The Grateful Agile Leader

By Susan Parente, PMP, PMI-ACP, CSM, CSPO, PSM I, CISSP, CRISC, PMI-RMP, RESILIA, ITIL, GL®CP, MS Eng. Mgmt. | Risk Management Guru – Agile Specialist – IIL Senior Instructor

We know that servant leadership is an excellent match for Agile methods. For example, in Scrum, the Scrum Master is a servant leader of the Scrum Team. What other leadership styles have a home in the Agile approach? Grateful Leadership is a style of leadership that is somewhat newer than other styles of leadership. It speaks to the fundamentals of providing acknowledgment for people on your team, what they do, and how they contribute. This article makes a connection between this style of leadership and Agile project management.

“Like Judith W. Umlas (the founder of Grateful Leadership), Robert Greenleaf (the founder of Servant Leadership) knew that you cannot build community, much less earn trust, without acknowledging colleagues, expressing gratitude and offering recognition. If Greenleaf was alive today, I believe he would say that you cannot be a servant leader without being a grateful leader.”  (Don M. Frick, Ph.D., Author of the authorized biography Robert K. Greenleaf: A Life of Servant Leadership)

There is a well-supported place for Grateful Leadership in Agile project management. For example, in the team retrospectives, where the project team members are trying to understand what they did well and what could be improved. How can you use Grateful Leadership for both of these topics, so the team can know how they improved, and how can they learn and move forward? Grateful Leadership is clearly a great match for team members to use in the retrospective, to acknowledge team members and their contributions.

Servant Leadership is also very important in Agile. The Scrum Master should be a servant leader and a grateful leader, not a delegative leader or a directive leader. When I first learned about Grateful Leadership, I immediately thought of how well it blends with Servant Leadership and serving the team. This is so fundamental to Agile and, even in traditional project management, Servant Leadership is one of my preferred ways of leading people. One of the reasons for this is that I am sometimes leading somebody who makes more money than I do, or someone who knows more than I do about the work they are doing. How could I possibly lead a subject matter expert in any sort of directive way? For example, saying, “I’m in charge and this is what you’ve got to do.” If you know somebody makes more money than you and they know more than you about the work they are doing, then Servant Leadership makes more sense.

What servant leadership looks like is, “I can’t do what you do and we need your support and efforts, so how can I help you be successful, so that you can be successful?” Unfortunately, this is lacking in many environments, but it’s very supportive in Agile, and I think bringing Grateful Leadership to the project team is also important. Anywhere one is doing stakeholder management, is an appropriate place for gratitude and acknowledgment. For example, saying “Thank You” to the product owner for being there to ask questions, being involved, being engaged, and for wanting to know how things are going with the project. There is so much to be grateful for when working on a project!

Through personal growth and development via leadership training, I realized that when acknowledgment is missing, there is something major lacking for me. If I don’t feel acknowledged, or if I don’t acknowledge others, when acknowledgment is missing, I am not motivated. I am one of those people who will stay up to 2 a.m. to complete a task or a deliverable, if needed by my client; however if I don’t feel appreciated or acknowledged for the work I do, I don’t have the drive to work extra time or even on my own time. I can work my way through something, if I feel I am appreciated. I am clear about how important acknowledgment is for me, so I recognize that it is likely important for others.

In summary, it’s difficult to do work when you don’t feel appreciated. Have you ever felt that way? Both Servant Leadership, as well as Grateful Leadership allow one to influence without authority. These leadership styles are critical for Agile projects where you may be a team member, Product Owner, or even a project manager.

To learn more about Grateful Leadership, see the Center for Grateful Leadership site, where you may obtain much more information. Membership is free, and it is priceless!

If you are interested in learning more about leadership and how it relates to Agile and the PMI-ACP certification, please email me at parente@s3-tec.com or susan.parente@iil.com, or connect with me on LinkedIn.

About the Author
Susan Parente (PMP, PMI-ACP, CSM, CSPO, PSM I, CISSP, CRISC, PMI-RMP, RESILIA, ITIL, GL®CP, MS Eng. Mgmt.) is a senior instructor at IIL, an Associate Professor at Post University, Adjunct Professor at Montclair State University, and a Lecturer at the University of Virginia. She is an author, mentor and teacher focused on risk management, along with traditional and Agile project management. Her experience is augmented by her Masters in Engineering Management with a focus in Marketing of Technology from George Washington University, DC, along with a number of professional certifications. Mrs. Parente has 25+ years’ experience leading software and business development projects in the private and public sectors, including a decade of experience implementing IT projects for the DoD.


Rich Sheridan on Leading with Joy

Rich Sheridan is the CEO of Menlo Innovations and the author of Joy, Inc. and Chief Joy Officer. As opening keynote speaker at IIL’s Leadership & Innovation 2019 Online Conference, he inspired us all with his uncommon approach to leadership and productivity in the modern workplace.

We received so many great questions during the 15-minute Q&A that we didn’t have time to get to them all. Thank you to Rich for taking the time to answer each and every question. This blog post is a compilation of some of our favorites.

The recording of Rich’s keynote, and all other speaker presentations, are available to watch on demand through June 9. Log in or register here.

How do you tie joy to values and guiding principles?

First we define joy … quite clearly. We ask, then answer two simple questions: Who do you serve? What would delight look like for them?

Thus we align our joy with deeply satisfying those we serve. In other words, we don’t make it about us.

We declared we want to “end human suffering in the world as it relates to technology.” Our primary focus are the end users of the software we are designing and building. We don’t believe we can do this with a team that doesn’t care of itself and each other. Thus, we speak in our guiding principles about how we wish to “Create meaningful, positive human impact. Always demonstrate integrity and authenticity. And act in a way that expresses care, hope, love and joy.”

What’s the best way to convince my boss to try experiments on projects?

My suggestion is to first try to see the world through your boss’s eyes. What are the likely challenges that he or she faces? How are the experiments you are running or suggesting going to help your boss with his/her goals? If you happen to have copies of either of my books available, refer to the index and read all the pages where I talk about Bob Nero, who was my CEO at Interface Systems, Inc. When I better learned to see the world through his eyes, he became VERY supportive of all the experiments I was running.

Does leadership require passion in what they do to be successful?

I believe there are many different ways to lead. We don’t all need to be energized cheerleaders. I feel what is more important is to be your authentic self and truly, passionately BELIEVE in the systems and practices you are creating. Your team will have a finely tuned sense of smell for this authenticity and belief. If they sense it, most will follow, especially if there is trust.

What role does mindset play in a team environment? 

Mindset, in general, is always going to be important. I love Carol Dweck’s work (described in her book Mindset).

