From a Recruiter’s Diary – Five Expectations from a Job-Seeker to ensure a Win-Win Job-Hunt


A recruiter starts work every morning with one objective – find the best candidate for her client and fill the open position FAST. A candidate hunting for a job wakes up with this thought – may today be the day when I land my dream job. Notice the similarity between the two objectives – so why not work together with MUTUAL RESPECT to achieve this common goal? You may have been contacted by recruiters many times, whether you are looking for a job or not, and you may or may not have been interested by what she had to offer. How did that conversation go? I have a feeling – not very well most of the times. And if I ask the same question to a recruiter, she would also say the same. Surprise – a recruiter is a person too! And is a useful person to cultivate, an useful relationship to nurture – not just when you are changing jobs but also when you are not so you are prepared (Per stats, today, the average person changes jobs ten to fifteen times (with an average of 11 job changes) during his or her career).

So today’s post is from the view point of a recruiter for the job-hunting candidate. She wants you to succeed because in your success lies her success. And she has a few expectations from you, the potential hire, so that the common goal of a win-win job hunt for both can be reached. So here is how you can help her help you:

1)      Craft a complete resume:  Your profile should be tailored for you – please skip the long sentences with all the nice-looking Resume Myths vs. Factsbuzz words. A recruiter will spend a maximum of 30 seconds to determine if your profile is suitable. Be direct and prepare your resume in such a way that your qualifications, skills and achievements are searchable and stand out. Link to your work portfolios or online profiles (Social media links, About.me, etc.) or blogs so that there is an additional outside reference to your skills. Here are some myth-busting tips on resumes in the infographic alongside brought to you by the team at Almagreta Resume Templates.If you are not sure about your resume and need another set of eyes on it before you ship, send it to us at Contact@oorjabizops.com and we will review it for you (for free).

2)      Be Visible: Update your profile regularly. A resume should always be a work-in-progress document and have your latest details – your latest contact details (make sure your email id is a professional one by the way – crazylover777@xxx.com is a sure reject in the first 5 seconds of a resume review), your years of experience, your preferred job location/s, new skills all help the recruiter shortlist your candidature quickly.  Regular updates also help keep your profile on the top of search results in job boards. Create a separate folder in your mail box for achievements and drag those appreciation mails and promotion letters in there – big help to jog your memory if you are one of those people who update their resumes once in five years or maybe a decade.

3)      Be Responsive: The common courtesy rule: treat people the way you would want to be treated – applies with recruiters as well. Respond please – to emails, to calls – even if it is a no, thank you. If you are busy, a short email or text stating your available times (even when it is “please don’t contact me ever”) will save the recruiter time and not keep her hanging. If you do give a time slot, plan ahead and be available – being late for an interview is just not done. If you can’t attend, please do inform in advance so you don’t keep a bunch of people waiting. Professionalism pays. And being nice pays as well.

4)      Be Honest – Know what you want. Think it through before committing yourself. If you are not clear about what path to take on your career or what step to take next, be upfront and discuss this with the recruiter. She will respect this and may be able to provide you with options or opportunities that work for you. Nothing is more frustrating to her than last minute surprises – if you are not interested, just say so. If you are not ready for the interview – say it, her information and insights can help you prepare for it  If you have another offer (a promotion, another job) – say it, it may help you get a better offer. If you don’t want to join after accepting the offer, say it – don’t wait for the day of joining and not turn up. You waste everyone’s time and energy (including yours) not to mention the chances of another candidate like you who could be assessed instead.

5)   Engage – Network with recruiters. If you have had bad experiences with one recruiter, don’t lump the rest in the same bucket. Find the recruiters who work in your industry and who understand your career goals and reach out. Keep in touch. Build a relationship – this is one person you need in your corner when you are looking out for a career change. Keep track of the recruiter and through her, her clients, just like she is keeping track of you. Refer your friends. Find out about hiring trends and upcoming opportunities from her. Give value and get value back – this can definitely be a mutually beneficial relationship. Maybe you don’t need a job now, but she could open up a few doors for you when you do need one. P.S: You can start by engaging with me and my team at Oorja Biz Ops on Facebook and LinkedIn  :)  

 

I have been on the other side of the fence as well for fourteen years and have my pet peeves on recruiters – lack of responsiveness and forthrightness, cookie-cutter approach and more. I am sure you do as well. But I think mutual respect can be key to a great relationship and a successful story here much like in every other relationship. What do you think? Whether you are a recruiter or a job-seeker, I would love to hear back and learn from you. Share your stories. Share your experiences. Share your tips.

Five Ways the Cloud can rev up Operational Excellence for your Startup or Small Business


For the past year, I have been experimenting quite successfully in running my business through the cloud. I am no techie and this was not a planned model initially. However, I was clear that I needed to enable a flexible working environment for my team and ensure that my capital expenditure stays as close to zero as possible in the early stages. I had tried out tools like Box, Dropbox, Evernote and Skype for my personal use and loved the flexibility and ease-of-use they provided. So, it was a natural leap for me to integrate them into my business as well. And now that the business is growing, I went to my go-to-person for all things technical for advice on an IT plan and investments needed (I still don’t own a single server and that “felt” kind of uncomfortable when I remembered the huge server rooms at the businesses I have worked in). Turns out that I have actually been doing it right and have been part of a trend that is the new normal :) . After I finished my feel-good pat-my-own-back session, I requested Shashwat, my go-to person, techie geek turned cloud solutions SME to write down what he told me in the form of a blog post so that I can share this with everyone. Here is his take on how cloud computing is not just for the biggies but is also a boon for startups and small businesses.

