3 Management Quotes, And How They Can Help Your Business

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The concept of project management has existed ever since the first time one caveman turned to the others and said, “Well, we can’t all go mammoth hunting.”  While things have evolved a bit since then due to the development of things such as written language, long-distance communication, computer technology, and the like, the idea behind the original (albeit imaginary) quote remains the truth in its simplest form.  For any objective to come to fruition, whether the goal is finishing a business project or ensuring the prosperity of an entire civilization, it’s important to remember that if we’re all out hunting mammoths, no one’s picking berries, guarding the cave or figuring out what that whole “fire” thing’s all about.

Over the many years since those cavemen realized that variety is the spice of life, we as a people have greatly refined our approach.  While we haven’t lost the basic survival instincts involved in reacting to our surroundings, we have learned to adjust our surroundings in order to make them significantly easier to react to.  As business as a concept has become more intricate, technology has advanced and management skills have progressed to keep pace.  Spectacular successes have served as sources of motivation while equally spectacular failures have become lessons on what to avoid at all costs.

Occasionally, some of those who have run those spectacularly successful businesses have been good enough to share the management knowledge they’ve gained from their years spent in their industries.  You’ll find a few tidbits of that knowledge below, as well as some helpful hints as to how you can use their advice to help you manage your own projects.

1) “Employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person – not just an employee – are more productive, more satisfied, more fulfilled. Satisfied employees mean satisfied customers, which leads to profitability.”  ~ Former Xerox CEO, Anne M. Mulcahy

In every position in any industry, it’s important for the morale of each individual to feel as if they matter as an actual person rather than as just another cog in the machine.  We’re all far more likely to do our best when we’re doing something we care about as more than just a paycheck, and the best way to ensure that workers do care is to ensure that they in turn feel they are cared for.  There’s more to it than just learning names or shaking hands.  Learn about your workers.  Listen to their ideas.  Give each person a voice, and you might be surprised at what they use that voice to say.

2) “Management must speak with one voice.  When it doesn’t, management itself becomes a peripheral opponent to the team’s mission.”  ~ Winner of five NBA championships as head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, three Coach of the Year awards as head coach for both the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks, and two NBA championships and the 2011 Executive of the Year award as president of the Miami Heat, Pat Riley
When strife rears its ugly head among the upper echelon of management, it’s hard enough to keep things under control when it’s kept behind closed doors. On the other hand, when those issues become public knowledge, the ripples that emanate from the top on down can have a catastrophic effect not just within the company itself, but on the opinions of those outside the company.  A company’s reputation that took years and years to build can be thoroughly demolished within minutes if the worst comes to pass.  If you ensure that everyone involved in upper management is on the same page, everything else has a much better chance of falling nicely into place.
3) “Management innovation is going to be the most enduring source of competitive advantage.  There will be lots of rewards for firms in the vanguard.”  ~ Founder of the international management consulting firm Strategos and one of the world’s most influential business management thinkers, Gary Hamel
With advances in language, technology, and communications, the world has become a much more fluid place.  The internet has given voices to millions upon millions of people, each of whom has the ability to share up-to-the-moment news of world events in a manner that can span the globe within minutes.  The power of computers is developing at an exponential rate, and with that comes a massive torrent of both the progression in knowledge of innovative management techniques and the advancement of the capabilities of software designed to allow a more streamlined usage of said techniques.  Businesses must not just learn to adapt, but learn to excel at adapting to new advances and new circumstances alike.  Those companies at the forefront, those that learn to use the new methods of management that have been designed to cope with the trials and tribulations of this ever-changing world, will find themselves in a far better position to succeed than those who stick to more conservative methods.
Remember, by learning from those who came before us, we in turn can teach those who come after us.
Joseph H is a blogger for Copper.  He spends a lot of time hoping other people learn from his mistakes, and would never lead anyone astray unless doing so would be really, really funny.

A Few Words On The Weather

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A series of enormous snow storms recently hit the eastern coasts of the United States and Canada, leaving tremendous destruction in their wake.  Areas in the southern US like Atlanta, Georgia and Raleigh, North Carolina were caught relatively unprepared for the snow and ice, causing wide-spread power loss and leaving cars stranded on highways, while parts of New England and eastern Canada have been hammered by up to two feet of snow with more expected to come.