Ultimately, we typically don’t make change if we don’t believe change is possible. However, behind just the mindset for change, we need to be open to actually trying things. As leaders, we also need to accept that when we do try things, we need to give some space that things will at first be cumbersome and slow. This is really hard once we are very good at something. It is hard to get back into learning mode. It can actually hurt our brains as our brains start to rewire themselves. A great book on practicing new techniques is Mike Rother’s Toyota Kata.

Besides the nature of the project, and the technical skills, what are other criteria that you use to pair up team members? And as I am sure it happened before, how do you overcome personality challenges? 

We overcome the personality challenges by practicing (constantly) how to work with other people. It helps so much that we pair every minute of every day and we switch the pairs frequently. (I don’t think you need to be as diligent about pairing as we are!). However, the essential ingredient is to practice working with various different kinds of people.

The next step is to practice how to give effective feedback to someone. This is why Crucial Conversations (the book byVitalSmarts) and Leadership and Self-Deception (by Arbinger) are so important to us.

Do you discuss this office environment in your onboarding or interview process for new employees? 

Not so much discuss, as immerse them in it. We offer public tours once a month and many of those interested in interviewing here will come to a public tour before they even declare they are interested. So they can see the office set up outside of an interview event. Our interview process itself is not an interview, but a group audition that simulates the work environment. We recently had 28 candidates come in for two hours. They’d paired with other candidates three times, working together on a shared exercise. Menlonians observed their work together and noted evidence (or lack thereof) of good kindergarten skills: do they play well with others, do they support the person sitting next to them, do they share?

This interview setup isn’t a surprise. We send them a detailed writeup of what to expect. When we introduce ourselves to the group, we tell  them we want them to succeed so we describe the things to avoid.

Does your organization have remote staff, and how do you incorporate them into this process? 

We have been running more and more experiments with remote staff (and remote clients whose team members often pair in with us). We don’t prefer remote work, but we are making it work. We use screen sharing, video and audio technology. It’s working OK. I think there are still improvements to be made. We’ve been running these experiments for about 4 years.

Recommendations on how to do reviews without setting team member against team member? 

My suggestion is to change the compensation process first to not feel like a zero sum game. Second make all review discussions about collaboration and teamwork rather than individual contributions. Did they help others around them succeed?

Understanding you can influence your own team and company. Have you had any conflicts when dealing with customers that are “old school” and very formal? How do you influence your customers?

ALL THE TIME!! Thanks for asking. We spend a lot of time up front (as much as they need) teaching not only how our system works, but WHY we do things the way we do them. We make deep use of storytelling to illuminate the problems we are trying to solve with the approaches we take. It doesn’t work every time, but it’s so much fun when the light goes on for our clients. 🙂 Once it goes on, it never goes off again!

Do you find your structure beneficial for remote workers? 

We skew towards an in-person culture and steer away from remote work. We do have some remote work (either temporarily due to some life events, or permanently due to a life change … one of our great team members married a girl from Moscow and moved there!).

We make it work. It’s just not ideal for the way we have chosen to work.

Can you talk a little about when you get furious, get curious?

This phrase reminds me of the part of Crucial Conversations (by VitalSmarts) called Master You Stories. I think we often get furious because something ends up going differently than we expected. If we assume good intent on the part of the person we are upset with then we can ask:  why would my valued colleague act this way? If we start asking questions like: Are you OK? Is there anything I did to upset you? Am I seeing the full picture? We can diffuse a whole bunch of “furious” feelings once we see the bigger picture.

Regarding the pairing concept: your presentation sparked an idea for me to run the experiment of pairing different roles together–people who are stakeholders in each other’s deliverables. Have you paired different roles together? If so, how’d it go? If not, why not? 

We often pair different roles together. It works just as well as pairing within the role. We even often pair our client team members (say a project sponsor with the Menlo project manager). It’s so much more effective than trading lengthy and misunderstood emails!

How do you go about changing an organization whose culture is ingrained with a sense of entitlement and “this is how we’ve always done it”? 

As Deming once said so delightfully … Change is not required. Survival is not mandatory. 🙂

I’d say, start small, stay hyper local. Change you first … makes changes in your immediately team, group or department. Read the stories of MassMutual, GE and the DTW McDonald’s for examples!

How do you create positive stability among teams with different ways and processes? 

Use simple, repeatable, measurable, visible systems to manage work. For us, we use 8.5” x 5.5” handwritten index cards to describe work. We then estimate the amount of time we need for each index card, then prioritize them to 40 hours of work per week/per person so that we are never overloading our team. We never let work “sneak in the back door”. It all must be handled this way. By keeping our system under control (with very simple tools) we can keep our work from getting out-of-control.

We then work hard to keep fear at bay. If someone shares bad news our pre-programmed reply is to say “thank you” with a smile! As we say, “fear doesn’t make bad news go away, it makes it go into hiding” and then we can’t manage it!

Which book is a good intro book of the ones you listed?

This might seem self-serving, but I’d suggest Joy. Inc. as an introduction as it ties all the pieces together. From there my suggestions will be about where you’d like to start!

For building better relationships, I’d start with Leadership and Self-Deception or Crucial Conversations.

For building better teams: Patrick Lencioni’s Five Dysfunctions of a Team.

For better team players: Lencioni’s The Ideal Team Player.

For better design: Don Norman’s The Design of Everyday Things, and Alan Cooper’s The Inmates are Running The Asylum and the Nightline Youtube videos (Parts 1,2,3) of The Deep Dive about IDEO.

For system’s thinking: Peter Senge’s The Fifth Discipline – The Art of Practice of the Learning Organization. And John Gall’s The Systems Bible (or Systemantics).

Then I’d study Deming, Drucker, Schein, and Tom Peters.

I’ve now given you a lifetime of reading assignments!  🙂


Joanna Durand on Why Passionate Leadership Matters

Joanna Durand is Global Head of the Enterprise Project Delivery Excellence Office at TD Bank. As a keynote speaker at IIL’s Leadership & Innovation 2019 Online Conference, she gave us an understanding of what passionate leadership looks like in practice and shared indispensable tips on how we can become passionate leaders ourselves.

We received so many great questions during the 15-minute Q&A that we didn’t have time to get to them all. Thank you to Joanna for taking the time to answer each and every question. This blog post is a compilation of some of our favorites.

The recording of Joanna’s keynote, and all other speaker presentations, are available to watch on demand through June 9. Log in or register here.

Can you deploy your solution to poor leadership?
How can a leader learn to not instill fear into employees? 
How can one of my leaders earn back the trust they have lost to their employees?

We detect a theme in these questions so will answer all of them together.

