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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Terra Cotta Army...my first YouTube video

Okay so I have been doing a lot of reading up on social media tools lately in preparation for a presentation I am doing later this week. Funny thing is between the research and experimentation I didn't have enough time to complete my Sunday blog post and then here I am on Wednesday and realized, wait a minute I can post on some of the cool stuff I am working on.

So here it goes, this is my first attempt at video following some of the recommendations I learned online, more about this later. So here it is a short, under two minute, video of the Terra Cotta Soldiers in Xian, China:



I hope you enjoy. Cheers

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

How I use GTD to manage my email

I am a big fan of the David Allen getting things done system. His tips and tricks for time management are effective because they work whether you are paper based or electronic based in how you apply them. I have been able to achieve remarkable productivity increases use a combination of paper and electronic based tools to implement the GTD system.

If you go to David Allen's web site you will find some great tools and he has a free download that will explain how to set up a series of folders in your email system and mobile device. I use a blackberry connected to my office outlook, though this is a greatly reduced in capability blackberry for various compliance reasons. This is where mine is set up. The first thing I did was set up a series of folders in outlook to support the two minute drill.

In the outlook mailbox I have
1) @Actions folder where I drag any mail items that will take longer than the two minutes to process
2) @Waiting for folder where a copy of any request I have outstanding with someone else is placed. I review this file to determine what is outstanding and who needs to be followed up with.
3) @Touchbase here is where I place any emails that represent an ongoing exchange and though not a priority action or a waiting for I want to make certain to follow up with this person. This is a once a week folder versus everyday.
4) I then have a series of offline folders or in outlook terms "PST" files that I use to manage the large amount of emails and projects. These folders are set up by year and quarter
  • 2008 - Q1
  • 2008 - Q2
  • 2008 - Q3
  • 2008 - Q4

Under each of these folders I place sub folders to file all of the inbound emails

Alerts
These are auto generated emails from the various servers that provide activities of the status of their performance and batch jobs. They typically require no action on my part, my team is responsible but they are important for service level performance measurement. So I keep them filed for future reference.

Projects
Every project seems to have some form of email trail and I am still, many years after completion, referring back to legal contracts or other documentation related to project in 2005.

each major project has notes/minutes, documents/presentations, and other

I try not to get carried away with excessive file and directory structures but when you have to find something quickly a year later this system sure helps.

I then have a personal folder with Transactions, Network Activity, Travel, and Other.

With this set up I am able to handle my email traffic very easily and then incorporate this into the rest of David Allen's recommendations in the book Getting Things Done.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Yes College Students Should Study Abroad

I just finished reading a great article titled, The New Global Skill Set by Don Asher. He outlines , how colleges are now requiring overseas study as part of their graduation requirement. I think this is great.

I have had the opportunity to work abroad fro the last four years and have enjoyed every part of the experience.


Don spoke with several global managers and one quote stood out to me and I paraphrase, Bradley A. Feuling , "strong project management skills and and diverse cultural knowledge" are essential traits of managers overseeing functions in multiple parts of the world.

The world is rapidly catching up to the United States, in technical know how, however, they are not giving up their cultural heritage. Thus the ability to have empathy toward our differences becomes a valuable asset in any global work we do.

I have met many individuals in Asia that speak a minimum of three languages, the language of their native country, English, and one other (French, Japanese, or Chinese). We as Americans should learn to speak multiple languages as well.

Having just returned from a trip to Cambodia I was surprised to learn the Cambodian people have a fascination with learning other languages; I met nine year old children that could hold a full conversation in English and a basic conversation in Japanese (with my teenagers). After inquiring further I learned the Cambodians see this as the path to future opportunity.

Don's article goes on to recommend studying abroad for at least a semester. Again I strongly agree. When I have spent a month or more in a country I begin to appreciate the subtly of the cultures and truly appreciate the beauty of the rest of the world.

I sincerely hope this becomes standard curriculum for undergraduate and graduate programs throughout the US.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Meeting Dark Arts: Informational Meetings

The other day we had a global announcement call. This is one of those conference calls where everyone dials in from various locations to get an update on how the business is doing. A senior manager for the division then presents to a room full of people and everyone else on a conference call. These type of meetings have a unique challenge in that they usually have a very large attendance by people located somewhere else. Meaning they have to call in via conference line.

When I wrote in my earlier post, did we do enough, that the second most important task is communicating the situation to investors. management, and staff this is one of the communication mediums that I had in my mind at the time. This type of conference call has a particular etiquette that I wanted to share:

- Plan an extra 15 minutes on the front of the call
- Disable the inbound and outbound announcement feature
- Mute all dialed in lines during the presentation
- Ask that everyone attending place their mobile phone on silent
- Plant questions before the meeting
- Always repeat the question


Plan an extra 15 minutes on the front of the call to allow for phone line congestion. I don't know about you but as a presenter it is challenging to stay on the topic with a large number of people still on their way into the meeting. When you have a large attendance at these types of meetings it is better to just plan the extra time in. Especially when many conference call systems cannot handle the large number of simultaneous dial ins and back up the callers. So just wait for a few extra minutes to let everyone work their way through.

Yes I get the appointments that say dial in 15 minutes early also and I even used to do the same thing with my meetings. I stopped. Why? because if I am booked in meetings back to back there is no way I can dial in early. So yeah I have someone else set up the conference room. But the reality many staff members are in the same situation and they don't personal assistants that can do the dialing in for them. Therefore my recommendation is to go ahead and plan it into the meeting. This will also provide walking around the room time to meet various team members and suggest some questions, which I discuss a little later.


Disable the inbound and outbound announcement feature
. Most conference call systems have a chime that will announce when someone has joined the call and when they leave. This chime is important for most calls it let's you know if you have others listening in on your call. However, for a call of this type it is really annoying because you tend to have a lot of late comers and then early leavers.

Mute all dialed in lines during the presentation. As the administrator on the call you have the ability to mute all other attendees on the line. This is an important practice. Thus eliminating my biggest pet peeve the "heavy breather"when some undoubtedly has their headset microphone set to close to their nose or mouth. This is my biggest frustration on calls, ask any of my staff (I am known for sending emails to remind individuals to mute their phones even after I announce the rules for the call)

Ask that everyone attending place their mobile phone on silent. All of the external lines should be muted so there will be less chance of interruption. but I am a big "belt and suspenders" man and want to make extra sure that we have as few interruptions as possible. I often explain that out of respect for all attendees please place your phones in silent mode just like in the movie theaters.

Plant Questions before the meeting
It often takes some time to get a group to loosen up enough to ask questions. Which is why I recommend planting a few managers in the audience with some of the tough questions that everyone wants to ask. There are two reasons for this. First, in many cultures meetings are for updates only and thus most of the questions never get asked. Second for the culture where this is not an issue it let's the attendees know that it is okay to speak.

Always repeat the question. I have found that no matter what, even if I am in the main conference room I am not able to hear at least one question when it was asked. The presenter should always repeat the question that was asked so that all attendees can hear. If the question is a long then paraphrase the question before answering. This will give all of the attendees a chance to hear what the question was.

I have found these six guidelines are very helpful in running the large information only meetings. Hopefully they will work for you as well. If you have any additional ideas that will help meetings go more smoothly I look forward to hearing from you.

If you liked this post you might like:
Meeting Dark Arts: Meeting Management
Meeting Dark Arts: Conference Call Etiquette
Meeting Dark Arts: Publishing Minutes
Meeting Dark Arts: Taking Notes
Meeting Dark Arts: Video Conference Etiquette

written by: Jeffrey Hurley in Central, Hong Kong