‘Are we there yet? Secrets to sustainable business success’

Aspira teach people the importance of carrying out a Lessons Learned exercise at the end of each project, to make sure you learn from your lessons when starting the next project. Tune into talk radio on any given day and you’ll hear the Irish economy is bouncing back into full on recovery. We’re on the up and up again, but how exactly has that recovery come about… and have we really learned any lessons from the recent past?

The construction sector is visibly improving with planning permission notices for new housing littering the countryside. New road development projects and the rejuvenation of our city docklands area is on the horizon – multiple cranes can once again be seen on our skyline and ‘breakfast roll man’ is making a comeback, albeit with muesli and a skinny Latte instead of the full Irish breakfast.

Can we have any confidence that things will be different this time?

We hope that part of our recovery is based upon more mindful spending on the part of the consumer, more reasonable pay on the part of the employers and more prudent savings on everyone’s part.

But it’s not enough to expect consumers to self-regulate. We also need stronger banking regulations and enforcement of compliance. Recent headlines and court cases have exposed some nefarious practices in the world of high finance. We need a change of mind-set so that ‘wheeling and dealing’ practices are not seen as clever or admirable – instead we need to return to valuing good old fashioned principles such as honesty and integrity.

There are some warning signs that the recovery of the economy may soon start simmering over. We see that the property bubble is expanding again as demand far exceeds supply, with house prices back up to pre-crash levels. It makes alarm bells ring out when we hear mortgage providers advertising their “cash back” options – the kind of options guaranteed to encourage reckless borrowing.

The other major source of uncertainty is Brexit. What exactly will it mean for the economies of Europe? I don’t know. Perhaps I should refer to the architects of the Brexit deal – but it turns out that they have no clue either how it will affect either the UK economy or the wider EU economy. The only thing we know for sure is that it will be harmful, and that uncertainty will continue. And it is uncertainty that makes markets jittery and could precipitate another crash.

But rather than focus on the negative, let’s remind ourselves that current economic indicators say that the economy is right back where we were in 2008, we are back to effectively full employment and we anticipate unprecedented levels of employment growth, with jobs in the technology sector leading the way. Aspira has been named as one of Europe’s Fastest Growing Technology companies by the Financial Times for the second year in a row, so there is every reason to be hopeful for continued success. Remember – a pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity, but an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.

Check us out at www.aspira.ie

Author: Paula Good, Accounts Dept., Aspira

 

Aspira appoints new Director of Software Development

 

Aspira, the specialist Project Management and Enterprise IT Solutions services organisation, has appointed Jim Blair as Director of Software Development. The appointment follows recent growth at the company and a number of significant client wins.

Jim brings over 30 years’ experience in product and software development to the company. From designing core elements of Mac OS at Apple to leading new product development at multiple Irish start-up companies, Jim has led the engineering of many world-class solutions. Jim will contribute to the growth of the software development teams at Aspira, working closely with clients to achieve seamless design, creation and implementation of software products that contribute to these organisations’ digital transformation.

Speaking on his new role at Aspira, Jim Blair said: “I’m delighted to take on this new role as Director of Software Development. We have a vastly experienced software development function at Aspira, and I look forward to working with my software developers and the complementary groups within Aspira to enhance the bespoke customer software service we provide to our clients.”

Aspira CEO, Pat Lucey, commented on the announcement: “We’re delighted to appoint Jim as Director of Software Development. Jim brings a wealth of experience that is critical for the development of world-class devices and software. Jim will be a fantastic asset to the team, contributing his strategic vision for the growth of the software development teams to the benefit of our valued clients.”

Aspira is a specialist consultancy, focusing on Enterprise IT Solutions, with offices in Dublin and Cork. Offering Project Management and Business Analyst Training services internationally, Aspira is approved by the Project Management Institute®, the International Institute of Business Analysis® and Scrum.org.

Please visit us at: www.aspira.ie or contact us on 021-2352550 or 01-5175777.

