Author Archives: Kimi Ziemski, MBA, PMP, CSM

The “Save” Icon

Category : Project Management

The "Save" Icon

The other day, after speaking on a panel for Chick-Tech, I realized that I was, by at least a decade, the oldest person in the room.  That meant it was also highly likely that I was also the only person in the room who had actively used a tool that every single person in that room sees every day.

A 3.5 inch floppy – or, as many will more likely recognize in graphic form, the ‘Save’ icon.

It reminded me of a time when my step-daughter asked me “what exactly does ‘cc’ mean?”

When I replied that it stood for “carbon copy”, she said that she had always wondered, did we really make carbon copies of things? How, exactly did that work?

That conversation happened years ago – possibly even decades ago.

And remembering that, coupled with the flash of realization the other night, caused me to ask myself an important question – one that we don’t always think to ask ourselves (me included!):

”Are you sure that everyone you are working with understands the same way that you do and why?”


“Why are you sure?”


“Why do you think they see the situation/issue/question the same way that you do?”

Which engenders the question,

“How did you confirm that understanding?”

The odd thing about a meritocracy: building one doesn’t guarantee that the team – or the company – will succeed.  The people who have the maddest technical skills may not be the best at working in a team environment.  The person with the best interpersonal skills may not be able to bridge the gap in a spot crisis when solid (possibly even amazing!) technical skills are needed.

We are not suggesting that implementing Clear Definition, combined with Ownership and Collaborative Spirit, will remove these problems.

We are suggesting  that these three Key Success Parameters will give you a stronger shot at addressing these problems with less stress on the leadership team, the project team, and lastly – but not least – you.

KSP Tip for High Performance: Model the behavior that shows that you do not take common context for granted.  Ask for paraphrased loop-back periodically during discussions with your team members. Encourage and support when they do the same. If you‘re asked, feel free to blame it on me (‘that darned consultant wants us to try this!’). Or, alternatively, you can tell them the story of the ‘Save’ icon and ask:

“How many of you have actually used one of these ‘floppy’ disks?”



Back to Basics

When you work with organizations to help accelerate the productivity and profitability of their project teams there are questions that keep coming up:

‘So this is project management, right? Do you teach scheduling or something?  Can you fix our project management application?’

The long answer is that we work with teams and they become more productive because of how they work together rather than the tools they use as they work together. Project management is the cloak that covers the down and dirty business of changing the behaviors and dynamics within the team.  This is because, as a seasoned project manager, there is an assumption that underlies each team.

The assumption is that they already know the basics of scheduling, estimating and risk management. Well……you know what they say about assumptions.

Regardless of whether you use Agile, eXtreme Lean, Six Sigma or Prince2 as an approach there are some things that remain true.

You need to be able to communicate to your stakeholders.

  • How long will it take?
  • What will it cost?
  • When will it be done?
  • Why might it fail and what can we do about it?
  • Are there possible opportunities to wring other benefits from this work aside even from the stated goals and objectives of this project?

Sometimes you find that even your most fundamental assumption is groundless.  Sometimes you find that, under the extreme time pressure of an ever-faster pace of business, people have lost-forgotten-abandoned some of the basic tools and approaches that would serve them well.

With that in mind, I am delighted that Michael Bender has taken on the challenge and has begun the task of creating micro-lessons – called uLessons on YouTube. These lessons will be taking you back to the basics.  No lesson is very long – you could probably take one or two in and still have time for coffee.

Teams that are on the way to becoming more productive will still actively consider the value of their tools and approaches.

And there are times when a refresher isn’t a bad idea.

Your tip for today: Having the whole team view and discuss the topics of Michael’s uLessons is also a great way to build both Clear Definition and Collaborative spirit. These are two of the four foundational Key Success Parameters. Use this discussion as a way of confirming how your team members each develop their estimates. Is there a best practice that could be standardized? Who on the team can help each other?

So the short answer is ‘No – this isn’t just project management. It’s about how to get your teams to project success.’

If you have a project that is not meeting expectations for two reporting cycles – or more – let us help with our diagnostic and discovery process.

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