Archive | August 2013

Project Management: a Core Competency for Managers in today’s world

By Stephen Dowling, ETM Management Training

Many organizational managers may not realize it but much of what occupies their day to day business tasks is actually ‘project management‘.

stick_figures_reporting_to_manager_800_wht_9595According to the bible of project management (PMBOK®: Project Management Body of Knowledge) the definition of a ‘Project’ is:  “A temporary endeavour undertaken to create a unique product, service or result. Based on this definition could not all of the one off tasks Managers frequently perform be considered “projects”?

The important fact which is not always realised is that managing a project is VERY different to managing a routine repetitive operation.

In the business publication, Creating the Project Office: A Manager’s Guide to Leading Organisational Change, authors Randall Englund, Robert Graham and Paul Dinsmore, claim there has been a fundamental shift to project type work for all managers. “Changes in the environment, changes in customer expectations and changes in technology used in organisational processes have brought many organisations to the point where up to 80 per cent of their work is project work rather than repeat process work.”

These days all managers are involved in doing projects whether they like it or not, and if you want to be successful, having basic up to date project skills will be a big help. The impact and pain of badly run projects can be huge to any organization. Unsatisfied customers, cost blowouts, missed deadlines, lost opportunities, wasted resources, and if this is not enough, add to it the impact on morale and motivation.

The important principles of project management are quite simple and apply equally to big and small projects. All organizational managers should get to know these principles, not just the so called specialist ‘project managers’.

In our experience there are FIVE key pillars which lay the foundation for project success:

1. Project Manager (PM) – Get the right PM. This is a key role on any project and putting the right person is place is critical.
2. Planning – You’ve got to spend quality time planning with the right people. Don’t ask insist!
3. Team – Having the right people in the project team is everything.
4. Governance –
It’s very important you establish the right organization structure for the project (with clearly defined roles & responsibilities). This is not just the PM and the team it’s needs to include executive & senior management.
5. Methodology
– Projects vary greatly and it’s very important you use a “suitable” framework/methodology which fits the characteristics of the project being done. Building a bridge is very different to implementing a new piece of software.

Of all of these pillars the MOST important one is possibly putting the right PM or project leader in place. If we get this right a lot of the other pillars should automatically follow.

Take time to reflect on your own projects or organization and define areas where you need to invest greater time to improve in each of these five pillars of project success.

Can you afford not to?

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Small Business Exit Strategies for Current Times

By Jeff Miles, The Business Doctor

PJ-Exit-StrategiesOver the past few years, I’ve noticed a tightening in cash being lent to purchasers to buy businesses, even good businesses. This has caused small business owners to explore some interesting new strategies when planning their exit. Let’s look at a few in the Mindshop style of Now, Where, How.

1) First identify where you are NOW

Where are you in the business’ lifecycle? Is there pressure to exit soon? Or is your exit a long way off? Understanding where you are will help you evaluate which strategies are best. For example, some require a significant period of time to prepare.

2) Stop and identify WHERE you want to be.

Some business owners prioritise the monetary value, while others place more importance on leaving a legacy. The way YOU see a successful exit will determine which strategy you pursue. For example, if you place high importance on legacy, you may not opt for a typical trade sale but want to attract a buyer by offering Vendor Terms.

3) HOW can you get from your current situation to the destination you identified?

Two key exit strategies are acquisitions and employee buyouts.

Acquisitions
Having another company acquire yours can be a great way to exit. You get to negotiate your price based on perceived value. You can win big if you convince the buyer you’re worth the risk of looking to acquire you. You can do that by looking for a strategic fit – a company that can expand into a new market or offer a complementary service to customers IF they buy your practice or company. If you have time, you can even be proactive and develop your products or service offering in a way that meshes especially well with theirs. The Competitor Analysis tool can work well here:

CompAnalysis

Employee Buyouts
Although you may not see as much money in one lump sum through an employee buyout, transferring ownership to employees or a purchaser helps ensure you maintain the company culture, get paid over a longer period of time and keep control of the transaction. There are several other arguments for it, including increased morale, increased productivity and more likelihood that the business will survive and prosper after the sale has been completed due to continuity of key people in the business.

While this was only a glimpse into a few strategies, there are many more. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to any Merger or Acquisition; each company needs its own strategy.

3 Key Ideas to Help Business Leaders Succeed in 2013 / 2014

1. Lead and Lag indicators, what are you measuring?
When seeking to drive improved performance across your organization most business leaders focus their attention solely on key performance indicators (KPI’s) that are ‘lag’ indicators. Lag indicators are a signal of performance AFTER an outcome is achieve and include aspects such as new sales, profit, revenue and survey results. There is nothing wrong with these measures but in isolation they are only telling half of the performance story of your business and its typically too late to change anything. What organizations looking to drive improved performance should be focused on in combination with lag indicators are lead indicators of performance. Lead indicators are a signal of performance BEFORE an outcome is achieved and include aspects such as sales calls made, conversion rate of sales team, error rate on a production line and various productivity measures. Ensure in your own business both measures are focused to speed up the rate of performance improvement you are achieving.

2. Is your competitive advantage still a competitive advantage?
Competition-in-BusinessThe current information age is allowing business leaders to gain access to new business insights rapidly via the web. Advances one company had over another don’t last very long. If your point of difference over your competitors for example was ‘quality’ but within 12 months the entire market are producing product at the same quality level what do you do? Reviewing your competitive advantage (using the sustainable competitive advantage tool) on at least an annual basis will assist you to ensure you assess what competitors are doing and also what the market is valuing. It will quickly challenge you on do you still have a competitive advantage and if not then what do you need to evolve to next. No longer can you stand still for long.

3. Overcoming hurdles is the only way to boost retained learning
Traditional training and development of leaders involved establishing a range of attributes relating to a successful business leader and then running team members through a series of workshops to learn each attribute. This worked very well (and in many cases still does) to provide team members with the fundamental knowledge of what it takes to be an effective leader. However in the current fast-paced and volatile business environment so many of the issues leaders face on a daily basis are un-predictable and rarely straight forward. This requires a greater level of self-awareness, intuition, problem solving ability and people skills. Force Feeding the array of knowledge a business leader requires to be successful no longer works, it goes in one ear and out the other. What is required for high retained learning is to provide clear commercial goals, the tools for people to address them but allow them ownership of their own professional development to do the training, learn the tools and overcome the hurdles themselves. Each time they are forced to overcome a hurdle to achieve the commercial outcome retained learning rises dramatically and their effectiveness as a business leader with it.