 

Emotional Intelligence – 50 shades of black and white…. (Part 2 of 2)

 

In Part 1 of my blog,  I spoke about the importance of Empathy – and making the effort to see things from the other person’s point of view.  Today I want to share two other ways I have learned to improve my level of EQ, or Emotional Intelligence:

Self-Awareness and Self-Regulation

To have self-awareness is the ability to recognize your own emotions, recognize the effect that emotions have on you physiologically, and recognize the effects they have both on your behaviours and how others will behave towards you.

Socrates (the philosopher, not the footballer) said “Know thyself” in order to understand the workings of the world. When dealing with people you have to be aware of how your own reactions and emotions can affect others and their view of us.

You need to be aware of our emotions in real time – as they happen. You will often have little control over when you experience emotions, especially negative ones such as nervousness, loss of motivation or anger.  However, you can regulate how you process the emotion and for how long you will feel that emotion.

I genuinely can feel a lot of anger very quickly, which has not always worked well for me at times in the past. Unless you’ve just won an Oscar, it is generally not advisable to communicate when in an overly-emotional state.  Whether you feel angry, upset or fearful, you can do lasting damage to relationships if you communicate when you’re not in control.

So when you feel a negative emotion kicking in, recognise it and know it will pass. Don’t let the emotion control your behaviour – instead you manage the emotion.  Consider what the behaviour was that triggered the issue, then identify what impact that behaviour has had on you to give rise to how you feel.  Armed with these three pieces of knowledge – Behaviour, Impact, Feeling, also known as BIF – you now have the tools to give constructive and effective feedback.  Give a BIF.

By communicating to the other person what their behaviour was, how it had an impact, and how that has made you feel; you have proactively managed the situation. Rather than sitting there seething in anger, or wallowing in self-pity, you have analysed the situation and have channelled your emotions to provide constructive feedback to tackle the problem at source.  As as a result, you have self-regulated your emotions and are in control of the situation.

In my role as a Senior Project Consultant with Aspira, I am sometimes required to take on Recovery Projects – projects that have gone wrong, and where I come in as a Recovery PM to get things back on track. In this scenario, relationships can be fraught as people will feel nervous and vulnerable.  This makes it absolutely critical that I maintain self-control and give calm, objective feedback to the project team members throughout.  By acting in a firm yet professional manner, the team can see that there’s a ‘new sheriff in town’ and will raise their own level of performance.

To conclude, one of the key strengths I look for in a great Project Manager is emotional intelligence, and the ability to see there can be 50 shades of black and white…

Author: Damien Kearns, Aspira.

Emotional Intelligence – 50 shades of black and white…. (Part 1 of 2)

It can be tempting to interpret things as simply black or white, good or bad, wrong or right. But the reality is that there are always different degrees of black or white, and while it can be difficult to discern them, it is important to tune your mindset to figure out how to identify which of the many shades of grey may be in front of you.

Throughout my life, I’ve always been looking to improve and develop, both in my personal and professional life. One area I have found where I can always improve is the area of EQ – Emotional Quotient -, which is based on the idea of IQ but looks at emotional maturity rather than raw brainpower.

Generally, I like to dissect where I can do better and one area I have found for improvement is how I relate to people and deal with situations. Sometimes it’s easy to react too quickly to a situation, only to overreact and regret that response later.

So, with that in mind, I’ve highlighted three areas of Emotional Intelligence where I try to put extra focus when dealing with difficult situations or people:

  • Empathy
  • Self-awareness
  • Self-regulation

Empathy

In truth, we experience life and work from our own frame of reference, and if a view is expressed which conflicts with our picture of the world, we can treat that view as simply wrong.   This is a mistake, as by treating it as wrong, we make no effort to understand another’s person reasoning for disagreeing with us and we do not try to tune into their frame of reference.

Empathy is being able to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference. In other words, it’s the ability to put yourself in the other person’s position and look at the issue from their point of view.

It’s about trying to look at a situation using their perspective with a view to understanding their reasoning. I now try to take some time to understand the why of a person’s stance and try to place myself in their shoes.   I find that 99% of the time they have valid reasoning for their stance and it just takes some time and effort for me to understand it.  Sometimes that understanding helps me to change my opinion.  There are also times when understanding their viewpoint helps me to change their mind by explaining my argument in a way that will resonate with them.

