Dr. Jimmie Flores

Month: December 2014 Page 1 of 4

3 Approaches to Getting an Extension on a Deadline

Kool Derby

We are all overwhelmed with deadline after deadline. The work never seems to go away. The Information Age was supposed to make things better. The idea was that technology would make it easier to manage information overload, resulting in a more productive workforce.

Bosses think employees can now manage more responsibilities, andmany have to manage both routine work and additional projects. They aren’t given more time to do the work. The expectation is that the work will get done on a schedule that someone else determines for them.

There are several approaches that might give you some breathing room. The goal here is to ensure the work gets done on time, and that it meets the quality requirements.

#1: Stress the Importance of Quality

Doing work in a rush may result in subpar quality. If you feel that you are focused only on meeting the deadline and not on the quality requirements, it’s best to schedule a meeting with your boss. Let her know that you can continue the frantic pace, but the final product will fall short of expectations.

In project management, throwing more resources is called crashing. This is a schedule compression technique designed to get the work done by the deadline. When you crash a project, you increase the overall costs of the project because the only goal is to complete the work on time. You might have to hire a resource that charges double what you normally pay, and that is acceptable given the emphasis on meeting the deadline.

#2: Prioritize Your Work

Many of us have heard of the A-B-C time management concept. The “A” activities are urgent, and must get done. They go to the front of the line. The “B” activities are important, but not urgent. They are on the schedule, but you can delay the start. The “C” activities are not important, and can wait until all “A” and “B” work is done.

Find out what is important. I find that many people refer to easier work as more important.

The idea here is that you have a comfort level with these assignments. However, what is easy may be of little importance to your boss. The goal is to work on the activities or projects that are of greatest importance to your direct. Once you are clear regarding what is both urgent and important, you can focus solely on that work. Avoid too much multi-tasking. Stick with one project until its completion.

#3: When All Else Fails – Try Honesty

A big mistake is to make excuses about why work is not getting done. As a project manager, I understand that I sometimes will lack the skills or resources to complete the work. For example, when working on a web-based training product, I might not have the audio and video specialists needed to do the work. Make sure the sponsor is aware of these limitations. It’s imperative that you express your concerns when they are first discovered.

However, avoid looking for sympathy. Your boss wants you to assume responsibility. You are not seeking a shoulder on which to cry. Instead, walk in with a game plan. Express the problem, and be ready to provide a solution.

Your stock will rise by delivering quality work by the stated deadline. To do that, you must accept only assignments that can get done on time. When you are unsure if the expectations can be met, make it clear immediately. Avoid being the eager-beaver who accepts anything thrown at him.

When you know that a deadline cannot be met, inform the key stakeholders. If you don’t let them know, they will expect the work as scheduled, and if you fail to deliver, the consequences may derail your career.

3 Questions to Consider Before Volunteering for More Work

Kool Derby

In a previous job, our manager sent the following email:

Hello, Everyone!

I hope you are having a great Monday!

I have a project that we need to start immediately, and I would like to ask for volunteers. The project is CRM-focused, which means we need to verify customer information, such as email addresses, mobile phone numbers, and mailing addresses. We need two (2) volunteers, and I think it will take 20 hours of work per person.

If I don’t get the volunteers by COB today, I will make the assignments on my own.

Nice to be back in the office!


Of course, you are a team player, and you want to make your manager happy. You also understand that this project is important to the department. However, before becoming Volunteer #1, you must determine if this is the right decision for you.

#1: Do you have the bandwidth to take on more work?

Avoid being the eager beaver who accepts work just to be nice, or to gain the favor of your manager. Can you allocate the 20 hours to take on this project? If you do, how will it affect your other day-to-day activities? Are you currently assigned to other projects?

Consider the challenge here: when you accept more work, you are accountable for getting it done. If you have too much on your plate, you could fall short on both your daily work and the additional responsibilities. That result may negatively affect you during your performance appraisal. Therefore, if you decide to volunteer for this assignment, make sure you have the bandwidth to deliver quality work.

