Tame your Inbox!

How much project time do you spend going through your emails box and reading or replying to the messages that don’t really deserve your attention. You can reduce this waste without missing that important message that your customer wants you to act on today! It’s the simple art of doing, deleting, deferring or delegating.

Once you set up your mail system, you are ready to begin managing incoming e-mail. By making your Inbox the central place for receiving important e-mail, you can go through it with the confidence that each item is something you need to deal with. For every message in your Inbox:

  • If it isn’t important, delete it immediately.
  • If it can be done in two minutes or less, do it (reply, file, call, etc.).
  • If it isn’t for you or if you can, delegate (forward) it.
  • If you need to do it, but it takes longer than two minutes (including reading),defer (hold off on) it.
  • If you need it as reference (even if you have decided to defer it), move it into your reference folder. The goal is to reduce the number of times you touch each e-mail message.

Delete it

Delete messages that you don’t need to read. If it is junk, delete it.

Do it: In 2-minute or less

It is amazing what can be done in two minutes. But if a message takes longer than two minutes to deal with, defer it. To get a sense of what two minutes feels like, try timing yourself. Once you have dealt with the message, do one of the following:

  • Delete it if it is something of little consequence.
  • File it in one of your reference folders (for example, 1-Reference).

Delegate it

Sometimes you receive a message that is really meant for someone else to deal with. In these cases, reply and include the person to whom you are delegating the message on the To line. If you want to follow up later, flag it for yourself before sending. In your To-Do Bar, mark the task with the “@Waiting” category.

Defer it

Deferring a message means that you will come back to it later, when you have time. Reasons to defer a message:

  • It cannot be dealt with in less than two minutes.
  • It will take a while to read.
  • It will require a carefully crafted response.
  • It requires additional action in another program (for example, “Need to add to document”).

Read the full article by Melissa MacBeth here: http://tinyurl.com/26v5e7b

Shyam Verma,
Program & portfolio mgnt professional
LinkedIn:spverma. Twitter: Shammy11

7 rules for highly effective PMs

As we come out of a deep recession, companies have started to look at their project control systems to fine tune project delivery methods.These efforts can have positive effects on their project success beyond what they achieved in past. One of the things that puts winning companies apart is not only years of matured processes but ever learning and un learning project managers and delivery leaders.

Effective and efficient PM’s can also be identified by their habits and certain ways they organize their projects & it reflects on the project too. As sr. project managers or delivery managers, when you are entrusted to ensure that your portfolio, program or account is effective or not, you may not need to drill down the performance reports and customer feedbacks of past. That would only tell you what went wrong, but by gauging inculcating following PM discipline or habits you can be sure that projects in your portfolio are in the right direction and surely not doomed to fail subsequently!

  1. Be Pro-active: It’s only fair to expect the project manager who holds the responsibility of a successful project outcome to be pro-active. Someone who actively plans for potential problems rather than sitting on the fence hoping things to fall in place or happen as per the project plan he prepared at the beginning of the project.
  2. Focuss on milestones: The PM should have the oversight to sense upcoming issues or contingencies and take concrete decisions engaging the right people in the team.The objective should be to see how milestones are achieved viz a viz cost, quality & time.Should there is any impact on any of the constraints, it bound to have an adverse impact on other aspects too, leading to degrades due to residual effects. One way to have a heads up is to define project KPIs and have a close tab on that using EVM techniques. Where ever the project KPI score goes beyond tolerable limits, its time to re-plan your resources!
  3. Manage Critical Path: This is probably no brainer for all of you out there to figure out why.An effective project keep the critical path items well under control and use their best resources on them and manage them on priority.More than half of the project issues can be resolved before they become issues if critical path items are taken care of properly from the start of the project.
  4. Work collaboratively: For a successful project, it is necessary that all the team members work collaboratively among themselves. There should be a method to support each other and leverage everyone’s strengths. A good understanding of people issues in addition to technical or business issues would go a long way here. To top it all now a days there are plethora of
    tools and software available to increase team collaboration & share each others work without compromising security. PM’s can leverage it for communication and knowledge management within the team.
  5. Effective communication: The most important task that a PM does in the course of the project is probably communicate effectively. Typically PM’s spend more than 80% of their project time in communicating & coordinating with internal or external project stakeholders. Communication on team structure,deliverables of individuals and team,major project time lines and quality parameters are important.  It would only make task tougher if there is any discord among team players or some aspect of their job is not clearly defined. In addition, the right mode of communication (verbal, written or face to face) is also important as if used properly they increase the effectiveness of communication.
  6. Use RACI: In my view, not many PM’s use RACI principles effectively, mostly it is for documenting at the beginning of the project plans. It is very critical that roles and responsibilities of team members clearly defined as well as communicated to have all team on the same page.Basically there should be an accountable and responsible person for all critical work package.Similarly these people should have clear understanding of the task objective, inputs and it’s completion criterion as well as impact on subsequent tasks or overall project if not completed as planned. PM’s role here is to sensitize the team and resolve bottlenecks along with his/her supervisor.
  7. Customer first: Last but not least project manager must be a client advocate who should keep ultimate benefit of client in mind.As PMI endorses, all project issues must be resolved keeping customer interests in mind.This also includes close interaction with client representatives and demanding continuous improvements in project deliverables by regular monitoring of Key project parameters and project audit findings.

Shyam Verma, PMP, ITIL
Program & portfolio mgnt professional
LinkedIn:spverma. Twitter:Shammy11

Kaizen impact

Very few people may know that the famous quality improvement technique ‘Kaizen’ actually evolved and contributed from work of Americans who helped rebuild Japan post world war!Word Kaizen in English typically means simply improvement and not necessarily continuous improvement. It refers to any improvement, one-time or continuous, large or small.

Kaizen is a daily activity, purpose of which goes beyond simple productivity improvement. It is also a process that, if done correctly, eliminates overly hard work and teaches people how to perform experiments on their work rationally and learn to spot and eliminate waste in business processes. It has tremendous impact on the efficiency of the organization and its people in short to long term. I personally have felt this in my stints working with some of the well known Japanese conglomerates in Japan and India. The very nature of Japanese people to work at smaller improvements on daily basis leads to great results.

The beauty of Kaizen is that people at all levels of an organization can participate in Kaizen, from the CEO down to external vendors e.g. Japanese Auto giants. Kaizen methodology includes making changes and monitoring results, then adjusting. The Toyota production system is known for kaizen & probably is most efficient production system in Automobile industry leading to most cost and quality competitive.

At the foundation of Kaizen rests elements such as Team work, Personal Discipline, Improved morale, Quality circles, Suggestions for improvement.5S framework which enables Kaizen success and helps in controlling wastes (Muda) and increases productivity includes, Seiri – tidiness,  Seiton – orderliness, Seiso – cleanliness, Seiketsu – standardized clean-up, Shitsuke – discipline.

While Kaizen being hugely successful in manufacturing and industrial firms, also has had some critics who claimed that even though it works perfectly fine at the low level improvements, it does not encourage high level of creativity. However a valid viewpoint, we must remember that biggest room in the world is room for improvement and it needs to be applied both at the top for creative ideas for quantum results and Kaizen like techniques at the bottom level for the real desired impact!

Shyam Verma, PMP, ITIL
Program & portfolio mgnt professional
LinkedIn:spverma. Twitter:Shammy11