Tag Archives: Project management

Random Thoughts: Communication, Projects and Problem Solving

I have been thinking about processes… We find something – communicate – interpret – execute then either approve or revisit (PDCA). Sometimes it is true project work and other times it is day-to-day operations. When I think of how we could fail, there is a cartoon that comes to mind that I was shown in one of my MBA classes. There are different iterations of this image but they all are fundamentally the same.

Communicating effectively can be a difficult one to tackle. Half of it is the sender and then you have a receiver that needs to translate what you just said. I know I struggle with this from time to time. I have met a few people in my lifetime that have done exceptionally well with this. The common thing they do is repeat the message back. “Here is what I heard you say…” in their own words. When we write emails or issue work a lot of this can be lost. For critical to success functions we need some sort of direct communication such as an office visit or a phone call to get and give that 360 communication cycle.

While heading down this topic path, I could not resist a comical approach to how the meetings take place. Imagine all of the meetings for projects that you have been a part of. The tasks that are asked and what we are capable of doing are two very different things. Along the same lines of the cartoon above, view the video below. It is easy to see how one idea can go so many different directions and the idea never gets fully realized.

Another topic that I have been thinking a lot about since my visit to Toyota is how we problem solve. Often we have an issue, then call a problem-solving meeting, identify several things it could be, and slap a whole list of action items against it. Sort of like buckshot when you hunt. I only need to get directionally correct and I should hit the target. Sometimes the root cause is not what we really want to hear. It may not be an ah-ha moment and is something as simple as we have good processes in place but didn’t follow them. The root cause may be self-inflicted. Through the solutions phase we need to address the root cause – own our mistakes – and correct that one. That does not mean we need a jillion checks to check our checks. That only creates more work and greater opportunity for us to miss something with the extra work we created just to cover the one thing we missed. Granted checks are not always bad and can be a good precursor or way to see something failing prior to it actually halting a process. When we see the problem at its root we need to fix why that item happened which leads to lots of other symptoms or results. That does not mean we should not create contingency plans for continuity; we just need to be cognoscente as to what we are really gaining. I know I have led events where I facilitated scattershot approaches to cover everything under the sun. I would challenge us (myself included) to simply, standardize, be accountable and repeat.


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let’s gantt to it (a non-trad to do list)

A (traditional) Gantt chart is a type of bar chart, developed by Henry Gantt in the 1910s, that illustrates a project schedule. With the chart, you are able to see the tasks that need to take place for a project to be completed. With this chart, as timelines change, you can adjust the project and take advantage slack time to maintain the course. Or in the event that the project is challenged based on critical due dates not being met to recalculate when the next expected date of completion is. (Wikipedia)

Now, many of us have daily to-do lists that are scattered from a messy pile on the desk corner, sticky notes on the pc monitor, and the Microsoft Outlook task list. I do not think you can remedy every one of those 6-22-2013 11-43-08 AMas there will always be the quick “do it” reminders. I really like the Outlook task list (and reminders option) to accomplish those. For the 30 day plans, 60 day plans and 90 day plans I have found that a modified Gantt Chart works very well for this.

Consider that a normal work month has several smaller projects. I take each activity and the tasks associated with it spacing them out for a mini time line. Then, skipping a line I start a new task set. When it is complete I hide the rows. Each day I also know what items I have to get done to stay on task vs. several scattered agendas. At the end of the period, or year I then have a list of things that I accomplished throughout the year.

You can download a template that I have set up here: Gantt To Do List1

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Filed under Business: General