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Author: Pamela Yates

Lessons Learnt or Opportunities Lost

“The measure of a successful lessons learnt exercise is not the number of “lessons” identified but the relevance, quality and impact of the recommendations that you can pass on to future readers.” The BA Times has an interesting article about the Lessons Learnt process.

Most project team members are familiar with the process to identify, document, analyse and store lessons learnt. But if the organisation through the Programme Office does not have a central Lessons Learnt register, it is very difficult to analyse lessons learnt across projects. This results in repeating the mistakes of the past and losing the opportunity to make changes to the way projects are run to avoid problems in the future. Every new Project Manager should be provided access to the Lessons Learnt register and use the knowledge to inform the project plans. This is doubly important for those Project Managers who are new to the organisation. The Lessons Learnt can provide an insight into the organisations culture and values.

A new learning environment needs to be endorsed throughout the company and sponsored by executive management. A process of analysing lessons learnt across projects over the past six months, identifying how to ensure mistakes are not made again, and reporting to and requesting support from Senior Management is crucial. Project Managers and project teams should understand that it is their responsibility to review previous lessons learnt and questions asked if similar mistakes are repeated. Process and procedures should be implemented to make sure that the lessons are used or that the project manager is held accountable for a recurrence of a lesson that was learnt in a historical project.

Retaining project knowledge and establishing a continuous improvement effort are vital activities for a Programme or Project Office. Keeping costs low, schedules on time, and activities closely monitored is critical, as mistakes and rework are costly. The benefits gained by mining the value of lessons learnt can help avoid the risks involved in reworking projects and in repeating the same mistakes or problems continuously. This must be of value to all organisations.

The PMI have an interesting article on taking the lessons learnt to the next level.

Your Holiday is Essential

Many of us have our work and social lives out of balance and get caught up in the monotonous 9-5 routine. Heavier workloads, tighter deadlines and threatened job security all adds to the pressure to perform to the highest standard – even if this means shying away from taking necessary breaks from work. Taking some time to yourself, away from the office, is crucial and can even improve your performance when you return to work.

Scientific studies across the globe have shown that taking a break can reduce stress by removing you from an environment you associate with stress and anxiety. The effects last beyond the duration of the break and include the alleviation of some of those stress-related physical complaints such as headaches, backaches, and heart irregularities.

It has also been proven that holidays improve your productivity. Professional services firm Ernst & Young conducted an internal study of its employees and found that for each additional 10 hours of vacation time employees took, their year-end performance ratings improved 8 percent. When you’re more productive, you’re happier, and when you’re happier, you excel at what you do.

And if restless nights and disrupted sleep are a common complaint because you have too much on your minds. Researchers say, that holidays can help interrupt the habits that disrupt sleep, like working late into the night or watching a backlit screen before bed. We know that lack of sleep leads to less focus, less alertness, impaired memory, an increased likelihood of accidents and a decreased quality of life.

So, consider your holiday as an investment. According to Forbes “Giving yourself time to fully disconnect and recharge makes it possible for you to perform at your best once you’re back at work.” And if you are still not convinced Forbes have put together an interesting article on some ways to prepare for and enjoy the break. Happy Holidays.

Taking Advantage of a Quiet January

Many of us are aware of the major steps taken in the field of data analytics over the past few years. With access to large amounts of data, and the capability to use data and analytics to solve business problems, skills in this area are becoming increasingly valuable, whatever your background or position in an organisation.

As a term, data analytics predominantly refers to an assortment of applications, from basic business intelligence (BI), reporting and online analytical processing (OLAP) to various forms of advanced analytics. There has been a proliferation of self-service infrastructure and tools designed to automate many of the technical but repetitive tasks involved with data cleaning, preparation and analytics. This means that staff are increasingly able to carry out complex data-driven operations such as predictive modelling and automation without getting their hands dirty coding complex algorithms from scratch.

You may not be looking at data analytics as your core capability but understanding the principles and basics of data analytics is of value whether you are a business analyst or project manager. So, if you are looking at upskilling in the area of analytics the following on-line courses may be for you.