In parts of southern Australia, a record setting heatwave that served as a catalyst for numerous bushfires was followed by deadly floods caused by torrential rains.

Meanwhile, the United Kingdom has been dealing with their own weather related troubles, as a superstorm with winds clocking in at over 160 kilometers per hour has caused widespread flooding and left over a quarter of a million homes without power in Ireland alone.

If you’re in one of the affected areas, we here at Copper hope you stay comfortable and safe until it all passes.  If you’re not currently dealing with those kinds of weather conditions, we hope that’s the way it stays.  Take care of yourselves, all of you.

Be careful out there.

 

4 Tips For Proper Crisis Management

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A gift for proper crisis management is one of the most sought after talents in any business while simultaneously being one of the gifts we hope we’ll never have to use.  While change is as inevitable in business as it is in any other facet of life, we all strive to ensure that those changes are for the better.  We constantly invent new methods to save time and effort.  We push ourselves to excel partly from pride and partly in the hopes that our efforts will go noticed, thus bringing in new clients (and the money that comes with them).  We adapt with the times, doing bigger and better things until we’re living the dream.

Unfortunately, sometimes the changes that come are due to circumstances that are completely out of our control, and the ability to react in a positive manner to a negative situation is key to not just your work life, but life in general.  That having been said, it’s good to keep the following four tips in mind when it appears that everything you’ve worked so hard for is about to come crashing down around your ears.

1) Stay On Target

The Problem: A very important piece of technical equipment was shipped out far behind schedule, got held up in customs at every opportunity, somehow ended up on a boat going in the wrong direction, and now no one is quite sure exactly what happened to it (though of course they’re all sure enough that it’s someone else’s fault that everyone along the line is refusing to replace the item or give a refund).

The Solution:  Remember that there is more than one way to get to any destination.  Sometimes there’s just a minor detour involved, while other times you may have to take it off-road and slog through the mud.  The journey might be a little more interesting than you’d like it to be, but you and your team are fully capable of working together to get from point A to point B regardless of how winding a circuit you’ll need to take to get there.

2) Don’t Panic

The Problem:  The proverbial butterfly flapped its wings in Japan, stirring up a breeze that rapidly became a gale, which then led to a hurricane smashing into the eastern coast of the United States, and now your primary call center is under two feet of water. 

The Solution:  Panicking will help absolutely nothing and no one.  Remember, the mental state of your team is a direct reflection of your own mental state at any given time.  Take a few deep breaths, count to ten, do whatever it is you have to do to calm down, and then handle it.  Treat it just like any other problem.  Look at your options and act decisively, then just watch as your team reacts accordingly and things fall back into place.  Isn’t that better?

3) Be Flexible

The Problem:  Your lead programmer managed to win a record-setting lottery two weeks ago, and didn’t bother telling you that he’d stopped working on his tasks until his purchase of a private island had been finalized. 

The Solution:  The old adage “hope for the best, but plan for the worst” comes into effect here.  In cases like this, just trust in your intuition, keep your people up to date on any adjustments that need to be made, and keep right on moving along.  It’s good to have back-up plans ready to roll out at a moment’s notice, but it’s even better to be able to snap out solutions on the fly for all of those things it may be impossible to plan for.

4) Trust Your Team

The Problem:  A nightmare of a client just decided to tell you that everything they told you to do is the complete opposite of everything they wanted you to do, but they want the new version of the project to be finished by the same deadline. 

The Solution:  Give your team a bit of warning, change the tasks accordingly, soothe whatever damaged egos need to be soothed, and let your people work their magic.  Remember that your team does know what they’re doing, and that they’re probably just as capable of flexibility and damage control as you are.  After all, that’s why you picked them in the first place.  Now is their time to shine.

In time, all those trials and tribulations with be a distant memory, and when the next crisis comes along, you can remind your team of that time they pulled together to overcome seemingly impossible odds and excelled, succeeding far beyond their expectations.

After all, in the words of H.G. Wells, “The crisis of today is the joke of tomorrow.”

