How Come You Just Do SalesLogix? (Part 3)

Part 3 – SalesLogix Makes a Lasting Impression

When SalesLogix declined to bid on the project, I called the SalesLogix salesrep and asked, “Why?”. He told me they weren’t willing to do and spend what they’d experienced two of the other contenders would do and spend to cinch a big deal. At the time, I didn’t understand their answer. I appreciated their transparency, candor and honesty – whether it made sense or not.

The final selection and negotiation process taught me just how sound their reasoning was.

I’d done so much digging into the features, functions, benefits and costs of the SFA tools I was reasonably confident that SalesLogix should have won the deal.

The same person, Pat Sullivan, developed and brought to market both SalesLogix and ACT! (both are still a big players in the CRM market). What he learned developing and promoting ACT! he brought with him to the development of SalesLogix: Specifically, a ton of knowledge about what sales and marketing needs to do their jobs AND about how to put it all together into an easy-to-use, easy-to-configure, extensible package.

Their total cost of ownership, return on investment and payback were the best of the bunch – hands down. For what they were asking, they had the least expensive, most powerful and flexible solution. I say this because the SalesLogix architecture was just as powerful and just as elegant as the winner’s; yet it was about a third of the up-front cost and about a sixth of the total cost of ownership over time.

Nevertheless, I had to respect their decision. Who can say whether they’d have won or not? The eventual winner did many (IMHO) cheesy things to make sure their bid was always on top and engaged in some “very creative” shenanigans that certainly swayed the final decision in their favor.

Quite a project.

Ten years later, we used everything I learned to select a strategic CRM offering for MBI Systems and our customers.

That strategic offering is SalesLogix. It’s still a bargain.

Fast forward to today. We recently attended the worldwide conference for partners and customers of SaleLogix’s parent company, Sage Software. As expected, it was a grand event, and from a seminar and workshop content point of view, it was exceptional. But that’s not why we went. We attended to make sure we’d made a smart decision to remain committed to offering only SalesLogix as MBI System’s CRM offering.

I’m pleased to say, “Sage confirmed our decision”.

Sage Software continues to commit the right resources to improve, market, sell and service SalesLogix. They still don’t spend quite as much advertising their product as some of the firms listed in Gartner’s “Magic Quadrant”. Nor do they step outside the bounds of defensible ethics or common sense to close a deal. Instead, they’ve put together very capable sales, marketing, channel management and consulting teams who genuinely seem interested in providing real CRM value and provably cost-effective solutions. I personally appreciate the way they stick to telling the truth even when it’s not in their best short-term interest. We returned from the trip assured we’ve made a good business decision at MBI Systems in our commitment to represent only Sage SalesLogix as THE CRM product suite we choose to sell and support.

Treating our customers the way we’d want to be treated remains our most important business mantra.  SalesLogix helps us do that.

I’ve seen a lot of products come and go. Sometimes for good reason and sometimes not. While I can’t predict the future, I understand small and mid-sized business and have developed a good feel for what helps them succeed. Since SalesLogix fits the bill in all regards, we’ll stick with it as our only CRM offering for the foreseeable future.

Just seems like common sense to me.

How Come You Just Do SalesLogix? (Part 2)

Part 2 – Why do we believe SalesLogix is the best solution?

In 1998 I helped develop software requirements for a comprehensive computer based selling solution for a major US retailer. I then guided them through an intense request for proposal (RFP) and selection process designed to produce an apples-to-apples product comparison of the (then) top 25 sales software offerings in the “Sales Force Automation” (SFA) market. We used the apples-to-apples product comparison to rank, select and negotiate the eventual 3500 seat SFA software license. I saw the down payment check for $3,000,000. Quite a deal!

At the time, some of the top SFA contenders included:

  • GoldMine Software (now FrontRange Solutions)
  • Market Force (out of business)
  • Oracle (now owner of Siebel Systems)
  • Pivotal (now part of CDC)
  • Scopus (acquired by Siebel Systems during our RFP process)
  • SalesLogix (acquired by Sage Software)
  • Siebel Systems (now part of Oracle)

… and a host of names I can no longer find.

After running the vendors through a 130+ page RFP that included a review of their business viability, software features, functions, architecture, core languages, logical and physical data models (and then some), I saw two very clear distinctions between superior products and the “also rans”:

  • The first distinction was data architecture. Superior products had one; the others didn’t.
  • The second distinction was whether or not the developing company used their SFA offering internally or not.