Tune in to Part 2 of my blog next week when I share what I’ve learned about self-awareness and self-regulation, and how you can channel negative emotions into a constructive force.

www.aspira.ie

Author: Damien Kearns, Senior Consultant, Aspira.

The People in Your Neighbourhood

Do you remember Sesame Street and the song ‘Who are the people in your neighbourhood’? Have you ever stopped to consider just how many different people we meet each day – from family and friends, to complete strangers, including some people we might prefer to avoid!  Have you considered how much we rely on them, without even realising it?

Firstly, there’s friends and family; we look out for each other, rejoice in each other’s success as if it were our own, and we support each other in times of need. You don’t get to choose your family, but you can choose your friends – these are the people we grow up with and, in the words from the Friends theme song “I’ll be there for you ’cause you’re there for me too”.

We regularly meet the friendly postman who hands over bills with a smile on his face, or the local shopkeeper, who knows you by name and is always ready to discuss today’s weather. We are slightly obsessed by the weather; it’s always too hot, too cold, too wet or too windy – but it’s never boring, and a great topic of conversation!  We have a mutual interest when we meet our children’s teacher, so here the weather topic is dropped, and we discuss the current school extension funding efforts, or the approaching school holidays.  The periodic visit to the hairdresser or barber is always accompanied by a discussion on vacation plans, or reviews of a recent holiday trip.

We also rely heavily on those people we meet in times of mini crisis. It might be when an electrical fault causes you to stumble through the house in the dark, searching for your phone to speed dial your trusty electrician.  Or it might be when that dripping tap in your bathroom turns into Niagara Falls, and you need your plumber to appear and save the day (and your house).  It might be when your car splutters to a halt with a very strange noise coming from the engine, and you rely on your long-suffering mechanic’s magic touch to resuscitate the vehicle, so you can ignore all rattles for another twelve months!

Five days each week we meet work colleagues; catch up on the evening before, figure out how to share the workload for the day ahead, and make plans for the upcoming weekend. In many ways, companies are much like families.  Sometimes a ‘family member’ needs a little extra help to get that project completed by the due date, maybe the project has gone completely off track and needs some expert help in Disaster Recovery.

Sometimes the company may need to take on a completely new project, but simply not have the manpower. This is where you reach out to the ‘extended family’.  Aspira work closely with many companies to provide that helping hand when needed, asking our Project Managers, Business Analysts or IT Support consultants to fit right in with their ‘long-lost cousins’.  They help out by hitting the ground running and providing support throughout the whole project and beyond.

As with all families, if you need that extra helping hand, pick up the phone. We’ll be there for you.  www.aspira.ie

Author: Noreen Quinn, HR Partner, Aspira.

Do you need to be a Mentalist to be a Project Manager?

Last night I went to see the English hypnotist and mentalist Derren Brown perform an amazing show, where he performed uncanny acts of mind-reading and influencing through the power of suggestion.

As Derren asked his audience to promise not to reveal the contents of the show, I will stick with that promise – no spoilers – but I did think afterwards about the importance of influencing skills for Project Managers.

I don’t think Project Managers will ever need to be able to influence people to choose a particular card from a pack, but they will need to get people to select their project when making a priority call, or get people to put in some extra work over the weekend, or encourage people to get their action items closed out in time.

So what tips can we learn from Mr Brown? I learned three tips last night:

  1. The power of story telling. While delivering his show, Derren doesn’t say “and for my next trick…”, instead he tells us a story about himself, his childhood, his personal experience. He then draws from that experience an underlying lesson – a deeper truth.

It’s a compelling performance. His story captivates us, we are drawn in and we engage with what he is telling us.  A Project Manager could benefit so much by using that technique to influence stakeholders.  You win hearts and minds not by saying “this project will reduce the cost of goods sold for this medicine by 2%” but instead by showing how the efficiencies that can be delivered by this project will reduce the cost of medicine, making it accessible to thousands of more people in the world whose lives will be transformed.  A very different message.

