Tips for project success

Tips for project success

Whether it's a full Project Management Institute defined project or even a career move, here are a few tips on what you can do to maximize your potential for success. 

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Now What?

Now What?

What are you doing in your organization to put strategy in place that remedies problems, or prepares for your future?
Do you have a strategy on how to solve problems?
Do you have a strategy for which problems deserve attention?
What's next? Now What?

7 Reasons to Replace Email with Collaboration Software

7 Reasons to Replace Email with Collaboration Software

BY TIM EISENHAUER - GET FREE UPDATES OF NEW POSTS → HERE

 

NOTE: Pick up the free PDF version so you can read it later.

Back in 2011 I wrote a blog post about how social networking software is taking over email as the primary means for communication. This is a follow up post that explains why you should now, finally, replace or at least try to reduce how you use email in your business.

In years past, most business professionals would come into the office and check their emails first thing in the morning before starting the day.

However, with the rise of social networks, collaborative tools, and mobile devices, communication has changed.1

Today, email is phasing out and social collaborative software is taking its place.

Internal social networking software has been replacing email f1or business communication in recent years. Whether employees are logging into a community intranet and getting up to speed on the latest conversations, or adding events and meetings to a shared calendar, they are spending more and more time with shared social components outside of their email inboxes.

If you've not yet replaced or augmented email with a social collaborative software, like an intranet platform, here are seven reasons why you should today:

1. You will save tremendous amounts of time

Most business professionals spend way too much time checking email. They are also inundated with email that their inboxes are overflowing. When you log into social collaboration software, you have access to all the updates for your company and projects at one time. You are able to prioritize and respond to what is most urgent immediately.

The average corporate user spends about 1/4 of the workday answering and sending email according to McKinsey's 2012 Social Economy report.

 

 

As high as 25% to 30% of all time spent on email could be saved if the main channel for business communication in a company was moved over to a social platform, according to McKinsey (McKinsey Quarterly, November 2012).

2. You will see an increase in productivity

The first email was sent in 1971. Today, over 2 billion people use email to communicate, but email has become a productivity killer. Email is almost always open on a person's workstation, distracting them and reducing productivity significantly. Reducing time spent on email (both sending and receiving) can raise productivity.

For example, The French company Atos removed email altogether from its 74,000+ team and improved productivity immediately. Companies that use social software empower their employees and are able to connect more quickly with staff, partners, and customers. They become more agile and work smarter by having unified communications, easy access to documents, and speeding up workflow. Social software drives productivity within an enterprise, thereby increasing a company's competitive advantage.

When you're using social collaboration software, you use email more as a notification center. You receive emails informing you that a new conversation is occurring on the social network, with a link to join and participate.

Have a question for a group? Or maybe the question you have has already been answered?

Instead of digging through your email, you can quickly find answers to important questions on your social collaboration network. You can create and contribute to a list of frequently asked questions that are easily accessible and organized. This helps reduce the volume of emails sent, especially on repetitive topics.

3. There will be less confusion

Too often information gets lost in email because of forwarding, CC's and BCC's.

Understanding and relating to a whole thread of forwarded emails can be quite time-consuming as well. By eliminating email and instead having a common dashboard where all the information is shared at one time with just the right audience, social collaboration software offers direct communication without the hassles and confusion of email.

Looking for a file attachment in one of those cc.ed emails? Avoid the frustration of burying your nose back in email when you can quickly search through your collaboration software to find, manage, and update documents and file attachments. These files are more readily accessible and identified. Instead of being locked in an individual email account, these files are visible and can be shared quickly.

4. You will experience more meaningful collaboration

When more than two people discuss or collaborate on a project, email quickly becomes ineffective.

Email is not built for collaboration. (Learn more in this blog post: Email is Broken. Why You Should Transition from the Inbox to Collaboration Software) Sending edits to a document by email, for example, can be a poor use of time and also more prone to error and confusion. Having a shared document that multiple people can view at the same time is far more beneficial. Updates and notes can be added and viewed in one place and at the same time. This also offers people the ability to quickly gauge the progress on a project and make necessary decisions for next steps.

