Why I love taking notes, (and I’m not even that good at it)

I’m putting my heart into a packaged software implementation in Columbus, Ohio. As I’ve been getting into the groove with the new project, part of my approach with new systems, new people, new environment, is to take a lot of notes. It’s an essential part of my approach.

Here’s why.

  • Taking notes encourages discipline

  • It moves the brain and its processes through the making of meaning out of what is being said

  • Provides look back anchors, both on paper, and in our minds, to help recall the experience we’re documenting

  • Contributes to mindfulness by forcing the mind and body to focus on what’s happening now

  • Encourages team engagement as we focus more deeply on: self, environment, one another, the work

  • Provides a healthy, productive ritual to our daily experience

  • Encourages scanning our environment, gathering intel (value)

  • As 4 out of 5 digital privacy experts agree, our written record remains within our control regardless of what happens on the internet

Notes I take in meetings are my own creative work. I scribble diagrams. I draw lines through words and sentences, I draw arrows and connectors. I circle important things.

But what about typing?

A few people ask “why paper and pen?”, since digital options for note taking have improved and expanded so much in recent years. Am I an anachronism?

Some people are GREAT at ten finger typing. I’ve seen one or two who can do it so smoothly, with so much grace and finesse, that they can truly be present in a conversation as they capture their notes using a keyboard. I believe that this is a rare skill, and it’s not one that I possess. But even if I was a great keyboardist, I would still prefer writing.

Why I prefer writing to typing:

A keyboard makes a clickety-clack sound that many find annoying. I think this sound distracts from the conversation.

When I type, it look like I’m not paying attention. It’s kind of amazing how differently perceived written note taking is compared to typing. Think about it. Have you been in a meeting where laptops are open and people are typing? How have you perceived this? Be honest.

Try it

If, for any reason, you think I’m wrong about this, my response will be “what do you have to lose?” For the cost of lunch out, you can become journal ready. I’ve given links for a couple of my favorite notebooks, as well as to the pen that I’ve become most attached to. There are tons of options for note taking. Give it a shot!

Moleskine Classic Notebook - Sapphire Blue

Black n' Red Ruled Business Notebook

EnerGel® Deluxe RTX Liquid Gel Pen


Crazy Little Thing Called Risk

Most of our project teams talk about risk, but we rarely benefit much from these conversations because our "talk" is often the final risk-focused action that we take. In other words, we often don't DO anything beyond the talking. Managing risk is one of the most important aspects of delivery. The ability of leaders to articulate the importance of risk management, and ensure that it is carried out, is critical to business success! 

In a quest to ensure that delivery leaders can confidently, quickly and easily remember and communicate the essence of risk, I've leaned on what is possibly the oldest and most successful medium known to humans...

That's right. If we can sing the message, we can carry the message in our heads and hearts. I hope you will take a moment and listen to this piece. I've included the lyrics below:

The Risk

That nagging question at the back of your mind, reveals a situation longing to unwind.
Lying in the murky depths, and veiled in mystery…
An underlying doubt that fills you with uncertainty

And uncertainty is what we face when options overwhelm us
And risk is just the consequence of the actions we take in spite of this uncertainty

“If X then Y.” That’s what it all boils down to. We’ll realize the consequence of what we do.
Nothing risked. Nothing gained.

Analysis of risk might help to put your mind at ease.
We’ll estimate the impact and the probability of each potential future outcome that we identify.
We’ll employ a methodology to help prioritize them

Yes, analysis of risk is not a task to be forsaken
But analysis is worthless if no subsequent action is taken

And what are the actions we can take with risk?

Optimize to mitigate it
Insure it to eliminate it
Outsource it
Insure it
Accept the risk and budget for it

Those are the actions we can take with risk!

“If X then Y.” That’s what it all boils down to. We’ll realize the consequence of what we do.
Nothing risked. Nothing gained.


© C. E. Linville
 

3 Ways to Maximize Business Value in IT Teams

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Ensuring the value of IT services, is a huge business challenge! Too often, IT teams struggle to define and develop their business value. The goal is to reverse the perception of your team as an obligatory cost center, and become established as a trusted service provider, delivering business value. 

