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Planning, Checklists and Re-planning for 2021

Planning, Checklists and Re-planning Way back in January 2020, we wrote about re-planning through projects (click here for that post on 'Planning and Re-planning'). I shared my experience hiking the Kokoda Track. Of how changes come out of left-field, and the need to adapt plans as circumstances change. A plan is evolving based on the changing circumstances around you. At that point in time, I was feeling a bit overwhelmed and shell shocked from the fires. I was focused on balance and was looking to bring some balance to my project practice after a very intense 2019. Skip to March, and very quickly the circumstances in which we were operating fundamentally shifted. Every project we were working on was put on hold. Many retail businesses grappled with what to do next and how to handle the crisis. So we shifted gears and looked inwards. We've spent some time working on 'how we work', developing our strengths and focusing on bringing our best to projects for clients. We've been pleasantly surprised by the generosity of people and incredibly grateful for the network we've built. Around July I was in a planning session with a group of project managers, working on a 'future 2023' exercise. I couldn't do it. I was stuck; I simply couldn't imagine beyond 3-months into the future. I have absolutely experienced the 'time tricking' that has been a feature of the last eight months. And now, here we are, nearly at the end of the year. Marvelling at how fast, and slow, it has been and the fact that it’s time again to focus forward and look at 2021 with fresh eyes. You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward.  ~Steve Jobs 2020 At 6R we’ve been reflecting on the year; the things we’ve learned the things we’ve loved. The things we’ve longed to be different and the things we’ve lacked. We’ve: Learned that we can do projects via little squares on the screen. It’s not ideal and it requires a great deal more effort when it comes to building rapport with a team but it’s still workable, achievable and doable. Loved spending more time at home and less in traffic. For years, I have referred to my work bag as my office but I now have a desk set up at home that feels comfortable and there is even a plant on it. I move around a bit to keep things interesting and provide me with a change of scenery (I mean it’s been years of working in transit/other people's offices so I need to keep it fresh). Longed to be able to see the project team in real life, to share that energy that we get when people get excited and focused on a project. To be able to use a physical whiteboard and work out ideas together, to be able to call a group together quickly and get feedback from people without having to organise a meet up or call. Lacked certainty about just about anything. It’s been said that certainty is an illusion and that most of the time we’re just tricking ourselves into believing that we’ve got control over a situation. True or not, this has worked out a lot of the time so it doesn’t get questioned very often. 2021 After thinking about what’s been good/different (unusual) about 2020, we are planning out 2021. For those who’ve worked with me before you would know that I am a big fan of the 52-weeks on one-page ‘perspective shifting’ year planner (with credit to Janine Garner and Kieran Flannigan, who first introduced me to this concept). Each year now, we review this plan, we follow the method of looking for an overarching theme for the year and of 52 things to do in a year. We have included a link to the planner below if you want to join us in this exercise. We have found that whether we follow the plan to the letter it’s a good way to get focus for the year and get ‘real’ about how much time we really have. Those who plan do better than those who do not plan, even should they rarely stick to their plan  ~ Winston Churchill Click here for your free 52-week calendar I also wanted to make the point that checklists are really helpful at the moment, I was listening to this podcast about whether checklists make us "stupid". The premise assumes that if we develop checklists, we're not bringing critical thought to the table. Even when we have checklists we still need to bring some thoughts, but right now, checklists are a great reminder (in case all that time warp stuff has got the best of you) and a good place to start as you plan out what the festive season has in store. Our yearly 12-point Christmas Checklist is a good prompt for reminding us what's needed at this time of year. Click here to view our 12-point Christmas checklist!

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Stronger, Better, Faster – Project Recovery Response

