<p>When faced with a typical management task, having a kitbag of tools, techniques, and frameworks gets you started quicker, and, importantly, makes it look like you know what you're doing. Or maybe you're the one being managed, and you want to show that you're organised. Either way, they are sufficiently simple not to intimidate others. Here are three tools in my box. None of them are rocket science, and I can't take credit for them, but they all get used at various times and on various topics.</p>
I was introduced to this one by a manager ten years ago, and it works really well when you need to write or get a regular status report, whether it be for a project or a person. The three Ps are Progress, Plan, and Problems.
Whatever the timeframe for the status updates, list (1) the items you achieved in the last time period, (2) what you have planned for the next time period, and (3) any issues that slowed your progress, or may prevent you executing your plan. The problems can also be challenges, things where you’re looking for extending beyond the plan
This works well for regular performance reviews. Get your reports to bring this list to the meeting, and then discuss the areas with reference to the objectives laid down at the start of the review period. It could be every six months with a large team, or every day if you’re micromanaging someone against a performance improvement plan. It scales up and down nicely.
I saw this one a lifetime ago and have always found it useful as a planning framework. It’s a technique for developing a plan to go from A to B, assuming you know what A and B are. You address each letter in turn:
- A: Your current state. Where are we now? What issues do we have?
- B: The future state. Where do we want to be? How do we see ourselves at a particular point in the future? Pick the timeframe.
- C: What are the basic steps to get there? What is the sequence of actions we need to take? What milestones do we need along the way?
- D: What are the risks along the way? What challenges do we face in undertaking the actions? What constraints are we working to?
From the high-level actions in C, and the risks in D, you have the start of a project plan that can go into more detail. And of course you can track progress with regular PPPs.
How you capture this can help the process. Listing A, B, C and D down the page is not particularly inspiring. Try your page in landscape mode, putting A on the left, B on the right with an arrow connecting the two, with C and D underneath the arrow. It’s more visual and reinforces the idea of movement.
This one comes from the agile software development world, and is the core of a review, when your project is done, or an iteration is complete. Leave the egos at the door, and look back critically at not what happened, but why. Learn the lessons for future iterations or projects. Change the processes.
The basic approach is to ask three main questions:
- What went well?
- What could we do better?
- What different things do we want to try?
The first two questions are the basic good vs bad, without being overly negative. The third one is about new ideas or innovation. It’s not asking how we’d do what we did differently, it’s asking what different things could we do? It’s about examining the process rather the activities. In an XP or a Scrum world, it’s often about looking at introducing or abandoning a particular technique, based on how the culture and patterns of the team are emerging or developing.