Project Management Archives - Smeester & Associates - Denver, Colorado USA

Category Archives for Project Management

5 Qualities of Meetings Geeks Thrive In and Your Company Benefits From

Thomas Sowell said, “People who enjoy meetings should not be in charge of anything.” I laugh, because I get it. Like you, I’ve been the victim of life-sucking meetings. Remember the scene in the original Star Wars movie where the walls are closing in on Solo and Luke, being crushed a near certainty – meetings have been like that. Yet, I disagree with Sowell.

The contrast is given by Patrick Lencioni, “The majority of meetings should be discussion that lead to decisions.” I like progress and goals reached. So do Geeks (I am one).

Over the years, I have found 5 components of meetings that bring out the best in your Geeks.

1. Common Ground and Honor

Cross-functional meetings bring out the best in Geeks for your company. With key areas of a company represented, Geeks are able to get a comprehensive picture of whatis happening in the company and how they affect it. Even more, Geeks are natural problem-solvers, and once they understand what other functions are trying to accomplish, they often bring a perspective no one else has.

2. Solution-Oriented

Geeks often bring a perspective no one else has…

Always open a meeting by clearly stating the problem. This is different than a clearly stated purpose. Old school held meetings with a purpose that might be “for each division to understand what the other is doing.” Though that might comprise a part of the meeting, it is not compelling. A clearly stated problem may be, “How do we reduce cost overruns across the board by increasing efficiency in each department?” That leads to discussion that both inform what departments are doing and will have a technological solution to it.

Once a problem is clearly stated, get to it. Geeks don’t need a lot of preamble.

3. Ride the tangents into “what if” conversations

If we believe that an efficient meeting is free of tangents, we overlook the value of spontaneous creativity. Though tangents still need to be managed, seemingly off-point discussions can lead to valuable input. Geeks, especially, know how to process vast amounts of input and connect dots that are seemingly unrelated.

When you next observe a tangent conversation, watch to see if your Geeks are mentally processing what they are hearing, and feel free to ask them what their thoughts are “on what you are hearing or on the problem we proposed.”

4. Encourage thought-out opinions.

Geeks, especially, know how to process vast amounts of input and connect dots that are seemingly unrelated…

Meetings become lively when a thesis is put forward and challenge is invited. Antithesis leads to synthesis. Geeks value what is right, and mental challenge is the venue in which right applications are discovered and made.

The contrast, of course, is a poorly constructed opinion. “What do you think” is a poor question. “Who has given this some thought” is a better question. Geeks have little tolerance for opinions without basis; too much of their work depends on embarking on the right trail in the first place.

5. Truthful and Impactful

Geeks are truthful and seek to be impactful. Meetings must embody both: Facts and honest insight given; opportunity to make a difference real. Geeks are already used to collaboration. Geeks have tribes, and tribes interact, because each is dependent on the other. If they walk into a cross-functional meeting that isn’t after truth and impact, they will judge the rest of the company to be illusive and want nothing more than to stick within their tribal practices that actually gets things done.

Comedian Dave Barry said, “If you had to identify in one word, the reason the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be ‘meetings.’”

You have an opportunity to turn that quote on its head: The reason your company will achieve full potential is that you learned how to bring all the part into a whole, meetings being the engine that drives the cohesion.

How To Lead Geeks The Way Geeks Want To Be Led

In 1964, Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart issued one of the most heralded quotes in Court history, when he stated he would not attempt to further define obscenity, and said, “But I know it when I see it.”

I feel that way about defining Geeks. Definitions vary and stereotypes abound: smart, egocentric, socially awkward, victim prone, strong-headed – basically the TV show Big Bang Theory.

People feel as if they cannot define a Geek (and how they are different from a Nerd), but we know them when we see them. Or do we?

Before I share some traits to keep in mind, and best practices for managing Geeks, we must remember a vital aspect of the Geek tribe: they are people, which means they share the same common personality traits as those outside their tribe. Whatever personality test you prefer, they score on them too. Geeks aren’t like vampires who cannot be photographed; they fall into the same certain psychological snapshots as any. However, they often function differently than other smart, creative, ego-driven people and professions. I would know, because I am one. Here are some things to keep in mind.

