Tuesday, December 30, 2014

My Diary - 2014

2014 is a great year for me, it pushed my time as simple as that.. there were valuable life time initiatives that were started as part of my dream. My endeavors should tell the future world - how better i must be achieving it successfully!
I believe, anybody would feel happy, when their dreams come true.. though its very late and the end state should matter! I love happy ending stories, its actually a beginning! :)

Yes, there were turbulence' haunting my health, time had taught me again.. how to sustain and fight against them, but i admit still i'm a novice and good learner. Situations resulted in changes of my priorities and helped me to balance all the challenges rightly and focusing only on what i was in need. It also appraised me to surrender with all my ego's valuing relationship is the de-facto in human race. True, that its helping me to reconnect with world and friends as fast as i can for and with a good cause! :)

There were quick and happiest moments in my family book: Wedding bells, Kid's 1st cake cutting and Lullabies and so on! :-D

Welcome - 2015

I, welcome 2015 warmly with the same spirit to Grace My Goals and Dreams to come true with Success on time. May God Bless to keep Me and All My Family & Friends a Good Health, and to Shower - Prosperity, Happiness, Love and Bundles of Joy!

Remembering the following Mantra's by great leaders of the world to keep me going!

“What is not started today is never finished tomorrow.” 
“Difficulties increase the nearer we approach the goal.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” – Albert Einstein

I'm ready to begin another new chapter and remembering that i have only 365 days to make every page of the chapter worth remembering when i finish the year!! A Great year ahead!!

Wishing You And Your Family A Very Happy New Year - 2015

Good Luck!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Team Management Skills

The core skills needed to manage your team

Develop effective management skills:

So you've just got a new job as a manager or supervisor. Congratulations! Or, maybe you've just been given the task of pulling a new team together. What a challenge!
Either way, whether your team exists already, or whether it's your responsibility to create it, what do you do next?

This article looks at some of the key things that team managers need to do if their team is to thrive and succeed. These range from choosing the right people and deciding who does what, to communicating with, developing and motivating people. It also covers some of the most common pitfalls to be avoided.

First Things First

But before that, some definitions are useful. What is Management, exactly? And how does it differ from leadership?

A good starting point is the Warren G. Bennis quote that "Leaders do the right things, while managers do things right." What this means is that leadership involves setting direction, communicating that vision passionately to those they work with, and helping the people they lead understand and commit to that vision. Managers, on the other hand, are responsible for ensuring that the vision is implemented efficiently and successfully.
Of course, these two roles overlap considerably – and what's best is when you fulfill both roles. However, the focus here is on the specific skills and responsibilities of managers, and the tools available to them. After all, there's no point energizing people to work towards a fabulous vision of the future, only to fall flat on your face when it comes to implementation.

Who do you need in your team?

The top priority for team managers is delegation. No matter how skilled you are, you're just one person, while your team may be made up of many people. So it is absolutely essential that you have the right people on your team and delegate as much as possible to them.
Successful delegation starts with matching people and tasks, so you need first to understand fully what the team's role and goals are. Only then will you be in a position to analyze the skills, experience and competencies within your team, and start matching people to tasks.
If you've had to bring in a substantial number of new people, read (forming-storming-norming-and-performing) to understand the stages you can expect the team to go through on the road to successful performance.

Many new managers and supervisors reading this article will be taking over the management of an existing team rather than bringing together a new one. However, it's worth considering how you would put together your ideal team if you had the opportunity, so you fully understand the issues you may face.

Briefing your team:

Now that you've got your team together, you need to make sure that they're as clear as you are about what you're all there for. In the book Monday Morning Mentoring, a wise coach advises a young manager that he must always know what the "main thing" is that his team are working to achieve, and should focus closely on this so that they all "keep the main thing the main thing".
A good way of doing this is by putting together a team charter which sets out the purpose of the team and how it will work. Not only does this help you get your team off to a great start, it can also be useful in bringing the team back on track if it's veering off course.

Motivating your team:

Another key duty you have as a manager is to motivate team members. Theory X and Theory Y explains two very different approaches to motivation.
Whatever approach you prefer to adopt, you also need to bear in mind that different people have different needs when it comes to motivation. Some individuals are highly self-motivated, while others will under-perform without managerial input. Pygmalion Motivation (pygmalion-in-management) helps to understand how to motivate these different groups.

