Measure Twice, Cut Once: How to Avoid Making Rash Decisions

UNDO UNDO! Unfortunately, not everything has an undo button. If you delete something, sometimes it is gone for good. If you cut something too short, you can’t make it longer! I’m inspired this week by a home project that I’m working on that definitely depends on precise measurements: crown molding!
  1. Double check yourself
    • Literally, “measure twice, cut once”. In project management, the first assessment of a timeline can seem reasonable and correct, but then upon a second inspection, you find a dependency that you missed that changes your initial estimate. In crown molding, you might notice your design doesn’t quite line up right on a flush joint. Better try again!
  2. Ask for a second opinion
    • I am a big fan of inviting a second pair of eyes to look over your work from a fresh perspective. They may notice something you didn’t. Whether it’s a missed paint spot or something more serious like a corner alignment, grab a friend and ask for their help. A department manager of the team members on your project might have more insight to schedule conflicts that you didn’t know about. For example, vacation times or key financial periods of your client stakeholders that you’d want to avoid.
  3. Prepare extras
    • For precision projects, you just can’t skimp by buying only what you need. You will need extra because you will mess up, intentionally or not. I bought many extra pieces and am very glad I did for my molding project. It is better to plan with some “wiggle room” (a technical term for a contingency plan) than to have to scrap it and go to a Plan B with all new material.

Being Efficient: 3 Tips to be the Fastest Editor in Microsoft Word

Documentation is one of the most essential parts of a good team and yet can also be the most time consuming. You have many opinions, tons of formatting issues, and the endless editing and upkeep of the document. It is a pain when you have better things you could be working on. I am a decent writer, but I do consider myself one of the fastest editors. Why? Because I some tricks up my sleeve. And I’m willing to share them with you!

Intermediate User:

    1. Copy, Past, Undo, Redo
      • We’ll start with the classics. Almost all users are familiar with Ctrl+Z for undo, Ctrl+C for copy selected text/area, and Ctrl+V for paste. The ones you may not be as familiar with are Ctrl+X which is cut (so copies and removes), and Ctrl+Y for redo.
    2. Ctrl + Tab and Windows key + tab
      • Switching between PowerPoint, Excel, and Word a lot? These two are key for jumping between windows. Ctrl + Tab is a simple way that displays the program icon. Widows key + tab does the same thing but in a 3-D way showing a preview of each window. Both effective, one is just a bit fancier and the keys are right next to each other.
    3. Windows key + L
      • This is the shortcut to lock your computer. I don’t know about your office, but if you walk away and leave your computer unattended, it may get hacked. And by hacked I mean playful IM messages or emails sent by “you” by a inconspicuous user. Always safe than sorry unless you like to be the butt of a joke… or worse.

Advanced User:

  1. Ctrl + arrow
    • While in a word document, don’t you reread and find spelling errors, grammar fixes, and other changes that are in the middle of a paragraph? This one lets you jump around the document without using the mouse. Ctrl + arrow left or right jumps to the next word. I love this keyboard shortcut. It allows you to insert a word into a sentence quickly!
  2. Ctrl + Shift + arrow
    • My personal favorite, this extension to the above has completely changed the way I type. I hardly ever use the mouse with these shortcuts – so much so that even with my touch screen it’s less efficient. It allows you to jump between words while selecting the words. Fantastic for replacing a word or phrase, cut and pasting a section to another location, and
  3. Windows key + arrow
    • This one is the keyboard equivalent of the Windows 7 drag to an edge and and snap to size feature. It is great for viewing two windows side by side for multitasking or rekeying. What takes this shortcut to the next level though is that it works when windows are off your screen. So if that top bar is in a place you can’t grab with your mouse, you can rescue it to your main screen.
  4. Ctrl + ;
    • This one is a winner for those PMs that struggle in Excel (or Google Sheets), this one will enter in today‘s date. Want to quickly denote a task as completed today? Ctrl + ; will quickly enter 05/31/2016.

Exploring a New City: Trying New Things Starting with Your Taste Buds

I feel so inspired by this picture! It reminds me of this lavender mini donut from a food truck I bumped into in Belmar, Denver, CO. It was delicious and fluffy!! I explore a lot of different foods when I travel, and so why not explore at home too!

