All of us jump to conclusions(1) once in a while– its because we don’t have perfect information at the time we make a decision. Especially when we have a complex technical solution to deliver, this reality can present a challenge.
Perhaps the most common-sense “ritual” for a business intelligence project is the weekly agenda and minutes for the project. It keeps everyone on “the same sheet of music.”
Tasks, their priorities (ABC), and who is assigned to do what, change from time-to-time. Proper use of this one-page document keeps everyone on task. This way, if Consultant 1 thinks Consultant 2 should deliver x, y, and z, there is a process that builds consensus with management and the team to make this assignment. Then, when assignments change (and they will), everyone knows, and assignments stay in scope.
A tool like this pre-empts misunderstandings(2,3), that have distrust as their root cause. Otherwise, these misunderstandings often get reported as bigger problems than they needed to be. If there is clear, consistent project management process, distrust is eliminated– the members of the team know expectations, and have had the opportunity to clarify any misunderstandings. A consensus is built among the members of the group. With consensus comes synergy, because there is “one version of the truth.” Everyone is on the same page.
I’ll spare you the war stories of misunderstandings gone bad– use your imagination. Using good project management tools will help your projects succeed.
Directions For Use
A project meeting can take 10 to 30 minutes– long meetings staring at each other are a waste of time. Consider Alternative Solutions, and make tentative decisions before the meeting, in focused, informal groups of two or three. Having tentative solutions already entered, gain consensus (or make corrections), in the scheduled, weekly meeting with your “Agenda” version.
Right after the meeting, send out a completed “Minutes” version complete with task assignments, priorities, agreements made, etc. For old tasks that you tentatively think are completed, gray them out at about 10%, italicize and cross them out. That way, at the next scheduled meeting, everyone has been forewarned that the task has been completed, and will soon be dropped from this one-page Agenda/Minutes. Any active upper management is copied as an Optional Attendee.
By emailing a link to the archived word doc to everyone (especially those that missed the meeting), everyone can be on-task, and your project gets traction. Take several hard copies with you to the meeting– even though you emailed it in advance, they normally don’t print it out, and need a hard copy.
1. The solution to our “jumping to conclusions” is an educational one. With the right training, it becomes much easier for us to Do the Right Thing.
2. There are other excellent one-page PMI tools and rituals. A fellow consultant, local to me, is known for his well-written SOWs (Statements of Work). I have also seen excellent contract clauses written by some Sales Execs, that leave little room for misunderstanding. Some write excellent SLAs (Service Level Agreements). Another favorite is the 20-minute visit over a cup of coffee, to communicate “I believe I can really help you.”
3. Quite possibly, there is no conflict here. 80% of the time, there has simply been a misunderstanding of the other person’s intentions. Taking 20 minutes over coffee to clear the air and clarify intentions helps a lot. Larger organizations may have a more formal process already in place for this.