MANAGING A SIMPLE ANALYTICAL PROJECT


MARTHA LEGARE

INTRODUCTION

Seminar Leader Martha Legare gives us a mind-bending exercise geared toward managing projects ”a communication exercise that's full of action and that models the good and the bad in typical management behavior. We include it in this chapter on Management and Leadership because of its astute presentation of management and leadership challenges.

This exercise includes a page of narrated instructions to trainees and five separate handouts. As you read Martha's presentation of this "Simple Analytical Project", you'll smile at the way she's captured the reality of so many of our workplaces, and you'll identify with the directives, confusions, and harassments that we all too often inflict on our customers, colleagues, and project sponsors.

KINDS OF SKILLS TARGETED

  • Communicating clarity of intent or objective

  • Clarifying roles and responsibilities

  • Stating and agreeing (or not agreeing) to assumptions

  • Giving and receiving feedback

  • Getting buy in

TRAINEE BENEFITS

This exercise creates a project-driven environment and compresses an entire project experience into 15 minutes. Participants learn the pitfalls of managing a project in a fast paced, humorous , and risk-free environment. They learn (or remember) that clear communication with people is what makes a project successful.

Examples of comments from trainees who have experienced this exercise:

  • "This project is exactly what I have to deal with on the job".

  • "Here we can laugh at ourselves and learn. When these things happen in the real world, it can affect my career".

  • "I never realized how many different ways people could see this".

LEARNING OBJECTIVES

  • To clarify roles and responsibilities

  • To make sure everyone understands the objective

  • To not make assumptions

  • To understand that instructions can be interpreted differently depending on others' experiences and positions

  • To realize that time pressure and attitude affects both the quality of work and the willingness to work together again

  • To recognize that teams need to understand the roles, objective, and process to be successful

MATERIALS NEEDED

Flipchart

Markers

Handouts A, B, C, D, and E for all participants

Paper and pencil for participants

ROOM SET UP

Flipchart at the front for the leader

Participants move chairs according to instructions

TIME REQUIRED

30 to 45 minutes depending on size of the entire group and the talkativeness of its members

PROCEDURE

  1. Divide trainees into groups of five (this exercise is great for large groups). Each member is identified by a letter, that is, as A, B, C, D, and E.

  2. Use any people left over as messengers ”one for each team, or as numbers permit.

  3. Give step-by-step instructions out loud as you write on the flipchart (do not write them ahead of time because you want the element of surprise).

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Narrated instructions:

*OK , we are going to have 5 people on each project team. Your deadline is 15 minutes to finish this simple analytical project ”you shouldn't have any trouble finishing in time. But we do have one little constraint; it is the way the chairs must be arranged ”but you are used to constraints, aren't you? So this one isn't so bad.

*"A" has to sit in the front. B sits directly behind A, and C, D, and E form a back row. (Draw boxes with letters .) All the chairs must face forward. It does not matter if they face the front of the room, but you must be in this configuration in relation to each other. Any questions?

*N ow, communication. You know how sometimes there are protocols about whom you can communicate with? Well, the same is true here. A and B can communicate directly with each other. (Draw arrows showing relationships.) B and C can communicate directly with each other. B and D may communicate directly with each other, and B and E may communicate directly. But A cannot communicate directly with anyone on the back row, and they cannot communicate with each other. Is everyone clear?

*O h, did I mention that this communication must be done in silence? (Write "silence".) But don't worry, you can send notes ”and we have some messengers to deliver them for you. However, the notes do need to be properly addressed. You must write "To: A, From: B" and then whatever you want to say. Now our messengers are also our quality assurance people. If the notes are not addressed properly, they don't have to deliver them. Now, if you get a really nice messenger, he or she might give you your note back to be corrected. But if you get a grumpy messenger or one who just hasn't had enough coffee yet, the note could just be crumpled or put it into the messenger's pocket.

*W hen your team gets the answer , A should raise his or her hand. I'll just come over and make sure it's right. Any questions? Okay, you can decide among yourselves who is A, B, C, D and E on your team. Once you are settled, I'll hand out instructions ”but keep them face down and we'll all start at once, as this is a timed exercise. I'll let you know when 5 minutes has passed and then 10 minutes, so you don't have to worry about the time."

  1. After the teams are seated in the proper arrangement, hand out instructions face down. (Make sure trainees have paper and pencils. Be sure you hand the right sheet to the right person without implying to the group that they have different instructions ”instruction sheets for each person are at the end of these instructions.) Refuse to answer any more questions. Tell them you are too busy keeping time or being a messenger.

  2. After 3 minutes, tell them that they have used up 20 percent of their time ” plenty more time to finish this "Easy" analytical project.

  3. After 5 minutes, tell them they should be 33 percent complete. Ask for estimates to completion.

  4. At 7.5 minutes, tell them 50 percent should be complete and begin to harass them. From now, every couple of minutes, you should put on more pressure. If one group finishes early, tell them to "Just sit quietly while the 'Slower' groups finish up". Do not let anyone talk loudly. (The finished group may whisper.)

  5. If any group gets the wrong answer, when you go to check, say "NO, that's wrong!" loudly. Increase the verbal pressure until the time is up. (Sometimes every group will finish, but often only half complete it in time.)

