Friday, June 19, 2009

If Anything Can Go Wrong ... It Will !!

Murphy's Law ("If anything can go wrong, it will") was born at Edwards Air Force Base in 1949 at North Base. It was named after Capt. Edward A. Murphy, an engineer working on Air Force Project MX981, (a project) designed to see how much sudden deceleration a person can stand in a crash.

One day, after finding that a transducer was wired wrong, he cursed the technician responsible and said, "If there is any way to do it wrong, he'll find it." The contractor's project manager kept a list of "laws" and added this one, which he called Murphy's Law.

All project managers (managers in general) should be aware of these laws for their own good and the preservation of their projects.

Murphy's Laws
1. Nothing is as easy as it looks.
2. Everything takes longer than you think.
3. Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.
4. If there is a possibility of several things going wrong, the one that will cause the most damage will be the one to go wrong. Corollary: If there is a worse time for something to go wrong, it will happen then.
5. If anything simply cannot go wrong, it will anyway.
6. If you perceive that there are four possible ways in which a procedure can go wrong, and circumvent these, then a fifth way, unprepared for, will promptly develop.
7. Left to themselves, things tend to go from bad to worse.
8. If everything seems to be going well, you have obviously overlooked something.
9. Nature always sides with the hidden flaw.
10. Mother nature is a bitch.
11. It is impossible to make anything foolproof because fools are so ingenious.
12. Whenever you set out to do something, something else must be done first.
13. Every solution breeds new problems.

Murphy's Law of Research
Enough research will tend to support your theory.

Murphy's Law of Copiers
The legibility of a copy is inversely proportional to its importance.

Murphy's Law of the Open Road
When there is a very long road upon which there is a one-way bridge placed at random, and there are only two cars on that road, it follows that:
(1) the two cars are going in opposite directions, and
(2) they will always meet at the bridge.

Murphy's Law of Thermodynamics
Things get worse under pressure.

The Murphy Philosophy
Smile . . . tomorrow will be worse.

Quantization Revision of Murphy's Laws
Everything goes wrong all at once.

Murphy's Constant
Matter will be damaged in direct proportion to its value.

Murphy's Corollaries
Left to themselves, things tend to go from bad to worse.
It is impossible to make anything foolproof because fools are so ingenious.

Law of the Perversity of Nature (Mrs. Murphy's Corollary)
You cannot successfully determine beforehand which side of the bread to butter.

Corollary (Jenning)
The chance of the bread falling with the buttered side down is directly proportional to the cost of the carpet.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

6 Questions to Help You Build Trust on Your Team

The words 'Trust Me' have been uttered billions of times … and every time those words are spoken, it’s because it’s because the other person doesn’t.

I was sent this article by a colleague and I thought it was worth sharing with all of you ... the article was written by Lieutenant Colonel Diane Ryan.

This post is part of our Frontline Leadership series, looking at what business leaders can learn from today's military.

The ongoing economic crisis coupled with the appearance of one scandalous headline after another describing the latest crook to run off with somebody's life savings have done much damage to Americans' ability to trust one another. While a fair amount of skepticism may be practical at times, building trust both between individuals and within organizations is absolutely critical to overall well being and effectiveness. And nowhere is this requirement more important than in relationships in which the life of one person may, in specific situations, depend on the actions of another. That's why examining the processes of building and maintaining trust between military personnel in the extreme environment of combat may provide practical considerations that apply to leaders in many different contexts.

Perhaps most important is the understanding that trust must be a two-way street. While it is imperative that subordinates have trust in their leader, this will never happen without reciprocity. In a combat team, all members are mutually interdependent, meaning everyone has a specific job to do — jobs that often require a significant amount of risk to life or limb. Soldiers must trust their leader to make decisions that minimize risk where possible, and the leader must trust that soldiers will carry out their orders despite any hazards for the overall benefit of the team. Recent research by my West Point colleagues Colonels Tom Kolditz and Pat Sweeney indicates that there are several factors which influence and facilitate building this mutual trust building, including shared values, relationships that foster cooperation, and perceived competence.

For much of my own military career I took the trust-building process between myself and other soldiers, both leaders and subordinates, for granted. It was only after returning from my most recent deployment to Iraq and spending three years in the civilian world finishing my graduate degree that I began to sense that there was something special about how we cultivate trust in the Army. My first clue was when I had the occasion to ask a university administrator, himself a veteran, for a fairly substantial policy exception that I truthfully did not expect to be considered. When he granted my request without batting an eye I was taken aback. After I stammered out a surprised thank you, I exclaimed "But you don't even know me" to which he quickly replied "Oh I do know you, because I know what you stand for and I know you'll do the right thing." Our shared values served as a precursor for instantaneous mutual trust that developed and deepened over the course of our professional relationship. I recognized that this was not an isolated incident and that the values I share with my own leaders, peers and subordinates often serve as the figurative handshake upon which all subsequent trust is built.

