Learn Anything Faster

Did you know you can learn how to be better at learning?

Here is a great system for learning anything like a master.

One of the ways to set yourself apart as a Project Manager is to have a deep understanding of everything, and that requires a lot of learning. Whenever I have used this technique it has accelerated my learning.

Let me know how this works for you!

The Best Way to Learn Anything: The Feynman Technique

Speed of Precast

img_1497-2I am always amazed how fast precast goes up. They can erect the panels for a 100,000 sq ft warehouse in a little over a week with favorable weather conditions. There is still a lot of finishing work, including caulking between the panels but it’s a pretty dramatic change from the steel structure to a mostly enclosed building.

This picture is of my Agrocrop Exports Ltd. project in Bolton ON and was taken on 2016-09-29.

What Younger Managers Should Know About How They’re Perceived

Why should Project Managers read this: Often as a Project Manager you are in a position of responsibility for people who are older and often more experienced than you. This article summarizes a study by Harvard Business Review on how younger leaders are perceived, both good and bad points.

My takeaways:

I am not alone: What this means is that most younger leaders / project managers will experience these perceptions of them.

Here is a checklist of things to work on: I am a firm believer in the Strengths Based Leadership model, so I really appreciated the list of positive perceptions identified.

Read it now: What Younger Managers Should Know About How They’re Perceived

A Decision Journal Can Help You Make Better Decisions

If you keep a decision journal you’re going to discover two things. First, you’re right a lot of the time. Second, it’s for the wrong reasons.

Why Project Managers should read this: One of the key things Project Manager’s do is make decisions, and making better decisions will make you a better Project Manager. This post is about the process of maintaining a decision journal, basically a log of the decisions you have made. The intent is that you will go back over this once in a while to determine if you are making good decisions, and how you can improve. Sounds pretty interesting to me.

A Decision Journal Can Help You Make Better Decisions

Critical Project Manager Skill – Ask better questions

Why Project Managers should read this: operating based upon your judgement and reasoning alone will only get you so far. The best leaders and managers ask questions of others to accelerate your learning.

My favorite quotes:

Rather than being the boss, and telling everyone how to do things, Grazer uses questions to listen and learn. When his team answers them, sometimes Brian changes his mind, and other times, the act of answering changes theirs. Either way, the outcome has nothing to do with Brian’s ego or his ideas being the only way to do things.

During the arduous journey to make Toy Story, he never once heard about issues production managers were having. When he finally did find out about them, he felt horrible they had gone on for so long. It was a painful lesson he learned that shaped much of his management approach going forward.

Never assume you fully understand something from simply an initial statement. You need to probe deeper so you’re not treating symptoms without knowing the disease.

If you have a habit of killing the messenger, no one will come to you with problems for long. Similarly, if a you tend to explode over any problem, your team will quickly learn to avoid making any mistakes. Both are catastrophic for you and your team.

Because the plant manager came to his people and involved them in the decision, they rallied with him and helped create a way to deliver the order on time. If he had simply come out and started giving orders, he would have likely been met with groans and resistance instead.

Read it now: Your most important management skill for success

How to get your emails answered

Ever waited for a response to an email?

Some people really need to get their act together, but have you ever considered what you are doing to contribute to their delayed response? Have you ever considered how difficult your emails are to respond to?

The simplest emails to respond to are the ones you can simply type “yes” or “no” to, so why not try writing all of your emails as yes / no questions.

Example #1: You are trying to arrange a meeting with someone:

Typical: Hey Joe, I’m free on Tuesday morning or Wednesday afternoon, what works best for you?

Better: Hey Joe, are you free to meet on Tuesday morning at 10 am?

Joe loves getting these emails. No ambiguity, no looking to see which is the better option. Joe can quickly check his calendar and fire off a simple yes or no from his smartphone in between meetings.

Example #2: Requesting feedback on a proposed budget

Typical: Hey Fred, attached is the proposed budget for the project, as you can see blah, blah, blah, etc.

Better: Fred, Do you approve the attached budget? As you can see blah, blah, blah, etc.

Again, from the first line, the point of this email is clear. Fred can answer “yes” to approve, and “no” to decline. Now this might be a complicated enough issue that Fred can’t do this from his smartphone, but the option is there.

But what if you can’t make the email that simple?

Consider these options:

  1. Split the email into multiple yes/no question emails.
  2. Create numbered options.
  3. Call the recipient to discuss and/or arrange a conference call / meeting.

Splitting the email into smaller parts can be a very effective tactic. If there are multiple decisions buried in a single email the recipient might defer answering your email until they have time to read the entire email. If you split them up they will be able to quickly go through and respond. Also don’t discount the dopamine rush your recipient get’s for crossing off your email from their to-do list.

Create numbered options is a good tactic where the issue being discussed is sufficiently complicated. And by numbering the options, I mean starting a new paragraph, and typing “OPTION 1:” and then followed by another paragraph “OPTION 2:”. This will allow the recipient to simply type a single digit to respond to your email.

If neither of the above options is a good fit, you should not send the email (yet).

If you can’t split the email up or describe it as a simple set of options, I would recommend calling the recipient to discuss. That way you can simply send an after-the-fact follow-up email to confirm the discussion. If you can’t resolve it through a few phone calls, arrange a conference call or a meeting.

Anything you do to make your emails more likely to get acted upon is worth it.

Everyone enjoys crossing things off their to-do list. Writing yes/no emails will help make answering your emails more enjoyable for your recipients and you will get more done.

 

Do You Feel Pressure or Do You Apply Pressure? – Ben’s Blog

Why Project Managers Should read this: Do you ever feel overwhelmed or under competent? I know I do, and I really appreciated the tactics in this article.

The basic concept in the article is that anyone in a position of responsibility (i.e. Project Managers) either feel pressure or apply pressure. What this means is that if you are feeling overburdened by the responsibilities assigned to you, start delegating! Which at first sounds like every other article you have read on this, almost patronizing in how they explain how simple it is to solve all of your problems. But what is different about this article is how the author walks through different scenarios and gives advice on how to deal with them.

Translation guide: So again this is another article written for “CEOs”, but as I said in an earlier post, everyone is the CEO for what they are responsible for. So when reading this article replace “CEO” with “Project Manager” and “Executive” with “Architect” or “Contractor” or even the generic “Stakeholder”.

Read it now: Do You Feel Pressure or Do You Apply Pressure? – Ben’s Blog

Write Like You Talk

Why Project Managers should read this article:
One of the primary tasks of a project manager is to communicate to others, with text being the most commonly used method. One issue I often see in written communication is that it is extremely hard to understand and one of the best ways to solve that is to stop writing differently than you talk.

Here is a quote from the article:

It seems to be hard for most people to write in spoken language. So perhaps the best solution is to write your first draft the way you usually would, then afterward look at each sentence and ask “Is this the way I’d say this if I were talking to a friend?” If it isn’t, imagine what you would say, and use that instead. After a while this filter will start to operate as you write. When you write something you wouldn’t say, you’ll hear the clank as it hits the page

So, read this, and start writing like you talk!

http://paulgraham.com/talk.html