A “yes” answer to the questions, “Was your SFA solution architected?”, and “Do your use the tool yourself?” immediately cut the list down to five players.

Honestly, each of the top five could have done the job. The difference was in how, using what development tools and at what cost. Among the remaining contenders, there were huge price differences and surprisingly few important differences in what the software could do.

During the negotiation phase of the project, the top five list was whittled to three contenders. One firm was acquired by another; another declined to bid.

Cost per seat of the eventual winner was easily twice as much as all the others. Their sales team spent a fortune convincing the executive team that their solution would help everyone keep their jobs. So what if it cost the most? The tool was elegant and sophisticated, the IT guys loved it because it was “state of the art” and the winning firm spent an awful lot of money closing the deal. The eventual winner was not the best solution in my humble opinion.

The best solution was SalesLogix, and SalesLogix declined to bid. 

Why?  The story continues in Part 3.

How Come You Just Do SalesLogix? (Part 1)

Why just SalesLogix?

Often, when we participate in a CRM evaluation, someone asks us, “How come you just do SalesLogix?”

 
Fair question.

 
Short answer is: It’s all most businesses need.

 
It isn’t because SalesLogix is the only tool we’re familiar with, it’s because we did our homework and realize SalesLogix handles 95% of all typical sales and marketing automation needs, runs like a well-tuned Ferrari, costs like a mid-sized Honda, and works equally well for any type and any sized company.

 
Its price point makes it accessible for even small firms, you can effectively add seats into the thousands, and its flexibility makes it workable for even the most unique selling situations. Not only that, SalesLogix has a capable, established partner channel, a well-run parent company (SAGE software) and a design flexible enough to deal with any sales or marketing need I’ve ever heard about.

 
Every other CRM tool we’ve investigated either costs more, does less or has major flaws you’ll never hear about until after you’ve plopped down your money. More specifically:

  • SalesLogix works on smart phones.
  • SalesLogix works on your laptop pc.
  • SalesLogix works on your office pc.
  • SalesLogix works on servers.
  • SalesLogix works with Excel.
  • SalesLogix works with Outlook.
  • SalesLogix works with Open Systems tools.
  • SalesLogix works in the cloud.
  • SalesLogix works for the sales team.
  • SalesLogix works for the marketing team.
  • SalesLogix works for the call center.
  • SalesLogix works for the operations team.
  • SalesLogix works with or without an ERP and gives businesses a lot of flexibility and choice.

If you sell or market for a living – SalesLogix just works….

 
That said, who helps you implement it will make a HUGE difference in your opinion about all that. I probably shouldn’t admit it, but for many organizations – you can work with us for a day or two using the free SalesLogix cloud demo and get 80% of what you need in a CRM tool done for little more than the price of the software licenses.

Coming up in Part 2 – Why do we believe SalesLogix is the best solution?

Hats off to John Jantsch (and Inbound Marketing)

The Paradigm

My partners and I attended a SAGE software conference in Washington, D.C. last week.   There, I had the pleasure of attending a marketing “SuperSession” conducted by Duct Tape Marketing founder, John Jantsch.  A double pleasure because a marketing mentor of mine, Dawn Westerberg, also attended and we had a chance to visit and trade notes.

I’ll confess I wasn’t too keen on attending this particular session.  My lack of interest had more to do with the dirty secret I’m about to reveal and my years of experience with marketing in general than either John Jantsch or the subject matter.  I knew of John Jantsch and his Duct Tape Marketing approach and respect them both.  Lucky for me it was the only session that remotely interested me during the time slot, else I might have missed it.

Since I’m confessing (and you’re still reading), allow me a much bigger confession (and the real reason why you may benefit from reading on):

The Dirty Little Secret

I have secretly hated sales and marketing for more than forty years.  I still suppress a look of disdain or suspicion whenever anyone confesses to me they’re in sales or marketing.

There.  I finally said it out loud.

