Reward: Make it worthwhile and memorable!

Reward Package
Give them a reward

When you have done the “close-down” and “lessons learned” things I suggested last month there are a few more activities which I think are really worth considering at the end of a project:

  • Punctuation – Make sure people realise that this is The End.
  • Say “Thank you” – You might be surprised how much people appreciate it.
  • Give small gifts or mementos for people to remember the project by.

These things can be done by management roles, but they can be done informally within a team as well.

What to give as a reward? A little more detail.

Sometimes projects just “peter out”. The last person to leave switches off the lights. I think it is better to have a final social occasion – a project meal or something similar.

Saying “Thank you” costs nothing more than a little effort. People appreciate it and if you work with the same people again they will remember that you appreciated what they did.

Small gifts can be a nice gesture. I have been given some strange things over the years, ranging from the technical (a couple of planes of core memory, and a disk platter), through the practical (some coasters and a set of cuff-links) to the rather strange (a curry cook-book!). All of these things bring back pleasant memories about the projects in question.

Why bother with a reward?

As well as being pleasant, these things serve practical purpose.

  • Bringing the project to an emotional close is a good thing. It is time to finish what are doing and move on to the next activity.
  • You may find yourself working with the same people in the future. This can happen years later, and you may be in quite different roles. Parting company on good terms means that it will be easier to start the new relationship with a good feeling.
  • I think it is good for your reputation to be thought of as being appreciative. This does not mean that you have to be soft. There is no contradiction between being a “hard task-master” and saying “thank you” in various ways.

Think of these activities as being a small speculative investment in the future.

Two words of caution:

  • Do not be seen to be doing these things in a manipulative way. People do not like that and it is generally counter-productive.
  • Do not say you are going to do something (like hold an “end of project meal”) and then not do it. That is demotivating.

Enjoy a break before starting again refreshed!

Success: Congratulations! You’ve arrived.

Successful Project
Successful Project

What do you do when the project is finished? I mean, apart from the party and the sigh of relief? You’ve delivered your project. Maybe you consider it a success, maybe you’re not sure. It doesn’t matter, it’s over now. Celebrate your success!

Part of good project management is learning from your experiences. Now is the perfect time to do lots of little things. Most of them do not take a great deal of effort, but some of them can do you a great deal of good in the future.

Who are we doing this for? Who do we tell that this has been a success?

There can be several groups or individuals here:

  • The Customer
  • Your employer
  • Your colleagues
  • Yourself!

There is an old English saying (in Yorkshire dialect) which goes:

If ever tha does owt for nowt, make sure tha does it for tha’sen!

(If ever you do anything for nothing, make sure you do it for yourself!)

What should you do we do? (to get the most from our success)

We want to get as much benefit as we can out of the experience we have gained.

Ensure that you respect the “intellectual property rights” and confidentiality of others, but make sure you get something out of the experience.

Here are my suggestions for things to do in the wind-down period of the project or immediately after it finishes. Make sure you have something tangible to take away.

  • Update your CV to include the project you have just completed.
  • If you keep a notebook (you should), then review the sections relating to the project.
  • Update your contacts book. Make sure you connect on LinkedIn or similar with the people you want to remain in contact with.
  • Write a short report (maybe just 1 or 2 pages) to yourself, describing what happened – the good, the bad and the ugly!
  • Create a short presentation describing the project and the key learning points. Maybe produce two versions: the “selling version” and the “warts and all” version. Don’t mix them up!

How do you get started?

This is a surprisingly easy thing to do. All you need is the motivation.

There is often a period at the (or shortly after) the end of a project when you will have spare time and may not be sure what to do. I have given you a short list of small activities, all of which will be beneficial.

Use the list at the completion of your next project!

Review: How was it for you?

Review - How was it for you?
Review – How was it for you?

What is your opinion of someone who keeps on making the same mistake? I expect it is probably not very high. Making mistakes is inevitable, but we should learn from them. Having a “review” is one way we can do this.

Having a review means taking the time to look at what we did and how we did it. We can learn from what we did, and do better the next time.

Review: When, How, What?

Hold your review when something is complete and when it is still fresh in people’s minds.

I prefer “light weight”, “low ceremony” activities. Doing our review that way means we can do it quickly and cheaply.  The simplest way is to ask the people involved – “How was it for you?”

Keep it simple. Make the product of your review a few things you plan to improve the next time, and then put those changes into effect.

The idea of reviewing what you have done fits naturally into the iterative structure of Agile projects, but it can also be applied with Waterfall.

Use reviews to improve your productivity:

A review is intended to help us to: “Do it better next time!” The effort which goes into the review must be repaid by the improvements it causes.

