No matter how much planning you put into projects, things can get off track pretty easily. In fact, it’s standard practice to build buffers into the variables of a project to allow of delays and over-runs.
If you’re working on a project and it gets off track, here are some steps to get things back under control:
Renegotiate: The easiest action, when you can’t meet a deadline, is to renegotiate the due date. Flexibility is often built into a project’s time-lines.
Recover during later steps: If a project step takes longer than planned, examine time allocations for the remaining steps. Perhaps time can be saved in future steps so overall time for the project doesn’t need to increase.
Narrow the scope: Once you begin, you may find it takes longer to accomplish everything you planned. When time is critical, eliminate non-essentials to meet your deadline
Add resources: You may need to put more people or equipment on the project. This option increases the cost so it requires weighing the cost increase against the importance of the deadline.
Use substitutions: When an item is not available, substitute a comparable item to meet your deadline.
Look for other sources: When a supplier you are depending upon cannot deliver, within your time frame, look for other suppliers who can.
Accept partial delivery: Sometimes a supplier cannot deliver an entire order on time, but can deliver enough to keep the project moving forward. The remainder of the order can be delivered later.
Offer incentives: This calls for going beyond the terms of an agreement to get extra effort from a supplier or sub-contractor. You can use a bonus clause in a contract for on-time delivery, or a penalty clause for late delivery. Sometimes, simply buying someone lunch will motivate them to put forth extra effort.
Demand compliance: Sometimes you need to assert yourself. If you’re waiting on deliverables from others, demand they meet their time-line obligations. If necessary, go to a higher authority to get action.
These rules are credited to Bill Swanson. In a news story several years ago, it was revealed not all the rules are original. Whatever the source, they are useful aphorisms for life management.
The handbook has become an underground hit among senior executives and management thinkers. The Unwritten Rules of Management is part Ben Franklin and part Yogi Berra, with a dash of Confucius thrown in. Jack Welch says there’s something about both the man and his management style that makes the handbook a worthwhile read for any CEO. “It’s a neat little manual, and each of these rules makes sense,” Welch says. “It covers almost everything, and I like Swanson’s feet-on-the-ground approach.”
Here are the rules, written, but without any explanation. Make of them what you will.
- Learn to say, “I don’t know.” If used when appropriate, it will be often.
- It is easier to get into something than it is to get out of it.
- If you are not criticized, you may not be doing much.
- Look for what is missing. Many know how to improve what’s there, but few can see what isn’t there.
- Viewgraph rule: When something appears on a viewgraph (an overhead transparency), assume the world knows about it, and deal with it accordingly.
- Work for a boss with whom you are comfortable telling it like it is. Remember that you can’t pick your relatives, but you can pick your boss.
- Constantly review developments to make sure that the actual benefits are what they are supposed to be. Avoid Newton’s Law.
- However menial and trivial your early assignments may appear, give them your best efforts.
- Persistence or tenacity is the disposition to persevere in spite of difficulties, discouragement, or indifference. Don’t be known as a good starter but a poor finisher.
- In completing a project, don’t wait for others; go after them, and make sure it gets done.
- Confirm your instructions and the commitments of others in writing. Don’t assume it will get done!
- Don’t be timid; speak up. Express yourself, and promote your ideas.
- Practice shows that those who speak the most knowingly and confidently often end up with the assignment to get it done.
- Strive for brevity and clarity in oral and written reports.
- Be extremely careful of the accuracy of your statements.
- Don’t overlook the fact that you are working for a boss.
- Keep him or her informed. Avoid surprises!
- Whatever the boss wants takes top priority.
- Promises, schedules, and estimates are important instruments in a well-ordered business.
- You must make promises. Don’t lean on the often-used phrase, “I can’t estimate it because it depends upon many uncertain factors.”
- Never direct a complaint to the top. A serious offense is to “cc” a person’s boss.
- When dealing with outsiders, remember that you represent the company. Be careful of your commitments.
- Cultivate the habit of “boiling matters down” to the simplest terms. An elevator speech is the best way.