Cloud Computing for Small Business and StartUps

Software as a service (SaaS) has been around since the 60s, when IBM and other mainframe providers introduced the concept of time-shared computing. ISVs would host their code on remote servers providing functionality to enterprises on a subscription basis. With the advent of the internet and its increased adoption in the 90s, it gave way to a more efficient and ever-present way of computing, popularly known as cloud computing.

With higher internet speeds at reduced costs, cloud computing can be a boon for your start-up. Here’s why –

1)   Productivity on the go – Productivity has been revolutionized with the arrival of personal devices. The information worker has gone desk-less and enterprise IT has been consumerized. With the Bring-your-own-device culture gaining popularity in major conglomerates, it only makes sense for startups enable their workforce with such power. With cloud storage and cloud apps, the information worker can be more agile and help the startup be nimble. There are multiple platforms/vendors to choose from, to suit your organizational needs. From software development to basic word processing, all workloads can be hosted in the cloud. And with unlimited storage options, all you projects/files are omnipresent – all the time.

2)   Reduced capital and operational costs – The world’s best companies started in a garage, and not with a lot of money. Investing in a resilient IT infrastructure might not be an option available to every aspiring startup. The costs of deploying and maintaining an IT backbone, could be an expensive deal even for a small startup. For many, investing the money to the business would make more sense. The cloud helps you run your IT, without having to worry about maintaining or upgrading it – You will always have the latest and greatest. Thick clients are a thing of the past now, thus helping you reduce the need for expensive end user computing. Effectively, all you need is a browser J

3)   À la carte Computing – Efficient use of IT hardware is always a concern for enterprises. You don’t want to under-size the environment to save cost and run into performance issues, OR invest a lot of money to buy real beefy hardware and have them sit underutilized. With fast growing organizations, scalability becomes a constant issue and a drain on your finances. Enter – CLOUD – you use what you pay for, you pay for what you use. The user-feature based licensing model, helps companies to pick and choose what they want to use, without having to worry about hardware costs. Scalability??? Not a problem, you can scale your user base on the fly with a few clicks of the mouse.

 4)   Boosted Collaboration – Audio/video conferencing, file sharing and web apps – 90% of my workday is spent on these workloads. With teams becoming more virtual now, geo locations cannot be a hindrance to productivity. Efficient use of the cloud tools ensures that people collaborate successfully. You never have to email a single project file back and forth. Multiple people can consume and work on the same data from different locations simultaneously. Business intelligence and reporting has been simplified to a few clicks.

 5)   Increased continuity of service – “The cloud is always on” – You can get to it from anywhere, anytime. Businesses spend a lot of money to ensure that their systems are resilient and highly available, increasing the overall complexity of the environment, with constantly increasing operational costs. A subscription based model eliminates the need for a business to plan for unplanned service interruptions. You pay a one-time subscription fee, the vendor takes care of everything else. Many cloud vendors out there also offer financially backed service level agreements for mission critical workloads, so you can concentrate on your business worry free.

So, there you go – Cloud solutions enable you to concentrate on your business and run IT, quite practically with a credit card. :)

Cloud Tools/Solutions for your reference:

Cloud storage:

Onedrive for business – https://onedrive.live.com/about/en-us/business/

Box.Net for business – https://www.box.com/business/

Google drive – https://drive.google.com/ob?usp=web_ww_intro

Business email and productivity:

Microsoft Office 365 for small business – http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/business/compare-office-365-for-business-plans-FX102918419.aspx?tab=1

Google apps for business – http://www.google.com/enterprise/apps/business/

Unified collaboration:

Skype for business – http://www.skype.com/en/business/

Microsoft Lync online – http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/lync/meeting-software-compare-lync-plans-FX103842081.aspx

Google hangout – http://www.google.com/+/learnmore/hangouts/

Social for the enterprise:

Yammer – www.yammer.com

Chatter – https://www.salesforce.com/chatter/overview/

Today’s post is by Shashwat Mohapatra. Sash is a Client Success Manager and has about 10 years’ experience working as a trusted advisor with large Fortune 500 enterprise organizations in various business verticals around the globe, focused on helping enterprise customers consistently improve IT health, drive successful projects and migration deployments.

Did you find this post useful? How have you used cloud for your business? We would love to hear back and learn from you.

Five Thoughts on Key Performance Metrics through Five Favourite Quotes – Operational Excellence


Numbers tell stories – and metrics are the tools through which these stories get shape and substance. And yes, I am mad about metrics. Most of my readers come to this blog to read my posts on key performance metrics – business, sales, project, human resources and more. So I know I am not alone in my fascination for metrics. There are tons of metrics to choose from and the right performance metric for your business may not be the right one for mine. I have been asked many times on how to know when to introduce metrics, what the right metric is, and how to work the metrics so that the metrics work for you. So through this post, I will try to answer these questions through another passion of mine – quotes! I LOVE quotes (as do the majority of internet users going by the number of quotes shared every minute) – do you too get the feeling sometimes when you read a quote – ahh, I totally get that one, I wish I had written that – an Eureka Moment ?

