Friday, February 26, 2010

Ten Reasons to Join a Professional Organization

fwPASS - AJ Definition from Wikipedia:

A professional association (also called a professional body, professional organization, or professional society) is a non-profit organization seeking to further a particular profession, the interests of individuals engaged in that profession, and the public interest.

Reasons to join one:

  1. Meet great like-minded people!
  2. Opportunity to showcase your experience through peer to peer discussions or public speaking.
  3. Bullet item on your resume
  4. See what opportunities and challenges are in the industry[ies]
  5. Access to experts in the field – speakers, other members, sponsors
  6. SWAG – discounts or free books, magazines, access to webinars, e-learning, certification exam vouchers
  7. References other than your sister’s husband
  8. Free or almost free training - most of the organizations have meetings focused on educational content
  9. Meet your competition
  10. Exclusive or early notification of job opportunities

As the President of a professional organization, fwPASS, I often hear about job opportunities directly from industry leaders and recruiters looking for their next technical Rock-star or leader. Note: this is not an invitation for head-hunters to spam me. They know that most of the people that regularly attend or participate in our meetings are passionate about their craft and are interested in staying at the front of the pack. In this economy, most organizations can afford to hold out for the best. Position yourself to be one of them!

Organizations that I am involved in or have had associations with:

A more complete list of Professional Associations

Find a local chapter and get involved. If you don’t have any chapters in your area, there is a growing trend toward virtual chapters that utilize technologies like Microsoft Live Meeting and GoToMeeting.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Successfully Working in a Role Outside of your Expertise

swiss army knife courtesy flickr user: _tnz photo:383953694 In the current economic conditions (actually for the last couple of decades), organizations are trying to get more done with less resources. A common strategy is to assign additional responsibilities to their current workforce, often in a role that is unfamiliar to them. Some examples:

  • Engineers acting as Project Managers
  • Accountants with IT responsibilities
  • Students on their first job
  • [insert your occupation and extra roles here]

I once worked with a company with the mission statement of

What’s Required, What’s Expected, “And then some

I think that is a practical sequential approach to developing an increasing understanding and proficiency in a new role. That approach has served me well in my transition through too many roles to list - while keeping stress at a manageable level. Most of the time you won’t be expected to be the Rockstar of the new role immediately, but you will likely be expected to show ongoing improvement on the road to mastery. You can effectively apply the following simple process to most objectives, roles, or projects*.

  1. Gain some basic understanding of the subject matter or responsibilities through research, asking questions, observing others, benchmarking, or other methods.
  2. Look for or create an opportunity you are comfortable with to incorporate some of what you learned into the daily work or activity.
  3. Review what worked and didn’t and plan action steps to increase the understanding or improve on the process.
  4. Wash, rinse, repeat indefinitely.

I liberally and deliberately used the word “some” in the steps above. You will maximize your learning and execution if you don’t bite off more than you can chew. Each application of a process-based approach to improvement will increase your effectiveness and confidence in making your next transition.


* Disclaimer: This approach may not be feasible for certain conditions where human safety could be at risk (directly or indirectly).

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Information Transparency: is there a Wrong Time?

x-ray photo courtesy user: adamci This is Part 1 of a multi-part series on transparency of information. There are probably two strong camps that would argue for or against it. I am squarely in the middle as I have found from experience there is both a right time and a wrong time for it. The first part explores the reasons why transparency can hinder productivity.

What might be some of the wrong times for transparency?

  1. when first developing a process and working out the kinks
  2. when the information is a poor measure of performance
  3. when one doesn’t fully comprehend the implications of having the information freely available
  4. when trying to “motivate” (i.e. bully) a team or person to do their job better by exposing information
  5. when information can be misinterpreted

Depending on the process, you may be trying to discover which measures are good metrics to use to understand a cause and effect relationship. Many practitioners like myself will have seen occasions where the management and front-line employees alike have criticized the repeated changes in metrics as poor leadership – the “they don’t know what they are doing” syndrome. In reality, it is often best not to stick with metrics just because they were included in the original project plan or specification. If you take on an outcome based approach instead of a metric based approach, you will likely experience a more successful project or initiative overall.

Exposing information to the broadest audience too early can lead to the cancellation of a good project for political reasons or simply because the wrong data was used in the justification analysis.

Depending on the organizational culture early transparency of an evolving process can also cause a dramatic increase in resistance to change and project participation because of negative press. Or worse, if the management realizes the problem is worse than they expected, they may intervene in an unproductive way squashing a working PDCA process driven approach with a more command and control method.