At the beginning of 2011, I began this blog, and joined the WordPress “Post A Week” Challenge. Nearly 14 months have come and gone, and now WordPress tells me that this is my 100th post!
Hmmm, how should I commemorate this important occasion?
Should I revive some of my more memorable posts (memorable for me, anyway)? I could bring back the one I wrote about my mother last Mother’s Day – 13 Things You Should Know About my Mom. Or I could remind you of the love story I told about my grandparents around Valentines Day – Step One: Get the Girl. I could even resurrect the blog post that somehow managed to hit the Freshly Pressed Radar, Mom, I Know Lots of Words, about my son learning to read. Dear God, I was gushing with pride then, I’m almost a little embarrassed by it now.
When I look back at my posts, I realize that there is a lot of variety in my blog. (Translation: I have no direction!) I’ve shared some sappy stories about my kids, and family, as well as one or two Bad Parenting Moments.
I’ve thrown in a few travel posts, mostly about my family vacation. I tried, once or twice, to give some advice on SMART goals, and business skills…as if I know! I’ve even shared a few recipes, like the one for my Kahlua Chocolate Chip muffins. Those things should be illegal!
Maybe I should use my 100th post to give you a list of my blogging resolutions, or some of my plans for upcoming posts (as if I have some).
However, what I should really do is come up with some fresh material.
Whether we are project managers, business managers, auditors, or participants many of us are involved in planning meetings or engagement meetings to kick off new projects at work.
In keeping with the old adage “Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance“, these planning meetings with key stakeholders are often one of the most important events in a project’s life cycle. They lay the groundwork for the rest of the project. That being said, it doesn’t mean that your kick-off meetings should be 2-hour workshops that go over every detail of every task. However, they should accomplish a few simple things, and if you are properly prepared they can be pleasant, positive, and productive experiences.
After a successful meeting, all the attendees should come away with an understanding of the project’s objectives, its key stakeholders, the approach, timing, resource needs and deliverables. The best way to ensure that your kick-off meeting delivers these results is through proper planning.
1) Goals and Objectives: Consensus on then goals and objectives of your project might be the most important goal of your planning meeting, As the project leader or manager, you must do your best to understand them BEFORE you walk into that conference room. Whether your project is to install a new payroll system, or to update the office furniture, it’s up to you to let people know why the project is important to the organization and why it should be important to each of them.
2) Stakeholders: Before your meeting, meet with the project sponsor(s) and understand their needs. Line up the potential stakeholders by analyzing the scope and consider the people, processes and systems your project might affect. If you are unsure whether someone should be included as a stakeholder, do not be afraid to ask the sponsor or the person in question.
3) Approach and Scope: Consider the project goals and the various ways you can go about reaching them. Analyze your options. Be prepared to provide the stakeholders with more than one option, with a concise list of pros and cons. Be prepared to recommend your preferred approach and to defend it, but do not be married to it. Finally, be prepared to happily concede to Option #2 or #3, as well.
4) Time: Know your timetable, or at least estimate it. If it’s a complex project, take advantage of the many project management tools out there, like MS Project. Look at prior work and projects, what timetables did they run on? What were some of the scheduling stumbling blocks they had to overcome? Are you running a project over the summer? (Consider the nightmares that summer vacations create for scheduling.) Are people going to be putting in extra hours to get this done? If you close your eyes and throw a dart at a date on your wall calendar, you have a 1 in 365 chance of getting the target date right, and only a 1 in 52 chance of getting the week right. I don’t particularly care for those odds, but without some careful assessment of timetables, that’s about where you stand.
5) Resources: You must carefully assess your resource needs along with your timetable. This includes people, money, tools and systems. Will you be taking people away from their “day jobs”? If so, will you need to get buy-in from their manager? (The “it’s a CEO priority” reason only carries so much weight when people stop meeting their day-to-day obligations. Strive to be thrifty your time and theirs; it will pay dividends.
6) Deliverables: Make sure that everyone is clear on the big items, what is due, and when it is due. This varies depending on the nature of the project. For instance, the deliverables on an Audit are usually findings memos and an audit report. In a software implementation you will need to consider items like Business Requirements Documents, Specification Documents, Testing Supports, and so on. The project might be broken into phases, with specific deliverables for each. If so, you should outline those phases prior to your meeting.
In the end, if you’ve properly prepared for your kick-off meeting, it should be a relatively smooth capstone to your pre-planning efforts. Many attendees should be aware of some aspects before they walk through the door. Only you, however, will have the full story. Your job is to make sure that you put all the pieces together for your colleagues.
Barbara Talley feels the pain that many of us do when our work is interrupted by the odor of fresh sweat socks wafts into our cubicle. Definitely worth a read for any fan of the movie “Office Space”.