#2: How will your manager perceive the fact that you failed to volunteer?

After reading the email, you ponder what Steve thinks of those who fail to accept the challenge. In reality, you are concerned about you, and you definitely don’t want the perception that you are a slacker.

What should you do?

My recommendation is for you to take a proactive approach. I will write your email to Steve:

Hi, Steve!

The CRM project sounds great. I would like to help out as much as possible. I know you are aware of my current workload, and appreciate your advice.

If you allow me an extra week to submit my Training & Development project, I can make the time to work in the CRM initiative. I may not need the week, but I wanted to run it by you.

What a busy Monday!  I look forward to hearing from you.


You are likely the only person who presented an alternative. While some employees provided excuses, you provided a solution. It’s obvious what works best, right?

#3: Do you think your manager will pick you if you ignore the request to volunteer?

The Customer Relationship Management (CRM) work might be in your domain, which means that you will be selected even if you do not volunteer. If you feel that is the case, it’s probably best that you volunteer. Given that you have the required skills set, you can get the work done right and on time. You also have the opportunity to display your leadership skills by helping the other team member learn the process. Even more important, the manager will ask you to make a presentation when the project is completed, which means that your visibility within the organization will increase. Go for it!

You should avoid overcommitting. Know what you can’t do, and know when to put on the brakes. You understand your workload and capabilities better than anyone. However, you should also understand the importance of accepting responsibility. One well-crafted email can set you apart from those who are merely riding the waves.

3 Strategies to Get Out of a Meeting 

Kool Derby

It’s Monday morning, you’re walking down the hall, and your manager says, “Maria, can you make the 10 a.m. meeting?” You have a ton of work to do, but you are caught off-guard. You want to say “No,” but that might make your manager unhappy. You nod, and sheepishly confirm that you will attend the recently-called meeting.

A few weeks ago, I overheard a conversation in which a manager asked an employee if she could volunteer to assist with a training program. Her response, “Do you really need me there? I have a pressing deadline.” He responded, “I have a few volunteers, but I might need you. Let me get back with you.” This employee had the right answer. She stated her willingness to help, but she had other work on her plate that needed attention.

#1: Ask if your presence is needed.

The fact is that there are too many meetings. It appears that managers feel they must have meetings for the sake of having meetings. I’ve even attended some meetings whose the sole purpose was scheduling other meetings. In other words, let’s have a meeting to schedule more meetings!

When contacted to attend a meeting, I will ask the manager to determine if my presence is needed. In other words, I want to know if I can be a meaningful participant. If I do not feel that my attendance is needed, I will ask to be excused.

Here is one approach:

“John, I saw the agenda for the meeting. It appears that the discussion is focused on internal operations. Given that my work is based on outside sales, I feel my attendance is not needed. May I be excused from this meeting?”

As a manager, you must respect the candid approach described here. You should only invite people who add value to the discussion. If not, leave them off the meeting list.

#2: Determine if a staff member can attend the meeting.

In many cases, a staff member can attend a meeting in your place. The person can take notes, and provide you with a 10-minute summary. Your time is valuable, and you can leverage your team. A staff member can gain excellent insight by participating in the discussion. You have a win-win situation.

You should, however, review the agenda and provide speaking points to your staff member. Meeting coordinators appreciate individuals who are proactive, and who can share their knowledge even when they are not in attendance.

#3: Deny the request to attend the meeting.

Of course, you want to be careful with this option. In other words, you can’t say, “Hell no! I don’t have the time!” It’s best if you make it clear from the outset that your time is committed to day-to-day work and projects.

Have a short discussion with your manager, and reinforce to her that you would like to limit the meetings you attend. I took this approach when working for an organization, and my manager would often block requests before they got to me.

Some meetings do have value, and you should attend those. In my case, meetings are done via webinars. The advantage here is that those who are unable to attend can watch the recording. As a manager or leader of an organization, I want my employees to spend less time in unproductive meetings and more time doing the work that makes the organization successful.

