Category Archives: Young Professional

navigating networking

Navigating Networking

Recently at the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance’s 2nd Annual YP Leadership Convergence: Navigating the Career Jungle Gym (#YPLeaderCon) I moderated a panel about networking. This break out session was one among many others, along with some incredible keynote speeches and a great day full of, well networking.

The panelists I interviewed were:

Since we received such great feedback from our session, I wanted to share a few of the key points with you to highlight some of the primary takeaways.

Be authentic and a real person. People can spot a fake pretty easily and know when they’re just being sold. Begin a conversation with cultivating a real connection by being transparent.

Get to know people for who they are, not just their job. Yes, it’s common that the first thing people often ask in a networking setting is, “What do you do?” But you’re allowed, and encouraged, to take a different approach.

The elevator pitch: Yes, you should have one, but know when to use it. When to use the elevator pitch often comes much later in a conversation, and typically when it’s prompted by the other person. You should be able to comfortably speak about who you are and what you do naturally of course, but generally you can keep the elevator pitch in your back pocket.

Add value to others and give back. Every interaction doesn’t always lead to a sale or referral right off the bat. Rather, those often take time (roughly 5-7 touch points on average). If you focus on adding value to others first and going out of your way to help them it’s more likely that will be reciprocated later. That’s not a guarantee that it will. But trust us, just try it and see how well it works out for you.

Be strategic about where you spend your time. We all have a limited amount of time in the day. Be thoughtful and which events you plan to attend in order to get the most value for your precious time. Further, when you do commit to attending an event make sure to bring your best self and be present.

Leverage technology, (i.e. your phone, Outlook, LinkedIn, a CRM system, etc.). It’s pretty much impossible to remember every single person you meet, who you’ve made plans with, or where you met them, among the infinite amount of information we consume each day. Create a system and make sure to use it. If it’s in real time the better. Add their contact info into your phone and send the calendar invite right then and there (when appropriate) to maximize efficiency.

Follow Up! This is by far the most important tip yet so many people fail to do it. As they say, “the fortune is in the follow up”. Try to do so in as timely a fashion as possible to ensure you continue cultivating the relationship.

There are plenty of other networking guidelines to adhere to, what are some of yours?

 

For additional context on the YP Leader Con conference’s theme this year the description was: “The career path for a young professional often looks more like a jungle gym than a corporate ladder. During a full day of learning and exploration, you’ll gain insight from a diverse array of speakers with varied career and leadership paths.” It was a dynamic day packed with incredible content. If you live in, or near Charlotte make sure to sign up for next year’s conference!

Project Management Banner

The Project Lifecycle

 

At its core, project management is about focusing on a plan to execute a series of tasks to accomplish an end goal within a specific constraint. Projects take many different forms and are often defined by having to perform complex tasks under the constraints of limited budget and time. Before diving into the article I suggest that you the reader take the time to go back and look through the WIMS Guide archive to read some of the other insights from myself and my colleagues.

 

I have addressed some matters related to project management and am going to embark on a further process of highlighting my experiences moving through the world as a project manager. Projects can be scary, and this is something which I am aware of and address these myself as I go through my daily life both professionally and personally. Projects do not need to be fretted or feared but should be embraced to tell the stories about your own journey and the strengthens the organizations you are a part of through your career, civic engagements, and volunteer organizations.

 

Getting started with a project

A five part project, lifecycle which was compiled by Villanova University is a good starting place to understand the values of going through a series of steps to complete successful projects. These five distinct phases occur over the life cycle of a project. The ability to see structure through the course of a project and learn about the structure of the project lifecycle is valuable to both the project manager and the entire team who is implementing specific pieces of the project and are not entrenched in the language and specifics of project management.

 

Project Initiation: This serves the starting point for the entire project. Often feasibility and value for the course of the entire project are measured at the on set of the project before any additional planning has commenced. If the project seems feasible and profitable the project manager will move forward with the project and showcase how this specific project fits into the core of current business operations.