Developing your team:

Teams are made up of individuals who are all at different stages of their careers. Some may find the tasks you've allocated to them are challenging, and they may need support. Others may be "old hands" at what they're doing, and may be looking for opportunities to stretch their skills. Either way, your responsibility as a manager is to develop all of your people.
Your skills in this aspect of management will define your long-term success as a manager. If you can help team members to become better at what they do, you will soon become known as a manager that others want to work for, and you'll be making a great contribution to your organization too.
The most effective way of doing this is to ensure that you give regular feedback to members of your team on their work. Many of us are nervous of giving feedback, especially when it has to be negative. However, if you give and receive feedback regularly, everyone will come to benefit from improved performance.

Communicating and working with your team – and with others:

Communication skills are essential for success in almost any role, but there are particular skills and techniques which you'll use more as a manager than you needed to when you were a regular "worker". These fall under two headings: Communicating and working with those within your team; and Communicating and working with people outside your team. We'll look at each in turn.

Communicating and working with your team:

As the team manager, you're likely to be chairing a number of meetings involving your team, including regular sessions as well as one-off meetings. Meeting of all kinds, and regular ones in particular, are notorious for their capacity to waste people's time, so the skill of running effective meetings is well worth mastering.
Many meetings include brainstorming sessions, and as team manager, you'll often have to act as moderator, so you'll need to be comfortable with how to do this. There's more to it than simply coming up with creative ideas, as you do when you're just a regular participant in such a session.
Another important skill for managers and others – to master is active listening. When you're in charge, it can be easy to think that you know what others are going to say, or that listening is less important because you've thought of a solution anyway. Don't fall into this trap. Most good managers are active listeners: It helps them avoid time waster through misunderstandings, and it builds good relationships within the team.

Communicating and working with others:

One of the most important people you need to communicate with effectively is your own boss. Take time to understand fully what your boss wants from you and your team. If you know exactly what he or she likes, and how he or she prefers it to be delivered, you'll be better able to meet with his or her approval.
Don't be afraid to ask your boss to coach or mentor you: You can usually learn a lot from your boss, but he or she may not be proactive about offering this. If you're approaching your boss for advice, make sure you've thought things through as far as you can. Introduce the subject with a summary of this thinking, and then say where you need help.
Also, as a manager, part of your job is to look after your team and protect it from unreasonable pressure. Learn skills like assertiveness and win-win negotiation so that you can either turn work away, or negotiate additional resources.
Another part of your job is to manage the way your team interacts with other groups. Use stakeholder analysis to identify the groups you deal with, so that you can identify what they can do for you and what they want from you.

Managing discipline:

However much you hope you won't ever have to do it, and however much feedback you give, there comes a time in most managers' careers when they have to discipline an employee. Discipline may be subtly different from basic feedback because it doesn't always relate specifically to the employee's work. You can give feedback on their phone manner, for example, but handling problems with timekeeping or personal grooming can need a different approach.
Obvious breaches of the law or of company policy are easy to identify and deal with. But what of other situations? On one hand you don't want to feel or seem petty. On the other hand, you can't let things go that should be dealt with.
Use these rules-of-thumb to help you decide whether you need to take action. If the answer to any is yes, then you need to arrange a time to speak to the employee in private.

Does the issue affect the quality of the employee's deliverable to the client (internal or external)?

A graphic designer regularly only gets in to work late, although he stays late to make up for this. Customers are sometimes frustrated by not being able to get through to him at the start of the day when he's working on rush jobs.
Does the issue adversely impact the cohesiveness of the team?
Individual designers largely work on their own projects with few meetings between design team members, so cohesiveness is not impacted. However people are noticing his lack of punctuality, and other people's timekeeping is beginning to slip.
Does the issue unnecessarily undermine the interests of other individuals in the team?
The designer sitting next to the latecomer is unhappy that she has to field calls from clients before he reaches the office, and is unable to give a firm answer to the question "When will he be in?"
The design team manager decides to speak to the latecomer because of the impact on his co-worker. They agree that coming in to work late is not a problem (he has a long commute, with heavy traffic en route) but that he will commit to being in by 9.30am every day to reduce the number of calls his co-worker has to field, and also give her a fixed time to give clients. He will also work late to make up time.
When you are faced with a potential discipline issue, take the time you need to gather information about the situation, then decide what you're going to do and act. Discipline issues rarely go away of their own accord, and they usually get worse, often causing considerable unhappiness and resentment amongst other team members.

Traps to Avoid

The following pitfalls are common ones that managers fall into. Take care to avoid them!

  • Thinking that you can rely on your existing job knowledge and technical skills to succeed as a manager. It is essential that you develop management and people skills.
  • Failing to consult regularly with your boss, in a misguided attempt to show that you're competent and can cope on your own. However, when you approach your boss, make sure you've thought the issue through, and have some ideas as to how the problem can be solved.
  • Embarrassing your boss, or letting him or her get a nasty surprise. Follow the "no surprises" rule.
  • Doing anything that requires your boss to defend you to others. This will cost your boss in terms of political capital or "loss of face" with his or peers and superiors, and it makes him or her look bad for not "nipping the problem in the bud."
  • Failing to talk to your customers (whether internal or external) about what they want from you and your team, and failing to act on this.
  • Using your authority inappropriately. Make sure that everything you ask people to do is in the interests of the organization.