  6. Call "15 minutes ”time is up! The answer was the circle. How many of you know what the question was?" (Most don't know because it was not in their instructions.) "OK, why don't you debrief this with your group before we discuss it all together?" Let them talk a few minutes.

Debrief

Points to make in debrief (which I typically do role by role. A first: "How did you feel ”not what did you do ”being an A?):

  • Who are these roles:

    • A is customer or project sponsor (or boss).

    • B is project manager responsible for all communication.

    • C, D, and E are the team who have valuable information, but don't know what to do with it.

  • Assumptions people made, and the problems with those assumptions:

    • A often assumed others had same instructions.

    • People assumed they were in charge (or no one is).

    • Some people assumed it was a formula or equation to solve.

    • Some people assumed "you may not show your symbols" means you have to describe them or may not communicate them at all.

  • Point out similarities in feelings (isolated, out of the loop, frustrated, and so on) regardless of role or position in the hierarchy.

  • Pressure on people did not help them work more effectively, typically the opposite . Attitude of environment (you) supports them or creates stress.

  • Did any teams finish by just being lucky someone guessed right?

  • Ask if anyone on teams that finished early got "thank you" notes.

  • "How could we have done this better?" Clarify objective, roles, and process.

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HANDOUT A: A SIMPLE ANALYTICAL PROJECT

One separate page per designated Person A.

In this project, you are A. The project reporting structure is as follows : B reports to you; C, D, and E report to B.

Each of you has been given a handout containing five symbols. However, there are six different symbols distributed throughout the room. Each is a familiar symbol. Your job is to find out which one of the symbols is held in common. You must finish this job in 15 minutes. You may communicate with B only through the exchange of written notes. B may exchange notes with you and C, D, and E. C, D, and E may exchange notes with B only. No other communication is permitted.

To elaborate:

  • There are six unique symbols.

  • Each person has five of these six possible symbols.

  • There are four copies of five of the symbols.

  • There are five copies of one of the symbols.

  • You are to determine which symbol is held by all five persons.

Your symbols are as follows:

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HANDOUT B: A SIMPLE ANALYTICAL PROJECT

One separate page per designated Person B.

A and B may exchange notes.

C, D, and E may exchange notes with B only.

No other communication is permitted.

You will find five symbols below. You may not show them to any other person.

You must finish this job in 15 minutes.

If you have questions, raise your hand.

Your symbols are as follows:

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HANDOUT C: A SIMPLE ANALYTICAL PROJECT

One separate page per designated Person C.

A and B may exchange notes.

C, D, and E may exchange notes with B only.

No other communication is permitted.

You will find five symbols below. You may not show them to any other person.

You must finish this job in 15 minutes.

If you have questions, raise your hand.

Your symbols are as follows:

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HANDOUT D: A SIMPLE ANALYTICAL PROJECT

One separate page per designated Person D .

A and B may exchange notes.

C, D, and E may exchange notes with B only.

No other communication is permitted.

You will find five symbols below. You may not show them to any other person.

You must finish this job in 15 minutes.

If you have questions, raise your hand.

Your symbols are as follows:

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HANDOUT E: A SIMPLE ANALYTICAL PROJECT

One separate page per designated Person E.

A and B may exchange note.

C, D, and E may exchange notes with B only.

No other communication is permitted.

You will find five symbols below. You may not show them to any other person.

You must finish this job in 15 minutes.

If you have questions, raise your hand.

Your symbols are as follows:

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ABOUT THE TRAINER
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Name :

Martha Legare

Address:

The Gantt Group

 

6475 East Joy Road

 

Ann Arbor, MI 48105

E-Mail:

Legare@ganttgroup.com

Fax:

734-769-9037

Telephone:

734-769-6700

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MARTHA LEGARE has been an AMA instructor in Project Management since 1988. She is CEO of the Gantt Group, Inc., a Michigan-based training and consulting firm specializing in strategic planning, organization development, and project management. She has strong cross-cultural skills in managing diverse teams to assist companies in achieving their goals.

Martha has helped clients establish Project Offices in the United States, Mexico, and Europe. She has designed and authored numerous seminars . She has consulted with intact teams, planning such real world projects as the nationwide rollout of a collections system for a credit card company. She negotiated and managed the training and implementation effort for a customized Oracle order management system as part of a reengineering effort for an international information and software provider.

Prior to founding the Gantt Group, Martha was principal in an Organization Development consulting firm in the San Francisco Bay Area. Previously, she was general manager for a baby product manufacturer. As manager of an institutional food service company, she doubled production in eight months. Her start in organizations began by founding a retail business and increasing the initial investment by 16,667% in four years .

Martha Legare received her BA from Guilford College and her MBA from Almeda College. She is adjunct faculty at Oakland University and a mediator for the American Arbitration Association. Martha is a certified PMP and was recently chosen to be on the Project Management Institute's Registered Education Provider Advisory Board.

Martha Legare has taught the following AMA seminar:

6503

Improving Your Project Management Skills: The Basics for Success




The AMA Trainers Activity Book. A Selection of the Best Learning Exercises from the Worlds Premiere Training Organization
The AMA Trainers Activity Book: A Selection of the Best Learning Exercises from the Worlds Premiere Training Organization
ISBN: 0814408141
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2004
Pages: 61

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