Ideas are worthless unless implemented. To make the most of those creative brains on your small team, you can’t have a brainstorming session and leave it at that. You need to have a system in place to manage ideas fr om the initial burst of insight to complete execution. 

The Three Stages of Idea Management 
There are three essential stages in idea management: 
Stage 1: Capture/Input Stage 2: Feedback/Analysis Stage 3: Decision/Action 
All three stages are necessary. With a smaller team, you can move more quickly fr om one to another, but you still need to work in the right order to manage ideas effectively. 

Stage 1: Effective Collection 
The best ideas are often the ones that sound a little crazy. Sadly, those are the ideas we are most likely to reject because they sound, well, a little crazy. It’s important to create a truly open space where all of the ideas can come out and introduce themselves. Welcome all ideas equally in order to keep getting a lot of ideas. Quantity produces quality; let your team members know that all of their ideas are welcome. The more the better. It’s a lot like panning for gold: you have to sift through a good bit of silt to find that nugget. 

Takeaway: Make Stage 1 a friendly, open, any-idea-welcome environment. This shouldn’t be the place or time where you analyze weaknesses or discuss budgets. It should be a place where you capture all the ideas, sort them out according to the problem or project they address, and get them lined up for feedback in Stage 2. 

Stage 2: Effective Discussion 
It’s important to look at ideas with an eye for reality. An objective discussion, with insight from various team members, is how you determine if an idea goes forward or goes away. Most people will respond with initial negativity to ideas that are new or foreign to them. This is the curse of unfamiliarity, and every innovator has faced it. Establish a few rules for the feedback cycle to keep a balance. You don’t want unnecessary negativity, but you do want smart analysis and objective thinking. 
Rules might include 


Takeaway: Stage 2 is a forum which allows the necessary people to camp out around a few ideas and talk them over. Putting guidelines in place keeps it productive, rather than personal, and moves the ideas forward faster into the realm of action. 

Stage 3: Effective Execution 
For each idea, set a time lim it on discussion. While some ideas might require a little more research, do the minimum necessary to make an informed decision. Every moment spent in discussion is a moment taken away from the stage wh ere results happen: execution. Keep discussions from lingering on an idea that just isn’t ready for reality yet. Lower the hammer, quickly and finally. For the ideas that pass, remember these two truths: 

  • 1. Everybody likes getting credit.
  • 2. Execution matters more than ideation.

A mediocre idea carried out excellently will accomplish more for your business than an excellent idea carried out halfway. Give credit for the idea by tagging the idea generator as the idea executor. 
Takeaway: Make a clear decision about each idea, designate an idea leader, give access to the resources, budget, time, and team members needed, and then get out of the way. 

The Final Stage: Assessment and Reward 
After a reasonable amount of time, bring the team together to analyze both successful and failed ideas. Was it completed? Executed well? Did it work? If so, give rewards and recognition and look into implementing the idea further, if appropriate. 
If not, figure out why. Was the idea flawed? Were there problems in leadership, execution, lack of resources? Was there some unknown circumstance that popped up and threw the whole thing off course? The more you understand your idea management system, the more efficient and effective you can be as you continue gathering, analyzing, and executing ideas. 

Bitrix24 is a free enterprise social network and idea management solutionUse promocode TIP10 when registering your free Bitrix24 account to get extra 10GB 

See also: 

Best free internal communication software and tools
How to build successful inside sales team - tips from inside sales guru Josiane Feigon
Keith Burton: Why email will never die
Plan your day BEFORE you check your email and other simple email lifehacks from Graham Allcott
 
5 Simple Online Calendar Management Tips 
The biggest project management mistake that companies make

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Cornelius Fichtner is a PMP, CSM and noted project management expert. Since 2005 he has interviewed over 150 project managers from around the world on The Project Management Podcast, with topics covering all areas of project management like methodologies, PMOs, earned value, project leadership, Agile, certifications and many more. The interviews are available for free at www.pm-podcast.com . We asked Cornelius to share his insights on what’s currently going on with project management. 

Project management world has been radically changing with socialization and consumerization trends. Asana grew out of Facebook in a way and is catering to that very same audience. Bitrix24 is popular in PM community because it combines project management with social collaboration. Trello monetizes through stickers, and so on. What do you make of this trend and what does it mean for ‘old school’ solutions, like Basecamp or MS Projects? 