Forbes have identified their top free on-line courses. (Sort of free, you may need to pay for certification). And we suggest you read the reviews. Some are more digestible than others!

IBM has a range of free data science courses which introduces you to Data Science from a practitioner point of view. The courses discuss topics such as data compilation, preparation and modelling throughout the life-cycle of data science from basic concepts and methodologies to advanced algorithms. It also discusses how to get some practical knowledge with open source tools.

Then there is MOOC which provides you with access to courses from the likes of Harvard University to Google.

Project Resilience

With PMI certification and other project management disciplines being the guiding light for many projects, it is assumed that following a correct set of processes, procedures, tools and techniques will ensure project success.

Unfortunately, the environment we work in is always changing and project teams often deal with risk, uncertainty and complexity, which was not foreseen when the project began. Being obedient to frameworks needs to be supported by a way to manage the risk and uncertainty.

Cranfield School of Management were commissioned to look at the necessary actions the Project Manager should establish to maintain a state of Project Resilience. Here is a precis of their findings.

Ensuring your process continues to be resilient means being proficient in the art of:

1. noticing indicators of an ever-changing environment

· Be very alert to things that go wrong or indicate negative consequences;

2. realistically interpreting these indicators and bring them together to form a ‘big picture’

· Do not accept simple answers but try to validate the facts;

· Rule out doubt by unambiguously connecting the broad organisational goal and the team work;

· Rank expertise higher than hierarchy.

3. preparing for the effects of these changes

· Anticipate possible and unexpected failure and ensure resilient responses;

4. containing and even exploiting the effects of changes in the environment

· Remember not all changes are negative and some changes will make a positive impact on your project;

5. recovering from unforeseen events and quickly restoring project capabilities.

· Get back to business as usual as soon as possible.

According to Cranfield this guide should be seen as a set of principles that are complementary to conventional wisdom in project management.

Read more about this!

Are You an I or a T?

With personality profiling hitting the news recently, the “I” or “T” perspective seems very simple. But it does make you think about where you sit on the spectrum and whether you want to move.

In essence “I” shaped individuals have very strong capability in one or two areas of knowledge, but their skills and competence in other disciplines or the more social and collaborative areas are limited due to lack of training and experience. Although depth of experience is highly valuable, effective collaboration in disciplines like design benefit from individuals who have combined this with a range of applications in different professional environments. I-shaped people can excel in many workplaces, but typically not in those demanding high levels of collaborative working.

T-shaped professionals are characterised by their deep disciplinary knowledge in at least one area, an understanding of systems, and their ability to function as “adaptive innovators” and cross the boundaries between disciplines.

Apparently, the terms “I” shaped and “T” shaped came from McKinsey as they used it to define the type of consultants they needed. Forbes believes that both types are essential in any organisation. It is assumed that T people are better at fostering the diverse connections and conversations that bring exceptional ideas to the surface. But “I” shaped people in collaboration with “T” shaped people can provide the expertise needed to capitalise on the new ideas.

If you think you are “I” shaped and want to move to be “T” shaped, the advice is to broaden your horizons and take on an expanding range of projects. Make sure to develop those cross-project skills such as:

* Process Management

* Agile Methodologies

* Quality Assurance

* Data Management.

And finally, be open to learning more about the “soft skills” and take opportunities to build communications, collaboration and empathy capabilities.

For more information go to the TSummit Page from Michigan University

Choosing a Browser

With Chrome turning 10 this month, it seems like a good time to look at why Chrome is so popular and what other browsers are on the market to choose from. While choosing an operating system often locks you into the environment, you may be switching between browsers and not really see much difference. But are you using the best browser for your needs?

There are a range of browser reviews most of which put Mozilla Firefox and Chrome at the top of their list, but it seems that it depends on what you require, what operating system and which device you generally use. The right web browser can make a huge difference to your everyday browsing – whether your priority is faster performance, better security or more flexibility through downloadable extensions.