I’ve hated both sales and marketing with a burning passion, in spite of the fact that I met my incredible wife in a sales and marketing fraternity in 1975 and have been involved in sales and marketing up to my nose ever since.  I’ve hated them in spite of the fact I work hard to make the lion’s share of my living coaching and working with small business and large businesses to improve results from their:

    • business planning and execution
    • customer relationship management (CRM) tools and processes
    • call centers
    • data warehousing and data management
    • DotNetNuke websites
    • marketing
    • sales
    • sales force automation
    • SalesLogix software
    • time and priority management  

with

The Paradigm Dilemma

At the risk of watering down the intensity of my emotion and for the sake of clarification – I don’t so much hate sales and marketing as I love the golden rule

Until John revealed the beliefs underlying his approach to marketing and some of the new tools and techniques he’s been experimenting with, much about sales and marketing made me feel like I had to ignore the golden rule to be a successful salesperson and marketer.  It’s seemed interruptive and manipulative.  And for most of my adult life, I’ve struggled to make myself do marketing.  The advent of selling for a living has actually made me physically sick when I seriously considered it.  Even when I clearly identify my ideal candidate, understand their wants and needs, create strategic and tactical marketing plans, reduced selected techniques into a calendar, justify to myself that I’m offering a tremendous gift, write an unsolicited anything and put my foot down on the gas (marketing execution), I always have one foot on the brake – a sure way to achieve less than mediocre results.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m a simple guy.  I love the truth, and I love the golden rule.  I’m goal-oriented and purpose driven.  I make plans and work them.   People tell me I know how to get more done in less time than anyone they’ve ever met.  If true, it’s because I work hard to focus and remain focused until I finish what I start.  Because I so value the golden rule, I find it incredibly difficult to treat anyone in a way I don’t like being treated myself.  Because sales and marketing results SEEMED to REQUIRE me to step outside myself and be what I consider interruptive, pushy and disingenuous, I’ve had a real self-limiting dilemma:  I am who I am, won’t be someone I’m not, yet realize every successful business MUST DO marketing and sales.

Arghh!!!  Internal Conflict!  Go?  Stop?  Change?  Be Consistent?  Arghh again!!

Blessedly, I realized some time ago that I don’t hate EVERYTHING about sales and marketing.  Just:

    • Anything sales or marketing might do to/for me that I wouldn’t do to/for myself or others
    • Bloated promises
    • Disrespect for the value of your (or my) time
    • Disrespect for native intelligence (again – yours or mine)
    • Half-truths
    • Interruptions
    • Lies
    • Manipulation
    • People who pretend to like you until they find out you have no money or aren’t a buyer
    • Talking to someone when they clearly don’t want (or have time) to listen
    • Talking more than listening
    • Taking permission before its given
    • Useless complexity

As I’m checking my spelling, just saying I hate these things seems an understatement.  They REALLY tick me off!  To me, interruptions are all nuisances unless I make myself see them as potential opportunities.  Generally, I completely ignore uninvited interruptions altogether.  I open my mail over a recycle bin outside my office.  I screen 100% of unsolicited calls, circulars, emails, letters, messages, post cards, text messages, warnings, etc.  I mute commercials, accept communications ONLY from people I know AND want to hear from, and took enough self-defense to reflexively discourage people who tap me on the shoulder from behind.  If you doubt this and don’t know me, try calling me sometime or sending me an email or a post card, or a cleverly disguised advertisement made to look like a dun letter from the IRS – See if you connect.  Lie to me and see if I ever forget (I said forget; not forgive).  Do any of the other stuff to me and see what, if anything good, it gets you.

Interestingly, as I’ve forced myself to experiment with the interruptive marketing tools in my roles as business owner, dad, entrepreneur, friend, investor, sales and marketing process consultant I’ve learned that most people share most, if not all of my hate list.  And yet – (I’m told) these are things one must do to succeed with sales and marketing.

The Paradigm Shift

What I was expecting from Mr. Jantsch was at least SOME if not much more of the outbound, interruptive, sometimes less than 100% truthful stuff that often accompanies sales and marketing that I detest.

What a pleasant surprise.  John shared nothing but good stuff.  Stuff I can use to market and sell more WITHOUT FORSAKING the person I am and want to be!

Let me begin by saying that what I liked most about John Jantsch before I met him was his ability to reduce the complexity of marketing processes and systems into his seven, extremely simple, common sense, understandable categories.  They are:

    • Know
    • Like
    • Trust
    • Try
    • Buy
    • Repeat
    • Refer

Every marketing tool or tactic I’m aware of clearly fits into one or more of these categories.   I don’t want to steal his thunder here, so I won’t elaborate.  I do want to encourage you to look hard at John’s marketing materials and how-to whether you’re a beginner or an experienced marketer.

On to what I learned.  Again, without stealing John’s thunder – I saw the “inquisitive, quality-minded, details guy” side to Mr. Jantsch that isn’t at all obvious in any of his materials I worked with to date.  OK, that’s not fair to John.  The “inquisitive, quality-minded, details guy” things are there.  I just didn’t see them.  He’s reached a marketing mastery level where he’s so good at explaining things and speaking plainly- his work “seems” casual.  No, it’s insightful, visionary and well written.

