Focus more on others and get immediate success

 

Team Management

I have recently bought and read a management book by Patrick Lencioni (“Thriller psychologique pour manager autrement” Edition d’Organisation): this short roman (120 pages), really easy to read, explains what are the 5 main temptations a CEO (or a team manager) must absolutely avoid to succeed. Below an attempt to summarise main ideas from the book: temptations 1 to 5…

  1. Status. Forget on your own career path. Step back and try to focus again on results. This situation may happen when you have reached the “dreamed” position you were looking for since many years in the company. As a manager you have responsibilities versus the organization (customers, stakeholders and colleagues) and also versus your team. Be convince that, by focusing on result, your own position will positively evolved.
  2. Popularity. Hold people accountable for their work even if it may turn you unpopular. Each team member must be conscious of his own responsibility versus others members and act accordingly. Removing responsibility from one colleague’s shoulder is not a good long term bet. Everybody must be aware and assume its part of the job.
  3. Certainty. Be clear and direct. Start bu explaining game rules to your team. As a manager your role is to take decisions and accept that you might not have all necessary information on your hands. Do not wait for the perfect moment. Take risks and accept failure. Your role as a manager is also to organise the team rules: when and how often will we meet all together ? Who will prepare and drive this meeting, how long will it last and what is the process for decision making ? Etc… Share, explain and adapt if necessary your team working template / best practises.
  4. Harmony. As a manager you must accept conflicts into your team. Constructive conflict of course…Your team members should be able to explain their perspective and defend their point of view on every subject. First aim is to avoid any hidden issue on the topic discussed. Second is to reach a common understanding and acceptance of the decision. Don’t let anybody on side as it brings to frustration and discouragement.
  5. Invulnerability. Let you ego on the back court. Accept to be criticised and to fail. By officially recognising failure, manager will prove that he’s not different from his team. Everybody can fail and above that we should fail fast in order to learn from it, to be better on the next try.

All this is quite logical and seems not so hard to apply, isn’t it ? Just take others as they are, accept to have equal to equal human relationship, give and receive trust, be open-minded, take time to discover what are your people’s dreams, what do they like do work on, etc… Manage people first by understanding their wishes and try to give them opportunity to feel happy and comfortable in their job.

Project Management

Now let try to step back on that and look at the most basic task into a company: project management. And let start with a series of “basics” :

  • people hate doing boring things – administrative tasks, repetitive actions, etc… (*)
  • people are bad at forecasting the future. See recent pooling research institute misfortune…
  • taking a decision into a team can be quite complex. It needs clarity on objectives, rules, organization and team leadership. See beginning of this article…
  • the biggest the team is and the wildest the decision making will be. Therefore it should be a great idea to cut down teams into small groups from 7 to 10 persons max. This simple logic must be applied for projects management, maintenance and even companies executive committees
  • It is really difficult to stop a derivative / drifting project “on time”. The more the company invest into a project and the more it is difficult to cut it, even if all evidences are there. Simply because nobody wants to be the one who has decided to throw a couple of millions euros directly into the trash (see temptation 2 above…). These unrecoverable expenses are called the sunk costs.
  • World is moving so fast that what is true today can be false in less than one year. Whatever the situation or project context. Business is a complex and moving area with multiple dimensions.

Obvious isn’t it ? So starting from these evidences, how a company can manage to be efficient in project management ?

All consultants will answer in chorus: Agility. Note that this is presented as a method nor a tool but more like a brunch of best practices. Quite logic if you accept our last assumption above: things are changing fast and the business environment is a chaos. No way to create a tool in that context. So the message is: here are behaviors we have tested on many company and globally if you follow our advises you have more chance to succeed than if you continue working on the old way…

Agility concept exists on computer science since more than 10 years now. And has proven that it could be very efficient. What is new today is that this concept start to spread out in all company services. On IT side one of the best-known “method” is SCRUM. This concept can be adapted and completed with others best practices like Lean Management, Kanban or Six Sigma. Of course these methods are slightly different – better for monetizing them 🙂 – but basics are still the same:

  • work with small teams – 7 to 10
  • define a leader into the team who will be in charge of facilitating others team members work (material constraints, management issue…). Purpose is to facilitate the workflow agreed between members, eliminate waste, improve team or process efficiency, etc…
  • meet 5 to 10 minutes (max) on a daily basis. Whole team and customer are always invited and welcomed. Meeting frequently is really important as it forces the development team and its customer to share information, changes and get confident on each others.
  • to deliver Minimum Viable Product on every stages – which last from one week to two weeks maximum. Very important to always stay in the market, align with real life needs.
  • to use visual tool to share the work in progress, issues, remaining task, prioritization, etc… Think about white board (or walls) with few columns and lot of Post-Its… Using that visual communication is really important as it’ll help creating the team – being part of the same group with same objectives – and of course informed all others teams of the current situation. Are we online with our schedule ? When will you have finish this part ? Etc…

Conclusion

Being a leader means many things: build and maintain trust and solidarity between team members, share freely all information and clarify common objectives, protect your team, ease their work, recall responsibilities, communicate and learn from your success and failure, etc…

Managing is project is simply creating conditions to have all individuals working for the same purpose and target.

