Monday, October 27, 2014

Fear in the Organization

Queen Latifa once quoted “Fear can be good when you're walking past an alley at night or when you need to check the locks on your doors before you go to bed, but it's not good when you have a goal and you're fearful of obstacles. We often get trapped by our fears, but anyone who has had success has failed before”

Most of us have worked in an organization where your peers, direct reports, managers, directors, VPs, or even someone on the executive team displays some sort of fear.  Fear can be good in some cases as it highlights the need for a better risk management or a solid strategy before moving forward but in certain scenarios, having employees that live in fear, especially management is dangerous for the department and can be very harmful to the overall organization.  In my opinion, there are three reasons why fear exists in the organization and key decisions that you as an employee can make to handle the fear.

First is the fear of unknown.  This could be caused when employees think of ideas that are very “green” or otherwise known as original, brand new or have never been tried or tested.  Often these precedence setting events come with a lot of resistance due to the lack of knowledge that others have in the organization.  In my experience, this fear comes into fruition when people in the organization that hear these “green” ideas start immediately saying no or the word “but”. 

Second type of fear that is detrimental is the fear of change.  Let’s face it, we are creatures of habit and we like stability.  An article from HR Focus highlights 50% of quality improvement programs and 30% of process reengineering efforts are unsuccessful due to lack of change management.   When new ideas or a different way of managing a problem comes into light, it often triggers a fear in people.  This is especially true when the change involves a re-organization, mergers and acquisition, new enterprise resource planning applications like Oracle or SAP get introduced.  Questions start arising such as, “Am I going to lose my job?”,   “How will this impact my current day to day?”,  “Who will be my new management?”,  or “Do I have the skills to do my job?”  These questions start generating fear which creates a brick wall in some individuals.  A great example is when I was a business analyst 9 years ago and was introduced a process that took an individual hours and sometimes days to reconcile.  I found a way to automate the process and was really excited to share it with the individual.  Rather than welcoming me with open arms and sharing my same enthusiasm, the first comment that came out of her mouth was “Why are you automating my process?  I had a system down in handling this.  Now I’m probably going to get replaced”.  I’ve noticed this attitude with some of the tenure employees in the organization and it is a fear of being replaced or letting go before retirement that exuberates the fear of change.

The third type of fear in my opinion is the worst of all, which is the fear of perception.  “How is this going to make me look?”  It is less about the organization and more about “me” as an individual.  An example that made me really think about this type of fear is when I shared an idea about a use of a particular technology.  As an employee of an organization, I believe it is our job to bring best practices or new technology to the right individuals that can evaluate and provide support.  When I met with my superior to share an article that I read and how we can leverage the technology in our organization to our benefit, the immediate reaction was NO.  Few weeks passed and another manager approached me about this particular technology.  I shared my findings and my opinions.  This manager decided to take action and found a way to fund this project.  This information came back to the individual that I had originally discussed and he was not happy.  He had a conversation with me and started stating:  “This is making me look bad.  Why did you share your thoughts…I now have to pretend to support it”.    These comments made me feel that this individual was basing his decision out of fear – fear of how he is looking to the organization.

As an employee, when you face fear of the unknown, fear of change, or fear of perception, you can handle it in a few ways.  First, Educate!!!  Educate your direct reports, indirect reports, peers, management, and etc.  Find creative ways to educate such as email, face to face, or internal social media.  Second, communicate to the people that will be directly or indirectly impacted.  The more they know, the more people are likely to understand the impact.  Third, practice great listening skills.  One of my favorite authors Stephen Covey wrote, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood”.  If we don’t embrace change or find creative ways to bring people along to embrace the change, we will become like an “egg” described in the quote from CS Lewis.  “It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.”

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

List of Free PMP Prep Exams Online

I believe in the importance of taking practice tests in order for you to be successful in your PMP exam.  I have written a blog on how to get PMP certified in two weeks – which provides additional tips/tricks on how to prepare for the exam:

Below are sites that promote free PMP Prep Exams online.  I did a basic search and documented the top 15 sites.  Hopefully this will help with your PMP Prep Exam and give you a one-stop for most links. (I am not endorsing any of the below sites.  These are merely tools for you to refer as you prepare for the exam):

Monday, April 8, 2013

People Skills for Project Leaders and Team

Art Pittman gave a chapter meeting discussion on people skills for project leaders. Here are some take-aways that I noted:

Dirty little secret of project management: It is all about the people

DAC (remember I blogged about this in my last post)
- D: Direction (Vision)
- A: Alignment (Get the resources)
- C: Commitment (Team)

Emotional Intelligence
- Self-Perception - Awareness
- Self - Expression - How you assert
- Interpersonal - empathy
- Decision Making
- Stress Management

Great Quote:

"People are emotional first and rational second: Logic makes people think; emotions make people act"

What makes a best team
- Well-oiled machine
- Know your purpose and role
- Everyone work together.
- Everyone knew what was happening - picked up for each other
- project has good leadership
- great support from top

What makes a worst team
- No idea of the project goal
- Out of focus
- Each individual has their own agenda
- Illusion that the team is strong - but the team is "tangled"