Many of these points may sound common sense, however it's incredibly easy to make these mistakes in the rush of everyday managerial life.

Key Points:

When you move from being a worker to a line manager, you need to develop a new set of skills, and make use of new tools and techniques. These will help you with the key management areas of organizing, motivating, developing and communicating with your team.
You also need to learn specific time management techniques relevant to your role as a manager. It can be helpful too, for you to understand the different managerial styles that are commonly found so that you understand where your natural approach lies, and can work best to improve on this.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Why Do Projects Fail?

Learning How to Avoid Project Failure

We can probably all think of projects that have "failed" - perhaps processes got worse rather than better, maybe they were cancelled because of cost overruns, or perhaps systems were launched with fundamental errors.
How do you know when - and why - a project has failed? In many cases, the reason for failure is obvious. However, the definition of failure isn't always clear: one project with a significant delay might be described as a failure; yet another, with a similar delay, might be seen as a stunning success.

Definition of Project Failure

A project is considered a failure when it has not delivered what was required, in line with expectations. Therefore, in order to succeed, a project must deliver to cost, to quality, and on time; and it must deliver the benefits presented in the business case.
The requirements for success are clear and absolute - right? Unfortunately, it's not that simple. Because the second part of our definition of success is that the project must be delivered "in line with expectations."
If key stakeholders agreed that a project had to exceed its initial budget, the project may still be considered a success. Likewise, if a project delivered everything that was in the detailed project designs, it may still be considered a failure if it didn't include vital elements that the key stakeholders needed. This doesn't seem fair, but project success and failure isn't just about the facts, nor is it simply about what was delivered. It's also, crucially, about how the project is perceived.

Reasons for Project Failure

Here are some of the main reasons why projects fail:
  • The wrong business requirements have been addressed 
    If your project is set up to deliver the "wrong thing," it may be considered a failure even if everything is delivered on time, within budget, and to the required quality. This seems harsh. But if your project doesn't deliver what the organization really needs, this will inevitably negatively affect how it's perceived. This is why it's so important to conduct a thorough business requirements analysis.
  • It's not possible to deliver the business case
    If your business case can't be delivered, then you have an impossible task. To make things worse, after the business case is approved, delivery of other things then becomes dependent on your project. This makes changing your project's deadlines, budgets and expectations more difficult.
  • For example, once you've promised to deliver a new airport baggage management system, airlines may schedule additional flights for shortly after the system's launch, so that they can take advantage of the new capacity. If the baggage system doesn't work, or if it has major problems during testing, it may be hard to convince senior managers to allow the project to be delayed, because they will have to give up promised increased revenue.
  • When you write your business case, make sure you think through the project requirements in detail, and identify what's needed to ensure that you can deliver those requirements. Don't just list assumptions - make sure you explore them thoroughly. Review other, similar projects, so that you don't forget any major items. If you're delivering a new system, review your hardware and interface requirements. If you have major risks, include sufficient contingency resources (people, budget, and time) to manage those risks appropriately. Remember that implementing change is hard!
  • Be realistic, and be ready to have some difficult conversations. For instance, your CEO may be disappointed that he can't have what he wants before the year end, or key users may say that they really need a fully featured product at the end of phase one. However, it will be a lot harder to have these conversations at a future date, when your project is in trouble!