  • Remember to include the different groups involved. If we are talking about a specification or requirements document, include: Business Users, Developers and Testers. The objective is not to find “what went wrong?” but to find a way to “do it better!”
  • Keep it simple. Make the product of your review a few things you plan to improve the next time. Make sure your review has some visible effect. People like to feel they have influenced how things are working. On the other hand, people do not like to be ignored. It is demotivating.

Some of the suggestions from different parties may be contradictory. For example: Some people may want more detail and others want to spend less time producing documentation. This is a challenge to your imagination, creativity and skill at negotiation.

What is the next step?

Adding reviews like this to your process is something you can do in a stealthy way. Start by identifying a work-product which is coming up for completion.

  • Who would you involve in your review?
  • When and how are you going to get hold of them?
  • What specific questions will you ask them?
  • How long will you allow yourself to manage the review so you can incorporate its findings into the next suitable activity?

Good luck! Have fun and tell me how you get on with your reviews.

Focus: Are you paying attention?

Focus on you task
Focus on your task

“Are you paying attention?!”

Do you remember a teacher asking you that when you were at school? The same question can be applied to your project. Almost as important: “are you allowing yourself to pay attention?”

The work of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi suggests that we are at our most productive when we experience a state he calls “Flow”.

What we need for “Flow” and what “Flow” gives us?

“Flow” is also known as “being in the zone”.

There are some requirements for achieving this state:

  • We have to be able to give the task we are working on our full attention – we have to be able to “lose ourselves in our work”.
  • The task has to be within our capabilities.
  • The task must stretch us, but just the right amount.

Csikszentmihalyi  proposes that achieving “Flow” gives us some real benefits:

  • By doing something which is stretching us, in a sense we are being our most productive.
  • The Flow state itself is pleasurable and therefore our work becomes its own reward!

Focus helps us find “Flow” in our work and projects:

The idea of “Flow” has some implications for those of us who manage projects, those who are “workers” and those (like me) who do both.

  • People are most effective when they are allowed to concentrate on one thing. Multi-tasking makes people less efficient.
  • The “Flow state” is fleeting and takes time to achieve. Interruptions and distractions make it harder to achieve.

Both of these have implications for the working environment and project organisation.

  • Work should stretch people.
  • As they get better at performing a task, then they should be assigned progressively more challenging work.

These points mean that the choice of who is performing a task is significant, both for the project and for the person.

Where do you start?

A good place to start is with yourself. Begin by arranging your work so that you create opportunities to focus – to concentrate on one task at a time and experience Flow.

Do this by “time-boxing”. Set aside time specifically for the task and eliminate distractions and interruption. Find a way of doing this which works for you.

Eliminating interruptions need not mean being uncommunicative. Communication works best when you give it your full attention. People appreciate it when they see they are the focus of your attention.

Try it! Focus and go with the flow!

Simple ideas are the best – BA toolkit?

Today I stumbled across a blog post from a year ago where Ron Healy suggests creating a “Temporary Whiteboard” to carry about. The “whiteboard” is created by laminating a sheet of white paper! Sometimes simple ideas really are the best. You can’t get much simpler than that!

Ron suggests having parallel lines on one side which can be used for:

  • multifunction swimlane
  • activity diagram
  • sequence diagram
  • class diagram
  • hierarchical chart
  • system & subsystem diagram

This is such a good idea. As I commented on Ron’s blog – I’m a Business Analyst and I have been been using a daily plan made the same way for years and it didn’t occur to me to extend the idea.

Simple ideas - Laminated Daily Plans
Simple ideas – Laminated Daily Plans

I have two “plans” which I use which you can see in the picture. There is an A5 size one which is punched with two holes so I can have it at the front of an A4 ring binder and an A6 size one which I keep at the front of my Time Manager.

The layout of my plan is based on the forms I used to use in my Time Manager, but I like to remind myself of the “Elephant” and “Frog” tasks I am dealing with at the moment.

Once way in which I differ from Ron is that he uses dry wipe markers. On the other hand, I use a permanent marker and then wipe the plan down with alcohol at the end of the day when I am planning what to do the next day.

More simple ideas: What do you keep in your toolkit?

“Simple ideas” got me thinking about the Business Analysis or BA “toolkit” I carry around with me. For at least some of my working life I needed to use public transport, and that encourages you to carry the minimum you need.

My toolkit contains:

  • Laptop
  • Laminated plan
  • Diary
  • A4 ring binder to contain the current notes
  • Pack of Post-It notes
  • Pack of file cards
  • Foolscap or A4 wallet folder to hold loose bits together
  • A4 spiral bound notebook
  • Whiteboard Markers

What do you keep in your toolkit?