Quotes are distilled pieces of wisdom. And when it comes to metrics, my experience is that getting the perfect metric and the perfect outcome as a result of tracking the metric needs a lot of hard work and experimentation – so wisdom from people who have been there, done that certainly goes a long way in making the metrics journey easier. So, here are the five pieces of wisdom that have helped me crystallize my approach to key performance metrics:

Performance Metric Quote #1: “Measure what is measurable and make measurable what is not so.” –Galileo

From the Father of Modern Science comes this gem. The thought to keep in mind when you have to begin from the beginning with metrics. The second half of the quote – make measurable what is not so – stands out to me – just because you can measure something easily is no good reason for measuring something. Metrics need to be tied to the desired business outcomes. And we need to spend some time assessing what metrics we have already and what metrics we need, and then going back to work on creating the systems and processes that will provide the data for quantification in a shape and form that will allow us to measure that. Data collection, analysis and management is most often cost and labour-intensive – so that part should always be weighed against the benefit derived from the metric. Don’t start something you can’t sustain in the long run.

Performance Metric Quote #2: “The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” – Hans Hofmann

What not to measure is sometimes more important than what you do measure. Selection of the right performance metric for your business is critical. Do not introduce metrics just for the sake of metrics – it serves no one and the whole purpose is defeated. Start with what is the business goal that you need to track and improve, what are the processes related to that goal, and what metric would best reflect the productivity of the process. Measure only that which is important, that which provides real value to the process in question, which can be easily understood by all stakeholders and is ACTIONABLE.  Control your love for metrics and don’t produce reams of excels and slides and/or dashboards that make peoples’ eyes glaze over right from the start. Be ruthless in cutting down the unnecessary so that the necessary can stand out and shout.

Performance Metric Quote #3: “If you torture the data long enough, it will confess to anything.” Ronald Coase

One of my favourites and sorry to say, one that I am reminded of time and again in the corporate world. Data through metrics must speak the truth even when (and especially when) it does not serve our personal needs. As professionals, we have a responsibility to ourselves and our organizations to be honest, transparent and collaborative. How you measure is as important as what you measure. Don’t devise metrics out of the data just to show things in a good light or in a bad light – keep doing that and there will soon be nothing left to measure. Design the metrics and the data collection systems in such a way that it throws the spotlight on the business outcome and is balanced to reward productive behaviour and discourage “game playing”.

Performance Metric Quote #4: “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.” – Peter F. Drucker

This one is a popular quote and one that has served me well every time I enter a new setup or review a long running process. Business is dynamic, why should metrics remain static? What made sense to measure last month, quarter or year may have become completely irrelevant to measure today. Many a times I have found during reviews, metrics that no one remembers why it is being used, knows who is using it or where it is being used. Trust me, the same is true for many processes as well. There may have been a good reason once sometime in the past that makes absolutely no sense today. So keep reviewing, keep questioning and keep going back to the drawing board with your list of chosen metrics so that they remain relevant and useful.

Performance Metric Quote #5: “An idea not coupled with action will never get any bigger than the brain cell it occupied.” – Arnold Glasow

Do I see you nodding your head to that? All data, dashboards, metrics are useless unless the knowledge and insights derived from them are translated into action.  Ask yourself – what story does this metric say, how can it help the leadership make the right decisions (more, less, better, different?) and arrive at an action plan when necessary? Every metric should be mapped to an end goal and have an action plan defined for improvement, sustenance and excellence. The action plan reviews should go hand in hand with the metric reviews feeding each other in a continuous loop. If the metrics are chosen carefully and presented properly, then, in the process of achieving their metrics, people will make the right decisions and take the right actions that enable the organization to maximize its performance. And that is when you know you have done your job well.

So, there you have it, the method and mechanism behind key performance metrics through learned wisdom. Metrics matter, metrics need work for them to work, metrics tell a story – the ending of which you have the power to change. Make your Metrics Rock!

What is your favourite performance metric quote? What wisdom have you gathered on setting key performance metrics ? What has worked for your business and what has not? I would love to hear back and learn from you.

P.S : Gratitude to Judy Gombita (@jgombita) for pushing me to stretch myself  - thank you, Judy for your faith in me.

Pic Courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rubyblossom/4674821065/

Resigning with Grace – Five To-Do’s till You Leave your Job.


“You have brains in your head, you have feet in your shoes. 
You can steer yourself, in any direction You choose!”
-Dr. Seuss

As a working professional, there comes a time in all our careers when we have to quit our jobs. There could be innumerable reasons for us wanting to quit and we could be in any state of mind when the time for resigning/notice period approaches. Anger, nostalgia, pride, nervousness, a sense of loss, excitement are only some of the emotions you could be experiencing in your notice period, leading up to your last day. And I am saying all this with so much conviction only because I crossed this bridge a couple of weeks back. It is hard to let go off something you have nurtured. But whatever it is, no matter how you feel, a graceful exit is a non- negotiable. There is nothing more desirable than closure in such a situation. Right?

Here are five things we need to do, to ensure that graceful exit we all want:

1. Prepare them. And yourself: If it is in your control, prepare your manager/team in advance about your exit. It is bad enough for them that you’ve chosen to move on. The news should not be jolting. Have a conversation in person with your manager first. Be clear and courteous. The time in hand will allow your work to come to a closure, a suitable replacement can be brought in and it is respectful!

