3 Little Secrets of Exceeding Expectations


This article explains about factors that lead to exceeding expectation in your activities (either personal or professional). This puts your life in a traffic free express way! After understanding the 3 little secrets for exceeding expectation & once you started implementing them then no one can stop your growth by any means!

cloud_catching.jpgWhatever be your level in your organization, every time when you hear the word “Exceed expectations” from your manager, do you think it is a kind of cloud catching exercise for you? This feeling will be there when you have confusion on what really needs to be done to exceed expectation.

Just by hearing the term “Exceeding Expectations”, you get the general meaning that “over and above what is expected”. Don’t go beyond this simplest & straight forward meaning. If you start thinking too much about the term, you end up in doing ‘tread mill’ i.e. running in the same place & not going anywhere.

First and foremost step for anyone to exceed the expectation is to know what is expected. Expectations changes from time to time based on performed activities & experience. Expectation level can go down or go up from time to time.

Expected behavior is the grey area which is mostly revealed only during performance review session. This makes the entire process of achieving exceed expectation harder.

When a manager sets expectations it is based on team member’s experience, skill and knowledge in overall work or in a particular task.

When manager decides goals, he documents and communicates only the expected outcome. The expected behavior is not explicitly discussed with team member. During performance review discussions, tug of war happens over the expected behavior as it is mostly subjective in nature.

Manager & team member need to analyze alignment of expectations with the high-level project goals.

Note: Though references in the below text talks about interactions between a team member and a manager, the term ‘expectation’ is applicable to all & not specific to one particular activity, hence you can apply these ideas to any activity. Also, degree of individuals’ skill varies from one person to another & this text doesn’t talk about how they can improve these skills as it is in an individual’s hand.

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Three main factors that decides ‘exceeding expectations’ for an employee (either it is a team member or manager) are – Proactive, Effective, Creating visibility. All three are interlinked as one helps the other and they share certain common elements.

Being proactive is the basic behavior expected on every assigned activity. In many ways you can exhibit this factor –

a) From childhood, we are trained in such a way that we simply wait for instructions. This is real enemy for exceeding expectation. Even you know how to do, if you wait for your manager to tell then it will not bring you up above the expectation level. You need to start performing activities without prompting or at least you can inform your manager that you are doing it.

b) You need to start assuming responsibility in the absence of someone (either manager or peer)

c) As Einstein said “one cannot solve the problems at the same level at which it was created”. You always need to understand the big picture which helps in identifying issues before hand.

d) You need to avoid mistakes either by following existing standards/processes set in the project or by creating your own standards/processes. This gives an excellent way to project you as a disciplined person.

e) Whenever you encounter with a problem, you should not stop at that point and stare at your manager with blank face. You need to move from problem oriented mindset to solution oriented mindset, in that way you can identify & provide possible solutions or workarounds for the situation.

Effectiveness is another important factor that makes you to exceed the set expectations. You can bring effectiveness mainly through practice & disciplined approaches. Here are few areas where effectiveness gives more weightage to expectations

a) In different decision-making scenarios – it can be a decision-making for general solution approach or a strategic decision-making or in an ambiguous/pressure situation. Usually work will be smooth and we encounter ambiguous or pressure situations once in a while, but behaviors shown in those situations has long-lasting effect in the organization history.

b) Effectiveness in activity management has greater value in deciding where you stand in the expectation scale. Following a procedural way in estimating time required, balancing personal & professional life, planning and organizing activities will bring you up in the scale.

c) Communication is integral part of whole expectation cycle from setting it till fulfillment. Effective communication happens when you understand things to be done in one (or few) round of explanation.

d) Others will look at you if you start implementing action items (sometimes it is corrective actions too) as many lacks the skill of following up the action items. In this way you can make yourself stand out in the crowd.

e) Self awareness – Though I mentioned it as last point, but this is having equal credit in securing high score in expectation levels. The one who understood his strengths and weaknesses can perform activities effectively. You help others in your strong areas & get help from others in the weak areas. In this way, you will complete the job within given timelines.

Creating visibility is the third factor for exceeding expectation.

a) Visibility creation is in your hands & it is not in the size of activity that you are performing. You can make everyone look at you the way you do it.

b) You can gain confidence of your higher officials by showcasing goodness in the work you performed & by the way you can also grab new opportunities with that.

c) Again, effective communication decides the level of visibility that you are creating. You need to use every given opportunity as visibility creation test & use your full potential in doing that.

d) Whenever you are included in a discussion or in performing an activity, everyone around you needs to feel value addition you make to that discussion/activity.

e) Having a relationship is not just enough; you need to have a positive relationship that enables you to influence people positively. With positive relationship, your acceptance will be widespread & people will help you without ego or grudge.

Roles and responsibilities of a Project Manager


Leadership & Project Management Champions

Project ManagerOften, I see number of web searches made on this topic. So, I thought of presenting my views on the same.

The below four lines would be the starting sentences of a typical project team meeting.

“Is every one there?” Manager asked to his team in meeting.

Answer “Yes” came in asynchronously from all different voices.