  1. Use of metaphor and analogy. Derren uses language very effectively to tie together concepts and generate emotional responses from us. By deeply connecting emotions and anchoring those emotions with his influencing messages, he is able to effectively connect with people’s emotions.

This approach is exactly how advertising companies operate, and it can be just as effective too for you dealing with your project stakeholders. If you need to win the minds of your management team to invest in new technology or processes, get them to recall how it felt last year when the technology let them down, and they had to work long hours and miss vacation just to compensate.  Then show how this new technology will solve the problem.  I feel supportive already!

  1. The importance of body language. He reads people like a book. A very open book.  Not many of us can do it to his level of skill, but if you do take the time to focus on people’s body language, you will often become aware of how they really feel.

You will sense when they don’t agree, giving you an opportunity to re-phrase your argument. You will sense when they don’t understand, letting you try to approach it from a new angle.  Or you might sense that you have had enough and simply want to walk away, in which case you should simply stop, regroup and ask for a follow up meeting.

Aspira Project Management training courses will help you identify and engage your project stakeholders – check us out at www.aspira.ie

You don’t need to be a mentalist to be a Project Manager – but it sure can help.

Author: Pat Lucey, CEO, Aspira

Never work a day in your life… (part 2)

The story so far… I decided to change my career to become a Professional PM and to seek PM certification… (read last week’s blog for full details)…now read on…

I attended a 3 day Project Management Practical training course with Aspira. It was an excellent, highly participative course which left lasting memories. I was actually surprised at just how much I learned about project management in 3 days and wished that I had attended the course years earlier as some of the projects I had worked on would have benefited greatly.

After a few months, I also attended a PMP® Exam Bootcamp course with Aspira. I learned during the training that in order to be eligible for the PMP® Exam, I needed a minimum of 3 years project management experience, as well as 35 project management training hours.  I met both requirements, and I left the course determined to attain my certification.

I applied for my exam – the application form in itself is a lengthy process but thankfully the Aspira Exam Prep training helped me to complete this and my application was accepted a week later. I signed up to sit my exam in a Prometric centre in Dublin in Feb (there are Prometric centres available in Cork and Belfast also).

The next step was to plan my study. The PMBOK® (Project Management Book of Knowledge) Guide 5th edition is a 589 page book which contains a lot, but not all, the theory you need to know to pass the exam. My plan was to study the PMBOK® manual, study some supplementary research papers and complete lots of practical exams.

I made good use of my commute by train to and from Dublin – scrolling through Facebook and Snapchat was abandoned in favor of reading my study materials. With one week to go, I concentrated mostly on practice exams. There are free exam simulators available in the App Store, and whilst some were better than others, overall they were great for highlighting specific areas I needed to focus on, and preparing me for the real exam.

The exam itself is made up of 200 multiple choice questions which need to be answered in 4 hours. Don’t let the multiple choice element of the exam fool you into thinking this will make it easy. In my experience, there were very few questions where I could instantly say at least two of those answers are obviously wrong. In many questions, each answer seemed correct and you really needed to know your stuff to know the most correct answer.

When a particularly difficult question arose in the exam, I marked it for later review. You can revisit the marked questions at any stage, but I felt it was best to go through all questions first, answering where I could, before re-visiting the more difficult ones. Time management is important – too much time spent on a difficult question could result in running out of time to answer easier questions.

Another obvious tip is to read the questions carefully. With 200 questions x 4 options to read, it is important to remember this and maintain concentration throughout the exam.  I have a tendency to cram a lot of study in the night before exams, but for this exam, I took the recommendation of others on board and I ensured I got a good night sleep the night before. I was so glad I did this, as concentration is key in reading and understanding all 200 questions.

Finally, yes the exam is tough, but there are some high points, the first one being your results are instantaneous! OK – there is a 30 second delay while your results are computed, which feels a whole lot longer as you watch a blank screen. The biggest highlight of course is in seeing the “Congratulations, You Passed” message appear on screen! I felt on top of the world as I left the Test Center and felt I was capable of taking on any project in any industry.