Project Recovery Premise In conversation with an ex-Olympic athlete who was building out a performance recovery range of clothing, I remember him very clearly explaining that at the top level of athletic performance and competition, all things being equal, it's the athlete who can recover faster and better who is able to perform at a higher level. This was a nuance of athletic competition that was new and interesting to me, and so it has stuck. There's research that backs it up too. Research shows "athletes with the biggest drops in resting norepinephrine levels tended to show the best improvements in performance. At the end of their recovery periods, they were simply in less stressed-out states." The article goes on to remind us that "norepinephrine and its sister, epinephrine, are considered to be two of the body's principal 'stress' – or 'flight-or-fight' – hormones." Most people are reasonably familiar with the fight or flight response that's triggered when we feel stress. What I discovered listening to a Brené Brown interview with Doctors Emily and Amelia Nagoski, is that we're not supposed to spend the amount of time that we do in elevated stress or "in fight or flight response". It's designed to work for about 10-15 minutes, but if you've ever spent time in project delivery, you know that the stress build-up is measured in bigger increments than minutes. So, what can we do to manage our own stressed-out states to recover faster and improve performance?  The good news is that you don't have to wait for the whole project to 'be done' to improve your state of stress. Doctors Emily and Amelia Nagoski wrote the book 'Burnout', and they are firm advocates of creating permission to take a break from whatever is causing you stress. They offer some practical advice and tactical strategies that we can all try to improve the 'completion' of the stress in our bodies. The basic premise is that emotions are physical cycles that happen in your body. Emotions that are not 'complete' remain in our bodies and can manifest as illness or physical pain. The anecdotes of people coming to the end of a big project or milestone only to fall in a heap once it's done are many. My own growing up experience was that every time we went on holidays, my dad would spend the first week with a cold. Have you ever had that experience? Getting to the end of something that took a big effort and then getting sick? It's because your body doesn't know you're done with being stressed. It needs a physiological expression of the completeness of the emotion. Recovery Tips to complete the Stress response Below is a summary of 7 concrete, specific, evidence-based strategies (from the experts) to close the stress cycle: Physical activity: moving your body in whatever way makes you feel good; dance, walk, climb. Breathing: the yogis have it and always have. Slow your breath, refocus on it. Positive social interaction: even at a fairly surface level, this can help. Laughter: the big belly laugh – even the recollection of a time where you laughed until you couldn't stop is a positive. Affection: the 20-second hug switches the chemistry in your body to a point where you can feel the release. Cry it out: it won't solve the situation that causes stress, but it can help your body complete the stress cycle. Creative self-expression: cook, create, knit or something that can take some of the emotion. Imagination can complete a stress response cycle, imagine trampling the things. Even reading a book or following a story in a movie. Approach for Project Recovery An approach that we’ve used before is from Nikki Fogden-Moore (the Vitality Coach). She has an exercise she calls the "Energy Bank Review". The things that build your energy and contribute to your positivity go on the left-hand side of the page and the things that deplete you go on the right-hand side of the page. Often towards the end of a project, there's a build-up of the things that are on the right-hand side of the page, and you need to be able to reset that and restore your own energy levels by doing the things on the left-hand side of the page and reducing your exposure to those on the right. This is also a great exercise for creating clarity for yourself on what it is that builds your energy up. I also find for me when I am under pressure, having people around who build me up is one of the best ways to stay sane and found that Julia Baird suggests the same in her latest book Phosphorescence with these wise words: "Avoid people who would control, criticise or diminish you in any way or are jealous of you or make you feel small or are drawn to your strength but then suck it dry. Stay with those who bring you comfort, understand you, and allow you to flower." What do we do as part of our 6R Project Recovery process? The first time I got to the end of a project, I remember the feeling of flatness - of looking around and thinking 'OK, that's done, what now?' and feeling a bit lost. Since then, I've learned that we need to relish this time of reflection and use it as an opportunity to take stock, look around and remind ourselves what worked and what we'd aspire to do better next time. To this end the 6R team usually do the following: We conduct a post-implementation review and look for things that we did well and things that we can improve on for the future. As part of acknowledging the things that we did well, we may summarise this for a broader business audience or make recommendations for next time. We will also thank the project team; in the most personal and considered way, we know how to do. We will do our own internal review and see what we can improve in our processes to better meet the needs of our clients and get better ourselves. We encourage the client to act on the things that they've identified that they want to improve and ensure that there's some check mechanism in place to follow that through. Some of this helps us close out the project stress cycle. Humans are not built to do big things on our own; we are social and cooperative animals. We're designed to do big things together. If there's anything that people are designed to do together, a project is definitely it. Projects require team alignment, clarity of focus and energy to bring the whole team together and bring the project and people to finish in a good place. Recently in conversation, someone posed the question 'How do you measure project success?', and the way we measure success has a lot to do with getting everyone to the end of the project in a mentally good place and achieving the business goals we set out for. If you are in the midst of a project or the brink of burnout, I hope sharing these strategies has been helpful. While we specialise in project delivery, in every project we work on we understand/recognise it is the people that are a businesses greatest asset and something that sets 6R Retail apart.

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Project Procedures exist for Good Reasons

Procedures for project kick-off are often developed, to ensure we don't repeat mistakes of the past. Typically to kick off a project we need: (Read more)

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Have You Got These Four People Working in Your Project?