 

Project Planning: The project has been given the go ahead and planning is needed to get it up and running. A plan will differ slightly for every project but will often include an outlined schedule, budget, how risk will be addressed, and the scope of the project to outline necessary resources and departments involved in different phases of the project.

 

Project Execution: After the plan has been written the work on the project will be done. The deliverable goods or services will be delivered through a series of deadlines to involved stakeholders and sponsors. Executing a project can only happen by following and updating the project plan as work is accomplished and some tasks are met.

 

Project Monitoring and Control: As tasks and work is completed some deadlines will not be met and adjustments to resources and timing are necessary. The project manager must monitor, document, and control these changes to ensure the project can move forward towards completion.

 

Project Closure: The project will have an end date when it is delivered to the customer. The end of the project should involve communication with the stakeholders across the project and serve as an important closure point for the team members to look back on the time they spent on it. Furthermore, this closure can serve as a celebration to enjoy the successful completion of the project while sharing lessons learned and spending time with some project members for a final time.

 

 

Concluding Thoughts

The steps surrounding the project plan are not rigid steps which need to be followed like financial equations but are guidelines to improve the process and outcome of projects of all sizes. Project Management offers ways to improve scheduling and optimize different tasks across projects for both individuals and teams. Empowerment occurs working through complex projects using a well-developed project plan. It is vital to understand that while projects are difficult the ability to deconstruct them into simpler steps will allow the lifecycle of the project to be completed in an easier and more rewarding manner.

 

Resources

 

“The WIMS Guide.” WIMS Guide. Retrieved from https://www.wimsguide.com/tag/the-wims-guide/.

“Project Management.” WIMS Guide. Retrieved from https://www.wimsguide.com/category/project-management/.

“Project Management.” WIMS Consulting. Retrieved from https://www.wims-consulting.com/project-management.

“Five Phases of the Project Management Lifecycle.” Villanova University. Retrieved from https://www.villanovau.com/resources/project-management/5-phases-project-management-lifecycle/.

Photo by Jo Szczepanska.

Salesforce Heads North

In June 2019 Salesforce announced that it would be purchasing Tableau in a deal worth over $15.7 billion. This deal will allow San Francisco based Salesforce to expand its presence in Seattle creating a second headquarters in Seattle, home of Tableau, like what Seattle-based Amazon did with its HQ2 competition last year. I was in the Seattle area on vacation as the news broke and was able to read local newspapers on this deal from the local perspective which went beyond the financial terms of the agreement.

This deal represents the second largest acquisition in the history of the state of Washington and shows the power of the technology sector in the Pacific Northwest and willingness of companies to expand beyond Silicon Valley (Romano, Seattle Times). With a presence of 1,000 employees already in Seattle, Salesforce is familiar with the business climate in Washington. Moving forward this acquisition is not an outlier and additional companies in the cloud computing space will look to expand their operations and establish additional offices beyond their initial headquarters.

This trend poses the opportunity for companies to benefit from the strengths of different metropolitan areas while also increasing the expectations the residents of these cities have of these companies to become stewards of the community and provide jobs to locals. This deal will change the entire landscape and power dynamics in the CRM and Business Intelligence world. This deal seems to represent a move by Salesforce to invest in research and development through the purchase of Tableau which may signal slowing internal innovation (Moorehead, Forbes). This deal comes after Salesforce paid $300 million to integrate the companies non-profit arm, Salesforce.org, into the companies for-profit side (Salesforce Press Release). This deal will have a substantial impact to the overall company and could create anywhere from $150 to $200 million this Fiscal Year depending on when the deal closes. These strategic changes show how Salesforce is moving beyond CRM and taking the potentially risky decision of incorporating its non-profit wing into its for-profit business. Although Salesforce has been on the leading edge of philanthropic causes with rising housing prices and inequality in the San Francisco Bay area and Seattle areas Salesforce will be held accountable and pushed to create more equitable growth as their operations expand.