Note: In many cases, business case documentation is written before a project manager is assigned. If you're the incoming project manager, make sure you don't simply accept these documents as they are!
You're responsible for delivering the project, so be sure to review the business case. Validate assumptions, and identify any gaps or areas that need more detail. If difficult conversations are needed, have them now. Once deadlines, requirements, and budgets are set, expectations are much more difficult to change!
  • Governance is poor 
    Few projects ever start without a sponsor. This is the person who has identified the need for change in an area of the business, and who is committed to making that change happen. He or she plays a vital role in ensuring the project's success. A good sponsor can make an average project fantastic, and a poor sponsor can delay and frustrate a fantastic project team.
  • The project sponsor is supported by the project's governance bodies, usually in the form of a steering group. These governance roles are essential: they provide direction, guidance, and critical review of the project and its progress. As project manager, you're involved in the day-to-day running of the project, but governance groups can take a step back and look at the project from a different perspective. They can ask difficult questions about progress and performance. They may see things that you've overlooked. However, they can also support you by providing contacts and insights that help you get things done, and by providing "political cover" when you need it.
  • Project managers don't usually have any influence over who their project sponsor is. Sponsors either self-select, or they're chosen because of their position in the organization. However, you often have more influence over who is in your steering group. As such, if you know that your project sponsor lacks passion for the project, or if the sponsor doesn't like to say no to people who keep trying to expand the project scope, then make sure you balance this with tougher or more engaged steering group members.
  • Implementation is poor 
    If you deliver your project competently, you'll avoid poor implementation - right? Unfortunately, it's not that clear. Delivery can be complex. You need to manage risks, issues, and scope; manage your team; and communicate with stakeholders.
  • Delivering change is hard, and not everything is in your control. Therefore, being competent isn't enough for good implementation, but it's a good start! There are a lot of tools available to help you. Take our quiz on your project management skills to get started.
  • People lose focus on the project's benefits 
    Projects are based on a list of benefits that must be delivered. For example, you may need a faster customer service process, you may need to produce products more cheaply, or you may need to improve the quality of your service. These benefit statements should be refined so that they're clear, concise, and quantified.
  • From these benefit statements, a set of "things to do" is generated. For example, you may need to consult customers, redesign products, or implement a new system. The outcome of this is a business case document that analyzes the project in terms of costs, and of the benefits will be delivered.
  • The project team then focuses on detailed planning, and on delivering the line items in the project plan - building a new system, developing training packs, mapping out new processes, and so on. At this stage, the team may forget about the benefit requirements.
  • This often results in a project deliverable that's well built, but doesn't provide the necessary benefits. For example, if the project plan focuses on designing and building a system, you could get a fantastic system, but one that's not being used by the business.
  • To avoid this problem, adopt a benefits management approach throughout the life of the project, and remember the need to deliver the required benefits when you're planning and delivering your project.
  • The environment changes 
    This is probably the trickiest area. If the business's needs change, then your business case can become outdated before you've actually completed the project. You may have to review your original requirements and goals partway through the project to decide how to proceed, and this may result in changing the scope of your project - or even canceling the project altogether!
  • If you're working in an environment that's changing fast, you can help reduce the risks by doing the following:
    • Making timely decisions - If the project is clearly not going to be able to deliver the revised requirements, don't ignore this. The sooner you communicate this, and the sooner you make a decision about the project's future, the better.
    • Considering smaller projects- It's more difficult to change direction in a large cruise ship than in a tugboat. So, think about whether a proposed project's scope and delivery timeline are appropriate within your business environment. Delivering projects in smaller pieces is not always appropriate, but it's worth considering.
    • Managing expectations - Just because you cancel a project does not automatically mean that the project is considered a failure. This depends on many factors, including how you manage the involvement of key project stakeholders in the decision-making process.

Key Points

For a project to be successful, it's not enough simply to manage your project competently, and deliver a good quality product. To avoid failure, make sure you have identified the right business requirements, created an achievable business case, put strong project governance into place, managed a high-quality implementation, focused on benefits, and monitored your changing environment.
Above all, be sure to manage the expectations of your stakeholders, so that they stay supportive. After all, these are the people who will declare your project to be successful – or otherwise.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Benefit Cost Analysis (BCA)

Evaluating Quantitatively - Whether to Follow a Course of Action!

You may have been intensely creative in generating solutions to a problem, and rigorous in your selection of the best one available. This solution may still not be worth implementing, as you may invest a lot of time and money in solving a problem that is not worthy of this effort.
Benefit Cost Analysis (BCA) or Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA) is a relatively simple and widely used technique for deciding whether to make a change. 

As its name suggests, to use the technique simply add up the value of the benefits of a course of action, and subtract the costs associated with it.

Costs are either one-off, or may be ongoing. Benefits are most often received over time. We build this effect of time into our analysis by calculating a payback period. This is the time it takes for the benefits of a change to repay its costs. Many companies look for payback over a specified period of time – e.g. three years.

In its simple form, cost-benefit analysis is carried out using only financial costs and financial benefits. For example, a simple cost / benefit analysis of a road scheme would measure the cost of building the road, and subtract this from the economic benefit of improving transport links. It would not measure either the cost of environmental damage or the benefit of quicker and easier travel to work.

A more sophisticated approach to cost/benefit measurement models is to try to put a financial value on intangible costs and benefits. This can be highly subjective – is, for example, a historic water lake worth $25,000, or is it worth $500,000 because if its environmental importance? What is the value of stress-free travel to work in the morning?

These are all questions that people have to answer, and answers that people have to defend.
The version of cost/benefit analysis we explain here is necessarily simple. Where large sums of money are involved (for example, in financial market transactions), project evaluation can become an extremely complex and sophisticated art. COST Management is one of the Key Processing Areas of Project Management. 