I would summarize all that in: as a leader and/or project manager start taking care of your people as soon as possible.

(*) these ones will certainly be quickly replaced by robots and/or artificial intelligence based tools. Have a look at this recent article for reference: http://www.lemonde.fr/pixels/article/2016/05/27/une-intelligence-artificielle-fait-son-entree-dans-un-cabinet-d-avocats_4927806_4408996.html

3D Printing: market overview and analysis

 

Note from author: I’m far from being an expert on 3D Printing. I’m just quite interested in that field and periodically take time to stay informed. So just consider below article as my point of view on that subject.

Since a decade now, not a day without tweets, news, blog articles or editorials on the “future” 3D printing revolution, the new industrial revolution…

But, now, Nov. 2016, what is the situation ?

As from now, 3D Printing was mainly used in University, startups and industrial companies for research and prototyping purpose. I can see three main reasons for that:

  • Printing time: it actually took around 5-6 hours to print a 30 cm object (45mm/h) – with important variations depending on printing technology used, layer thickness, type of materials, object complexity, etc…
  • Material prices: more or less like for traditional ink printers, the trap is not with the machine itself but with consumables (printing filament). Around 50€ / 1 kg. Lot of material waste as printer settings were no easy to set.
  • Inability to mix different type of materials and colors on the same production run: for the general public 3D printing is still equivalent of uni-colored small pieces of plastic most of time really fun but mainly useless

Time are changing fast nowadays:

  • Companies like Airbus are now using 3D Printing for maintenance purpose and innovations on cabin design. 3D printing, by allowing creating complex forms in different types of materials, help reducing weight and by consequence fuel consumption. 3D printing is now financially efficient, profitable.
  • Companies are innovating on raw printing materials: metals, plastics, resins, etc… For a quick overview have a look at this article.
  • Environment: of course plastic used and wasted can be recycled – look at this filament recycling machine. Some companies are also working to build 100% ecological efficient materials from organic waste. Clean and safe for humans and environment. Ready for circular economy or upcycling. See this article.
  • It is now common to find 3D printers enabling to mix different colored filaments. See examples of what is now possible with modern 3D printers.
  • HP has just released its new “revolutionary” 3D printer: announced as 10 time faster than all others competitors, including automatic waste management, ability to mix different materials and colors… In the closed future HP plans to play with materiel flexibility, surface translucency, …, and also make each voxel (3D equivalent of a pixel in 2D) conduct electricity. Have a look at this video presentation. Of course this is pure marketing and I’m pretty convinced that, as usual, we should divide speed figures by a two factor, but anyway we may also consider HP innovation willingness as a concrete sign that the market is now ready to adopt 3D printing at industrial level.

To finish with, a quick impact analysis vs. this “revolution”: let’s imagine that 3D printing will be adopted by all main production companies in the next 5-10 years. What would be the consequences ?

  • Of course printer and material prices will dramatically decrease. That’s a good point.
  • We can also imagine that waste will be managed more efficiently. Second good point
  • 3D printing spreading worldwide will create many designer and engineer jobs and reduce logistic and transportation volumes as it won’t be no more needed to build on one place and deliver it worldwide by trucks, planes or vessels. Also very good points.

That’ll be wonderful for the planet, reducing dramatically CO2 emission, etc… But it may also theoretically destroy lot of “unskilled” jobs.

If you consider that there are many reasons to believe that, in the same period, robots and artificial intelligence modules will replace a lot of others human managed jobs, it is certainly time for all of us to reconsider our relationship with work. Because things are moving really fast and you should consider that if 3D printing will replace and/or be included into classic industrial processes it won’t be in 20 years, nor 10 years, but in the next 3 to 5 years.

I would like to finish this small article with a global remark on future job market: if one take to time to step back, analyze what is the current situation and look at all new technology improvements, we shall certainly conclude that we are building day after day the exact opposite conditions for a return on full-employment. I personally do not imagine (nor believe) that all unskilled jobs will be replaced in the future by expert and engineers jobs in charge of adjusting robots structure or coding new algorithm for AI…

You may think that I voluntary make the strokes bolder… Just to be factual just take time to analyze the job market on US, UK or even in Germany: this trend has already started since a couple of years. Many workers are now dealing with several small different jobs in the week. This is named “precarious employment” or “poor work”. Our society should be prepared for that.