Because the beauty of gaining industry certification is not that it suddenly makes you a great Project Manager – it’s that it validates your knowledge and experience and gives you the confidence to take on new challenges. I can heartily recommend it!

Author: Gillian Whelan, Project Manager, Aspira.

The Project Management Professional (PMP) and PMBOK, are registered marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc.

Never work a day in your life… (part 1)

After spending 17 years working in a large multinational Financial Services company in various project and operational management roles, I decided to take a year-long career break.

During that break, I completed an MSc in Financial Services and also had the time to reflect on how frantic my working life had been. I tend to set very high standards for myself (with the exception of exercise and household chores!) and always want to be the best I can possibly be in order to reach my maximum potential.

I realised that pushing myself hard all the time had served me well and helped me progress in my career, but that same strong work ethic and ambition, coupled with a 4 hour daily round-trip commute, had probably left me feeling burnt out.

When I started to think about a return to the workplace and what my next role would be, Confucius’ saying was ringing in my ears “Find a job you love and you will never work a day in your life”.   This was the first problem to resolve, what was it I actually loved doing?

This is a question I have always struggled with as it relates to my career. I have a tendency to get stuck into a role and if I am performing well I tend to stay at it without ever challenging myself to assess whether I am actually happy doing the role. So rather than identify what role I wanted, I decided to identify a role that would play to my strengths, as that would surely have the potential to become a role I could love.

I quickly discarded the first few strengths that came to mind, shopping, socialising and making my friends and family laugh, none of these were ever going to pay the bills! The other strengths which seemed to offer potential were planning, organisational skills, communication, negotiation, influencing and an ability to work well under pressure.

When I put these together, it seemed like project management was the type of role that my strengths would serve me well in. I had worked as a PM for many years in financial services without realising it was my calling, perhaps because I wasn’t a pure PM in the sense I also had operational management responsibilities so my time was split between both project management and operational roles.

I happened to meet Pat Lucey, Aspira CEO, who advised that I should consider getting a project management qualification as companies tend to look for suitably qualified PMs. I did some research and concluded that PMP® (Project Management Professional) and PRINCE2 accreditations were both highly reputed in this field, giving potential employers the confidence that I had the proper level of understanding of the key project management concepts and how to apply them.

PRINCE2 is a process-based project management method that offers a systematic approach to delivering projects whilst PMP is based on generally accepted best practices as defined by a large pool of experts from diverse industries and backgrounds.

Although both disciplines include teachings on tailoring their theory to your project and company’s needs, I felt PMP was less prescriptive and therefore more relevant to a larger number of industries. Industry studies also have shown that certified PM’s earn more than their non-certified counterparts. The decision was made, I was going to get myself a PMP qualification.

Tune in to part 2 of this blog next week to see how I got on!

Author:  Gillian Whelan, Project Manager, Aspira

The PMI logo is a registered mark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.

The Project Management Professional (PMP) is a registered mark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.

Breaking Up with Folders

Breaking up with Folders

One of the most minor but regular annoyances within SharePoint is this:checkbox

This is an option being set to “Yes” by default is normally the cause of a lot of misery for anyone managing a SharePoint site.There are a million and one blogs written about why you shouldn’t use folders in SharePoint, outlining a lot of valid points. While I’m not sure I completely agree with removing them entirely, it’s worth understanding why you should or should not use them.

Why do people use folders?

People use folders because they have always used them. The concept of a folder structure is easy to understand. In the words of a former coworker, “you don’t have to think about it, you can just drag and drop”.

Why are they a bad idea?

Of course, you “don’t have to think about” the funny sound your car is making… right up until your engine explodes.

There are plenty of lists online that give specific technical reasons to avoid lists, so I’m going to stick to why they cause problems for an end user.

Folders should be used to group files, not categorise them. However, the majority of the time they are used for both.

Here’s an example that I have seen of this: a company stores all of their documents related to projects in a single document library. It has the following folder structure (excuse the terrible drawings, graphics are not my strong point):

filestruct

In this we see a great example of a bad folder and a potentially good (well, “okay”) folder.

