All posts by Teng

Plan and manage projects for success! (Part 1 of a continuing series)

Why do projects fail? There are many reasons, but they can be summed up under two headings: poor/inadequate planning and poor management.

Let us take this example:

“A handicraft project trained women to make shoulder bags for income generation. A year later there are large stocks of unsold bags, gathering dust.”

The intended outcome (benefit) of the project was income generation for the women. In order to achieve this, people should buy the bags. But the bags remained unsold and the women earned no income. True, the women learned a new skill (bag-making). But this skill (output of the training) was just the means towards achieving the project purpose, which was not realized.

Let us trace the possible thinking behind the project. First, the need to be addressed: lack of income. So, a project that would generate income for the women would be the suitable solution. Next question: The choice of strategy. The project chose selling a product that the women will make, in this case, shoulder bags, and for the women to make these, they have to be trained. Thus, the main project activity was training and for this to happen, the project needed resources (inputs) in the form of money, trainers, raw materials, venue, etc. After the training and after the women have made the bags, the next thing would be to sell them. As it happened, the bags accumulated, but were not bought.

And that’s the problem. The project delivered what it promised to do except achieve the most important result – the economic benefit. Something was lacking in the project design. And that’s the marketing part. The project could have done some market research during its planning stage to determine, among others, what kind of product to sell (which would determine whether the women already have the ability to make it or would need training); the salability of whatever the women would be selling; who would be the prospective buyers; the buyers’ preferences as to style, materials, colors, etc; what would be their buying capacity (which would help in determining quality of the product and pricing); where the products will be displayed and sold; and where they would be promoted.

Among the three levels of projects (output, outcome, impact), the project only has control over its output. But the design of a project could influence an outcome being achieved by the project. In the above-mentioned example, no attempt was made to influence the outcome (income generation). It delivered on new skills (output) and just assumed that the bags would sell. A project outcome cannot be assumed with a hope and a prayer. It must be ensured by the project. When it is not achieved, the project fails.

BLOG REVIEW: “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Annual Performance Reviews”

BLOG REVIEW: “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Annual Performance Reviews” by Gordon Tredgold (Consultant, Author, FAST Leadership, Professional Speaker). Huffpost Business, 10 Feb 2016

Is your organization using annual performance reviews in evaluating employee performance? Are you and your employees satisfied with it? Does it give you a fair, objective and equitable assessment of your employees’ performance? Does it motivate or demoralize employees?

Gordon Tredgold, in his blog on the use of annual performance reviews, especially the Stacked Review System, admits that it is a means to identify good performers, poor performers, and those in-between, but he also highlights the shortcomings of the approach and the issues surrounding its use.

He sums up very well the good, the bad and the ugly points of annual performance reviews, as follows:

The good:

  1. Rewarding good performance and, thus, encouraging its continuation.
  2. Knowing the people who are not doing so well and providing the right support and encouragement to them.
  3. Identifying poor performers and letting them go.

The bad:

  1. The process takes too much time and effort and, thus, too much investment.
  2. Because the process takes too long and feedback is not provided in real time, performance of the employee being assessed might have changed in the intervening time (became better or worse).

The ugly:

  1. Employees sandwiched in-between good and poor performers, but who do a lot of the work, are overlooked and little motivated.
  2. The review is often subjective.
  3. Valuing the work of an employee against another becomes difficult when we rank them across departments/teams.
  4. The responsibility of the manager in managing performance is overlooked and absolved, when only employees are blamed for poor performance.
  5. The process becomes demotivating as the organization/company improves and people at the bottom rank improve and do well but still remain at the bottom rank. The company then eventually loses these people as they disengage and eventually leave.

A very succinct, yet clear and encompassing assessment of the traditional performance management approach, Gordon’s examples hit home as these are what employees, managers and heads of organizations have really experienced. Gordon’s original blog at Huffpost Business can be found at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gordon-tredgold/the-good-the-bad-and-the-_12_b_9195944.html.

Gordon recommends a rethink of the approach and mentions Adobe as one company that has decided to revamp their performance review approach. Stanford Graduate School of Business has made available for download the pdf file of the case at https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/faculty-research/case-studies/adobe-building-momentum-abandoning-annual-performance-reviews-check.

