Sunday, August 21, 2011

People Skills for Creating and Managing Change in Programmes and Projects. PROJECT MANAGER as Effective Change Agent.

The successful and effective implementation of change employs specific skills that have traditionally been owned by a select group of technical professionals. This is no longer true, and the skills of managing change are essential for everyone in an organization at all levels.

Change always requires a cultural shift for everyone:
?    introducing new processes;
?    finding new and better procedures and working practices;
?    throwing off the old habits to create a more dynamic and flexible organization;
?    being able to react effectively to market forces;
?    searching for ways to maintain competitiveness;
?    searching for ways to seek new horizons.

To carry out such change requires some special skills. Project management has long provided a structured and organized way to achieve success every time, but has been buried deep inside technical and engineering departments as part of their exclusive domain. Unfortunately, it is not surprising that project management has been regarded as too complicated and as a result is frequently misunderstood and very poorly practised in other parts of the business.

Change in today's world affects everyone. You face a changing environment both in your private life and in the business world in which you work. Some of these changes are beyond your control, such as the weather, which not only changes with the passing seasons, but seems to be changing in its behaviour with the passing years.
Not all change is so automatic and uncontrolled. You can choose to create change in your life by taking carefully framed decisions. You choose to change jobs, move house, or adopt a different lifestyle as an expression of your personal desires and as a means of satisfying your current needs.
Treat the change as an opportunity and a challenge. Selected change usually creates positive behaviours and constructive responses, whereas imposed change often generates open and latent opposition, negative and critical responses and even open sabotage. These consequences must be effectively managed for a successful outcome.

Programmes and projects are concerned with creating and managing change in an organized and structured manner. Proven tools and techniques are available to you but you must also focus on the impact on people. A successful outcome is a direct measure of your ability as an effective change agent.

You are faced with dealing with the fears that act to restrain the change process. At the same time, you demonstrate your enthusiasm and excitement at the prospect of achieving advances in the way your organization operates in the current and future business environment. This demands a wide range of people skills besides those traditionally associated with managing projects. You need to be able to:
?    select the right team members with appropriate skills;
?    recognize and understand the different types of personalities you must manage;
?    set clear objectives and align people's personal goals;
?    create a real sense of responsibility and obligation in the project team;
?    manage a team as an interactive unit;
?    create a sense of commitment in the team members, some of whom may have little interest in the results expected;
?    coach, guide and actively support the individual team members;
?    explain decisions and keep everyone informed of progress;
?    establish a sustaining environment for effective dialogue and feedback in the team and with other teams and their management;
?    manage upwards to influence senior management and other line managers;
?    manage third parties: contractors, suppliers, consultants;
?    understand the real needs of the end users of the results;
?    satisfy the internal customer;
?    handle conflicts effectively;
?    demonstrate a concern for continuous improvement, questioning traditions and always seeking a better way of doing things;
?    take a holistic view – seeing the bigger picture, understanding where the change fits into corporate strategy, other project activity and expected future changes.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Four Purposes of Virtual Collaboration. The Challenges of Virtual Collaborative Work System (CWS).

The Challenges of Virtual Teaming

Collaboration, defined as "the collective work of two or more individuals where the work is undertaken with a sense of shared purpose and direction that is attentive, responsive, and adaptive to the environment", is a robust tool for getting things done, creating change, and extending resources to their furthest imaginable limits. More and more, organizations are relying on collaborative work to integrate and align their human resources, better tap into the external environment, adapt a flexible stance, and ultimately achieve a competitive advantage in the fast-paced global marketplace.

We are witnessing a conscious transformation of the structures, values, and business practices that drive contemporary organizations to encourage and support collaboration on many levels. A collaborative organization supports both informal and formal forms of collaboration, uses teams to accomplish work when needed, and is designed to support collaboration. Broader still is what has been referred to as a collaborative work system (CWS), defined as systems "in which a conscious effort has been made to create structures and institutionalize values and practices that enable individuals and groups to effectively work together to achieve strategic goals and business results".

A CWS may range from a colocated team to a global, multiorganizational strategic alliance. Collaboration knows no boundaries. The terrain of the contemporary workplace is now characterized by independent knowledge workers who are collaborating together across the globe. Indeed, one of the major challenges facing organizations is how to connect these knowledge workers, regardless of distance, time zone, or national culture, to form temporary or permanent business alliances, formalized virtual corporations or virtual teams, or more informal virtual working relationships and knowledge exchange systems such as virtual communities.

By using a myriad of new technologies, companies have found ways for people to work together on essential tasks while staying put. Knowledge of virtual communication tools like e-mail, online chat, instant messaging, and Web conferencing is quickly becoming necessary for workers. Thus, the very meaning of collaboration has been extended, and such efforts are referred to as virtual collaboration. Virtual collaboration is about achieving the organization's desired results by focusing on goals and actions that could not be accomplished by working alone. Virtual collaboration occurs when people who are not colocated use communication technologies to work together and facilitate getting the job done. In sum, virtual collaboration is the process through which virtual teams get work done.