I had a conversation about my departure, a good 8-9 months in advance. It was hard and it took some courage. NOT venting in this conversation was also a good choice to make. This allowed me to deal with it well. I was able to gain a lot of perspective into myself in this process. My reasons to move on:

  • I was getting married and wanted to relocate with my husband.
  • I loved the work, but I wanted a different role and exposure. I wanted to build different skills.

dilbert

2. Stay honest and polite in your exit interview: Exit interviews are not venting sessions either. But if you value your time at the organization and care for them, it is important that you give honest feedback about your experiences. Don’t trash talk. Tell them what you feel. You could be honest, but not rude. I believe many conversations cannot be had in person. And if something needs to be addressed, exit interviews are the places to share.

I worked in an organization which values feedback from its employees. The leadership team really holds space for honest conversations. So I could say what I needed to. But it is for each person to assess their levels of disclosure. This may contribute to how you are remembered.

3. Reach out to all the teams:  If you have been a person who has worked with most teams in the organization, and have some skills which others depend on, inform them about your exit.  It is only fair that you make an open offer to them regarding working on anything that they need from you. That way they won’t be left in a vacuum.
I was involved in designing trainings, workshops and curricula for the organization, and I lent the same expertise to anyone who needed it. When I reached out to all the teams, I was pleasantly surprised at how many things they needed me to work on. In the end, I felt good about myself and my work, and teams got their work done! Classic Win-Win.

Panting4. Celebrate your journey: For whatever reason you quit, once you cross the bridge, know it is a new beginning. Your work stint would have brought you in contact with different kinds of people, allowed you to pick up skills, taken you towards your calling and helped you grow as a person. Celebrate that. The farewell might be a difficult time, an emotional time as well. But bringing in some joy, appreciation and fun will make your experience extremely worthwhile.

On my last day I planned with the team to organize a pot luck lunch, requested everyone to leave me messages in a bag and played a ‘Valentine’s Day’ version of ‘Secret Santa’. It was a happy day and brought me the right kind of closure I wanted. In fact, my parting gift to the organization was a painting I made on the conference room wall.

5. Allow and acknowledge the possibility of a future association: You never know when you may feel the need to associate in some way with an organization you leave, in the future. Be it in terms of work, or partnering with a colleague, reference from your manager, anything. It can happen. Hence, as they say, don’t burn bridges. Leave a door open.  Send appreciative emails/messages, be thankful. Tell your team/managers that at some point you would love to associate again. For organization, it is always good when ex-employees come back to contribute again. Remember, it is always the relationships we build, that matter most.
A big part of my role was that of a facilitator/trainer’s, and I loved it. Sometime soon in the future, having built more skills, I would love to come back as a trainer to contribute to the journey of the organization. Truly!

The multitude of circumstances we may leave under, it may get difficult to leave on a good note. But the effort should not be compromised on. Keep asking yourself at each point, ‘Am I being my best?”. You’ll know what to do when the answer is ‘No’ or a ‘Maybe’. I still think of things I may have wanted to do differently, in hindsight. But if we can all do the above, we know that both us and the organization would be in a better place.

Have similar thoughts? We would love to know! Do share you experience with us.

This is Nilisha Mohapatra’s (@NilishaM) fourth guest post for Happy In the Now. Her previous posts are “ Five Steps that help me be Here and Now – Being Mindful and Happy In The Now” , Five Life-Altering Philosophies from Calvin and Hobbes – Happy In The Now and “Five Life Skills that give wings to your Career”. Nilisha is a Post Graduate in Applied Psychology, a facilitator for Human Potential Development and Experiential workshops for empowerment. She is currently on a learning and exploration journey in life. To know more about her experiences and read more of her blog, please visit fantasycluster.wordpress.com

Pic Courtesy:  Scott Adams - http://dilbert.com/strips/comic/

Five Ways to Survive and Thrive during Organisation Structure Changes


It starts with tremors and before you realise what is happening, the ground starts shaking violently under your feet and there you are in the middle of a major seismic activity hanging on for dear life to your seat. Hold on – I am not talking about cyclones, tsunamis or earthquakes of the natural kind. I am referring to the ground-shaking encountered during organizational structure changes. If you have ever worked in the corporate world, you know the kind I mean…. A quarter or two of underperformance and you can almost guarantee that the phrase “need for change” starts appearing in management communication. Unfortunately, this drive for the need for change usually does not focus on looking at the customer value creation, the business strategy or the execution gaps. The target is usually a few leaders and some shuffling of positions and responsibilities here and there at the top levels and maybe an acquisition – all under the banner “organizing for success”.

Dilbert - Reorgs

That’s all good (actually not, this is shifting the problem elsewhere and maybe creating a new set of problems but it’s a topic for another day) but in a hierarchical organization which majority of orgs are still – this is very unsettling for all the layers of people below. And given that org changes are the norm and hiding under your seat or the blanket at home till the dust settles down in the hope that things will turn out ok in the end could be an option, there is a better option as well and that is – to Be Prepared.

I consider myself a veteran at this org change business having gone through some 25 odd organization transitions in my career – some of which I just about survived and some in which I thrived. So here is my checklist of tips on coming out a winner in such transitions:

Tip #1 – Be an Intrapreneur: No matter which layer or function you are in the structure, always be a leader.  The security of a good job in a big company often brings in a sense of complacency.  In today’s scenarios, this complacency is very very risky for your career. If you were an entrepreneur or working in a startup, what would you be doing? Hustling everyday, that’s what – because what exists today might not exist tomorrow. So bring in that hustle factor into your job everyday – work for today. As Jim Rohn said – work harder on yourself than you do on your job or business.  Be an intrapreneur – an entrepreneur within your organisation. My mentor, Entrepreneur David K Williams, shared the four essential traits of an intrapreneur – read here. Do your best work and keep yourself relevant and you become sure of yourself and the fear of changing bosses, changing teams, changes at workplace will not be a fear anymore.