This trend can mean only one thing: The ‘old school’ tools like Basecamp and MS Project will start developing and integrating social collaboration in their offerings. In fact, we have to say that they will add “even more social collaboration into their tools” because these companies have seen the trend and have responded by adding social features for some time now. Asana, Bitrix and Trello on the other hand were developed with the social crowd in mind. It is at their core. But they are the newcomers in the field of project management and collaboration software. And they do not (yet) have the large customer and user base that many of the “old school” tools have. So the question really shouldn’t be “what does the trend for social collaboration mean for the ‘old school’ tools”, but instead the question has to be “Will the newcomers have enough ’staying power’ once everyone is offering social features in their project management software”? 

What are most typical project management mistakes, especially in the light of the ‘consumerization’ trends when more and more projects managers don’t have any formal PM training? 

The answer is in the question: Expecting someone who does not have any training in project management to deliver a successful project is the mistake. 

A popular opinion is that project manager should be less of a manager and more of a leader in order for the project to succeed. Do you agree? 

Yes. Managing a project is more than just ensuring that tasks get done on time, on budget and on scope. It also means ensuring that the project is aligned with the corporate strategy and a willingness to step on some toes if it doesn’t. And it also means being able to convey the big picture of the project to your team so that they can see the meaning in their work. In the end it really boils down to the old - and unfortunately overused truism - that “good project managers do things right and good project leaders do the right things”. 

I very much like Max Widemans’ approach who refers to “project stewardship”: “[Project stewardship] entails holding accountability for your people without exacting harsh compliance from them. In the planning phases, “managership” […] has its limitations. Leadership overcomes these limitations. In the producing phases, leadership per se also has its limitations, and “managership” is more appropriate.” 
In other words, a project steward is able to seamlessly apply both project management and project leadership for success. 

What soft skills are absolutely essential for a good project manager that traditional training and certification programs are currently overlooking? 

According to Harold Kerzner, we project managers spend about 90% of our time communicating. However communication skills are very hard to teach and even harder to test via multiple choice. So if we are able to foster good communication skills in our project managers, then we are (theoretically) improving 90% of what they do. 

Project management seems to go through a series of cycles (some would say fads) – Agile, PRINCE2, XPM, Lean and so on. How do you realize benefits of a particular methodology without becoming a slave to it and overreaching? 

Any “radicalization” is bad and any statements claiming that “only methodology X will lead to success” should be taken not just with a grain of salt, but with a spoonful of it. Instead, we should be able to mix and match. Projects have a greater chance of succeeding when you apply a methodology that meets your project’s needs. Therefore, experienced project managers (stewards?) are capable of helping their teams pick the appropriate methodology, process or tool in any given situation. And when the tool meets the need, then success can ensue. 

Bitrix24 is a free social project management solutionUse promocode TIP10 when registering your free Bitrix24 account to get extra 10GB 

See also: 

Best free internal communication software and tools
How to build successful inside sales team - tips from inside sales guru Josiane Feigon
Keith Burton: Why email will never die
3 Advantages to Replacing Email with Enterprise Social Network 
5 Simple Online Calendar Management Tips

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Is email dead? The answer is still being debated. But one thing is certain: While ESNs (enterprise social networks) are probably not going to completely eradicate email usage, they are fast changing the way people in the workplace communicate, share ideas and collaborate. Here are three ways ESNs are better than email: 

1. ESNs increase work efficiency and foster better knowledge sharing. 

If you’ve experienced working for a company without a knowledge management system in place, email may sometimes work like this: If John needs information he thinks Ellen has, he emails her, to which Ellen replies – if John types in the correct email address and the email doesn’t get trapped in the spam filter, that is. If Ellen unfortunately doesn’t have the information he needs, John sends an email blast to his department’s distribution list. If nobody in the list can help John, he emails another department. If that department can’t offer anything helpful, on and on goes the quest for the missing information. In the event one of John’s emails finally finds its way into the responsible person’s inbox, there’s no guarantee that John will get an immediate response, particularly if the said recipient still needs to weed through 3,108 emails that include invitations fr om lunch buddies and discussions about the most recent Game of Thrones episode that are in no way tied to work. (Yes, email abuse does happen.) The scenario may seem a little extreme, if not depressing, but it’s not too far removed from reality, either. One good thing about enterprise social networks is that threaded conversations are visible to participants, and people who can’t directly help can tag or invite those they think can, quickly finding the experts and making knowledge sharing more effective. Plus, any time the same question or issue crops up, discussions are archived for review. 