Like any conventional team, a virtual team consists of a group of people who interact to complete interdependent tasks and work toward a common goal. But instead of meeting in the same office, the team members work in different places, often at home, and in different time zones. They may never meet their coworkers face-to-face. Virtual teams are typically project- or task-focused groups. Team membership may be relatively stable (such as an established sales team) or may change on a regular basis (such as a project team). Members may be drawn from the same organization or several different organizations (for example, projects that involve external consultants or evaluators or strategic business pursuits sought by partnering organizations). Further distinctions can be made concerning physical proximity (whether the team members are colocated) and by work cycle synchronicity (whether the team members are in the same time zones).

In a virtual team, the task itself usually provides the initial motivation to work together across time and space. However, in order to keep working together successfully, more is often needed. A virtual team is more than a collection of individuals working in isolation. Virtual team members depend on one another to fulfill a common goal. As such, they need to be connected on both a task and interpersonal level because challenges in working virtually emerge in both domains. Task-related demands such as the planning and scheduling of work need to be balanced against interpersonal aspects such as a shared social context, expressions of trust, and a genuinely human interest in one another in order to maximize the overall performance of the team. Virtual teams often tend to evolve incrementally over time rather than spring into existence intentionally and fully formed. However, whether one consciously chooses to be part of a virtual team or finds oneself joining in a more informal way, the team is likely to exist for one or more of the following purposes:
•    To engage individuals on the team with the best skills and expertise for the work, regardless of where those individuals are physically located
•    To ensure twenty-four-hour coverage on a service, problem, or task by team members working across time zones
•    To reduce office overhead by hav ing team members work from home
•    To adapt an as-needed approach to scheduling human resources in order to save time or money, or both

Working on a virtual team may sound simple enough until one realizes that geographically dispersed members wholly dependent on technology make true collaboration, a difficult undertaking in any circumstance, all the more challenging. Many progressive companies have provided their workers with the technological capabilities to collaborate virtually, but they may not be aware of the training and support needed in areas such as decision making, communication skills, cultural awareness, and virtual meeting facilitation. Many have touted the upsurge of collaborative technologies that have made virtual collaboration possible around the globe—and with good reason: the business results of virtual collaboration can be dramatic.

However, before face-to-face interpersonal interaction is abandoned altogether, it is crucial to consider the challenges in setting up and sustaining effective virtual teams. From the work of these authors, six major challenges of virtual teams have been identified: distance, time, technology, culture, trust, and leadership. The first three—distance, time, and technology—are defining characteristics or givens of virtual teams. Distance and time represent discrete (measurable), bounded conditions that are dissolved through technology. The last three—culture, trust, and leadership—are created and sustained by the virtual team itself. Culture or cultural differences may impede or propel forward virtual team success and occur at many levels concurrently (such as nationally, at corporate headquarters, and within dispersed units of a particular organization).

Trust and leadership, and their more negative derivatives, are present or absent in varying degrees and forms (for example, distrust) in brick-and-mortar and virtual organizations alike and can be considered dynamic, organizational, cultural realities. In virtual teams, distance, time, and technology are necessary but not sufficient for high performance. An awareness of cultural differences and potential connections among members, as well as commitment to development over time of member trust and leadership capability, are the real building blocks to high-performance virtual teams.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Profitable Gold Commodities Investment

Spot gold rose to an all-time high of $1,667.50 an ounce today. Gold prices are trading sharply higher recently and keeps finding new catalysts to rise and hit another new all-time record high of $1,700.

European Union sovereign debt crisis is much more serious than the U.S. debt woes and it could deteriorate into a worldwide debt contagion. Weak U.S. economic data means continued loose monetary policy and perhaps even more stimulus. This pressures the dollar and in turn supports gold. The prospects for a downgrade of U.S. debt could leave some investors worry about holding the dollar. As a result, the U.S. dollar index is trading lower, which means bullish for the price of gold. South Korea's central bank will spent more than $1 billion in its first gold purchase in more than a decade, joining the trend among central banks to diversify their foreign reserves amid global growth uncertainties.

There are another reasons for the current rush into gold commodities. The world economic, financial, and political trends and conditions have turned hostile since 2000, and consequently stocks and bonds have not done so well over the past five or six years, the decline in the dollar’s exchange rate, and insatiable Chinese demand for every commodity under the sun.

Gold commodities can stand up as equals to stocks and bonds as investments. Commodities traditionally were disparaged by financial markets, which saw them as more volatile, less profitable, and too complex to analyze. They had no book value per se, compared to stocks, and no yield like bonds. But commodities have gained new respectability and desirability as assets, and as an asset class comparable to stocks or bonds. Fund managers and others have realized that commodities are not necessarily more volatile than stocks, and that investing in commodities can be just as profitable as investing in stocks and bonds. Commodities can compete in terms of capital appreciation potential, generating profits themselves. They also are useful as elements of a diversified portfolio, helping to smooth out the risks of a portfolio of stocks, bonds, and other assets without significantly limiting the capital appreciation potential.


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