March 15, 2012, Sponsored by RMC Project Management, Inc.
From the Editor
This week, we continue exploring the importance of defining our terms, but from a slightly different perspective. By taking charge of our language, by being deliberate about our terms and definitions, we can dramatically affect our projects and our teams. Carl Pritchard explores the power of language in his latest column, and we're lending a hand with templates and guidelines that will help you explore the whys and wherefores of your project roadblocks, in language everyone can understand.
Sitting is the New Smoking and Other PlusGood News
Language has a powerful effect. George Orwell's classic 1984 examines the power of language and the government efforts to reduce extremism by reducing the power of language. Marvelous? Wonderful? Gone. Replaced with just "good" and "plusgood." And an article out of Minneapolis this month has a Mayo Clinic researcher (Dr. James Levine) labeling "sitting" as "the new smoking." Redefine terms, and you can control the conversation.
By Carl Pritchard
It's interesting how smoking has become a practice associated with all things surrounding bad health. Talk about smokers, and you're talking about potential social pariahs. Now, Dr. Levine hopes that by associating sitting with smoking, he can make the former less palatable. Dr. Levine's strategy has roots in history, and there are lessons to be taught in the workplace as well. While the examples above may be perceived as negative (Big-Brotherish?), there is an opportunity for executives and managers to leverage the strategies of Orwell or Levine to positive effect.
How are your terms affecting your results »
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Never Use a Sentence When a Bullet Point Will Do - Project Status Reports Bundle
Yet again, you find yourself composing long-winded reports describing your status and roadblocks. You know no one has time to read them -- you don't even have time to write them. But how else can you capture the important information about what's going on with this project? Enter our status reports bundle, with over 20 variations on status report formats for different situations, many with sample data so you can see the level of detail other teams and managers use. Save time and save face with real world examples that will make your status manageable, understandable, and presentable for all those who need to know, without writing a novel. Multi-user licenses available!
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For Team Members
"No one understands!" Perhaps, but maybe you're just not thinking about things from the right perspective. It's very easy to fall into the trap of believing that the way things are is the way they must be. When we step outside our usual viewpoint, though, we may find that our "needs" are not as needful as we thought, or that the only reason no one else understands the process is that we've obscured it somehow. Take a page from these examples, and use your language to paint a clear picture of what's going on.
Did You Mean "Need" or "Really Really Want"? – High-Speed Conflict and Scope Creep – MEMBER
It's very important not to confuse those words. We've all been there, of course, but it's a bad place to get stuck, especially when the "needs" really aren't feasible and there's a deadline breathing down your neck. Read about how this team got past the log jam to deliver the true needs.
"Impossible" Is a Very Big Word – Business Process Modeling Technique Brief – SPECIAL
This Premium resource is free to registered Members until March 29, 2012
Have you ever been the only one who knows the process inside and out? It's very easy to assume that "there's no way to ___" (fill in the blank here, with automation, or handoffs, or whatever other change is proposed), simply because no one else understands the subtleties of the situation. The right choice, of course, is to share those subtleties, not roadblock good changes. Business process models can help.
For Project Leads
Empower your team members by giving them everything they need to get the job done.
All Aboard! – Fast, Effective Ramp Up of New Team Members – MEMBER
You can't afford to have new team members milling around unproductively trying to figure out their project role and responsibilities. Throw them a rope -- and get them productive faster -- with this detailed guideline by Steve Trautman, excerpted from his book Teach What You Know: A Practical Guide to Knowledge Transfer Using Peer Mentoring.
So, When You Say "Done"
– Guidelines for Completion Criteria – PREMIUM
What do you really mean? It's possible you and your team members have totally different definitions (neither of which might match what your customers are thinking). Stamp out ambiguity with completion criteria: specific goals for calling an element of a project, or the entire project, "complete."
The fuzzy front end is nothing compared to the uncertainty of an ambiguous contract. We often shy away from being too specific, for fear that others will think we're micro-managing control freaks. But there are certain situations, like licensing or consulting, where specificity is a virtue. By taking control of the terms and spelling things out, you can actually make the relationship easier on everyone -- including you.