Tip#2 – Be Visible:  Doing great work and no one other than your immediate boss and your team knowing about it is not going to help you when your boss changes or your team changes. Much as you may hate the idea of it, you have to promote yourself. As I have written in one of my earlier posts, this was a hard-earned lesson for me. I had always believed that my work will speak for itself and rewards may be delayed but will never be denied. But then, who knows what tomorrow may bring? You cannot afford to be shy if you want your work to be recognized.  Be aware of your worth and don’t settle for less. You have to be your own marketing manager and actively market the value that you bring in to your manager, department and organization. Make sure people know who you are and what you do. Make your achievements and contributions visible as and when they happen and not just list them at appraisal time.

Tip #3 – Help Others: The single most important thing that you can do for your career is to help others in their careers. Read that line again – it is true. In life or in work, what you give is what you get. Its extra work I admit but the benefits far outweigh the efforts. I have always held the belief that real assets that we build at work are the relationships – you don’t lose these when you switch jobs or lose jobs. All the career advice about having a strong network around you is right – but it starts with an attitude of helping, of giving. Be the go-to person – be the first person that people around you think of when there is an issue to be resolved or a problem to be solved. You become an asset for your boss, your team and you company. And being an asset gives you plenty of leverage during an organizational transition – it gives you the negotiating power to tap the opportunities that the transition may bring.,

Tip #4 – Collect Mentors: A good mentor is invaluable for your career success. A mentor can be someone in your corner when you need some additional support. And if you have one within the company, she can protect you when things go wrong, propose you for great assignments and be your own internal reference. Look around you to find people who you admire and are role models for where you want to be. Don’t limit yourself to one mentor. You might look to one for domain expertise, to another for industry expertise, and yet another for personal scenarios when you need practical and helpful advice or brainstorming. And if you are lucky to find a great mentor, invest in that relationship and make sure that you too offer support when your mentor needs it.

Tip #5 – Be Aware: Of the work that you do, of your worth, of the games around you and of what is right. This Career Manifesto by Michael Wade says it all:

1. Unless you’re working in a coal mine, an emergency ward, or their equivalent, spare us the sad stories about your tough job. The biggest risk most of us face in the course of a day is a paper cut.

2. Yes, your boss is an idiot at times. So what? (Do you think your associates sit around and marvel at your deep thoughts?) If you cannot give your boss basic loyalty, either report the weasel to the proper authorities or be gone.

3. You are paid to take meaningful actions, not superficial ones. Don’t brag about that memo you sent out or how hard you work. Tell us what you achieved.

4. Although your title may be the same, the job that you were hired to do three years ago is probably not the job you have now. When you are just coasting and not thinking several steps ahead of your responsibilities, you are in dinosaur territory and a meteor is coming.

5. If you suspect that you’re working in a madhouse, you probably are. Even sociopaths have jobs. Don’t delude yourself by thinking you’ll change what the organization regards as a “turkey farm.” Flee.

6. Your technical skills may impress the other geeks, but if you can’t get along with your co-workers, you’re a litigation breeder. Don’t be surprised if management regards you as an expensive risk.

7. If you have a problem with co-workers, have the guts to tell them, preferably in words of one syllable.

8. Don’t believe what the organization says it does. Its practices are its real policies. Study what is rewarded and what is punished and you’ll have a better clue as to what’s going on.

9. Don’t expect to be perfect. Focus on doing right instead of being right. It will simplify the world enormously.

10. If you plan on showing them what you’re capable of only after you get promoted, you need to reverse your thinking.

 So what do you think? What tip did I miss? Tell me your story – I would love to hear and learn from you.

Pic Courtesy:  Scott Adams - http://dilbert.com/strips/comic/1997-11-22/

Five Workplace Attitudes that can make Work FUN and help You Succeed too – Operational Excellence


How many times have you thought in the mornings – I wish I didn’t have to go to work today? And not just on Mondays either… This question could be a symptom of quite a common malignancy – boredom at work or tiredness of a toxic workplace that drains you of all your energy. And you are not alone – Only 13% of employees worldwide are engaged at work, according to Gallup’s new 142-country study on the State of the Global Workplace. In other words, only about one in eight workers — roughly 180 million employees in the countries studied — are psychologically committed to their jobs and likely to be making positive contributions to their organizations.

CEOs and management of companies are struggling to figure out how to more effectively understand and use their people’s talents, skills, and energy (Per PWC, 77% of CEOs say they’ll change their strategy for managing talent in 2013. But CEOs have told us the same thing for the past six years. This suggests either that the changes they’ve made aren’t working, or that their plans have never been put into practice. Clearly, a fundamental rethink of the established approach to talent strategy is needed.)

Not the kind of Fun I mean here!

Not the kind of Fun I mean here!