2. ESNs simplify data gathering, sharing and collaboration. 

You’re a team leader, and you need to gather your team’s personal information, as HR needs to again update its employee database. There are several ways this can be done. One, send the team an email enumerating the data they need to provide. When everyone has replied with their answers, you’re ready to input the data into a master file. Two, direct them to a link in the company’s shared drive containing an Excel file. Ask them to download the file and fill it out. When done, instruct them to send you the filled-out worksheet as an email attachment. After which, you’re set to work on the master file. Three, if everyone has a working Google Docs account and the company’s VPN (virtual private network) doesn’t block access to third-party accounts, you can create a worksheet that you can then share with the team. As long as everyone is able to edit the file, the Google Docs file will also function as your master file. Option number three is, hands down, the best option in terms of efficiency. But what if not everyone has a Google Docs account? Creating one is certainly not a pain, but will the company allow it? Or what if the VPN or proxy server is se t to screen all non-work-related Internet addresses? Most ESNs, on the other hand, are equipped with document management features that allow users to share, download and collaborate on documents, videos and presentations. Document libraries can be made public or specific to certain users or group profiles. ESN activity streams also allow participants to post comments, attach new document versions, see changes and receive feedback – all in real-time. 

3. ESNs ensure important announcements and communications are relayed and received. 

Now, consider this scenario. You’re a retailer, and new items are available for sale. You have several branches, so you send an email to your branch supervisors advising them of the new merchandise. You also attach a price list. The next day, you realize there were wrong entries in the list, so you decide to send another email containing the corrections. For some reason, one of the supervisors doesn’t get the second email, so he doesn’t know that several of the new items are actually priced 50% higher than originally indicated. This supervisor turns out to be your selling superstar, too, and the next thing you know, he has already disposed a big chunk of his branch’s just-delivered supply using the erroneous selling price. It’s a known fact that not all emails being sent reach the intended recipients’ inbox, and for business-critical communications, relying on email alone can be catastrophic to the company’s bottom line. Good ESNs have announcement features wh ere important notices remain plastered on the upper right-hand side of the screen until users acknowledge having already read or acted upon them. 

The above are just three reasons ESNs have the upper hand over email, and there are certainly more that this blog post doesn’t cover. The bottom line, however, is crystal clear: For easier collaboration and more effective communication within your organization, ESNs are definitely worth a shot. 

Bitrix24 is a free enterprise social network solutionUse promocode TIP10 when registering your free Bitrix24 account to get extra 10GB 

See also: 

Best free internal communication software and tools
How to build successful inside sales team - tips from inside sales guru Josiane Feigon
Keith Burton: Why email will never die
Plan your day BEFORE you check your email and other simple email lifehacks from Graham Allcott
 
5 Simple Online Calendar Management Tips

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Calendar management is an essential skill for productive teams. Are your team members using their calendars effectively? 

Create a Single Access Point 
Multiple calendars make it easy to overlook events and deadlines. A single access point helps you to see everything you have ahead. Seeing all of your responsibilities, events, projects, due dates, and scheduled activities in one place enables you to avoid the dangerous practice of overbooking yourself. If you have multiple calendars for family, personal life, team projects, and your work schedule, do what it takes to get them all funneled into one, single-access place so you can see the big picture. 

Use Labels, Colors, or Access Points to Differentiate 
When your calendar involves multiple projects, people, and priorities, things can get fuzzy and crowded pretty quickly. Your single access point lets you see the big picture, but your coding system - whether by labels, colors, or varying access points to different calendars - will let you zoom in on the details. 