“Is everything fine? Anyone facing any issues in their project objectives?” This is manager’s voice.

One member raised the voice and told “I have one issue regarding the database design”

………….. And it goes on for an hour.

Why am I presenting the dialogs at the first place to explain the role & responsibilities of Project Manager?

In the above conversation between PM and team, we understood project monitoring role of the PM. Actually, the role & responsibilities of a Project Manager is little complex and needs to be explained elaborately in clear terms…

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Agile Estimation – Story Points and Ideal Days


In Agile, estimating the project duration requires the estimation of the size to happen in first place. Size estimation of a user story or a feature or the entire project can be done either by story points or ideal days. Mike Cohn dealt this in great length in his book “Agile Estimating and Planning”.

Team estimates the size based on their experience (compared to expert judgement in PMBOK), analogy (compared to analogous estimation) or splitting a big story into smaller pieces and estimating it (compared to decomposition in PMBOK).

Let us see very high level overview of these two agile estimation methods:

Story points – Story points will be assigned to each user story based on its nature expressed by the team (big/small, complex/simple, risky/straight-forward, etc). Story points are relative i.e. simple user story carries 5 points, complex one (twice that of simple one) carries 10 points.

Ideal days – Ideal days are ideal number of days taken for a user story based on the assumption that the team works on the user story and only that user story (without any interruption).

In general, Story points are widely used as a measure of size in Agile but it is left to the team which one they want to use – Story points or Ideal days – based on their need.

What methods & techniques are used in Project Scoping?


One of my blog reader asked me following question – “identify the principles, methods and techniques used for scoping a project?” In reply I wrote a mail explaining all the methods & techniques that is generally practiced for scoping of project. I am sharing the mail content here for everyone’s benefit.

Scoping a project involves two step process – gathering requirements & defining the scope with collected information.
Before I mention about the principles, methods & techniques for scoping, let me present some of my views about Scoping in Project:
  • Project Scope should cover everything that satisfies the customer need
  • Arriving final approved scope is very challenging task among all the activities in Project Management
  • Defining & Managing Scope is the backbone for Project Management
  • It is not a single person’s activity & it involves a group of people mainly project stakeholders. Lot of group interactions will be carried out during the requirement gathering & defining scope
  • Scoping is so vital which affects all other important factors in Project like schedule (hence delivery), cost, resources and risks
  • Generally high level of scope is available as part of Project Charter
  • Enough time need to be given to prepare & review for project scope before approval. Also any scope change after approval is going to affect the Project’s outcome
  • It is not necessary that entire project scope should be defined & available at the start of a project. It is progressively elaborated.
Requirements gathering uses various elicitation (data gathering) techniques to document exact need of the customer. Some of the group elicitation techniques are:
1. Facilitated workshops – An elicitation technique using focused sessions that bring key cross-functional stakeholders together to define product requirements
2. Focus groups – An elicitation technique that brings together pre-qualified stakeholders and subject matter experts to learn about their expectations and attitudes about a proposed product, service, or result
3. Group creativity techniques – Techniques like Brainstorming, nominal group technique, mind-mapping, affinity diagram, Multicriteria decision analysis are used to gather the requirements & define the scope
4. Group decision-making techniques – Decision on gathered information arrived using analytic hierarchy process, voting/democratic methods. Final decision will be arrived by any one of the below methods – unanimity, majority, plurality, dictatorship.
Inputs from subject matter experts(SME) plays a major role in the requirements gathering. Here are some techniques that involves SME’s:
1. Expert judgment – Judgment provided based upon expertise in an application area, knowledge area, discipline, industry, etc., as appropriate for the project scoping.
2. Interviews – A formal or informal approach to elicit information from stakeholders by talking to them directly. Different question types (like open-ended, close-ended, etc) are used to gather the requirements
3. Questionnaires and surveys – Written sets of questions designed to quickly accumulate information from a large number of respondents
Other methods to scope the project is to perform analysis on available information.
1. Document analysis – An elicitation technique that analyzes existing documentation and identifies information relevant to the requirements
2. Product analysis – For projects that have a product as a deliverable, it is a tool to define scope that generally means asking questions about a product and forming answers to describe the use, characteristics, and other the relevant aspects of what is going to be manufactured
3. Alternatives generation – A technique used to develop as many potential options as possible in order to identify different approaches.
4. Context diagrams – A visual depiction of the product scope showing a business system (process, equipment, computer system, etc.), and how people and other systems (actors) interact with it
Prototyping is creating models of deliverables help in understanding the need & articulate the requirements. Sometimes requirements gathering is performed by observation of tasks being carried out & noting down the processes, pain points and exact user steps
Here are the pointers for further reading:
Requirement Elicitation Techniques – http://www.umsl.edu/~ycnx6/  (Retrieved on 01/06/2014)
Ten Requirements Gathering Techniques – http://tynerblain.com/blog/2006/11/21/ten-requirements-gathering-techniques/  (Retrieved on 01/06/2014)
Elicitation Techniques for Processes, Rules, and Requirements – http://tynerblain.com/blog/2007/09/13/elicitation-techniques-2/  (Retrieved on 01/06/2014)
Analytic Hierarchy Process – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Analytic_hierarchy_process  (Retrieved on 01/06/2014)
Of course you need to go through PMBOK 5th Edition as reference to get universal definitions.