Licensing Project Management Guidelines – PREMIUM
When you're licensing your product or technology to another company, or buying a license of your own, fuzzy terms can threaten the product development effort. These guidelines help you establish clear expectations.
Localization Guidelines – PREMIUM
Localization is more than running the manual through a translator (as anyone who has ever had to decipher a badly transliterated manual can attest). These guideline were developed to help project managers and teams adapt a product built for release within the U.S. or North America to other international marketplaces.
Consulting Contract Guidelines and Examples – PREMIUM
If you're bringing in outside help, it pays to spell out the boundaries of the relationship. This guideline document includes typical information covered in consulting engagements and two sample contracts. (Obviously, consult with your legal advisor about the appropriateness of these terms for your situation.)
Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda
We toss the phrase around casually, but there's a world of difference between those words. Some are passive, accepting, powerless. "We can't agree on an approach" takes the power out of the team's hands and makes them victims of their own exchanges. "We haven't agreed on an approach" immediately changes the context of the discussion. Why haven't you? What's in the way? "I should finish this report" weighs you down, oppressing you with the external demand. There's no ownership there. Change it to "I could finish this report this afternoon," and you're now empowered with a choice. Of course you can do it. Will you? If not, why not? In this context, the failure to finish something becomes instead a choice not to do it (hopefully in favor of other, higher priority items, but see Cinda Voegtli's thoughts on the value of allowing ourselves to simply walk away). Banish can't and should and other powerless words from your project communication, in favor of honest, direct words that both convey and own the state of your project and your team. While you're at it, if you need help getting to the bottom of those can'ts and won'ts, use these guidelines.
Problem Solving Tools and Techniques – PREMIUM
Six different problem-solving tools help you do everything from determining root causes to assessing possible solutions, and outline a basic problem-solving strategy so you can be sure you've covered all the bases.
Brainstorming Meeting Techniques – PREMIUM
Don't let your brainstorming session be dominated by a single voice or viewpoint (or worse, utterly silent). Try these guidelines for brainstorming facilitation, covering several types of brainstorming, detailed guidelines for starting off effectively, and pitfalls to watch out for.
Meeting Evaluation Guidelines – MEMBER
If you think your meetings have problems, they probably do. A simple evaluation questionnaire and process helps evaluate meeting effectiveness and suggest goals for improvement. Two formats accommodate formal or informal meeting environments. Let your team members tell you what's at the bottom of your meeting's can'ts and won'ts, so you can fix it.
WBS and Schedule Models
WBS and Schedule for Trade Show Planning – PREMIUM
Trade shows don't have to be massive enterprise-level events. Hosting a small trade-show event (or something very similar) can provide great networking opportunities for non-profit chapters, and for-profit companies will sometimes host trade shows in order to boost a new product launch or showcase new technology. Whatever the scale and purpose of your event, this high-level WBS and schedule can help you get a head start on your planning activities.
Carl Pritchard is at PMI SeminarsWorld in Tampa, Florida on March 21 to lead a public 2-day session on Risk Management. Registration information is available at the PMI website. His client engagements the following two weeks take him far and wide -- take note, Londoners, because he'll be in your neck of the woods! Check out Carl's online calendar to keep tabs on his public appearances.
Sinikka Waugh is covers several Business Analysis topics at the DMACC Ankeny Campus in Iowa over the next few weeks. For more information on sessions like "Leading Requirements Workshops" on April 3 and "Business Analysis Fundamentals" on April 13, call 515-964-6402 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kent McDonald is at STAREast in Orlando, Florida on April 19 to present "Talking Quality to Business: Metrics for Improvement" with Todd Brasel. (And we really can't blame either Carl or Kent for heading south this time of year!) See the STAREast website for registration information. He will also be at IBADD 2012 this May.
Corporate Subscriptions and Licensing
Want your team members to have their own access to templates and how-to resources for their project work? Need to share documents and deliverables beyond your project team? We make it easier with affordable corporate subscriptions and licensing. Detailed information regarding corporate options is available online. Give your whole team, or even the entire organization, cost-effective access to our comprehensive online library of resources. You already know how helpful it's been for you. Now it's time to share with everyone else. Find out more »
Not sure if corporate terms apply to you? Check out our licensing terms at the top of our Terms of Service page, in refreshingly ordinary, everyday English.