- Don’t get excited in engineering emergencies. Keep your feet on the ground.
- Cultivate the habit of making quick, clean-cut decisions.
- When making decisions, the pros are much easier to deal with than the cons. Your boss wants to see the cons also.
- Don’t ever lose your sense of humor.
- Have fun at what you do. It will reflect in your work. No one likes a grump except another grump.
- Treat the name of you company as if it were your own.
- Beg for the bad news.
- You remember 1/3 of what you read, 1/2 of what people tell you, but 100% of what you feel.
- You can’t polish a sneaker.
- When facing issues or problems that are becoming drawn-out, “short them to the ground.”
- When faced with decisions, try to look at them as if you were one level up in the organization. Your perspective will change quickly.
- A person who is nice to you but rude to the waiter, or to others, is not a nice person. (This rule never fails).
- Never be afraid to try something new. Remember, an amateur built an ark that survived a flood while a large group of professionals built the Titanic.
The foundation of our managers’ philosophy relies on one main, undeniable point: a manager’s number-one priority is to deliver results.”
– Denny F. Strigl
Are you delivering?
For managers, behavior is the real key to achievement. In order to stop struggling and start delivering, you need to close the gap between what you know and what you do. That’s been Denny Strigl’s method, and now it can be yours, too.
Among the most prominent architects of the wireless communications industry, the former Verizon Wireless president and CEO has had one of the most remarkable careers in modern business. In Managers, Can You Hear Me Now?, Strigl shares all the skills and techniques he used to build Verizon into one of the greatest growth companies in any industry. You’ll learn how to:
- Create a corporate culture where trust, respect, and integrity flourish — and employees and customers alike are appropriately served
- “Eliminate the fluff,” get focused, and stop wasting time on things that don’t matter
- Address issues proactively before they become problems — even employee performance issues
- Get past your “blind spots,” reinforce priorities consistently, and communicate with clarity
- Master the Four Fundamentals of Management: growing revenue, getting new customers, keeping the customers you already have, and eliminating costs
Managers, Can You Hear Me Now?: Hard-Hitting Lessons on How to Get Real Results includes additional suggestions for bringing the best of your energy and passion into your work, helpful anedcotes from Strigl’s career, simple self-assessment questions, and even a look at how your business day as a successful manager should play out.
Whether you’re the CEO of a large corporation or run your own small business, the lessons from Managers, Can You Hear Me Now? are sure to come through — loud and clear.
No matter where you work, you report to someone – maybe even to two or three bosses. And whether you think your boss is brilliant or a bore, the fact is that you have to manage the relationship with your boss if you want to advance your career.
Many of us give little thought to managing our supervisors. We do so at our own peril. Supervisors can have a lot of influence over our success in a job and our long-term career plans. Supervisor recommendations carry a lot of weight when it comes to decisions about raises, promotions, training resources and even job references. Why then do we fail to develop positive work relationships with our supervisors?
In the past, the supervisor-employee relationship has been view as one-way, with the supervisor as boss and the employee subservient to their authority. It is better to view the relationship as a partnership involving mutual dependence. Supervisors need the contributions of subordinates, just as subordinates require support and resources from supervisors. Both parties need to co-operate in order to fulfil requirements and achieve goals.
Why do so many employees try to stay out of the way of supervisors and avoid their notice? Surveys indicate, more than 50 per cent of employees list relationships with immediate supervisors as the worst aspect of their job. Sure, there are poor supervisors, just as there are poor employees. However, both employees and supervisors are responsible for creating effective working relationships.
Develop positive working relationships
Employees, consider your immediate supervisor as an important internal customers. Ask yourself, what does my supervisor needs from me? What is the preferred work style of my supervisor? What kind of environment does my supervisor work in and what pressures do they experience?
What does your supervisor expect of you? Use this information to guide and build your interactions. Remember, supervisors are busy people with many demands placed on them. Make good use of their time and resources.