Joseph H once used a butter knife, a roll of duct tape, a well-chewed piece of gum, and a turkey baster to fix a dehumidifier, thus proving that when you don’t have the tools you need, you use the tools you have.

6 Kinds Of Problem Clients, And How To Cope With The Inevitable

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In any business, it’s only a matter of time before you end up working with one of those clients.  You know the ones.  They make demands that are impossible to fulfill without the use of three times your staff and a time machine, or attempt to micromanage every single aspect of the process, or require the use of technology that exists only in the fleeting dreams of budding science-fiction writers, while single-handedly disproving the old stand-by, “the customer is always right” with a ruthless efficiency normally only seen in reptiles, spiders, and certain jungle predators in the process.  Then, once you’ve somehow managed actually acquiesce to their demands (in part due to your team having enough caffeine and adrenalin flowing through their systems to take down an entire herd of bull elephants), maybe they’ll say something along the lines of, “wait, it says here you wanted to be paid in actual money?”

It’s best to be prepared for the eventuality that you’ll have to deal with something like this, so in our never-ending quest to make your life easier, we here at Copper have decided to provide you a list of problem clients, how to respond, and (possibly more importantly) how not to respond to each one.

1) The Dreamer

Traits: Has brilliant ideas that may not be possible without the use of alien technology, writes long and rambling descriptions of demands without ever really getting to the point, often has no concept of the process involved in getting from point A to point B.

How to respond: Be patient.  Clearly explain how the things they want may not work and why, nicely ask for clarification on certain points in order to give them an end result that’s as close as possible to the one they desire, and make sure they know their feedback is an important part of the process.

How not to respond: “Why won’t it work?!  Because of physics, that’s why!”

2) The Micromanager

Traits: Wants to be involved in every single stage of the project, no matter how small.  Offers suggestions for every phase, many of which are inadvisable at best.  Sometimes comes off as trying to teach you how to do your job.

How to respond: Calmly tell them that it’s probably best if they take a few steps back and let you do what you’re paid to do.  When suggestions are offered, patiently tell the client exactly why things are done the way you do them instead of the way he wants you to do them (note: this may take multiple examples before they will learn to trust your judgement). 

How not to respond: “For the love of all that is holy, would you please just leave us alone?!”

3) The Psychic

Traits: Has certain ideas that have to be exactly replicated, while being unable to articulate said ideas with anything even approaching accuracy.  Often says things like, “that’s not how I pictured it, do it differently,” without providing any guidelines for doing so.  Has been known to add hours upon hours to the time needed to finish a project by fixating on one tiny detail and repeatedly saying, “weeeeell, no, that’s not right either.”

How to respond: This can be tricky.  Don’t be afraid to run through the entire repertoire of options available at the first sign that a client may be a Dreamer, as it will save you a lot of time and trouble later on.  Keep in mind that having a Dreamer as a client isn’t necessarily a bad thing, no matter how frustrating they can be.  They want the a satisfactory end like everyone else, they simply aren’t as good as most at properly relaying their wants and needs.

How not to respond: “I’m sorry, I’d love to help you, but our staff medium is out with the flu and we are currently unable to break through into the spirit world in order to find out exactly what you’re looking for.”

4) The Taskmaster

Traits: The Taskmaster is used to having things done their way immediately without question, and their mindset when working with you and your team is no different.  They are rude and demanding.  They want their results, and they want them now, and woe unto anyone who they think is standing in the way regardless of the reason.

How to respond: When discussing the time frame necessary to complete a project for a taskmaster, it might be necessary to treat it as if you’re haggling for prices.  If you think something’s going to take a certain amount of time, double it and let them argue you down to something reasonable.  Otherwise, while you might end up being under a high amount of stress for a while as you try to fulfill whatever seemingly impossible demands are being made of you, keep in mind that it’s not a permanent situation.

How not to respond: “Is that you, John Wayne?  Is this me?”

5) The Annihilator

Traits: Nothing is ever good enough for The Annihilator.  Even if your team follows the exact instructions given to the absolute letter, it will still be lacking in every single way possible.  First they yell, then they threaten, then they yell some more, and there is no force in the ‘verse that appears to be capable of pleasing them.

