Posted by: kerrywills | February 16, 2018

I think in PowerPoint and organize in Excel

I am obsessed with Microsoft Office products to the point where I use them as a way of functioning at work. I see many coworkers who have meetings, discuss items, draw pictures and then translate them into a document format. I tend to use online tools as a way of working. Here are some examples of how I do this…

  • When I am thinking through a concept, picture or story I start working it Microsoft PowerPoint. Because it is online I am able to move around slides, format objects or draw the pictures real-time
  • Whenever I have information to organize, I do in in Microsoft Excel. This could be making lists, comparing different options or running financial calculations
  • I capture key meeting information in a structured format within Microsoft OneNote
  • I have a running Word document open where I capture key activities or prepare agendas or questions for meetings

I believe that these are called “productivity tools” for a reason and find that using them while I work is incredibly efficient (so that I am not rewriting content) and helps me to better organize my thinking and be prepared. Now, the downside is that I am always staring at my laptop. I am curious how others use these tools for productivity.


Posted by: kerrywills | February 9, 2018

Decision making during the game

As I have posted several times before, I coach my son’s basketball team. My son is not the best athlete on the team but what I am most proud of is his decision making skills. As the point guard, he has to understand the game and what is happening and make real-time decisions which can including taking a shot if he has it open, passing if someone has a better shot or resetting the team if they need to do that. This requires the ability to recognize the situation, know his team members and make the best decision at that time to maximize the success of the team.

This approach to decision making applies to our project work as well. As leaders, we need to understand our team and situation and be able to make the best possible decisions for each situation.

  • In some cases, we can delegate to the team members who have expertise and skills (i.e. pass the ball)
  • In some cases, we need to take charge of the situation and force decisions or actions (i.e. take the shot)
  • In some cases, we need to pause and regroup the team when there are challenges (i.e. reset the team)

In order to do this we need to be aware of what is happening on the project, know and trust our team members and be able to make sound decisions.

Posted by: kerrywills | February 2, 2018

Being considerate

I had a work offsite in Denver, Colorado this week and took the Monday morning flight (which is never fun because it seems to be the busiest travel day of the week). We got on the plane and I got the honor of being in the middle seat where the airlines clearly were trying to maximize the number of people by pushing the seats close together. The row in front of me was the emergency exit aisle and so those people had probably 2-3 feet more legroom than the rest of us. However the main in front of me still decided to recline back fully into my lap. Now, I know that he can do that with his seat but it seemed to be incredibly inconsiderate to me who now has my laptop shoved between his head rest and my chest trying to do work. And, of course, I did not want to be “that guy” also so I did not recline my seat into someone else’s lap.

Despite my few gentle pushes on his seat he did not budge and I spent four hours trapped in my seat contemplating what it meant to be considerate.  I think the answer is that we need to recognize that there are other people and when we are fortunate (e.g. have extra leg room) we should consider other people as well and look to make their experiences a little bit better (e.g. not push back into the person behind them). BTW I am sure that he is also the same guy who takes both armrests and pulls on the seat in front of him to get up!

Posted by: kerrywills | January 26, 2018

Playing “Calendar Battleship”

As a kid I used to play the game Battleship where there is a grid and each player has to hide their ships. The other player then guesses a grid location to see if they hit or miss a ship.

I feel like I am still playing this game when I manage my calendar. My week is usually filled with meetings and because I can’t sit still for more than two straight meetings I usually block off time between them. Oftentimes I will get invites from other people during the week even though my calendar is completely blocked up (which they can see when scheduling the meetings).

In essence people are trying to “hit my battleship” by picking a time on my calendar and hoping it is not a critical meeting that I can’t miss but rather one of these ‘buffer’ times. Now the onus is on me to either accept it (and ruin my rule of having no more than two straight meetings) or to tell them I can’t make it (thus reiterating the blocked off time that they see when they scheduled the meeting).

It’s rough waters out there when trying to manage a calendar.

Posted by: kerrywills | January 19, 2018

Doing the fundamentals

Both my children play sports – soccer and basketball. What I have learned watching them play and coaching sports is that fundamentals are critical. For my basketball team I spend much of practice working on the basics of passing, dribbling, rebounding and defense. Games are usually won by the team who do these things well. The same can be said in a professional environment. For project managers fundamentals can be many things…

  • Keeping plans updated with the right dates, % complete, and owners
  • Sending a status to stakeholders to inform them of progress and what is coming up
  • Following up on open items, action items, issues and risks – often these don’t get documented, maintained or the dates go past with no update
  • Knowing the details of the projects they are managing

If project managers aren’t on top of the fundamentals, then the project team won’t have the direction, organization and communications required to be successful. I recognize that projects can be complex and people get their calendars filled with meetings, but I am also adamant that without focusing on these basics that a project has a low chance of success. Therefore we need to recognize the challenges in doing the basics – if it is time, then consider adding a resource to manage open items or look to delegate work.  PMs are the quarterback for their team so they can’t say that they don’t have time to call plays, tell the receivers where to go or hold on to the football because “they are too busy playing the game.”

I am not sure what some people think it means to be a project manager but lets get back to fundamentals! Well at least the “fun” part and not the “mental” part.

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