Bad Folders

The “Project Phase” level of folders is everything that is wrong with using folders in SharePoint. There are 4 folders at this level (Not Started, In Progress, Complete, On Hold). Obviously, this will change through the lifecycle of a project. This means that everytime the phase of a project changes, you need to move the project folder out of one Phase folder and into another. This causes a number of problems:

  1. It changes the URL of the documents, breaking any links currently being used.
  2. It is awkward. Because folders aren’t designed for moving data in this way, there is no easy way to do it, forcing you to cut and paste or click and drag across different file explorer windows.
  3. It is slow. Moving a folder full of files can take a long time depending on file size and connection speed.

“Okay” Folders

While many people would probably debate this with me, I think the folder for each Project is acceptable in this type of structure:

filestructnew

Now, these may be better suited to an individual document library for each project, the folder is still doing what it is meant to; grouping files. It is unlikely that a file would be moved from one project to another. The only major issue you would see here is that permissions may become hard to manage if each project has different people accessing files. But if that isn’t a concern then this setup isn’t too bad.

Improving things with Site Content Types

So you like the idea of using an “okay” folder, but you still want to categorise your data. What’s the solution?

Probably the quickest and easiest way is to have a metadata column called “Phase” on each file. This way, you can bulk edit the value when the phase and you’re done. No need to click and drag, move files or wait around for a file transfer. It would also allow you to sort and filter on a specific, something that is lost with folders.

However, this doesn’t really make sense. The document itself doesn’t have a phase, the folder it belongs to does, so really it should be the folder storing this info. Well… that’s where Site Content Types become useful.

Site content types are incredibly underused in SharePoint. Many people spend a lot of time and energy trying to fix a problem that has already been handled by simply using a different content type.

The one to look at here is the Document Set content type. This content type is great for the above example. By default, when you create a document set, you give it a name and description.

docset

You will then be given a much cleaner view to handle documents in the set, along with a new “Manage” ribbon that lets you control permissions and edit properties.

docview

What we can do now is either copy this content type or modify the existing document set content type to allow for Project Phase. This is basically the same as editing any other custom list column. Go to Site Settings -> Document Set -> Add from new site column. You can then update the column to include whatever data you need.

docphase2

Now when you open each document set and edit the properties, you have the option to edit the phase of each set.

docphase

So before you rush to create a folder ask yourself: does it accomplish what it needs to? Put some thought into this and I guarantee you it will save you a lot of headaches in the future.

Author: Ian Jones, Software Developer, Aspira.

Deadlines Rule My Life.

It’s 5.00pm on a Tuesday evening and I get called into my boss, Pat Lucey’s office. Not good. I’m already thinking I need to be gone out of the office by 5.30pm at the latest to collect my kids at 5.45pm. Nobody gets out of Pat’s office quickly.

Pat has a request for me to write a blog for the Aspira website. I start sobbing (internally). Not alone is writing not my forte, but he wants me to develop an outline for it in the next 15 minutes (louder sobs). He asks me what I want to write about and the first thing that comes into my head is ‘Deadlines’.

As a professional with young kids and a demanding job I have realized recently that my life is either being ruled or ruined by deadlines. The two definitions of a deadline are “the latest time or date by which something should be completed” and “a line drawn around a prison beyond which prisoners were liable to be shot”. I think that they might both apply to my life.

In a typical week I need to complete the school run by a deadline, get to work by a deadline, meet lots of deadlines during the week, pick up kids at various deadlines and deliver them to their many after-school activities.  Then start again the next day.  This is a very familiar routine to many of you.  On weekends the deadlines change to revolve around sports games.  If a deadline is missed there can be carnage.  If a deadline is hit then it’s just taken for granted and it’s on to the next one… So, do we ever stop to ask if all those deadlines are useful?

Let me lay out my position from the start: I think that overall, deadlines are useful – they give me structure to my day/week /year and help me prioritise which tasks need to be done now, and which can be deferred.  For people who tend to procrastinate, deadlines can ensure that important things don’t fall between the cracks – they ensure something will get done.

