Monday, August 24, 2015

Keep Your Team From Slow Death Due to Endless Projects

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Complex, creative work can be some of the most challenging and rewarding work to do. Unfortunately, it can also be the most frustrating. When you're the team lead, it's your job to protect your team's creativity and energy by keeping projects from endlessly expanding, consuming all the resources, or turning into endless, recurring tasks instead of defined projects.


There are three different ways that a team can be held hostage to an unending project.

Creative Scope Creep
Creative projects are notorious for inevitable scope creep: you start with a defined scope of work, and base your estimates of needed resources and time on that scope. As you tackle the project, however, the defined edges get fuzzy.

More work is needed, and the scope of the project creeps out, maybe just a little bit here and a little bit there. That extra work, however, can completely skew all plans and timelines, leading to frustration and a project that becomes much more time-consuming and labor-intensive than predicted.

Consuming Complexity
Complex projects, whether they're defined as "creative" or not, come with plenty of room for expansion. The more complex a project is, the more difficult to accurately predict the needed resources, timelines, and dependencies. Complex projects often become clear as you finish one stage and move to another; the way you'll complete the last 50% of a complex project may not be clear, for example, until you've done the first 50% of the work.

Complex projects can become all-consuming, because your team is not only busy doing the actual work, they're also continually adjusting expectations and deadlines, communicating new information, and reworking plans to accommodate that information.


Tasks as Projects
Sometimes a project just isn't a project. This is especially common with teams whose work covers a particular area of a business, rather than working on a project-specific basis. An IT support team, for example, will have big projects like switching to new servers, and they'll also have regular maintenance tasks like updating software.

When ongoing or recurring tasks are treated as projects instead tasks, frustration results. Projects should have a defined scope, a definite goal, and a timeline for completion. Recurring tasks may have a goal, but the task simply resets itself when the goal is reached.

Fighting Back for Your Team
As the team lead, it's your job to corral the scope creep and complexity, to define projects and tasks, and to protect your team's creativity and motivation.

Your first means of defense is prevention. Be sure that each new project has a well-defined scope and goal. For larger projects, set goals within goals. Help your team construct phases for complex projects, so that they can complete a phase, regroup and plan for the next phase, and not try to do all the work and all the planning simultaneously.

Intervention is the next way to protect your team. Notice and deal with scope creep and expanding complexity when it happens. Communication within the team is vital; use regular check-ins, meetings, and easy communication portals like instant messaging to see if your team is drowning in new demands and urgencies.
Find the source of the stress: a client, an internal source, or simply an unforeseen situation. Is it controllable or not? If the solution isn't obvious, call in your team and work out a plan together. Adjust timelines and resource needs as needed, so no one feels like they have to meet the old goals with a pile of new, unforeseen work added on.

Your final tool is transformation: when you realize that your team is working on a project that is actually a recurring task, name it as such and change the approach. Recurring tasks can be just as creatively demanding and complex as projects. However, they need to be handled with a system, not with a project approach. Ask your team to build a system for the task (system building is a project!) and then implement the system with key measures built into it. Measures let your team know they're completing the task, doing the work and achieving the goal of the task. A good system lets them do so without all the intense focus and creative energy required by a project.

If these scenarios sound familiar, it might be a good idea to pull your team together and talk about it. They will have their own insights and ideas for handling projects that get out of hand. When everyone is aware of the danger of unending projects, everyone can work together to avoid that slow death and find solutions.

Bitrix24 is Free Unified Communications Software. Use promocode TIP10 when registering your free Bitrix24 account to get extra 10GB.
See also:


Best Free Sales Apps
Top Five Free Business Apps You’ve Never Heard About
How to Pull Your Team Together After a Crisis
Know When to Grow with These 5 Signs Its Time to Expand
5 Practical Ideas for Helping Remote Staff Stay Connected
Small Business Savings: 8 Ways to Cut Costs Now
How to Help Your Team Se t and Reach Good Goals
Essential Soft Skills for a Strong, Creative Team

Friday, May 08, 2015

How To Manage Telecommuters Effectively

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Lori Kleiman is a Chicago based business expert and author with more than 25 years of experience advising companies on HR issues. Lori has a master’s degree in human resources, has been certified as Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) by the HR Certification Institute and is a member of the National Speakers Association.