The person in question has to be receptive to feedback and coaching in order for any change to be successful and lasting. There is an opportunity to give constructive feedback if a feedback loop exists. The leader needs to be able establish and work through a trusted feedback loop to receive candid feedback, or leverage company structures like HR coaching or formal 360-degree feedback mechanisms. If this does not work and the organizational culture is not aligned to the leader’s behaviour, you are likely look at an exit scenario. Otherwise, as outlined in the keynote, you will risk the loss of the team members who work under that leader.

What would be some actions you identified successful to change the organizational culture to reflect and foster passionate leadership? 

The organization itself has to have a view that the people side of the equation is valuable to its success. If that is true, passionate leadership will flourish. If people are seen as interchangeable or disposable, then only a microculture could exist around a specific passionate leader or team.

How can a leader make sure their passion is reflected to others?

By being authentic, listening openly and reflecting back. Use a feedback loop to understand how you are being received by others.

In many organizations the team members report to a functional manager, so this can diminish the authority of the PM. Do you think passionate leadership of a PM can help?

Absolutely! The project manager owns the virtual team – the tension is the value and commitment to the project versus to the functional manager and resource pool. The Project Manager can change the full dynamic – for better or for worse.

How do you come across as authentic and positive without being fake?

Always BE authentic. Understand how you are perceived by others by asking and listening to feedback.

Does mindfulness meditation have a role in passionate leadership?

I think that depends on the individual and how they derive their energy.

What if the employee is not passionate about their job and not looking for ways to improve themselves? 

A direct career discussion is timely in this situation; indicate clearly how the employee is being perceived by yourself and others and try to understand that person’s desires and motivators, or potential causes of an interim abnormal behaviour.

How do you encourage team members who do not feel the passion? 

You need to have individual conversations with those team members to determine what motivates them, understand where they want to go and discuss what it takes to get there. However, you should also consider that some people just want a job…is this a really a problem for that person, role, or organization?

Can a person choose to portray “passion” and continue to grow a successful team, in a competitive environment? Without being a victim of company culture and the need to have a more tough approach?

Absolutely. Within a competitive and political culture, the passionate leader needs to set a vision based on fact and understand how they leverage their passion to achieve the organization’s goals. As the leader, you get to choose the how, not the what.

How do you steer your team to buy into this notion of keeping leadership accountable, especially to remain “passionate” consistently? 

You need to be authentic – then the passion follows. Everyone has ebbs and flows, so people may manifest varying levels of passion in different ways day to day.

Do you have any suggestions on how to work with a leader who may be passionate but mainly passionate about their personal success? Sometimes we don’t want to leave the job/position because of the leader and need suggestions on how to best work with them and maybe help them. 

It is important to recognize that the demeanor of your leader is important, and you may need to spend energy helping to make that leader successful. In turn, it is important to let the leader know what you need yourself, and if that is not forthcoming, you may need to leave and find the kind of leader you need for your own development and satisfaction.

What do you when you realize your immediate senior management (director) is not necessarily a “passionate leader”? How do you navigate through that? 

See the answer to the question asked above.

Do you have a business idol/mentor? What makes them so special and unique? 

I have had many mentors. A superior ability to engage is something I admire; observing people who are intensely committed is inspirational to me.


Stephen Denning on Business Agility

Stephen Denning is a former director of the World Bank, renowned speaker and author (his most recent book, The Age of Agile, has 4.5 stars on Amazon). As a keynote speaker at IIL’s Leadership & Innovation 2019 Online Conference, he gave a fascinating take on how to adopt an Agile Mindset through what he calls the “Three Laws of Business Agility.”

We received so many great questions during the 15-minute Q&A that we didn’t have time to get to them all. Thank you to Stephen for taking the time to answer each and every question. This blog post is a compilation of some of our favorites.

The recording of Stephen’s keynote, and all other speaker presentations, are available to watch on demand through June 9. Log in or register here.

To implement the Agile mindset seems to require change in processes etc. How to overcome the “fear of change”?

In general, the fear of change is fear of being changed, not change itself. If the change is good, and well communicated, and introduced in an inspiring way, change isn’t difficult. Most people want to make things better.

What is your advice for people/organizations that are reluctant to share knowledge?

In general, it’s an issue of distrust, which must be solved at an institutional level.

Can you elaborate more about customer focus vs. customer obsession? What should be the goal for organization: focus or obsession? 

There was much talk of customer focus in the 20th Century but it was mainly talk. The customer’s needs were secondary to the firm’s. Obsession means putting the customer as the real #1.

Please explain the concept of network team in more detail? Are these teams able to function independently as well as a together if need be? 

Yes. They must be able to do both.

Agile is necessary, but not sufficient: what would be, if to choose, one key ingredient besides Agile, to change the culture of the organization into a human-centered one?

Leadership storytelling is an important change tool. Human values like honesty and integrity are obviously also important. Being a good citizen must also come into the picture.

Do you know if there is a relation between human-centered organizations and revenue? 

You can certainly go broke focusing only on being human-centered. What is now possible though is to be both profitable and human-centered.

How do mid to senior-level managers get the agile buy-in from the top if it is not there?

They need to become leaders with their own inner compass and values.

Construction comes to mind as another field to apply agile. Not too much word on the success of this yet. 

I know of one construction firm that is on an Agile journey. Agile will happen in every sector.

Given cultural differences, is Agile as effective in countries where perhaps the customer is not the center of focus?

Agile is an inexorable global movement that will eventually reach all countries. You can embrace it now or embrace it later. It’s when, not whether.

What is the main characteristic of “fake” agile?

It’s parroting the words of agile without the belief, the values or the actions.

Is Agile applicable for small teams working online from different places?

Separating teams physically has obvious problems, but it has been done. Co-location is much easier.

Since leaving the World Bank, have they managed to stay agile?

They were not Agile in my day. They were very bureaucratic. There is a movement now to introduce Agile, and it has quite a bit of energy, but it is still early days. This is a marathon, not a sprint.

How would you handle the reliability-assurance of knowledge in an era of fake news and artificial intelligence?

Honesty, intellectual rigor, examining the evidence, doing the analysis—none of this is new. The Ancient Greeks spelled it out very clearly. It’s just with technology, there’s more of it to deal with.

Is storytelling like lessons learned?

Storytelling is a vast subject. You can find out more in my book, The Leader’s Guide To Storytelling.

I am not a natural storyteller. But I have heard twice today that is perhaps a skill I should develop. Any tips?

You can find out more in my book, The Leader’s Guide To Storytelling. Or for a more lighthearted look at it, my book, Squirrel Inc.

You mention agile is NOT a methodology but there are a lot of institutes giving certification training. How do you measure agile “mindset” in people and in organizations?

