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This is Laura Lee Rose, a business and life coach that specializes in professional development, time management, project management and work-life balance strategies. In my Professional Development Toolkit package , I go into professional development and real-world IT topics in detail. If you are interested in more training in these areas, get signed up
Hosting Etiquette is same in most cases. Beyond the regular things you might do, review the following and see what you think:
- Find out their favorite foods and make reservations to a restaurant that provides high-quality cuisine of that type.
- If it’s a group environment, make sure the restaurant have enough options to satisfy a diverse group of dietary and religious needs.
- Arrive early – to be at the restaurant before the first guest.
- When you arrive, tell maitre d’ that you are to receive the check at the end of the meal. Do this before you are seated.
- Make it clear to your guests that they can order pre-dinner drinks, even if you are not ordering a drink for yourself.
- If a guest(s) is more than 10 minutes late, seat the rest of the group and ask the maitre d’ to seat the late-comer when they arrive.
- When meals arrive at different times, suggest that those that have received their food to start eating. Follow your instructions to make them feel more comfortable in doing it.
- If an error is made by the staff or kitchen, tell the guest that you will handle it (so that the guest doesn’t have to have that difficult conversation and illustrate that you are a problem solver). Then speak to the server politely and explain the situation without blame.
- Don’t discuss the price of the meal when paying. Don’t make a big deal about paying the bill.
- Allow the guest to lead the conversation and topics. Don’t interrupt their story to tell your tales. Don’t use the conversation to show off. Use the conversation to understand their perspective and understand how they can best benefit from your association with them.
- When commenting on their opinions, say “Yes – and I have also noticed ….” to introduce an opposing viewpoint without introducing conflicts and contradictions.
- Even when you invite guests to order whatever they want, some guests will hesitate to order. Most guests try to order something priced in the same range as the other guests. And if you make them go first, they don’t have a range to use. Make some recommendations to put them at ease with the pricing.
- Don’t openly complain about the service, restaurant, location, etc. They will wonder that if you don’t like this place, why are you bringing them there? Avoid negatives in speech and actions.
- Don’t point out problems, create solutions at all times.
- Mirror body language and speech pattern to convey that you are synchronized. Paraphrase what they are saying to make sure you understand what they are trying to convey, before you respond. Seek to understand first, then to be understood (from Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People).
Try it and let me know what you think.
p.s. If you didn’t register for the Light Your Fuse seminar last week, you missed a great event. If you would like to replay the event, please contact me at LauraRose@RoseCoaching.info I can make sure you get a link to the replay sessions.
I find the best way to gain customers from competitors is to collaborate and affiliate with them.
Most services are niche enough that, although they seem competing, they aren’t really stepping on each other toes. While they may share the same service space, their products are slightly different and may even be complimentary. While they may seem to share the same market, their target client description is slightly different.
A successful scheme is to create a catalyst event in which your competitors are invited to speak, perform, or showcase their wares. Every business is responsibly for promoting and advertising this event to their clients. This offers a Win/Win for everyone. The advantage is that now everyone is gaining exposure beyond their individual circle of influence. You also include your products and services at this event. Now you have other service providers bringing in their clients to see your products as well as their products.
Creating a collaborative versus adversarial atmosphere often works better in the long run. In this type of environment, companies often can create a referral program in which you share revenue on clients you refer to each other. You can also make an agreement to off-load some business during your busy times to the other company (and visa-versa). If one or the other move into a different market, you are the first they will recommend to their clients.
Your work history is solid. Your experience is exceptional. Yet you are not getting the job offers that you want. How can you get your resume out in front?
One thing that would make your resume more powerful and therefore, stand ahead of the others, is to quantify your achievements toward “what it means to the company” (money wise).
Remember that companies are in the business of making money.
Add a section of Professional Skills — that quickly lists all your technical and transferable skills.
Rethink your great achievements (and qualifications) and voice them in “what it really means to the company” – or “what did the company get out of it” in regards to (but not limited to):
- Increased customer satisfaction
- Retention of customers in migration process
- Brought in new customers/clients
- Speediness of customer to find->see->purchase and repurchase
- Increased referral of new customers by previous clients (referrals increase revenue without additional marketing costs. It’s expensive to find new clients because of a large lead-to-sales conversion rate. Getting referrals from previous customers is a Win/Win/Win).
- Reduction of lead-to-sales conversion rate (it may take 100 leads to make one sale….if you can show how you reduced this conversion rate….)
- Increased revenue into a new market or client base
- Conversion of customers from competitors to your product
- Use of affiliates and even competitors to gain a market advantage
- On-time delivery into the market
- Reduced time to market to gain the sweet spot of the market window – and gain a competitive edge
- Reduced technical support and maintenance costs which increased customer loyalty
- Reduced the number of maintenance cycles or eliminated them altogether – which reduced costs and increased client satisfaction.
Do the same with your performance evaluation summaries as well.
If you can put some tangible $$ or % numbers to your accomplishments that explicitly quantifies your value to the company’s bottom line – I think that would be a show-stopper.
Made up examples – just to give you the idea:
- Initiated a referral program that allowed us to track the number of clients getting referred to us, but also allowed us to devise an improvement program to increase (and forecast) the number of referrals in the future.
- Increased customer satisfaction by 50%, which resulted in a 30% rise in client referrals.
- RE-introduced ProductX into a totally different market. By slightly re-engineering the product, we were able to launch our solution into an unsaturated market with little overhead. This resulted in an additional $100,000.00 in revenue the first quarter and forecast to double in the next.
- Redesigned the e-commerce site for more visibility that resulted in 50% more traffic to our sights, and an increase of $100,000 in sales per month
- Initiated 2 affiliation partnership with complimentary companies/products. These partnerships increased our advertisement exposure by 75% with no increase our marketing budget. It also resulted in $100,000.00 additional sales per quarter.
- Wrote monthly whitepapers on hot-topics in the industry. This free subscription added approximately 200 new sales leads a month, which resulted in 100 new clients a quarter (resulting in additional $50,000 in sales a quarter).
- Implemented various shopping cart optimization routines that made it more efficient for clients to view, select, and purchase the products. This reduce their shopping-to-purchase time by 10% and increase customer satisfaction by 30%. Because of these changes, “Returning customer numbers” increased by 45%. And referrals (by previous customers) increased by 30%.
- Achieved 100% on-time delivery of 7 of YYY products and services which resulted in 100% client retention between releases.
- Incorporated Early Product Release to certain high-profile clients – to assure these million dollar clients stayed with the company.
- Initiated a loyalty reward program that resulted in 30% increase retention rates of clients
- 100% retention of our client base through the migration of Product X to Product y. Typical migrations lose up to 7% of our customer base in addition to bad reviews. This migration not only accomplished our 100% retention rate, but gained us an 5% bump in referrals.
- Increased company revenue by $1,000,000.00 by converting a competitor’s client to our product line.
- Consistently pulled in the release dates on <list the products> – which enabled the company to hit the market early and before competitors. Early release allowed the company a greater lead time and resulted in a million dollars of new market shares. Our current 100% rate was written in the XXX Technical Journal, giving us free advertisement and contributed to a 30% bump in sales leads.
Think like the owner. What is he/she most interested in knowing? Quantify your accomplishments in those terms. Don’t get rid of your other resumes … just see how this new version of your resume feels to you.
I received the below great question a few days after my Art of War for Product Managers and High-Performing Professionals. I thought you might be interested in the answer as well.
Q: Many senior employees work under my lead. In this case, many other senior employees think that what a lucky me. Jealousy is coming up from them. Do you have any tips for me as new entrant in product management to face this kind of condition?
Thank you for writing me. And congratulations for getting such an amazing position! You deserve it.
I do understand about jealousy. Jealousy is more about your senior employees’ confidence level in themselves. If one is competent, well-balanced and talented – there is no need to be jealous or even feel a need to defend ourselves. Even understanding this, you still may have some conflicts in the office.
3 tips to reduce:
- Take on the attitude of service. They are senior employees and know a great deal about their area of expertise. Give them their due respect in their field. Acknowledge that, even though you feel they are working under your lead, you are actually in a service position. They know way more about their jobs than you do. But you know way more about directing traffic than they do. Acknowledge that without their piece, there would be no product release. Acknowledge that their position and experience is very valuable and critical to the product success. Continue to openly appreciate their position in the stream of things (tell them how much you admire what they do). Continuously remind them that the purpose of your position is to be of service to them. (All great leaders take on the attitude of service.) Continue to ask them what they need from you to help them achieve their goals. Explain to them that you admire what they do (they are the drivers that will get the product released). And that you see yourself as the traffic cop whose job is it to keep the traffic moving smoothly, in the right direction, and avoid traffic jams to get the product out the door on time.
- If someone seems particularly envious or jealous, maybe they want to be a product manager. Ask them if they really want to be a product manager? Do they want you to put in a good word for them in your department? Help them get the job that they really want. If they really want to get into the product management arena, start introducing them to the staff and management of the team. Share the type of tasks and experience that they need to do the job. Share what a day in the life of a product manager looks like. Take them to lunch with some of your department staff. Keep that service attitude – and ask them what you can do to help.
- Sun Tzu (author of Art of War) would say: “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer”. Make these people your friends. Periodically bring in breakfast or snack treats to their staff meetings or labs (where ever they gather in a group), make public announcement of appreciation when they do something that you have been asking the team for; write thank-you email to them and their managers – when they turn in their status reports early, show appreciation when they are doing what they are supposed to be doing (and make sure their managers get a copy of these things to show that you are on these people’s side); and acknowledge acts that make your job run smoother and easier. Keep your manager and their manager aware of the good things that are going on in the group (this shows the individuals that you are on their side to get them a good performance review). Take the most troublesome folks out to lunch and ask them for their advice on some things OR -better yet – say that you want to understand better what they do. People love to talk about what they do and give their opinions on things. Asking about them is another way of showing respect and interest in them. The more time you spend understanding them, the more they will take the time to understand you. The more you understand how they work, the better you can devise processes that naturally blend with the way they already work. Treat them with the respect that senior employees are due. Consider their insight, feedback and advice. Choose the path that feels right for you (which probably will include some of their ideas and your ideas). Don’t do what they say, just because they say it. But use their insight to improve your product process so that it better fits into what they are already doing. The more things you implement that naturally fit the way things work – the easier your life with be.
You can’t change how people treat you. But you can 100% control how you treat others. Make your “service attitude” more public – to show them that you’re there to help them achieve their goals. Continue to remind them that you know that they are doing the significant, heavy lifting in the product design and implementation. Your role is to help the team achieve their common and shared goal. If you approach this with the service-attitude, you are more likely to reduce much of the negativity.
p.s. Keep all your “thank-you” notes and notes of appreciation in your Achievement Folder….so that if something comes up in your performance review, you can show tangible evidence that your intend was not to agitate. Document everything as you go along — so that at the end of the year (performance review time) – you don’t have to remember what you did all year.
Try it and let me know what you think.
Hello, this is Laura Lee Rose – and I enjoyed our Art of War for Product Managers and High-Performing Professionals.
Below is an abridged list of Q&A that I collected during that presentation.
Feel free to contact me at LauraRose@RoseCoaching.info for any follow-up questions or presentations.
Q: What does “never compromise with honesty” mean?
This means to keep the “real reason” for the task in mind at all times. Don’t use the singular focus on numbers and dates distract you from the real reason for all your hard work.
For instance, even though your task is to get this product out the door on a certain date, the real-reason of the task is to release a high-quality product that customers will actually use. The team was running late and the delivery schedule was in jeopardy. To bring in the schedule, the product managers moved all the customer-review of the early design phases. They also compressed the time between the Beta Release and the general release. By by-passing usability studies, focus group prototypes and taking early demos to various trade-shows in order to save time; the product managers actually lost the opportunity to make sure the product will actually be used by the clients. At the Beta Release, it was discovered that the customers like the idea of the product, but the implementation was not how they actually do their work. The idea behind the tool was to assist clients to get their work done more efficiently. This product was making the customer to fit the product instead of the other way around. The team had to go back to the drawing board and the company cancelled the product release.