Collaborative online software is more effective for working with others on a project than email.

In fact, Salesforce has reported that as high as 96% of CEOs have determined poor collaboration and communication as the primary causes for workplace failure.

As the workplace becomes increasingly global with outsourced solutions, using email as the primary chain of communication slows down the sharing of knowledge and can often lead to confusion and mistakes. Demand for faster solutions and quicker transfer of information is only increasing. Being able to adapt to these pressures, while offering a plaform for easy access and sharing, is imperative to prevent information silos and decreased productivity.

5. Information will become more searchable

With email, knowledge can quickly get stuck in the inbox.

Email is a closed system where the only person who can search through each account is the individual owner. The individual user can quickly become a bottleneck, preventing collaboration and progress. This prevents sharing and limits the speed and access of information necessary for a group.

With social collaboration software, you've got all your information available in one area. You can search through all your data quickly and easily. Everything becomes searchable by the people who you choose to have search privileges. In social collaborative software, all communication is usually written within a certain context and organized in such a way that it is easy to find.

A large amount of company information gets locked up in email. Email becomes an information silo and when a person leaves the company, this informaton can often be lost or disappear. This is detrimental to the business, which may have to invest new resources to locate or recreate the same information. Instead, it would be more useful to have a shared knowledge base.

6. You will find more efficient ways to communicate

People are social, and collaboration software recognizes this. You can communicate in multiple ways, by using blogs, articles, wikis, comments and status updates ... just like you do in social networks.

Social software enables you to reach a lot of new people simultaneously. It is great for sharing information to a large audience at one time. You can scale up your user list at any time without losing any functionality.

We live in the time of expanding social networks, where people are receiving news and updates via Twitter and Facebook in real-time. As high as 75% or more of young adults are connected to their friends and family throughout the day via their mobile devices. They are already familiar with many of the tools of social collaboration software and can adapt to a new platform very quickly. You can engage these members of your team effectively by communicating in different ways through your social collaboration software.

7. You will build trust with transparency

Social collaboration software increases transparency, which in turn offers accountability and increases trust.

You can build awareness of your company throughout the organization effectively and efficiently through collaboration software. While email just "pushes" out information, collaboration software encourages a "push and pull" interaction ... where you send specific messages to specific audiences and individual users can actively respond to messages as they see fit.

Social collaborative software offers enterprises the opportunity to communicate in multiple ways. Executives can share high-level concepts and privileged information to target groups, while other areas can be shared by all employees, fostering greater communication and connection.

Collaboration software includes different functionality ranging from microblogging and wikis, to instant messaging and discussion forums, to notifications and document sharing. It can help people within an organization connect and communicate more effectively. Social collaboration software helps business professionals work both inside their organizations and outside, enabling them to integrate their internal and external communications more seamlessly.

Simple Measures you can take for Immediate Improvement

Reducing email usage internally can immediately improve productivity and efficiency. It also facilitates better communication.

International Power, a London-based company, discovered that a high volume of email was overwhelming their staff. At first, executives surmised that the email originated from external contacts but they were surprised to discover that email communication internally was also very high. The company decided to trim down, recognizing that emails were often unnecessary or even confusing. They decided to reduce email communication by top employees by 20% in four months.

In the early fall of 2013, the executive team enrolled in training to reduce email ... and they did this through more effective decision-making ... ranging from selecting emails more carefully to forward to team members and to limiting the number of recipients. They also replaced some communication by directcommunication in person or on the phone. Within three months, the entire email communication decreased by 54%.

Change started at the top and its effect rippled throughout the organization. The 73 employees reduced email by as much as 64%. The final result was an increased productivity of 7% overall or 10,400 hours.

You can put these steps into action right away:

  1. Show executives how to make deliberate choices in email usage (what to send, to whom, and when to forward).
  2. Direct executives to set a goal to reduce the volume of messages they send and include this goal in their overall performance goal.
  3. Direct staff to do the same.
  4. Regularly check in every week to review progress.