The workplace is fast-paced; it’s smart to take the intiative. Don’t wait for your supervisor to give detailed directions. Instead, show initiative, demonstrate sound judgment and ask questions. Ask your supervisor for feedback and act on the feedback. Most supervisors appreciate the participation of employees in company work activities. For example, participate in meetings, volunteer to sit on important committees and welcome delegated tasks as a way to increase your skills.
You create good working relationships with your supervisor by acting professionally. Meet work deadlines and keep your supervisor informed about accomplishments and problems. Be honest and don’t agree to do things if you have no intention of following through on them.
The workplace requires you keep up-to-date about developments in your field and improve your work skills through ongoing learning. Avoid the temptation of becoming a superhero, working solo for long hours with excessive overtime. These behaviours can have negative effects on your family and volunteer activities. Learn instead to become a team player and to strike a good balance between work and family responsibilities.
Growth requires change. Supervisors appreciate employees that are resourceful. Be creative, share ideas and develop problem-solving skills. Have Plan B on standby, in case Plan A doesn’t yield the outcome measures or standards required.
Flexibility is a worker’s key asset. Practise time management skills and schedule time each week for networking. Know who you can call for help when you need it. Supervisors are looking for self-motivated individuals who are interested in more than financial rewards alone.
The choice is yours
Supervisors can be an advocate or an adversary. The choice is largely up to you. The relationship you develop with your supervisor should not be left to chance. Learn to manage your supervisor by taking initiative, being professional and resourceful. Treat your supervisor as your most important internal customer and offer exceptional customer service. Doing so will enhance your employability skills and increase your marketability.
Everybody faces challenges in managing certain aspects of their lives. Someone who loves to go trail riding on a bicycle will have no problems motivating themselves to exercise. However, putting aside time to sit and read might be problematic. On the other hand, the reader might have problems putting down the book and getting active.
This self-management checklist can be applied to any area of your life where you need to gain some control.
- Set specific goals. You can’t measure achievement if you don’t know where you’re going. Set specific goals such as: I’ll walk for 30 minutes per day; or I’ll write a 1,000 words each day; or I’ll lose 20 pounds.
- Set specific times. You need to determine when you are going to accomplish your goals. Work with specific times; whether it’s a deadline for a one-off project or regular times for on-going behaviour.
- Track your progress. Write it down. You can use a journal, a calendar, a graph or any other form that works for you. Make sure you track both your successes and failures so you can refine your systems.
- Set rewards or penalties. You’ll need some motivation to help you move forward. Set small rewards to mark the completion of small steps. Set larger rewards to mark major accomplishments. You might even set penalties for not reaching goals. You could, for example, make a donation to a food bank every time your weight went up instead of down.
- Take small steps. If you’ve been sitting in front of the TV for ten years, don’t try and run a marathon tomorrow. Changing a habit takes time and you need to start slowly.
- Break it down into pieces. Regardless of your readiness, if the task seems overwhelming, you may never get started. Break down large tasks in to small, logical and manageable pieces.
- Monitor time increments. Use a timer to help you stay on track. Set it to the best interval to help you measure your progress.
- Share your goals. Telling someone what you hope to accomplish can add another level of motivation. It’s easier to fool ourselves than to fool others. Tell someone what your goals and your deadlines are; get them to check on you to see if you met the goal.
- Have a work buddy. It’s not just enough to share your goals with someone, you need to have a buddy that can meet with regularly. Keep your goals on someone else’s agenda. This should give you an added sense of responsibility and motivation to reach your goals.
- Review with your buddy. Have your buddy do more than review accomplishment. Review the written track of your regular progress. They might spot patterns you don’t see and give you some help for getting back or keeping on track.
- Eliminate distractions. Reading through e-mail may seem productive, but it’s not going to help you read three chapters of a book. If need be, turn off the phone, shut down the computer and throw the television in the garbage.
- Review and rework your system. Your self-management plan may not work the first time you try it. There will be times when your self-management process falls apart. These steps are not static, but need to change and grow with you. Make time to review your process and see what changes can be made.
Some people look at self-management techniques as cumbersome, getting in the way of productivity. The truth is, if you look at successful and productive people, you’ll find some type of system guiding them. Give it a try.