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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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Omnichannel Essentials

A few years ago I got so sick of the word ‘Omnichannel’ that I developed a bit of a nervous tick in reaction to it. A little like the words ‘unprecedented’ and ‘pivot’ in recent times (overuse is exhausting) 😊 Omnichannel, it turns out, is an easy shorthand for the connecting bits that bring digital and physical stores closer together. If your retail business didn't already have a way of servicing customers across different channels then I'm sure the last couple of months have been a huge learning curve. Working with clients through the COVID period, it became clear that there are many retailers who don't have all omnichannel pieces working seamlessly. Excitingly, there have been lots of great technology innovations that have appeared over the last couple of months that have made even more of a difference. We call these 'transition' services because they're all about connecting the digital and physical transition more easily, whether it's getting an electronic receipt (because then you can find it later), booking an appointment to visit the hairdresser or queuing in the comfort of your own car there have been some fabulous accelerations of tech applied over our confinement. To execute omnichannel elements like ship from store, click and collect or endless aisle  you need good solid inventory management practices in place. Inventory accuracy and reporting alignment is foundation, level essential. Opening up inventory that's not accurate to customers and staff at stores will only increase the pain rather than reduce it. Wherever you are on the connecting of digital and physical we think that there's always room to improve, refine and finesse. We have put some of the lessons we've learned, templates we use and tips that we look out for in this 5 part (5 mins over 5 days) video series.   [mailmunch-form id="796490"]  

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Persistence and Practice; Project training essentials

Years ago, I worked on a project where we took a legacy horse race rating system used by a bookmaker and upgraded it to a modern technology platform. I spent a lot of time with guys who were professional gamblers, they were incredibly knowledgeable about horses and horse racing. They had a methodical practice that took hours each day, doing what they called, ‘rating the race.’ This was a practice that to an external observer (me) involved watching the same horse race over and over again until you had gleaned every last piece of information possible from it and had ‘rated’ (or scored) each horse in that race. After that, the race itself would be rated, and so would many other details that they had been trained to look for. This bespoke system they had developed of rating horses, races, conditions and riders all contributed to their knowledge about how the horse would perform over time. What they had observed over years, was that a horse would improve incrementally for a period but was also capable of ‘jumping’ very quickly up a few levels in performance and it was this jump that they carefully watched for in their rating statistics. It was their ability to be ready for improvement that gave them a competitive edge. Like horses, us humans, can sometimes give the impression of making an improvement very quickly the quintessential “overnight success.” Improvement requires practice and it’s never quite clear when we’re learning something new, when we’re going to improve or whether that breakthrough will happen at all. The constant practice and search for improvement can be a bit daunting and demoralising at times. This week, I was lucky enough to be present for one such improvement breakthrough moment. One of the users we’ve been working with on a project appeared in the doorway of the cupboard/ workroom that we’ve tucked ourselves away in. “I’m so happy, I have to share!” He was beaming from ear to ear. He went on to explain his breakthrough. He has been on the project team since the beginning and has been an active participant the whole way, but it has been difficult terrain. His commitment has never wavered, but we can tell that he’s struggled with the way the new system works, there have been a lot of confused looks and ‘why are we doing this?’ moments over the last few months.  His breakthrough was the result of persistence and practice. He reminded me of the importance of practice, and the absolute necessity of training for the job that people will do with their team. It’s a much more exploratory to learn but it pays off in these moments when someone gets the reward of their own efforts. We’ve spoken before about what it takes to deliver training in a project.  Over the many projects that we've worked on, and people that we've worked with, we learn more about how to better deliver training.  This breakthrough highlighted to me, the importance of persistence and practice. In this situation, we had also used the technique of having a ‘training buddy’ someone to work things out with, a fellow explorer in the new system. This mirrors a development practice in agile process, where two developers work together at the one screen. So the week's learning has been: Practice, practice and more practice! Celebrate the breakthrough moments (we did!) and acknowledge people for their persistence; Buddy up – two heads have more observation power than one! If you are struggling with the best way to train on a new system, get in touch.  We buddy up with retailers to equip internal teams for the project efforts ahead. Our project management tools are light and flexible for retailers. The 6R team work behind the scenes, leading through project management, testing, training and team building to deliver project success.

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Learning New things is Hard (especially in projects)

We’ve reached ‘that stage’ in the project, the learning curve is steep. Last week one of my team members was showing people how to open multiple browser windows and explaining that this was not a feature of the browser-based system they’re training on but rather of browsers themselves. It was enlightening! The learning path ahead is going to be a bigger effort than I had expected for this team. To get a project off to a good start the internal people need to get the objective of the project, be clear about what success looks like and understand what it is they need to do. They also need to be good at their regular jobs or have someone help them with their regular job because what they’re about to embark on is a long way from their regular work and often it takes additional effort and focus to get the new stuff that they’re not used to processed. The most significant thing the internal team are going to do in the execution of new project is learning; (Read more)

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Managing energy in Projects; 3 essential habits from experience

While time is a finite resource, energy is infinite, although it may not always feel that way. That is because it doesn't just happen by itself, you have to establish rituals to build energy. Individuals and businesses that understand this succeed and as a result both the individual and the business grows.   Managing energy in the build-up (or countdown) to live might be one of the most mentally and physically challenging parts of a project. Energy has, in this last week, been in short supply, it’s been a week that has challenged even the most match fit of us.   When times get challenging some of the most successful techniques I have used to keep energy positive, are to keep to the routines and habits that I rely on to keep my physical health in a good place, and to create the space that allows me to step back from the chaos of getting sucked into the task level detail to think. (Read more)

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Project Close | Overcoming the fear of finishing

Whilst on a practice hike preparing for a trip to the Kokoda track earlier this year; I overheard one of the teens on the hike, who had done that particular track before, relate that the last kilometre of our day would be the longest, there was a collective sigh of agreement. So too, it can be with the close of a project, it can feel like the longest part of the journey. There is plenty of good advice on how to face the fear of finishing and close your personal projects... but, what’s the best way to close out a project for a client, leaving it in a good state? Improving my own focus in this area has been the 'sub project' (read personal goal) of the last month or so. (Read more)

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