The Growing Nature of Social Business

 

Social collaboration software offers the convenience of one platform with rich functionality and social access. At the 2010 Gartner Portals, Content and Collaboration Summit, Gartner, Inc. predicted that 20% of users will choose social networks for the majority of business communications and that companies would shift to working with internal social networks or use personal social networks to accomodate the growing social nature of business.

Matt Cain, research vice president at Gartner, pointed out:

"While e-mail is already almost fully penetrated in the corporate space, we expect to see steep growth rates for sales of premises- and cloud-based social networking services." (source)

His prediction, along with several other Gartner recommendations, have turned out to be true ... as companies have embraced social networking as part of their business strategy and communications.

Among the tools most often requested in social software is microblogging. Microblogging enables employees to quickly connect with other staff and get feedback and answers.

In 2013, sales of tablets exceeded laptops and desktop computers. This trend has shown that mobile usage for consumers on the go is rapidly increasing and that more users are accessing information via cell phones and tablets. This in turn means that businesses will need to adapt and have more smartphone and tablet applications. These applications also must have a social component as most users are communicating frequently via social networks.

In fact, in some parts of the world, the first communications and experiences online will be via mobile devices, as wireless communications penetrates new markets in Africa, Asia and underdeveloped areas of the world.

Empowering People = Better Engagement

People drive innovation within a company ... and empowering them with tools that they can use easily and effectively helps them be more productive and also more engaged.

Collaboration software recognizes how people interact through instant messaging, notifications, status updates. It harnesses the power of cloud computing, data analytics, and popular features of social media networks so that people can communicate effectively within an organization.

By engaging your employees and offering them a solution that is easy to use, highly functional, and streamlines work communication, you can boost up productivity and engagement throughout your company and connect more effectively with your audience.

 

 

 

 

About Tim Eisenhauer

Tim is a co-founder and president of Axero and the author of his forthcoming book, Who the Hell Wants to Work for You? Break Down the Invisible Barriers to Employee Engagement. He's spilt insightful ink on the pages of Fortune, Forbes, TIME, Inc Magazine, Entrepreneur.com, CNBC, Today, and other top publications.

Distractability

I was just doing something (important-ish) and decided to take a coffee break. Just a short jaunt to the kitchen and I'll be back.

Of Course the coffee was empty, so I needed to refill the pot.

After removing the pot from the "dock" (I'm not up on my coffee maker terminology), I realized that there was a little bit of residue on the hot plate.

So I decided that the bath and kitchen CLR in the yellow bottle would be what I probably needed. Not under the sink, must be in the mud room on the cleaning supply shelf.

30 minutes later, the hot plate, coffee pot, and countertop were all clean.

 

This is what happens on a daily basis in offices around the country. Maybe not cleaning the coffee maker, but leaving one project to "multi-task" on another project (like a phone call or email) and then having to come back and push the reset button to get back on task one. Awareness of this is essential to understand where employees spend their time.

About 25% of the week is spent on reading and responding to emails. This accounts for about 13 hours a week, or 650 hours a year. It takes over a minute to "recover from an email. Meaning, once you open and read something, that miniature reset is about 1 minute. This is extremely detrimental to productivity.

Staggeringly enough, less than half of all emails are relevant, important, or require immediate attention. In fact about 62% of emails are not important. 

So how do you take care of this in your office? Here are a few short simple tips.

 

Limit access to group email and Reply All usage.

            Not everyone needs every email. Period. Stop It!

Don’t give clients access to the internal group email address

Clients know they just got the entire office and the general manager involved in a complaint that didn’t actually need that type of attention. It's not only a distraction for you, it's now a distraction for the General Manager and every manager underneath her. (A Telecom client did this regularly in a company I was associated with, people were let go because of simple concerns that got an unnecessary attention)

Utilize software that allows users to subscribe or unsubscribe from projects

Wrike, asana, SharePoint, workday or other similar programs feature the ability to either get alerts or not. This is awesome because you can email the project and not everyone in the office gets an alert, but that email is online and visible to those not subscribed to get caught up if needed. This prevents someone having to physically collect all the emails between Zach and Susan for Project 214 and email the boss so she can look through them. It's already there. 