Mark Coppock at Digital Trends has done some research since the arrival of the latest version of Chrome. His blog has not only identified the top browsers and where their strengths and weaknesses lie, but also outlines the latest features in release Chrome 69, developed to celebrate their 10th birthday.

His advice is “You can read all the stats, benchmarks, and speed tests, but the right browser for you is the one that feels right.”

But if you are wondering whether your browser is right for you, here are some key pros and cons of the most popular browsers from Tech Radar, which may help you decide whether you are using the right one.

Chrome

* Fast performance

* Infinitely expandable

* Best mobile integration

* Resource-hungry

Mozilla Firefox

* Very fast

* Light on system resources

* Works well with older applications

* Strong privacy tools

Opera

* Excellent Turbo mode

* Integrated ad-blocker

* Features a built-in “Stash” for saving pages to read later.

* Fewer plugins than rivals

Microsoft Edge

* Very fast

* Built-in reading mode

* Not backwards compatible

Vivaldi

* Incredibly customisable

* Creative interface features

* Not the fastest

For more detail

Picking a web browser isn’t like picking your operating system or smartphone. Switching between browsers is comparatively easy — in fact, by the time you finish reading this, you could download each major browser, and have a play to decide on which is best for you.

Slow is the new Fast

Slow is the new Fast

Watching the recent amazing rescue scenes in the caves in Thailand reiterates the slow is fast motto. SEALs have a slogan “Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast.” So, the next time you are in the middle of a fast sprint, take time to breathe and get to know your inner tortoise. It will help you focus on the task ahead and ensure that rework is reduced in the future.

In his book Endurance, astronaut Scott Kelly’s story of his year aboard the International Space Station, he recalled: “Slow is efficient. Efficient is fast. Slow is fast.” It’s a translation of an old Latin tag, festina lente, “hurry slowly”. It means that trying to do things too fast often means you waste time going back to correct your mistakes: the fastest way of accomplishing something is to work carefully and methodically.

Do you sometimes feel we never have time to do it right but we always have time to do it over? The problem could have been avoided with a slower, more careful approach. In our business where agile sprints are the order of the day, there are times when speed needs to be compromised by attention to detail. A quick solution may be fine for the immediate future, but down the track another development dependent on the earlier solution can be impacted by a poorly thought through short-cut.

Fast thinking works is great in a well-known context. You save time when you don’t have to deliberate over details and nuances to make informed decisions. But, in more complex, unfamiliar circumstances fast thinking can lead to extremely poor decisions. Jumping to ill-founded conclusions because of pressure to achieve the short-term goal can lead to longer term issues.

If you are a software developer you may find the book “Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman valuable.

Who is the Resource Investigator on your Team?

Who is the Resource Investigator on your Team?

Whether your team manages a project or “business as usual” outcomes, the role of a resource investigator is something you may want to consider. It assumes, quite rightly, that the world around us continues to change and there may be new opportunities to explore and exploit which will make your team more effective or efficient. This role requires someone to make external contacts, to explore and exploit, to develop ideas and to enthuse others.

 The research of Dr. Meredith Belbin led to the development of Belbin Team Roles, nine clusters of behaviour that individuals adopt when participating in a team. One of the roles identified is that of a Resource Investigator.

Resource Investigators are natural communicators, able to establish rapport quickly, to extend the range of the team’s useful contacts and partnerships. They are best placed to go out and discover new possibilities, whether within the organisation or externally. They can then report back to the team and together they can decide whether to capitalise on new developments. Without them, the team risks stagnating – becoming too inward-looking and inefficient.

While you may be unable to appoint a dedicated Resource Investigator, it may be a role which one of your team can pick up. A Business Analyst for example who is outgoing, inquisitive, persuasive and affable would be able to take on this responsibility.

There are, of course pitfalls in the role. Resource Investigators thrive on the excitement of the new and lose enthusiasm quickly, wanting to move onto the next big thing. And if their recommendations are not robust they can waste the team’s time with some of their ideas.

But, research has demonstrated that teams with a wide range of complementary behaviours consistently outperform those that are more homogeneous when dealing with high risk complex issues. The role of the Research Investigator is one that should be included in the mix.