(This question was answered during the live Q&A.) Well, mindset is in one sense an ethereal thing and it can be hard to grasp but at the same time when you see it you can recognize it. When you see managers who are focused on enabling their staff to do things rather than controlling them, when there is trust in organizations vs. distrust. And you can sense immediately there is a difference; a different way of thinking and feeling and acting in the workplace. The measurement is more on the consequence or the result of the mindset and you see that in the way the teams flourish and the benefits for customers and the way the organization flourishes. It is one of the more difficult aspects of the whole transition is for people to realize that it is a mindset and to understand the elements of the mindset and to learn to embrace them and live them. It becomes second nature to you.

Because of the popularity of Stephen’s keynote, it will also be featured at our upcoming Agile & Scrum Online Conference. Learn more and see the speaker lineup here.


Efosa Ojomo on Market-Creating Innovation

Efosa Ojomo is Senior Research Fellow and Lead of Global Prosperity Research at the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation. As a keynote speaker at IIL’s Leadership & Innovation 2019 Online Conference, he shared impactful theories and models that left us thinking about innovation in an entirely different way.

We received so many great questions during the 15-minute Q&A that we didn’t have time to get to them all. Thank you to Efosa for taking the time to answer each and every question. This blog post is a compilation of some of our favorites.

The recording of Efosa’s keynote, and all other speaker presentations, are available to watch on demand through June 9. Log in or register here.

Of the three types of innovation [market-creating, sustaining, efficiency], how do you determine which one to focus a team’s energy? Or how to split their time between the three?

This depends on your organization’s existing business. A general rule of thumb is 20% market-creating (future), 40% sustaining (present), 40% efficiency (improving the past). I think the main thing about market-creating innovations is that they must have their own metrics if they are to be successful. Organizations can’t measure them the same way the success of other types of innovations are measured.

By developing these [separate business] units [for market-creating innovation], is this a means to bypass the shortfall of efficient innovations (i.e. a backdoor to keep jobs even though the organization is pushing innovations that would ultimately reduce the workforce)?

Not really. I think the reason to develop these units is to keep the organization viable for the long-term. If a company focuses only on efficiency innovations, it is bound to be disrupted someday. Other organizations are also doing the same. Investing in market-creating innovations give you the biggest chance for success.

Creating new markets does include expansion into economies without or with small such markets; does this represent disruptive innovation? Is the process of bringing an innovation from one economy to another economy without considered disruptive?

Creating new markets is sometimes considered disruptive. In Chapter 2 of our book The Prosperity Paradox: How Innovation Can Lift Nations Out of Poverty, we explain the relationship between market-creating and disruptive innovations.

How do we utilize these principles in operations driven businesses?

These principles are key for operations driven businesses but are also less obvious. For one, I would consider the value chain within which your business functions and see if your suppliers or those you supply to are market-creating, sustaining, or efficiency. This is important because if any of them loses out, so do you. This happened to Intel. As smartphones slowly became the dominant electronic gadgets of the day, Intel missed out on this opportunity because it was focused on sustaining and efficiency innovations in the PC industry.

What would you do differently to change from a push strategy to a pull strategy, knowing what you know now? In other words, the current business models are built on push strategies. What would you recommend to change cultures? 

First of all, I would be patient. I wouldn’t rush in to build the well* or simply invest in the most expedient solution. Second, I would work to identify entrepreneurs in the community so that I can hand over whatever investment I make to them. This is the best chance of making the solution sustainable. Third, I would check to see if there is a business close by that needs access to water. They are most likely going to be the ones most incentivized to keep the well going.

*Background: In his keynote, Efosa speaks about building a well for a poor village in Nigeria and how that demonstrates a push strategy: “where we go in, often with the best of intentions, and we push what we believe is the right solution onto people.”

How do you feel about innovation through acquisition? 

I think innovation through acquisition holds a lot of promise. However, the fundamental principles remain true. For an innovation to truly be a new growth engine for a company, it has to target nonconsumers. Here’s a great Harvard Business Review article about M&A in organizations.

Do you see disruptive innovation affecting greater social equity?

By their very nature, because disruptive innovations democratize products and services, they have the potential to reduce inequality.

How do we manage the balance between the risk and benefit of new, disruptive innovation? 

(This question was also answered during the live Q&A.) I recommend a great book titled Innovator’s Solution: Creating and Sustaining Successful Growth. It discusses this exact issue. It is a tough balance, but companies must anticipate that their existing strategy will someday be obsolete. As such, the risks associated with disruptive opportunities begin to look different once they are viewed with this lens.


Lisa Bodell on Simplification and Innovation

Lisa Bodell is the CEO of futurethink and the bestselling author of Why Simple Wins. As closing keynote speaker at IIL’s Leadership & Innovation 2019 Online Conference, she delivered a powerful message on how complexity is holding most of us back, and what we can do to get back to the work that really matters.

We received so many great questions during the 15-minute Q&A that we didn’t have time to get to them all. Thank you to Lisa for taking the time to answer each and every question. This blog post is a compilation of some of our favorites.

The recording of Lisa’s keynote, and all other speaker presentations, are available to watch on demand through June 9. Log in or register here.

Should it always be so simple? What if the situation is really complex?

It should be as simple AS POSSIBLE. We use an acronym called M-U-R-A:

Minimal – Making something as minimal as possible is the one part of the definition everyone always knows. Simplicity makes you initially think of all the things you need to eliminate or streamline, but what you might not realize is why that’s so important. Of course, simplicity is a subtractive process. You can get more value from your company or employees by being more focused, more nimble. If we can get in the mindset that less equals value, that’s the very first step. But this is where most people stop; there is more to simplicity than just minimizing.

Understandable – Another element of simplification is to ensure something is as understandable as possible. This is about clarity — no acronyms, no jargon, no big words to sound important. Being ‘understandable’ means getting to the heart of what you mean quickly.

Repeatable – Next: simplicity involves being as repeatable as possible. This is about effectiveness through consistency — avoiding one-off efforts or customizing everything you do. We want to avoid reinventing the wheel each time we do something –this helps us save time, share learning, and ensure we’re repeating best practices. Think of it this way: it’s important that every time a pilot gets into a cockpit, they understand how to fly the plane because the experience is repeatable from plane to plane. And every time a brain surgeon operates, he knows the repeatable ‘best practices’ to use to ensure patient safety.

Accessible – Finally, simplicity is about making things as accessible AS POSSIBLE. This involves being more transparent and open to a wider audience to accomplish more things in an easier way – like Geico and Progressive Insurance did with their pricing models. Their customers are excited to work with them because they believe they are honest by sharing more of how their business works. Or opening up your code like Google does so others can help them create new offerings, or like IBM does with their Idea Jams – collaborating between employees to encourage the sharing of problems and ideas and building on each other’s knowledge to solve them faster, together.