Another example: You know what the executives want to hear, so you put a slight spin on your status report to avoid conflict and disapproval. You didn’t tell “a lie” – you merely didn’t tell the entire truth. Your solution is for the team to just work longer and harder to catch up. This strategy doesn’t work because the team is already working longer and was burnt-out. The issues got worst and not better.
Another example: The quality reason for retesting all the defects by a certain date is to allow the development team enough time to find, fix and retest the defects found by more testing. In software development, any code change generates a 10% chance of creating or finding new defects. By enforcing multiple deadlines in the product schedule to have all the teams retest all the accumulated ‘fixed items’ in their queue – allows those hidden defects to become visible with enough time to fix and retest. A test group allowed their retest queue to get out of hand. The 0 defect deadline was the next day and they realized that they would not be able to retest their 100 fixed items. Since the developers said these items were fixed and the testers didn’t want to be called out on their defect counts, the testers closed all their defects without testing. The consequence was that a significant number of defects were left in the product, the product quality suffered, customer complaints rose, technical support hour’s increase, and a costly emergency maintenance release was schedule.
Another example: In an interview, you’re trying to figure out what the interviewer (or your executives) wants to hear, instead of expressing who you really are (or the true status of the product). Although you want to stay focused on answering the exact question that the interviewer is asking, don’t try to figure out what answer they are hoping to hear. They need to hear who you really are (and visa-versa). Answer as honest as makes sense – and don’t try to mind-read. After you have answered, ask them how they would have handled the situation. Then you can better comment on the way they handled the situation. Many situational and scenario-based interviews have really no right or wrong answers. By feeling comfortable finding out more about how their organization works, you can decide if this organization is a good fit for you….(versus spending a lot of time force-fitting the partnership).
I go into the: who, what, where, when and how in the IT Professional Development Toolkit.
Q: Who can you use as accountability partners in the professional realm?
Your manager, mentors, coaches, HR representatives and even clients can be used as both accountability partners and reasonable forcing functions.
You can use Reasonable Forcing Functions and Accountability Partners in your performance goals as well as your product goals. In this discussion, we are not only focusing on your company “product” work but the work that you do on your product or “YOU, Inc”. We all do well when we make external commitments to others at work. But we may fall short to the commitments and tasks that we have only ourselves as the audience. Incorporate the reasonable forcing functions and accountability partners in these tasks as well.
Sample of how to use an accountability partner: Tell a coworker, manager, mentor or coach about your individual career goals, your deadlines and milestones for certain individual projects, and status/progress. Document these goals in your personal business commitment and individual development documents (signed by your manager). Make your manager, mentors and coaches your co-conspirators in your career success. If they know where you want to go, they can keep an eye and ear out for you. . They can see, hear and go places that you don’t have time or access. You have now made them your secret agent and have increased your spying ability
Sample of how to use a Reasonable Forcing Function: One of your committed goals is to be better exposed to client perspective, bring in new business and to become known as an expert in this field. You know that attending a technical conference will provide you the opportunity to talk to prospective clients, bring in some new customer leads, and learn more about your field of expertise. Your company doesn’t have the funds to give everyone a trip to technical conference, but if you are selected as a speaker at a conference – they will send you. A reasonable forcing function is to commit to submit 3-5 abstracts to the various technical conferences (they all have submission deadlines). You get the approved list of technical conferences and start submitting 3-5 abstracts to each conference. If you submit enough abstracts to various conferences, one of your abstracts will get accepted by one of the conferences. You don’t have to have submitted the paper or outline until one gets accepted, so you aren’t spending time on the presentation until one is selected. Now that the abstract is selected – you have a reasonable forcing function to achieve your other goals.