A sales director is deciding whether to implement a new computer-based contacts management and sales processing system. His department has only a few computers, and his salespeople are not computer literate. He is aware that computerized sales forces are able to contact more customers and give a higher quality of reliability and service to those customers. They are more able to meet commitments, and can work more efficiently with fulfillment and delivery staff.

His financial cost / benefit analysis is shown below:


New computer equipment:
  • 10 network-ready PCs with supporting software @ $2,450 each
  • 1 server @ $3,500
  • 3 printers @ $1,200 each
  • Cabling & Installation @ $4,600
  • Sales Support Software @ $15,000
Training costs:
  • Computer introduction – 8 people @ $400 each
  • Keyboard skills – 8 people @ $400 each
  • Sales Support System – 12 people @ $700 each
Other costs:
  • Lost time: 40 man days @ $200 / day
  • Lost sales through disruption: estimate: $20,000
  • Lost sales through inefficiency during first months: estimate: $20,000
Total cost: $114,000

  • Tripling of mail shot capacity: estimate: $40,000 / year
  • Ability to sustain telesales campaigns: estimate: $20,000 / year
  • Improved efficiency and reliability of follow-up: estimate: $50,000 / year
  • Improved customer service and retention: estimate: $30,000 / year
  • Improved accuracy of customer information: estimate: $10,000 / year
  • More ability to manage sales effort: $30,000 / year
Total Benefit: $180,000/year

Payback time: $114,000 / $180,000 = 0.63 of a year = approx. 8 months


The payback time is often known as the break even point. Sometimes this is is more important than the overall benefit a project can deliver, for example because the organization has had to borrow to fund a new piece of machinery. The break even point can be found graphically by plotting costs and income on a graph of output quantity against $. Break even occurs at the point the two lines cross.

Inevitably the estimates of the benefit given by the new system are quite subjective. Despite this, the Sales Director is very likely to introduce it, given the short payback time.

Key Points:

  • Cost/Benefit Analysis is a powerful, widely used and relatively easy tool for deciding whether to make a change.
  • To use the tool, firstly work out how much the change will cost to make. Then calculate the benefit you will from it.
  • Where costs or benefits are paid or received over time, work out the time it will take for the benefits to repay the costs.
  • Cost/Benefit Analysis can be carried out using only financial costs and financial benefits. You may, however, decide to include intangible items within the analysis. As you must estimate a value for these, this inevitably brings an element of subjectivity into the process.

Cause and Effect Analysis

Identifying causes of the problems

Cause and Effect Diagrams help you to think through causes of a problem thoroughly. Their major benefit is that they push you to consider all possible causes of the problem, rather than just the ones that are most obvious.
The approach combines brainstorming with use of a type of concept map.
Cause and Effect Diagrams are also known as Fishbone Diagrams because a completed diagram can look like the skeleton of a fish; and as Ishikawa Diagrams, after Professor Kaoru Ishikawa, a pioneers of quality management, who devised them in the 1960s. Cause and Effect Diagram is one of the 7 basic tools (Cause and Effort Diagram, Check Sheet, Control Chart, Histogram, Pareto Chart, Scatter Diagram, Stratification (Run Chart)) of Quality.

How to Use the Tool

Follow these steps to solve a problem with a Cause and Effect Diagram:
  1. Identify the problem:
    Write down the exact problem you face in detail. Where appropriate identify who is involved, what the problem is, and when and where it occurs. Write the problem in a box on the left hand side of a large sheet of paper. Draw a line across the paper horizontally from the box. This arrangement, looking like the head and spine of a fish, gives you space to develop ideas.
  2. Work out the major factors involved:
    Next identify the factors that may contribute to the problem. Draw lines off the spine for each factor, and label it. These may be people involved with the problem, systems, equipment, materials, external forces, etc. Try to draw out as many possible factors as possible. If you are trying to solve the problem as part of a group, then this may be a good time for some brainstorming.
  3. Using the 'Fish bone' analogy, the factors you find can be thought of as the bones of the fish.
  4. Identify possible causes:
    For each of the factors you considered in stage 2, brainstorm possible causes of the problem that may be related to the factor. Show these as smaller lines coming off the 'bones' of the fish. Where a cause is large or complex, then it may be best to break it down into sub-causes. Show these as lines coming off each cause line.
  5. Analyse your diagram:
    By this stage you should have a diagram showing all the possible causes of your problem. Depending on the complexity and importance of the problem, you can now investigate the most likely causes further. This may involve setting up investigations, carrying out surveys, etc. These will be designed to test whether your assessments are correct.