But on the flip side they can take over your life and you can be left with no free time if you are constantly running from one deadline to the next.  There are Four Tips I can offer that help me manage my deadlines:

 

  • Set achievable deadlines, don’t let optimism take over when setting a completion date for a task.  If the deadline will only be achieved if everything goes perfectly to plan, well guess what – you will be in trouble because nothing ever goes perfectly. Plan some contingency.

 

  • Don’t overcommit, don’t try to be a hero and take on too many overlapping tasks.  Finally, let’s stop and think before you set ourselves another deadline. Think through an average day and you will see many of the deadlines we set are self-imposed deadlines. Remember that help is usually available if you need it!

 

  • Don’t overstress if you miss an occasional deadline – remember that we are here for a ‘good time, not a long time’ so don’t beat yourself up as it’s never the end of the world if a deadline is missed.  In fact, if you do miss one, use it as an excuse to remind everyone what an unusual event that is because you are such a dependable person! .

 

  • Recognize your achievement of meeting deadlines (even if nobody else does) and reward yourself for consistently delivering on time.  Whether it is delivering kids to their classes on time or delivering a major project for Aspira on time – they are both about meeting your commitments and keeping your stakeholders happy!

 

Deadlines are important and a Project Manager can help deliver your deadlines on time.  Contact us today to discuss https://aspira.ie/project-resourcing

 

Footnote: I left Pat’s office at 5:30pm that Tuesday and collected my kids on time. Pat insisted I wrote that bit in ?

 

Author:  Emma Hayes, HR Business Partner, Aspira

Back on the Saddle – Project Managing your Team to Victory

 

 

 

Last weekend legendary cyclist, Sean Kelly, & I undertook a most enjoyable spin around The Burren & Cliffs of Moher in Co Clare on a beautiful Spring day. The fact that there were over 2,000 others on the cycle shouldn’t detract from what became a serious grudge race between Kelly & myself (that Kelly was not aware he was in a race with me is irrelevant ? )

In the interest of suspense, I won’t reveal who won until the end of this piece!

Afterwards, Kelly took part in an informal Q&A session. One question raised was what separated a social cyclist, club racer & top pro. Apart from the predictable key areas of ability & dedication, an interesting point made was about project management – both race management and lifestyle management. It is not enough to be a strong finisher if you are left behind caught by a break half way through a race. There isn’t much good in being a hard trainer if you didn’t know how to rest & recover.

Sport is rightly viewed as an emotion driven, primal activity, but successful sports managers remove some of the emotion & replace it with good project management practices.

So if we are to take some key traits of a Project Manager in the world of Sport, who can we look to for examples of best practice and who could benefit from fine-tuning their PM skills?  Let’s look at three key areas of Project Management:

  1. Collaboration – How to develop a great team and keep it productive;

Best Practice – Joe Schmidt (Ireland Rugby).

Joe has created an environment with at least two players vying for every position, everyone ‘on message’, and arguably the strongest coaching team around him in world rugby. This is critical chain project management at its best.

Needs to Improve – José Mourinho (Manchester United).

While there’s no “I” in TEAM, there are five “I”’s in “Individual Brilliance” – it seems to be a case of ‘all about me’ with José it. Recently throwing his players to the wolves after a poor performance. His highly successful predecessor, Alex Ferguson, always defended his players – taking action behind closed doors when necessary.

  1. Communication – Great communication is a must to keep all stakeholders on-side, on schedule & focused;

Best Practice – David Brailsford (SKY Cycling).

Despite the bad smell now emanating from the SKY camp, Brailsford captured the cycling public’s interest for many years with a compelling story & consistent message of ‘marginal gains’. From nowhere, SKY became the No 1 team in world cycling & gave a new hope to the sport.

Needs to Improve – Jim Gavin (Dublin GAA).

Perhaps on his way to becoming the most successful ever Gaelic Football manager, Gavin remains enigmatic, having communicated none of his team’s ethos, dreams & goals to the Dublin GAA public, an important stakeholder.

  1. Leadership – Setting the tone for the project with integrity, providing a clear vision for the team

Best Practice – Brian Cody (Kilkenny Hurling).

