Posts in Category: Microsoft Project

I Love This Book! The Culture Code

Build Your Project Team Culture

The Culture Code Reveals the Power of Safety

“When we talk about courage, we think it’s going against an enemy with a machine gun. The real courage is seeing the truth and speaking the truth to each other.”
         –Dave Cooper, Retired, Commander Master Chief, SEAL Team Six (From The Culture Code, by Daniel Coyle)

Why is it so hard to see the truth and speak the truth to each other? Why does that demand courage? And, can any team reach their potential without this ability?

Safety: The Foundation of High Performance

Daniel Coyle, in his new book, The Culture Code, offers three necessary cultural elements of what he calls “highly successful groups.” These elements are safety, vulnerability, and purpose. After reading the first few chapters, I became convinced that safety should be the primary focus for every leader, especially project leaders

I’ve always thought of safety at the office and in my work group as physical safety. Coyle refocused my attention to that of emotional safety. Frankly, I am surprised I haven’t seen it before. I’ve been reading and writing about project team performance for about twenty years. I’ve always known that trust is crucial to creativity and innovation, but Coyle’s angle brought a fresh light on the foundational role of safety. His theme is that for teams to reach their potential, each member must feel safe enough emotionally to be vulnerable. Vulnerability is critical to giving and receiving authentic feedback, which is the only way a group will improve its performance. Feedback within the group is directed toward serving the purpose. Purpose becomes the North Star. That logic is tough to dispute.

Project teams are temporary, formed to accomplish something unique. These teams solve problems and make decisions every day. Versatile’s high-performance team checklist lists nine characteristics that enable a team to survive the “give and take” of creativity and problem solving while maintaining trust and keeping relationships intact. But I have to admit that emotional safety has always been assumed, rather than explicitly called out.

Coyle’s logic, that safety precedes trust and trust precedes authentic feedback and team learning, lays bare the importance of establishing emotional safety within our teams. The quote at the beginning of this article comes from a key story in the SEAL Team Commander’s evolution as a leader. In Cooper’s early career he advised a superior that a particular course of action was dangerous and should be avoided. That superior ignored his  advice and the result was exactly what Cooper had feared. Cooper took away from that experience a desire to be the kind of leader that invited opposing points of view and encouraged criticism from every member of his team.

The Primary Focus of Every Project Leader

Do you want your team to “see the truth and speak the truth to each other”? What could be more important? From creation of a business case and charter, through risk identification, scheduling, and daily problem-solving, your team is making decisions and working through conflicts.  Every day of every project is affected by team culture. Pick up Daniel Coyle’s Culture Code. He illustrates his theme with stories from a wide range of teams and follows up with specific actions for the reader. I predict his lessons will stick with you and reignite your focus on team culture.

Buy This Book! Microsoft Project Do's and Don'ts

Great Tips! Great Value!

Here is a book for every Microsoft Project user, whether you are new to Project or an old hand. Author Sam Huffman has filled this slim volume with gold nuggets!

Project is a powerful. It's full of useful features for handling all kinds of project management tasks. Huffman has provided tips so you get the most value from Project with the least effort. Which is exactly what you'd expect from someone who has been answering questions about how to use Project for over two decades. Sam knows the most common mistakes and the shortcuts that most people should be using.

Here are just a couple of nuggets:

DON'T rely on just the Gantt View. Sure, this is the default view when you open Project, but you'll never access the power of Project if you don't explore more views.

DO use Combination Views. Combination views allow you to see the Gantt view in an upper pane, while you drill down on task-specific data in the bottom pane.

DO take a step-by-step approach to entering Project data. For example, focus on entering the task names correctly and indenting the tasks so data rolls up correctly.

DON'T enter the start or finish date for a task! Huffman is adamant about this. Leverage Project's scheduling engine. If you enter task start and finish dates you effectively override Project's scheduling ability.

DO create a project resource sheet before assigning resources to tasks. Huffman provides advice on the approach for naming resources. (Should we name a team member or just a skill type, like "analyst"?)

My favorite tip is Chapter Two: Set Up for Success. Since Project is making many calculations for you, you want to be sure to select all the right defaults. Too many users have spent many frustrating hours trying to get Project to work for them - when they were working against Project! Just reading this chapter will make nearly every user more productive.

Does Microsoft Project work on agile projects? YES! The new edition includes tips from another Microsoft Project expert, Erik van Hurck, on leveraging Project's tools for managing sprints.

Microsoft Project Do's and Don'ts is slim, under 150 pages. It's filled with screen captures so it's easy to follow. And it's inexpensive! You can also get electronic versions that are convenient to read.

Microsoft Project Do's and Don'ts is published by MPUG, the Microsoft Project Users Group. Learn more or get your own copy today!