How to respond: While The Annihilator’s standards sometimes seem absolutely impossible to meet, keep in mind that this is actually not the case at all.  Sure, there are going to be a lot of headaches, but eventually things will be in proper order.  A good temporary solution during the whole ordeal is to spend less time trying to make them happy, and more time convincing them that they’re happier than everyone else.  Then, when you finally do meet their demands, their gratitude will be worth the experience…  particularly when it comes time for reviews and paychecks.

How not to respond: “You know what?  Just do it yourself then.”

6) The Devil Incarnate

Traits: Imagine a combination of the worst aspects of all of the above clients, but tainted by a streak of actual malevolence.  They expect absolute perfection without being clear about what that absolute perfection is, they rage when you are unable to fill impossible demands, and they often appear to expect you to work without things like sleep or payment.  If you were able to meet their impossible stare for long enough, you might notice that their eyes only blink from side to side, if they blink at all.

How to respond: Sometimes, in extreme cases, it’s okay to throw your hands up and tell someone they cannot be worked with any longer.  It may be hard, but it’s better in the long run.  Refer them to a competitor.

How not to respond: “Where do you want me to sign the contract again?  Also, why is it written in blood?”

We hope this helps you when dealing with clients in the future.  If there’s any we’ve forgotten, feel free to let us know in the comments section below.

Joseph H has a slight Dreamer streak going on, and has occasionally been known to go full Taskmaster against his better judgement.

A Philosopher’s Guide To Workplace Perfection

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It’s universally agreed upon that as far as influential people in history go, the philosopher, scholar, and scientist known as Aristotle is pretty high up on the list.  He was the teacher of Alexander the Great (and without those teachings, we may never have heard of Alexander the Not-Too-Shabby), he was a prolific writer and contributor to the arts of dance and theater, and he’s known as the father of the field of logic and history’s first genuine scientist.  It has to take a good sized chunk of vision to be a Renaissance man around a thousand years before the Renaissance actually happened, doesn’t it?  Basically, the guy had a lot on his plate, but he made it work.

Aristotle once said, “Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work,”  and who are we to argue?

On the other hand, we at Copper know that not every project is going to be a walk in the park.  Sometimes, no matter how innovative an idea is or how much enthusiasm the team has, there are going to be times when the thrill of progress isn’t enough to mask the tedium involved in the process itself.  It’s neither a good thing nor a bad thing, when you think about it.  It’s just a thing, and as far as things go, it’s a fairly common one.

Sometimes the little things help the most.  We here at Copper do a pretty good job of making things easier for those who use our project management software, so there’s that to consider.  Music can add rhythm to our efforts and make time fly by.  A cup of something hot to drink gives us a split-second break every time we lift the mug to take a sip, and can soothe nerves that would otherwise be wound far too tightly for comfort (or if you drink as much coffee as I do, can make your eyes throw off sparks, which at least helps pass the time).  Decorations in the work area can help with creativity, assist with keeping up morale, and if nothing else can give us something to stare at briefly when we need that precious mental break.

I personally like to simply pick up everything critical to what I’m doing and go work elsewhere.  I grab my laptop and wander off to find something interesting.  A major change of location is exactly what gets my head where it needs to be.

You want an example of a change of location?  Oh, I’ve got an example of a change of location for you.  I’ve written this entire blog post while sitting on the back bumper of a loading dock.  I’m not entirely sure what the temperature is here, but I do know it’s cold enough that my coffee keeps freezing in my mustache.  I suppose I could go ask the polar bear that’s huddled next to the campfire that’s down the road a bit, but she looks pretty hungry.

Why am I here?  Because the office wasn’t doing it for me.

Mind you, what I’m doing is an extreme example.  The same effect can be had by something as simple as say, moving your chair so you’re sitting facing a window, or going for a quick walk around the building.  Even getting up to go get a cup of coffee can provide enough of a mental nap to let inspiration slip into your consciousness.  There’s happiness to be found in the little things, and every little bit of happiness you create for yourself during the course of the day gets you one tiny step closer to finding that workplace perfection that Aristotle was talking about.

We all have our methods.  What’s yours?