Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Leveraging Agile Market Research for Faster, Better Concept Optimization

Only one in 10 market-facing decisions have the backing of customer data.  Nowhere is this shortage of customer feedback more evident than in the concept development process.  It's no wonder that a significant percentage of product, packaging, and advertising executions fail every year.

The time and cost of traditional data collection methods have prevented researchers and marketers from tapping consumer insights as much or as early as needed leaving them to rely on intuition or gut feel to pick and refine winning concepts.

On-demand tools when coupled with the Agile Research Methodology allow researchers and marketers to identify and optimize winning concepts much earlier in the development process resulting in executions that are both faster to market and better performing.

An upcoming webinar presented by GutCheck, “Leveraging Agile Market Research for Faster, Better Concept Optimization,” on Thursday, November 14 at 2:00 pm EST will feature an interactive, step-by-step review of the concept development process infused with best practices for applying on-demand quant and qual tools using an Agile approach.

GutCheck is an on-demand research community solution that provides immediate insights from specific consumers with quality that is equivalent to traditional online communities. Unlike these offerings that challenge timelines and budgets, GutCheck enables an Agile Research approach that delivers actionable feedback in days instead of weeks and at 50-70 percent the cost of traditional in-person focus groups.
In this webinar Matt Warta, CEO, GutCheck and Lisa O'Connor, Lead Online Research Strategist, GutCheck will discuss:
  • How to apply on-demand quant and qual tools within the Agile Research Methodology to screen and optimize concepts rapidly and early in the development process
  • Common questions that yield rich insights for testing and refining concepts
  • Best practices for recruiting and testing concepts with minimal bias
  • An in-depth case study will also be provided to illustrate this approach in action.  We will reserve the last 15 minutes of the webinar for Q&A.

Reserve your webinar seat now: https://cc.readytalk.com/r/v8o7rwaiax7w&eom
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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

6 Types of Bad Project Managers

Project management is integral to the business world - milestones, kickoff meetings, deliverables, stakeholders, and work plans constitute the everyday world of most managers, whether they are called "project managers" or not. Given the vast experience organizations have with project management, it's reasonable to wonder why all projects aren't completed on time, on scope, and under budget. The reality is that there are some project managers who simply aren’t cut out to manage a team.

In fact, according to Phil Simon of InformationWeek, there are certain types of project managers that aren’t doing their job successfully. Here are six types of PMs that you may have in your office:

The Yes-Man
Certain PMs fear conflict and agree to every demand that clients or senior management make. As a result, they are used to saying "yes." These PMs do not intentionally try to sabotage projects, but  yes-men simply want their clients to be satisfied. But by failing to confront those with different expectations, yes-men make promises that put projects in danger.

The Micromanager
Micromanagers want to understand each step in a process or the nature of a complex issue. However, on a project, the PM is not supposed to be the product expert. Depending on the timing, a PM might have to live with a high-level explanation of an issue. Should the micromanager need more detail, she should bring consultants to steering committee meetings or have them write status reports providing more specifics.

The Procrastinator
PMs who routinely fail to deliver are the worst of the bunch because they cause organizations to miss project deadlines and put both employees in untenable positions. The procrastinator often ducks clients and does not deliver promised results such as updated project plans, documentation or status updates. People are likely to lose faith in the consulting firm and its individual consultants.

The Know-It-All
Nobody can know everything about an enterprise application. Some PMs have the ability to answer questions about certain system-related issues. Although being able to speak intelligently about issues is hardly a liability, PMs who do not engage their teams at key points do a number of inimical things. For one, they can alienate their consulting teams and make team members less likely to broach issues with them in the future.

The Pollyanna
Some PMs new to projects with large scopes are ecstatic when the project makes any progress at all. Pollyannas tend to take a "glass is 10 percent full" approach to project management. Rather than realistically assess and deal with a project suffering from delays and budget overruns, Pollyannas focus on trying to make everyone feel good. In this sense, they are like yes-men. PMs need to be able to call a spade a spade and not worry about sugarcoating dire situations.

The Pessimist

Pessimists fail to appreciate the gains that a team has made in the face of considerable obstacles. Pessimists overemphasize what still needs to be done as opposed to what has been done. Many projects would benefit from healthy doses of skepticism and realism. Sometimes, it's necessary to put functionality on the chopping block, but consultants and employees tend to put in long hours on projects, especially during critical times. PMs who constantly criticize a team for that which it has not accomplished are likely to irritate everyone. 
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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

10 Leadership Habits of Project Managers

Have you ever been a part of a project team whose components seemed to be lacking until everyone pulled together to accomplish something great? Why do these things happen? The answer is the leadership. A poor leader fails to bring out the best of an already great team, but a great leader can create winners out of a team who may seem to lack ability.

Leadership is a critical and essential component for any project management team. Leading a project towards success requires the manager to have a clear vision, clarity in reason, practical in scheduling and the ability to attract a talented and efficient team. The stress in project management is about ensuring that things get done while motivating the project team towards delivering project success.

Rick Mears, CIO of Owens & Minor, has an interesting perspective on the most important elements of leadership with implications for how PMs show leadership in their roles.  Here are his top 10 leadership habits of project managers according to Mears:

10.  Keeping customers, people and profits balanced
These days, PMs have to watch the boundaries they place on stakeholders, teams and projects.  Does delivering a project on time make us successful if they’ve killed their team while doing so?  This habit rings true with the juggling act that PMs must keep up.

