Joy Lawless, Author at Blog Wrike
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Joy Lawless

Joy Lawless

Joy is a former Implementation Specialist of Wrike.
5 Tips for Forming Productivity Habits in Your Team (PMI Presentation Recap)
Productivity 5 min read

5 Tips for Forming Productivity Habits in Your Team (PMI Presentation Recap)

This May 2014, I talked about the formation of new habits at a dinner for the Project Management Institute (PMI), Sacramento Valley Chapter and then again during a live webinar for the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter. Specifically, I shared 5 concrete strategies for forming team productivity habits, while also delving into the behavioral and psychological barriers that affect their success. Since 45% of our everyday actions are habitual, it’s important to make sure they are good ones! Project managers must cultivate the soft skill of knowing how to lead a team toward productive habits despite the staggering statistic that it takes anywhere from 66 days (on average) to eight months to learn a new habit, depending on the habit’s complexity. The 5 Strategies for Forming Productive Habits If you're trying to get your team to adopt productive habits, then here's a very brief rundown of those five strategies: 1.  Lead by example: Define the behavior you want the team to exhibit, then practice what you preach. Your team will follow when they see you do it first, and when the benefits of this new habit are clear. 2. Share the power to change: In spreading the new habit, you may need the help of power users or evangelists — enthusiastic team members who can spread the new habit to the rest of the team and even the entire organization. 3. Apply horizontal or vertical rollout: Split up the habit into smaller actions and smaller parts, so that tiny steps can be made. Small wins can motivate the team to take it the rest of the way, no matter how difficult it may be. 4. Motivate your team: Influence the emotional side of your people, not just the intellectual. Give them incentives to practice this new habit. Make it fun. Be creative. 5. Blend new work styles into existing practices: Leverage any existing habits that are useful when trying to "write" new habits onto the team's repertoire. This makes the new habit feel more familiar and ensures a more natural transition. If you want a more detailed discussion on the strategies, watch a recorded webinar on this same topic. Reactions to Change, Reactions to Grief One particular slide which yielded the most conversation from both groups was the image of the classic curve illustrating people’s reactions to change across time: how any change is first met with denial before spiraling into anger, confusion, depression, crisis, then settling into acceptance, and finally new confidence. One of the attendees pointed out that the curve “mimics the stages of grief." It does resemble it very closely, sharing four of the five stages in the Kubler-Ross model (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance) which are the emotional stages one goes through when facing death or the loss of a loved one. Which makes sense. Learning new habits is a figurative death of sorts: a death to old behaviors and the status quo of the past. In its place, a new habit is born, giving rise to internal friction as the new behavior fights against established habits for dominance. This provided a fruitful discussion about how implementing a new habit shouldn’t be taken too lightly. It should be done with requisite amounts of sensitivity, all while motivating the team to forge better, more productive, behavioral patterns. At the end of the webinar for the PMI San Francisco chapter, they polled the attendees and shared the results with me: 96% said they learned something new from the webinar! And 89% said they learned something new from the presentation that they could apply to their current job. Glad to be of service, PMI! Cartoon Image Credits: Tom Fishburne on Marketoonist