Somewhere during the tools and techniques, new buzzwords and marketing knowhow John shared during this four-hour session, I had an epiphany.  I saw the very real possibility of doing improved marketing and sales at greatly reduced costs WITHOUT ANY OF THE STUFF I HATE!  As a golden-rule minded, serial entrepreneur, I can’t tell you how much this excites me.

With the ubiquitous internet, emerging B2B social networking tools, unrepentant buyer behavior that literally thumbs its nose at any of the sales and marketing techniques that I (and all my good friends and customers) hate, marketing and sales may now become what I and many others have wanted them to be all along.  In fact, it is now possible for me (and you) to be exactly who we are, genuine and candid about it (without giving away the farm), find, qualify, convince and sell new prospects simply by being straightforward and real.

When our good friend and sales Vice President died, I secretly doubted we’d be able to stay in business as neither me nor any of my partners are good at the requisite prospecting, interrupting, qualifying, persuading (or manipulating) it sometimes seemed necessary to be a really good sales person.  In sales parlance, Ed was a great hunter; all the rest of us are farmers.  We’re all good closers and break our necks to take care of customers because we like honest people and just tell the truth to the best of our ability.  People who like honest and candid want to do business with us.  People who don’t, run away – and that’s OK with us.

I came away from John Jantsch’s presentation relieved and excited.  I’m now convinced we’ll not only do well in our business with this new sales and marketing paradigm, I suspect we may even excel – Even without our friend and salesperson.  Perhaps even more exciting for the altruist in me – Anyone who’ll take the time to embrace what some are calling the “inbound only” marketing approach may excel in sales and marketing.

I could (and will if anyone’s interested) write more on this new way of marketing.  Let me know if you’re interested.

Time Management Skills 101 – Goal Setter’s Time Management Tips

Life as a pie chartFor the last thirty-four years, learning about and pursuing goal setting and achievement have been passions of mine. While not my favorite skill (it requires self-discipline), time management takes effective goal setting beyond wishes to project management and achievement.

I stumbled on time management and goal setting as a college student.

Wrestling with lackluster results, I hadn’t yet grasped the concept of personal accountability. As I recall, I made an appointment with my professor for an intro to financial analysis – Ostensibly, to discuss my performance to date. My real purpose was to talk him into raising my grade.

I kicked off our meeting by observing he’d simply assigned too much homework and allowed too little time to do it. I went on to ask him to cut me some slack on homework grades because I could prove empirically there was simply no way a regular guy could do all the homework in his class and do all the other things one absolutely had to do just to get by in life. A natural list maker, I’d brought a doosey of a list with me.

His eyes lit up when I showed it to him.  He grinned like he’d just won the lottery. Then he leaned back in his chair, stared me right straight in the eyes and said, “Bruce, welcome to life. That’s a great list, but what’s that to me? My job’s to teach you finance. No homework; no learning. If anyone can do all the homework and make an A, you can do it. You have the same amount of time as everyone else. Question is, are you using your time wisely?”

Geez! Thanks! Lecture plus rhetorical question – I didn’t want one of those. I wanted sympathy.

I tried again to explain how my circumstance was unique and simply beyond my control. For crying out loud – I was working full time, going to school full time, trying to stay on top of my guitar. I’d joined a professional fraternity, I didn’t get enough sleep, my car needed fixing, my feet were aching, and I’m the only one of my roommates who can cook. Years later I heard Zig Ziglar use a similar story to describe what he calls the “Poor Little Ol’ Me Disease”.  “PLOM” for short.

Dr. Green nodded knowingly. To his credit, he didn’t burst out laughing, but his eyes were twinkling like sparklers on the Fourth of July.

You probably already guessed I didn’t have much luck persuading the professor. I received no gratuitous grade bump, but I did make an A in the class thanks to his sage counsel.

The sage counsel came in the form of great questions.

The first was, “What are your goals, Bruce?” Followed immediately by, “How do you manage your time?”

Goals? What the heck did goals have to do with my grades? Why’s he talking to me about goals when I came to talk about why I deserved to get an A in his class, but didn’t have time to do all the homework? I recall thinking, “This guy’s just not fair!” In fact, life’s not fair.

How do I manage my time? Now that’s a stupid question; it’s absurd. How can you manage something that comes and goes?