Block Your Time on Your Calendar 
A task, or to-do item, is not a calendar event. It is not an activity tied to a specific time; it is simply something you need to do. Filling your calendar up with tasks will result in a lot of task shuffling and rearranging at the end of the day. Simplify. Instead of assigning a time/date to tasks that simply need to be done - soon - put them all in a task list. Sort your task lists by project, then block time on your calendar for the project that needs your attention. Treat that “time block” as an appointment. Find the appropriate task list, turn off the distractions, and focus on completing those tasks. When the time is up, update your task list and block additional time on your calendar as needed. 

Use Your Calendar to Care for Yourself 
No one can move timelessly from one event or task to another. Schedule in a buffer, a transition time, between appointments, events, and time blocks. This is not a luxury, but a part of reality. Transitions take time; allowing for that time makes a lot more sense than pretending it’s not there. Alternate the type of work you do in order to give yourself a mental break. Our brains function best with a variety of work. Make it a habit, as much as possible, to alternate: visual work, then text-based work, or interactive work, then solitary work. Schedule in times for physical activity, rest, and downtime. Schedule time to “be at home” with nothing on the calendar. Schedule your bedtime. Schedule your off time. Use your calendar to mark off the things you need and give them to yourself. 

Do Three Daily Calendar Checks 
The point of a calendar is to keep you from the mental burden and confusion of having to remember all your time-based activities. But when you don’t regularly check your calendar, it won’t help you. Your brain will be trying to remember everything. And you will be exhausted. A morning check provides an overview: what’s on the agenda for the day, what might need to change, what’s coming up in the next few days. A midday check lets you see if you are still on track: any changes in the schedule, details to add or update, reminders of near-future events or deadlines that need your attention. An evening check gives you closure and tomorrow’s starting point: tasks completed, updated notes and reminders, events that have been rearranged, and priorities for the next day. There is no point in having a calendar if you do not use it habitually and teach your brain to depend on it. Imagine how it might feel not to have constant reminders and details circling your brain. Imagine a peaceful, quiet space in your mind. That would be good, wouldn’t it? 


Bitrix24 is a free online shared calendar and time management solutionUse promocode TIP10 whenregisteringyour free Bitrix24 account to get extra 10GB 

See also: 

5 Simple Things You Can Do to Improve Workplace Productivity
Social HR 101: What is social intranet?
Best free internal communication software and tools
How to build successful inside sales team - tips from inside sales guru Josiane Feigon
Keith Burton: Email will never die
Plan your day BEFORE you check your email and other simple email lifehacks from Graham Allcott

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Over the past 20 years, Keith Burton has been the leading industry practitioner in employee communication and change management. As partner at Brunswick Group, Keith leads a global group of counselors within The Interpublic Group of Companies(IPG) who are focused exclusively on improving organizational performance by building employee trust, improving internal communication and affecting overall change at many of the world’s leading corporations. We talked to Keith about what internal communications professionals can do to improve employee engagement and collaboration inside their companies. 


Let’s start with the beginning – employee onboarding. What resources should internal communication and HR specialists make available to new hires in order to speed up onboarding process? 

Employee on-boarding is one of the bigger issues companies wrestle with today – in large part due to the fact that a new generation of employees have a greater need for involvement, building communities inside an organization, and knowing how things work, who leads certain areas, and how the organization is structured. They want information and clarity. So companies have to do a better job in creating an induction process that tells the story of the company, helps supply information and resources that employees can use right away, and in connecting employees with a buddy or a mentor who will show them the way early. 

Companies have done a poor job, on the whole, in adapting social and digital media internally. This is because some are reluctant still to permit access to Websites and communities while people are working. Others can’t overcome the difficulty in creating social and digital resources that truly work within their culture and IT systems. With mobile technology today, we can’t keep people fr om accessing the very resources they need to build communities inside, find people and departments to help them and support customers, and get answers to questions they have about the business strategy, the company’s performance and others. 

I’ve gotten many requests in recent years fr om client and prospective clients wanting to create a new onboarding program. The enlightened companies see onboarding as a critical part of their recruitment, retention and employer branding. 

A lot of internal communications used to be email/memo based. They are now decentralizing and migrating tosocial intranets and enterprise social networks. How do you view this trend? 

