Manager’s Blog Section – Pre-2015

August 11th, 2015

This section holds some of the blog content from before the site makeover in 2015. Comments and other dynamic options are generally no longer enabled in this area. Important posts have been refreshed, updated, and integrated into new posts and content.

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Robin Williams Messages From Life – Video & Text

August 11th, 2014

Comedy & Life

The actor Robin William was known for his comedy, but he also had a serious side. Or perhaps, more than one.

Here are some of his quotes, with some commentary:

“No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.” – the message is to be confident in what you want to make happen in the world.

“What’s right is what’s left if you do everything else wrong.” – another way of saying “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”, which has the core message to keep going, even if you fail.

Robin Williams quote
“I used to think that the worst thing in life was to end up all alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people that make you feel alone.” – You can pick the people who you spend time with, and being social with others who invigorate you is best!

“The human race is filled with passion.” – the video below has Robin Williams saying this line in the movie “Dead Poets Society”. While not a quote (since he did not or may not have written that line), it is his voice. He also asks at the end “What will your verse be?”.

“I believe in destiny. There must be a reason that I am as I am. There must be.” – Acceptance of yourself, and of your path in life.

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5 Avoidable Reasons We Don’t Prepare For Hurricanes

July 3rd, 2014

 
If You Don’t Know These Truths You May Risk Future Danger

It is hurricane (typhoon) season in North America now, and Hurricane Arthur is causing rain and winds and high surf on the East Coast of the USA.

Some people prepared for this hurricane months ago. Some people will prepare today, tomorrow, or never.

Damage cannot be stopped entirely. But easy storm preparation steps or simply getting out of the area are often known but ignored by many.

We know this truth, that just like with personal health habits, or financial moves, there are simple steps to take now which we know will help reduce future issues.

What’s Wrong With Us?

But we don’t take these steps. Or, maybe you do, but there are those “other people” who don’t do what they should. And why?

Blame our brains. Our beautiful brains make thousands of decisions each day. Between our shortcuts and our shortcomings lies many reasons we make great decisions every hour we are awake. And, in those same reasons are the causes of bad choices.

Want to reduce your vulnerabilities to decision misfires? One way is to change the way you think.

Common Thinking Is Our Common Problem

Actually, know more about how you think, so you can know how your biases cause you to make decisions about anything in life. Then manage your biases so you can interrupt them and override them when you want to. You probably know “wise” people who do this, and you can learn the same trick.

Humans have share many biases, or common shortcuts, but they are not equally shared and can be managed. Here are five thought patterns, called cognitive biases, which negatively affect our reaction to forecasts of bad events, such as hurricanes.

5 Reasons (Biases)

  1. Let’s start with our Normalcy Bias, with which we refuse to plan for disasters which have never happened before. Hey, it’s hard to react to what is really an imagined threat. We get numb from constant news and media about pending disasters we have to suddenly worry about. And our awesome minds look for flaws in the news. We can use the slightest flaw to discredit a disaster, and pride ourselves in being smart enough to spot the error.
  2. And our pride feeds our Optimism Bias, allowing our mood to be extra optimistic. You’re probably too optimistic to think this could affect you.
  3. Related to optimism is the Valence effect, which tilts us towards thinking nice things rather than bad things will happen. Most people tend to believe the chance of a positive outcome is greater for them than a negative outcome. And, you probably think your chances for success are better than a total stranger’s chance. So positively typical!
  4. We typically want life to remain the same, rather than reorganizing our life in unplanned directions. This is where our Status Quo Bias kicks in. It rewards us with inertia, and makes us want to do nothing. Because with a status quo bias we would feel bad if something changed. And we like to feel positive, not bad. (Seems these biases try to support each other, instead of your clear thinking!)
  5. Everyone processes the predictions about the future, and how the information is framed will affect how we act. An example is framing something as a loss or as a gain. This Framing Effect affects how we look at our choices, and how we make decisions. We constantly frame our world, including how risk fits into our frame. News accounts can make it seem as if the disaster will happen to someone unlike yourself, putting distance between us and them. Or you may frame experiencing a storm as exciting, which is not a loss to be avoided.

Improve it, and lose it!

Now that you know some very cool reasons we don’t prepare the way we should prepare, how can we improve? Now that the mystery is unveiled, what’s next?

Congratulations, the first part is done: awareness. You know about some decision-making faults you may have. We stubbornly frame our worldview in support of our high optimism for a life that remains the same, including a tendency to believe bad things in the future won’t happen to our normal lives.

The next important step is applying the information by practicing. What does that mean? It means to train yourself to be ready to react better the next time you get pending-disaster predictions.

Just like practicing anything, practicing your reaction gets you building better habits. It can be thinking of a scenario, and then going through each bias above. For each one, come up with a response that neutralizes your bad tendencies.

For example: A hurricane (typhoon) has a 50% chance of hitting your area with enough power to cause power outages, tree damage, and flooding.

