How to capture lessons learned (plus a free template!)

Mistakes happen in every project. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying to your face, which is rude. However, accepting mistakes as a part of life does not mean we all get a free pass to make the same ones over and over again. That would be dumb – and we’re not dumb. While it’s helpful to catalog our personal mistakes and lessons they taught you, there’s tremendous value in capturing those of our teammates, as well. That way, we don’t all have to slip on the same banana peel before someone gets up and throws it in the trash (not my best analogy, but you get the point). Here are some tips – and a free template – for capturing lessons learned as a team.   

In ITSM, Leadership, Project Management

Falling 'Sideways' into Love, or How I Went from Bean Counter to IT Consultant in 20 Short Years

Not surprisingly, some of our best ideas for blog articles come from students in our
training classes and from consulting clients.  A few short weeks ago when I was teaching an ITIL Foundations class in Fairfax, Virginia, a student shared his professional background with me and asked for a little career advice.  Let’s call him George.

In ITSM, Process Improvement, ITSM Consulting, Leadership

Turning Strategy into Action: 4 Simple Steps

Too often, leadership goes off-site, discusses their goals for the year, and comes down the mountain with the stone tablets engraved with annual strategy. At least that’s how it looks to those who work for them. Either way, the best strategy in the world is no use if it never turns into action. “If we build it, they will come” does not apply in this case. Yet, too many organizations spend lots of time and effort trying to the get the strategy part “right” and don’t spend enough time on action. We create something that looks and sounds great. We might even put together a catchy tagline or mantra for teams to repeat - and if we’re feeling super fancy, have marketing draw up some supporting graphics.  

Et voilà!  Mission accomplished.  End of post.

Just kidding.

In Leadership, IT Governance

15 Simple Habits That Will Improve Your Career in 2017

With 2016 (finally!) behind us, it’s time to start thinking about what we want out of 2017. While getting you to the gym may not be our advice wheelhouse, we can certainly help you move the needle on your professional goals. Whether you’re looking to change careers, grab that promotion, or find more joy in your current position, these simple habits will help you get there. Keep in mind, our greatest successes often begin with small changes practiced consistently over time.

Below are 15 simple habits that have had a positive impact in my career, and I hope will be helpful to you. Take a quick read through the list, choose and idea or two, and add them to your weekly routine. Try out the new habits for 30 days then jot down any benefits you received. I’m betting you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the results.

1. Write unsolicited recommendations on LinkedIn. Free to give, this gift goes a long way toward reinforcing existing professional relationships.
More on that here .

2. Join Toastmasters. This organization will help you become a confident, skilled presenter – and think more quickly on your feet. Investing in your presentation skills is always a good use of your time.

3. Volunteer for a local professional organization. Giving your time in this way not only helps those around you, but also strengthens and expands your own skills.

4. Become a speaker. Sign up to present on a topic on which you have expertise (this could be at school, church, work, the professional organization you immediately joined after reading the previous tip – anywhere, really).

5. Attend a new networking event. Get out there and try a few new things this year. Meeting interesting people is a great way to do it.

6. Get training on something new. Never stop expanding that skill set of yours. Need some ideas? We can help you with that .

7. Answer questions on Quora. This is a good way to share knowledge and improve your writing skills.

8. Write an article (or three!) on LinkedIn. Yet another way to get your knowledge out into the world (you may be noticing a theme here).

9. Host a dinner at your house with people you’d like to get to know better. Develop deeper friendships with colleagues by literally breaking bread- and maybe even sharing a glass (or three) of wine - with them.

10. Introduce two professional contacts who would benefit from knowing one another. People will love you forever for helping them meet new, cool people.

11. Read a book on building relationships. The saying is true - it really does come down to who you who you know. Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty by Harvey MacKay, Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi, and The Fine Art of Small Talk by Debra Fine come highly recommended by yours truly.

12. Go to lunch with someone from another department. You’ll learn some fascinating stuff – maybe even creative, unexpected ways to collaborate - when you reach out to people in different areas of your organization.

13. Read the business book that’s been on your list forever. If you’re feeling especially inspired, you could even start a business book club.

14. Take the Strengths Finder 2.0 quiz. The survey at the back of the book will not only uncover your unique strengths, but give you ideas for developing them.

15. Email or call people you haven’t talked to in awhile and ask how they’re doing. A simple “How are you doing these days? What’s new?” will suffice. We tend to forget to reach out to the folks we already know. Our lives are always changing – checking in is a good way to remind people you care.

Happy 2017 to you all. May it be your most productive year yet!
In Leadership

Trying to Get People in Your Organization to Change? Focus on These Two Things.

Just like in our personal lives, we are constantly trying (and failing) to get people to change at work. We manage up, sideways, and any which way we can, yet we often get nowhere. Should this really surprise us, though? I have a hard enough time getting myself and my family to change -  why would it be any different when asking dozens, hundreds, thousands, or more to do the same? In working with organizations both large and small, I’ve seen very few companies find success in getting people to change. In the successful cases, however, I noticed two common themes. Take them, run with them, and help yourself and others begin to change.