Use folders to separate emails from those who are important and those who are “not as important” or “Unknown”

i.e. Multi-Million Dollar Client POC vs. Industry Newsletter

Check your email only every-so often

Several times a day, or a few. The US postal Service Mail Delivery service delivers to your place once a day... maybe theres something to that. Several sources say that this works. 

 


Cory Myres is a Process Consultant and Leadership Advisor from Lubbock, TX

Why Sink or Swim rarely results in the business Swimming

Sink Or Swim.jpeg

Sink or Swim?

You may want to think again

As a fan of mentoring, sufficient training, and a full blown advocate of planning ahead, I think sink or swim is just awful. Are there times where it's necessary to an extent? Yes, but the rest of this article will not be nice about sink or swim. Although bias is a factor, there's really not a whole lot of upside I can even bring to the table but I'll highlight some of the alleged upsides you may have heard and then quickly dispel them as myths.

If you've established yourself as a competent sales manager, you don't need training on HOW to do your job, but rather how to use the software the new company you work at uses, a simple walk around the office and then training on the format of expectations and deliverables to your general manager or supervisor - and that's more "communication" than training. Supervisors, through policy and communication, should establish what they want to hear about and what they do not from you in this instance. In a lot of cases, you still have the manager that requires different things on different days, fails to communicate that and then berates their employees for underperforming to their unknown standards. This can be just as bad as "sink or swim".

Having said that, we're really looking at lower level, inexperienced workers doing heuristic tasks. We can quickly determine that algorithmic tasks are more beneficial with strict rules and directions  that can be written "Crayola" style.

But lets talk about the benefits of actually training your new people. Training should come from inside and out. In the Q12 survey by Gallup(R) "I know what is expected of me at work" and "This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow" relate to training, growth, and expectations. We can directly derive a correlation between training and engagement. The sink or swim environment does not produce the type of engagement that training and actively "watering your flowers" gives. PERIOD.

 

"We're so busy that I just can't spend time training someone" 
"I'm not a very good 'teacher' and think you'd do better learning on your own"

Lets talk about these excuses and why they're absolute BULL. First, if you're busy, delegate to your next in line so that they can practice your current role, a role they will soon take over when you get promoted or leave. That's not hard, if you don't have that person, it's your fault. Second, the faster this person learns everything you need them to learn, the less "busy" your office will be because you have an EFFICIENT set of hands on the issues. It's simply logical to prepare someone to do something you want done correctly.

Ok, but you're still not a great trainer. Well if you know the subject matter, and you're driven enough to be a manager, you should be resourceful enough to google some training techniques and become a good trainer. If you're not resourceful enough to use google to learn a new skill, your leadership also needs to train you. There are many firms that offer a Train the Trainer course (my firm included). So that's not the only reason for this excuse.

The second reason someone would use this excuse is because they were never trained and they feel that the sink or swim principle applies to everyone. We all know that everyone learns differently. When my unit deployed Afghanistan, we were told to listen to training from the outgoing unit, and then if necessary make changes AFTER THEY WERE GONE. We listened and learned from those who had been in a combat zone in the most recent year, they had the most updated information, and did the same adaptation throughout the year to meet the needs of the tactical environment. We in turn passed on 2009's information to the incoming relief for 2010. Give your employee the information, and then the autonomy to do their own thing afterward. 

THIRD; yes there's an ominous third reason to say you're not a very good teacher. Many people shirk the training duty because they simply don't want to be responsible when the new guy smurfs it up.

"Well I didn't train him!"

This comes from an environment of reprimand instead of learning opportunities. When the manager finds out that the employee is incorrectly performing a task, the supervisor gets called in to answer for his or her training techniques. Nobody wants this, not even the manager. So how do we fix this? There's a couple "best practices" for training standards, like written training protocols, demonstrating knowledge by practicing on the manager when learning to train, starting them "young", and having group refresher days.