Use the Timer to Create Benchmarks
Project Management 3 min read

Use the Timer to Create Benchmarks

“What does that play button do?” “It starts our integrated timer, so you can track how much time you spend on tasks.” “Oh, well we don’t bill for our time, so we won’t use that feature.” I have this conversation all too often, and it’s undermining the real value that time tracking provides in any project: actionable data. When a new project gets dumped in your lap, what’s your biggest hurdle? Planning. It’s often the most intimidating part of the project management process. Too often it’s a guessing game based on past time estimates that your team may or may not have been able to stick to. Thorough, accurate plans mean achievable timelines, budgets, and deliverables. And happy team members, managers, and stakeholders. You can have all of this with Wrike's timer feature. Benchmarking: How Long Will It Take in the Future? What if you had a magical way of knowing exactly how long a task may take? No need to throw your money at me or beg for the magic technology — it's already within your Wrike account! Yes, the timer. Make your project plans more precise by having your team use the timer to log minutes spent on each task. You’ll get invaluable information about target employee hours that you can mine for future project planning gold. Your timelines will no longer be based on how much time you allocated for similar projects in the past, but on the actual time you spent. No more guessing — or having to constantly fine-tune internal benchmarks when plans shift. Speed: Who Can Do This Same Task Quickly? Not only that, time logs help you streamline your schedule and optimize your task distribution. You can save time by appropriately assigning time-sensitive tasks to team members with a proven track record of efficiency on similar work. Comments: How Long did Each Stage Take? Make the Wrike timer even more useful by asking your team to leave comments on their time entries describing the nature of their work or the stage of the task they completed. If you establish a set of pre-determined keywords for your team, say “proofreading,” or “reimbursement requests,” you can generate a comprehensive Excel list of the total time you spent on those task stages. For example, over a four week project I had 20 hours of work logged with the comment, “editing.” I now know to allocate approximately 20 hours into my personal schedule for the next time I tackle the same type of project. Or better yet, use the data as justification to involve a copyeditor. Have you used the timer in an interesting way? Share your wisdom in the comments!

4 Lessons Hockey Has Taught Me About Project Management
Project Management 5 min read

4 Lessons Hockey Has Taught Me About Project Management

Here are some of the key lessons hockey has taught me about project management: 1. Hire Flexible Players In hockey you have six players on the ice and three main positions: Forward, Defense, and Goalie. The goalie is the only one that should truly be a “specialist,” which means the other five players need to have some flexibility. If roles are too defined, teammates won't be as prepared to help out in a pinch. Even defense should be able to shoot the puck! In the same way, I'm not going to wait for someone in QA to test a feature when I can do it myself. The aim for everyone on the project team is to be flexible enough to assist in scoring goals. If someone's background is in business project management, but they can also turn their hand to IT or creative project management, it will serve your organization amazingly in the long run. It's all for the team. Also, keep an eye on recruiting. Trading players in hockey translates to talent acquisition in business. Veterans are vital for providing project stability, but as the game speeds up and new skills are needed, it’s important to make sure you have the right mix of players. (And this has nothing to do with age!) 2. Seek Guidance from Coaches The bench holds your most important assets: coaches and assistants. No single person is the keeper of all playbook knowledge. In project management, you need to seek the wisdom of mentors, supervisors, other PMs, or even the library of resources you keep on your hard drive or behind your desk. Situational guidance is a wonderful tool and keeps your team on the winning side. Above the bench, often peering from a skybox in the arena, are the stakeholders. Their roles and responsibilities can vary greatly from team to team, but they are always present and their input guides the team. Successfully hitting your milestones will feed their appetite for updates and also provides them with visible progress. Accountability is the name of the game! 3. Take 82 Steps to Victory When a team finally makes it through the 82-game season schedule, it's a cause for celebration. Each of those games brought the team closer to the championship trophy. In project management, those victorious games translate to accomplished tasks -- each one leading to a completed project. And success! With so many games, ideally all of your players have had a chance to shine. If you use the Agile methodology, your daily stand-up meetings come to mind. If you don't use Agile, think of the team meetings you (hopefully) already have scheduled. This is a chance for all players to show off their contribution to the overall project. And individual recognition is key, as it keeps things personal and makes sure you acknowledge your MVP. 4. Plan for the Finals in Stages The road to the Stanley Cup is broken into three stages: the regular season, the playoffs, and the finals. Like any complete hockey season, your project has a beginning, middle, and end. A three-stage approach makes progress observable, with no extra work needed to understand where you stand as you advance to the championship. Hockey coaches strategize for the games by reviewing past experiences. Project teams plan for each stage by breaking down the project into those 82 smaller tasks and distributing the load to all team members. I personally like to give my projects three milestones, with the third being the big game, the final deadline. All tasks are then built out and linked to these milestones appropriately, via dependencies. Executives can view a report in terms of completed, active, and overdue milestones (which hopefully never happen). So here's hoping I inspired you to watch some hockey today. Meanwhile, go crush all your tasks on the road to victory!

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