Challenges:

Today’s IT Teams are Diverse - IT organizations are often comprised of a mix of contract and full time team members, spanning multiple levels of experience, and having broad generational and cultural variance. The challenge of teaming is to bring the disparate elements of your organization into a single, high performing, operating unit

Today’s IT Teams are bimodal - In the current rush to adopt all things agile, IT organizations grapple with the challenge of managing two separate but coherent styles of work: one focused on predictability; the other on exploration. (see Gartner). Making these delivery styles work together is critical to success.

Today’s talent market is heavily biased toward candidates - With unemployment rates near zero in the tech sector, IT leaders are left with fewer options to elevate team performance. In this super competitive market, talent acquisition has become more costly, and time consuming, while generating less reliable results. This serves as a strong incentive for IT leaders to take full advantage of the people already in the picture.

What can we do:

Develop teams - The fast moving trend of employee experience, or EX (see Forbes), is in part, an acknowledgement that the workforce is changing, and companies are adapting to this change. EX also supports the importance of optimizing teams for maximum business value. In order to ensure value, IT leaders need to acknowledge and develop the competencies, knowledge, and skills that already exist within IT teams. 

Build trust - Trust is foundational to high functioning teams (see TableGroup). A key way to instill trust as an attribute of your organization is to cultivate authentic relationships between team members and their managers. Managers who develop authenticity with their teams are more likely to be rewarded with high levels of team engagement. 
Another important way to build trust is by creating and practicing strategies for raising self awareness within teams. It’s considered the most important capability for leaders to develop (see Forbes). Self aware teams manage, and benefit from conflict, by approaching it as an experiential learning opportunity. Diverse, bimodal teams who leverage self awareness, develop trust and empathy, turning conflict into a valuable way to reach better outcomes.

Teach business - One of the top questions to answer in 2018 is “How is your IT team supporting and contributing to your business goals. (see IT Performance Improvement). Too often, IT organizations are seen by business leaders as merely cost centers. Teams that understand, and feel connected to business strategy are more likely to succeed in supporting profitability. Further, IT teams that clearly communicate their value to business leaders, and are recognized as value generators, are more effective in supporting business strategy.

More than ever, IT organizations must operate at peak efficiency. By developing teams to perform more cohesively, and with greater business acumen, we deliver competitive advantage to business.

Is Project Management “Over”?

In praise of agile

In Columbus, Ohio, There’s a growing sentiment in the information technology community that the noble profession of Project Management has become passe. New and innovative approaches to planning and executing IT work are on the rise, and we’ve seen shifts in market demand to support their popularity. As the agile mindset has swept this town, and far beyond, we’ve seen increased influence of DevOPs, Scrum, Kanban, etc. as well as huge popularity of agile friendly software like Trello, Slack, Bitbucket and Jira.

These are just a few examples of a whole universe of agile-focused activity that is increasing team collaboration, and facilitating a faster feedback cycle, greater adaptability to change, earlier detection of defects, increased flexibility with prioritization of features, and overall greater customer satisfaction. See Forbes.

Project management - fading relevance?

The practice of project management within information technology, and specifically software development, has been around for many decades. A quick search on google trends leads me to believe that way more people in Ohio are using “project management” as a search term than, say, “devops”, or “agile software development”, so it’s definitely still “a thing”. I’ll bounce my findings of of some of my more data savvy friends, but I’m pretty sure that project management is still popular. It’s just going through a reset.

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I get it. Classic project management methodology has been maligned for being too plodding, lacking flexibility to change, etc. I’m not sure if there is a higher rate of failure with a so called “waterfall” approach to delivery, but those that fail often do so in spectacular fashion. Think healthcare.gov

Some of the more adventurous agile evangelists have gone so far as to say that project managers are no longer needed in the realm of software development. I disagree.

I have noticed several areas where project managers can help agile teams be more successful.

  • Organization Change Management

  • Risk Management

  • Dependency Management

  • Financial Management

I want to explore each of these individually in future blog posts.

What makes transformation projects different?

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The work of transformation goes beyond basic “project management” or “change management”. A transformational change results in reinvention of an organization, dramatically changing its culture, and the behaviors of its members.

 Organizations may establish an overarching framework for change strategy, but must remain flexible in regard to the process of change, allowing the change process to emerge.

 Success depends on:

  1. Creating a clear vision of the final outcome

  2. Full engagement/commitment of stakeholders

  3. Flexibility to adapt as the “solution” emerges