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Join Project Master Beta Testing Program

Submitted by on June 18th, 2013

Project Master Schedule and TimelineWe have been working hard to bring you the new release of our flagship project management tool, Project Master. First released in 2003, we did a major upgrade of this popular tool in 2006. The much awaited Version 3.0 is now in testing stage.

You can be part of the test program by joining our Beta release test team. You will be the first to see all of the great new features we’ve packed into the new version, put Project Master through its paces and be eligible for a substantial discount on the purchase of the final product.

What Is Project Master?

Project Master is the sweet spot between the very expensive and complex project management tools and the overly simple tools that are no more than glorified task lists. We based Project Master on Microsoft Excel®, as every office already has the Microsoft suite of programs. For well under the cost of many other project management tools, with Project Master you will be able to:

  • create and manage your project schedule and task allocations
  • automatically draw a schedule timeline (Gantt chart)
  • monitor and report on your project costs
  • manage your project changes, risks and issues all in one place
  • produce and distribute a range of automated schedule and budget reports
  • create schedule and budget charts and a one-page summary report

In this release, we have incorporated many key improvements to the interface, improved reliability and added many new features. Here are just some of the enhancements. With Version 3.0, you will be able to:

  • get your project started easily with the New Project Wizard
  • navigate around Project Master with the new navigation index
  • easily copy reports and charts into your other documents
  • enjoy greater protection of your project data from corruption
  • see your local currency symbol in all reports and charts
  • import your project data from other sources
  • export your project data into a standard format

How Do I Register for the Beta Testing Program?

To join the Beta testing program, you will need Microsoft Excel® 2007 or later and Windows Vista®, Windows® 7 or Windows® 8 installed on your system. Get in quick as we want to complete the Beta testing phase by early July, ready for a final release mid-July. Beta testers who send us feedback will receive a significant discount on the Version 3.0 release package.

To join the Beta testing program, send your request to products@businessperform.com today. In your email, please provide the following particulars:

  • your name
  • the name of your organization
  • the size and nature of your current project (optional)
  • your contact information (bona fide email only; no gmail, hotmail, yahoo, etc.)

As a Beta tester, you will try out all of the key features, noting any software bugs, unclear instructions, confusing interface and errors in the documentation provided. Very importantly, we want your feedback on what other features you would like to see in Project Master. Your feedback will help us provide you and all of our customers with a more reliable and useful project management tool. Contact us now at products@businessperform.com to register for the program or use our contact form to find out more.

Posted in Products | Comments (4)

Managing Time and Your High Impact Tasks

Submitted by on March 26th, 2013

Time equals money diagramHow much work did you get done today? I mean real work. You may have worked 50, 60 or even 70 hours, but what did you create of value? It’s all too easy to get distracted by all of the little tasks that we often find gobble up most of the day.

For many business owners and professionals, the little tasks are a welcome diversion from the important tasks that are just plain unpleasant to do. For others, they think that if they get all of the unimportant stuff out of the way first, they will have a clear headway to get stuck into the value-producing tasks. Come near the end of the day when they find the day has almost disappeared, they reason that if they knock-off now, they will start refreshed early the next morning to dive into the critical jobs. Next morning, the cycle simply repeats itself.

If you want to make a real impact in your business and in your life instead of just spinning your wheels day after day, you need discipline and a process. You see, it’s not just about managing time. Time is finite and always will be. Being effective is about managing yourself.

Here is the process I follow for making the most of every day.

