Welcome back. This is Penny Zenker and I am joined with Robert Joslin. Who is talking to us about program and project management and how to increase our productivity and efficiency.
R: Thank You Penny
P: I spent a lot of my time in technology as well as you. I have always used it as a way to create more productivity. How do you define productivity and why?
R: The most efficient way of achieving something is time and cost.
P: The definition comes down to efficiency is that what I hear?
R: It depends on the goal. If it’s on the academic side, you could be looking at an idea or a research paper. On a production line, productivity could be so many cars, or books. For an entrepreneur what you need to look at is the balance. If looking at sustainable productivity over a period of time. Doing a balance of things to ensure that you are continually productive. It’s a mix of activities to insure a continuation of productivity.
P: I like how you explain that it depends on different elements. That is why I ask everyone who comes on this show. One person’s definition of productivity and what they want to achieve may be different from someone else’s. It is a matter of balance. I believe that productivity is more of a feeling as much as it is an outcome. It’s how you feel about what you achieve. You might say that I might be being productive or not productive, but you don’t know my goal was in the first place.
R: There is obvious productivity with management by objectives. You have to choose something that is quite obvious. It is very personal and subjective and that’s why I mentioned it being about a balance of activities to achieve a sustainable productivity on an ongoing basis.
P: I agree. What are the factors that you believe have the greatest impact on productivity?
R: There is a lot of academic research on this. Simplicity. Anything that distracts you on what you want to produce. A production line is easy to determine. Like McDonalds. You are dealing with customer service and the efficiency of serving customers. But also the customer reaction as well. It depends on the industry you are in.
P: When you come up with that question as a factor or an element. You talk about customer interaction or any type of communication for that matter. I talk about it in previous sections when we talk about language. We have communication with ourselves and with others. Whether it’s our team or our customers and how we manage that. I haven’t had anyone express it in that way before in my alignment with the ten critical elements. That language that goes on with yourself and with others. I wholeheartedly agree that language is one of the ten essential elements in time and energy management. I would agree with that. Are there any other key factors that you think stand out that should be discussed?
R: Project management and balance of things. For the people who are listening it’s about balance and knowing what it is. It’s a natural sequence of things. When I look at doing something like this coffee machine upstairs. I will turn it on and I open the fridge, get the cups, and as its warming up I optimize the time to get my cappuccino.
P: Optimize the process of making coffee, only you!
R: How do you optimize your environment? When I run these large projects I lists tasks and issues and risks. They can all impact the program. They could cause the project to drown. I have created this approach over the last 15 years. I make sure that at every point in the project process, that I am matching sure we can cope with constant changing factors. If you manage these factors in such a way, then you can keep productivity efficient. If you don’t manage those things, your productivity will drop. You will drown on a number of different things and you don’t know why because you lost control of your environment.
P: I have seen that happen. You are saying another really important is around the process. By having a process, you are of let’s say reducing the distractions. You are able to get greater productivity and focus on the tasks at hand.
R: When you get phone calls coming in, how do you actually handle that? Handling the risks. Which ones do you enhance or do you try to mitigate? If you manage these factors properly, your productivity won’t get derailed or dropped because of the constantly changing factors.
P: I relate when you talk about managing the risks. One of the elements of the process or of the planning and organization of the program in project management. I lump that under proactivity. To take a look at those risks ahead of time and think about what challenges might come up and be able to mitigate them ahead of time or at least control and manage them. It will put you in a much better position for when something comes up. It’s easier to deal with it. My language for that is under the word called proactivity. People can together with process and language and the other elements, can really make up having and maximizing productivity.
R: There will be risks that you can anticipate but also there are the unknown. It’s the ability to handle those and not go into a panic. You have an approach to handle it. If you can do that, then you can continue on. If you didn’t have a process to manage these, then you will start getting into trouble.
P: The glub, glub, factor. You said drowning. Let’s talk about stress. In our first section, the uncertainty. That can create stress for a lot of people. Now you are talking about it in the area of not being able to anticipate everything. How do we deal with those kinds of things? What is the best practice with dealing with stress in managing these types of large projects?
R: You have to have the personality to enjoy being on the edge of chaos. People question your ability or your direction. And if you have confidence in what you are doing, and also you have the A team or the Alpha Team, and also, trust, then it helps a great deal. If you are uncertain or your boss doesn’t support you or your team is questioning then it’s a totally different story. I think it’s really about starting a project, make sure you do enough planning. Plan like a military operation. Military strategy. When you look at doing something, make sure you know the players. How are you going to achieve. Make a backup plan. It puts you in a good position where you feel in control. It’s a proactive way of reducing stress. The opposite of stress is more adrenaline. That is what you live off of. Your team can achieve things that other teams just dream about.
P: Planning, planning, planning. The topic of this show. At the end when we talk about project management, planning is an essential part. Without the plan, the project will fail.
R: There was a project I ran in Switzerland and it was an international project involving forty countries about, and I took six months to convince people that we could do the project this way. It took nine months to complete. Another member wanted to break it up and do it over a couple months. But I knew that it could be achieved in nine months. I picked a plan that had the alpha team on it and I knew the pieces to the project. One part of that project was a country off on England. They had problems with their banking system for two years, and so what I did was I used scouts in the program. I put out a scout. We found the best person on the island and then put a new banking system in and a new network with new pcs. People couldn’t believe what they could accomplish.
P: That was impressive. I bet you get a lot of calls.
R: There are other examples I can give. It’s part of the tools and techniques that I use. IF you can choose the right combination of tools and techniques with the right mix, it will make the difference.
P: It sounds to me that it’s a difference between a black belt and a brown belt. There are different levels of mastery.
R: Yes. If you want to achieve exceptional things you are going to find that many people won’t believe that you can actually achieve that. They are willing to stop you sometimes. They may feel out of their comfort zone or authority. It comes down to who has the balls or guts to do. And also, you have the team to support you. Anything is possible.
P: The project that you set up for six months to plan, and executed in nine months. And also, when you put in a new banking system, would you agree with the statement that the more time that you plan upfront, the less time you need executing?
R: I think it’s about 30% true. It’s like a bell curve. It depends on the complexity of the project. There may be more variables to consider. But also people, managers, don’t plan and also they may be afraid. That is when things come up that you don’t plan. That is where a good team comes to play. When something changes, what is your response plan?
P: Once again, it comes back to balance. Not too much planning. Over planning creates paralysis.
R: The research show that 25 to 33% should be about planning. A big chunk of it.
P: I want to summarize that for people. Planning is an essential part of project management as well as productivity and getting the greatest productivity. We have researchers who say that 25 to 33% of your time would be spent on planning. The optimal percentage. Thank you Robert. It is time for us to take a break. Stay tuned.