Top Team Skills
- Contributors
- Communication
- Understanding of a common goal
- Diversity
- Commitment from team members/leadership
- Cross-functional synergy
- Trust
- Collaboration
- Accountability
- Flexibility - Learn/Adapt
- Leadership
- Positive Attitude

"Cost of trust doubles the cost of business"

Sincere apology
- Sincere
- Intentional
- No excuses
- Consequences
- Empathy
- Retribution (What Ill do going forward)
- Expect - may need some time

Giving Feedback
SBI (Situation, Behavior, Impact)

It was a great session. For additional information, go to

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Friday, April 5, 2013

One on One with Art Pittman

I had a privilege to interview one of my friends, Art Pittman, to discuss the topic he will be presenting during the April chapter meeting for Piedmont Triad PMI.  Art and I met last year at a PMI meeting and found out that we both are passionate about growing/implementing Agile at the workplace. 

Art is a Leadership Coach and an Agile Consultant who specializes in leading, communicating, and connecting with people to support and improve individual and team performance. He capitalizes on creativity and innovation to help identify, define and develop simple solutions to complex problems.   He is Adjunct Staff at the Center for Creative Leadership and is a CCL-approved feedback coach and certified Organizational Workshop facilitator. He is certified on the CCL-proprietary 360-degree assessments, Workplace Big Five 4.0, and other psychometric assessment instruments. Art is also certified as a Professional Scrum Master. 

On Monday, April 8th, Art is going to have a super collaborative session on what makes up great project teams.  There will be an activity which everyone will have an opportunity to participate.  He will wrap up the session with the DAC model (You have to be there to know what the acronym stands for ).

For registration details -


Monday, March 11, 2013

Conquer your paper and digital clutter - Recap of PMI March Chapter Meeting

I attended a much needed session hosted by PMI March Chapter Meeting presented by Dr. Merchant on conquering your paper and digital clutter. Here are some great tips:
The RAFT concept for paper management:
- Read - piling your paper on items you need to read
- Action - paper that needs action (either a phone call, fill out a form, action via computer)
- File - papers need to be filed
- Toss - trash papers that are not needed
Ways to sabotage your day:
- Check email first thing
- Surfing the net
- Multi-Tasking
- Bad attitude - predicting negative consequence
Keep IRS related information at least for 3 years.
For next month's session, make sure you register at:
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Friday, February 1, 2013

Lesson from my mother - Education is key to success

My mom has been a great role model for me all my life. I love her strong work ethic, dedication to family, and her family management skills. The one thing that mom regrets is not going further in education.

My mom was born and raised in India. In the 60s/70s, educating women was not really a priority. The assumption was you graduate high-school, get married, have kids, and take care of family. My mom graduated high school but the concept of higher education didn't exist.

Now looking back, she wishes that she had taken school more seriously. Rather than studying music, she should have focused in business/accounting - concepts that would have helped in life. When our family moved to US in the 90s, the only job mom could do is blue collar.

As I was growing up, she stressed the importance of education and not just stopping with bachelors but pursuing higher. She didn't want us to make the same mistakes.

Education is very important. Jobs are requiring a minimum of bachelors. If you want to move up to management, it is preferred to have a Master degrees. I typically do something each year in terms of education. I may pursue a certification, learn a new technical or Project management skill, or focus on an area of a soft skill.

If you keep your skills updated, the fear of losing job is eliminated. It also gives you confidence to try new roles.

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Monday, January 28, 2013

PM Topic: Importance of Stakeholder Management - They can make or break your project

Stakeholder Management used to fall into the communication knowledge area in PMBOK.  Because of its importance, there is now a separate knowledge area dedicated to Stakeholder Management in PMBOK 5.  For PMs, it is important to know your stakeholders, understand the power they hold, and find ways to keep them satisfied and informed on project progress.  If you are not satisfying or managing stakeholders effectively, it can create major issues in the project. 

I've encounter situations where project goals collide with departments and I end up getting involved spending numerous hours resolving issues.  There are times, when issues arise due to some stakeholders not being adequately involved or the feeling that they should have been involved but weren't - This can create lots of complications and can negatively impact the project.  I've been involved in projects where ineffective stakeholder management has created project delays, increased scope, or canceled projects.

There are three key things that I remember to ensure stakeholders are managed effectively:
  • Ensure you have all the key players - Understanding the project scope and identifying positive and negative dependencies early will ensure you have a complete stakeholder registry - You lessen the risk of last minute surprises.
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate - Find ways to deliver the message by using multiple channels.  Don't just depend on e-mails or meetings - If you are launching a new product - invite them to your sprint reviews or product checkpoints.  Have engaging meetings - where stakeholders participate and provide feedback.  
  • Understand your escalation path - Know your escalation path and keep them informed regularly on the project.  If a situation gets out of control, they can help remove obstacles so you can keep the project moving.
For more information about stakeholder management, please review Stakeholder Management in PMBOK.  Also, I found the below link helpful.  It is a great introduction of the 4 areas within Stakeholder Management in PMBOK: