majority of the people in the organization to see that good reason. A top goal for developing a solid Change Management plan is to keep business going smoothly during the project. Since change makes people nervous, it can lower productivity. So Change Management Planning is critical to the success of major endeavors. What are the key elements of a good change management plan?
1. The leaders lead the change. We have all seen plans fizzle when they didn’t have the proper executive backing
2. In planning for change, understand how the employees will view the change – conduct stakeholder analysis. Make plans for dealing with issues and risks.
3. Convey very clear actionable goals to everyone. Make sure that the value proposition is clear to everyone and relate the change to corporate strategy.
4. Think of the plan as a marketing campaign as this is the best way to “sell” the organization on the value of the improvement.

This planning is targeted at keeping business productivity up while undergoing major change. You won’t make everyone on staff happy but that is not realistic anyway!

Your opinion/ feedback please

I am working on ideas for a webinar and would appreciate feedback on topics that interest you in the areas of Project Management, Project Portfolio Management, Lifecycle Management and Process Improvement. I admit I am tempted to build on topics I have written about such as the full lifecycle management from concept to realization of benefit or how Portfolio Management can improve project or PMO performance. I also appreciate ideas for blog topics. Thanks for your feedback!