Reasonable Forcing Function IS NOT a term from Sun Tzu’s Art of War book. Rather is it a time management technique. You all do it today in your normal life. For instance, you tell your children that you can’t watch TV until your homework is done. Your home is a wreck but you can’t seem to get motivated to clean it up; so you invite people over for next Friday night. That forces you to make the house more presentable. You love to paint and sculpt but you don’t seem to make time for it. So you sign-up and pay for a sculpting class every Wednesday night. You actually already do this. We’ll just use it more deliberately and liberally.
I talk more about reasonable forcing functions and accountability partners in the professional development toolkit.
Q: Question regarding the comment that only 36% of a product is used by the end-user:
The Usage of coded features data was presented by the Standish Group at the XP Conference
Q: Being overwhelmed on the number of products you are to develop? Here are some suggestions:
Recommend that you take more of an ownership of your own calendar, schedule and profession. You are the one accepting those tasks. Remember that all MUST DO products will get done, but they don’t have to be done by you. Anything that doesn’t get funded or resources are simply not a MUST DO (by definition). If it’s important enough, they will find someone to do it. It is the executives role to properly fund and sponsor the things that really matter.
You are a great product manager, therefore – Product Manage – yourself. Companies and managers are much like blind waiters. They will continue to pour until YOU say “when”. It is your responsibility to review the priorities, ROI, and which products are most in line with the company’s vision and mission statement. Companies are in the business of making money. High performing product managers can quickly determine which product will bring in the money and which are not. Excel in putting your time and effort in high-revenue products and recommending end-of-life to those that are not making the build. In today’s market, technology is changing so rapidly that if you continue to put effort in a product that’s just not cutting it; the chances are high that when it finally does make it to market, it will already be obsolete. Don’t fall in love with the product, just because you’re assigned to it. Always, look at your products objectively. Not all products deserve to be released. And the quicker you can pull the plug on the duds, the more money you are saving your company as well as effort on yourself.
Q: What’s the best way to handle overwhelment?
Transparency and communication is key to smoother releases. Managers and executives often don’t care who does what. They care about the important things getting done. If you continue to blindly accept projects and tasks (merely because people are handing them to you), then you run the risk of not delivering any quality products at all. I always recommend frequent and regular one-on-one meetings (at least twice a month), with your manager. If you only speak with your manager when something is wrong or during your performance review, then you are always anxious. If you regularly have these meeting (already scheduled in your calendar) – you are well-practiced in these meetings; your manager will be well-informed and you will know exactly where you stand (in performance metrics) at all time.
Your manager is responsible for handling and properly distributing the workload so that it gets done properly. If you are honest with your status and realistic with your own time-management and project management schedule, he has the opportunity to re-assign before it’s too late. By keeping it to yourself, you are tying your managers’ hands because he is unable to properly manage the situation after the train leaves the station.
ALSO – In these global and distributed times, it’s important to have a Communication Plan for various issues. Some people only communicate via text, some folks only via phone, some people only do email, some people are on different and conflicting time zones. By outlining your significant stakeholder’s communication preferences (time zones and contact information), you can be assured to get their attention when you need them. Remember the real-reason for contacting them isn’t to just cross-off the item “send this information to xxx”. The real-reason for contacting them is to make sure they receive the information, understand it and discuss the consequences. Sending a quick email to check off “I sent him the information so I have done my part” doesn’t accomplish your real goal.
Having a communication plan and structure for your significant stakeholders will grease the wheels of communications. For instance, you and your stakeholder may decide to:
1) Merely update the internet wiki with regular status information and have an auto-responder that automatically email the link to the stakeholders weekly.
2) Send an email with the subject header convention: CALL TO ACTION xxxxx DUE yyyy for requests or action items
3) Call or text when a high-priority problem is encountered (and be armed with options and alternative solutions). And setup a follow-up phone or in-person meeting for a longer discussion – keeping time zones in consideration.
4) Person to person meeting or phone meeting for mentoring and coaching meetings.
5) Frequent one-on-one meetings with managers on all status, future plans, business strategies and performance discussions.
I talk more about communication plans, one-on-one meetings, and performance evaluation strategies in the IT Professional Development Toolkit.
Q: Any tips for getting buy in from higher ups when trying to block out time?
It’s been my experience that ‘higher-ups’ don’t really have that much interest in your individual calendar. You are the one in total control of your calendar. You are totally responsible for your own career and professional development. Expecting others to somehow make the time or allocate money for your individual professional and career development is a limiting state of mind. You are the most influential person TO YOU. You are the only one that can make a change in yourself. It’s more empowering to acknowledge that it’s your responsibility. You should certainly appreciate any and all support that you do get from your company. But – in my opinion – you are not entitled to this from your company. The company is in business to make money. If it’s worthwhile (business wise) to invest in your professional career – the company will do it. And it’s really, really nice if they help you in your career. And you should really appreciate it. But it’s really not their responsibility. The more you can illustrate that it’s to their advantage to assist you (by aligning your career development to the company’s vision or bottom line), the better it will be for you. But it’s really up to you. I talk more about taking more ownership in designing your own professional career in the IT Development Toolkit.
Therefore, – simply start blocking out time for your career development (10 minutes a day is a good start). Make your best judgment on what’s the best time to block out time. (For instance, if you know that your team has a weekly staff meeting on Monday’s at 2:00pm – avoid that time-slot for your blocked time). Tell people in advance that you have a standing meeting at that time. Publish your calendar (with the blocked time clearly visible). Use the ‘Do NOT Disturb’ functions during that time. Send an authorized representative to meetings that you don’t feel that you really need to be there. Make liberal use of the meeting notes and other meetings to stay on top of things. Train and mentor others to attend selected meetings (and certain tasks) that both help them in their careers as well as off-load you with your time. Use the 4 Ds (delete, delegate, diminish, and delay) from my IT Professional Development Toolkit series) to block and get more time.
Q: How does this work in an interrupt-driven company?
In interrupt driven companies – the idea is NOT TO COMMIT to many things and incorporate buffers between tasks to accommodate for this environment. In my IT Professional Development Toolkit – I talk about this as well. If you know that your company is interrupt-driven – then you can project manage it appropriately. You know you will be constantly interrupted so you don’t commit to many items. You use my Sprint and Buffer method that is designed specifically for interrupt-driven environments.
I show the: who, what, where, when, why and how in the IT Professional Development Toolkit.
Q: Shouldn’t I wait for the company to define what a “good product manager” means?:
I disagree on making your company responsible for creating your definition of what makes a good product manager – to you. You should incorporate their definition into yours. But you are empowered to define who you really want to be. If you have chosen the Product Management field, you should have your own definition of what it means to you. It should exceed the definition of the company and fit your individual principles and goals. Why make others responsible for defining who you really want to be?
What if two product manager colleagues disagree on something and can only agree to disagree and cannot come to a resolution, what do you do afterwards?
One recommendation is to find the common-shared goal among the three product manager. Continue to bring the discussion to a higher-level until you get some type of agreement. Oftentimes people are arguing over a detail or specific solution. When people of like-minds and professions are arguing – it simply means that they are talking ‘at’ the wrong level. It’s merely an indicator that the parties are looking in the wrong place for the answer. When you pop-up the discussion to the next higher level, things tend to work out.
One example: One product manager (Product Manager 1) states that this release needs to have a Drag-n-Drop feature in this release. The other product manager (Product Manager 2) is adamant that it cannot be included in this release because the code is from a 3rd-party company. There simply isn’t enough time to get the legal authorization to change it on our own, or get the 3rd-party folks to change it. Product Manager 1 knows that a high-profile client will leave the company and product – if we don’t but this feature in this release.
This is what I did:
1) Paraphrased our common product goal: Release the product with high-quality, on-time and with significant enhancements that clients will be very pleased with.
2) Get everyone agreeing to the high-level common goal. Get everyone on the same page with the company vision and mission.
