The Spark of Initiative

There are people who coast along, go with the flow and do as directed. And then, there are those who strive to add value, raise the bar and make a difference.

If you belong to the latter, Seth Godin has some simple (yet profound) guidance for you. He wrote about three ways to add value – by doing things, by taking decisions and by initiating. Our education system trains us to do things efficiently. Our experience may lead us to a point where we can decide effectively what’s best for ourselves, our team, project and organization.

But we need to learn the art of initiating things ourselves; by having new ideas, starting small experiments, taking tiny risks, caring enough, exerting emotional labor, doing the right thing when no one is watching, learning along the way, adapting our approaches and then hopefully, see our ideas come to life.

“There are two mistakes one can make along the road to truth.

Not going all the way, and not starting.”

– Siddhartha Gautama

In his book “Poke the Box” Seth Godin wrote,

“The world is changing too fast. Without the spark of initiative, you have no choice but to simply react to the world. Without the ability to instigate and experiment, you are stuck, adrift, waiting to be shoved.”

In a future that is increasingly getting automated, it is this spark of initiative that is and would remain our real competitive advantage.

Adding Value: A Gentle Reminder

Sure, as a project manager / business leader, you:

  • Completed the project in given time frame.
  • Within the budget. With minimum schedule deviation.
  • Utilized your resources optimally.
  • Filled up all the required templates.
  • Did retrospective. Celebrated completion.
  • Shared statistical reports with the top management.

But did you:

  • Think about “value” (remember 102%) you will deliver? Early in the project cycle?
  • Set expectations of your team on what “value” means to you and to the customer?
  • Glad you did that. But did you keep that in perspective constantly while executing?
  • Critically evaluate “earned value” for the stakeholders?
  • Track value delivered, when you tracked through the Gantt Chart?
  • Make stakeholder’s world a bit better in any way?

A Gentle Reminder: It is easy to have a hard-nosed focus on scope, time and budgets (and they are important too) but when you don’t think/plan/understand how the project/initiatives adds value to your customer’s business (or what is customer’s definition of value), you fail to create a positive impact.

Adding value – that is what project management (and all our work as professionals) is all about. Isn’t it?

Have a wonderful Friday!

Bonus: If you are a project manager, reading “5 Goals Every Project Manager Should Aspire to Achieve” at by Jason Westland would help. Check out #4 there!

5 Ideas To Ensure That Trainings Effectively Deliver Value

I heard this statement a few years back from one of my colleagues – “Training is a waste of time, people just don’t engage.” This statement sparked some intense debate that shaped my own thoughts on training. (I wrote earlier about taking a holistic view of training).

To ensure that employee training is NOT a waste of everybody’s time, training managers, HR folks, business leaders and trainers should consider the following:

  1. Align training to business goals: Training is a tool to generate better business results (better delivery, shorter delivery cycle, improved productivity etc.) through new skills. Making business goals explicitly clear to all before training always helps. What do you want this training to do?
  2. Don’t just impart instructions: Training is not about imparting instructions and having great set of slides. Training is about co-relating, exercising, enabling/stimulating thinking and changing the behavior of people. Remember, you are “teaching” human beings, not “programming” machines through instructions.
  3. Have right trainers: A trainer is not someone who is merely good at presenting. Trainer should be super-passionate about the subject matter, have deep expertise, understanding of how humans learn and most importantly, have a vision. Having hands-on experience is a must. When you have not done it yourself, you cannot train others effectively (because you cannot relate the “concepts” with “nuts-and-bolts” of the work). Trainers are leaders.
  4. Let them practice: People learn the most while “doing”. Make sure that your training program is not an overdose of theoretical concepts by having hands-on practicing sessions at regular intervals. Better yet, avoid having a continuous training session. Train in bursts – short and focused. Let them go back to their work and apply the lessons. Makes sense?
  5. Training SERVES trainees: Trainees are the customers of training process – it is about making “them” better. Focus should be on the trainees. As a trainer, it is easy to avoid questions and skip the detailing. But does that help? Consider every question as an opportunity to elaborate, relate and make meaning. Treat them well.

Training is an opportunity – to add value, to deliver an experience and to make a difference. How you use this opportunity makes all the difference!

P.S: Carnival of Leadership Development featuring my post “Building a Culture to Promote Differential Thinking” is up at Maximizing Possibility blog. If you are a leader at any level (or the one aspiring to be a leader), this compilation of 34 excellent posts will surely add a lot of value to your work. Go, check it out!

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