3 Strategies that Make You a Productive Meeting Manager

Kool Derby

For many of us, it’s one meeting after another. You can’t seem to get away from them. In many cases, a meeting is even unnecessary, but they are now known as “standing,” which means you keep having them even when it’s difficult to find topics to discuss.

It’s surprising that there are so many meetings given that most people complain about them, even the person hosting them. Some meetings are held to report on the status of  work. Isn’t there a more efficient approach to collecting this information? If all you’re doing is sharing what you’ve done, couldn’t it be done via SharePoint? Why do we have to physically meet?

Here are three strategies that can make you a productive meeting manager:

#1: Invite only the meaningful participants.

You must do your homework to determine who should attend your meeting. For example, if you are looking to re-brand a product, you will invite marketing, sales, finance, logistics, and so on. Who should attend the meetings from these departments? If you need to make critical decisions, make sure you invite managers, or the decision-makers.

There are cases in which you can meet with stakeholders in one-on-one sessions. By doing so, you can collect information from these individuals. If you have the knowledge needed, it’s not necessary for them to attend the meeting. In fact, you might be able to gather all the needed information with the individual meetings, which means that a face-to-face session is unnecessary.

#2: Make sure to stick with the meeting time.

Meeting-goers become upset and frustrated when the meeting fails to start on time, and especially when it goes longer than anticipated. In fact, some attendees will leave a meeting that goes longer than stated in the invite. To keep meetings on schedule, make sure that you follow the agenda, and it’s recommended that you begin with the most critical items first.

An excellent meeting manager will ensure that everyone stays on point. You can get people back on task by using the following:

  • “John, that is a good point. However, we need to make sure we discuss the market demographics to determine the ideal price point for our detergent.”
  • “Martina, I understand you are concerned about the lack of resources for this initiative. However, from our standpoint, we need to determine if we have the right information system for our supply chain.”

#3: Assign action points to the right person.

A meeting should have action points. In other words, the right individual or team must walk away with clear expectations.

For example:

  • “Rita, please create a flowchart that describes the most efficient approach we can use to roll out the 200 workstations.”


  • “Alex, can we count on having the updates to the marketing plan by Friday EOB?”

The success or failure of a meeting largely depends on the person who is running it. I find that people respect those meeting managers who develop an agenda and stick to it. To have a productive meeting, it’s important that only meaningful participants attend. A meeting is successful when the topics are discussed, and the action items are assigned to the right people.

8 Strategies to Managing Conflict in Meetings 

Kool Derby

As a meeting coordinator, it’s important to control what takes place in the get-together, including the agenda, conflict, and apathy. Most of us are aware that many people think meetings can be a waste of time.

Here are 8 strategies to managing conflict in meetings:

  1. Make sure to invite only the people who will bring value to the discussions. Avoid asking people to attend if they have little to no role. If someone is going to have a minor part, you can collect the information directly from him and share it during the meeting.
  1. Avoid scheduling meetings longer than 1-hour. My feeling is that most meetings can be done in half the time for which they are scheduled. I’ve attended meetings that go on for hours only because the meeting coordinator failed to stay on point.
  1. Distribute the meeting agenda at least 48 hours in advance. I’ve heard people say the following: “I have no idea why this item is on the agenda. Why are we discussing it now?” You must avoid surprises. Make sure that meeting attendees are clear regarding the topics. If there is a problem or issue, it should be resolved in advance. Avoid wasting meeting time to issues that fall outside the scope of the discussion.
  1. Ask meeting attendees to participate. In far too many meetings, people are reviewing email, checking their social media accounts, or buying an airline ticket. In other words, you do not have their attention. I recommend that you give everyone a clear role. By doing so, they are more likely to be engaged.
  1. Anticipate conflict and resolve it immediately. When you notice that a disagreement is getting out of hand, you must confront it. Of course, you are going to be professional, but you cannot allow it to escalate. “John, I see that you have a different perspective, and I’m glad that you raised it. If it’s okay with you, let’s discuss the Tokyo project deliverables.” The point here is to focus on the requirements, and not on personality issues.
  1. Avoid making big project assignments during the meeting. Discuss the work offline. In some cases, employees are embarrassed to turn down a big assignment, and they will resent that you put them on the spot.
  1. Make sure the meeting has a clear end time, and that you adhere to it. In most cases, people have other meetings, or they have pressing work. Even if the topics have not all been covered, end the meeting on the scheduled time.
  1. Avoid praising the same people in the meeting. While some individuals are better performers, patting only a select few people on the back in all meetings is counterproductive. When you acknowledge the efforts of “average” performers, they are more likely to excel in future work.