Seattle is a city that has long struggled with homelessness and affordable housing. While the city is the thirteenth largest city it has the third largest homeless population. Driving through Seattle and talking with locals on my recent trip to the city I heard and saw homeless camps and the stories of how homelessness and affordability is an issue impacting suburbs across the Seattle area with camps in view of I-5.

While Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff has led his company to be a leader of philanthropic efforts and combating homelessness, he is entering a new arena in Seattle (Romano, Seattle Times). Long a leader in giving back Salesforce pledges 1% of profits, products, and employee time to philanthropic efforts. Marc and Lynne Benioff have signed the Giving Pledge and are leading advocates in the San Francisco area working to combat homelessness. Lynne Benioff cofounded a program in 2011 to provide shelters for families around San Francisco. Tableau also has taken on a philanthropic approach as well and pledged $100 million in grants and technology to global health and equality organizations (Romano, Seattle Times).

This merger has just occurred, but challenges persist moving forward. Benioff says that Tableau will operate independent of Salesforce and affirmed that this is a merger of two equals. This is rarely the case in mergers as power dynamics and even the slightest of differences can cause division between leaders in the merged companies. Time will tell how this deal will be remembered but one thing is certain which is that this will not be the last big software deal of the year.

 

Links

Image from: Romano, Benjamin. “Why Salesforce is shelling out $15.7 billion in stock for Seattle’s Tableau, in one of the NW’s largest acquisitions?” Seattle Times. https://www.seattletimes.com/business/technology/salesforce-buying-seattle-based-tableau-for-15-7-billion-in-stock-one-of-the-northwests-largest-acquisitions/.

 

Moorehead, Patrick. “Salesforce.com’s Tableau Acquisition: Admitting Organic Innovation Failure?” Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/patrickmoorhead/2019/06/18/salesforces-tableau-acquisition-admitting-organic-innovation-failure/.

 

Salesforce Press Releases. “Salesforce and Salesforce.org Combine to Drive Greater Philanthropic Impact and Success for Social Good Organizations.” https://investor.salesforce.com/press-releases/press-release-details/2019/Salesforce-and-Salesforceorg-Combine-to-Drive-Greater-Philanthropic-Impact-and-Success-for-Social-Good-Organizations/default.aspx.

Cost Benefit of Being a Student Athlete

The Cost/Benefit of Being a Student Athlete by Evan Shirreffs

Picture walking out of your dorm room at 5am on a Friday morning with a jug of water in one hand and a granola bar in the other. With sleep still in your eyes you’re wondering, “what will the workout be like today? Intense conditioning or a grueling squat day?”

Then, as you reach the door to the parking lot, you encounter a few students stumbling around, standing in their outfits from the evening before. One of them lost their student ID at some point during the night in between shots of liquor and their failed attempt at chasing after that one cute girl from Calculus class. Lucky for them, here you come to the rescue before they pass out in the bushes.

During my first few weeks on campus as a football player at the University of Miami, this moment put into perspective what the following few years would encompass.

Sooner or later, every student-athlete has experienced a similar moment that made them realize the depths of dedication it takes to play a sport in college. To say it is a job is honestly an understatement. Do not even get me started with compensation, but the pure will it even takes to commit to such a rigorous lifestyle is much more demanding than any job could ever be, and that’s coupled with much less reward.

What job is so physically taxing that by the end of an early morning lift session, you need to take a nap before most of your colleagues are even awake? What job gives you twice as much “optional” work as mandatory work, yet expects all of it to still get done despite the repeated statements that, “school comes before football?” If this was truly the case, then why would my only free time to study be after hours in the library with the thought of that early morning practice distracting my efforts to learn the importance of a balance sheet, or developing a business model for a business world that I have only heard of in theory and not yet experienced?

Learning class material was never the issue for me. It’s a bit easier to go into an exam with a general concept of what will be on it, and BS an answer that will satisfy your professor. If you BS your preparation for football however, you will be exposed by your opponent. And he will let you know about it before you even get to the sideline to get ripped by your coaches and teammates as well. As a quarterback, I need to know everything that all the other ten guys on the field are doing. The amount of focus it takes to go through hours of daily practice, meetings, and film is something that is quite difficult to understand until you must do it. No other position is like that; few positions in business are like that either.