3) Try to kick-up the discussion by understanding “why” this change is needed in the first place. I asked the team ‘why’ this change is needed. Product Manager 1 says – “The client needs create a project plan from some of his other project folders. He doesn’t want to start from scratch. He wants to drag-n-drop his selected folders to create the new project. He doesn’t want to re-invent”
4) I paraphrased, “So, let me restate to make sure I understand. You’re focusing on what the client really wants, which is what we all want. And what the client wants is a method to import files from a previous project into his new project file. He doesn’t want to start from scratch. He wants an import function.” (First understand and then be understood — from Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People).
Product Manager 1 – “Yes – they want an import function”
I asked Product Manager 2: “I think we already have an import function, don’t we? It’s not using the drag-n-drop feature. But it accomplishes the essence of the goal. It gets the job done, doesn’t it?”
Product Manager 2 nods, “YES – it’s called IMPORT. You can browse your directory and click on the folders to drill down. You can even drill down to the documents and specific lines to import. Once you have highlighted the areas that you want imported, you just hit the IMPORT button. You can even include everything and then mask-out things you don’t want to include (which are a faster way to important large amounts of data).”
Product Manager 2 is happy, “Really? That’s even better than what they asked for.”
Product Manager 1. “And it’s already in the product that they have today. They don’t have to wait until the next release….”
The stale-mate was caused by getting too caught in the details. Product Manager 1 wanted to give the customer what he/she was asking for; customer was asking for a specific solution (drag-n-drop) to answer their problem; Product Manager 2 was narrowly focused on the impossibility of that one solution (drag-n-drop).
By disengaging from the specific details on HOW something will be accomplished, and focusing on exactly what is trying to be accomplished – most people can find a common, shared goal. I talk more about how to use paraphrasing, listening techniques, negotiating techniques and finding the common ground in the IT Professional Development Toolkit.
Q: Do you have a good business case and/or justification? Where I work I can’t pull resources from other teams unless justified
This is a great use of the Recovery Protocol (detailed in the IT Professional Development Toolkit). Every company is different. Every product is different. That is why you create a recovery protocol chart before your project is started. If people agree to accept the fact that you cannot add resources, then that becomes the unyielding attribute. The group now agrees that the other legs need to change: scope of the product, the release date of the product and the quality of the product. If your group decides that something else is NON-NEGOTIABLE or inflexible, then they have agreed that resources will change. The key is to get this agreement upfront so that you are not wasting time during the fire.
Another suggestion is to be creative with your resource definitions. I had a 10-3 developer to tester ratio. The testers were not able to keep up with the output of the developers. So I got creative with my resources and looked into areas that wanted to get early versions of the product.
1) The documentation team needed early versions of the software. They also needed customer scenarios for the features. So I gave them all our test-case user-scenarios. They were responsible for testing the user-case scenarios as well as using that as their foundation of their manuals. They also created new test scenarios for our test cases and their manuals.
2) Tech support needed to understand the new release, so they were happy to retest several of their customers reported defects on the software. Even though the Tech Support team only focused on the defects their clients reported, this off-loaded the retesting that our testers needed to do.
3) Sales teams needed to better understand the product and create demos for their trade shows. We gave them test cases so that they can automate in their demo. They ended up testing the software while they were creating their trade-show demos and presentations.
4) Training team used and tested our test-case scenarios as part of developing their training materials.
5) The usability and customer focus groups needed early versions of the product, so they became our early deployment labs of the product. They tested the installation and configuration of the products in their usability labs.
6) Developers were in heavy development mode in the early elaboration phases of the product, but testers were under-utilized because things were not ready to be functionally tested. Testers were repositioned to help unit test with the developers. This allowed the developers to see how the testers would be testing the product further down the line. Testers also automated the developers unit tests – so that these tests became the build-release and acceptance tests.
7) During the end-game, the developers’ loads were reduced (because their development cycles were coming to a end), they were then repositioned in system testing of the software. Because the testers had helped the developers in their unit tests, the developers were happy to help.