A meeting coordinator must have a clear plan, and must be prepared to manage unexpected events. An out-of-control meeting is usually a reflection of the person leading it. It’s best to be prepared, confident, and action-oriented. Finally, it’s far better to avoid conflict than to deal with it after it has occurred.

3 Signs You Should Terminate a Meeting

Kool Derby

Many meetings are a waste of time. In other words, you meet simply to meet. I’ve had meetings in which the main focus is to discuss a future meeting. Before scheduling the next business get-together, we must ensure that it will bring value to the organization. If not, don’t schedule it. If it’s already on the calendar, send a note to the participants explaining that it is no longer necessary.

Last Friday, I had a meeting scheduled with a colleague to assist me with a business problem. I awoke early on Friday and reviewed my notes for the meeting. After an hour or so working on the issue, I realized a solution to my problem. With this information in hand, I emailed my colleague and informed her that the meeting was no longer necessary. I was surprised to read her reply: “Jimmie, thank you for letting me know. By you solving the problem, we both now have the entire morning to work on other deliverables.”

Her response hits the nail on the head. When you are in meetings, you are not doing productive work. Unless meetings have clear agendas, and specific action items to address, you must avoid them.

Here are three signs you should terminate a meeting:

#1: Key decision-makers are missing.

Meetings are designed to identify problems, discuss alternatives, and make decisions. If you are having meetings mostly to share information, you are wasting time. There are more productive approaches to sharing information, and bringing everyone to one location is not one of them.

If the key decision-maker is unable to attend the meeting, you need to cancel it. You should follow-up with the important stakeholder, and determine a date and time when she can attend. Once you have confirmation, the new meeting is scheduled.

#2: There is too much animosity, resentment, or apathy.

Meetings are designed to generate positive discussion. You can have conflict, but it should be productive, such as raising awareness of important issues. When you notice that meeting-goers are angry, upset, resentful, or apathetic, you must find a creative way to end the meeting.

The point here is that a healthy discussion is impossible when the attendees are engaging in personal attacks or disinterested in the purpose of the meeting. Unless the discussion is professional, the meeting must end. After the meeting, you should work with the key stakeholders to determine the root cause of the problem. It might be necessary to remove some individuals from the discussion. Before doing that, though, make sure you have support from your leadership team.

#3: The topic is no longer relevant.

If during the meeting you receive information from a reliable source that the main purpose of the meeting is no longer important to the organization, you should look to terminate the discussion. For example, you’re informed that the product your team is tasked to build will now be purchased from a reputable vendor. Since your leadership team has decided to buy vs. build, your meeting efforts are useless. You should politely end the meeting, and seek clarification from your leadership point-of-contact.

Some meetings do provide value, and must be held. However, the majority can be avoided. In some cases, the meeting should end early because a key stakeholder cannot attend, personality issues prevent a productive discussion, or the main purpose of the meeting is no longer valid. It’s your job as the meeting coordinator to make the call and either reschedule or cancel the meeting based on the new information. You can seek guidance, but the final decision is yours to make.

3 Ways to Take Charge of Your Project

Kool Derby

To have a successful project, you must do the following: (a) deliver on schedule, (b) make sure to stay within budget, and (c) focus on making the customer happy. Regardless of your project, you must develop a plan, identify the right people to participate, overcome conflict when it occurs, and meet the objectives.