  1. I begin by doing a yearly audit of all of the tasks I perform over a couple of weeks. I examine the items on the list to identify which are non-value add and separate these from what I call my HITs. These are my High Impact Tasks; the tasks that help me achieve our major goals. (You do have goals, right?)
  2. Every Friday afternoon, I plan the following week by blocking out times in my diary to work on the HITs. These are dedicated blocks of time that are not interruptible; as if I were at a meeting or in training.
  3. I categorize all current tasks in my diary as either (U)rgent, (H)igh, (M)edium or (L)ow priority. To the left of each item, I place a (U), (H), (M) or (L). My HIT tasks are either always (H)igh or (U)rgent.
  4. For low value tasks, I either delegate them, relegate them to the end of the day, time-box them or take them off my task list entirely.
  5. For all new (L)ow priority tasks that pop up during the week that don’t demand attention, I record these tasks in a separate Notepad file. There, they are out of sight but still within easy reach.
  6. At the same time on Friday, I review how successful I was that week in keeping my commitments to myself to work on my HITs. I record what percentage of HIT activities I actually completed as a proportion of all HIT activities scheduled. If the score is not 100%, I examine the reasons and consider strategies for improving the score.

I have found that by adopting these six habits, I am no longer distracted by the minutiae and I really focus on the tasks that make a difference to our business. What strategies do you use to improve your impact and help you stay on track with achieving your major goals? Please share with us your experiences and tips for success.

Managing Change in the Workplace guideDo you want to create more impact as a manager? Download our popular Managing Change in the Workplace guide and workbook. The guide covers every aspect of leading change that will make a difference in your organization. As you work through the guide, you will complete a series of practical exercises that will help you plan and manage your change initiative for maximum effectiveness. Find out more about Managing Change in the Workplace and download the free introductory chapter today.

Posted in Performance | Comments (2)

Estimating Is an Incredible “Mind Game”

Submitted by on March 12th, 2013

Project Manager stopping alarm clockAt a talk I gave to my local chapters of STC and PMI, I spoke on the challenge of estimating projects accurately. During that event, I thoroughly enjoyed engaging the participants in the same fun estimating simulation that I’ve used elsewhere.

Once again, the answers from the audience on how long it should take to complete each of three simple tasks ranged from barely a few minutes to several hours. As always, audience members were amazed at their range of views on how long they thought they’d spend on seemingly “no-brainer” tasks.

So, why (again) is the estimating process so important, and yet so difficult? One set of reasons I haven’t fully articulated is that estimating our time entails:

  • Formulaic aspects, which include the basic numerical computations we use to arrive at a total. If that were all there were to it, we could just treat estimating like a simple arithmetic exercise and be done with it!
  • Psychological phenomena, including the fascinating propensity we have to imagine work getting done in record time, under perfect conditions. I believe we tend to vastly underestimate more often than not – by a factor of 2 or 3.
  • Social norms, which involve how we tend to look to others to get a sense of whether our “answers” are correct. We defer to their values and judgments rather than to verifiable evidence of how long something actually takes to do.
  • Organizational politics, which can intimidate us into overestimating our abilities and may persuade us to back into highly precarious scenarios, based on “must-have,” “must-do,” or “must-win” business pressures.

But we can fight back using the twelve powerful estimating techniques discussed in my article, 12 Powerful Estimating Strategies.

Project ScorecardDo you need to monitor and report your project’s performance? Check out our simple yet effective Project Scorecard. Present a no-fuss informative one-page project performance report to your project team and project sponsor in five key result areas. Find out more about Project Scorecard and download today.

Posted in Projects | Comments (0)

Kirkpatrick’s Levels and Bloom’s Taxonomy

Submitted by on March 1st, 2013

People taking notes at training courseAre you confused on how to incorporate Donald Kirkpatrick’s Level 2 and Level 3 in the design of your training program? Level 2 is about how much and how well your training participants learned. Level 3 asks how much of that learning is translated into behavior on the job. But hang on a minute. Isn’t learning – effective learning – supposed to be about behavior?

I have been advising trainers to incorporate how they plan to do the program evaluation into their initial program design – starting with the end in mind, as we say. I hear you ask, “When I am writing up my training program objectives, how do I distinguish between learning objectives (Level 2) and behavioral objectives (Level 3)? What is the difference between these two levels and how should they impact my program design?”

The answer to this conundrum is that for the training event itself, learning objectives do not exclude behavioral objectives. For the program participants, there should be no dichotomy. It’s not a case of either/or.