I wasn’t clear about either goals or time management and I told him so. I admitted I didn’t really have any goals beyond getting through the semester and that the two words “time management” didn’t even seem to fit together.

He didn’t comment. Instead, he opened his planning system and pointed at the first page. After letting me study it for a few minutes, he explained how he used it focus all his actions on written personal goals and manage his time to ensure he accomplished the goals.

I’d like to say it all made sense in that moment and I immediately thanked him for his wisdom, but I hate liars – so I won’t. What I did do was get mad. I can crank up a good rage on demand and apparently get a kick from the adrenaline rush. Besides, a good mad made me listen just a little more carefully than usual if for no better reason than it often helps me win arguments. That day I listened very carefully. I wanted an A and had just enough wisdom NOT to blow my top at the guy who stood between me and my final grade for the semester. Just enough wisdom to listen, and then think about what he showed me.

Then, he showed me his to do list.

Looking back it was crude, but effective. His own design, he’d used lined, 8.5 X 11 notebook paper (this was in B.C. – before computers), and hand labeled the columns:

What (To Do)?

When (Due)?

Why (Do It)?

Who (Will Do)?

Where (Happens)?

ETC (Remaining)?

Next (What)?

Status?

He’d printed each To Do neatly in pencil, and for each item, he allowed as many rows as necessary to describe the action that would lead to a specific desired result. I noticed only six items on page one and most of the page remained for making notes.

The value of the simple system escaped me, but I made myself listen. I REALLY wanted to ace that course and I could tell I wasn’t getting out of there without learning how to use the system myself. In spite of my initial disinterest, his demo hooked me. By deciding exactly what I wanted to accomplish (goals) and then deciding what to do and not do, why, when, where and how (time management), I could do the best possible job of ensuring I ended up with what I wanted most.

That began my more or less continuous study of goals, goal setting, goal achievement, time management, priority management, effectiveness, and a lengthy list of this, that and the other that all boils down to what I now call Common Sense Time Management. Most of the ideas I teach are NOT my own. I borrowed them from many books and the likes of Jesus Christ, Marcus Aurelius, Dale Carnegie, Benjamin Franklin, Henry Gantt, Frederick Taylor and more recently David Allen, E.R. Haas, Anne McGee-Cooper, Alan Lakein, Stephen Covey, Bettie B. Youngs and a host of other goals and time-management gurus.

Fast forward to today. I often share a tool called my “GoalMind To Do card” with business owners because almost all agree they struggle with distractions, management by crisis and the sheer number of plates they must juggle to make it through a day. Some use planning systems. Some use computers. Some get dragged through their days by crises, customer agendas, endless false starts and “those monkeys on their backs”. Most of them rarely get around to their “bucket list” and setting and achieving goals, much less priority management and time management. Seems that business ownership creates the perfect setting for occupational attention deficit disorder. As a serial entrepreneur, widowed father of three teenagers, head scratching manager of a retirement portfolio and sometimes mentor, I understand juggling priorities.

As is often the case, the secret to juggling anything effectively lies in knowing the right questions to ask.

So, whether I’m connected to a computer, a planning tool or a project plan or not, I carry an index card with the following questions on it so I always have a place to jot down ideas as they occur to me. This, in turn, gives me the ability to banish any nagging thoughts and consider each idea as thoroughly as necessary when it’s appropriate. The questions work with any planning system without requiring one if you’re an out-of-the-box person like many of my clients. The cards will fit in your purse, wallet or shirt pocket and are incredibly powerful tools.  If the card idea doesn’t work for you, put the questions in your iPhone or your scheduling tool.  The power’s in the questions.

Judge for yourself.

For each thing you believe you must or want to do, ask yourself:

1) What’s the action?

2) What’s today’s date?

3) Where will the action take place?

4) What’s the action’s relative priority?

5) What’s the action’s LOE?

6) What’s the action’s ETC?

7) Does the action recur? If so, how often?

8) What’s the action’s status?

9) Is the action important? If so, why?

10) Does the action have a hard deadline?

11) Must I do it? If not, who? If so, why?

12) Does action require my total focus?

13) Will I enjoy this action?

14) Will I dislike this action?

15) Does this action relate to a bigger goal, project or objective? If so, which one?

16) What action logically follows this one?

Here are working definitions:

1) Action: What you intend to accomplish. Begin description with an active verb and complete it with concise, envisionable description of desired result.

2) Date: Today’s date. Valuable because it gives you a date stamp that helps you calculate elapsed time. Elapsed time helps you determine whether an item is still as important as you initially thought it was.