These are the keys to simplicity: making something as MINIMAL, UNDERSTANDABLE, REPEATABLE, and ACCESSIBLE as possible. Notice that I tack the phrase “as possible” onto each element of the definition. I’m not arguing that everything needs to be a single line. That would be impossible, and not at all desirable, either. Albert Einstein famously argued: “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.”

Do you have an example where this didn’t work?

You mean where simplifying didn’t work? It *is* possible to oversimplify. Let me give you a couple of examples of what I mean: A group within GE set an ambitious goal of cutting down its contracts. They cut a 100-page contract down to 1 page which was fantastic. But they found they were now taking a lot of time explaining all the things they left out. They decided a 10-page contact – which was still a tremendous improvement – was better.

How do you balance simplifying complexity with assuring processes remain in control and the business does not drop into chaos? 

Simplify one area or thing at a time. Chaos will happen if everyone starts trying to simplify everything without knowing why. So define WHY you want to simplify (in service of what? More time with customers? Save money?), and then focus on one simplification area at a time – reports, meetings, etc.

How do you connect simplicity to the bottom line for a business, budgets? 

Simplification has tremendous impact on efficiency, and the bottom line. Per the recent Siegel+Gale simplification report: Customers are willing to pay a 6%+ price premium or MORE for companies that offer a simpler way to deal with them, they are 70% more likely to recommend you to others, and companies that were viewed as ‘simplified’ outperformed others in their category by 214%! Culture and Ethical benefits: 30% retention of your employees – because they are doing work that MATTERS. Those are the benefits, but you may also be asking how you MEASURE simplification to show its impact.

A few metrics:

Vision/Communication Metric: Decrease in time spent communicating on irrelevant social media channels
Structure Metrics – Increase in staff decision-making due to simplified org. structure
HR Metrics – Decrease in number of approval layers for hiring qualified candidates
Strategy/Planning Metrics – Decrease in number of approval committees
Operational Metric – Decrease in number of required sign-offs/signatures for approval
Product/Service Metric – Number of steps or layers removed from our product-development process
Meetings Metrics – Number of meetings eliminated; increase in time meeting with customers
Email/Calls/Voicemail Metrics – Decrease in volume of internal emails
Reports Metrics – Number of reports killed
Presentation Metrics – Amount of time saved by eliminating PPTs from internal meetings
Value of Staff Time Metrics – Number of activities eliminated to make room for new ones

Project Management is one of the most complex and procedure-oriented activities. What do you recommend for Project Managers to simplify? 

We practice EOS – eliminate, outsource, or simplify. First ask – is it necessary? If not, eliminate. If yes – can you outsource it or give it to another group/person to do? If not, can you simplify it? Reduce the steps, reduce the frequency, reduce the time, reduce the people or resources. Doing this with policies and procedures gets incredible results.

In an aging workforce environment, how do you change the culture to move it towards ‘simplification’? Thinking of situations where a lot of procedures are based on overcomplexity ‘to cover all the bases’ and ‘because we’ve always done it that way’.

Kill A Stupid Rule is a great way to question assumptions around ‘how work gets done’. It’s not that all rules are bad, it’s that many have outlined their time. ALL AGES enjoy kill a stupid rule because it moves a culture towards eliminating unnecessary things and opens a dialog to taking a new approach.

If we do the work that really matters to us personally, isn’t it likely that we will ignore or shortchange the work that must be done for the benefit of the company?

It’s not about the work that just matters to YOU, it’s the work that matters for the company and its strategic goals. Some work has to be done, but the issue is we spend far too much time on unnecessary work that isn’t getting us towards our collective goals. It’s the higher purpose work we want to get to, and if there are some necessary things we have to do in service of that, that’s fine. Your goal is to eliminate the stuff that doesn’t matter to anyone (you or the org).

Are there any good tools?

Yes! In my book (Why Simple Wins) and we sell a toolkit on Amazon with 13 tools to get started RIGHT NOW.

How do you ID the best chief simplifier?

For the past 10 years, I’ve helped leaders embrace simplification. The ones who are successful share these 6 traits:

Courage: When Dave Lewis became CEO at European grocery store Tesco in 2014, the company was struggling. Lewis recognized that shopping at Tesco had become a chore. Customers shopping for a single product—like ketchup, for example—were faced with dozens of brands, flavors, and types. Lewis hired a team and mandated them to cut the variety of products by 30 percent, from 90,000 items to 65,000. Lewis anticipated blowback from customers and from suppliers, but Lewis stayed true to his mission. A year later, the company’s first Christmas season beat financial expectations.

Minimalist mindset: To drive simplicity, leaders must understand the value of paring things back. They need to envision how a simpler company will be more efficient, productive, and profitable.  It’s easy to demand more, more, more, but what could it mean for your business if you sacrificed a third of your product offerings? We rarely see the harm in adding new functionality to a website, a new option to a service plan, or a new series of internal meetings. But those sorts of additions do have a cost, like overwhelming customers — even if it’s not readily apparent on a balance sheet.

Results orientation: Smart leaders know that successful simplification isn’t just about making do with less or making people do more with less. It’s about enabling employees to do more of the work they’re excited to complete.

Focus: Leaders with a simplicity mindset refuse to get bogged down by distractions. While simplicity benefits the company as a whole, it often challenges certain individuals and groups whose authority is rooted in inefficient and overly complex rules, processes, and systems.

Personal engagement: If hoping to instill an ethos of simplification, you need to exemplify, empower, and reinforce the behaviors associated with simplification. You eliminate redundancies, you kill stupid rules, you say ‘NO’ to meetings that you don’t need to attend. If you’re not prepared to simplify your own work environment, don’t direct those who work for you to strip things down.

Decisiveness: Leaders who are driving simplification lay aside the need to seek consensus. Complicated organizations tend to be overloaded with people who claim they can’t get things done because they need more time or analysis, or that some other department hasn’t signed off or another team hasn’t sent them the specs. Leaders operating in a simplicity mindset short-circuit those complaints. They make decisions quickly and cleanly, and they inspire those around them to do the same.

What about those of us who are not decision makers and stuck with “complexity”? How can we advocate “simplicity” to our management? Sometimes it is difficult to get people to change.

It could just be in the positioning of it. Simplification IS an efficiency exercise, which management LOVES. Kill a stupid rule is an excellent way to get them on board.

When you talk about 45% in meetings/23% doing email, shouldn’t these really be considered at least partially as productive time? Generally, we need to work with other people to come up with the best solutions.

Of course. I’m not saying ALL emails and meetings are bad. I’m saying that many of them aren’t necessary. The goal is to eliminate the self-imposed and unnecessary work to make more space to focus on the necessary ones.

How does one manage a change in a siloed organization that espouses innovation, but is encumbered by legacy structure?

Simplification starts on the ground level. The individual level. I strongly suggest to teams to simplify within their sphere of control first. You’ll get results, and others will soon want to follow your lead. I’ve seen it happen hundreds of times.

