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In Search for the Ideal Company




Over the last two decades I have worked for a number of companies, consulted even more. Some of them were outstanding, others were, well, less so. It is time to reflect and share what I believe are

3 characteristics of a well-run business and desired place to work and be

hand_thumbs_up_cuff_15176(1) Client delight

  • You don’t just satisfy, you delight your customers. You listen, understand and address their needs. It is a relationship, a dialogue. Not too surprising your customers not only come back to you but refer and recommend your company and its products and services to family and friends.
  • The products and services you provide are of high quality. Period. And it doesn’t end with the delivery of a product; it continues with an outstanding customer service. Want an example? Try Tesla Motors.
  • High quality of development of products and/or services. Whether you follow traditional best practices or practice lean and agile production methodologies and frameworks, the development of your product and/or services is committed to quality from the beginning to end, without compromises. This is faster, cheaper, safer and more rewarding to everyone involved.
  • You have an ear to the market and you deliver fast.
  • Your employees are committed to delight your customers because they know your and their customers. They understand and live quality and support company goals because they are shaping them, too.

group_jumping_up_400_clr_12574(2) A happy workplace

  • Your employees are not human resources, they are people and you treat them as such. Consequently, there is no “Human Resources” department; you call it “People Services” or “People Centre”. It not just a term, it is a philosophy and practice.
  • Your employees are inspired, motivated and performing, they enjoy their work because they can identify with the purpose of the company, love working with their colleagues and serving their customers, are passionate about their work and enjoy a safe, secure workplace.
  • The workforce is one big functioning organism. There is no place for static organizational hierarchies and distance between management and “the rest”. The communication style is open, transparent and conversational (vs. top-down and hierarchical).
  • You have and support autonomous teams with clear visions, objectives, roles & responsibilities.
  • Corporate leadership doesn’t cling to external “power and authority” but actively build future leaders and empowers their workforce.
  • Your company is the place to work. Not too surprisingly, turnover and sick days are low, very low.

Growth curve(3) Business value

  • You understand that short-term profits (EBIT) are the means and not the purpose of organizational performance. Instead you focus on long-term business performance parameters such Returns on Assets (ROA).
  • Your company has a positive business outlook. This is reflected in a positive, expected revenue stream, forecasted ROA, outstanding quality of the development of your products and/or services and, last but not least, a happy workplace (see above).
  • You continuously strive to become better, better and better. Innovation spans products, services, processes and your own people.
  • Innovation is not limited to a closed and exclusive „innovation department“. Innovation is open and everyone in the company is involved and participates. You encourage and empower your people to think outside the box. You don’t punish mistakes and failures but take them as learning opportunities. Hence, you recognize people’s ideas and celebrate successes together.

Excite! – Build your own ideal company

neutral Leadership Cycle of Organizational ExcellenceOver the last 18 months I have developed a comprehensive toolkit to evaluate and unfold the organizational potential and performance. It is simple, practical and applicable for short-, mid- and long-term organizational needs. It helps deliver measurable business results for client delight, a happy workplace, and business value. It does not create administrative effort without any sustainable value. As a matter of fact it fosters self-organizing, scalable best-practice sharing.

I call this toolkit and approach “Excite!” because unfolding organizational potential can and is exciting indeed. But, and this is a big “but”, it requires an open mind and common intent to unfold organizational potential and performance.   Not every company has this mindset. But then, not every company is the ideal company, the best place to work and be. It is a matter of choice.

Have I always worked for an ideal company? Well, no, not always; but, yes, I have worked for companies and teams that followed the principles outlined above (one of them was (during my times there) Cambridge Technology Partners and Vail Resorts). And if a company I work for is not ideal I always have a choice: I leave the company or help unfold its potential and performance. The latter is what motivates me.

Posted in: Centeredness, Creative Economy, Happiness, innovation, Leadership, Tools, WOW projects

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Do It With Passion and Succeed


I believe that one of the key factors for happiness at work, and this includes projects, is PASSION. Passion comes from feeling like you are a part of something that you believe in, something bigger than yourself.

