Joaquín Rodríguez Kierce

A blog about productivity, meaning and making things happen.

Archive for the month “August, 2014”

Ignite Fridays: job description

Work is about getting things done.
Which requires strategy, sure, workplans, meetings, etc.
In the end it all comes down to decisions. Do this, avoid that, focus on the other. There are many junctures along the road and each one requires a decision to get to where we want to.

Hence, in the end my job, your job, our job is all about having the courage to make decisions.

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I tell you, these things look great in office walls. Visit www.neuronigniters.com for more.

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Offtopic: Chikungunya

Hace un par de días que tengo Chikungunya.

Todo lo que había escuchado hasta el momento eran historias de horror, de gente en cama poco menos que paralizada, ronchas, dolor en las articulaciones…

Casi todo es cierto.

Johnny Rullán ha dicho que se esperan 20,000 casos semanales cuando la epidemia de Chikungunya en la que se encuentra Puerto Rico llegue a su nivel máximo. Lo mejor que puedes hacer es, además de tomar todas las medidas de prevención, aceptar que en algún momento te va a dar el virus.

Mi recomendación es tener a la mano todo lo que te ayude a atajarlo rápido.

Cosas que debes saber:

– Todo empieza con dolor en las articulaciones. En mi caso, hombro, rodilla y tobillo, seguido por espalda baja y muñecas.

– Te va a salir un sarpullido por el cuerpo. Eso toma unos días. Una vez se vaya empieza la fiebre de verdad. Te vas a sentir como cuando te da gripe.

– Acetaminofeno para la fiebre.

Equinácea (Echinacea): ayuda a subir las defensas. Tómatelo con el acetaminofeno.

– Té de malagueta con canela, limón, limoncillo y hojas de mango. Esto revive a cualquiera.

– Mucha agua.

– Descanso y paciencia.

A mi me ha ayudado todo esto, espero que a ti también si te da.

A cuidarse.

Start a blog

Seriously. Start a blog if you haven’t done so. Write more on yours if you have one.

It’s a great exercise in clarifying your ideas on a subject and developing a point of view. Most importantly, it calls your own bullshit.

It doesn’t have to be a public site. Use it as a private journal, as an idea dumper, whatever.

I’ve had this blog since 2006 and I attribute the fluency I’ve gained in creating presentations, writing speeches and speaking in public to the exercise of writing here.

Lately I’ve started to write every day as an experiment in how far I can maintain it. I want to see if the little voice in the head is right about the impossibility to put together valuable thoughts for other people on a daily basis.

Many posts I write for myself, to teach me a lesson with something that has happened to me. Others will help me improve and expand my book into a second edition.

You have a lot to offer. Start a blog. Will you?

Fault finding

You didn’t give me enough time.

It can’t be done.

The data wasn’t available.

This guy doesn’t like me.

I feel you think I don’t deserve to be here.

It’s never been done before.

I can’t find a valid reason to do this.

And my favourite one: I spend too much time giving excuses.

How to save a failing project

Projects fail because some people don’t ask the critical questions and other people don’t know the answer.

Imagine you just got assigned a failing project and don’t know where to start.

Here are some questions (in no particular order) to ask yourself now AND (most importantly) as you move along the project.

What’s the objective?

When is it for?

Who will this project benefit? (another way of saying CLIENT)

Is everybody involved clear on the benefit it will bring and when?

What are the key things we must produce in order to call the project a success? Who is in charge of executing them?

What does “acceptable” mean for each deliverable? Who defined it? Is everybody clear on that?

What’s the next important date?

Any compliance dates that we’re about to miss?

Who does what? Do they all know they must do it? Do they know how to do it? Are they on board?

Who will make the final decision on key things when things get stuck? Are you sure nobody will torpedo that decision after it’s made?

If we stopped the project now, what would happen? Who would be affected? Would anyone care? In other words, are we sure this project is still relevant?

Many of these questions are hard to answer. Hard in the sense that they’re difficult to ask when they’re most critical and hard in the sense that many times nobody thinks it’s their job to know the answer. That’s why projects fail.

 If the answer to any of these is no or I don’t know, raise the flag. If you honestly believe that your answers are the correct ones, you needn’t worry much.

Ignite Fridays: To be happy…

To Be Happy White

A brief reminder of all the things we “need” in order to be happy.

Exactly. Happy weekend.

Realistic goals yes. But why?