I can’t help but think this applies well to home and family life as well. Do you hear stories from people where they applied this at home? What is your favorite?

Absolutely. I tell people to try the exercises on their personal life. Especially the exercise on figuring out where to simplify your work/life. I discussed in my speech creating a t-chart, and on the left side, right down all the typical things you do in a week. Circle the ones that are valuable/meaningful to your life goals. If a task isn’t circles, why are you doing it? Can you stop doing it for awhile and see what happens? Often in our personal life we do things our of obligation that just suck our time and aren’t meaningful to us.  Then on the right side of the t-chart, list all thing things where you WISH you could spend you time. What holds you back from doing that?


Transforming to an Agile Enterprise

By Sandeep Shouche

Most executives will hear the Agile buzzword and ask their teams to “do this agile thing.” For many executives, Agile only means: Do it even faster than before. Deliver whenever I want it. Don’t question when I want to change it.

True “Agility” is a much deeper change and most enterprises will underestimate the amount of change they will experience when they adopt Agile. There are several deep-rooted habits that have to be kicked and some new ones have to be embraced.

While there are many organizations that claim to be an Agile enterprise, very few actually behave like one. But what exactly goes into making an Agile enterprise? An Internet search reveals a lot of marketing pitches, but not a lot of guidance about how to become one.

In our observation, there are a number of characteristics that go into the successful making of an Agile enterprise. So here are some views about what an Agile enterprise looks like.

It all starts at the top. The senior executives understand what Agility means and lead by example.

Some of the ways in which this manifests itself are:

The portfolio of the organization is dynamic. They recognize that change is the only constant and there is no such thing as “certainty.”
They will not hesitate to make strategic decisions whenever the time is right and not just in “strategy summits” where a chosen few executives make plans for the rest of the organization for a year or more.
They make clear priority calls whenever required. They do not start several initiatives all at once, keeping the amount of work in the system at a reasonable level.
Prioritization is always based on potential to create customer value. Other considerations (like preferences of the team, opinions and political pulls) play second fiddle.
They understand that nothing is delivered perfectly the first time. They encourage teams to experiment. Rather than bully teams into building the perfect product with ridiculous deadlines, they encourage them to unlock value quickly by delivering incrementally.
They realize the final solution and product can only be arrived at through a process of experimentation and use of iterative methods. They encourage their teams to take risks and make it safe to fail sometimes.


The organization focuses on products rather than projects.

Instead of focusing on project-centric measures like schedule variance and cost variance, they focus on product-centric measures like “value delivered.”
They don’t try to optimize for project delivery. Instead, they focus on the product-related business case (because products will last several years, whereas projects are ephemeral).
They frequently question the business case of the product even during the projects that occur during its life-cycle. They will gracefully exit products which no longer make business sense.


The organization embraces a Lean culture.
They apply Lean principles and embody the philosophy of continuous improvement.

They frequently stop to fix problems, rather than quickly apply band-aid fixes.
They encourage the teams to look for improvement opportunities to reduce “waste”. Most of the incremental improvements come from the team, rather than top-down.
They work on a few things at a time and complete them, rather than leave too much work on the table.


Their teams are cross-functional, able to cut across silos and truly collaborate to unlock value for their customers through high quality products and services.

Disagreements and conflicts are always resolved by focusing on “how does this increase customer value?” rather than political positioning.
Before demanding something from other departments, each department first focuses inwards and comes up with constructive suggestions.
Everybody’s incentives are governed more by their contribution to overall customer value rather than their individual output.


They are completely transparent with their stakeholders, especially their employees who feel empowered and valued.

Across the organization, everybody is aware of what “customer value” really means and they strive to maximize it.
Their plans are realistic rather than aggressive. They know that keeping everybody busy is less important than ensuring that they all contribute to building value.
They do not lull the customer into false sense of security. They willingly share information about potential risk factors. They offer a high-level roadmap and a detailed, short-term plan to recognize the uncertain nature of the business.
They never hide bad news from their customers. They willingly admit mistakes or slippages and always offer a plan to make it better rather than blame others or the environment.

Many of the above might seem to be platitudes – “motherhood and apple pie” statements. To ensure that they do not just remain in policy documents or on the walls, it is important to develop indicators and measures for each statement that will prove that either you are meeting the requirements or that you are not.

What we are talking about is a “balanced scorecard” for an Agile enterprise. Of course, each organization is unique and the scorecards will be different for each organization.

For more information about how to build one for your organization, do get in touch with us.

About the Author
Sandeep Shouche (PMP, PgMP, PMI-ACP, CSM, CSP, [ASM.EN], ITIL Expert, PRINCE2) is an expert in the areas of project, program management, Agile methodologies and IT Service Management. He has over 24 years of project management experience in different industries and geographies. Sandeep has been on the Board of the Project Management Institute – Pune Chapter. He has authored and been featured in several articles and conferences related to project and program Management. Outside of work, Sandeep is deeply committed to voluntary work for social causes and has a profound love of the mountains.

 

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From Googlewhack to Gazillion!

By Judith W. Umlas | IIL Senior Vice President, Author, and Facilitator

When McGraw-Hill first decided to publish my second book (the first was The Power of Acknowledgment, published by IIL Publishing), I thought it should be called Leadership and The Power of Acknowledgment. It felt right due to all of the positive experiences and wonderful stories that emerged training leaders in this initiative. "What would you think of a different title -- Grateful Leadership?" asked my Editor.

Well, I didn't have to THINK at all -- I got a telltale case of half inch-high goosebumps at the suggestion, therefore I KNEW it was right. But then another thought hit me -- that's such a great title! There must be tons of articles and even books, websites, blog posts about that subject, I thought. I did a quick Google search and came up with what is known as a "Googlewhack"! What is that you may ask? It's "exactly two words without quotation marks that returns exactly one hit"(according to Wikipedia). I couldn't believe it!

This single "hit" was the 2010 article from the NASA CIO Blog by Linda Cureton called "Grateful Leadership." It starts out this way: "As Thanksgiving approaches, this is the time of year when we reflect on the things that we want to be thankful for."

I loved the thought behind this very well-written and inspiring article about how important it is for leaders to express their gratitude on this day, but my purpose was (and still is) to make every day a day of thanksgiving and gratitude.

That's why I HAD to write this book. That's why we have created the Center for Grateful Leadership. That's why we have an unbelievably active and contributory community that is committed to the Grateful Leadership initiative, such as:

All of this is why IIL gives its total support to making Grateful Leadership training and resources available around the globe. That's why I'm living my true purpose, my passion, and my mission as I write and speak and deliver keynotes to companies and groups of all sizes, industries and leadership levels – and in turn, helping to create more “Grateful Leaders.”