It is still heavily email- and memo-based in virtually all companies, and I suspect it will be so for another two to three generations of managers – until the Millenial Generation ascends to new leadership levels. I lead studies regularly inside companies to assess the effectiveness of internal communication and employee engagement. I look at all channels and vehicles company use. Face-to-face is the number-one preferred method in every organization. Company meetings, Town Hall sessions, floor walk-arounds, team meetings, Webcasts – these are all preferred. Companies in disruptive industries may, in fact, tell you that they are driving engagement through social and digital channels and working to render email obsolete; however, the truth is that even in these companies, the pendulum can swing too far. I know of one Fortune 200 company that is a leader in technology that has directed its corporate communications team to go out and hire 28 new speech writers. They want these people to help support, equip and prepare leaders to engage their people more effectively because they’ve lost the personal touch in the digital age. High tech can’t replace high touch. 

Email, by the way, is still rated second among the top preferred channels in companies throughout the world. Employees tell us they like it because it is always available, provides timely details (for the most part) and information they may need, and can reach broad employee groups in global organizations in a consistent delivery.

While I don’t like email, I believe it will always be with us. Our job as employee engagement strategists is to use email as a bridge to new methods in the future – as HTML to package in a more aesthetically appealing way; or hyperlinking to videos or portals or communities where people can find what they want or need. The new generation needs “pull” more than having information pushed to them. 

And less is more. I’m finding that companies in change are driving complexity into simplicity. It’s not War and Peacethat we need. But it’s more than 140 characters, too. It’s the right amount of context and detail, often set within a story or anecdote that illustrates or informs our point. 

What the most typical internal communication mistakes that you see companies make over and over again without even realizing it? 

The biggest mistake is failing to understand our real purpose with internal communication and employee engagement is to improve the performance of people in the organization. Too many companies spend time pushing information out without regard for what employees really want and need. The same goes for creating channels and vehicles. Some companies literally have two dozen or more ways to reach their people; yet they’ve never stopped to ask the question, “What does the audienceneed?” This is why we spend time up front assessing the effectiveness of the function, asking managers and their reports at the front-line what they need most to be effective in their jobs, seeking to understand the credibility of leaders and managers in their communication and engagement, and discovering how the company honors its commitments and corporate values. 

Ask what the audience needs. 

Improving collaboration and employee engagement are central to IC. What tools, services and techniques do you recommend to help IC specialists with these two goals? 

I’ve written extensively on this topic and have counseled hundreds of companies on it through time. 

When leaders see those who lead internal communication as focused on business and performance needs – in other words, acting as business strategists first – then they become an asset to the strategic focus. When aligned with leaders working to make the right decisions, internal communicators then can drive collaboration because they have the endorsement, support and commitment from the executive leaders. 

Of course – there will always be those organizations wh ere reporting lines and internal politics will make collaboration incredibly challenging and even impractical. Add to this the growing globality of companies in geographies such as China and Peru and even the UAE – wh ere culture, society and history further cloud the collaborative model. That’s a different topic for us. 

IC specialists are increasingly taking on the role of community management as well. What skills and expertise should internal communicators be pursuing in order to adopt to the ‘new reality’. 

Now you’re getting into the real future. I’ve had this conversation with some outstanding chief communications officers about the skills and competencies they want from the next generation of employees. Some are working to train and develop their people in the social sciences, for example. Others are working to ensure that beyond sociology of people, the anthropology of how cultures and people in corporations have engaged through time, and the psychology of why people do what they do in the workplace – we develop new leaders. Johnson & Johnson has the Credo Champions. A global bank I work with in the UAE has a new generation of men and women known as Service Ambassadors. Groups like these exist in many companies large and small. Some take on community leadership and management inside a company. Most become the connective tissue linking their peers with leaders, customers and even third parties in the community. Many go on to become executive leaders. 

Thank you, Keith! 

Bitrix24 is leading free employee engagement and collaboration platform. Use promocode TIP10 whenregisteringyour free Bitrix24 account to get extra 10GB 

See also: 

5 Simple Things You Can Do to Improve Workplace Productivity 
Social HR 101: What is social intranet? 
Why your company should hold ‘aspirational meetings’.
Best free internal communication software and tools
How to build successful inside sales team - tips from inside sales guru Josiane Feigon
Tips for Creating an Employee Portal that Works

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