Passion in a groupThis meaning by itself is still fluffy if you expect a formal definition of the term.  Alas, I am not sure whether or not it is a) possible or b) desirable to offer a formal definition.  Passion is, just as ‘happiness’, very personal and subjective in its meaning and its implications. Hence, I like to stay it with the attempt of the offered description of passion, i.e., passion comes from feeling like you are a part of something that you believe in, something bigger than yourself.

Careful! Passion is contagious and the gate to being and expressing yourself

And yet as ‘passion’ is subjective as it may be it is not limited in its scope.  Passion can be contagious.  Look at a group of people who are passionate about their activities, may it be music, sports or work.  When you observe them not only can you see the smiles in their face, you can literately feel and sense their passion, their excitement and energy.  These people share something in common, something that moves them, something that excites them.  And they love every minute of it.  What would you do as an observer or bystander?

I can speak for myself: most likely, watching a passionate group of people would make me smile for I like it when I see people who are happy. And I may even admire them for having found their passion and expressing it.   It is cool and it is worthwhile striving for.  It may remind me of my own passion.  Or it may remind me that I yet have to identify my passion in a specific area and express it.  Fact is that expressing your own passion releases energy and it comes back to you multifold in a very positive way.  It is a ‘flow’ state where time seizes to exist and you enter a state of ‘being’.

Achieving a ‘flow’ stateIMG_1958

Achieving a flow state is a wonderful experience.  It is fun, exhilarating, exciting, stress-relieving, enjoyful, dramatic and pure.  It is multi-dimensional in the sense that it can come from your work or project, from your own personal self or from and with your team, or – even better for a project or work setting – from all of these levels, i.e, individual, group and project levels.  This is what happens in WOW projects.  WOW projects are projects that add value, projects that matter, projects that make a difference, projects that leave a legacy.  And those are projects that bring happiness into our daily work life.  Both on the individual and team level.

Passion is a key ingredient to this WOW experience.  So, go out, find your passion and do it with passion.

Learn more

Learn more about how to find your passion and use it in your projects at work.  For example, have a look at my seminar “Finding the Spirit of WOW Projects“.

I will be giving a keynote address on ‘Leadership, Happiness and Project Success’ at this year’s PMI Netherlands Summit on Thursday 12 June 2014.

Posted in: Happiness, Uncategorized, Upcoming Events, WOW projects

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Select for success – with happiness


In April I will be a speaker at this year’s Project Zone Congress in Frankfurt, Germany.  Listen to what I shared in an interview with Stamford Global.  The whole interview is available at http://projectzonecongress.com/news-articles/select-success-interview-thomas-juli

http://www.stamfordglobal.com/userfiles/PZC2014/Badges/stamford_badges_05-02.pngSelect for success – interview with Thomas Juli

Submitted by Helina.Pukk on Fri, 2014-01-24 15:59

Thomas Juli is an experienced professional on leadership in project and program management, consulting and training, as well as in teaching. He previously worked for SAP, Sapient and Cambridge, but has now committed to helping others improve their leadership skills through which to experience more project success. He is a welcomed quest at conferences and his book has gained lots of followers. We recently talked to Thomas about what is needed for project success and what happiness has got to do with it.

Excerpts:

Thomas Juli: First of all, whenever I say this title people say ‘Well what do you mean by happiness and how does this fit in?’ and I explain ‘You know, there is an equation for project success and that is: LEADERSHIP + HAPPINESS = PROJECT SUCCESS’. And people look at me asking What do you mean? –Because happiness can be a result of project success’ and I say ‘No. It’s the other way around.’ For example, people say ‘I want to be promoted to the head of PMO and then I will be happy’, and then they achieve this stage. Are they happier? No, because life continues. Happiness is not linked with a career move or to anything. But if you’re happy internally and the team is happy, you can really create a lot of things because team synergy is “Team Magic”, what I call it.