Mind Tools has a very good outline of the Belbin Team Roles.

Read More!

End of Advertising as we know it?

Advertising meets Artificial Intelligence

Advertising is such a ubiquitous part of our lives that it is hard to imagine a future without it. But with the arrival of social media there has been a major change in the advertising spend. It is predicted that AI will have an even greater impact on advertising as many purchasing decisions will be made by your own personal assistant such as JARVIS from Iron Man.

If you are receiving a barrage of unwanted, unnecessary and irrelevant advertising messages, whether through television, social media or on your selected movie channel, then this will give you heart. We know that advertising is becoming more tailored to our perceived needs. Just search for an item on Google and suddenly you are bombarded with ads for similar products each time you go to a news or social medial site. But there is so much information out there, and often you have little time to digest and decide on your purchase. Buyer’s remorse can be the result. Artificial Intelligence can filter the information and provide you with the best offerings for your requirements.

Soon, it is predicted that 80% of the advertising process will be automated with more personalised individual offers, engaging through any device you use. Is this farewell to standard TV and newspaper advertising? We hope so, but it means that you will continue to find personalised messages everywhere you look on-line.

Gartner says that next year 20% of user interactions with smartphones will take place via virtual personal assistants. And that is only the start; AI is going to have a major impact on our purchasing decisions. Imagine a future when you simply say to your personal assistant “I’m low on toothpaste, buy me some.” In less than a second, it considers all the options, the pricing, the published client-satisfaction reports and perhaps, it also evaluates your genome to understand exactly which flavour formulation is likely to excite your taste buds. And, finally it completes the purchase. The alternative will be smart toothpaste packaging which knows when you are about to use the last squeeze and automatically adds toothpaste to the grocery list and sends it to the supplier, so you never run out and no more toothpaste ads!

We have many questions? Do I really want to pass my buying decisions on to my personal assistant? I enjoy the researching and selection experience; how will that change?

Artificial intelligence is evolving quickly with developments around the world making use of the capabilities that are beyond our imagining. As AI becomes pervasive in our lives the way we display and consume advertisements will change with it.

Read More.

Why I’m Still a Fan of the Old Fashioned ‘Snail Mail’ Newsletter


I have a friend holidaying in Italy (lucky thing) and have been following her travels through Instagram. It is wonderful to see all those fabulous places on-line. Then last week I received a postcard through the mail. Remember them, a cheesy photo of a location and then enough room to say “having a great time” on the back. But it is the postcard that brought the most joy. I now have it sitting above my desk and gaze at the beautiful Mediterranean as it is wet and windy outside. There is something personal about receiving mail which cannot be replicated on-line.

While I enjoy browsing the internet, following the news and keeping in touch with friends on-line, I find something very satisfying about the printed medium. I prefer hard copy books and magazines rather than e-reader versions. It is very relaxing to put away the technology, grab a coffee and sit down with a new magazine. I think this may be a generational perspective, but if you have been to the library and seen the young children absorbed in a book, maybe the tactile and tangible characteristics of the paper and ink will continue to appeal into the future.

As a communications specialist, I know that email and social media are very effective communications channels, but when overused become tiresome and irritating. It is also very easy to hit delete on unwanted email, or to forget them if they drop below the screen. Paper based communication can compliment the on-line environment. I create a bi-monthly business newsletter which is printed and posted to a wide audience. While there are some that prefer to receive the newsletter on-line, most are happy to get a personally addressed envelope in their mail and enjoy the hard-copy version. We know that some will be discarded immediately, but many will be shared with others, the most positive outcome.

It is interesting that major retail organisations continue to invest in brochures and flyers, regarded as junk mail by some, as part of their advertising campaigns. There must be a continued audience for all that paper stuffed into letter boxes across the country.

For me, I love to get communications through the post, except for bills of course. There is something touching about a card or letter that makes a connection that emails, Instagram, Facebook etc. cannot emulate. Next time you are on holiday send a postcard to your nearest and dearest, I am sure they will thank you for it.