Failing to effectively end projects can have high but hidden costs. Some companies are so buried in the latest and hottest project or in “fighting fires” that they fail to close projects constructively. In doing so they not only miss opportunities to generate extra value for the company and everyone involved, but also to maintain the quality of management information (financial and other types) and prevent or limit cost overruns. When projects aren’t formally ended some workers may go on working on them unaware that it is time to move on to other work. Other workers may find reason to continue to charge the project for their time, especially if they run into a slack period without enough work to keep them busy (which happens naturally in many product development organizations or in highly seasonal work). This is especially likely where “charging overhead” has a negative stigma attached to it and project charge codes are not shut off. There are many ways that project endings provide value, however, if they are timely, well planned, and properly executed . Here are a bunch of them: Read the rest of this entry »
In the defense contracting world budgeting is typically done under a rigorous “earned value management system” (EVMS) that usually includes keeping aside 10% of the budget for use as a “management reserve”. This can then be doled out in bits and pieces as needed to fund changes in what needs to be done (“scope” in the project-organized world) and solutions for problems that arise during the course of business. It also allows people within the organization to cope with unexpected changes without feeling like they are endangering the project or organization when they have to ask for more funding. They all still have to do what they can to stay within budget, but it gives the appearance that upper management accepts that unexpected changes happen and are going to be reasonable in helping people dealing with them. That’s not how budgets are typically presented in the rest of the business world, however. Read the rest of this entry »
Back in a 2011 Forbes article , a book about psychopathology (“The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry”, by Jon Ronson) revealed that around 4% of corporate CEO’s are sociopaths. (Sociopath: One who is affected with a personality disorder marked by antisocial behavior – www.thefreedictionary.com) In case you were wondering, the term sociopath is often used interchangeably with the term psychopath, but clinically is used to refer to an antisocial person who became that way from being brought up in an antisocial or criminal subculture, while a psychopath has somewhat different personality traits and a condition that is often inherited. (Psychopath: A person with an antisocial personality disorder, manifested in aggressive, perverted, criminal, or amoral behavior without empathy or remorse – www.thefreedictionary.com). The most severe among psychopaths sometimes become serial killers or other types of criminal, and many wind up in jail but, more importantly, the less severe cases are much harder to spot without extended interaction and observation. Thinking on this made me wonder if the seemingly predatory behavior of some corporations isn’t indicative of psychopathology at the top. Needless to say, people with this disorder can be very harmful to their employer and the people around them, and often behave in ways business managers, coworkers, and investors would not appreciate, so how can you avoid hiring them in the first place? Read the rest of this entry »
Hypocrisy can be real or apparent. Hypocrisy occurs when a member of management contradicts or ignores management direction without consequence. It can be appearance rather than reality when communications between management and employees are lacking, though this is just as damaging as if it was really occurring. Poor communications leave employees to speculate about what management is thinking, planning, and doing, and why they are being given the directions they’re receiving. If these things (who, what, when, how, and especially why) are not communicated clearly and routinely, workers will start guessing and passing around perceptions and ideas as to what management is planning or doing, and it is easy for the speculations to become pessimistic and negative. The fact that a management team allows an information gap to exist between itself and employees will be the first strike against it, and one or more managers ignoring or flaunting the directions the management team is giving employees will sour the company culture in potentially disastrous ways that can undermine change initiatives as well as ongoing operations. Read the rest of this entry »
A YouTube posting by a group to which I subscribe (BigThink) caught my attention: Jeff DeGraff presenting a talk on what makes organizations high performers, including the nature of personality types and management styles. Many organizations fail to select the best managers but would do much better if they studied this and similar messages. I recommend viewing it, and welcome your comments.
Thanks for reading and commenting. — Tim
The value produced by managers is difficult to quantify and varies greatly. For the most part, the value a manager produces depends a lot on their personality, which is a product of their attitudes about people, the work at hand, and their general background and experience. Since the essence of the job is the coordination of the efforts of others, communicating effectively and maintaining the commitment of others who will get the work done are of critical importance. In corporations it is rare for a manager to produce much product-related value by themselves. The real value of management is in uniting people who know what to do in coördinated efforts that multiply the value of individual results. Other ways a manager can contribute are in development of strategy, bringing in outside knowledge including customer and business environment-related information, removing inhibitors to productivity, and generally enabling people to contribute to the satisfaction of customers and the success of the business, however they might be able to do this. It is important to recognize that approach is an individual thing, and different managers will have different ways of dealing with people and issues that may be equally effective but strikingly different to the observer. Read the rest of this entry »
My finicky cat teaches me a lesson in marketing. I have had many cats in my life, and have learned to interpret their unspoken (and “spoken”) language pretty well. My wife gets a laugh our of my verbalization of what the cats are thinking, and I’m honest about it – the cats supply the material via their sounds and body language and I just express it in words. Every morning my wife gets up and gives the cats some canned food, and it’s an “important ritual”, especially for our nervous Persian cat Chloe. At 6:30AM Chloe paces the floor and bed impatiently, walking on us, bumping us with her head and sometimes poking my wife’s sleeping face with a fluffy paw. (Remember: Dogs have owners but cats have staff!) As we arise Chloe alternately sits in the bedroom doorway and paces up and down the hall, waiting for that expected move toward the kitchen where the food is. Looking at this cat haughtily surveying us from the doorway, I said to my wife the first words I could think of that expressed the cat’s thoughts: “If I want it, you’re late“. My wife burst out laughing, but I instantly realized that this illustrates a key principle of successful marketing. Read the rest of this entry »