The US Army doesn't train you to use a machine gun in basic training and just let you go for 4-20 years without any refreshers. I personally (as a private and specialist) trained the group (including Majors and Lieutenant Colonels) in the Browning M2, the MK-19, and M16-M4 weapon systems. As a young soldier I had to make a power point slideshow and stand up in front of the Troop and train people, then we all pulled out the weapons and practiced doing it. To apply this principle to your office grab a fresh newbie and make them train the group. Give them a timeframe and a little assistance, and all of the sudden, you've started to train your team to train others. it's a management skill. You can review the training material prior to the date and correct any mistakes, but you can also make sure everyone in the group has input after the class. We all learned to do it in business school, but most people don't practice presentations until they're already in a management position. 


So I promised some upsides to sink or swim. I also promised to dispel myth.

The Innovation Myth:

If they have to figure it out, they'll be more innovative and actually be more efficient than if I taught them how to do it. 
Yes and no. There's a definite value to unrefined parameters in allowing autonomy and innovation. Note I did not say "lack of training" causes this. In reality, lack of training produces spending a lot of time re-creating the wheel. The lost productivity in finding your own way, doesn't pass on the "best practices" and mostly doesn't allow for the employee to learn the skill to their full potential in most cases. 
Let's imagine that you want me to write a 5 page report, but I've never been trained in the use of the english language. This report is going to the customer and you the manager tell me that I need to make sure that my english is used properly. Now, being from West Texas, I think Y'all is a professional word but that's beside the point. I'm going to end up pulling my hair out having to google and go through St. Martin's Handbook for hours...
Now we know that it's not the business' responsibility to train english. Students in the US learn this in K-12 and possibly advance their knowledge and practice during higher education, but can you imagine being tasked with something and NOT having the skills to complete the task? You'd be doing more research than task. It limits most of our confidence, it's detrimental to the end product, and most of the time, it's being done after hours. 
So how exactly is this fully dispelled? Well, a few main reasons. Just like the basics of mathematics can help you in calculus or trigonometry, teaching someone the basics isn't detrimental. Help them get to the furthest reaches of knowledge and technique that the office has and then let them go. This allows for them to understand how the business works, why certain techniques are currently used (possibly even incorrectly) and allows this person to determine what is going on.

In the army we used to have a term (They still do, but I'm no longer in) "What Right Looks Like". This saying is meant to make sure you know what right looks like. Here's the end goal.

Have you ever seen the people that tie shoes all crazy? It looks exactly the same, performs the function of a tied shoe, and it took them 0.5 seconds because of Autonomy, Creativity, and Innovation. But they knew what "right looked like".

 

Nature vs. Nurture Myth:

I won't produce an empowered employee able to make key decisions by themselves.
There's definitely correct and incorrect ways to train, and the more you know about training, practice it, and see the results, the more you'll learn about what is effective and not effective. Sink or swim proposes that you'll make a better, more empowered subordinate out of the fire. Simply untrue. What sink or swim usually produces is an employee that is afraid to make a mistake or let the boss down. Mostly will hide mistakes instead of embrace and allow for a teachable moment in the office, and will also fail to communicate to the boss until the project or task is completed. Training your employee with what needs to be done and a standard practice of how it's typically done allows them to be proficient enough to do the work, after which time they can innovate the process and share with the office. It's far higher success rate in allowing the employee to have the mental tools to complete tasks and then innovate drastically increases productivity and engagement.

Surround yourself with complimentary skills not duplicate your own Myth

This "benefit" surprised me because logically, by not training your employees, you're effectively ensuring they duplicate the things that are already YOUR "best practices" at the expense of their own time and effort. By training your employees that you have best practices, and opening that communication of innovation, you can allow someone to circle back to you (The leader) with information they've learned outside of your organization. Everyone brings something to the table, so implying that if you train someone they won't bring a new and additional expertise to the team is absurd. Getting them engaged by opening communication, treating them like adult human beings, and improving their knowledge base and yours is essential to teamwork. 

 

Whether you think Training and equipping your employees with best practices is essential, or you personally believe that Sink or Swim is the best thing ever, Comment or send me feedback. 

Winning at training isn't always easy. If you'd like to learn more about my "Train the Trainer" or any other of my programs to assist your office in learning to work more efficiently, Contact me below.