I remember the silly conversations we used to have in college about these grandiose study plans we made for ourselves. We would assure (fool) ourselves that we’d study 14 hours each day for the 30 days leading into the exam season.

And then fail.

 

We all know (or have heard) that the goals you set for yourself or others should be specific, measurable, attainable etc.

Ok.

But why realistic?

Because you would otherwise feel like a failure in advance. Just like we did in college. Which makes the goal all the more difficult to achieve. Who in their mind thinks they can study 14 hours a day for 30 days straight with 100% efficiency? You live an learn, I guess.

Life is about setting goals and achieving them (or failing forward fast), learning and moving on.

It’s not about giving into the negative self talk that tells us we’re a failure in advance.

How to call someone’s bullshit

The easiest way to call someone’s bullshit is to be attentive to certain key words they say.

It’s one thing to say “I will do X”.

It’s another thing to say “I will try to do X”.

Another very different thing is to say “let me see if I can try to do X”.

See it? “Let me see” and “try” (bullshit). There’s no way this person will ever deliver on that.

Also, people will react differently depending on how you follow up on them.

Ask someone you know hasn’t delivered on a promise the question “have you done it?” and see how they become uncomfortable, even aggressive.

On the other hand, ask them “have you been able to do it?” and notice how a stream of excuses and validating language (bullshit) flow freely out of their mouth. It’s very comfortable to have someone give us the ability to play the victim. Poor me, I tried by all means but the circumstances just wouldn’t allow me, you know? (bullshit)

Yes, I’m the kind of weirdo who will pay attention to these things…But don’t let that distract you from the message here: watch your language. It reveals your true intentions.

What the boss means by ‘give me a status’

Someone tells you ‘give me a status of your project’. Your boss, client, the government…

What do you do when you get asked that? Many people panic, open PowerPoint, start typing, close PowerPoint, ask around for recommendations, retrieve old messages…

It’s worth to stop for a moment and consider what’s going on in their heads and what they mean by ‘give me a status’:

1. By ‘give me a status’ I mean ‘let me know you are in control of what you’re doing. I want to see a confident look in your eyes that you will deliver what you said you would deliver by the time you said, with the money, people and materials assigned to you’. In other words, are you on time, on budget and doing work at the agreed** quality level?

2. If by any chance I don’t see it I will get worried. So, unless I’m an asshole and like shouting at people, I’ll want to know how I can help you get back on track. Getting together in a room and hearing the status from you is the best way to do this. So be ready to ask for help and bring proposed solutions to your problems. Ask me bluntly.

3. I want to validate what I believed to be right when I first delegated this project to you. I want to know that:

  • You still believe in why you’re doing what you’re doing
  • You are on the outlook for obstacles and have a plan to overcome them
  • You are aware of how much has been done, what’s left and how to close the gap

4. I want to make sure you are not burning Rome (aka wrongfully interpreting ‘doing whatever needs to be done’) in the process. I want things to function, people to still get along with each other after you’ve completed this.

5. I also want to know about any unforeseen consequences caused by your work. Are you impacting somebody else’s core mission/ work / deliverable? Are you creating redundancies or inefficiencies? By design or accident? Are you aware? What do you suggest we do about it?

6. What have you learned? What can you share with the rest of the department / company / country / world? How will we all benefit from your experience?

Architect your status report based on your reaction to those 6 points. Maybe you just need a one-pager.

** The word agreed is so important and so often overlooked. So many project delays, litigations, firings, loss of credibility etc come from a poor job defining this.

Make it a one-pager

In my sixth year of college I took a class called Digital Systems Design.

The biggest lesson our professor taught us has nothing to do with digital systems.

Each of the 3 exams we took had 10 questions.

You had exactly one page to answer all of them. You could use both sides of a 8.5 x 11 piece of paper, sure, but nothing else.

The first day everyone thought that was bogus, of course.

But that simple instruction helped all of us internalize one simple truth: the better you understand something the less you need to explain it.

So…

That report you’re working on? Make it a one pager.

The all so important 78-slide-and-counting PowerPoint presentation for senior management? 1 slide.

The deal-of-a-lifetime pitch you’re preparing for the client of your dreams? 1 page.

Sure enough, they’ll ask for more if they like what they see and by all means have the material with you. But go through the mental effort of eliminating the non-essential until everything fits in one page.

Bonus thought: if you only had a business card to present the idea, what would it say?

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