3) Where: Where, physically will you complete this action? At home? At work? At grocery store? On business trip? Valuable for grouping activities for most efficient accomplishment.

4) Priority: Today’s assessment of this action’s relative priority. A = Urgent (has approaching deadline) and Important, B = Important, but not urgent, C = Urgent, but not important, D = Neither urgent nor important

5) LOE: Level of Effort. Today’s best guess about how long it will take you to complete this To Do in man-hours. Valuable for helping you see how well or poorly you approximate effort.

6) ETC: Estimate to Complete – How much (currently) remains to accomplish this task, again in man-hours. – You will erase and rewrite your estimate often, if you work on a To Do over several days. Valuable for helping you decide what to and what not to tackle within your overall schedule.

7) Recurs: Y/N – Freq – For tasks that recur. If so, answers the question “how often?”

8) Status: Valuable for answering questions about where you are in an action’s completion?

9) Important: Y/N, Why? _______________ – Is the To Do important TO YOU? If it’s important to someone else, but you didn’t PROMISE or OTHERWISE commit to do it, AND it’s not all that important to you – your answer will be “No”.

10) Deadline: Y/N, When? _______________ – Does to do have a practical deadline? If so, when is it?

11) Must I do it: Y/N, If Not, Who? If so, Why? – Helps you figure out what you can hand off to others and a pretty revealing self-evaluation tool for control freaks

12) Total Focus: Y/N, Enjoy Doing? Y / N – Asks the question does completing or working on this to do require total focus? It’s an opinion question; therefore, I follow it with habitual procrastinator’s biggest hidden excuses:

13) “Enjoy Doing”, Y/N and

14) “Dislike Doing” Y/N

15) Related Project: When you catch yourself thinking about To Dos related to a project, this is where you may pencil in the name of the project

16) Next Step: While I don’t encourage using this form for multi-step activities, I often find that I THINK something’s going to be quick and simple only to discover it isn’t

Also, I encourage people to answer only what’s immediately important about each task as it occurs to them, and NOT to worry about answering all the questions for every item. It’s important to set aside some time daily or once a week to clear your mind of all the “To Dos” floating around in your head, just to get them out of your mind and into some more manageable system. Often, by the time I’ve written down the date and the task, I realize the To Do isn’t that important to me anymore and I’ll answer the rest of the questions only when and if it moves up on my radar.

Finally, I keep a master To Do list. Some call it a master task list and some simply call it stuff I want to get done. Whatever you call it – I highly recommend keeping one, but understand that each must plan in the way that works best for them. When I set out to plan my day or week, I pull the most important items from my master task list and add them to my schedule – a topic for another time.

In case you’re having trouble envisioning the index card, here’s one way to do it:

One way to arrange questions on a 3 X 5 card

GoalMind 3 X 5 To Do Card

Enjoy.

Effective Project Managers

Over the years, I’ve managed hundreds of projects.  Some small; some large.  For profit; not-for-profit.  Software development, sales process, customer relationship management, construction, hardware development – a bunch of stuff.  I have a bent for analysis, detail and strategic thinking, but to say I learned project management the hard way would be a laughable understatement.  Nonetheless, learn it I have. 

Along the way I made many mistakes and made note of what does and doesn’t work so well.  Though I’m still learning, and because I haven’t given up the ghost yet, I’m jotting down the most important principles that do work consistently – in spite of the nature of a project and in spite of what circumstance dishes out.  These principles underpin what I call Common Sense Project Management.

I hope they’ll keep you focused on and accomplishing your dreams.

An effective project manager:

  1. Listens actively.  You repeat what you hear from each project participant in your own words and then listen for validation and corrections.  Repeat until each participant nods their head up and down – the universal signal that “you got it”.
  2. Plans meticulously and still understand that plans generally become useless as they’re being printed.  Your planning process prepares your mind for many possibilities, but what happens happens.  The best plans help you focus and refocus on what’s most important when the inevitable surprises occur.
  3. Keeps detailed project plans with dates and times to yourself.  You know perfect execution rarely happens and how long it takes someone(s) to get from A to B is dependent on many things.  When you do show your detailed plans to others you’re careful to remind them often that you know the only things GUARANTEED wrong on every project plan are dates, durations, costs and planned completion dates.  This doesn’t mean deadlines aren’t important; truth is the opposite – they’re what drives what you ACTUALLY DO and how you do it in a press.
  4. Understands deadlines and target dates are different and understands the importance of those differences.  If you have a deadline, you’re honor bound to hit it or let EVERYONE know you might not, can’t or won’t as soon as you have good reason to believe you’re off target.
  5. Remembers the dates don’t change.  Just because you do or don’t hit a milestone when you originally intended, you’re honor bound to hit the next one sooner to catch up or at least give yourself a way to do a better job of estimating next time.
  6. Plans for surprises by working around them and building slack into plans whenever feasible.
  7. Models the fact project management involves honest relationship and demonstrates that relationships build on trust, common interest, loyalty and candor.  Common interest can be missing, but trust, loyalty and candor may not.  Trust and loyalty take years to develop and a second to destroy.
  8. Understands project MUST be constrained by the client approved balance among time, money and resources.  This “constraint triangle” defines the boundaries of what you can and will deliver (deliverable scope of work) in exchange for the area of the time, money and resource triangle you negotiate.
  9. Always treats everyone in a project as if your roles were reversed AND you both knew what you were doing.
  10. Understands your MOST IMPORTANT roles are clear and effective communication of the truth and maintenance of a project environment conducive to successful accomplishment of the desired result in the desired time at the desired cost.
  11. Begins each project developing a crystal clear vision of the desired result as it appears in the minds of the paying project stakeholders.   The more clearly you can describe the end result of a project to the project “sponsor”, the better and more cost-effective your result.
  12. Establishes clear lines of authority, channels and acceptable methods of communication, planning tools and reporting specifics.  To the extent possible, you’ll use what works best for your client.
  13. Creates and communicates boundaries that describe:
    1. what you will do
    2. what you won’t do
    3. Anything important to you or your client’s health, well-being or core values
  14. Monitors commitments and let people who know best how to carry out a task set their own due dates and work methods
  15. Manages expectations constantly.  You start as you’re negotiating a deal and you continue throughout the life of the deliverable(s).  You always want to underpromise and overdeliver and that doesn’t just happen – it requires constant observation and constant communication.  Remember:
    1. Telling someone, “I don’t think that’s possible” is MUCH better than saying, “Sure” and then failing to deliver
    2. Saying, “I don’t know, but I’ll find out” is MUCH preferable to guessing or stretching the truth
    3. Spend as much time as necessary getting clients and delivery team members to clearly understand and agree on a scope document that they all help to write and markup.
  16. Oh yeah…  And remember to have some fun.  Life’s short.  Who you work with, how and why are much more important than what you work on.

Goals Rock! New Year’s Resolutions Roll…

Two New Year's Resolutions postcards

Image via Wikipedia

Every year I can count on one thing:  New Year’s resolutions drive sales of GoalMind™, our goal planning software.  Sales spike sharply from mid-December through mid-January.  While interest  in our website, goal setting how to, coaching and business mentoring grows year over year, and it’s fairly consistent and “smooth” from a statistical point-of-view, the same is NOT true during the  annual “New Year’s Resolution” mania. 

From December 20th of one year and on through January 17th of the next – people get the goal setting bug.  They get convicted.  Motivated to change their lives.  They paint a “new me” in their mind’s eye, determine they’re really going to do it this time.  They do a little research on “New Year’s Resolutions”, “goal setting”, “goals”, “objectives”, “personal improvement”, “personal growth”, “goal setting how to”, “goal planning software” or any of hundreds of other searches and some of them go on to buy goal planning software….  Shortly thereafter (I suspect) they put it on their hard drive in their “New Year’s Resolution” or “Self-Improvement Stuff” folder and forget about it until about the same time next year.

“Why?” you may ask yourself.

Whether it’s the liquor, family joy or disappointment, the holiday spirit, a judgmental glance in the mirror, the natural result of healthy introspection, or something else – It all falls into what I call the “New Year’s Resolutions” syndrome.

If a goal gets made; it’s quickly forgotten and seldom realized.

Another year gone and a new one coming drives interest in goals and goal planning software.  It’s our peak selling season.  And while I’m grateful for the revenue – I’m much more interested in helping people set the goals and stay the course to their completion.  If, that is, the goals are Godly ones set within a framework of genuine core values, a sense of high mission and hig purpose.  I genuinely wish sales were spread evenly throughout the year.  Not for selfish reasons, rather because I see a sad pattern:  Not always, but too often – people who buy GoalMind™ around the new year too seem to think the software will somehow magically produce different results in their lives all by itself.  The purchase is just another transaction at the quick fix store….  Not surprisingly, folks who buy at other times of the year, often make real progress on goals and in life.  Many become personal friends. 