Yet with all the challenges involved, the cool thing about committing to something like this lifestyle is the absence of regret, and the feeling of satisfaction that comes from doing everything in your power to succeed, even if the venture results in failure. In a society so focused on perfection, it is hard to see the value in failure. Football has taught me that success is never possible without failure.

I have lost battles for starting jobs, had coaches that did not believe in my style of play, I missed games because of injuries, not performed when my number was called, but none of that is what defines me. Failure not only showed me that I was not as badass as I thought by beating me down during some of the toughest moments of my life, but it gave me the opportunity to overcome obstacles during those times that makes success so much sweeter.

Failure gives you the chance to learn how to respond when things are not going your way. It humbles you when you most need it. This has been the single most impactful lesson learned from football. When you accept that the outcome you are working so hard for may not be attainable, you learn to fall in love with the grind and process of even giving yourself the opportunity to reach the result you are striving for.

As I sit behind my computer screen gathering my thoughts on my final collegiate football season to come, and my eventual “transfer” into the real world of business, I cannot help but smile at the opportunities ahead. I have no idea what the future holds, but I know that nothing I face in life will be as hard as the days of being a student-athlete. I understand that there is so much to still be learned, but there is no doubt in my mind that I will be successful in whatever career path I take. In all honesty, I just fear not finding that one thing in the real world that I am as passionate about as football. But I know that when I find it, I will make a difference in this world.

-Evan Shirreffs

What is 10X Tom Schaefer Jr.

What is 10X?

If you’re an entrepreneur, a sales professional, work within your city’s start-up ecosystem, or are a follower of one of the dozens of personal/professional growth coaches, chances are you’ve seen or heard of “10X”.  This has become a hot term in the last half-decade, and I wanted to break down my interpretation of what this means, and how it’s meant to be applied to your efforts.  It started as a way to describe the “best” engineers who are 10 times as productive as their “worst” counterparts in the field of software development.  The term has been appropriated, perhaps most famously by Grant Cardone in his book “The 10X Rule”, as an understanding of the levels of effort and thinking required to break out of the average results and truly succeed.

The first component in The 10X Rule (get it here free, just pay shipping) takes a closer look at how we think about success, and how we set goals.  While we’re taught “slow and steady wins the race”, this puts our mindset in a place where average is OK.  However, average is a sliding scale.  If everyone is struggling, your struggles are justified.  We set smaller “realistic” goals, limiting our belief in what is possible.  I believe this way of thinking is rooted in the fear of failure, so we celebrate even the smallest victories.  Failure is necessary for growth.  As we fail, we learn what doesn’t work and improve our efforts for the next attempt.  Welcome failure, set audacious goals that are “10X” what you originally thought possible.  10 new clients a month instead of 1.  Raise $1 million for your start up instead of $100K.  Thinking in these magnitudes, even a “failure” of getting 3 new clients or raising $200K is still better than the original goals.

Now thinking at a higher level than before is great, but making them happen can seem daunting.  This is where the second part kicks in, and understanding the order of magnitude of your actions comes into play.  Break down what it takes to reach your goal.  Does it take 5 meetings to get that 1 client?  Schedule 50.  Does it take 10 calls to get 5 meetings?  Make 100 calls.  Don’t have 100 people to call?  Start building your network by sharing what you do with others and ask them if they know anyone that fits your ideal client profile (ICP).  Start somewhere and create the activity to get to the next step.

“But Tom, I’m a solopreneur and I’m already working 60 hour weeks, I can’t possibly work 600 hours a week, it’s impossible.”  or “Those numbers aren’t realistic, in my industry a 20% growth is considered a huge margin.”  Excuses are a justification of our fears.  We stay in a comfort zone to avoid failure.  Well a solopreneur can leverage tools like CRM to manage a sales and marketing strategy, making scalability much more attainable. A strong digital marketing campaign can grow an audience 100 times what was previously done with more traditional methods at a fraction of the price (and often at no cost at all).  The fear of failure is stopping more people from succeeding than the actual failures ever will.  Stop thinking small and start doing, because nothing ever happens overnight, and every great journey begins with a single step.