As the project lead, you will encounter obstacles, some that you anticipate and others that surprise you altogether. To succeed, you must do whatever possible to anticipate potential risk events, and prevent them from occurring. Even one unforeseen risk can be catastrophic to your project.

As the project manager, you are ultimately accountable for the success of the project. While you will need funding from the sponsor and commitment from team members, you must ensure that the final deliverable meets the requirements promised to the customer.

#1: Stay focused on the project requirements.

Your company was hired to develop a sales training course for 250 sales associates. On Wednesday morning, your manager approaches you, and states the following: “Jack, we have a sales training program, but not one specifically for sales agents working the floor of an electronic shop. I need you to take what we have and customize it to meet the needs of this customer.

You now have a project on your hands. You should immediately schedule a meeting with the customer to determine the exact requirements. It’s important to learn the final outcome. What is the goal of the program? In other words, you want to know the metrics by which the sales team is measured. Once you have this information, you can roll out the project based on the requirements.

#2: Make sure your team understands the plan. Share the vision.

When putting the team together, look for people who have the skills needed to create the training program, the availability to stick with the work, and a positive mental approach. As the project manager, it’s your job to communicate the expectations.

To experience success, create a rewards program. A monetary incentive approach might work, but non-financial rewards are effective, too. Regardless of your rewards system, make sure to praise excellent work, and look for opportunities to improve the knowledge of your team members.

#3: Avoid making excuses. Do the work!

You were not given the position of project manager so that you could point fingers when problems arise. You were hired to get things done. When a difficult situation arises, take a proactive approach and resolve it. If the departmental manager denies your request for a specialist, try to negotiate with this person. If the manager is stubborn, go to Plan B. In your contingency plan, you listed another resource that can step in and do the work. If an internal employee is unavailable, consider outsourcing the work. In short, project management is solutions-oriented and not focused on explaining why things failed to work.

Becoming an effective project manager requires talent, creativity, hard work, and most of all, persistence. You must continually step up to the plate and take your best swing. By being prepared and having the right people on your team, the chances of making your way around the bases safely improves significantly.

Projects Can Take Your Organization from Good to Great

Kool Derby

If your organization is merely focused on doing routine work, such as using traditional media advertising, taking orders over the telephone, and managing customer service issues when they arise, your days as a profitable entity are numbered. The fact is that the competition is too fierce today, regardless of the industry. If there is even a small margin to be made, someone is going to automate as much of the process as possible to earn that 1% net profit. Of course, some smart entrepreneurs are making 1% in many different business ventures, making them extremely wealthy.

Use Projects to Maximize Your Core Competencies

What is the mission of your organization? In other words, you want to know exactly why you exist. What do you provide the customer? Why does your customer want to do business with you? What do you deliver that makes you different in the marketplace? What is your unique selling proposition?

Do you have the answers to these questions? You should be able to communicate these responses to your employees, meaning that you are sharing the vision of the organization. When your employees understand where you are, what you are good at doing, and where you plan to go, they are more likely to commit to the mission.

Tying Projects to Customer Value

Projects are designed to improve organizational efficiencies and generate revenue. For example, one project is designed to improve the first call resolution rate from your service desk. You want your staff to make the customer happy when they call regarding an incident, such as the inability to place an online order.

Many organizations use projects to generate more money. For example, you launch a project to expand sales globally. Your market research indicates that other countries are interested in the boots that you make, and you want to increase sales by targeting these regions. The key here is to be specific. You want to know the market size, cultural issues of the selected region, and other political and economic conditions that affect the sale and distribution of your product.

Making Projects Work

The leadership team must consult with employees before starting any project. You must seek feedback before determining what is important, and what can be done immediately. Avoid thinking of projects that can be launched a year or more later. There are too many factors that will change during the interim. You are looking for action now.

Projects are successful to the extent that you follow a process. For some, this means the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK). Regardless, projects only succeed when leadership support exists and when the projects are aligned the organization’s core competencies.

Projects Create Value to the Customer

Kool Derby

Projects are launched for a reason. The final deliverable is a unique product, service, or result that is accepted by the customer. You must begin by making sure you are clear regarding customer expectations. Surprisingly, many project managers take the approach of imagining what the customer wants, which is analogous to putting the cart before the horse.