Telecommuting and remote work remains a hotly debated topic with high profile supported and defectors alike. How do you personally see this trend develop? Have we hit peak ‘telecommuting’ or will the remote workforce keep growing significantly for the foreseeable future?

LK: I believe that flexible work schedules are essential, but full scale telecommuting can be difficult to maintain. There is no doubt that there is a loss of camaraderie and teamwork with workforces that do not interact on a regular basis. I recommend organizations use telecommuting for those that have earned the trust on an occasional basis as employee needs warrant.

Do you have a simple rule of thumb that determines when telecommuting is a good idea and when it’s likely to negatively affect the company?

LK: Telecommuting can be used in situations where a top performer is called out of town due to family obligations and the talent would be difficult to replace. There are also many cases where clients are located globally, and a robust telecommuting program would allow staff to be located closer to the clients. I find the best solution is a flexible schedule that would require all employees to be in the office during core work hours, but allowed to tele-commute or flex office hours as needed.

What are some legal or regulatory aspects of telecommuting that employers tend to overlook when first letting their employees work from home?

LK: The first issue is with hourly employees. Because it is difficult to track when they are actually working, there could be issues with wage and hour if they claim to have worked longer at home then they are being paid for. We are starting to see some issue with workers compensation when employees work from home. There have actually be cases reported of employees on exercise equipment during a meeting or looking at email, getting hurt and having it approved for a work comp claim.

Recruiting is a key HR aspect for many companies. What recruiting mistakes do you see companies make most often and what are some simple/inexpensive tactics that work best for attracting top talent?

LK: In terms of mistakes made most often, it would be overselling a job or work environment that is not realistic. Paint the picture with candidates of what your organization is really like, and you will attract the top talent for your organization. Two simple recuruitng tactics I like are utilizing my social media network to advise of the opening, and having a robust employee referral program to get their best and brightest contacts

Can you recommend a few HR resources (blogs, books, podcast, etc.) to our readers?

LK: Of course mine! hrtopics.com and my new book is coming out mid-June….Taking a SEAT at the table; being a Strategic Executive who is Action oriented and Technologically savvy. Others that I like to watch especially is the work coming out of the University of Michigan by David Ulrich’s team. I also am fascinated with the Harvard Business Review - it’s much more approachable then I ever thought and they consistently feature HR topics. Final resource I love - Executive Book Summaries - there are a few companies now that do them but its a great way to stay on top of what leadership is working on.

Thank you for the interview.


Bitrix24 can be used as a Human Resources Information System (HRIS). Use promocode TIP10 when registering your free Bitrix24 account to get extra 10GB.

See also:

Free 3CLogic alternative
Free Avoxi alternative
Free Five9 alternative
Free Fonality alternative
Free Genesys alternative
Free Nextiva alternative
Free VanillaSoft alternative
Free Vocalcom alternative

Sunday, March 15, 2015

How to Run Business From Home Without Losing Your Sanity

The main problem of conducting business from home is isolation, broken daily routine and lack of motivation. Here are some tips you can use to conduct your business efficiently.

1. Choose tools for work. It’s the first and foremost thing you have to do. Everything will do – from Excel sheets to complex CRM systems – just make sure you have all the information at hand and don’t forget to update it.

The latest trend is all-in-one collaboration workspaces - Bitrix24 is free and particular popular. Besides Bitrix24, there are, for example, MangoApps, Freedcamp and some other. They substitute multiple tools like Trello or Asana for project management, Slack or Yammer for inner social communication, Dropbox for sharing files, Skype for making calls and provide CRM for maintaining client database.