Take the exciting 7 hour Grateful Leadership On-demand course from IIL

I believe that Grateful Leaders can make huge changes in the very way people do their work and how they feel about what they’re doing. By my definition, Grateful Leaders are those who see, recognize, and express appreciation and gratitude for their employees’ and other stakeholders’ contributions and for their passionate engagement, on an ongoing basis… By creating a culture of appreciation throughout their organization, in which people truly feel valued, these leaders motivate their followers to strive for continuous improvement and always greater results. *

There is no doubt in my mind that what everyone wants underneath it all is "Grateful Leadership," and it's just my job to make it available to all of those I possibly can. I'm an honored "messenger" for helping spread this work in order to help create a world that works. And you who are reading this are part of that world. You, too, are a messenger carrying this valued message far and wide with me.

And oh, by the way, if you Google "Grateful Leadership" now, you will get this startling response: "About 97,400,000 results"! So I guess we have come quite a distance... and we still have far to go. So join me, and join each other. And I hope all of you have a precious, grateful time full of acknowledgment and appreciation with family and friends during the holidays...and every day!

*Excerpted from Grateful Leadership: Using the Power of Acknowledgment to Engage All Your People and Achieve Superior Results by Judith W. Umlas (McGraw-Hill, 2013).

Judith W. Umlas is Sr. Vice President and trainer at International Institute for Learning, Inc. She is the author of the ground-breaking book, The Power of Acknowledgment and two other books which have been credited with changing workplaces and lives.

Judith delivers inspiring, motivational and transformational keynote addresses, course and webinars on Grateful Leadership and The Power of Acknowledgment all over the world. Grateful Leadership and The Power of Acknowledgment are Judith’s passion, mission, and her purpose!


Project Management and Leadership Competencies: A Snapshot

By Dr. Willis H. Thomas, PMP, CPT 

The Project Management Institute (PMI)® Talent Triangle® has addressed the need for project leadership competencies.

Technical competencies can be thought of as the science or hard skills; whereas, behavioral competencies can be considered the art or the soft skills. It is important to have a balance of the hard and soft skills in the ongoing professional development of team members.

The PMI Talent Triangle

(1) Technical Project Management
(2) Strategic and Business Management
(3) Leadership

Below is a contrast between project management vs. project leadership competencies.

 

Project Management Technical
Competency
Project Management Behavioral
Competency
Project
Leadership Technical Competency
Project
Leadership
Behavioral
Competency
Cost Track budget Resolve conflict when discussing project budget Oversee Return on Investment (ROI) analysis Direct financial management
initiatives
Time Coordinate schedules Improve acceptance to schedule compression Synchronize schedules to strategic plans Refine KPIs and link CSFs
Scope Control scope Monitor perceptions of scope creep Revisit scope for potential growth Gain acceptance for related sub-projects
Quality Confirm requirements are met Exceed expectations through relationships Highlight benefits through Return on Quality (ROQ) Drive Quality initiatives through a quality system
Risk Identify uncertainties Reach consensus on risk mitigation Enhance risk approaches using guidelines Change risk averse attitudes to risk neutral
Resources Align resources, i.e., people, systems, equipment, facilities, materials Ensure ongoing effective utilization of resources Identify resource gaps and needs for sun-setting or replacement Optimize resource use through i.e.,  motivation and upgrades
Communication Hold meetings Promote active meeting engagement Analyze meeting effectiveness Improve virtual meeting facilitation
Stakeholder Create stakeholder register Increase stakeholder engagement Use tools such as Power and Influence Grid Re-focus challenging stakeholders
Integration Participate in a business case Show opportunity and sunk costs Research business cases for validity Defend a business case for approval
Procurement Select vendor based upon criteria Manage vendor relations Evaluate vendors using online tools Guide vendors for improved performance

Note: Items in italics represent the Competing Demands experienced in projects and items in bold italics represent the other four Knowledge Areas identified in the A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide).

For a downloadable image of the table above, click here.

More on this topic of project leadership…

Formalized programs and academic infrastructure for project leadership has been established by PMI® to provide sound guidance on the recommended approach.

For example, The Global Accreditation Center (GAC) established in 2001 for Project Management Education Programs is an academic accreditation body with policies, procedures, and standards for project, program, portfolio management and related programs at the bachelor’s, postgraduate and doctoral degree levels that operate independently from PMI. GAC is also a member of the Association of Specialized and Professional Accreditors (ASPA).

The PMI website provides information about GAC and the 100+ degree programs that have promoted. Being educated in project management and leadership programs is an important research effort for those making an investment in project management and leadership certifications, credentials, and degrees.

Whether an individual decides to pursue project leadership through ongoing education or through a Post-Graduate degree option like a Master of Science in Project Leadership (such as available through the Lake Forest Graduate School of Management, where I am an adjunct professor) will depend upon their career goals. The decision does require research whether a Master of Science or an MBA in Project Leadership will lead to the desired educational achievement.

The International Institute for Learning (IIL) is a PMI Registered Education Provider (R.E.P.) and there is likely a path forward that will enable students to choose what path they decide to pursue if it involves a degree vs. certification. In other words, courses that you have taken at IIL can be part of your educational roadmap and long-term strategy, i.e., becoming a professor and teaching project management and leadership courses part-time during retirement.

Having a strategy for your project management and leadership education is important as one could expect to invest up to $50k to complete a post-graduate degree in project leadership.

To this end, IIL offers courses to enhance leadership competencies. Find out more by browsing our leadership courses or requesting a free consultation.

PMI, Talent Triangle, The PMI logo, and PMBOK Guide are registered marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc. 


About the Author

Willis H. Thomas, Ph.D., PMP, CPT has worked for large corporations and academic institutions in the areas of human resources, learning and development, quality assurance, project management, sales and marketing, measurement and evaluation, and operations.

He has been in senior management for life sciences companies for the past 15 years. Dr. Thomas is a member of adjunct faculty at the Lake Forest Graduate School of Management, International Institute for Learning and Institute of Validation Technology.

His publications have received global recognition from associations such as the Project Management Institute (PMI) where he received the Cleland Award for “The Basics of Project Evaluation and Lessons Learned.” This book was an 8-year effort that enhanced the framework for the evaluation of projects using the PMBOK® Guide.

He has been a featured speaker on an international basis and has received the Apex Publication Excellence Award for implementing useful tools for project management, evaluation, and training.


Managing Virtual Teams Successfully

By Dr. Willis H. Thomas, PMP, CPT 

Virtual teams are becoming more of the norm for organizations as they strive to acquire the best talent from anywhere in the world, minimize overhead everywhere on the earth and stretch their global presence on a worldwide basis.

