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What are the top things your team could do to improve performance?

January 23, 2014

If someone asked you what are the top 3 maybe even 10 things any team, including yours, could do to improve performance in less than an hour a day… what would you say?  I found this old interview I did over a decade ago, coming back from Rome and working with the United Nations.  The interview was about what are the most common questions and mistakes, if you will, that present themselves in improving performance.  The answers are still relevant today.  Perhaps even more so.  Enjoy the read, it’s very succinct and brief, and I think you’ll find some of the questions addressed have run through your mind from time to time when it comes to getting better results through people.

An Interview with Rodney Brim at PST:
What are the top 3-4 things you need to do to improve you and your team’s performance and project management in an hour a day?

  • 1. Grounding the day’s perspective on what creates the most value… in terms of your goals, not the most urgent:
  • 2. Integrating performance & project management with email correspondence – tie the two together;
  • 3. Leveraging information and by using technology like ManagePro as a “back-stop” all day long.

2. What’s the most frequent mistake executives make when deploying software across their direct reports and/or teams?

  • Not anticipating, driving and being prepared to out last the People-Change Habits process; Issac Newton addresses the power of habit, and Thomas Kuhn (Scientific Revolution), addresses the need to “break the old before you can use the new” shake it up.  You need to be prepared to address both if you want to be successful versus try.

3. What’s the biggest secret most people don’t know about being successful using management software to improve performance?

  • Use it consistently in meetings, it has to be the new “spoken language” for getting status updates, tracking what’s priority, rewarding people for being accountable and follow-through.

4. Why do you say that getting personally organized to catch-up is the wrong approach to getting more done with less in project management?

  • It’s not being better organized, it’s leveraging information, that’s key.  When you leverage information by having one place to manage it all, you save time in meetings, save time in generating reports, increase visibility which increases accountability and by setting performance targets improve how much team members get done and the percentage of time they spend on what’s most valuable.  In all of those areas, organization is important, but only secondarily related to success.

5. Three things you learned in working with the United Nations that apply to every company?

  • 1.  The predominant information management tool is still writing, paper and pencil (or electronic version PowerPoint and Excel tables), and talking; basically they are 5,000 year old tools;
  • 2. In order to achieve new performance goals you have to break old habits, particularly the habit of doing without reserving time to document/record/update others;
  • 3. Most people are intimidated by software technology that has any learning curve, and attack and disband use within the first 3-7 barriers or challenges they encounter, and don’t realize the benefits.

6. What most team members and direct reports don’t get about project management and working “21st Century Smart.”

  • 1. Leveraging information looks like more work upfront, when it actually saves work overall.  People tend to think of it as an add-on, as opposed to the core of how to coordinate and collaborate with others, and ultimately less work.
  • 2. Most people mis-read the value of leveraging information, and underestimate the habit change challenge.

7. Why do you say that priority has more impact on project management than dependency links?

  • Without active effort, felt priority (including responding the crisis at hand, and attending scheduled meetings) wins hands down every time in shaping how we use our time… much more than planning and linked steps.

8. What are the most common myths embedded in project management software?

  • 1. Work life is linear, so people are un-prepared or at least not very agile in dealing with the inevitable course reversals
  • 2. Scheduling of tasks and resources are the key to predictable outcomes (this is only partly true, and misses the fact that early identification and rapid, informed response is more important to outcomes once the schedule is established)
  • 3. Complexity of tools and lots of meetings are necessary for successful outcomes on big projects.

9. Why do you say that management technology like ManagePro reduce time spent in meetings by 40% and make the outcomes twice as effective?

  • 1.  If you use ManagePro to create your meeting agenda, which is ultimately a review of ongoing projects and topics to discuss, then meeting creation is simple and the time to run the meeting is cut in half by simply referring to written updates posted.  Save the talk time for discussion of implications and next steps and the meeting moves forward like clockwork, with no extra reports needed,
  • 2. Requests or to-dos generated during the meeting need to be captured directly into ManagePro for heightened visibility and rock-solid follow-up.  Meeting minutes are completed in 10 seconds.  The whole process of meetings move forward into the 21st century before the participants exit the meeting.

10. What do the complaints about using performance and project management software such as,  “I don’t have time;” or  “Why do we have to do this – aren’t we / other people don’t fine without all of this effort?” … provide as a tip-off to the astute manager?

  • 1. You haven’t successfully negotiated a 21st  Century work contract (see Dibachi’s book Just Add Management), and
  • 2. The person talking is functioning at an early level of project management maturity, and
  • 3. You are losing time, money and “joy” because of mis-alignment.

Bottom Line: It’s interesting that what improves performance, at least from my viewpoint, has stayed relatively consistent over more than 10, close to 15 years.  Improving performance with any team, including teams at the United Nations, involves some very consistent themes.  Pulling from the work of Issac Newton and Thomas Kuhn, to modern day thought leaders, like Dibachi; it all points clearly to the value of using management technology like ManagePro to improve performance by leveraging information, work the non-linear aspects of projects, keep the focus on value and transform meetings.  Is that close to what you would have said?

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