Key Points

Cause & Effect analysis (or Fishbone Analysis) provides a structured way to help you think through all possible causes of a problem. This helps you to carry out a thorough analysis of a situation.


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA)

Implementing ideas in a controlled way (PDCA Cycle, or Deming Cycle)

Something needs to change: Something is wrong, and needs to be fixed, and you've worked hard to create a credible vision of where you want it to be in future. 

But are you 100% sure that you're right? 
And are you absolutely certain that your solution will work perfectly, in every way?

Where the consequences of getting things wrong are significant, it often makes sense to run a well-crafted pilot project. That way if the pilot doesn't deliver the results you expected, you get the chance to fix and improve things before you fully commit your reputation and resources.
So how do you make sure that you get this right, not just this time but every time? 

The solution is to have a process that you follow when you need to make a change or solve a problem; A process that will ensure you plan, test and incorporate feedback before you commit to implementation.

A popular tool for doing just this is the Plan-Do-Check-Act Cycle. This is often referred to as the Deming Cycle or the Deming Wheel after its proponent, W Edwards Deming. It is also sometimes called the Shewhart Cycle.

Deming is best known as a pioneer of the quality management approach and for introducing statistical process control techniques for manufacturing to the Japanese, who used them with great success. He believed that a key source of production quality lay in having clearly defined, repeatable processes. And so the PDCA Cycle as an approach to change and problem solving is very much at the heart of Deming's quality-driven philosophy.

The four phases in the Plan-Do-Check-Act Cycle involve:
  • Plan: Identifying and analyzing the problem.
  • Do: Developing and testing a potential solution.
  • Check: Measuring how effective the test solution was, and analyzing whether it could be improved in any way.
  • Act: Implementing the improved solution fully.
These are shown in Figure below.

There can be any number of iterations of the "Do" and "Check" phases, as the solution is refined, retested, re-refined and retested again.

How to Use the Tool

The PDCA Cycle encourages you to be methodical in your approach to problem solving and implementing solutions. Follow the steps below every time to ensure you get the highest quality solution possible.

Step 1: Plan

First, identify exactly what your problem is. You may find it useful to use tools like Drill Down, Cause and Effect Diagrams, and the 5 Whys to help you really get to the root of it. Once you've done this, it may be appropriate for you to map the process that is at the root of the problem
Next, draw together any other information you need that will help you start sketching out solutions.

Step 2: Do

This phase involves several activities:
  • Generate possible solutions.
  • Select the best of these solutions, perhaps using techniques like Impact Analysis to scrutinize them.
  • Implement a pilot project on a small scale basis, with a small group, or in a limited geographical area, or using some other trial design appropriate to the nature of your problem, product or initiative.


The phrase "Plan Do Check Act" or PDCA is easy to remember, but it's important you are quite clear exactly what "Do" means. ""Do" means "Try" or "Test". It does not mean "Implement fully." Full implementation happens in the "Act" phase.

Step 3: Check

In this phase, you measure how effective the pilot solution has been, and gather together any learnings from it that could make it even better.
Depending on the success of the pilot, the number of areas for improvement you have identified, and the scope of the whole initiative, you may decide to repeat the "Do" and "Check" phases, incorporating your additional improvements.
Once you are finally satisfied that the costs would outweigh the benefits of repeating the Do-Check sub-cycle any more, you can move on to the final phase.

Step 4: Act

Now you implement your solution fully. However, your use of the PDCA Cycle doesn't necessarily stop there. If you are using the PDCA or Deming Wheel as part of a continuous improvement initiative, you need to loop back to the Plan Phase (Step 1), and seek out further areas for improvement.

When to use the Deming Cycle

The Deming Cycle provides a useful, controlled problem solving process. It is particularly effective for:
  • Helping to implement Kaizen or Continuous Improvement approaches, when the cycle is repeated again and again as new areas for improvement are sought and solved.
  • Identifying new solutions and improvement to processes that are repeated frequently. In this situation, you will benefit from extra improvements built in to the process many times over once it is implemented.
  • Exploring a range of possible new solutions to problems, and trying them out and improving them in a controlled way before selecting one for full implementation.
  • Avoiding the large scale wastage of resources that comes with full scale implementation of a moderate or poor solution.
Clearly, use of a Deming Cycle approach is slower and more measured than a straightforward "gung ho" implementation. In true emergency situations, this means that it may not be appropriate!


PDCA is closely related to the Spiral Development Approach which is popular in certain areas of software development, especially where the overall system develops incrementally. Spiral Development repeats loops of the PDCA cycle, as developers identify functionality needed, develop it, test it, implement it, and then go back to identify another sub-system of functionality.

