Let’s Give It A Try!!

“You should start your own business.”  The person who said this is in his 70’s and was a former pastor for a couple different congregations.  I had just gotten done running an all-member church congregation meeting where I’m the current council president.  This was our fourth such meeting in a year and at the end, the council was applauded.

I look at the church as a business, as does most of the council.  We handle our strategy, projects and operations much like we do at work.  We click as a team and though challenge each other, understand the big picture and know we’re here to serve others.  In my over 18 years experience, I’ve seen and done a lot, though I’ll be the first to admit there’s a lot more experiences to be had.  But ultimately, I consider myself a “helper”, and do enjoy helping others.

“There would be other congregations and non-profits, and probably small businesses, that’d benefit from having someone help take a realistic look at the future and plan for it.  Most of us are caught up in the day without the look ahead.  I’m serious; you should start your own business.  What’s the worst that could happen?”  From this dear 70(ish) year old man, and idea was born.

After getting some fantastic coaching from a couple local folks, I started my own LLC called Bridge the Gap Consulting.  I say I help bridge the gap between organizational vision and implementation, thus the name.  It’s been a project in itself getting paperwork done and submitted to the state, website created, business cards, getting my name out there, etc.  I’ve learned quite a bit and  the experience alone has been worth while.

Now I’m better enabled to do what I enjoy; helping others be successful.  I’ve already helped one small 3 person business create a 2-year road map.  I don’t do this full time, just on the side.  It’s amazing what ideas come from playing pool at the bar for a few hours!

So, here we go!

Detach & Gain Perspective

This meeting sucked.  The organizer had lost complete control.  Discussions went from factual to emotional.  Three conversations were happening at once.  And then, a crier.

I knew the crier well.  She was on my team and I had worked with her over a year.  She was solid; able to take on any issue quickly and get it resolved.  She could talk to anyone about any topic.  She was a rock star on the project and very valuable to her team in operations.  But something this day made her crack.  I never saw it coming.

Noticing the uncomfortable silence in the room, we quickly ended the meeting.  I asked her to stay behind as did one of our executives.  She said after working 60 hours a week on the project as well as her “day job,” she was fried.  She tried to stay positive at work but her family was paying the price when she came home grumpy.  We all knew she was the “go-to” person and the more she talked, I began to appreciate the stress she was under.

To the exec’s credit, he took over.  “I know you’ve been working a lot with no break for a few months.  I also know you’ve been filling in for others who are back from vacation.  Now, you’re no good to anyone if you’re burned out.  I want you to document the status of your projects and daily work, and delegate tasks to others.  I need you to detach, get some perspective for a few days and come back more refreshed.”

We all get stressed.  Some of us can handle it better than others.  But eventually, we all hit a limit.  When that happens, you need to find a way to detach and gain perspective.  Some people take a “mental health” day, others need a vacation, and others work themselves into being sick and stay in bed a couple days.  Any way you look at it, sometimes you have to take a step back, review your priorities, refocus on what’s important, and take time for yourself and those you love.

As for the employee, she was able to spend a few days with her family.  Because of work, we found out she had missed some kids events and was feeling like a failure as a mom.  But after a few quality days, she had a renewed energy and was back to her superstar status!

Project Management Processes as a Corporate Assets

I was fortunate to participate in a webinar where project managers were asked to give real-world advice to business people, many of whom were faced with project challenges.  Topics ranged from selecting the right project to invest in, to advice on saving an initiative that was in trouble.  Some people were angry (thus the “Culture of Success” posts), and others were hopeful our advice would save them time and money.  The questions and comments ranged from simple to the complex.  I enjoyed every minute of it.  However, the greatest takeaway for me was something I learned from a fellow panelist.

This co-presenter is the VP of Project Management and New Product Development for a global company of 800 people.  He views project management processes as a corporate asset and a key competitive advantage.  They are a strategic, core competency within the organization.  Everyone in the company adheres to them; from the executive steering committee right down to the person doing the tactical tasks.  The process is part of a new employee on-boarding process (level of training is dependent on their role).  Changes to processes go through an approval committee and broadly communicated.  Feedback is requested from different teams so only the right processes are needed and those seen as too bureaucratic are eliminated.  He admits it’s not perfect, but it was better than the ad-hoc “shoot from the hip” approach the company had when he got there.

As a PMO manager, I thought and continue to think a lot about what was said.  We have processes and because of the compliance & quality nature of our projects, protect those processes from deviations.  When someone does do something outside the process, which has happened a few times, confusion ensues and I have to confront the offender with an uncomfortable discussion.  My team continues to update processes and create new as our product line expands.  But once approved, these processes are expected to be followed.

To be competitive in the market, companies need to deliver effectively, efficiently, and have some level of organizational agility given the speed of change.  It’s a challenge, but one that I feel is key to organizational success.  Your process is an organizational asset and should be followed and protected.  Do so, and no one gets hurt!

What’s Your Team’s Battle Cry?!

I thought hockey parents traveled a lot to tournaments until one of my kids joined swimming.  There are a lot of weekends sitting in uncomfortably hot bleachers waiting for potentially hours to watch a 50 second swim.  Though long days, if he loves it, how can I say no?

At the start of every meet, the entire swim team gets together, arms around each other, and sing a song to get fired up.  Everyone participates, even my son who can be shy at times.  They sing, sway, jump and holler as a team.  Given they swim as individuals, this is the one time the team can get together ahead of their competition.

pool cheer

This got me to thinking; does my team have a battle cry?  Yes, most I’ve been part of do.  Currently it’s “Happy to Help” (or H2H), then there was the Overall System Health Information Team (OSHIT), and from way back the “Gladly Pay You Tuesday for a Hamburger Today” team.  Each team was different.  Each had their own unique personalities.  But ultimately, we somehow created our own group name, a battle cry, that followed us throughout the course of the effort and sometimes beyond.

So what is your team’s battle cry?  What makes your team stand out, yet brings everyone together?  What gives you identity?    Though not a critical success factor for the team, it certainly is fun.