Friday, October 26, 2012

Ragnaring the PMP Exam - Executing

Execution. Let's run this bitch.

In case you missed it, I'm studying for my PMP exam (tomorrow at 1!) by outlining the PMP process and applying it to captaining a Ragnar team.

This is where the project management really speeds up and you will thank/curse yourself for the time and effort that you put into the planning phase.

Lesson 24: Direct and Manage Project Execution
We've all met at the van rental desk. We're ready to get to the start line hotel. Thus begins project execution. These first 4-8 hours are the hardest for me as a captain. If you talk to me during this time period, I will probably respond in grunts, giggles, inappropriate or random phrases, because I am so busy checking that everything is ready, that people are getting along, and that everyone has an understanding of what's next (checking in on project scope!) Those who have run with me a lot know that this is usually the best time to smile and nod and keep me well fed. Type A's gotta go nutty sometimes.

Please note, the PMP backs me up on this crazy behavior: "the project manager must constantly monitor and measure performance against baselines, so that timely corrective action can be taken."

I know the instant that two people aren't going to get along and dive head first into pre-meditated conflict negotiation (this step is coming up a bit later).

The one place where this process deviates from the PMP process is in spending. It says the most money is usually spend in this phase; if we pre-pay for everything, then that is inaccurate, but the point being - usually the majority of money is spent here in project execution. Vans are expensive.

CONFLICT. I mentioned conflict. Here are reasons for conflict:
1) Schedules: We're sharing a hotel room and I want to go to bed, but you're talking our roommate's ear off and won't shut up. Our bed time schedules are causing conflicts.
2) Budgets: I thought we were keeping costs on the low end - we can't go to ruth's chris steakhouse for dinner.
3) Priorities: decorating is the most important thing to one runner, sleeping is the most important thing to another. I have seen serious blow out fights on this one. 
4) Human Resources: dear god, if I am the only person awake and driving the van at 3 am while everyone else is asleep, I will slowly turn into a burning pile of rage
5) Technical tradeoffs: Our van will be cheaper, but it won't have that awesome assisted back-up camera. And we may have to roll down the windows by hand.
6) Personalities: enough said.
7) Admin Procedures: You will get out of the van to cheer on your teammates even if you don't want to.

Here is how I deal with those conflicts:
1) Withdrawing: I'm going to ignore that person A is irritated because it's minor and they just need food (Justin does this to me all the time)
2) Forcing: "why?" "Because I'm the team captain and I said so." I don't think I have ever used this one during a race, thank God.
3) Smoothing: "She's just tired, she doesn't hate you" (LIES. ALL LIES, BUT PLEASE, LEAVE IT ALONE.)
4) Confronting: "Ok. I know this isn't the best situation, but here are our three options, tell me what you would most like to do."
5) Collaborating: "We're not going to make the finish line in time, here is my suggestion - what is yours?"
6) Compromising: "I hate leap frogging too, but we can either carry on as normal and maybe finish the race without beer or pizza, or we can leap frog and make it to a finish line party." 

Lesson 25: Acquire Project Team
This is out of sequence for our team since our team is formed waaaaay back in the planning phase, but in the real PMP world, you'd be assigning resources now.

Lesson 26: Develop Project Team
Sometimes, this happens by itself. Sometimes, I have to know random shit about each of my teammates so I can get conversations going. Generally speaking, here are the ways to develop a team. I actually do use each of them.

1) Training - every time someone does a Ragnar with me, they learn something new (usually because I learn something new, too). The more confident my team is with the process, the better the next race (generally) goes. I spend a lot of time with new Ragnarians, too, teaching them about Ragnar.
2) Team-Building Activities: Cards Against Humanity, team dinner, mixing up the vans on the drive up to the start line hotel, all good ways to get people chatting. One day, when I have less going on in my life, I'll get a pre-event team happy hour planned.
3) Reward and Recognition: have you followed our twitter feed? I try to tweet congrats to all of my runners on their progress
4) Co-location: easy. You're stuck in a van with each other for 30 hours

Need more? Here are reasons for motivation:
Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs: the pyramid effect. If your base needs are satisfied, then you can focus on levels over that. If you have gotten rest before the race, you can be stoked about wearing a safety vest, if you're good there, then you can spend time with your team, etc.

Alderfer's ERG: Existence Needs: Food, Relatedness: Relationships, Growth: development. That is your definition of Ragnar

Herzberg's Motivational Theory: advancement, recognition, and responsibility encourage motivation (give someone a task and give them recognition and boom, people will be motivated!)

McGregor's Theory X - people hate work (let's sleep in the back of the van all the time!)
McGregor's Theory Y - people love to work when appropriately motivated (I love decorating the van because we might win batons!)

Team phases are also important:
Forming: we've all just met - no one is upset! everyone is excited! much Ragnificance all around
Storming: omg are you serious? you don't sleep the night before a race?! RAGE RAGE RAGE
Norming: no more storming. we're talking like adults again.
Performing: that beautiful point where people have randomly picked up roles, like flag bearer or water refiller. You fall in love with your teammates.
Adjourining: end of the race. beer me.

Lesson 27: Manage Project Team
Teammates fighting? Time to cut someone manage them.

This process tracks and appraises team members. Frankly, by this point, unless there is a serious issue, I just hope everyone acts like teenagers (I won't hope for adulthood since I can't usually muster this kind of responsibility at 3am)

Lesson 28: Perform Quality Assurance
This is basically auditing the quality requirement. Example: is everyone wearing their safety vests during night time hours? 

It's also a bit larger than the specific race - I try to do some QA activities between teams, as well. Continuous improvement - PMP likes that a lot. They also call this KAIZEN (whatevs). It's the process of achieving improvements through small, incremental steps.

Lesson 29: Manage Stakeholder Expectations
This is another one of those processes that is really start to finish. If you come in thinking our vans are going to shoot off fireworks, we need to have a chat. 

Lesson 30: Conduct Procurements
This also happens earlier for us. But this is the time where I'm looking at Custom Ink versus Cafe Press for shirts; or someone is looking over the best place to rent vans, or which airport we should fly out of (we have three to choose from in DC and it's really annoying at times)

Lesson 31: Distribute Information
Again with the earlier process bit (note that a lot of processes don't happen in a preferred order!)

It's easiest to distribute information when you've been keeping good records. Remember your google doc? When everyone needs to have everyone else's phone numbers - boom. If you need to keep track of expenses - it's all done!

In the real world, you need to consider:
- Sender/receiver models (feedback loops/barriers to communication) - did you get my email? did it make sense? 
- Choice of media - don't send your team massive amounts of info in text; likewise, only text your team during the race when they may be sleeping if the info is menial
- Writing style - be sensitive when communicating with teammates at 3am
- Meeting management - Cards Against Humanity
- Presentation techniques - have you seen me lead a team meeting? Start mean, get weird, end happy
- Facilitation techniques - talk amongst ye selves

And that is our execution set of processes. Next up - Monitoring and Controlling the Project, which may need to happen first thing tomorrow morning!

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