A set of questions I was recently asked that I thought might shed some light on how I think and what I do:
What is your experience in project management, especially for startups? In some respect, everything is a project. In startups that I have worked we have spent most of our time on finding product/market fit and using the basic principles that Ash Maurya outlines in his book, Running Lean. This is based on Lean Startup and Alex Osterwalder’s Business Model Generation. These are good outlines to follow, but they are not project management tools. Projects have a beginning and an ending point. They must be defined in scope. These tools provide strategic vision and direction. I encourage project members to have a basic understanding, such as the Business Model Canvas, of the overall business. This clarity along with a clear project scope allows for good decision making throughout the organization. Lack of clarity breeds ambiguity and prevents tasks from being performed.
What software or methodology have you used to manage projects in the past? I may show my age a little here, but I started with Microsoft Project when it came on (2) 5¼ inch floppy disk. I have used more software packages than most are familiar with. My favorite is Trello which is a Kanban (Agile) style of software. Kanban is a sophisticated online card board. It has become very popular in the software development industry. I also have used Smartsheet for people that want to use a Gantt Chart type. Both of these are in the cloud and allow for online collaboration. However, all software has shortcomings; one size does not fit all. Actually, in the truest sense there no such thing as project management software, they are all project scheduling software. Project Management in its truest form is winning the competition for someone’s time –there is only 1440 minutes in a day.
Are you passionate about entrepreneurship and can you help define a strategic vision? I realize the importance of having a strategy. The old saying of strategy before tactics has never been truer. As the pace of change has accelerated the more important it is to communicate and define the strategic vision. This is why I promote understanding the business throughout the organization using the Business Model Canvas. People sometimes have mistaken that as being rigid and inflexible. It is not. Transferring vision to strategies to actions is one ingredient that will separate me from others.
What was your actual role in the last project you participated in? My latest work has centered on working as a marketing consultant. I have led from the middle and been assigned additional duties as the project has developed. I am working on bringing a product to market and managing the marketing platform for a client at this time. This job is winding down after launch, and I will stay on in an advisory capacity, I assume. In most instances, I have been the outside consultant managing outside vendors and reporting to an owner of the company.
Would you consider yourself analytical? Give an example of how you have used this skill in your career. I am a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, not sure how more analytical you can get! I spend a lot of time with clients developing metrics that matter. In fact, I have taken over several Hubspot accounts and demonstrated how to transfer the data into useable form. It is not about the amount of data, but the ability to use what you can gather effectively and without the extra burden on the workflow. For example, yesterday we have a platform that the callers used to populate a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet for their initial calls. When they are successful they enter the client into the Hubspot workflow. We developed and auto-populated sheet to identify the results of the process. This seems pretty basic, but I could discuss surveys, the use of Mini-Tab, Multi-Vari Studies, Regression Models….I am a Six Sigma Black Belt.
How do you handle unproductive team members? Empathy first and reflection second: I have found that many times it is a lack of clarity and having CLEAR Communication. If you wish to compete on clarity, and speed up implementation, you must provide this information, or create ways for people to figure it out themselves.
- Connection to their workload
- List action steps
- Expectations for success
- Ability to achieve success
- Return to that person
If you have done all that and performance is still not being achieved, I reduce workload and take away critical tasks and work with the person individually even to the point of screen sharing to see if the person is just over their head. Once I understand, I try to form a mutual understanding of what the next steps are needed without affecting project performance. If the person is indeed overhead, seldom have they not readily admitted it during this process.
How do you motivate burnt out or bored team members? When people choose between being compliant, acting with full commitment or doing nothing at all, these are the five questions they think about, and need answered:
- How is this relevant to what they do?
- What, specifically, should they be doing?
- What do success and failure look like?
- What tools and support are needed?
- WIIFM – What’s in it for me? Or, what’s in it for them?
Motivation is often times a matter of engagement. Having these people engaged in team meetings is imperative. Being recognized and being accountable to members of the team versus the “Project Manager” is imperative.
What is the most important skill a project manager should have? Empathy is the fundamental principle of understanding. I will not tell you that I was born with this, but it is a skill that I have had to work on and aware of it in my daily practice.
Any questions you would add and answer?
Lean Sales and Marketing: Learn about using CAP-Do
I am a big fan of Laurence Gonzales book Everyday Survival: Why Smart People Do Stupid Things, who was introduced to me by Bill Dettmer of Theory of Constraints fame and past podcast participant, Systematizing your approach to management, Podcast with Bill Dettmer.
I have also created several blog post from Laurence’s book, If Nothing Bad Happens, You Must Be Doing Something Right? and Bootstrapping Business Survival. Below is a video on a simple explanation of Mental Model Mistakes done by Laurence. What I enjoy is the simplicity of his story and told so well that you can practically repeat after watching it once. Try it!