In my experience these shared values facilitate cooperative relationships and intimacy at much faster rate in the military than in many civilian professions. There are many factors that might contribute to this phenomenon. Perhaps it's because we move around so much that we feel a sense of urgency to get to know each other more quickly. Maybe it's the time we spend together riding in dusty HMMWVs and sitting in foxholes sharing even the most mundane details of our lives in an attempt to pass the time until we get back to civilization. But mostly I think it's because we want to know almost everything about the people we potentially face death with. These deep personal relationships — that I have come to consider familial in many cases— cement the bonds of trust.

Inherent in both initial perceptions and long-term trust building is competence in the form of technical and tactical proficiency. In other words, do subordinates believe that a leader knows his or her job well enough so as not to needlessly jeopardize their safety and well being? I vividly remember the pressure of leading my first convoy operation as a brand new lieutenant — ten hours through the hills and winding roads of the Bavaria. Although I exuded confidence (at least that's how I remember it), inside I was terrified of getting lost and ruining my credibility with the platoon forever — which thankfully did not occur. What I did not know at the time was that approximately 10 months later I would be executing a similar exercise across the Arabian Desert as part of Operation Desert Storm, where so much more was riding on my performance as a leader. Had I not demonstrated competence early on, my soldiers would have lacked trust in my ability to keep them from harm's way, and our overall effectiveness as a unit would have suffered tremendously.

While most businesses are not subject to circumstances similar to combat, many of the trust-building processes practiced in the military are nevertheless applicable, particularly when an organization faces crisis. Asking the following questions has the potential to facilitate trust building within your own organization:

1. Do I place trust in my employees as a prerequisite to earning theirs?

2. What are my organization/profession's shared values and culture?

3. Have these values been articulated within the organization to the point they are internalized and go without saying?

4. How much do I know about my employees and their families and how well do they know me?

5. What experiences can I offer to increase cooperation and familiarity in ways that are appropriate and rewarding?

6. And last but certainly not least; does my personal competence inspire trust in my subordinates?

Finding ways to build confidence in people who only have to look as far as the daily news to find numerous reasons why not to trust may be challenging, but ultimately well worth the effort.

Friday, June 5, 2009

17 Pointers for Managing Virtual Teams

In this day and age when more and more of our interactions are virtual, it is important to have some guidelines for success. I REALLY like the following 17 Pointers for Managing Virtual Teams provided by Kevin L. McMahan ... I hope they help you with your virtual meetings ...

  1. Engage the team in setting expectations about behavior and performance. Record
    the team's decisions and commitments to each other.
  2. Clearly define member responsibilities.
  3. Use rigorous project management disciplines to ensure clarity.
  4. Consider servant leadership exposure and training for potential team leaders.
  5. Determine, as a team, how conflict will be addressed and resolved.
  6. "Proactive behavior, empathetic task communication, positive tone, rotating
    leadership, task goal clarity, role division, time management, and frequent
    interaction with acknowledged and detailed responses to prior messages
  7. Strive for a good faith effort in complying with the team norms and commitments,
    be honest in team negotiations, and don't take advantage of others or of the situation.
  8. Encourage social communication that accompanies task completion at the outset and
    be enthusiastic in e-mail dialog; look for predictable, substantial, and timely
    responses to members.
  9. Provide more formal communication than in traditional same time/same place
  10. Keep communications in a shared database for use in new member orientation.
  11. Focus knowledge management attention on the tacit as well as the explicit
    knowledge. Document the tacit and embed the process into the organizational
  12. Record and share the "context" when sharing information, preferably with a view
    toward future audiences.
  13. Match desired activities with performance evaluation factors; reward the desired
  14. Build information sharing (knowledge management initiatives) into the
    organization's strategic plan.
  15. For a team cross-cutting an organization's departmental boundaries, develop an
    information system to help translate terms in the subject disciplines.
  16. Encourage and provide feedback on all team activities; listen to it!
  17. Design and integrate tools that fit the team environment; don't force the team to
    adapt its behavior to the "latest" software.

Kevin L. McMahan, from his paper: "Effective Communication and Information Sharing in Virtual Teams"

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Inspirational Speech #2

The second inspirational speech that hits home with me is, Gene Hackman's When the Washington Sentinels Left the Stadium that Day speech from the movie the Replacements. It's not as graphic as Al Pacino's speech in Any Given Sunday, but it makes an excellent point just the same.

Here it is ...

"When the Washington Sentinels left the stadium that day, there was no tickertape parade, no endorsement deals for sneakers or soda pop, or breakfast cereal. Just a locker to be cleaned out, and a ride home to catch. But what they didn't know, was that their lives had been changed forever because they had been part of something great. And greatness, no matter how brief, stays with a man. Every athlete dreams of a second chance, these men lived it."