If you enjoyed reading this article, let us know in the comments below and remember to sign up for our newsletter via the form below.

Pineapple Consulting

WIMS Client Spotlight: Pineapple Consulting

Pineapple Consulting Firm was created with only one goal: to help small businesses succeed. It helps how synergistic that is with WIMS Consulting, as not only is there a client relationship, but it really fits our model of creating partnerships too.

While Pineapple is eager to help however they can, they have a particular specialization centered around analytics and efficiency. Specifically, they are wizards when it comes to Excel, spreadsheets, lead generation, and project management (something we’re really interested in helping businesses with right now at WIMS Consulting too).

Their service offerings include:

  • Data Analytics
    • Inform decisions and strategies for the best results.
    • Data gathering, manipulation, and visualization with expertise in Excel.
  • Financial Analysis
    • Cost benefit analysis, Financial modelling and projections all in customizable Excel tools.
  • Project Management
    • Lead a project from idea development all the way to post-execution monitoring.
  • Lead Generation/Data Scraping
    • Extract leads and data from online and present it in easily manageable files.

They work with a wide variety of industries, but have a niche surrounding professional service firms. Pineapple’s founder has an extensive background in the financial services and wealth management industry. However they also work with startups of all sizes, accounting, banking, insurance, real estate, non-profits, and health care among others.

The company is based in Charlotte, NC but of course is able to work with clients from throughout the country.

Click here to check out their website and let them know that I sent you!

2019 Small Business Week

 

 

This week, May 5th to May 11th, 2019, is National Small Business Week, which is a great time to think about the importance of small businesses in our economy. In addition to this piece I would also direct you to my colleague Michael Simmons piece on 2019 Small Business Week which is filled with valuable Small Business Resources. In this post I will be looking into the data behind small businesses in America and tackle some of the FAQ’s about small businesses. During this week small business owners and their employees are celebrated for their contributions to the economy, society, and their local community. The value of these companies goes well beyond the economic impact they provide as they contribute to the culture and identity of local communities.

 

Small Business Data

 

Small businesses across America serve as the engine steering economic growth of the economy in general. The Small Business Association’s Office of Advocacy has complied data and answers to common asked questions about small businesses. There are over 29.6 million small businesses in America and these organizations create many jobs in all corners of the nation. The impact of these small businesses account for 63% of net new private-sector jobs created and in total account for 59 million jobs which is almost half of all jobs across the nation (47.5%). These figures are impressive and show the scope and volume of economic activity provided by small businesses.

 

Small Business FAQs

 

What is the composition of small businesses in the US?

The role of small businesses is felt across the US economy and contributes to the economy in different ways. Most of the small businesses are nonemployer firms, in total these firms account for 80% of small business and number around 24.3 million of the 30.2 million businesses while the other 20% of small businesses, around 5.9 million total businesses have paid employees.

 

How do these small businesses fit into the wider economy?

Some of the stats regarding the importance of small businesses to the greater economy are very impressive and show how the greater economy would greatly suffer. This includes the 40.8% of all private-sector payrolls paid by small business and 32.9% of known export value amounting to $440 billion of the total $1.3 trillion in export value. These figures show the value that small businesses create and highlight how the resilient business leaders across America and beyond generate economic growth through the power of exports.

 

What is the survival rate of small businesses?

The one-year survival rate of businesses started in 2016 was 79.8%, the most recent data available meaning that almost 4 in 5 businesses survive their first year. The five-year survival rate has differed over the past decade with firms started in 2006 and weathering through the great recession have a 45.4% rate of still being in operation after five years. Companies established in 2011 as the economic recovery was into effect had a five-year survival rate of 51% showing how external macroeconomic factors also have an impact on the survival rate of a small business.

