Monday, February 22, 2010

Rain Drops, Flood or Sea

Which situation do you like to be in ? 
  • Get wet in rain drops,
  • Wade through floods 
  • Help people or swim in sea
Now, think when in business, what would you prefer ?
  • Drop by drop projects,
  • A deluge of orders
  • Multiple big ticket projects with big customers
Now suggest which challenges excites you ?
  • Sustain and organically add rain drops to get critical mass
  • Brave a flood to reach home safe
  • Swim with the sharks and reach shore safe
I have not entered sea for a long time so far. But have experience in enjoying rain drops and have waded through scary Mumbai roads in floods in night to get home. I certainly prefer rain drops and long innings than a short heroism of winning over floods or be at sea for a long period of time not knowing what I am doing.

What is your personality ?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Sequence: The critical link to execute successful e-Learning projects

It requires good sequence and simple instructions as in a great story to deliver a great service.
In my earlier posts, the focus was on critical success factors that affect the end output and deliverables.
  1. Structure and Story line: What suits business e-Learning

  2. Structure and Storyline: Some Answers for better e-Learning Design

However, the actual process of delivering it requires different success parameters.
Projects are not about end results - Not necessarily. They are about marketing the "real" stuff.

They talk louder and shriller either ways - bad or good. A good service gives you the repeats as in making the customers want more. A trait that marketers crave to entice the audience to become their customers. A bad execution sees "no return of customers" - a premise that we all can attest for.

So how do you ensure a good project delivery? In Stephen Covey quadrant terms (from First Things First) "Important and Not Urgent" task is is to create a sequence of deliveries that are
  1. understandable,
  2. measurable,
  3. perceivable.
My attempt to adapt the Stephen Covey quadrant rules to successful project management is as follows:

To manage this quadrant II well, project teams need to have a command on the approach towards tasks and deliverables they are responsible. Before the end deliverable the list of steps each with its own set of outputs that progressively amalgamate in final result needs to be carefully nurtured and maintained.

Some Tips:
1. Move as much online as possible.
2. Communicate through a project blog: To share news, updates, status reports, documents
3. Centralize the release management. Best example is Sourceforge.

Update on 19-Feb-10:
4. "Allow customers in at planned date and time" when you are ready with prior scheduling. Sending a link, email expecting them to check and revert is not good practice.
5. Make time the essence of management. Managers prioritize and concentrate on efforts and scope control while leaving maneuverability on schedule. It should be opposite. Fix the time, stick to time and accept scope and effort changes within the given time frame. It would help you give better customer service.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Correlated Corrections vs Coerced Corrections

For long time, I have been trying to articulate more about "Course Correction" piece in my earlier post "Execution Attributes"

This post is an attempt to choir the incoherent thoughts.

Correlated corrections allow for extensions in a delivery, while coerced corrections are changes that disrupt the sequence and history. Both are essential for being effective as executive, professional, leader and manager.

It is intuitive to believe and it is true that coerced corrections down the project stream would result in scope, schedule, cost and effort variance from both sides. It is assumed that enough buy-in and understanding of project goals are in place for every person working on the project at start that this does not occur.

What makes coerced corrections bad, is that they run contrary to everything agreed till that stage. The fact that the spirit of design/work/and ideas become dormant with the only larger goal of conformance to what is being said now, is the impact to avoid.

This is not to argue that change in direction or disruption, when required, is bad. Coerced correction is essential in the face of facts and enough data to support the change. Doing it with perceptions and without numbers would lack the depth of participation.

Correlated corrections help in extending the usefulness of the project without changing much direction. Correlated corrections are adaptable change requests within project constraints. They are factors that were missed in initial design and are now important considerations in the revised reviews. What pains I.T/senior managers is the fact that this happens all the time in designing good e-Learning content, and is considered as spurring out of control. The truth is, there needs to be provisions to allow for correlated corrections in the program. Otherwise, it will use the lustre and usefulness for users and the training owner.