2. Choose a special workplace at home. You should draw clear line between work and home so that to be able to focus on business. It’ll be good also to change into work clothes.

3. Make more calls. Seriously, you won’t even notice how you become less and less social, especially if you live alone. If you have an alternative: to call or to write a letter, it’s better to make a call (with a written follow-up, of course).

4. Write a plan and always stick to it. Better print it out and have before your eyes. You can use the method of Mark Foster from his book “Do It Tomorrow”: plan all your doings and the approximate required time for them the previous day. If something unplanned turns up, put it off till the next day. Thus, by the end of the day you’ll already have a plan for tomorrow. This will help you to keep yourself together.

5. Track the time you devote to work. You can use Pomodoro timer technique (there are plenty of apps for each smartphone platform) when work process is split into short 25-minute pieces. Or just use your kitchen timer. Always start working the same time and stop working by the end of the day.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

How to Pull Your Team Together After a Crisis

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It might be a merger, a buy-out, company-wide restructuring, a round of layoffs, or an industry-wide economic plummet that’s left your team reeling. Or perhaps it’s something on a smaller scale: an unexpected firing or resignation, the loss of a key client, or a project that exploded in everyone’s faces.

Whatever the crisis, you’ve survived it, but now you’ve got a team of war-weary, discouraged team members looking to you.

Here’s how you can help your team pull together again.


Don’t Ignore the Crisis

One of the worst things you could do as team leader is simply act as if nothing has happened.

Unfortunately, team leaders who are uncomfortable with conflict or unsure of how to talk about a crisis may take this route. What happens, however, is that your team members feel betrayed and abandoned. By ignoring the effects of the crisis or acting as if nothing has happened, you’re sending a clear message: Deal with this yourself. You’re on your own.

That’s not the message you want to send, of course.

Instead, talk through what happened. You do need to exercise leadership: don’t allow a negativity fest, a big round of poor-me stories, a finger-pointing session, or any sort of personal attack.

Honestly recap what happened. Acknowledge the crisis and how it has affected the team: “We’ve just endured a round of layoffs that were extremely stressful for everyone, and we’ve lost three team members. We’re feeling skittish and sad, we miss our team members, we don’t know how we’re going to do our job without them, and we’re wary of how things will work going forward.”

Get Input from Your Team

Give your team time to offer their own insights and opinions.

Perhaps you’re most worried about how your smaller team will handle a workload, while your team members are paralyzed with fear over losing their own positions. Talking about the crisis will help you to deal with unnecessary fears or anxieties and note which major issues need fresh solutions.

Ask for insight, if appropriate, into why the crisis occurred in the first place. If your team missed an important deadline that jeopardized the entire company’s operations, now is the time to talk about why it happened and how you, as a team, can prevent it from happening in the future.

As the team leader, don’t shy away from responsibility, even if much of the situation was out of your control. Own the responsibility, and don’t tolerate blaming and attacking from team members.

Develop a Plan of Action

Move your team’s attention to how you will move forward from this point.

Start with encouragement. You don’t have to have the answers, but you can assure your team that you’ll work together to figure things out.

Avoid the temptation to hand the responsibility off to the team and expect them to come up with all the ideas. Have some practical ideas of your own to offer. Share a few legitimate steps forward.

Let them give input as well. From the combined ideas, work with your team to form a plan of action that make the most sense for everyone involved.

Keep Your Team Informed

People feel insecure after a crisis, so keep communication flowing even more than usual. Knowledge will help your team members to feel informed and aware, which contributes to feeling secure.

Send regular team emails apprising team members of changes, updates, and new information. Be available for phone conversations and casual chats in the hallway or on social media. Be present, visible, and available. Offer open times for one-on-one meetings to help individuals tackle new roles and responsibilities.

