Civil Discourse and Communication

Civil Discourse and Communication

Civil Discourse and Communication

The harshness of our current political culture has a way of seeping into all aspects of our lives, and yes, even into our work lives.

I find this shift rather disheartening and even disgusting. Harshness means polarization and that means an almost profound lack of communication, respectful or otherwise.

Simply put, it’s about civil discourse. How we communicate with regard to politics should be the same as when we engage our teams and vice versa.

In far too many situations, standing up for one’s self or opinion is done at the expense of caring for others.

There’s been a lot of focus in self-help circles about authenticity, being true to one’s self. That’s fine in theory but when executed, somewhat ham-fisted. I do not believe that standing up for yourself has to mean running roughshod over everyone else.

I’ve noticed that some of the worst drivers on our roads are those with Baby On Board stickers on their rear windows. If your baby is important to you then we should also expect you to be a very good, cautious driver.

It’s not about using the sticker to shift the responsibility for your children’s safety onto fellow drivers. Seeing that sticker signals to me that you are asking us to care for your children as much as you do. That is absolutely wonderful and we will. But you have to as well. When you see that sticker on a vehicle that just cut you off or roared past you on the inside lane, am I the only one who hopes that the baby is NOT on board at that moment – because the care requested by that sticker is not being exercised by that driver.

That driver is also not being respectful to our fellow citizens. This in turn circles us back to civil discourse.

For example, using your views on global warming as a cudgel rather than an incitement to make the world better, is a good example of how not to get your views heard. It’s not about you, it’s about communicating your message to achieve change.

It’s about how we speak to each other, how we communicate our ideas without slamming other’s ideas or even who they are as a person.

The ‘hows’ of communication always win out over ‘what’ you’re communicating. And in fact, it can ensure you’re being heard far more than the presumed veracity of your arguments.

How does the culture of your teams support civil discourse – respectful disagreement? If you believe it could be better we’d love to support that – info@ksppartnership.com.


A Key to Organizational Focus

A Key to Organizational Focus

A common cause for resource conflict lies in understanding the answer to a deceptively simple question: how much is enough?

A staff member may become an overachiever in an attempt to please his or her boss, or to satisfy their own pride by applying ‘more’ to a project than it deserves.

An electrical engineer may try to make an amplifier “just a bit more sensitive,” or an IT specialist may keep working to get a few more messages per second out of a processor. These are both examples of work that doesn’t deliver any appreciable benefit to the company.

A good project manager must know when to push for more performance and when to stop and move onto the next activity. This type of judgement call is how organizations’ financial and marketplace health either thrive or start a downward spiral.

Measurements and metrics offer everyone clear guidelines for balancing project objectives.

When you offer clear and specific metrics, you enhance the project designer’s ability to develop a project plan that supports the organization.

A favorite framework that accommodates the iterative approach of Agile or Scrum lays out three achievement levels for organizational or project objectives. These include:  minimum, target, and stretch metrics as defined below:

Minimum

Minimum acceptable metrics tell project designers the lowest acceptable value for an objective. They may drop to this measurement under pressure to achieve balance in other areas. By definition, if the project or product cannot meet this minimum criterion, the project should be rejected or abandoned.

Target

The target metric represents the strategic plan’s goals for the area. Once this target is achieved, project designers can focus on other areas. The target metric is the normal, steady-state metric portfolio and project designers should attempt to achieve it.

Stretch

Stretch metrics are objectives the organization strives to achieve to capture innovative ideas or unplanned opportunities. Frequently, these may represent upper limits that the project designer should not exceed to prevent overloading the resource pool. Achieving stretch metrics should not be the norm. If every project designer attempted to achieve stretch metrics, resource shortages would impair the chances of strategic success.

This model can be employed for all of the categories of objectives: schedule, cost, resource, technical, and quality.

Establishing a framework for balanced objectives allows you to distribute resources based on strategic direction, keeping the entire organization moving ahead.

A company has only so many resources. A good project manager ensures that resources saved in one area are more effectively used in another.


A Rose By Any Other Name…

A Rose By Any Other Name… – by Vicki White

Project Manager?  Team Leader? How do they relate?

While the Project Manager oversees and manages the big picture, the Team Leader deals with the nuts and bolts. By being more involved in the day to day work, the Team Leader also develops a more direct knowledge of the personalities of both the team members and the outside sources and conditions that may positively or negatively impact the end product.

Having had the experience of working in both positions in a large corporation, I can speak with some confidence as to the differences and similarities between the two.

As a team leader I was an integral, working member of the team. I was their first “line of defense” and the buffer between them and the project manager and the stakeholders. It was my job to keep them on track, to praise when needed and to escalate issues when it appeared deliverables may be impacted. I felt it was very important, particularly as a woman in a technical field at that time, to maintain a “just one of the guys” attitude with my team. This made it easier for them to be comfortable coming to me with issues. It was my responsibility to make sure the issues were escalated to the Project Manager and also to suggest possible ways in which they could be resolved and determine the cost, if any, associated with those resolutions.

I knew the strengths and weaknesses of each of my team members. Who would enjoy and excel at a knotty problem. Who could quickly crank out code. Who got bored once a solution was found and was then eager to go to the next challenge. Who hid their lack of confidence by using jargon in meetings with the stakeholders. With this knowledge I could juggle and monitor assignments to allow them to excel in their tasks, increasing the likelihood for overall project success.

By knowing and treating the team members as individuals, as people, the team developed a tightly knit bond which was evident in their production.

As a team leader I was still able to remain “in the trenches”, helping with debugging, overseeing testing, and picking up some coding when needed.

Once in the Project Manager role my concentration was on the bigger picture of the entire project’s progress. The Team Leader dealt with the “nuts and bolts” and had more one-on-one contact with each member of the team. While I relied on the Team Leader to identify issues and escalate them to me, it was ultimately my responsibility to make sure the team had what was needed to keep the project moving in a positive direction, whether it was answers from another area or additional personnel.

Sometimes a Project Manager may not have the hands on skill set that a Team Leader most likely has and as a result needs to rely on the Team Leader’s knowledge of the team’s makeup and the individuals’ strengths and weaknesses. Developing trust and confidence in the Team Leader is crucial to a successful project.

Returning to the earlier question of how do they relate? Using a very simplified football analogy, the Team Leader is the quarterback and the Project Manager is the head coach. Both must exhibit leadership to different degrees and in different areas to lead the team to success.


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