Managers not in tune or experienced with e-Learning programs, should realize that control structure in a homogeneous project as in I.T application or product customization is in a different play field. e-Learning programs gain their attraction, as they move down stream through multiple heterogeneous skilled hands. It is not just a subject matter expert, a content gathering information architect, an Instruction designer or a visual designer or a developer or a integrator who brings their independent charm on the output. It is the collective charm at work which self corrects as they proceed down stream to give the glow.

Consultancy projects are in separate league. The main brief for a consultant is to make coerced corrections, if the analysis shows the impact of correlated correction is lesser than desired outcomes. Since consultants rely on data load and multiple information sources, it is easier to present the recommendations and current considerations for the change. However, if you notice carefully, the implementation of recommendations are considered a separate project which then, by itself would give room for correlated corrections than eager for a coerced correction again.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Explanation vs Appeal

After your presentation, do you want
1. Audience to ask questions or contribute their time to the action planned and enhance the presentation themselves ?
2. To pass on a message or raise the stakes for all involved ?
3. Get a buy-in or imbibe it as their own ?
4. To be invited to make the next presentation or distribute it to audience and rely on them to enhance the message as it passes along ?
5. The audience to look at the presentation/you at different times or find it seamless vision of 2 great players orchestrating on stage ?
6. The take-away to be remembered or the entire presentation experience with the key actions for each of the players?

Answers to above would determine the effectiveness of
  1. style,
  2. substance,
  3. story,
  4. sequence,
  5. screenplay
that you would prepare to put the ink on canvas.

The first part of sentence(in Red) would be the result when you explain a message/action/concept. Similar to what we read in schools/colleges. We ask questions in a quest to understand the subject.

The second part of sentence(in Blue) would be the result when your presentation is capable to make an impact by making an appeal. When we give away for charity, take time for fulfilling a social responsibility, when we help others altruistically, when we recommend without getting paid are times, when we have got impacted by some message, some prophecy, some out of world energy to make the effort. We respond to an appeal made in right way that had an lasting impact till we take the action.

Understand that appeal and impact is required for getting an initiative successful. Mere explanation, buy-in, word of mouth passage of meanings, saving a presentation for future use, adding the take-away as a to-do list result in poor results for a well intentioned initiative.

The time, the top management picks up a stake in the initiative, 50% success is guaranteed. The other 50% is in hands of users/customers. To do so, we need to appeal to everyone's good sense. We need them to complete our sentences. We need to make the impact lasting by assigning them an active position. This is personal experience.

Has your initiatives succeeded as a result of an appeal ? What impact did it create ?Please tell your story in the comments.

Monday, February 1, 2010

e-Learning as experience-breakers

Allied or related field experiences are the No 1 enemy towards acceptance of new models. It brings in prejudices, makes you derive assumptions, and have private unstated preferences that skews project teams and collides in family relationships.

Experience should be to guide you that something new is in store for you every time. The ability to see, grasp and ideate every single opportunity is a great experience by itself. Learning is the only true experience. Finishing a work is easy, since it can be achieved by any resource. But the learning is important and replacing the resource for the task eventually does not replace the learning generated by the resource.

Would you ever treat 2 escalations the same way ? Experience teaches that every situation has its soft and "nuanced handles" that needs careful nudging. We never commit a mistake to break the "handles". Same experiences needs to be carried forward in adoption of new technologies.

This highlights a very persistent personal life point. The way we behave with kids. The way we learnt, way we behaved, way we were conditioned, way of our peers when enforced leads to rebellious mood in kids. It is their life, their uniqueness, their preferences, their peers, their closed vocabulary set, which needs understanding after shedding every shred of our past. After the hard work, patient counseling pays off.

This is not to state that experience is bad. Nor experienced people are stereotypes. Far from it. It is the experience that is disrupted, goes beyond the routine, bypasses the logic and command that brings in true relevant "Aha" learning moments.

In one of my customer's words : "I will consider the e-Learning program a success, if every user of the program gains a new insight after going through the program. They are 5-20+ years experienced people and I need them to get value from the program."

e-Learning applied to these contexts are high performance solutions and are non-replaceable. Creating a curriculum, steps to do a job, teaching a skill extend the same experience as in college or schools and leads e-Learning to become an alternate channel.

How different are you today?

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