Listen to the podcast here or download the whitepaper of the complete interview.

http://www.project-roadmap.com/project-portal/attachments/download/971

 

Posted in: Empowerment, Happiness, Institute, Leadership, WOW projects

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‘Chairlift to Innovation’ concludes on a happy note


Today was Day 3 of the workshop “Chairlift to Innovation”.  We took easy today and reviewed and refined the results of Day 1 and Day 2.

Bottom line of the workshop:  We’ll do it again!

The concept of the workshop was completely new to us.  Promotion was on a low key (Facebook, LinkedIn, Xing and our website).  This was probably one of the reasons for the few participants.  However, for those who did show up it was a blast.  We were amazed by the results and had lots of fun on he slopes and, of course, on the lifts.  Hence, the bottom line was that we will definitely repeat the “Chairlift to Innovation”.  Promotion will be improved for certain.  In addition, we will most likely partner with other organizations or companies to market this event.  Whether or not it will be possible to hold the workshop again this winter, is rather unlikely.  If so, we will post it ahead of time.

Posted in: Leadership, WEF, WOW projects

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Chairlift to Innovation


From January 22 – 25, 2014 the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting takes place in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland.  The meeting brings together some 2,500 top business leaders, international political leaders, selected intellectuals and journalists to discuss the most pressing issues facing the world, including health and the environment. The 2014 topic is „The Reshaping of the World: Consequences for Society, Politics and Business“.

The question is, what comes out of this meeting?  Media coverage is guaranteed, provocative and not so provocative speeches will be given, experts have panel discussions, participants will be inspired (or not) by old and new problems and ideas alike.  And then what!?  Will it be like in most other conferences where people meet, network, listen to speeches, participate in discussions, just to go home and return to their daily routines?  I reckon that in the majority of cases, this will be the case.  This is frustrating and yet, not too surprising.

An idea is worthless if you don’t embrace it and follow through

Fact is that most conferences and seminars share the same fate.  While the quality of such events can be outstanding, the actual outcomes and returns of them are miniscule and often negligible.  What a waste of time, money and energy you are tempted to think.  And it is true, it often is a waste – safe for the networking, good food, nice location and maybe even fun.  The actual return on investment (ROI) remains low. – This doesn’t have to be this way!

How can ideas spark innovation?

I am lucky and honored that this time I will be in Davos.  Not to attend the WEF Annual Meeting.  I neither have the money nor the influence to get invited to this prestigious event.  But I will be in Daovs-Klosters nevertheless.  I will conduct a workshop for fellows of the Konrad-Adenauer Foundation with the title “Finding the Spirit of WOW Projects: Turning ideas into projects for cuccess and have fun at the same time”.

What we will do is to pick some problems and ideas shared during the panel discussion “Ethical Capitalism: Worth a Try?” at the Open Forum Davos and grow them into concrete project proposals.  I will show the workshop participants how to apply a simple yet very effective technique to get down to the real issues at hand and develop a foundation for WOW projects to evolve.  Time allowing we will present our findings and proposals at a debriefing event of the Open Forum Davos.

 

 

And it doesn’t stop there:  The hope is that participants will follow through with their project proposals and implement them.  Where and how, will be decided in onsite.

Invitation to fun and innovation: On a chairlift and the slopes of Davos-Klosters

http://www.igluski.com/images/davos_i5245603.jpg?height=240&width=440http://www.skisolutions.com/uploads/image/photo/3456/resort_carousel_Davos_skiing.JPGI want to continue this discussion.  For this purpose the Institute for Project and Business Transformation and I would like to invite individuals who are interested in learning more about the technique of turning ideas into WOW projects.  However, I don’t want to meet in a conference room.   Instead, let’s meet in the resort, i.e., on chairlifts and the slopes of Davos-Klosters.  What better location could there be where you can integrate good ideas, physical exercise and natural beauty. Planned dates are January 26-29, 2014.