 

Small Business Week Actions

 

Everyone can take some small steps to support small businesses both this week and throughout the year. Buying from small businesses when possible is one way to support them and offers the opportunity to learn about the business owner and their employees. From here a connect and relationship can be formed with the business and then the business can become a part of your routine. In addition to becoming a customer of different small businesses people can lobby local and national politicians to support legislation that is favorable for small business growth. One of the simplest ways to help small business owners is to thank them for what they are doing and provide validation that they are making a meaningful impact on the community.

 

Sources

 

National Small Business Week. SBA. U.S. Small Business Administration. https://www.sba.gov/national-small-business-week.

SBA Office of Advocacy. Frequently Asked Questions, August 2018. https://www.sba.gov/sites/default/files/advocacy/Frequently-Asked-Questions-Small-Business-2018.pdf.

Simmons, Michael. “WIMS Celebrates National Small Business Week 2019!” WIMS Guide. https://www.wimsguide.com/tag/small-business-week/.

 

Project Management in Perspective: The Panama Canal

 

Project Management in Action

 

Earlier this month I had the pleasure of volunteering at a meaningful event held by PMI (Project Management Institute) Metrolina Chapter for members of the military who are about to transition into civilian life. The 3rd Annual Veterans Transition & Skillfest Event serves as outreach to military personnel from the Fayetteville area interested in learning about career paths and certifications in project management.

 

This is a great event which provides networking and education to military members who are about to transition into civilian life. This event also centered on some of the connections between the military and project management including a look at some of the historic additions made to the project management world by the military. One of the most significant lasting contributions from the military world on project management was the construction of the Panama Canal, which was a decades long project that including death, corruption, innovation, uncertainty, and finally triumph.

 

 

Historical Foundation of Project Management

 

The discussion of the Panama Canal project and other important historical projects including the D-Day Invasion was a central theme of the keynote speech given by Jay Hicks. Hicks is a Florida based author of a series of books on military transition including The Transitioning Military Project Manager. The aspect of his presentation which I found most meaningful was centered on the historic relationship between planning effective projects and the military.

I believe looking to the past is a good way in understanding the underlying values of a topic. This is true in project management which is used across industries and has a foundation in the US Military. To understand the value that project management can add to an organization understanding from past projects and noting lessons learned from these past projects is one of the best ways to enhance project management terms.

 

This can be used by those looking to get started in the project management field, amateur historians interested in learning more about history, and those interested in gaining a better understanding about geopolitics. I am interested in all of the above areas so the chance to write and share some of this history is something I find to be intellectually delightful. So, let’s venture to the Isthmus of Panama and see how the improbable connection of the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean forever changed the world.

 

 

A Complex Project

 

The military undertook some of the most complex projects of the 20th century under the leadership of effective project planning and effective execution. Of all these projects the Panama Canal project which was completed under the direction of the Army Corp of Engineers stands as one of the most important.

 

 

The Panama Canal and Project Management

 

The most significant contribution to the world of project management from the Panama Canal project was the construction of the first work breakdown structure (WBS). This is a concept that is central to the core of operating and maintaining projects under budgetary and time constraints.  In the century since this project, practitioners around the world have implemented WBS into projects across the world to deconstruct the cost and schedule of a project into manageable pieces to best accomplish the project. By reframing the project into many pieces which need to be accomplished to reach the final goal the schedule of the project can better be handled, and the cost structure become more manageable. Over a century after the project began the WBS is still a major tenant of project management across industries showing the value that this adds to constructing and operating efficient projects.

 

 

The French Experiment

 

The French undertook the first attempt at constructing a canal across the Isthmus in the 1880s and was highlighted by corruption and ineffective project execution. The rampant spread of illness was a main factor behind the reason that the project was forced to be abandoned. In addition to this corruption, poor execution led to the halting of construction in 1889. The human cost of this ineffectiveness was massive with over 20,000 deaths. While the main factor behind the failed project was illness it was exacerbated by poor management. Although few projects will fail this spectacularly the understanding that projects often fail because of a range of factors which are made worse by ineffective leadership. The takeaway from this is that understanding that poor leadership is never the singular cause of a failure but can make shortcoming become more extreme and can lead to setting up a project for failure from the beginning.

