We might have heard of many ways in which new ideas and creativity can be spurred in an organization. This might include include having rewards for creativity, encouraging cultural diversity and bringing in passionate people “who love what they do and having a flexible environment. But, have you ever noticed that inspite of having a encouraging and supportive environment, it is the way in which we project our ideas matter most?
A key challenge in today’s organization, is to balance the two essential things, one is to maintain the current operations, which is called as “Business as usual” or “Run the Business” and the other is to transform the organization, which is also called as “Change the business”.
Reasons for starting a project
It pays to understand what a project is in the first place. A project is a temporary function created for the purpose of delivering an objective. It has a set of steps or activities with a specific start and an end date. So one starts a project to introduce the change in transforming the business, in however small way it may be.
Important thing to keep in mind, is that there should be a good reason to start a project. The reason should be justifiable, valid and should align with the objectives of the organization. This reason is usually approved by your manager or higher authorities.
A good place to start is to identify the key issues or problems within your immediate workplace, processes or Operations. The problems are everywhere and sometimes they are passed on from our peers or colleagues in conferences or workshops and sometimes, they are just recorded as errors or defects in the logs and registers on a periodical basis. Talk to different stakeholders to understand the issues from their perspective.
You can even conduct brainstorming sessions with colleagues to find out possible solutions. Once you have narrowed down and chosen your issue or problem, analyze and assess it for its complexity, relevance and alignment to the current objectives of the organization and this becomes the reason to start the project.
Now, let us take a quick look how to make a single slide presentation for documenting the reasons for starting the project. Using a single slide document the below the reasons.
The context surrounding the issue or the problem.
How does your idea solve the problem or a brief note about the idea.
The expected start and the end date with resources required.
The expected beneficial outcomes, for example, it could be process simplification for efficiency or reducing cost and generating savings or just for meeting compliance.
The alignment objective or the opportunity type. Mention the overarching organizational goal here to which the current project is aligned to.
Status update review is conducted to communicate the progress of the project to all the team members and senior stakeholders. Meetings are held formally in conference rooms or virtually depending on the needs of the stakeholders and the minutes of the meeting are mailed across to all involved in the project. They are usually held on a periodical basis, often weekly and sometimes depending on the needs of the stakeholders, it is done on a monthly or quarterly basis as well.
A typical project status review meeting addresses and walks through the project’s progress on its planned milestones, issues and challenges faced and the support that is required from the stakeholders.
More importantly, it reinforces the project’s business case and its core objectives from time to time to all the project members, the sponsorship team and also other senior stakeholders and any deviations from the baseline are corrected. Imperatively, such walk through gives a heads up of the upcoming project activities and the support needed from them.
A byproduct or should we say an added benefit is that it gives the project manager a leadership opportunity for team building, familiarizing and coaching new project members on the workings and procedures of the project plan, introducing new members to the rest of the team and also how to deal with identified issues and clear them so that the project deliverables do not get affected.
A successful meeting solicits feedback from all the involved stakeholders, makes action items and goes to a great length in keeping all of them in the same page as the project progresses in time. Such meetings are a good project habit, it shows the commitment and the effort that has been put in so far by the project manager and his team members, reinforces accountability and creating the confidence among senior stakeholders on the project manager, the project members and on the way the project is managed and run.
Keep these meetings to an hour or less. Now let’s look at how a simple and an effective five point project update review slide looks like.
When you want to succeed at work and in life, you need to develop the capacity to be yourself. Very often when things go wrong, we have the tendency to put the blame on others.
Actually, accepting responsibility does not mean putting the blame on ourselves. Accepting responsibility lies in the fact that you are taking ownership of your problem.
You are assessing the situation and identifying the areas where improvements need to done so as to make effective changes within your life and at work. By accepting responsibility and making things right, you are sure to get a better outcome when you do the same thing again, without putting the blame on others.
Realizing it and accepting it wholeheartedly
We need to realize that we are responsible for our own success in the work place. We need to accept the fact that whatever you are and whatever you want to be, is entirely in your hands. Only when you accept it wholeheartedly, you will be able to get rid of the bad habit of putting the blame on others.
When certain things have not happened in your career or certain promotions have not come in at the right time, it is easy to put the onus on others. But if you examine closely you always had the choice, to own up and do the right things that are required.
You alone are responsible for your own state of affairs and being happy or unhappy.
The day when you realize this, it will be a new beginning for you towards your journey of accepting responsibility at work and in life.
Do not find an excuse for your failures
A good thing to always remember is that we are here in the organization to perform our duty and we are being paid for it.