Please contact me directly if you are interested and want to join this select group.

 

Posted in: WEF, WOW projects

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Top tips for project mangers who want to step up and become great leaders


Susanne Madsen, author of The Project Management Coaching Workbook: 6 steps to unleashing your potential, has recently asked me what my top tips are for project mangers who want to step up and become authentic and impactful leaders who add real value, build great teams and get results.  She would like to include my input in her new book “7 Keys To Help You Transform From Project Manager To Project Leader”.  Here is my response:

Develop the MVP’s of project success

MVPThe big question project leaders need to ask is what they really want to achieve; on behalf of the project and on behalf of the team. This is not just about project deliverables, but about project success as a process. It is about considering the overall picture with all its constituent parts. Project leaders understand the purpose/motivation, vision and objectives of the project.  And they know that the heart and soul of every project is the team. They ensure that the team has a common understanding of the MVP – Motivation, Vision and Project Objectives – as it gives the team a strong common denominator.

  • Motivation addresses the purpose of the project.
  • Vision describes the ideal state after the identified problem has been resolved.  It gives the project a direction.
  • Project Objectives clarify and qualify the vision and describe the stepping stones toward that vision.

Ask ‘What makes you happy?’

In my own experience, most project teams may know the project objectives. But they often lack the understanding of the overall meaning of them, how they were developed and, more importantly, why.  But, it should not stop there. As a project leader, what you should do next is ask your individual team members about their personal MVPs. That is, what motivates them to be on the project? What do they envision for themselves personally and what are their personal objectives and aspirations? Give your individual team members time for reflection, and then ask each person to share their MVPs. This requires openness and trust; two ingredients of great leadership. As a leader reach out to your team and create an environment where it feels right to share this.

If you find it difficult to answer the MVP questions, ask: what makes you happy and why? How do you want to feel on this project? How do you want to be treated? And how do you want to treat others in their pursuit of personal happiness on the project? “[After all,] the only way to do great work is to love what you do, and to do what you love” (Scharmer, C. O., & Kaufer, K. (2013). Leading from the Emerging Future: From Ego-System to Eco-System Economies (p. 287). San Francisco: Berret-Koehler Publishers).

Spark Team Magic

The personal MVPs complement the MVP of the project. And yet, it shouldn’t stop there. The third dimension is the MVP of your team and community. Hence, ask your team what your MVP as a team should be. How does it fit in with the MVP of the project and how do you accommodate the individual MVPs within it? I have found these MVP exercises the most valuable investment in a project.

Leaders understand these three dimensions. They know that successful projects are not just about projects, but about people and a group of people forming a team or even a community.

The overlap of these three levels of MVPs can spark a WOW project where there is common understanding of the motivation and direction of the project as well as the drivers, visions and objectives of each individual and the team as a whole. This is a very, very strong foundation for project success.

 

New Upcoming Book by Susanne Madsen:
“7 Keys To Help You Transform From Project Manager To Project Leader”

This is the preliminary title of Susanne Madsen’s new book which has been commissioned by Kogan Page.  The goal of the book is to transform project managers into project leaders. The book aims to do so by shifting the project manager’s predominant managerial, reactive and task oriented mindset into one of empowerment, accountability, risk-taking and proactiveness – and to show them how to better focus on and lead people

Posted in: Book Recommendations, Empowerment, Happiness, Leadership, WOW projects

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3 Steps from Zombie Projects to WOW Projects


Wikepedia defines Zombies as fictional undead creatures regularly encountered in horror and fantasy themed works. They are typically depicted as mindless, reanimated corpses with a hunger for human flesh, and particularly for human brains in some depictions.

A project is a project is a project?

Who am II wish it were this easy.  The good news is that more and more companies and organizations realize the value of project – and to a lesser extent the need and value of good project management.