1 Enjoy your desire for things to remain as they are now. Then say “Just for now, assume that things will go in the negative direction forecast.” Ignore your thoughts which pull you to thinking it will all “go away”.

Stay even in your thinking, not optimistic and not pessimistic. As they say, “Keep it real.”

Then imagine you are in the future, being interviewed by a reporter on why you took the steps you did before the event. In other words, go forward in time, and publicly justify your decisions today. And remember, in your future, the event has already happened with real, negative results.

Now bring yourself back to the present and think of your next steps. It’s leadership, taking charge, and more. You want to have a future with no regrets. The steps would include getting more information (but not too much, as that is another bias), or taking some preventative action.

You can also do this when disaster is not heading your way. Become a bias-spotter. Watch how others are reacting to their looming tragedies. Practice, in your mind, spotting and overcoming the biases.

Hurricane Arthur Storm Brain - logo style image

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World Cup Winning Lessons

June 29th, 2014

How Your Bias Helps You Define Winning.

Watching the competing teams play soccer (football) at the World Cup in Brazil has three types of watchers:

  1. Fans
  2. Anti-Fans
  3. Non-fans

People are, as we say, all different. Fans, anti-fans, and non-fans may not all understand each other. And one person may have all of these traits, but in different areas of life.

Fans are, well, fanatics. Most of the people watching are fans, and we will discuss more about this behavior shortly.

Anti-fans are people who refuse to be a fan. They don’t want to get excited about cheering for either side in a conflict. Maybe they don’t want their passions unleashed. Maybe they prefer the middle-of-the-road path in life. They also could be passionate about the playing of the game, but not about the competitive part of it.

Non-fans are apathetic people who don’t get much thrill from conflict. They understand that people care who wins, but they don’t have enough competitive spirit to get into the whole “we are the best” mindset. If they watch a soccer (football) game, it is passive. They may not have enough interest to get to know the rules.

Fans are where the passion is. And, being a fan means taking a risk. You want your team to win, and your passion in their performance can be a risk, such as to your mood.

Even if your team loses, you know they are a winner.

That’s because you have home team bias.

Well, that’s the fun name for a group of common human biases, including:

  • Confirmation bias
  • Illusion of Control
  • Information Bias
  • Selective Perception Bias
  • and more (to some extent): the Choice-Supportive Bias, the Belief Bias, the Gambler’s Fallacy, and the Focusing effect

Oh, it’s fun to be a fan! And to help you through the World Cup, or other competitions in life where you are wanting a team or side to win, we have some quick tips.

You can learn from this fan-based bias. You can use it to your advantage. Think of it as your project plan for winning the inner game of competition. You may even understand others better.

And so here are some ways to better understand – and manage – these parts of one’s home team bias:

  • Confirmation bias – This bias makes you favor information which confirms your own, um, fan-based beliefs. While you need this to be an over-confident, and thus true, fan, you can also watch it in others. People who believe their own ideas and causes too much can lack balance, so seek out knowing and understanding the other side’s “facts” to know the truth. Even if you may not want to speak it.
  • Illusion of Control – This tendency to overly estimate your degree of influence over your teams ability to win, just because you want it, can make you look too detached from reality. Will wearing your “lucky shirt” really help? Maybe it will help you feel less helpless, which can be positive. But telling everyone your shirt helped score the winning point is only fun, never serious!
  • Information Bias – Similar to the control illusion issue above, this bias makes you seek out information as if knowing more could help the outcome. For soccer (football) events you are watching, whether live in Brasil or on TV, it won’t help the team. Knowing this bias may help you understand the guy who keeps telling you all of the details he knows about his team’s players, games history, and number of people who likes each of their posts on social media.
  • Selective Perception Bias – when your tendencies for the the team’s expectations to affects your perception too much, you may want to tone this bias down.

More to follow on biases in the near future. And now back to the games, already in progress!

Home Team Bias text (smiley-style)

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Daylight Savings Time cartoon

March 10th, 2012

This cartoon was set up for this month’s clock change… (and it’s good for every year):

Daylight savings time cartoon

it shows the text “Daylight Savings Time – it’s like jetlag, with benefits”. Of course, the benefit in the late winter/early spring change is more daylight (paid for by a lack of an hour’s sleep). The benefit in the late summer/early fall daylight savings time clock change is an extra hour of sleep.

Enjoy the cartoon!

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Project Management Quiz

July 26th, 2011

Need a refresher for your PM skill? How about taking an online project management quiz? A quiz is an excellent way to spot-test an individual skill.

We are working on adding quizzes, which will be set up to hone in on specific areas such as risk management, effective meetings, or communications plans.

If there are ideas you have for what would be handled by the project management quiz, we would like to know before we go live. Give us some ideas here, or when the online quiz is available, give it a test run.

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Beware the Fake Project Manager

July 22nd, 2011

Every strong project manager sometimes finds someone who is using less-than-authentic tactics in their management and leadership.  