Cody works long hours to prepare precise plans for all his management team & players. Consistently combative, sometimes cranky, but fiercely loyal to his organisation and never crossing the line by taking shortcuts to success. Treats everyone equally & shows respect for all opponents.

Needs to Improve – Eddie Jones (England Rugby)

Jones was glib, condescending & argumentative while enjoying a record-breaking winning streak, but took a major wobble in team selections, public utterances & body language when the pressure was on following three consecutive defeats. In danger of ‘losing the dressing-room’, Jones would do well to remember that a calm, even-handed leader in good times & bad will earn the respect of his/her team.

 

Our  Project Management course will give you the knowledge and skills required to be a successful project manager including the ‘hard’ skills of managing and planning the scope, schedule and budget and also the ‘soft’ skills of engaging and communicating with your stakeholders and ultimately managing their expectations and meeting the customer requirements.   Details are at: https://aspira.ie/training/

Footnote: In a disappointing end to my duel with Sean Kelly, he opted to complete the 125km route when the courses diverged, whereas I stuck to the much more difficult 80k route. I look forward to crossing swords with him again in the future, meanwhile Mr. Kelly remains oblivious to the whole episode!

 

Author: Philip McGillycuddy, Client Services Manager, Aspira.

STEM Subjects – why Maths is Cool!

Maths was always my favorite subject and is at the core of STEM subjects (Science Technology, Engineering, Maths).  I was fascinated by how people used maths to solve real, practical problems.  Like the Egyptians building their pyramids, like carpenters using Pythagoras’ theorem to construct a right angle, like Marconi inventing radio – but more on that later.  In the present day it is used all around us – cryptography uses prime numbers to keep our passwords safe, social media sites use complex algorithms to figure out which video to show you next so you’ll stay glued to your screen, Spotify analyses the number of beats per minute of the music you like in order to suggest other songs you might like.

On the window of my office there is also a Mathematical formula written:  e =  -1  , which is Euler’s equation. It’s there because it’s my favourite – it’s where Mr. Euler brings a cast of super-star numbers together and then there is a big surprise ending.  The first super-star is Pi, which has a value of 3.14… and it goes on forever after the decimal point.  The second super-star is e, the exponential number which has value 2.718…. and it also goes on forever.  The third star is i, (or iota, the Greek letter for i).  It doesn’t have a decimal value as it is an imaginary number – it is the number than when multiplied by itself gives the answer -1.

Euler takes these three superstar numbers and combines them in a formula, and the answer is … wait for it…  minus one.  So, by multiplying these never-ending number and imaginary numbers, you get -1.  That is just so surprising!  And it helps calculate satellite trajectories.

Maths makes for a really cool exploring tool.  Marconi was interested in Maths and Physics, and studied the new science of electromagnetism.  While most people were trying to figure out how to generate power, Marconi was interested in the fact that the mathematical models of electromagnetic waves suggested that in theory they could be transmitted over large distances.  Marconi went on to build a transmitter and receiver that proved the mathematical models were correct – and so came the telegraph, radio, television, Wi-Fi.  It was only because the maths predicted it, that Marconi had the stubbornness to try it.

The same phenomenon happened in the past few years – back in the 1960’s a mathematical model suggested the existence of a new elementary particle, called the Higgs Boson (aka the God particle).  Because Maths showed it should exist, scientists spent the next 50 years searching for it, until in July 2012 they found it, measured in and weighed it.

Maths is also a really useful tool when embarking on a new project or business venture.  ‘Do the numbers stack up?’ is a frequent question.  When setting up Aspira back in 2007, my co-founder and I made a list of all the costs we could think of, how much money we had available, and the likelihood of generating some sales.  By putting this into a spreadsheet, it told us how long we could survive even if we made no sales (the answer was six months) and it also told us how much sales we needed to win in order to break even.  The mathematical model we built gave us the confidence to embark on the journey to set up Aspira.

Mathematicians are like explorers, on a voyage of discovery, looking off into the distance and predicting things that are far away.  But those predictions are what cause people to choose their target and set sail for new horizons.

For all your consultation (maths!) needs, please visit our website https://aspira.ie/contact/

Author: Pat Lucey, CEO, Aspira.