Start with the Customer

The customer has a good idea regarding the final deliverable. In essence, the customer knows what the product, service, or result is supposed to do, but they lack the skills and time to do the actual work. It is your job as the project manager to put together a project plan that meets the customer’s schedule and budget.

A good first step is conducting a requirements analysis. One of my companies created dynamic web portals for the officiating departments of major collegiate conferences. As the PM, I needed to find out the precise project requirements. To do that work, I emailed a requirements list to the customer. I wanted to know the features and functionality required for this project to be successful. With this information in hand, I could initiate the project.

Create Clarity Where Ambiguity Exists

Even after collecting the requirements from the customer, the project manager will notice activities that are unclear. For example, the customer might desire a reporting module to collect end-of-year information. The PM needs to find out where that information will be gathered,who will collect the data, and who is tasked with data entry. One key question is: How do you make sure the data is reliable. It must have integrity or the reports are useless.

The so-so project manager assumes the customer has a handle on all requirements. The proficient project manager, on the other hand, will value the input from the customer, but will follow a checklist to avoid mistakes on the back end. A smart customer appreciates a PM who practices due diligence.

The Goal is Providing Value

How do you define value? While you might have an excellent understanding of what value means to you, it might be completely different from what is important to the customer. Remember that your customers often have other customers, which means their definition of value includes are larger group of people and entities.

A good approach is to think how you can make your customer look good. If they are meeting their requirements to their own customers, you are providing tremendous value. Avoid thinking that you have to provide bells-and-whistles to “Wow” the customer. In most cases, customers are impressed with a product, service, or result that meets the basic requirements.

For most customers, value is about receiving the deliverable on time, within budget, and to the agreed quality level. In other words, simplicity translates to success.

She’s a Great Resource, But She’s a Nonstop Talker

Kool Derby

I’m working on a two-month project to develop an IT solution for a customer. When discussing the project with the sponsor, I was informed that a software engineer was pre-assigned as a core team member. The sponsor stated that Julie was a subject matter expert (SME), and that she was excellent at doing her work.

A week ago I called Julie to discuss her work on the project. It was great that she answered the phone on the first ring. Very few people answer the phone at all today; thus, it was refreshing to speak to human voice.

ME: Hi, Julie! David informed me that you are part of the IT Aviation Project.

JULIE: Yes. I’m excited to be on the project. I love working for David. He has a clear idea of the technical requirements, and I’ve worked for him on several big projects. David knows me well, and I know him pretty well. He and I developed a payroll system for a local hospital. I know what he likes, and he knows the quality of work that I do.

There are some folks that are easy to work for, and David is one of them. For the most part, he leaves you alone, and that works for me. I also don’t bother him much. He tells me the work that needs to get done, and I follow this little process sheet that I put together. It’s actually not a process sheet, but that’s what I call it. It’s more like a checklist. I think I need to get it a better name.

Anyway! I need to tell you that I’m going on vacation this summer to Peru. My husband and I are heading abroad for 9 days. I’m pretty sure that I will not have access too any email or anything for that matter. We’re going to Machu Picchu, and I doubt that they have Wi-Fi in that area. If they do, though, it will surprise me.

I know that you called to talk about the project. David mentioned I should expect to hear from you, but I didn’t think it would be today. You’re on top of stuff. I guess that’s why you were assigned to this project.

Do you know how to use MS Project? I took a class during college, but don’t remember much anymore. If you want, I can order you a copy that you can use, but there’s also a 90-day free trial online from Microsoft. You might want to try that first because you can start using it right now. You know how to download stuff from the web, right?

Again, glad that we’re working on this project together. What is the first thing that we need to do? Let me know ‘cause I’m ready to get going. David knows me well, and he knows I will get my work done.

You might be surprised that I shared just the first part of our conversation. I tried to interject, but I think she has a hearing issue because she talked right over me.

This will be an experience!

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