Inspirational Speech #1

I am always on the lookout for inspirational speeches and comments in my day to day life, Al Pacino's Inch By Inch Speech from the Movie Any Given Sunday is (in my opinion) one of the best.

Here it is ...

"I don't know what to say really ... Three minutes to the biggest battle of our professional lives all comes down to today. Either we heal as a team or we are going to crumble. Inch by inch, play by play, till we're finished. We are in hell right now, gentlemen ... believe me ... and we can stay here and get the shit kicked out of us, or we can fight our way back into the light. We can climb out of hell. One inch, at a time.

Now I can't do it for you. I'm too old. I look around and I see these young faces and I think, I mean, I made every wrong choice a middle age man could make. I uh ... I pissed away all my money, believe it or not. I chased off anyone who has ever loved me. And lately, I can't even stand the face I see in the mirror.

You know when you get old in life things get taken from you. That's, that's part of life. But,you only learn that when you start losing stuff. You find out that life is just a game of inches. So is football. Because in either game, life or football, the margin for error is so small. I mean one half step too late or to early and you don't quite make it. One half second too slow or too fast and you don't quite catch it. The inches we need are every where around us. They are in ever break of the game every minute, every second.

On this team, we fight for that inch ... On this team, we tear ourselves, and everyone around us to pieces for that inch. We CLAW with our finger nails for that inch ... Cause we know when we add up all those inches that's going to make the fucking difference between WINNING and LOSING, between LIVING and DYING.

I'll tell you this, in any fight it is the guy who is willing to die who is going to win that inch. And I know if I am going to have any life any more it is because, I am still willing to fight, and die for that inch because that is what LIVING is. The six inches in front of your face.

Now I can't make you do it. You gotta look at the guy next to you, Look into his eyes. Now I think you are going to see a guy who will go that inch with you. You are going to see a guy who will sacrifice himself for this team because he knows when it comes down to it, you are gonna do the same thing for him.

That's a team, gentlemen and either we heal now, as a team, or we will die as individuals. That's football guys. That's all it is ... Now, whattaya gonna do?"

Maybe it's just a guy thing ...

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Immutable Laws of Project Management

When dealing with the world of Project Management, I whole-heartedly believe in the Immutable Laws of Project Management.

LAW 1: No major project is ever completed on time, within budget, with the same staff that started it, nor does the project do what it is supposed to do. It is highly unlikely that yours will be the first.

Corollary 1: The benefits will be smaller than initially estimated, if estimates were made at all.
Corollary 2: The system finally installed will be completed late and will not do what it is supposed to do.
Corollary 3: It will cost more but will be technically successful.

LAW 2: One advantage of fuzzy project objectives is that they let you avoid embarrassment in estimating the corresponding costs.

LAW 3: The effort required to correct a project that is off course increases geometrically with time.

Corollary 1: The longer you wait the harder it gets.
Corollary 2: If you wait until the project is completed, it’s too late.
Corollary 3: Do it now regardless of the embarrassment.

LAW 4: The project purpose statement you wrote and understand will be perceived differently by everyone else.

Corollary 1: If you explain the purpose so clearly that no one could possibly misunderstand, someone will.
Corollary 2: If you do something that you are sure will meet everyone's approval, someone will not like it.

LAW 5: Measurable benefits are real. Intangible benefits are not measurable, thus intangible benefits are not real.

Corollary 1: Intangible benefits are real if you can prove that they are real.

LAW 6: Anyone who can work effectively on a project part-time certainly does not have enough to do now.

Corollary 1: If a boss will not give a worker a full-time job, you shouldn't either.
Corollary 2: If the project participant has a time conflict, the work given by the full-time boss will not suffer.

LAW 7: The greater the project's technical complexity, the less you need a technician to manage it.

Corollary 1: Get the best manager you can. The manager will get the technicians.
Corollary 2: The reverse of corollary 1 is almost never true.

LAW 8: A carelessly planned project will take three times longer to complete than expected. A carefully planned project will only take twice as long.

Corollary 1: If nothing can possibly go wrong, it will anyway.

LAW 9: When the project is going well, something will go wrong.

Corollary 1: When things cannot get any worse, they will.
Corollary 2: When things appear to be going better, you have overlooked something.

LAW 10: Project teams detest weekly progress reporting because it so vividly manifests their lack of progress.

LAW 11: Projects progress rapidly until they are 90 percent complete. Then they remain 90 percent complete forever.

LAW 12: If project content is allowed to change freely, the rate of change will exceed the rate of progress.

LAW 13: If the user does not believe in the system, a parallel system will be developed. Neither system will work very well.

LAW 14: Benefits achieved are a function of the thoroughness of the post-audit check.

Corollary 1: The prospect of an independent post-audit provides the project team with a powerful incentive to deliver a good system on schedule within budget.

LAW 15: No law is immutable.

The Immutable Laws of Project Management -