I have seen, worked on and led many projects.  The ones most memorable were those projects where things were flowing.  That is, the team worked as a team, performance was outstanding due to synergy effects, quality of deliverables exceeded clients’ expectations and everyone was just happy and proud to be part of the project.  I call such projects WOW projects.  And it this kind of projects I love to work on, build or lead.

Zombie projects may still get the basics of project management right

My strong desire for WOW projects may explain my frustration every time I work on or for “suboptimal” projects that have more or less nothing to do with WOW.  It is not that these projects lack project management fundamentals.  Indeed, often they do cover the basics.  That is:

(1) project objectives were defined (mostly top-down by management),

(2) functional and non-functional requirements were described and documented (more or less),

(3) a project organization was put in place,

(4) a project plan was posted on the walls, and

(5) project management tools available.

So far for the basics.

And yet, there was nothing which resembled the WOW factor even at the lowest level.

What’s wrong!?

Zombie projects lack the soul and spirit of WOW projects

While these projects covered the basics of project management they lacked the “soul” or “spirit” that makes WOW projects tick.  Team morale on such projects is often in the lower ranks.  The quality of deliverables is satisfactory at best.  Long working hours are the norm and this is reflected in errors and delays in deliverables.  Transparency about progress, actual issues and potential risks is mirky and not welcome – because, after all, management wants to hear good news.

Working on such projects can be tiring and energy draining.  It is a job, ok. But no more.

Does this sound familiar?  If so, continue reading.

3 steps to WOW projects

The causes for suboptimal projects are not limited to the lack of leadership or a true team.  It is more than that.  It is an attitude and a principle approach how you build, grow and nurture projects.  So, let’s have a look at what it takes to build the foundation for WOW projects to evolve:

3 steps to wow - picture 1Step 1: Listening and learning

The first step to growing a WOW project is active and intense listening, learning about the needs, motivation and vision of people and the organizations.  It helps sorting out the playing field of the project and how it fits into the larger system of an organization and its people.

Step 2: Developing awareness

Based on the insights of step 1 gather your project team and stakeholders and find out what you truly try to achieve in your project.  This means, find out and agree on the MVP’s of your project, i.e., the motivation, the vision and the project objectives of your project.  Expand this exercise to the MVP’s of individual team members and the team as an organizational unit.

Once you have developed strong MVP’s, work on engagement rules for nurturing collaboration, promoting performance, cultivating learning and ensuring results.

Step 3: Performing and aligning

Now, walk your talk.  Start working, practice, fail and learn from your mistakes.  Make necessary alignments and perform.

WOW projects evolve and are very much alive

3 steps to wow - picture 2Steps 1 -3 may imply that they are sequential.  This is right and wrong.  When you start a project you go through this sequence.  However, aligning always includes listening and learning which is Step 1 of growing a WOW project.  This takes you back to the beginning of the 3-step process.  Insights from each step are integrated in each of the other steps and vice versa.

From this perspective it is more practical to depict the process as a Venn diagram which each circle standing for one of the three steps.  The intersection of these three circles is where the WOW ignites and spreads.

3 steps to wow - picture 3In other words, the combination of listening & learning, developing awareness, performing & aligning spark WOW projects.

As you iterate each of the three steps, border lines blur, it becomes increasingly difficult to depict one step from the other.  One element feeds the others and vice versa.  The iterative learning and growth process of this project become intertwined and infinite.  This is illustrated in the picture on the left.

 

Start growing your WOW project today

Even the longest journey starts with the first step.  On this token, I encourage you and your team to have a closer look at your own project(s).  Follow the three steps described above and start building your own WOW project today.

Need help?  Please contact me.  I help you build WOW projects through customized workshops and trainings.  Workshops can be as short as 2 hours or several days depending on your needs.  Or, if you like, I can accompany your journey over a period of several weeks through coaching and consulting.

Posted in: Centeredness, Project Management, Project success, WOW projects

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