"What's that smell?" "I can't hear myself think!" "Can you turn that down?" "Did someone take my red stapler?" "My lunch is missing?" "What's that green stuff in the refrigerator?" "Oh My! Please put your shoes back on!" There are some things that just can't be ignored when we are in close quarters if we want a productive and harmonious work environment. Unfortunately most people don't have the luxury of a private office and of having all t … Read More
I recently attended a 3-day conference on best practices in Internal Auditing. Now, please resist the urge to click your way right out of this blog, chased by visions of an army of pencil-necked, pocket-protected nerds armed with red pencils, arguing about the fastest way to add up a column of numbers in Excel.
Fear not. I am not here to write about internal auditing, though I think my profession is sorely misunderstood. Rather, I would like to speak to the value of the seminars, conferences and symposiums which, regardless of your profession or industry, we or our employers spend valuable time and money attending. Are the series of keynote speakers, breakout sessions, vendor expos and cocktail hours worth it?
My answer: Yes, if you do it right.
There is tremendous value to be had if you have the right expectations and make the most of what these conferences offer. If you are attending a professional conference and expect to receive “job training”, as if you were attending a training class in Microsoft Office or business writing, you are in the wrong place. This is not the objective of these conferences, so please do not complain when you don’t walk away having learned exactly how to use a new piece of software, or perform some specific task. Conferences are about sharing ideas, experiences and opinions. What I get out of them is this:
1) Reinforcement and validation. Back at the office, my department tries to apply accepted professional practices. However, because we are a small team, and many of us have been here for a while, we wonder sometimes if we are getting it right. Conference sessions often provide great case studies and illustrations. Here I can compare notes with other companies or groups to see if we are using the same approach or whether our department or company is an industry outlier. Conference sessions can give you a sense of where you fit in terms of knowledge and skills. This is especially important when you are a member of a small team with little opportunity to stack yourself up against your peers on a regular basis
3) Professional Networking. Conferences allow you to develop and nourish your professional network. If you work in a small company like mine, this can be crucial to advancing your career, by providing you with at least some exposure to individuals and companies who might value your particular skill sets. Make no mistake though, networking is like everything else, you get out of it exactly what you put into it. Don’t be a wallflower, even if it means getting outside of your comfort zone. Do attend the luncheons and cocktail hours, even if you would rather dig through the SPAM in your Inbox, or clean the grout in your bathroom tiles. Strike up conversations with strangers. If you are uncomfortable with this, check out a few of the many resources available on the Web that provide tips for getting the most out of networking opportunities.
2) Recruiting. As the of manager of a small department, I try to assess the skill sets of the other attendees I meet. When I have the opportunity to bring someone new into our department, the people I meet at these conferences provide amount of reference for what I can and should expect from candidates I interview. By speaking with auditors from other firms I can get a sense for the talent level of the current hiring pool. of course, this is a two-way street too. If you are considering new opportunities for yourself, conferences are a great way to demonstrate your own talent. Be proactive. Prepare for the scheduled topics and ask relevant questions.
As I mentioned earlier, while many of us attend these conference to obtain valuable CPE credits, they are not true “training classes.” I would probably not send my most junior staff members. However, for professionals who have a role in designing strategies to meet department or corporate objectives, who must recruit and hire new employees, or who are looking to benchmark their own knowledge and skills against their peers, professional conferences can be well worth the time and money.
Providing some insight into storytelling in the digital age …
Today SocialTimes has an article about Twitter, hyper-text, and the evolution of storytelling (Are Twitter Storytellers the Heroes of a New Postmodernism?). It’s written by Amanda Cosco who is proving to be my social media soul mate – recently she’s written articles on foodies, citizen journalists, Lady Gaga, and super hot nerds. Ms. Cosco discusses @VeryShortStory a Twitter feed that’s been telling an ongoing story in bursts of 140 characters … Read More
David Cu has some excellent insight into the value of listening as a leader.
Back in 2004 I was at a prospective customer’s office in Buckhead down by the old Roxy Theater pitching our product with my lead developer. As an excited entrepreneur I was talked a mile a minute going through the minutia of every little feature in the application. The lead developer, proud of his creation, would answer some of their more detailed questions and … Read More
As an avid student of social media and the many ways it has changed the way we live our lives, I found this post from Will’s Blog very interesting. In it, he explains how he used a few popular social media apps to enrich is travel experience in New York and San Francisco.
I recently came back from an amazing trip to the USA. It was the first time I didn’t use Tripadvisor or a Lonelyplanet-esque guide to decide where and what to do and yet I felt like I immersed myself in the “real” New York and San Francisco experience, not the Intrepid or Lonely Planet experience that most people have. Foursquare – Drinking like a Local Without a doubt many people reading this blog are users or have used location based services s … Read More
An interesting post via CBS Boston on the pitfalls of high-tech communication…
BOSTON (CBS) — It used to be that we would take out a pen and paper and handwrite a note when needed. Now in business communication it’s more common to receive an email or even a text. But is that acceptable? “Handwritten notes are old fashioned, and that’s unfortunate,” said Cait Downey, of HubSpot. “That’s the form of communication that makes the most lasting impression.” While Downey says most people won’t remember receiving an email or tweet … Read More