Key Points:

The Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) Cycle provides a simple but effective approach for problem solving and managing change, ensuring that ideas are appropriately tested before committing to full implementation. It can be used in all sorts of environments from new product development through to marketing, or even politics.

It begins with a Planning phase in which the problem is clearly identified and understood. Potential solutions are then generated and tested on a small scale in the "Do" phase, and the outcome of this testing is evaluated during the Check phase. "Do" and "Check" phases can be iterated as many times as is necessary before the full, polished solution is implemented in the "Act" phase.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing

Tuckman's Model: Helping New Teams Perform Effectively, Quickly!

Effective teamwork is essential in today's world, but as you'll know from the teams you have led or belonged to, you can't expect a new team to perform exceptionally from the very outset. Team formation takes time, and usually follows some easily recognizable stages, as the team journeys from being a group of strangers to becoming a united team with a common goal.

Whether your team is a temporary working group or a newly-formed, permanent team, by understanding these stages you will be able to help it quickly become productive.

Understanding the Theory

Psychologist Bruce Tuckman first came up with the memorable phrase "forming, storming, norming and performing" back in 1965. He used it to describe the path to high-performance that most teams follow. Later, he added a fifth stage that he called "adjourning" (and others often call "mourning" – it rhymes better!)

Teams initially go through a "forming"stage in which members are positive and polite. Some members are anxious, as they haven't yet worked out exactly what work the team will involve. Others are simply excited about the task ahead. As leader, you play a dominant role at this stage: other members' roles and responsibilities are less clear.
This stage is usually fairly short, and may only last for the single meeting at which people are introduced to one-another. At this stage there may be discussions about how the team will work, which can be frustrating for some members who simply want to get on with the team task.

Soon, reality sets in and your team moves into a "storming" phase. Your authority may be challenged as others jockey for position and their roles are clarified. The ways of working start to be defined and, as leader, you must be aware that some members may feel overwhelmed by how much there is to do, or uncomfortable with the approach being used. Some may react by questioning how worthwhile the goal of the team is, and by resisting taking on tasks. This is the stage when many teams fail, and even those that stick with the task may feel that they are on an emotional roller coaster, as they try to focus on the job in hand without the support of established processes or relationships with their colleagues.

Gradually, the team moves into a"norming" stage, as a hierarchy is established. Team members come to respect your authority as a leader, and others show leadership in specific areas.
Now that the team members know each other better, they may be socializing together, and they are able to ask each other for help and provide constructive criticism. The team develops a stronger commitment to the team goal, and you start to see good progress towards it.
There is often a prolonged overlap between storming and norming behavior: As new tasks come up, the team may lapse back into typical storming stage behavior, but this eventually dies out.

When the team reaches the "performing"stage, hard work leads directly to progress towards the shared vision of their goal, supported by the structures and processes that have been set up. Individual team members may join or leave the team without affecting the performing culture.
As leader, you are able to delegate much of the work and can concentrate on developing team members. Being part of the team at this stage feels "easy" compared with earlier on.
Project teams exist only for a fixed period, and even permanent teams may be disbanded through organizational restructuring. As team leader, your concern is both for the team's goal and the team members.

Breaking up a team can be stressful for all concerned and the"adjourning" or "mourning" stage is important in reaching both team goal and personal conclusions.
The break up of the team can be hard for members who like routine or who have developed close working relationships with other team members, particularly if their future roles or even jobs look uncertain.

Using the Tool

As a team leader, your aim is to help your team reach and sustain high performance as soon as possible. To do this, you will need to change your approach at each stage. The steps below will help ensure you are doing the right thing at the right time.
  1. Identify which stage of the team development your team is at from the descriptions above.
  2. Now consider what needs to be done to move towards the Performing stage, and what you can do to help the team do that effectively. The table below helps you understand your role at each stage, and think about how to move the team forward.
  3. Schedule regular reviews of where your teams are, and adjust your behavior and leadership approach to suit the stage your team has
Leadership Activities at Different Group Formation Stages

FormingDirect the team and establish objectives clearly. (A good way of doing this is to negotiate a team charter.)
StormingEstablish process and structure, and work to smooth conflict and build good relationships between team members. Generally provide support, especially to those team members who are less secure. Remain positive and firm in the face of challenges to your leadership or the team's goal. Perhaps explain the "forming, storming, norming and performing" idea so that people understand why conflict's occurring, and understand that things will get better in the future. And consider teaching assertiveness and conflict resolution skills where these are necessary.
NormingStep back and help the team take responsibility for progress towards the goal. This is a good time to arrange a social, or a team-building event
PerformingDelegate as far as you sensibly can. Once the team has achieved high performance, you should aim to have as "light a touch" as possible. You will now be able to start focusing on other goals and areas of work
AdjourningWhen breaking up a team, take the time to celebrate its achievements. After all, you may well work with some of your people again, and this will be much easier if people view past experiences positively.