I hate to visit chain restaurants (i.e. Chili’s or Panera Bread); not because they aren’t good food and great service but I can get it anywhere. And if I’m someplace for a limited time, yoIu’ve got to learn more about the local flavors. You’ve got to see what “spicy” means to the town. Here are a few things I always try that are my favorite.

  1. Pizza
    • Duh. I mean, are they a city with pride in Chicago deep dish or New York thin crust type? Personally I like the thin crust fresh balled mozzarella ones, but you can never turn down pizza. Even when traveling with my gluten-free colleagues there are great options out there. Yum!
  2. Wine
    • I’ve traveled to some designated wine country spots (a favorite being Dry Creek in Sonoma, CA) but wine vines grow almost anywhere. I found dessert wines prevalent in a mid-west town. You can learn a lot just by walking the aisle and seeing what is available from local growers as to whether the climate is better for white or red. Interesting!
  3. Sushi
    • You can tell a difference if you are in an ocean bordered state, haha. This is more about supply chain than anything else. It also shows the diversity of the town whether Indian, Malaysian, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, and more lumped together as a generic Asian Fusion cuisine restaurant or not. Or it could be a “foodie” town with noticeable regional categories when you search on Yelp. Fun!
My boss from Texas always does BBQ whenever he travels to gauge the area. What is your favorite?

Defining a New “Fit Break” for Yourself

What is an acceptable excuse to take a break from the daily grind of work? It seems like smokers are the ones that have a craving that is strong enough to demand structured breaks every hour or so. I don’t think the unhealthy habit should be a precedent! I love how FitBit buzzes for 250 steps every hour. It forces you to get up and away from your desk, stretch, and relax your eyes and brain.

Breaks at work are really healthy for you (and mandatory by law in cases), and a mental and/or physical stretch will help you focus on your work better. Here are a few things that taking a break can do for you.

  1. Focus
    •  Do you multitask? It’s likely that what you sat down to do at 8 am isn’t done because you got distracted by other items, people, or emails. If you take a break, it means you put down all of the tasks. And when you come back refreshed, you are ready to start tackling only one thing and one thing alone again.
  2. Retain information
    • Slow down! When you take the time to think things over, you can consider possibilities or perspectives that you might not have realized on first glance. You can mull it over in the shower, hand-write it down, or even forget about it to look at it with fresh eyes. It can help you remember things better.
  3. Maintain emotional intelligence
    • Everyone can have their patience tested and risk hitting their limit. To keep a level head, you have to step back and relax. Different people recharge in different ways. Whether you prefer to vent to a friend, scream at a pillow, or meditate, it is important to step back and reflect on yourself to gain back your mental energy.

How many breaks and how often? There are many theories on that, like the 4-Day Work Week and the 50-10 rule.

Scope Management Part 3: Have Plans for Future Project Ideas

Continuing from Part 1 and Part 2, my advice for scope management goes beyond defining the scope of the project. It must cover what happens if scope creep happens after the initial planning steps. If you want a project to stay on the track of success that was started, you have to have a plan. You must be able to answer these three questions… before they occur!
  • What happens if something new comes up or something comes up that can’t be ignored?
    • Does it immediately affect the project and put everything else on hold until this new problem or idea is resolved? Hopefully not. You want to be able to maintain the original plan until proven otherwise so make sure that everyone knows their task and keeps to it.
  • How will change be handled?
    • Okay, so something new has comes up. Is it important enough to implement and change course or not? We don’t know, but the PM might know if it can fit into the plan. 🙂 Make sure you’ve defined the person or log that keeps track of these items as they come up.
  • What is the process to determine the time and cost that new scope will pose?
    • Once it’s on the list, due diligence can be done just like the original successful scope evaluation. Then they can be discussed by stakeholders at appropriate meetings to make the right decisions. Without a strong process, the power that people have over project success will continue and you can complete milestones on time and on budget!