Many a times it happens that we just want to create an excuse for our failures. We just don’t want to fail in the eyes of others and often cite reasons to pass the blame on to them.
However, if we accept the responsibility and complete our tasks, we will be in more control of ourselves and we would start achieving what we wanted to do in our professional lives. We just need to accept the assignments and perform them willingly, happily and enthusiastically.
It boils down to say that you just take the idea and run with it rather than be told what to do with it and put them into practice.
Top performers when they see the job that needs doing, they just go ahead and perform it.
The difference between the top performers and those who accomplish little lies in the fact that top performers assume to choose responsibility.
Another aspect of people who accept responsibility is that they mature emotionally. One important aspect is to remain positive and accept failures and learn from them. It is the expression of adulthood.
You also know that things can be done differently and there are other alternatives. Accepting responsibility also means to take help from others. It is good to seek feedback in areas where we need improvement and have a support network.
You will not feel threatened when you find that others in your team have a better solution than yours. You happily accept it and run with it. The more a person accepts responsibility and initiates actions the more he grows into greater levels of autonomy.
Having accomplished simple things, the person wants to achieve difficult work challenges worthy of his or her talents. Success builds on success.
Talk to your Manager with a development action plan
Accepting responsibility also means that you have a plan to implement the much needed changes which can bring improvements into your current situation or work projects.
Have a monthly feedback session with your manager and discuss with him or her that you want to take up additional projects.
Before approaching, make sure you are up to date on your current projects. Accept the feedback from your manager with a positive attitude and discuss ways with him or her on how you can improve.
Discuss your career goals with your manager and how your career goals are aligned with the objectives of the company.
Follow up with your manager with a development action plan on how you want to implement the changes for your improvement areas.
Develop an action plan by identifying the changes that need to be brought in for your developmental areas. Have a workable timeline which covers both, on the job learning as well as classroom learning.
Learning valuable lessons through experience
Another useful outcome of accepting responsibility is that it teaches us valuable lessons through experience. From experience we learn what kind of actions produce fruitful consequences.
It only comes through experience and cannot be taught in a classroom. As you take in more responsibility, you become more secure more confident and start taking risks and initiatives. This makes the person evolve to become a more confident self starter without close supervision.
Sometimes we learn a lot through failure and we clearly understand what went wrong. Accepting responsibility also means sharing the lessons learned with others at work so that they can take up effective action.
Seek out areas where the company needs help and volunteer. Taking part in the company’s extracurricular activities shows you are proactive and willing to contribute meaningfully for your organization as well as for your own growth.
Become an expert in your area of expertise and master your craft.
Finally, accepting responsibility is a choice you make for yourself autonomously. It empowers you and gets you nearer to your goals at work as well in life.
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Understanding and embracing the cultural diversity in a global company.
In a typical proceeding of a ubiquitous American global conference call, an American manager speaks over the phone “Does anyone have any questions” and there is a notable silence from their Asian counterparts or team members across the globe. No one utters a word. No one speaks. We all have noticed that this is a fact of cultural diversity.
A common notion among people working in global companies is that people operate and behave in the same professional way because all of them work for the same company. This is not the case all the time. There are huge differences in the way people work. When we come to work, we bring with us our own cultural values, perceptions and beliefs into the system.
In any setting, we tend to bring in our own style and approach to the work setting and to a social situation. It is like we all are interacting in a huge marriage party and as such, the feelings of chemistry, preferences and archetypes are quite different.
We cannot deny the fact that social upbringing and conditioning invariably comes into the professional setting and so we all are less professional and logical than we think. We see the world through our own experiences and we react or respond to others in the same way. We need to be cognizant of the fact that cultural diversity exists.
As Laura says in her book “The loudest duck”, it is customary in the United States that people are taught “The squeaky wheel gets the grease” and you will get noticed when you speak up. The Asian or the Chinese counterpart for the same is “the loudest duck gets shot” and being outspoken is discouraged.
What stands in our way are the familiar lessons in humility. We learn in all humbleness, “when you don’t have anything to say, then don’t say it at all”. What we need to understand and question ourselves is that how does this translate to the global corporate culture? And how does it influence the way we act and respond to others?
Coming back to the situation that happens on our ubiquitous global conference call, if people are more assertive and voice their ideas, they get recognized more at the expense of the ducks who don’t speak at all.
This doesn’t mean that the ducks don’t have ideas at all, it is just that their cultural values stop them. The organization loses on the cultural diversity. A level playing field need to be established in such a way that the ducks also get heard.
In this way, we can achieve the cognitive diversity we are seeking in the company.
Excerpts from “The loudest duck” by Laura Liswood, Senior Advisor, Goldman sachs.