There are four foundation project roles that are essential to ensure your project has in place to start well, keep momentum and finish strong. Like the four wheels on a car, they need to be pumped to the right level and all aligned in the same direction to work at their best. Four Foundation Project Roles Vision Makers/Sponsors are people who want to see the project succeed. They take on financial decisions and have the authority to approve expenses, assist with procuring any additional funds, if needed, and keep Executive focus. Technical experts, or Subject Matter experts with technical skills, are people who know how the software works. They have the right technical skills and ability to advise on the configuration (or development) of the software, and guide, based on expertise, on the match of software to the business process. Business expert or those who will be stuck using the software. These people have insight into how the business process works right now. They will know what needs to be done day-to-day. These are people who've got the right knowledge to be able to contribute to the project in the form of business process and improvements, i.e. Stakeholders, Business Analysts and those who are impacted by the project. Project Managers are people who can co-ordinate, document, articulate decisions, monitor the timeline and stay focused on the goals of the project and keep everyone heading in (generally) the same direction. When we start preparing project teams and selecting (or negotiating for) people to contribute to the effort of a project, choosing the right combination of people from across the business and project partners makes all the difference. Just because someone is available to be on the project team doesn’t mean they should be. Although we don't always get to choose; and we often inherit project participants. In this situation, a skills gap analysis is helpful so that we can build out an inherited team with additional skills. Each project has the need for a different blend of skills and balancing that blend is the job of the Project Manager and Sponsor. When you're coming into a team that's already formed, being able to get a sense of how the team is operating allows you to figure out where the problems are. Good Working Behaviours We've put together some thoughts on what good working behaviours look like and some woeful ones so that if you see them, you can develop a plan to get it back on track: Most of the time we find ourselves helping businesses that don’t ‘do’ projects all the time. So the people who have been handed a project role may have no idea what’s expected of them. This is where clarity of what’s expected of each role is helpful. It’s important to define what each person is responsible for at the outset. Getting clarity about what’s expected and who is required makes it easier for people to plan their own work and contribute when they are most needed. If you are embarking on a new project, we have experience in building project teams that get the job done. We invite you to connect here.

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Project Plans Are Made To Be Re-Planned

Excluding re-planning from your retail project management practice, is like looking at a map before starting out on a hike and then never consulting it again. It's not likely to get everybody to the destination in one piece. It’s easy enough to fall into the trap of thinking that planning is something that happens just at the beginning of a project and then you just execute the plan. Reality is a little bit different. Some years ago, I hiked the Kokoda Track with my son in a school group. We had a plan, where we were going to stay each night and how to get from one end to the other. One of the unexpected things that happened on this hike was a landslide on the track. On the second to last day, we were supposed to get to Isurava, where the memorial is. There had been a landslide, and we were not able to make it to camp that night. So, we had to re-plan. We had to stop in a different village from where we had intended to stay. We made camp earlier that night, and then we had to get up earlier the following morning. Our local guides were able to find a path through the jungle. Basically, we were walking through what was a virgin jungle, and then walking through a massive tear in the landscape, which was where rock and mud had slid down the side of the mountain. We made it to our destination. Later than expected, but we all made it there in one piece. I'm sharing this story because it reminds me of a lot of the kind of re-planning that we need to do in projects. Changes come out of the left-field, like that landslip, changes that you couldn't have possibly planned for. In project work, people's lives happen; there are sicknesses, people's families have difficulties and breakdowns, and projects being pretty much about a team of people means that those kinds of life events can impact the project plan (and the schedule, because they are NOT the same thing). So, a plan is not a fixed thing that you just do once and then follow to the letter. A plan is a constantly evolving thing based on the changing circumstances around you (and sometimes the changing business needs). This has been January for me, both personally and professionally. The assumptions that I started the year with have turned out not to be so, and the optimism that I usually feel at this time of year is not there. I, like probably many others, have struggled to find optimism as this year has so far been mostly characterised by a heightened state of alertness that the extraordinary events of the bushfires have generated. Whilst I am a city dweller and less impacted by the fires, the smell of smoke and the hazy conditions, not to mention the constant sense of pending emergency, is draining. So far from starting the new year refreshed and ready to go with new retail projects, it feels a bit like we’re scrambling to re-frame, re-plan and make better sense of what’s ahead. At 6R, we're expert at implementing retail systems and we're here to guide and lend a hand when systems implementations are planned and re-planned. Feel free to reach out and connect with us, we might be the experience that you need.