Now unless you are the CEO of the company or it’s your own business, you might say – oh well, I can’t do anything about this. I just need to drag myself to work every day till my leadership team waves a magic wand at the workplace or till I can jump to the next job or launch my startup (Yay! for you). Actually not – as the CEO of YOU, Inc there is a lot that YOU can do to make your work fun and your workplace enjoyable. I have written about the toxic attitudes to avoid at the workplace earlier. If you want to enjoy yourself at work and make work enjoyable for others around you, here are my five favourite workplace attitudes that I have seen work:

Work-Place Attitude #1: Help Others Succeed - This beautiful Zulu proverb says it all: “Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu”- A human is only a human because of other humans. We’re all interconnected! Your Success is assured and becomes more meaningful when you help others succeed. Make work personal – be of help and ASK for help. Personal relationships are the fertile soil from which all advancement, all success, all achievement in real life grows. The more you give of yourself in anything, the more you get in return – especially when you give with no expectation of return. Too often, we build islands of ourselves cutting ourselves off from people who we can learn from, grow with and share life’s experiences. Do what you can for other people, give respect, work hard at building relationships and open yourself up to great experiences at work.  And don’t hesitate to ask for help – Not only do you get help but in this way let the other person know that you recognizes their skills and value. Saying, “Can you help me?” is the same as saying, “I know you are great at that.” And then – don’t forget to say the two most powerful words – Thank You.

Work-Place Attitude #2: Ask and Listen, Like you mean it – This is the best strategy to make meetings (one of the biggest fun-killers at work) much more interesting and much less Yawn-inducing. And if you have got a big case of “Love-your-own-voice-it is”, save it for the karaoke nights after work please. Shut up and listen sometimes so that you can have fun and let others have fun too. As Kevin Cashman points out from his book, The Pause Principle here : “How often do we pause to be genuinely present with someone? How often do we really hear what the other person is saying and feeling versus filtering it heavily through our own immediate concerns and time pressures? Authentic listening is not easy. We hear the words, but rarely do we really slow down to listen and squint with our ears to hear the emotions, fears, and underlying concerns…. Try practicing authentic listening. Be with people and have the goal to fully understand the thoughts and feelings they are trying to express. Use your questions and comments to draw them out, to open them up, and to clarify what is said rather than expressing your view, closing them down, and saying only what you want. Not only will this help you to understand the value and contribution the other person brings, it will create a new openness in the relationship that will allow you to express yourself and be heard more authentically as well.”

Work-Place Attitude #3: Be Calm and Spread Calm – This one works well to counter one of the biggest energy drainers – office politics. You have to know this game but not be an active player in this game. It sucks you in till one day you wake up and realize you have become one of “them” (you know who I mean). So when tensions escalate, dramas and conspiracy theories abound, take a deep breath and stay calm. Be the Zen-master if you will. As Tony Schwartz says – When in doubt, ask yourself, “How would I behave here at my best?” We know instinctively what it means to do the right thing, even when we’re inclined to do the opposite. If you find it impossible, in a challenging moment, to envision how you’d behave at your best, try imagining how someone you admire would respond. I have a good collection of experiences and articles on dealing with office politics if you need some help.

Work-Place Attitude #4: Be a Customer Advocate not a Company Advocate – Never ever say “that’s how we do things here” when someone asks you why something (process, task, tool) is done the way it is done now and never accept that answer.  This is a real innovation and idea killer. It makes you a zombie at work doing things just because… and not to mention the possible impact that this could be having on the customers. Every task, every action that you take at work has to be related back to how it ultimately helps the customer. Companies exist for customers and not the other way around. Use the Five Whys technique if you get stuck figuring out the how. By being a customer advocate, you stretch your mind, you force yourself the look at processes the way your customer does. It is THIS that triggers changes that improve the company’s bottom line. And is an avenue for creativity for you in your current job making it more fun.

Work-Place Attitude #5: Do something that you have Never done before – Lifelong learning is not just a catch word, it is a saviour for boredom and weariness and leads you to a successful career. I know. I have tried it out on myself and it really works. It is the best way to move forward and regain your career momentum when you feel you are stuck. You never know what skill could help you where and it is so much fun stretching ourselves to learning something new. Keep a journal and list what you have learnt for the first time in the day, week, and month. What did you enjoy learning the most – you can get a lot of valuable answers about yourself and your work from there. And at the workplace, teach to learn. Teaching is maybe the most amazing learning tool. Teach and learn as a mentor or as a peer. Two brains are better than one and its lots of fun too.

And how does this all relate to success? There is quite a lot of science behind this (and the study of happiness at work is a rapidly growing trend as it should be) – if you are having fun at work, you are happier. If you are happier, you’ll solve problems faster, be more creative, adapt fastest to change, get appreciated, receive better feedback, get promoted quicker and earn more over the long-term. Have ten minutes and not sure of your happiness quotient at work? Take this survey from iOpener Institute which gives you a personalized and confidential assessment of how happy and fulfilled you are at work:  http://blogs.wsj.com/source/2011/09/18/how-happy-are-you-at-work-complete-our-survey/

So what did I miss? What attitudes do you take with yourself to work? What attitudes do you admire in your colleagues? Add to the list – I would love to hear back and learn from you (help me fill my learning journal).