Scope Management Part 2: Real Life Examples of Keeping Down the Scope Creep

Today’s advice is about writing it down. There is lots of writing to do during a project, but I think the most happens at the planning stage. When you are evaluating scope early on in the project, you are starting fresh. At this point, your job is not to reel them in. You need to simply write down everything that comes up. Even the dumb ideas, the un-doable ideas, and the small ideas. On this recent project of mine, I ran into three situations that I was glad I had written down what I heard, thought, and noted so that I could reference it later.
  • In one case, it was a lower level employee had an idea to simplify her job. It sparked an organizational need that I wrote down to explore further. They had 10 different documents that were all lumped into one. Why? It made it cumbersome to sort through everything when we could create separation; a great idea but did it fit in the scope? It was a small change to management but made a big difference down the line and it quickly took a back-burner to other items that needed more attention. It didn’t resurface until the final list was reviewed, it was still there even though it was far down the list. But because it was well documented it was easy to readdress the need and the idea was raised in priority enough to make it into the phased project. This need may have come up again later in the project when it wouldn’t be as easy to add, so because I had notes to bring it up again before it was completely off the table, a valuable scope item was defined.
  • In another case, we were at the final stage of the planning phase where certain scope ideas were being tabled to future releases. The important items were the accepted items and the high risk scope. Sometimes you don’t want to rehash the items far down the list due to time constraints. However, we reviewed all items, and the nods in the room were good for two reasons. One, they were easy decisions, “yes, this item doesn’t meet the scope requirements” for everyone to agree on. Having unanimous agreement is encouraging for everyone. And second, I got a smile from the submitter in that she appreciated the recognition. Her idea wasn’t forgotten. It wasn’t pointless. It just wasn’t in this project. By her facial experession, it was obvious that it meant something to her for her idea to not be lost and that I remembered even that issue. That is key because now, she has confidence in me that I won’t lose other things throughout the project.
  • The last case we ran into was the dangerous assumption. Maybe I assume we don’t need it, or they assume we can do something with little to no risk. It is never as easy as simply the level of importance on issues. It can be frequency of the need, risk, price (time or money or both), or any number of things. There is a whole methodology in project management to assess value of each scope item. So the final review isn’t, “oh can we just add this little thing”. Don’t assume what it takes to complete something; write down what’s promised so assumptions don’t fall through the cracks.

Have a Beer! Why You Should Enjoy Yourself while Traveling on Business

Okay, I’m from a microbrew hub in Boulder and Denver Colorado area so when I travel and am seeking out a beer, I want something other than a Coors that I can get, well, anywhere.When in Iowa I enjoyed the beer below, and in Ohio I tried the holiday seasonal beers of Great Lakes and Southern Tier. It’s a treat to try the new flavors, hang with friends, and enjoy a nice cold brew while on the road.

  • Chemically relax
    • Beer (and other alcoholic beverages) have alcohol that impair your senses by relaxing your nerves and slowing you down. When you’re on the road traveling you have a lot of stress so looking to alcohol as an induced way to reduce stress isn’t always a bad thing. Travel takes its toll on you so I think you can take all the help you can get to feel refreshed the next day. Of course, do use moderation, in travel and beer. 🙂
  • Socialize
    • If you are out on the town getting tipsy in a unknown area, make sure to bring a friend. Especially women, don’t drink alone! For many reasons, but showing others your non-business side can sometimes ease the tension at work when you return. Makes you seem more human and you can connect on something other than the project you’re working on.
  • Support local
    • As you might have read in my coffee post, I’m a big fan of small businesses. Drinking the microbrew at a pub near you instead of the conglomerate at a restaurant chain is supporting two startups at once. You get learn about the place you’re visiting on a whole new level and that’s not something you can get at home.
If you drink, make sure to be safe and don’t drink and drive! There’s a hotel bar, walking, or a fridge in your room. Be safe!

Successful Scope Management Part 1: Be Excited!!!!