 

 

The American Experiment

 

The history of this project tells a compelling story about a project on a massive scale which provided many technological innovations and helped propel the US onto a platform as a world leader during the 20th century. It is hard to believe but through the early 20th century the US was still seen as a minor player on the global stage with a few colonial holdings. By constructing the canal, the US was able to stand out as the undoubted leader of the western hemisphere and allow the US to shape the politics and international relations of a complex century.

 

By the time of the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt the ideas of constructing some type of canal across Central America dated back hundreds of years. The initial thoughts of construction on a canal began during the Colonial period of the 1600s and marked one of the first global projects undertaken by the US. This period was historically important as the US expanded onto the global stage during this era and the construction of the Panama Canal proved the leadership and effectiveness of American execptionalism. The success of the project centered on the ability to shift and build off the failures of the French project.

 

The first year of construction by the Americans appeared like the French project with high turnover rates and major financial losses. Eventually, the arrival of a new chief engineer, John Stevens led to a unique approach to the construction by not building but by building up the surrounding infrastructure of the construction zone beginning with eradicating the diseases which were so rampant. This major undertaking occurred by bringing in Dr. William Gargas who had previously worked to eradicate yellow fever in Cuba.

 

 

Creating Infrastructure

 

By spraying chemicals in the Panamanian jungle, the threat of diseases from mosquitoes was mitigated allowing for the work to begin on the supplemental infrastructure needed to complete the construction of the canal. Towns grew from the jungle as swamps were drained and critical infrastructure was completed. By breaking the project into manageable steps, the scope of the project grew from merely building a canal to limiting the factors which caused illness and creating the infrastructure needed for success. By repositioning what work was necessary to be undertaken the Panama Canal was able to be completed. This success shows the importance of planning for the intermediate steps and understanding that changes in the project will strengthen end results and overall efficiency of the project.

 

To understand the impressive feat the Americans accomplished by finishing this project it is important to examine the long and complex history surrounding the construction of a canal. A good place to take a further look is the attempt by the French to construct a canal decades before the Americans undertook a similar plan. This endeavor provides an example of the complexities of building a canal and some common themes that stand in the way of effectively executing a project to completion including rampant corruption.

 

 

Final Thoughts

 

With such a strong history the military and project management have gone hand in hand for generations. Long before the corporate world adopted project management the military was utilizing complex projects under quasi project management offices from the Army Corp of Engineers as they constructed the Panama Canal during the early 20th century. The addition of the work breakdown structure (WBS) allowed this complex construction project to be deconstructed into a series of manageable tasks along the course of the project.

 

The completion of the Panama Canal stands as one of the greatest engineering accomplishments of all times. Combine this with the timing of the completion of the project as the US ascent on the international stage highlights the value that effective project management had in this historic event.  The opening of the canal was overshadowed by World War I and the spread of conflict in Europe. The completion of the Panama Canal meant that the Americans had made the steps to enter the top of the world stage influencing geopolitics and forever altering Central America.

Strengthening Project Management

 

In the current business world competition and adding value to your current operation is becoming increasingly important. Every organization needs to address and strategize how to attract and sustain top talent. The specifics differ from company to company and often depend on location and the necessary skill set to accomplish a specific task. Some challenges stand in the way of companies as they attempt to grow their company with a talented and engaged workforce. Staffing and operating strong project portfolios go hand in hand and should be thought of as ways to improve the efficiency of both specific projects and the entire organization.

 

Good organizations understand that to stand out resources and focus should be placed on finding people to fit roles. Looking outside your organization as well as within can assist in understanding and using human resources and project management to establish a company culture. Getting the right personnel can help improve solutions and reduce friction among current team members. Collaboration should be viewed from the perspective of bringing in new team members.

 

To grow, companies need to address how to maintain a competitive edge in their industry while growing internally. Some hurdles stand in the way of growing and sustaining a workforce which can handle projects and helps your organization grow.