The folks who purchase GoalMind™, try it for a while and begin asking (me and themselves) lots of questions seem more willing to think about the why behind their goals.  They tend to do more with GoalMind™ and experience measurably greater goal achievement success than “peak” season buyers.  For these people who “get it” – somewhere along the way – our relationship changes.  We stop being a vendor or consultant, and become a partners in success.

Therein lies the double win:  You get closer to your purposes and I get closer to mine.

If it weren’t for economic reality and the fact I know how much GoalMind, properly used, can do for people – I’d seriously consider halting sales of the tool during the Christmas, Chanukah and New Year seasons.

Somewhere in history, the notion of setting goals and goal planning at the beginning of a new year struck popular fancy.  Ever since, people equate “New Year’s Resolutions” with effective goals.  Then when things don’t change, resolutions don’t happen (again) – goal setting becomes an exercise in futility and gets associated with frustration and failure.

Why set a New Year’s Resolution (goal) if you’re just going to fail?

All high achievers and most experienced goal planners know better.   They understand – goals ≠ New Year’s resolutions.  Commitments and personal promises get done.

People typically make New Year’s resolutions on the spur of the moment.  They rarely write them down, make them for the wrong reasons and seldom plan their accomplishment.  More often than not my students tell me they (used to) assign new year’s resolutions into the “should do” group instead of the “want to”, “will do” and “can do” categories.  They learn that goals – at least effective goals – rarely get accomplished when “should do” is all that’s going for them.  Doable goals require vision, passion, commitment, alignment, critical thinking, planning, deadlines, milestones, challenges, related task lists and a host of other things to help ensure they get accomplished.   The term “should do” as one’s reason for resolve much tells me all I need to know about that New Year’s resolution.

It ain’t gonna happen. 

If you really want to make something happen – you have to want it.  it belongs on your “want to”, “can do”, “will do” and “I promise my self I will” lists.

When I mentor people through their personal goal setting process, I often find they’ve never thought deeply about what it takes to tackle a goal from start to finish.  Unsuccessful goal setters rarely precede the goal setting and goal planning processes by asking and answering important questions like, “Why am I here?”, “What’s my purpose in life?”, “What are my most important values?”, “What are my strengths?”, “Skills”, “Weaknesses” and so on….  In fact, most beginners and some reasonably accomplished (lucky) goal achievers pluck their goals out of thin air in a moment of passion or guilt.  They think effective goal setting can happen outside their core values, life’s purposes and sense of mission.  Worse yet, I find more and more people who buy into the half-truths of “The Secret” and the oversimplified principle of “the law of attraction.  While you may certainly stumble your way to success with simple goals by “attracting results to yourself” or selling yourself on the belief that “someday I’ll” is an effective deadline – Counting on just those notions is downright nuts for gnarly goals.

If I seem to be picking on you, I apologize.  I don’t mean to.  I’m pointing at the man in the mirror.  I started my personal goal planning journey with some New Year’s resolutions.  While I don’t recall many of them, I certainly recall feeling like a failure and a bumb for all those years until I figured out the keys to setting and achieving worthwhile goals.

Over the years, I’ve borrowed and developed a list of questions I now use to help me (and anyone else who’s interested) distinguish between a New Year’s resolution (Also known as “wish”, “good intention”, “woulda, coulda, shoulda”, “Maybe Isle” or “Someday Isle”) and a real goal.  The list started simply enough with “SMART” goals and grew over the last thirty years to twenty-seven questions at last count.  I call it the “acid test“.  It’s definitely overkill for simple and even many intermediate goals, but it’s saved me countless days, weeks, months and years of frustration tackling “goals” that were really wishes on one end of a spectrum – terrible ideas born of Satan on the other extreme.  As I’ve used the “acid test” over the years, I appreciate these questions more and more – not just for what they helped me accomplish, but for what they helped me avoid.

So… If you find this note while you’re searching for “goals”, “new year’s resolutions”, “set goal”, “goal objectives”, “goal setting help”, “goal setting how to” or “goal planning software” please give me a call.  I’ll gladly share the “acid test” with you simply for the asking.  It’s been a gift to me and I’d love to pass it along.  If there’s enough interest, I may post it on our website.  I like helping people get past talking about things and into getting them done.

OBTW – If you think you have a Kingdom purpose – plan on spending a little more time on the call.  That’s one of my hot buttons.

In Him…

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