Scope creep is one of the most dreaded pitfalls of project management. It can turn any project into a late, expensive, and unhappy situation for all parties. So it’s important to communicate and draw the line when you need to. I experienced successful scope management on a recent project – we caught risks early, planned on some changes, and made decisions to nix other changes. We are on track, on budget, and on time so far! Here are some lessons I’ve learned from this successful management of scope, in a three part series!
The first part of project planning is the analysis of business needs. Early on in the project, ideas are flowing. “What about this?” “Wouldn’t that be cool?” “Oh, can we do this?” The excitement is there about a world of possibilities. This excitement is key!
  • Is everyone excited, or just you? Excitement is contagious and so if it’s just the management team or the younger crowd that’s excited, let them talk about it! Share it around so that you can’t hear the Debbie Downer or Derrick Doubter anymore. You need to get as many people as possible on-board and enthused early on for the best results later on.
  • Excitement has momentum and the peak of it is typically at the beginning. Before all of the decisions and change, it is just the familiar coming . It’s like Santa Claus and little kids; better be good for goodness sake! You can’t let that wonderment die before Christmas arrives. You need to keep reminding them of all the surprises that will make their lives easier with the new software.
  • And lately, it makes your job more fun! It will keep you motivated and working hard if your client is excited about coming to the status calls to hear how things are going. If you can keep the “What’s new?” attitude going, you will face smiles at every meeting. And let me tell you, that pays off. We all want to love our jobs, right?

When You’re Leading And Stuck: 3 Ways To Manage Your Projects When You’ve Hit a Wall

You know the feeling. You’re in charge, at the center of the universe, and you’re lost. You’re project has derailed. You don’t know what the next move should be but you can’t let your peers know that. There is a science to getting yourself and your team back on track. Here’s 3 steps to get you started.
  1. Stop what you’re doing
    • You’re obviously not doing something wrong. If the project is not on track then that’s a pretty good indicator that your future plans (that follow the same thought process) are also going to get derailed. Don’t try to doggy-paddle and fix along the way; pause everything before continuing!
  2. Look around you
    • When a door closes, a window opens, right? The obvious and easy path is no longer available but you do have options. Take a look, ask around, and reassess the situation. You’ll be able to determine the best next step – you’re a star Project Manager, right?
  3. Make a list
    • Take inventory and redefine your critical path. Just like a itinerary on vacation, there is a set time on the shortest route to get from point A to point B on a map. Okay, you want to take a scenic detour but know that if you’re rained out one day and have to make up time, that optional route is nixed. Projects are the same way; know the fastest way to completion, even if you aren’t taking it right now.

Fixing Micromanagers: How to manage your manager without telling them to F*** Off

I can’t take the “On this bullet you need to change this word to this one instead.” micromanaging conversations. Seriously, who can learn to do something better next time if all the feedback you get is at the “capitalization of a letter” level? Don’t you want to just tell micromanagers to just go do it themselves if they think their way is better?

Micromanagers are tough to work for and it takes tact to “manage up”. There are definitely rude signals you can try to send them but they never seem to work. And I’ll admit, in my past I have tried showing disinterest by leaning back in my chair, avoiding eye contact or interrupting. When someone is focused on the details, they can’t get their head above the weeds to notice let alone change their methodology. Micromanagers just keep on going, line by line, slide by slide, not giving any notice to the obvious signals of “stop micromanaging me! It’s not working!”.

So what else can you do? Try to feed your micromanager’s need for control by handing them micromanaging opportunities so that they stay away from the other things. Here are few ideas I’ve tried that may work for you too.

  1. Tell them
    • I’m serious, tell them they have a problem. Usually they already know about it. Really. They know they have room for improvement but like any unconscious bad habit, it is hard to fix it. Work with them on creating a secret signal to notify them when something is going wrong. Ask them what they think was done well instead of what needs to be fixed. Or, (my favorite) tell them they can only ask questions instead of statements.
  2. Give them control in other ways
    • It is obvious that having both hands on the problem is what it takes for micromanagers to feel they are making a difference. Before they come to you asking for trouble, I mean, asking to help, you can offer first. Give them something to pick apart that isn’t your pride and joy or main project. Or give them a task that only they can do like asking his/her boss for something that benefits your both.
  3. Act it out
    • Try to put yourself in their shoes and imagine what it would be like to manage you. If you pretend to be the boss, would you also micromanage? Maybe you can learn a quirk of your own that is triggering your boss’s micromanaging. If your boss just acts like the angry receiver of news instead of warning you about them, you learn faster.
I hope that helps! Good luck!