NOTE: If you're looking for insight into a more formal Change Management process, this is not the article for you.
Head on over here for that.

Don’t overcomplicate the matter.

When we ask people to change, we sometimes overwhelm them by overcomplicating the matter. Take the analogy of getting in shape: At some point, something we see in the mirror finally makes us say, “Enough is enough, self! I’m going to change.” You then proceed, if you’re anything like me, to attempt fixing everything at once. “I have to work out 100 times a week, only eat farm fresh fruits and vegetables, and give up caffeine!” Then roughly five minutes into the day you’re exhausted and kicking yourself. Don’t do this. Instead, pick one thing you will either start doing or stop doing. Keep it simple. If you can’t explain it in a short sentence, you’re making it too complicated.

Keith Ferrazzi (of whom I’m a not-small fan) has a piece in the Harvard Business Review that I absolutely love about making small changes for a big impact. In the piece, titled  Managing Change, One Day at a Time, he uses himself as an example by making a simple change to his daily routine: He stopped putting cream and sugar in his coffee each morning. That one seemingly small change in behavior caused him to make better decisions around his diet the remainder of the day. This exact same idea holds true at work.

Pick a simple change you would like people in your organization to adopt. Think of it as an easy lever that can move something really large. Maybe for your organization it’s the fact that folks don’t share their knowledge . In that case, a simple message like this can do the trick: “Hey people, if you find you’re doing things more than once, take a minute, write it down (or even better, record a quick video – tools like Camtasia rule for stuff like this), and get some of that knowledge out of your head. That way, you won’t have to keep answering the same questions, and you’ll contribute to the knowledge of the organization.” You can further simplify the message to something like, “Goal: Create one piece of knowledge each week.” Do make sure to communicate the why this is super important for yourselves and others in your message. Also, don’t forget to reward people like crazy when they do what you ask of them. Everyone loves an “‘Atta human!” every once and again.

Deliver your message 1,000 times. Then 400 more times.

So, you’ve got the one simple and amazing thing you want people to do? Great! Now, go forth and communicate it constantly and creatively. After you’ve done that, communicate it in 50 more creative, unexpected ways. Depending on your company culture, something like jumping out from behind potted plants with your message may or may not be appropriate. That particular approach has worked like a charm at BEYOND20, by the way. We’re a weird bunch.

Each of us is bombarded with a monsoon of emails and ads from sun-up to sundown every day. This monsoon - comprised of things like meetings, deadlines, cat videos, etc. - is now competition for your Simple And Amazing Thing You’re Now Doing, or SAATYND (catchy, no?). You’ve gotta get ahead of the noise and present your idea in a memorable, attention-grabbing, fun way.

Most organizations aren’t great at this. Something I encounter far too often when conducting on-site training or strategic planning, for example, is the following conversation:

Me : So, is your organization doing X?
90% of people in the room: Nope.
10% of people in the room: Tell me you’re kidding. How do you not know we do that? We’ve been doing it for the past year.

Leaders who observe interactions like these are always shocked by how few people in their organization don’t have a clue about some SAATYNDs. Usually, this gap in knowledge forms when the SAATYND was communicated once, lost to the deluge of other very important things folks have to get done. This scenario can also play out when word of the SAATYND isn’t consistently spread to new employees as they come on board. We tend to make the assumption that everyone knows the SAATYND, but the harsh reality is that they do not. Either way, the best thing you can do is assume someone, somewhere in your company doesn’t know about the SAATYND and take it upon yourself to ensure they get the message. Make it simple, make it consistent, and make it stand out.

Remember, no one will do the SAATYND if they don’t know the SAATYND exists. So, like they teach in Sunday school, don’t hide your light under a bush (oh, no!). Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

Need help getting your teams, departments, and/or organization to change?  Request a free, 30-minute consultation with one of our experts here.
In Leadership, Change Management

A Note on Service - and Servant Leadership

I have spent the better part of my adult life working in Service Management.  Whether it was office automation or IT, my career path has always been one of support for the business.  When I transitioned from managing a team of administrative professionals in the legal field into IT, I thought I was making a huge course correction.  Ironically, my new path was just a shiny, technology-driven side step. Days went from preparing hundreds of pages of legal briefs and colorful PowerPoint® presentations to modifying server configurations and troubleshooting e-mail.  But it was all in the interest of keeping the business moving forward.

In Leadership

Don't Give Advice, Tell A Story

The next time someone tells you about a problem they’re having, avoid the temptation to give them advice – “You really should do [this].” Sometimes people aren’t looking for a solution at all, and if they are looking for answers, telling people what to do – as counter-intuitive as it may seem – is not the best way to change behavior. Rather, tell them a story about a time you made a similar mistake and what you learned from it.

In Leadership

Are You Sharing YOUR Knowledge With Others?

Many of us, as project managers, are champions of process improvement and organizational maturity. We look for ways to get those around us to document their knowledge for the good of the organization and team. However, most of us are guilty of keeping our own knowledge in our heads. We do this to the detriment of our teams, companies, and even our own careers.

In Leadership