This is another example of focusing on the wrong item. If you allow having “NOT ENOUGH STAFF OR TESTERS TO TEST THE PRODICT” be your center, then you will not get the product out the door on time. If you focus on the common team goal “GET THE PRODUCT PROPERLY TESTED” then you can design all sorts of other resources to accomplish the testing tasks. Testing doesn’t have to be done by ‘testers’. Testing can be done by anyone needing an early version of the product to get their individual task accomplished.
Q: I work for a company that deliver an education platform, so talking to students and faculty are not easy so much of the direction we get are from the university business folks…How do you balance on what the student/faculty may need vs what the business (registrar, student services, etc) think they need?
You can create an end-user focus group that includes students by offering to go into the University to work with the students. If you couch your interest as “I want to make sure we are providing exactly what you and your students need….” the university would not see a problem with these types of visits. In my Design Partner Program, I regularly setup interviews and visits with the end-users (versus the buyer).
I often went into my clients’ software labs to see exactly how they were using the product. I tagged along with the technical support and deployment teams when they were rolling out my product. Only issues I ever had been with government security issues; and even then, they arranged a lab that was acceptable for this usability study. The clients immediately see and understand the Win/Win of this offer.
Q: My company has $0 budget for professional development, so I can’t really do this.
Once again, your professional development and career is not your company’s responsibility. Therefore, why are you waiting for your company to invest and fund your success? If you allocate a budget to hobbies, gyms and other interests – shouldn’t personal and professional development also be an important investment in yourself? The IT Professional Development Toolkit is cheaper than most hobbies and gym memberships, and takes only 10 minutes a day.
In the toolkit, I outline how you can get your company to send you to training conferences, professional association fees, and industry magazines on their dime. The key is to make it cost-effective for them do to so. Setup an in-house training program that you facilitate. Attend these professional events and bring the training back to the team; speak at the training-conference and professional organizations to illustrate that your company is a thought-leader in this space; bringing back sales leaders and meeting with prospective clients while you are at the conference; get your articles published in these technical journals, etc. Bring something to the table to illustrate the company WIN..
Q: I can’t afford to block out the time for this.
The IT Professional Development Tools are designed to be studied and practiced in ten minute blocks (the size of a work-break). If you have time for a 20 minute chat in the halls, you have time for a ten minute practice session. Whether you invest in the toolkit or not, blocking and scheduling ten minutes a day on your career is a smart goal and commitment. You can change your life in ten minutes a day.
- what yearly income they want to make
- how much their business needs to make to pay them that year income
- how many sales they need to make to generate that business revenue
- what their leads-to-sales ratio is (i.e. how many doors do they need to knock on, to get 1 sale)
- how many leads do they need to get – to achieve the number of sales they need to get to generate that business revenue
- what are the start-up costs of the business
- how many years are they planning to get in the black
This is Laura Lee Rose, a business and life coach that specializes in professional development, time management, project management and work-life balance strategies. In my GoTo Academy: Soft Skill Tools for the GoTo Professional continuous online coaching series, I go into professional development and real-world IT topics in detail.
If you are interested in more training in these areas, please sign-up for the continuing online coaching series.
If you are enjoying these tips, please refer and pass along to others.
1) Clearly state, document, and sign the agreement of action. Have all stakeholders agree and sign the agreement. Include communication plans in this agreement).
2) Verify that all parties understand the issues. Get individuals to paraphrase the agreement in their own words, so that you can validate that they really understand the expectations on both sides.
3) Agree upon communication plan. Define how parties are going to provide status, communicate problems, and discuss deviations/consequences from above agreement.
4) Immediate communicate any deviations from the signed agreement. Expect change and be totally transparent on the progress and status of the activities
5) Collaborate, document and sign the agreed change to the original plans. Have all stakeholders agree and sign the agreement.
Try it and let me know what you think.
In my GoTo Academy: Soft Skill Tools for the GoTo Professional continuous online coaching series, I go into this in detail.
The weekly newsletter contains tips on:
1) Time management
2) Career maintenance
3) Business networking
4) Work life balance strategies
If you haven’t taken advantage of your introductory time management coaching session, please contact LauraRose@RoseCoaching.info