Key Leadership Skill – Competency


No human being will work hard at anything unless they believe that they are working for competence. – William Glasser

After my induction in my first job, first work assignment I got was to help my corporate trainer in a training program. Trainer sent me a participants question paper & asked me to print 30 copies of it.

The problem was – I didn’t have enough skill to take print out – I don’t know how to connect my machine to printer, how to print a document and even I don’t know where the printer is situated. I was so shy tell him I don’t know this job or ask him right questions to do the activity. I stayed late in the evening & do something about it, but my mind filled with fear & I was not ready to face the trainer next day without completing the job.

I took time-off next day & returned the job the day after. I was hiding here and there to escape from the trainer. During lunch, he met me and asked me “why did you do like this?” I stood in front of him quietly. He told me “If you don’t know the job, tell you don’t know it & ask for help. People will help if it is possible or if it is so urgent, they will get help from others in right time. You wasted my time” & went off.

Though printing is a simple activity, it requires certain basic & sufficient knowledge and skill to produce the printouts. I can read books to get basic knowledge but that is not enough. I need to get the skill to perform the activity by doing it or by trying to do it. Like printing, every activity requires the sufficiency in skills to produce the right outcome.

Sufficient Knowledge & Skill to perform an activity is called Competency. One of the important factor that divide an experienced from an inexperienced is Competency. In a job, Expected Level of Competency varies based on role & tenure in the job (experience). In Project Management, HR Management closely deals with competency. Competency is one of the required Leadership Skills for leaders which I listed in Leadership Champions – Leadership Rubik Cube.

Let me close this post with apt quote from Roosevelt.

“Whenever you are asked if you can do a job, tell ’em, ‘Certainly I can!’ Then get busy and find out how to do it.”
― Theodore Roosevelt

Project Management Process Driller


Play with PMBOK ITTO – Interactive Mind Map in PDF aligned with PMBOK Guide® – Fifth Edition(English)

Project Management-5thEd – Knowledge Area Wise 

5th KA-wise

Project Management-5thEd – Process Group Wise

5th PG-wise

Project Management Process Driller Based on PMBOK Guide® – Fifth Edition(English)

–> Project Management Process Driller Excel Workbook Link <–

In this Excel workbook, there are 4 sheets.

In first sheet(Name:KAs Vs Process Groups), I presented detailed information of Processes in different Knowledge Areas grouped under five process groups in ready-to-print table format.

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In 2nd Sheet (Name:Drill-down), I presented an interactive drill down which displays ITTO information based on your selection of Process groups & processes within the process group. Here VB Macros are used to make the experience more visually pleasant and greatly understandable.

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We see PMBOK arranged its content based on Knowledge area. So 3rd sheet(Name:Drill-down2) is just a different dimension for the information presented in 2nd sheet. The key driving factor here is Knowledge area. This view helps you to review ITTO PMBOK chapter-wise.

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In fourth sheet(ITTO Drill-down), 191 ITTO in all processes are provided with drill down facility. With this pivot, one can readily get –

Which are all processes using particular ITTO?
Which process group that process belongs to?
Is the given ITTO item a Input or Tool & Technique or Ouput?
In how many processes an ITTO item used?
Is an ITTO item, output to which process & input to how many other processes?

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This excel workbook provided for personal use like PMP Exam Preparation or PM activities & DON’T share this in common forum or web sites. As this one is part of my training guide and project management book

By the way, I one last thing before I close this post: This document is password protected. Use “leadershipchamps” as open password for the document. I prefer keeping it Read-Only to keep the integrity of the excel, so select “Read-Only” button in subsequent dialog that asks for Write Access password. Also, select “Enable content” to enable the Macros. Though I ensured it virus-free, but still I strongly advise you to virus scan before you open the document.

In case you found any errors (or) you have any comments, suggestions or questions, please contact me through my blog

Project Management Process Groups & Processes (PMBOK® 5th Edition)


For long time, I am creating Mind Maps™ for project management coaching activity. Four years back, I presented PMBOK process groups & processes within those process groups for 4th Edition in this post. Now it is time to update the Mind Maps for 5th Edition Change. Click on the Image to view it in HQ. You will get a nice printout on A3 Landscape paper.

Project Management Processes - Process Group-wise

Project Management Processes – Process Group-wise

Project Management Processes - Knowledge Area-wise

Project Management Processes – Knowledge Area-wise

* Note# 1: There could be some typo or presentation errors. Please reply back for any corrections.

* Note# 2: You can use this for personal use (like studying for PMP Exam or PM activities). But don’t share this in common forum or web sites.

Trademarks:

“PMBOK” is a registered trademark of the Project Management Institute, Inc. which is registered in the United States and other nations http://www.pmi.org