Revisit the Core of the Team

To reestablish unity and team identity, revisit the heart of your team. What is the team vision? What is the purpose of the team? What are the values that the team shares and uses to help guide decisions and projects?

A crisis, no matter how small, shakes everyone up; your job is to help them find their foundation again. Remind your team of their purpose, their ideals, and the core methodology will help your team to function together even in new or changed situations.

Bitrix24 is a free sales automation and sales team management software. Use promocode TIP10 when registering your free Bitrix24 account to get extra 10GB. 

Source - How to Pull Your Team Together After a Crisis

See also: 

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

5 Essential Changes to Make for a More Productive 2015

The beginning of a new year is a great time for resolutions. Better than resolutions, however, are simple but specific changes you can make right now that will help you make this a more productive year. 


1. Think small, not big. 
We like to talk about big goals and big dreams. That's not a bad thing, but when we only look at the big picture, we can miss out on the small actions that we need to take on a daily basis. 

You can work up your energy and motivation, and make a few great big leaps forward. However, it's far more effective to cultivate the habit of small but consistent progress. 

Think of making regular bits of progress rather than huge surges toward your goal. You can't maintain the focus and energy required for those all-out effort. You can, however, maintain a tiny, daily habit or a weekly step forward. Break big goals into smaller goals, and then into tiny actions that you build into your daily routine. 

2. Limit your to-do list. 
An overgrown to-do list requires you to spend your valuable time sorting, prioritizing, and shuffling tasks instead of getting important work done. 

It's okay to admit your limits. The sooner you do, the sooner you can start completing tasks instead of simply moving and managing tasks. 

Limit your daily list to one to three important tasks that you must complete. You will gain immediate clarity. You know what you're supposed to do, and you can focus on it and let other things fade out. There will always be unplanned tasks and questions that come up in your day. You will have to handle those, but then you can go right back to the important tasks on your list without any hesitation. 

3. Use your calendar, planner, and/or task management system daily. 
Your system can only help you if you use it regularly. All those task lists, scheduled events, meetings, ongoing team projects, work communications and updates should stay in your system, not in your head. 

Multiple daily check-ins allow you to see, review, and upd ate what you need to without giving yourself those mental burdens. Make it a ritual for morning, noon, and night. Let your system do to remembering, organizing and reminding, and free your brain to do the work. 

4. Set up a system for your recurring tasks. 
Whether it's planning out work schedules or assigning project responsibilities or creating content, every time you complete a recurring task you go through the same steps, and usually in the same order. 

A simple system enables you to get through the task faster and ensures that you don't miss any important steps. Your system might be as simple as a checklist, or it might be more complex and involve supplies, a schedule, or written steps that remind you what to do and how to do it. 
Bonus: once you systematize a task or event, you can easily train someone else to take it on. 

5. Choose your interruptions. 
We think of interruptions as things we can't control: invasive people, important phone calls, unavoidable requests. It's the daily deluge of the urgent, and most of us just handle it as best we can and try to get our work done at the same time. 

Change that, this year, by spending 15 minutes thinking about which interruptions are valid and worthwhile. An important phone call from your boss or client might be a priority no matter what else you have going on; but a schedule change, a product review, or a client email might not. You have to decide, and once you do, put those valid interruptions on a list and keep it in plain sight. 

When the interruptions come, and they will, check them with the list. If an interruption is not on the list, remember that you have opted out of it; all that is left is to convey that message, kindly but clearly, to the source of the interruption. That may mean closing your door, turning off notifications, moving to a quiet space away from other people, excusing yourself from a conversation, or asking to schedule a phone call for a later time. 

When you take control of your interruptions, you also take control of your productivity. Make the simple changes now that will allow you to be at your most productive this year. 

Bitrix24 is free collaboration software suite . Use promocode TIP10 when registering your free Bitrix24 account to get extra 10GB 

See also: 
Free HR System
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Employee Directory Software
Talent management software
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