In a recent blog post and several others, Increase your Innovation Capacity: Manage your Sphere of Influence, I contend that the typical tools such as marketing funnels, customer journeys or sales cycles limits us to Goods-dominant logic (GD-logic) thinking and prevents us from viewing from the perspective of Service Dominant Logic (SD-Logic). If that is not a big enough picture, it is what separates commoditized products/services from building an eco-system and platforms such as Starbucks, Amazon or Apple.
What I like to create is a different type of mapping strategy that I call Outcome-Based mapping and is derived from the non-profit world of Outcome Mapping. What makes it unique is it focuses on changing behavior through boundary partners (influencers).
In an Outcome-Based Mapping approach, we recognize that a change of behavior must occur for us to achieve our goals or make the desired impact that wish to obtain. In traditional sales and marketing we can develop the simplest of all marketing funnels based on a pre-purchase, purchase (buy), and post purchase. We have a tendency to complicate this into numerous steps and activities. When we view an outcome-based approach we like to separate the group very similarly into Expect to see, like to see and love to see. We can separate it more into something similar to a customer journey may but the point is not get to prescriptive on the actions but continue to focus on the behaviors.
I created an outcome persona of how we may look at a boundary partner in the outline below. It is important to note that every block is not expected to be completed, and certain components in the persona may not have to change to create the desired outcome.
Along the top, we identify the partner and create the standard columns of Expect to see, Like to see and Love to see. We write several scenarios of the outcomes of each column. I like to view the upside and the downside of each scenario instead of thinking. Also, try not to create the best case scenario a replication of the next column.
The bottom two-thirds of the board consist of using the BACKS measurement process. More about this process is in the post, The BACKS Approach to Building an Eco-System. Again, I emphasize that each component of BACKS will not be completed for every block. If it is, you probably have narrowed the definition of a boundary partner or influence to much. On the other hand, there should be changes in at least 50% (roughly) or you have not defined the he partner enough.
This approach, I have found allows me to move away from viewing a customer as a transaction and allows me to view them from a behavior standpoint. It is an entirely different way of segmenting and organizing your efforts.
Lean Sales and Marketing: Learn about using CAP-Do
Hoshin Kanri is a management system that creates a method of policy deployment in the form of both organizational and employees goals. It is a step by step implementation and review process from a systems approach perspective for change. In the simplest form, top management sets a vision and bottom line employee sets the tactics. In the middle, there is a lot of give and take and coordination through the use of a term catchball that results in:
- Prioritizing activities and resources
- Organizational involvement from top to bottom clarify their own target and activities
- Utilizing PDCA in both the management and employee cycles of improvement
The difference in Hoshin planning is that we do not accept the current situation but seek to aspire to something greater. We seek solutions between the current and aspired state by bridging the gap through the process of Kanri the other part of the process. Kanri is defined as a method to efficiently achieve purposes through PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act).
Hoshin Kanri is different than just your typical continuous improvement is that we are not solving the typical workplace problem but rather the value-added problems based on top management thinking (Vision and Targets). The “Hoshin” is developed at each layer of management clarifying strategies and targets to assist in reaching the preceding layer’s targets. This results in both a macro and micro PDCA. This greatly increases the line of sight and shared responsibility to each other in achieving these goals.
The workplace mission is defined within Toyota from the question “For whom and what type of value added products and services should be provided?” In this way, measures are created from the value added problems determined in the Hoshin process. Breaking the annual strategy down to what I call “Doable Chunks” is one of the secrets to Hoshin Kanri’s success.
Hoshin sounds good doesn’t it? In next week’s Business901 podcast, I asked well-known and long time established Lean Six Sigma consultant, Forrest Breyfogle this question:
Joe: Is this similar to the Hoshin Kanri approach where we are taking things down the organization and back up and going through that, kind of Americanizing that approach?
Forrest: I think it really challenges the Hoshin Kanri system. Hoshin Kanri leads from the strategies and then you cascade that throughout the organization. I do have it cascading, throughout the organization, but I don’t have strategies as the lead to cascade throughout the organization. I think there are problems with the Hoshin planning process. A lot of times those strategies are worded like we want to be the best of the best, and also those strategies that are in the Hoshin planning are typically not developed in line with the financials.
What I’m suggesting is you really like to have strategies aligned to financials. We have certain example that we want to improve profit margins; we might look at our data and then we come back and say, “Gee-whiz, we’re just getting an awful lot of returns.” I think one of our strategies is to figure out what we need to do to reduce the number of returns that we actually are having. There’s going to be an owner of that. The owner of that metric is going to be asking for projects and efforts to go in and reduce the number of returns. Using an approach that I suggest, we might come out and say the most important thing to improve profit margins is reducing defect returns. I have never seen a strategy coming out from the traditional approaches saying you need to reduce the number of defects. It’s not so grandiose but to me that may be the most beneficial thing you could do for an organization, just as an illustration.
Forfest Breyfogle: is the CEO of Smarter Solutions. He has authored or co-authored over a dozen books. His most recent book is The Business Process Management Guidebook: An Integrated Enterprise Excellence BPM System. His five-book set, Integrated Enterprise Excellence provides radical management advancements in the utilization and integration of scorecards, strategic planning, and process improvement.