Consider two of the most influential models for writing learning objectives. Robert F. Mager’s PCC model (Performance, Conditions, Criterion) includes Performance as the learner’s ability to perform the actual task. Similarly, Heinich, Molenda, Russell, and Smaldino’s ABCD model (Audience, Behavior, Condition and Degree) includes learner Behavior as fundamental to effective learning outcomes.

And this makes sense. We wouldn’t say someone has learned how to ride a bicycle if they can’t actually ride a bike. Only knowing the physics and biology of bike riding just doesn’t cut it. When it comes to workplace training, always include the required learner behaviors in the learning objectives. My book on writing effective learning objectives has helped many trainers focus on just that; behaviors and performance.

You see, Kirkpatrick’s Level 2 is about measuring the amount and depth of learning during and at the conclusion of the program. And this includes learning how to apply the new knowledge and skills to actual workplace situations. Kirkpatrick’s Level 3 is about measuring learner application immediately on the job and after some significant period. Level 3 evaluation is about stickiness. How well have the new behaviors stuck after a period of forgetting, lack of incentives, shortage of tools and resources, and so on? For evaluating at Level 3, consider measuring behavior change soon after the event and again some 3 or 6 months later.

Many trainers are similarly confused about how to apply Bloom’s taxonomy when creating learning objectives. I see many trainers stop at Bloom’s Level 2, Comprehension (or Understanding in the revised model). For real workplace change and impacting on-the-job performance, I push trainers to at least Level 3, Application (or Applying in the revised model). Applying the learning only starts at this level. Which other of Bloom’s levels you should incorporate in your learning objectives will depend on the nature and scope of your particular training program.

So far, I have only been considering Bloom’s Cognitive domain. This is where most trainers get stuck in a ditch. Don’t forget. There are two other equally important learning domains; Affective and Psychomotor. So, if you want your training to be truly effective, make behavior the focus of your learning objectives and consider all three of Bloom’s domains when you next construct your program’s learning objectives.

Writing Learning Outcomes e-book

For a step-by-step guide on writing behavior-based learning objectives with lots of templates and examples, check out my Writing Learning Outcomes. As you complete each step in the guide, you will write the results for your particular training project in the workbook provided. When you have finished working through the workbook, you will have a complete set of documented learning objectives for your project. Find out more about Writing Learning Outcomes and download the free introductory chapter today.

Posted in Training | Comments (0)

When Profit and Shareholder Value Are the Mission

Submitted by on February 19th, 2013

Two businessmen pushing world from opposite directionsThe Global Financial Crisis (GFC) and the ongoing stream of corporate collapses have generated a lot of debate on the long-term viability of companies that focus exclusively on profit and share price. As we have seen with the global meltdown of 2008, the survival of entire nation states may be at stake.

I don’t agree with commentators who want to relegate profit and shareholder value to the strategy dustbin. These are important lagging measures; even central for most for-profit organizations. However, as some analysts have pointed out, by focusing on these measures exclusively, company executives may be achieving a Pyrrhic victory. The biggest challenge for us is not that increasing profit and share price are evil objectives. It’s the short-termism many companies use in their planning and execution.

Astute commentators have noted that executives who focus on quarterly results – some even monthly – dramatically skew the long-term viability of their companies. We need new systems in place that take the spotlight off today’s share price and this quarter’s profit and start to put mission center stage.

Here are some questions business owners and board members need to ask:

  • Why does this company exist?
  • What social value does it generate?
  • What value is it to its customers? –to its employees? –to wider society?

And yes, we do need to ask what value it holds for its shareholders. However, we need to appreciate that the company’s shareholders are but one group amongst other key stakeholder groups. You see, many shareholders don’t have an intrinsic interest in the company. Many are just betters. If the share price goes down, they’ll take their investment and bet elsewhere. And yet we place much of our companies’ futures in the hands of these short-term betters.

