Catchy title — Island of the Sequined Love Nun.
What can we learn from successful, entertaining authors like Mr. Moore and apply to business? When you script your next presentation, skip your company phone number, address, and history like a flat rock. Who cares about that stuff? Instead, start in mid-scene... mid-problem. Capture your audience's curiosity with the very first slide, and enthrall them for the rest of the ride.
Your company information could be thought of as story subtext. If you produce a thrilling presentation, they will ask for your name, phone number — and social security number. Smart marketers, like Izze beverage, leave a space when they create an event so customers discover its product.
In Leonard Berry's wonderful book, On Great Service, he explores the importance of practice. Just as in sports where athletes are expected to practice to stay on top of their game, business people need to practice to keep their skills sharp.
In a case story, Coca-Cola mounted a massive training program. Initially, the program seemed a success, but three years later a checkup showed the employees had forgotten almost everything — They never had the opportunity to practice their newfound skills. This assessment drove Coca-Cola to "just-in-time" training where skills such as brainstorming and consensus building were taught.
If you are the kind of person who believes in a creative training approach you may want to look into improvisation training like that provided by BATS Improv in San Francisco. How would improv help you in business?
We live in a world where the rate of change is accelerating every day. People who have absorbed the structure of improv and think on their feet will succeed, where inflexible, brittle minds will crumble.
It’s a fact. Providing an accurate estimate for a software project is a difficult task. While directing software teams, I have found that a graphical work breakdown structure (WBS) allows teams to see the entire project and collaborate on software estimates, making the estimates more accurate. And developers who give estimates for their tasks are more likely to complete the work on time.
What is a graphical WBS? Let’s take a look:
Note: This WBS was created using WBS Chart Pro.
Tip: "Task 6" has 400 hours. If a task has over 100 hours, it’s prudent to decompose the task further so hidden work is exposed.
The more I learn about writing stories, the more I realize just how many ways story concepts can be applied to business. Last month I completed Tom Sawyer's class — Storytelling: How To Write Stories That Will Grab And Hold Your Audience.
Most of the concepts covered in class can be found in Tom's book, Fiction Writing Demystified. Although, in Tom's class you receive his insightful feedback and encouragement to take your writing to the next level.
Most business executives are unconscious to this story truth — The experiences you create, trump the stories you tell. More on that later...
So how can story concepts awaken you and sharpen your business skills? Let’s take a look:
Creativity: Tom describes several plot devices: Clock (a deadline), McGuffin (object of great value), the Penny-Drop (moment of realization, usually for a detective). There’s also the Meet-Cute (boy meets girl in a cute way) along with other design patterns. In business you are applauded for using clichés (best practices). Let’s imagine you are a software designer who uses the model-view-controller design pattern for a software product. If you spend an additional three weeks putting a special twist on the pattern so it’s not the same ol’ dull design, is your boss going to promote you? Not likely. And yet, that’s what writer’s are expected to do. Avoid the clichés.
In the meet-cute plot device, the writer should be familiar with most of the meet-cute scenes in other stories so he can put a special spin on his scene. A scene that’s fresh and invites curiousity. Give me the same thing, only different. A challenging way to think, still it keeps your creative edge sharp and quick.
Creating Customer Experiences: The creative sword you carry now helps you look at customer experiences through the eyes of story. You work at an artistic level. Using story concepts, you create positive customer surprises and recover from reversals (for example, the product that disappointed your largest customer).
In one of Tom’s class exercises, I wrote about a character — She’s a brilliant investment banker. Although, in the draft of my story she was unable to see through an investment scam run by a con artist. Well, if you were watching this movie you would probably say to yourself, “That doesn’t make sense. She should see through this. I can.” Movies create a fictional world. If you’re lucky — or talented enough — to grab an audience’s attention, avoid introducing incongruent elements that wrest your viewers from the fictional world you’ve created. When someone is ripped from a glorious fictional world, it’s like listening to a beautiful song on a vinyl record, only to hear the record player’s needle screech across the record.
Back to the principle I mentioned at the start — The experiences you create, trump the stories you tell.
Three months ago I bought a web-based class from a project management company. The company is still trying to figure out how to deliver the class on a web server. If you can’t stand up a web server in a couple days, you probably shouldn’t be in the business. Here’s the truly incongruent part. I’ve seen the president of the company give speeches to hundreds of people about the importance of being agile and responding to change. Can you hear the fictional world this guy built screeching to a halt and the music stopping?
It takes thousands of hours to hone your presentation skills and ideas to the point people want to listen to you. Protect your investment. Make sure the experiences you create match the stories you tell.
"Tell me a story" means fewer adjectives and adverbs and more verbs and nouns. Verbs are especially good.
Tribes — by Seth Godin. Yep, that's his latest book.
If there's one sentence you want to wrap your mind around... if there's one nourishing thought you want to feed your understanding... if there's one winged word of wisdom you want to fly nigh unto your heart... it's this:
Leadership is not management... Leadership is about creating change that you believe in.
Managers have employees. Leaders have followers.
Managers make widgets. Leaders make change.
Here's the best quote in the article:
"The challenge for a lot of business schools is how to develop leaders and not managers."
I have earned graduate degrees in business and computer science. What I learned from each degree itself is limited in power and the ability to bring about change. Both degrees combined, however, provide the synergy to drive projects to success.
In a Dallas Morning News article, visionary Dr. Hasan Pirkul, dean of the School of Management at UTD, describes a UTD business program that requires students to learn business and technology. How does Dr. Pirkul describe the benefits?
"So you have an engineer who also understands and is proficient in business topics,” Dr. Pirkul says happily. “it’s a dream come true."
If the executives at your company are intimately involved with the products at your company, you may want to use Visiontyping. The SVPG blog explains how Visiontyping works and when to use it.
In general, when working with executives, the only safe rule is to never trust the hallway chat, the PowerPoint presentation, or the written document. The chances of these vehicles effectively communicating complex software is pretty close to zero.
It can be especially dangerous to give paper-thin presentations or paper-thick product specs to executives, because your final destination may be as random as a slot machine. In contrast, Visual prototypes are as different from paper specs, as day is from night — And everyone on your team will be on the same page when your product lands.
I believe personal productivity and performance as a project manager are directly correlated. Just like we have to lead a project team, we have to lead ourselves to a higher level of a productivity and effectiveness. In all of the leadership classes I teach, emphasis is placed on knowing yourself. When you know yourself it provides you the ability to adapt to weaknesses and leverage your strengths (increase your personal productivity and effectiveness).