Tip 1:
Make sure that you leave plenty of time in your schedule to coach team members through the "Forming", "Storming" and "Norming" stages.

Tip 2:
Think about how much progress you should expect towards the goal and by when, and measure success against that. Remember that you've got to go through the "Forming", "Storming" and "Norming" stages before the team starts "Performing", and that there may not be much progress during this time. Communicating progress against appropriate targets is important if your team's members are to feel that what they're going through is worth while. Without such targets, they can feel that, "Three weeks have gone by and we've still not got anywhere".

Tip 3:
Not all teams and situations will behave in this way, however many will – use this approach, but don't try to force situations to fit it. And make sure that people don't use knowledge of the "storming" stage as a license for boorish behavior.

Key Points:

Teams are formed because they can achieve far more than their individual members can on their own, and while being part of a high-performing team can be fun, it can take patience and professionalism to get to that stage.
Effective team leaders can accelerate that process and reduce the difficulties that team members experience by understanding what they need to do as their team moves through the stages from forming to storming, norming and, finally, performing.


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

PEST Analysis

Understanding "Big Picture" Forces of Change

PEST - The word sounds little awkward to us, its not about biology. Yes, Indeed its an acronym. Analysis is a simple but important and widely-used tool that helps you understand the big picture of the Political, Economic, Socio-Cultural and Technological environment you are operating in. PEST is used by business leaders worldwide to build their vision of the future.

It is important for these reasons:
  • By making effective use of PEST Analysis, you ensure that what you are doing is aligned positively with the forces of change that are affecting our world. By taking advantage of change, you are much more likely to be successful than if your activities oppose it.
  • Good use of PEST Analysis helps you avoid taking action that is condemned to failure for reasons beyond your control.
  • PEST is useful when you start operating in a new country or region. Use of PEST Analysis helps you break free of unconscious assumptions, and helps you quickly adapt to the realities of the new environment.

How to Use the Tool:

PEST is a simple mnemonic standing for Political, Economic, Socio-Cultural and Technological. 

Using the tool is a three stage process:
  • Firstly, you brainstorm the relevant factors that apply to you, using the prompts below.
  • Secondly, you identify the information that applies to these factors.
  • Thirdly, you draw conclusions from this information.

The important point is to move from the second step to the third step: it is sterile just to describe factors without thinking through what they mean. However, be careful not to assume that your analysis is perfect: use it as a starting point, and test your conclusions against the reality you experience.

The following prompts may help as a starting point for brainstorming (but make sure you include others that may be appropriate to your situation):

  • Government type and stability.
  • Freedom of press, rule of law and levels of bureaucracy and corruption.
  • Regulation and de-regulation trends.
  • Social and employment legislation.
  • Tax policy, and trade and tariff controls.
  • Environmental and consumer-protection legislation.
  • Likely changes in the political environment .
  • Stage of business cycle.
  • Current and projected economic growth, inflation and interest rates.
  • Unemployment and labor supply.
  • Labor costs.
  • Levels of disposable income and income distribution.
  • Impact of globalization.
  • Likely impact of technological or other change on the economy.
  • Likely changes in the economic environment.
  • Population growth rate and age profile.
  • Population health, education and social mobility, and attitudes to these.
  • Population employment patterns, job market freedom and attitudes to work.
  • Press attitudes, public opinion, social attitudes and social taboos.
  • Lifestyle choices and attitudes to these.
  • Socio-cultural changes.
Technological Environment:
  • Impact of emerging technologies.
  • Impact of Internet, reduction in communications costs and increased remote working.
  • Research & Development activity.
  • Impact of technology transfer.


Political Economic Social Technical
New state tax policies for accounting International economic growth Shift in educational requirements and changing career attitudes Automated processes in the industry
New employment laws for employee handbook maintenance Changes in interest rates Population growth rate Rate of innovation
Political instability in a foreign partner country Changes in technology incentives

Key Points:

PEST Analysis is a useful tool for understanding the ‘big picture’ of the environment in which you are operating, and for thinking about the opportunities and threats that lie within it. By understanding your environment, you can take advantage of the opportunities and minimize the threats.
PEST is a mnemonic standing for Political, Economic, Social and Technological. These headings are used firstly to brainstorm the characteristics of a country or region and, from this, draw conclusions as to the significant forces of change operating within it.
This provides the context within which more detailed planning can take place, so that you can take full advantage of the opportunities that present themselves.