Building High-Performance Teams necessitates that we utilize innovative tools and techniques to engage the audience. A study from MIT Sloan found “dispersed teams can actually outperform groups that are co-located teams, provided the right type of collaboration is in place.

As virtual teams move through the typical stages of team development (i.e., Tuckman model of forming-storming-norming-performing), they can benefit from a Simple Interactive Meaningful Practical Learning Exercise (SMILE).

Some may think of these engaging activities as games; however, while they are intended to be fun, the benefits should not be underestimated in terms of the potential positive impact they can have on team performance.

Two outcomes should be considered in the following examples:

  1. Quantitative Perspective
    • Decreasing employee turnover
    • Reducing job-related and personal stress
    • Increasing job satisfaction
    • Enhancing team relationships
    • Sustaining motivation through the number of reported productive hours
  2. Qualitative Perspective
    • Improving problem-solving skills
    • Inspiring creative thinking skills
    • Encouraging critical thinking capabilities
    • Strengthening interpersonal skills
    • Minimizing negative team conflict

As a Certified Performance Technologist (CPT), I have come to look at the value that SMILEs can have on teams from the perspective of Return on Investment (ROI) and Return on Quality (ROQ). First let’s keep the concept of ROI basic, which is in this context:

 

 

Applying this equation to a real-life example, if the cost for rolling out a SMILE activity = $10,000 and the estimated value of the program is $100,000 (considering quantitative and/or qualitative factors such as listed above):

 

 

This number is not exaggerated. For example, Malcolm Baldrige ROI has been computed as high as 700%. So considering that SMILE activities have a no cost to low-cost proposition, the computed ROI will typically be very high. This provides justification in allowing the virtual team to participate in the activity. SMILE cost may also take into consideration the amount of time that people are spending on developing the “gaming activity” during work hours as well as participating in it. So COMMON SENSE should be at the forefront to manage the perception of how these activities are facilitated.

The premise is that if it is worth doing, it is worth measuring. The COMMON CENTS philosophy means:

  • C = Calculate
  • E= Every
  • N= Necessary
  • T=Teaming
  • S=Situation

The bottom line is not only a financial measure, but we also need to consider the non-monetary benefits. ROQ takes into account the Cost of Quality (COQ) -- prevention and appraisal costs. In this context, PREVENTION cost refers to the expense that is incurred to prevent defects, errors or a lack of desired performance; whereas APPRAISAL cost, or INSPECTION cost, is the expense incurred to identify defects, errors or lack of performance. To this end, expenditures that are reviewed to ensure that a team will function optimally might include factors such as:

  • Web-based platforms for collaboration, i.e., WebEx or GoToMeeting
  • Webcam equipment for real-time video conversation
  • Shared drive storage for document access
Set yourself up for success with IIL's course on Building High Performance Teams

Evolution of Learning Exercises for Collaboration

No one author or source can take credit for the evolution of learning exercises for virtual teams. Online gaming collaboration can be traced back to the introduction of the personal computer and software developers and came to life in the early 1990s when the Internet was introduced. Telecommunications also ran a parallel track, but slightly earlier when McGraw-Hill introduced Games Trainers Play (Newstrom and Scannel, 1980) and 201 Icebreakers (West, 1997). These McGraw-Hill publications refer to Experiential Learning Exercises, group mixers, warm-ups, energizers and playful activities.

Types of Interactive Exercises

There are a variety of interactive exercises that a virtual team can participate in such as:

  • Board Games
  • Video Simulations
  • Role Plays
  • Quizzes
  • Get-to-Know
  • Research
  • Trivia
  • Ice-breakers
  • Virtual escape rooms
  • And much more…

The investment a team will make in a SMILE will vary based on the following factors that can be thought of in terms of the competing demands:

  • Cost: How much it will be to finance, i.e., one time vs. license fee if applicable
  • Time: Length of time of the activity
  • Scope: Frequency – how often
  • Quality: Complexity – how challenging
  • Risk: Uncertainties that may be encountered in implementation
  • Resources: Number of participants, software, and systems required, facilities, etc.

Here are some examples of SMILEs that I began to create in 2004 in conjunction with my dissertation that focused specifically on project management. (These examples are referenced on my academic website at http://lessonslearned.info on the Support tab.)

Later, my dissertation topic would be condensed into a book titled The Basics of Project Evaluation and Lessons Learned that won the 2012 Project Management Institute (PMI)® Cleland Award. Since that time, I have delivered speaking engagements on an international basis that discuss concepts from this book.

Example: Transferring Essential Lessons Learned

This Monopoly-style game enables the card deck to be customized with lessons learned. It supports up to 10 players to share lessons learned (i.e., agile retrospectives). This SMILE with the source code is made freely available with the purchase The Basics of Project Evaluation and Lessons Learned.

Taking Great Concepts and Creating a SMILE

In this example, I will look at Grateful Leadership by Judy Umlas. She is a recognized author that discusses how to use the Power of Acknowledgment to “Engage All Your People and Achieve Superior Results.”

Whenever SMILEs are associated with acknowledgment, it can create wonderful fireworks. In this example, the objective is to drive performance through recognition. A survey could be created that drives a visual dashboard of all team members participating in a specific initiative. As feedback is received, the dashboard displays the status of performance in real-time. Examples of how this could be used are solution centers (also referred to as help desks).

Solution Center Performance Example

In the above example, using this dashboard could allow stakeholders to change their ratings on demand; hence affecting the dashboard. A prize (i.e., $15 lunch gift certificate at a popular restaurant) could be associated with the highest score at the end of the month.

SMILE Development Tools

Getting started with SMILE should be easy; however, it should also allow for growth and challenges to keep it interesting. Most of the things that need to be created can be done with Microsoft Office, i.e., Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. For the dashboard example above, this will require macros in Microsoft Excel. For the TELL example above, this will require knowledge of HTML. For those over-performers, they may even consider developing an app that can run on an iPhone and Android platform. The key here is to make it engaging and enjoy the process as you enhance virtual team collaboration.

 

About the Author

Willis H. Thomas, PhD, PMP, CPT has worked for large corporations and academic institutions in the areas of human resources, learning and development, quality assurance, project management, sales and marketing, measurement and evaluation, and operations.

He has been in senior management for life sciences companies for the past 15 years. Dr. Thomas is a member of adjunct faculty at the Lake Forest Graduate School of Management, International Institute for Learning and Institute of Validation Technology.

His publications have received global recognition from associations such as the Project Management Institute (PMI) where he received the Cleland Award for “The Basics of Project Evaluation and Lessons Learned.” This book was an 8-year effort that enhanced the framework for the evaluation of projects using the PMBOK® Guide.

He has been a featured speaker on an international basis and has received the Apex Publication Excellence Award for implementing useful tools for project management, evaluation and training.