How do you spot the phony? By testing and comparing it to the authentic, of course. Until there is a course in management authentic comparison, we’re here to help out!

Here in our table we have made it easy for you to spot the obvious:

Real Project Manager
Fake – The Project Mangler
Has a project schedule and can give you key milestone dates if needed quickly… like in a short elevator ride. Plans each day based on random interruptions. Has no to-do list and also… hey, look, a bird!
Uses WBS or at least knows how to understand one. Seat of the pants staffing, with people sometimes waiting for something to do.
Stays on or close to the agenda during their meetings. His meetings end with people asking “Why were we here and can I have back my wasted 90 minutes please?!
Gives credit and thanks to the team that makes it all happen, whenever possible. Takes credit for everything and tries to get credit for other teams accomplishments.
Works to get the work done in the time available, and communicates in advance of any issues or risks. Never met a deadline that didn’t have a delicious excuse to explain why it needs to be pushed out, or why it was missed without telling anyone.
Balances out the leadership and detail-focused parts of project management, and enables the team without micro-managing. Pays attention to what she likes, misses some key management areas, and tells the team what to do in areas that she knows nothing about.

 

This handy table will help, in a humorous way, spot the fake management styles.. Even if sometimes the fake project manager… is you!

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Comic-Con Cartoons Crafting

July 21st, 2011

First, Comic Con – if you didn’t know – is the largest comics book and related arts convention in the world (San Diego Comic Con starts today).

Second, you don’t have to like comics to enjoy this post.

So, what’s the spin on this? Well, you hone your craft, and the cartoon-makers hone theirs. You may not become Captain America, but your powers can increase!

Honing your craft takes time. You and the cartoon artists aren’t born with all of the skills. And there are conventions to let you strut your stuff.

How do top comic books get made? By managing the process. It’s part art, and part science, and perhaps part science-fiction. Technology helps, but the people… each of us artists in our crafts… are the real force behind making things happen.

And the final result is beautiful, shiny, and held up for display. But the crafting of it is the work. Working for days, weeks, months, the final result is usually only a vision in our heads.

With most projects, we get to shine at the end when it’s all done. After a long time fighting dragons, outwitting stalkers a la Showtimes’ Dexter, and dealing with Mr. Scope Creep, you show it off. With people in the visual arts, a convention like Comic-Con helps showcase the best work, and motivate those to keep on working on their art.


The video below gives a sense of the ComicCon energy:

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Harry Potter and The Deathly Shallows of Work

July 20th, 2011

You’re a wizard. Yes, you, because you trained for it.

All of the courses, all of your practice and experience, and all of the knowledge in your head.

Being a wizard is easy. It’s the work that isn’t always so.

In the Harry Potter movies series, training is key. In fact, learning takes a long time. Practice helps. But as usual – in movies and in life – luck and friends are needed pull you through the tough times.

The plot of your own projects in life, and in your career as a wizard, will unfold as you go. Destiny is there in the background, whether you love it or not. You find out that your future was not as you had planned, because there was another plan already happening.

Like Harry, you are born with gifts… wizardly powers… that perhaps are not known by those around you. Whether you train at Hogwarts, or you do your management training at Harvard, you learn. And in a sense, you’re always in school. Besides the benefits of continually stretching your brain, everyday life presents constant changes and knowledge for you to absorb.

And as you advance in your wizardly levels, you find out the “truths” you knew earlier are not the same. You grow up, and your world grows up.

But inside of you is the same young wizard, with the potential, and the magic inside to rise up to the challenges you face.

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Phone Hacking Scandal Secrets – Management Lessons

July 19th, 2011

Phone hacking is in the news now because it touches on several aspects of the human experience:

Curiosity
Compassion
Control
Privacy
Secrecy

And more.  It is shocking in its scope, because it was kept under the lid for so long.

These aspects combine together:

Curiosity – we want to know about how this happenened, and the story is unfolding hour-by-hour

Compassion – the original root of the story’s viral attraction: we feel for the families involved in the missing girl’s situation.

Control – there are several areas here, including control over secrets, control of the authorities (and apparent mis-use), and in general lack of control over our own privacy.

Privacy – if the privacy of everyday people cannot be supoorted by those we trust it to, we feel exposed and want to learn more (and how it could happen to us).

Secrecy – we all have curiousity about once-secret activities that are being revealed, especially as this can reveal how people really think and act.

What can we learn from this in terms of managing our lives, and our projects?

First, know what you stand for… principles matter.  Of course you cannot change the culture of an organization overnight, but you can know yourself. 

Second, ask questions.  Learn what is really going on.  You may have to trust your intuition (which is really your ability to spot mis-alignments that cannot be aligned).

Third, communicate to your team(s) about your commitment to integrity, accountability, and transparency. You do have influence over the culture of your team. 

And lastly, beware of social engineering.  Set up a password on your phone/handset, your voicemail, and if possible on your phone account (to access customer care or to make subscription changes).  Be aware of account information of yours that you can get without verification.  Think like a hacker before they do.

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