Pic Courtesy – My favourite marketoonist - http://tomfishburne.com/2008/12/silo-day-care.html

Five Project Management Performance Metrics key to Successful Project Execution – Operational Excellence


“If you don’t measure something, you can’t change it. The process of leadership is one of painting a vision, then saying how you’re going to get there, and then measuring whether you’re actually getting there. Otherwise, you risk only talking about great things but not accomplishing them.” Mitt Romney

Continual improvement is a prerequisite for any organization’s success. A continual improvement process, also often called a continuous improvement process (abbreviated as CIP or CI), is an ongoing effort to improve products, services, or processes. These efforts can seek “incremental” improvement over time or “breakthrough” improvement all at once. Delivery (customer valued) processes are constantly evaluated and improved in the light of their efficiency, effectiveness and flexibility (Wiki).

PM Metrics - Continual Improvement

Gauging whether there is incremental improvement and setting up mechanisms to track and measure these improvements is the difficult part and this is where Metrics come in. I am passionate about metrics and have written about my favourite performance management metrics in business, sales and human resources earlier. In this guest post, Kavita Verma draws upon her PMO experiences to list the most effective metrics that can be used by project managers to determine the success of their projects.

‘Metric’ is defined as “Standard of measurement by which efficiency, progress, performance, productivity, quality of a deliverable, process, project or product can be assessed”.  Metrics help in building predictability, improving organization’s decision making ability, and lay out what is working and what is not working within the organization and help guide the management focus in the right directions.

Project management performance metrics enable Project managers to:

  • Assess status of ongoing project in terms of schedule, cost and profitability.
  • Foresee any potential risks.
  • Nail down the problems much before they become severe.
  • Keep a check on project profitability.
  • Assess productivity of team.
  • Assess quality of work products to be delivered.

There can be different project management metrics defined based on complexity and nature of project.  However, following five performance metric groups cover all the important aspects of a project to measure during execution:

Performance Metric #1: Schedule and Effort/Cost Variance

The goal of this metric is to measure the performance as well as progress of the project against signed baselines.  This metric is very important and is the base for profitability of project. The EVM (Earned Value Management) concept, as defined by PMI standard PMBOK, is the commonly used method to track this metric. It integrates project scope, cost and schedule measures to help the PM to assess and measure project performance and progress. The principles of EVM can be applied to all projects, in any industry. Under this method, at any given point in time, project performance to date is used to extrapolate the expected costs and duration at project completion. This technique uses past performance (i.e. actuals) to more accurately forecast future performance. EVM develops and monitors three key dimensions of each work package:

Planned Value (PV): How much you planned to spend for the work you planned to do i.e. it is the authorized budget assigned to the work to be accomplished for an activity or work breakdown structure component. Total PV is also known as Budget at Completion (BAC). PV at any stage = (Planned % Complete) X (BAC)

Earned Value (EV): Earned value is the value of work performed expressed in terms of the approved budget assigned to that work for an activity or work breakdown structure component. It is the authorized work that has been completed, against the authorized budget for such completed work i.e. EV is ‘how much you planned to spend for the work you actually did’. Earned Value is also known as the Budgeted Cost of Work Performed (BCWP).

Actual cost (AC): Actual cost is the total cost actually incurred and recorded in accomplishing work performed for an activity or work breakdown structure component. It is the total cost incurred in accomplishing the work that the EV measured. I.e. how much you spent for the work you actually did. Actual Cost is also known as the Actual Cost of Work Performed (ACWP).

Using these three variables project Schedule variance and Cost variance metrics can be derived which shows if the project is running over or under budget; project is running behind or ahead of schedule, as follows:

Schedule Variance (SV) is the measure of schedule performance of the project. It is the difference of Earned value and the planned value i.e.  SV = EV – PV

  • Positive result means that you are ahead of schedule.
  • Negative result means that you are behind schedule.

Cost Variance (CV) is the measure of cost performance on the project. It is equal to earned value (EV) minus actual costs (AC). Any negative CV is often non-recoverable to the project.

CV = EV – AC

  • Positive result means that you are under budget.
  • Negative result means that you are over budget.

EV, PV and Actual Costs

Since EVM method allows PM to extrapolate the expected costs and duration at project completion based on project performance to date, PM can develop a forecast for the estimate at completion (EAC) which may differ from the budget at completion (BAC) based on project performance. Forecasting of EAC involves making estimates or prediction of conditions and events in the project’s future based on information and knowledge available at the time of forecasting. EAC is typically based on actual cost (AC) incurred for work completed, plus an estimate to complete (ETC) the remaining work. I.e. EAC = AC + ETC.

Based on this PM can also derive another metric, Variance at completion (VAC) = BAC – EAC

 

Performance Metric #2 – Productivity: Resource Utilization

The objective of this metric is to measure productivity of resources involved in project and let PM assess over or under-utilization cases.

Utilization% = Total Effort spent by resource/Total Budgeted Effort for the resource

Budgeted effort is the planned billable work of resource. Any over-utilization and under-utilization indicated by this metric has an impact on the project’s profitability. It is important for the PM to track this metric very closely and find out the reason for deviations and the action items to bring back resource utilization to optimal level. Delayed projects, increased ramp up activities, less work provided by customer, unplanned vacations, less competent resources can impact this metric. To get better control over this metric, robust time reporting systems should be available in the organization. Using this, PM can analyze effort distribution across different project phases/activities. For e.g. Effort distribution can tell PM that how much effort is being spent on defect resolution, customer support or design activities. PM can take corrective actions based on this, if required. For instance, if the resource is complaining that customer support is taking considerable time but the effort distribution shows it otherwise, PM can see where the corrections are needed on what resource is doing. Effort distribution from time reporting systems can also tell the areas of improvement for  better estimations/planning for the next project.