Don’t let unethical behavior jeopardize your projects and reputation!

The collapse of a 17-story apartment building in the recent Taiwan earthquake, causing the death of more than 40 residents, has exposed the use of tin oil can fillers, instead of solid concrete, inside some of the walls of the building.

Some of the reinforcing bars in the lower floors were also found to be thinner, too short or too few. This has led to the arrest of three executives of the building’s developer.

In 2006, the National Kidney Foundation (NKF), Singapore’s largest NGO, suffered a ruined reputation and the loss of its many large benefactors after mismanagement of funds was revealed, the most glaring being the installation of a tap made of gold in the CEO’s office.

I was in Singapore, attending a fundraising workshop, when the scandal broke out and many NGO representatives in the workshop lamented the backlash of the scandal on their own organizations. People started believing that other NGOs behaved in the same way and refused to make donations like before.

These are just two big examples that made headlines of how unethical behavior could affect the aftermath of projects or an organization’s image and reputation.

Every day, people involved in the planning, execution, monitoring and evaluation of projects, consciously or unconsciously, commit what could be considered as unethical behavior.

Those whose consequences are huge and become public knowledge, could be punished and suffer the consequences.

Many more, like, not admitting wrongdoing, calumny, blaming somebody else for a project’s failure, disrespect/violation of co-workers’ rights, nepotism, favoritism and bias, inflating one’s accomplishments, doctoring project reports, making shady deals, cheating on project expenses, and many others are not caught, get unnoticed or are just plain ignored.

All organizations have the responsibility to inculcate professional ethics in all aspects of the organization. This could be done through defining a set of organizational values and principles, creation of a code of ethics/conduct, incorporation of these principles in policies and procedures, orientation of new staff to the code, staff retreats and training.

All of us have our own moral compass of what is “right” or “wrong”. However, what is “right” or “wrong” becomes “relative” when it concerns us or when it is “justifiable”, or gray when confronted with an ethical dilemma.

Ethical decisions lead to reduced illegal behavior, corruption, litigation and fines; better products and project results; and a reputation that is a plus for future projects.

Don’t want to miss anything? Subscribe!

What Does a Training Manager, Director, or Specialist Do?

Training and development managers and specialists conduct and supervise training and development programs for employees. Increasingly, management recognizes that training offers a way of developing skills, enhancing productivity and quality of work, and building loyalty to the firm.

Training is widely accepted as a method of improving employee morale, but this is only one of the reasons for its growing importance.

Other factors include the complexity of the work environment, the rapid pace of organizational and technological change, and the growing number of jobs in fields that constantly generate new knowledge.

In addition, advances in learning theory have provided insights into how adults learn, and how you can organize training most effectively for your adult learner employees.

Workplaces have also become more knowledgeable about how to develop employee skills more effectively in both external programs and using internal opportunities to help employees continue to grow their skills.

(Credit to www.about.com)

What is RBM?

Results-based management (RBM) is a management approach focusing more on defined, expected results rather than activities. It also focuses on performance measurement, learning and adapting, as well as reporting performance. All actors (people and organizations) who contribute directly or indirectly to the result, map out their processes, products and services, showing how they contribute to the result. This result may be a physical output, a change or beneficial effect (outcome), an impact or a contribution to a higher level goal. Information (evidence) of the actual results is used for accountability, reporting and feedbacking into the design, resourcing and delivery of projects and operational activities. RBM is a life-cycle approach to management that integrates strategy, people, resources, processes, and measurements to improve decision making, transparency and accountability.

Key steps:

  1. Assess: What is the current situation?
  2. Think: What caused it? Who is involved?
  3. Envision: What are we going to achieve?
  4. Plan: How are we going to do it? With whom? When? With what resources?
  5. Do: Get it done. How is it going? Do we need to adapt? How do we know that we are getting there?
  6. Communicate: How do we communicate performance and to whom?
  7. Review: What went well/badly? What can we learn for next time?

For a visually interesting and easy-to-understand video of the ideology behind RBM, you can click the following link – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1E8n_38GqDk&index=2&list=LLKXdIXCAuQ-TbKkuKoS-joQ