What of the other key stakeholders? To the mantra of satisfying customer wants, the last several years have seen a number of alarming examples of the unbridled pursuit of profit and shareholder value harming the very consumers of a company’s products. The promotion and sale of cigarettes has caused millions of deaths. Ballooning consumption of fast food is leading to an epidemic of obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

The social impacts of these companies’ objectives are also clear. Billions of dollars of increased health expenditure at a time when nations can least afford it and the reduction in size of the employment pool are notable examples. Global impacts are also being increasingly felt as the world warms up from overconsumption and pollution increases from overproduction. In these cases, we are worse off than playing a zero-sum game in which my winning means you losing. We are playing a negative-sum game in which my winning is an illusion. I get a short-term reward now with a kick further down the track.

Focusing exclusively on profit and shareholder value also disenfranchises another key stakeholder group. Have you noticed that most employees don’t get fired up about their company’s share price or quarterly profit figures? However, employees can care about bringing affordable communications technology to common people or saving more lives with new medicines or reducing greenhouse gas emissions, or whatever noble cause their company is pursuing.

Organizations need to find their socially-enhancing mission and get their people involved if they want to succeed in the long term. Creating real value and making people’s lives genuinely better is what really matters. This is what gets workers fired up to do their best for the company that employs them. Profits and improved shareholder value will then follow for the longer-term.

I put the case that customer satisfaction and employee engagement should figure in each company’s Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) as leading indicators. These, along with process capability, drive long-term financial success. I’ve long advocated Kaplan and Norton’s Balanced Scorecard and Haskell’s Service Profit Chain for this reason. Elkington’s Triple Bottom Line goes one step further. This method of measuring a company’s success puts a company’s financial results on the same pedestal as the company’s contributions to social and environmental capital. Now there’s an idea.

Workforce Segmentation and Reporting Pack

For help with segmenting your workforce and developing powerful analytics, check out Colin Beames’ comprehensive HR pack. Complete with workforce segmentation guide, outsourcing guidelines and reporting templates, the pack covers every aspect of maximizing your human capital. Visit the Workforce Segmentation and Reporting Pack information portal to download the free Introductory Chapters and start using this strategic HR pack today.

Posted in Change, Performance | Comments (0)

Essence of Appreciative Inquiry Training Workshops

Submitted by on February 9th, 2013

Sue James and Chris Bennett Appreciative Inquiry WorkshopWell-respected Appreciative Inquiry practitioners, Sue James and Chris Bennett, are conducting their next round of Appreciative Inquiry workshops. They are touring and delivering to all of the capital cities along Australia’s eastern seaboard throughout April and early May 2013.

For those unfamiliar with the tenets of Appreciative Inquiry, it draws upon what we know in positive psychology and about the efficacy of empowerment. It is a particularly powerful approach for bringing about change in organizations.

I participated in The Essence of Appreciative Inquiry two-day workshop in late 2011 and reported on the AI Workshop on this blog. Those of us who attended found the two days to be challenging, inspiring and highly practical. One the first day, we were taken through key concepts and principles underlying Appreciative Inquiry and challenged to examine our own assumptions, world views and approaches. On the second day, we also learned about Appreciative Intelligence® and Kinaesthetic Intelligence, and explored how we could apply these as well as Appreciative Inquiry in our work.

We participated in paired interviews/conversations that were particularly powerful. They enabled us to delve deeply into the topics we were asked to discuss and generated some surprises in the process! The kinaesthetic activities – getting us up and moving – not only re-energized us, but also served as wonderful metaphors for the concepts we covered.

I’m particularly delighted that Sue and Chris are running the workshops again this year. Sue and Chris’ workshops are highly interactive and you walk away with a workbook that is packed with ideas and strategies for applying the principles to your situation. If you are a facilitator, manager, change agent, trainer or HR practitioner, then contact us to find out more about the upcoming workshops. Drop us a line also if you would like to talk to Sue or Chris about the workshops.

Succession Planner software

Do you have people in your organization that you want to cultivate into a leadership role but don’t know how to manage the process? Or are you looking to provide a career path for your employees but don’t know where to start? Our Succession Planner software will help you manage your entire succession planning effort. From initially identifying your succession positions through to analyzing and reporting succession progress, this tool does it all. Find out more and download the free Succession Planner demo version today.

Posted in Change, Training | Comments (0)

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