 

The focus is placed on creating effective and simple project proposals for existing external projects while building up internal systems. Quickly it becomes evident that this would be a valuable investment which would provide an additional service line. Many organizations are in the same spot as WIMS in need of investing internally to increase the effectiveness of existing operations while making plans to expand into new business opportunities. This can be difficult, and close to impossible, without a developed internal project system which allows for maximizing the value of your team while fulfilling growth and expansion into new projects.

 

The project manager must document the steps across the project lifecycle and create an environment where every team member actively documents work and changes to the project. There should be a standard procedure for documenting the project which should be communicated up front and allow for input from workers. The project manager needs to ensure that accurate progress is being communicated. Communication is critical across the entire team and when the chain of communication is well constructed with multiple ways to raise questions and provide insights the entire team can focus on issues that need the most attention. Communication can help build trust across the entire team and allow for the specific focus areas of the team to be given more attention and be build up for sustained success.

 

The time to invest in project management solutions is now. If your organization already has a project management system in place the system should constantly be evaluated and additional improvements should be made when necessary. Planning to improve project planning poses the opportunity to create a project itself which can be used as a learning experience to incorporate new ideas. Every additional opportunity to expand projects provides the chance for members of the entire team to gain meaningful hands on practice across the development of projects.

 

Creating the final projects and tasks around all of us are truly unique with many complex aspects. A project involves many internal and external stakeholders who must be in constant communication. With many complex parts and changes the need to have a robust team which can deal with the changes that arise across the project is necessary. Taking the time to invest heavily in project planning will allow for the best-case scenario for reacting to unexpected changes. By having a developed and strategic project management system in place, organizations can better handle existing projects while also bringing in new work and expanding the project portfolio.

 

March Madness and Project Management

 

Every March around the country the attention of the sports world turns to basketball. March Madness has provided some of the most memorable moments in the world of sports including NC State coach Jim Valvano celebrating on the court with his team after upsetting the favored University of Houston to win a national championship. On Thursday the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament continues with the Sweet Sixteen vying for a spot in the Elite Eight and finally the opportunity to compete in Minneapolis for an opportunity to play in the Final Four and cut down the nets as National Champions.

 

The stars of the tournament stand out through last minute buzzer beaters and crazy blocked shots. While the results and performance on the court will stand out and be remembered, decisions which shaped the teams in the tournament are varied and years in the making. A complex series of decisions must be by the staff. Coaches must make their recruiting class strong to complete their roster for game day decisions. Once players are with the staff must decide how to use players in the most effective ways with their different skill sets.

 

 

Beyond the impressive baskets which live on in highlight reels are a series of complex decisions that shape the core of the team involving which players are on the court during important times. The major actions which set up great stat lines include conditioning and focusing on making the simple actions stand out.

 

Before any major on the court play can occur the structures and support need to be in place to ensure players can play at the highest level. Great coaches can create situations where good players become great players and average players become good overperforming what many would expect of them.

 

Sports provides valuable insights and life lessons which is much greater than the outcome of a game including how to manage a team, how to play beyond your resources, and a great opportunity for young people to gain leadership skills. Many skills from the sports world mirror difficult situations in business including dealing with adversity, working together on projects managed by a holistic team, and accomplishing tasks above and beyond expectations. Coaches and players need to work together to accomplish little goals in order to strengthen their team and to stand out and win. These ideas can be transformed from the court and into the business world with practice and understanding, by focusing on the small goals a much better final product can be produced.

 

While the big games pop up on your tv screen this weekend keep in mind how many little decisions made the teams who they are. If sports can teach you one thing it is to focus on the simple things and acknowledge what you do right in order to improve your overall work. Everyone can learn and improve by focusing on the simple things and staying on target and staying focused.  Mapping out a series of steps to accomplish your goals, reward yourself and your team for accomplishing steps, and constantly seeking feedback is the way to construct a successful basketball team as well as improving projects within your own professional and personal life.