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The 5 Essential Elements For a Successful Project

We have depth of project experience, and years of working in the retail industry, on various technology projects. Over this time, we have gleaned some insight into the ways of engaging that get the best long term results for the client organisation and the project, and we want to share some these with you. Projects have traditionally been measured on time, scope and cost, and if measured by this alone, success rates are low. The measures of time, scope and cost are important but not everything. We add to this measure of success by asking: Did the project achieve the business objectives? Did we take the team along with us? Do they own it and is it embedded in the business? There are many moving parts to a project, and the following model helps remind us of some the elements required that contribute to a successful project. I was introduced to the Knoster Model of managing complex change diagram years ago, and I still see it as relevant. You need a lot of things to align to create successful change in business.   Vision Even the most carefully conceived organisational change plans require more than a great business case to be delivered, they also need vision and communication. Consider when an organisation decides to make a technology change. The wrong way lies in informing staff of the change, scheduling training, and expecting them to use it. This will have the effect of many creating workarounds to avoid systems that they find confusing and may have never wanted to begin with (gratefully, we don't see too much of this anymore, most businesses seem to have caught on). Coming up with a vision represents a significant part of the mindset needed to align a team. To create effective change, you must also use communication to explain the vision and sales techniques to boost buy-in. To do that you need good leadership in the shape of project sponsorship. PMI state of global project management (2018) reported, for the sixth year in a row(!), that having actively engaged executive sponsors is the number one top driver of project success. Part of the project sponsors job is to keep the vision alive. If you're interested in developing a deeper understanding of the role of a sponsor and what's expected of them Colin D Ellis has some excellent practical advice to offer. Projects with effective communication are almost twice as likely to successfully deliver project scope and meet quality standards than projects without effective communication (68% vs 32% and 66% vs 33%, respectively.) Source: PwC 15th Annual Global CEO Survey, 2012. Matching Skills to Roles At the start of World War II, the US president selected General William “Wild Bill” Donovan to erect the country’s first foreign intelligence service, the Office of Strategic Services or OSS. Donovan had a novel idea of how to get the best staff. Instead of finding people to fit a preconceived plan, he hired the best that he could find and shaped the missions around them. With talents as diverse as playwright Robert Sherwood and future celebrity chef Julia Child, Donovan created an agency that helped to score important victories for the Allied cause very soon after being formed. Consider bringing in the best and brightest for your organisation, then tailor the roles to suit their skills. This can help to build a more vibrant and effective organisation from the ground up. Managing the Learning Curve When embarking on a new project, managers must understand that the staff they will have, whether from inside or outside the organisation, will need training. We should never assume that any training format will lead to great results, but we should tailor learning sessions for optimal effectiveness. The learning focus should highlight training for the job instead of the new system. Teaching staff how to operate the entire system generally wastes time. Staff simply want to understand how the new system relates to what they need to do. The trainer should emphasise connecting functions that relate individual staff roles within the new technology. All need to be educated on the process. Without this fundamental concept, the new project will not succeed as envisioned. The learning process is just as important as the material. Effective training incorporates the needs of those being educated. Some tips on how to run an effective training program include: Training in smaller and more understandable “chunks” Keep the tone of the training light and even humorous if possible Use examples that relate to day to day work Use numerous practice sessions to nail down the details Use input and feedback to make training more effective in the future Incentives As Opposed to Rewards Any vision for a plan of change should include incentives. In this case, incentives mean something different than rewards. Staff get rewards for a job well done. Incentives should reflect built-in motivation to embrace and put effort toward making the change plan a success. In other words, explain to the staff what’s in it for them. If the new project can help to reduce workloads and makes processes easier, communicating these facts should serve as part of the vision and the plan. The team must see that the effort expended to make a change will work for their benefit, as well as for the organisation at large. Resources People, time, communication, and tools all serve as important resources in making an organisational change plan work. Organisational leaders must understand that all represent limited resources. Many organisations bring in energetic talents with a can-do attitude, then heap project after project onto them. While they cheerfully accept all challenges, they also spread their time increasingly thin. This prevents them from putting their best work into any project, much less all of them. For some organisations, time represents one of the rarest resources. A study showed that many offices waste up to 20 per cent of their time on procedures and processes. Another area of time expenditure lies in meetings. Leaders should make a point of emphasis to run efficient meetings that start on time and end early, if possible. I am sure we have all experienced being in a meeting that could have been an email; however, stakeholders having to work through emails or ask around for updates is inefficient communication. Avoid this by establishing communication channels as part of the project plan. Action Plan One of the first steps toward creating a plan of action lies in first considering constraints. Setting aside what the organisation cannot currently do creates boundaries around the plan and prevents it from veering into non-productive tangents. You should also consider coming up with at least an outline of a plan prior to any other part of the process. This can guide you into making wise decisions about communication and resource allocation. Make sure that you have what you need in place before executing the plan, or you risk a false start that wastes resources and may even kill the project altogether. Getting a project to work properly involves more than having an idea and ordering its implementation. It involves crafting and selling a vision, communicating it effectively, than using effective planning to execute it. Following these tips will make sure that your project ends up as more than just another binder on a shelf collecting dust.

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