9.  Delivering bad news quickly
One of the biggest mistakes PMs can make is to sit on negative information in the hope that it will get better on its own.  The world doesn’t work this way – the much better alternative is to share the information with decision-makers and come up with solutions to solve the problem.

8.  Having tough conversations early
If PMs don’t address conflict in a timely manner, it can poison the relationship, the team atmosphere, etc.  Wait too long and you will blindside people with feedback that is out of date.

7. Running the play that was called when the huddle breaks
This is all about consistency, about not second-guessing the decision that was made.  Leaders who say one thing to the team, then turn around and take an action quickly lose creditability. This doesn’t mean you can’t change course, but that if you do so, you need to get the team’s understanding.

6.  Owning the decision
A leader who says to her team “Well, the big boss upstairs says we have to do it this way” has just given away her authority, and damaged the team’s confidence in her leadership.  A true leader has to understand the decision, become creative in how to follow it and own it.

5.  Collaborating – try for consensus
As leaders, PMs should do everything we can to get consensus from our teams.  Knowing that this will not always be possible, the next best thing we can do is at least spend enough time communicating our point of view so that the team understands the decision.

4.  Focusing on the things that you can influence, and then grow you influence
It’s important that PMs continue to hone leadership skills, relationships, credibility to grow their areas of influence.  If they aren’t managing that ability to influence, they will run into brick walls that can limit effectiveness. 

3.  Staying confident on the inside, but humble on the outside
True leaders take the heat, and give all the credit to the folks on the ground doing the work.  Ironically, by doing so, leaders are seen as honorable and capable – things that make others want to follow them.

2.  Asking for help
Some people in leadership roles are crippled by the fear that if they ask for help, they will be seen as weak.  In not asking for help, they become ineffective or make costly mistakes – which makes them seem week.

1.  Trust – takes forever to build, can be destroyed in an instant
For leaders to be effective, they must be trusted.  Each of the points above relate to this core concept – and it is a fragile thing to maintain.  It’s worth it to keep this concept in mind in almost all PMs’ actions as leaders – how are they are building trust, and are they risking damage to the trust they have established?

About the Author: Amanda Ciccatelli, Social Media Strategist of the Marketing Division at IIR USA, has a background in digital and print journalism, covering a variety of topics in business strategy, marketing, and technology. Amanda is the Editor at Large for several of IIR’s blogs including Next Big DesignCustomers 1st, and ProjectWorld and World Congress for Business Analysts, and a regular contributor to Front End of Innovation and The Market Research Event,. She previously worked at Technology Marketing Corporation as a Web Editor where she covered breaking news and feature stories in the technology industry. She can be reached at aciccatelli@iirusa.com. Follow her at @AmandaCicc
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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

How to Be a Better Project Manager When You Aren’t One

The massive amount of young people who have grown up using social tools to engage with each other will soon take up the majority of the future workforce – causing a huge demographic shift. As a result, a new collaborative workplace is emerging - transforming the way work is done.  The future workforce will likely be project managers without even knowing it. According to Jacob Morgan, co-founder of Chess Media Group and Forbes.com contributor, here are seven ways the non-professional project manager can become a better manager of projects.

Be Mr. or Ms. Fix It. If you see something that’s broken, take the initiative to fix it.  Develop a plan to solve your team’s most pressing problems and gather influential people and resources around you to make things happen. 

Understand the Project. The best PMs have a handle on why they are doing a project, who they are doing it for, the requirements and the timeline.  They push back if senior leadership establishes a deadline that is unrealistic and doesn’t allow for the inevitable delays, and before proceeding, they make sure that everyone involved is on the same page regarding budget and metrics.

Be Organized. Collaboration software was developed for the purpose of keeping your team’s responsibilities and work easy to follow, but the software won’t do the whole job.  Use its features to communicate action items, keep track of the details and status of each task, and establish relationships between project aspects.

Don’t Let Them Coast. Set expectations ahead of project start and hold your team members accountable for specific deliverables and outcomes.  Think about each person’s development areas and devise ways to challenge them. Your team will be more productive if members are stretched and able to actively contribute to individual and team goals.

Be Assertive. The moment you become aware of a critical issue is the moment you should address it.  Before things get out of hand, speak with all of the parties involved and encourage a direct conversation.  Also, think about the best way to approach each team member to get the information you need and go that route. 

Macromanage.  Effective project managers understand that a team cannot be productive unless each member has the ability to work autonomously.  Once you set the course, give your people the freedom to make decisions in their area of responsibility.

Have Their Back. Facilitate an environment of open communication and let your people know that your door is always open. Setbacks are inevitable, but don’t play the blame game and take responsibility for your own role as a team leader.  Support your team when going head-to-head with others so that they will trust and respect you.
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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Claim Your PDUs in 3 Easy Steps!

The International Institute of Research (IIR) has the full attendance list to the PW&WCBA. If your name is on the list you should not have any issues reporting your PDUs.
Go to PMI.org under MyPMI and Click Report PDUs.

Step 1:

 Step 2:

Click Search

 Step 3:

Add Dates and Click Submit

 Quick and Easy!

There is an additional 12 PDU's available through seminars.  Information on these seminars will be available soon through this IIR Website.

I had a great time at this event and met a lot of wonderful people.  I hope to see all of you at the next one.  Remember to check out the videos on the IIR blog or YouTube, just search PW&WBCA.