 Effort Distribution

Performance Metric #3: Change requests to Scope of work

Signed Scope baseline with customer forms the baseline for the entire project planning and development. Any change to signed scope should happen in controlled manner. So here comes another important metric for PM to track i.e. the number of change requests coming from customer for the already signed scope of work. Each and every change request, once approved by internal change control board (CCB), requires update to Scope baseline which in turn has a cascade impact on cost baselines and schedule baselines and resource plans. Uncontrolled change requests often result in project scope creep and further impact negatively on the project cost/schedule, which is the worst thing to happen for any project. PM should never allow such scope creep. Based on the magnitude of the variance from original scope baseline, CCB should decide whether to accept or reject the change request and this decision should be communicated back to customer. In case of acceptance of change request, the impact on project cost and schedule should be clearly communicated in written form to customer and a written agreement from customer secured on those from customer before proceeding.

 

Performance Metric #4: Quality and Customer Satisfaction

Throughout the execution of project, Quality Assurance should always be on the radar of project manager. Quality here is defined as the number of severe, medium or low defects delivered through the lifetime of the project. It indicates the health of the deliverable to the end user and drives the Customer Satisfaction. PM needs to define, based on project type, what severe, low and medium means. Quality should be reported throughout the life of the project; the later defects are caught, the more impact they will have on the project. Under quality metrics, following are the key ones to track:

Defect density = Total number of defects found/ Measure of size.

For e.g. in case of software projects this can be: how many defects are found in 1KLOC (Kilo line of code). In general, size measure can be considered as planned effort like ‘person day total planned effort’.

Defect age

Number of days since the defect is open and not fixed. It can also be inferred as the time customer has been waiting for their issues to get resolved,

Defect resolution rate = Total number of defects resolved/ Total effort spent

Rate of closing the open defects over a period of time. If the rate of resolution is not in line with the defects being opened over a particular time, this indicates to the PM a situation of concern.

Defects Tracking

Number of defects reported by customer

PM should keep this as a separate metric to differentiate from the defects reported out of internal testing and the defects reported by end user i.e. Customer. Customer satisfaction depends a lot on the quality of deliverable provided and on how fast defects raised by customer are resolved.

As said above, the later defects are caught, the more impact they will have on the project, it is worth to mention here about Pareto’s principle i.e. 80/20 principle, which PM can use to categorize causes of defects and late time entry relationship. As per this law 80% of the problems are due to 20% of the causes. PM can concentrate on these 20% causes impacting the project most.

Pareto Diagram

Performance Metric #5: Gross Margin

Gross Margin (as I wrote in my earlier post on key performance metrics) is the mother of all metrics and the quickest way to determine if your business in on track or not and acts as an early warning system to put in place margin improvement initiatives. Ultimate goal of project execution is to bring revenue to organization with the approved gross margin. Gross margin (GM) is basically the difference of total revenue and the total cost spent on project i.e. profit.

When a project is started, certain GM levels for the project are approved by project sponsor. This approved GM value is generally based on project scope definition, duration, a forecast of resources: onsite, offshore and organization’s investment analysis. Project PNL (Profit and Loss) statement gives a way to PM for tracking his/her projects GM metric at any point of time. For this, PNL statements and forecasts should be current documents i.e. changes in project parameters need to be reflected quickly in this statement to keep the PM informed about any potential risks to project profitability. All the above four project management performance metrics impact this metric, if not handled in controlled manner. A good organizational level PNL tool rather than manual excel sheets reduces the overhead on PM here.

While working with all of these metrics, following points should be very clear in the project manager’s mind:

In my view these five project management performance metrics are critical metrics to be tracked while taking charge and during execution of a project. The continued analysis of these metrics provides additional insights into what is working and what is not, allowing the PM to make appropriate improvements. These metrics also help in building up historical data for similar kind of projects so that in future, better project planning can be done. Success story of project can be then built up based on the effectiveness of defined metrics by showing the improved numbers “before” and “after”. This ensures that the effort spent by team in collection and measurement of data for these metrics is leading to continuous improvements and not just an overhead activity.

In summary, metrics improve decision making ability by providing the foundation and rationale for the decision by making explicit what is usually implicit in the decision-making process.

So what are your experiences when it comes to project management performance metrics and tracking? What are some of the other project management metrics you have been tracking?  We would love to hear and learn from you.

References: www.PMI.org : PMBOK 4th Ed.

Today’s guest post is from Kavita Verma, PMP who is the Director – Global Program Office at a leading IT services company. She is a dynamic and outcome-oriented Program Manager with a fulfilling career spanning over 10 years of extensive industry experience in full software life cycle of requirements definition, architecture, design, prototyping, product implementation, integration and testing of Embedded Mobile Application and Platform Middleware.

Pic Courtesy : http://www.flickr.com/photos/ebonysweden/10120374843/

Love Performance Metrics ? Here are some more posts that may be useful for you:

Five Performance Metrics Key to Successful Business Operations – Business Management

Five Human Resource Metrics that link People to Business Strategy – Business Operations Performance Metrics

Five Metrics that can help Maximize Revenue and Cash Flow Potential from existing Business – Business Operations Performance Management

Business Operations Performance Metrics: Gross Margin – Five Steps to Improve your Margin

Business Operations Performance Metrics: Cash Flow – Five Steps to Improve your DSO

Five Sales Performance Metrics Key to Successful Business Operations

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