I’m a Geek, not a freak

  1. Geeks are logical. Analytical thinkers thrive on knowledge. The upside is that they are motivated by problem solving, and the technology and toys that leverage their abilities. Yes, they want money as every other employee, but they are driven to solve stuff. The downside is that Geeks will use knowledge as a defense mechanism. In order to prove their worth, they will often give more detail than is needed; in order to assert themselves, they will use acronyms or technical language to gain neglected attention or ward off premature inspection.
  2. Geeks value respect. The respect they value is directly tied to their work. They will organize around the knowledge that advances their project. “Right” is a premium, because it saves time, energy and money. Wrong is evil, a chaos monster that creates messes Geeks need to fix. Geeks did not come through educational processes that trained much on dealing with people. As a result, they are often seen as candid to a fault, because they quickly assess if someone they are dealing with is helpful or harmful toward the solution they seek. As well, Geeks appreciate recognition, but are not the credit-hounds they are often made out to be. The exception is if credit is given to someone who is actually detrimental to the process. Then Geeks arise, not out of protest so much as protection to the integrity of what is “right,” effective and efficient.
  3. Geeks do communicate. But, Geeks prefer forms of communication that allow them to focus rather than suffer disruption. Phone calls, meetings and drop-in visits are curses on their work-flow. Because focus is so important, it’s also why Geeks, more than other professional tribes, do better with flexible schedules that honor their creative flow, and do better with devices. Whereas devices for others can be a distraction, devices for Geeks are friends and stimulants. Geeks have a way of being quick to say “no.” Requests can be judged as threats to their focus and current project. But give them time; the challenge to problem solve often means they will come back to you with a solution.

How Not To Be Weak With a Geek

  1. Encourage collaboration. Besides the fact that good code and stable networks require collaboration, Geeks more than others self-organize, self-assess and self-correct. Geeks require ideas of knowledgeable others.
  2. Bring Geeks to the larger, round table. Geeks love knowledge, which means they are interested in understanding more of the business. That understanding serves their problem-solving away from the table. Plus, every decision made that affects IT is a technical decision, inseparable from business decisions. So it pays to have IT knowledge in on decision-making.
  3. Bring in outside eyes. The IT team knows that the executive who depends on expert advice from the IT leader doesn’t know if he is getting it. And if there is a gulf between the leader and his team, morale and best solutions will erode. Your IT personnel want a skilled leader with technical competence. They need the sounding board.
  4. Train. Your IT team doesn’t want to be told to figure it out. The knowledge of the field is so expansive and changing, that months, not years, is the difference between effective or irrelevant. Do train on people-skills, but especially against the backdrop of the larger mission. Dealing with people is “problem-solving.”
  5. Ask. No IT person wants to rehearse Tech 101 with every employee. But they do expect their leaders to want to be informed, and they are usually more than happy to demonstrate their knowledge. Get deep into questions and encourage them to define their terms. They don’t expect you to keep up with them, but they do want you to understand what you need to know (especially what you need to know to further their work and not hinder it).
  6. No matter your review process, make sure your IT department is engaging in 360 review. They depend on each other to be at their best for the team to produce the best.

Agile Solutions for Everybody!

A long, long time ago, when The Internet Design Firm existed (Scott Smeester’s 1990s startup), consulting firms used to get into LONG and BIG contracts, for HUGE amounts of work. They used to generate big ‘ol requirements, and create phases in the project to make sure there was no scope creep! Changes?! Pfftt!

In 2002, Mr. Peter Provost, now of the Microsoft Corporation, paradigm shifted me into 2016, which is why I’m here now. He told me that the way we were doing it was bass ackwards. He said we should be doing smaller projects, with shorter timespans between deliverables, with the ability of the client to make changes (oh, God!). No more huge commitments! He told us this was the “Agile Development Process” and it was meant to keep software developers and clients from butting heads.

So that’s how we do business now, with our clients and with our vendors. It allows us (all) to iterate. It allows us to succeed in more projects.

** The picture of the two college guys is merely coincidental. That is not me and Peter Provost, but those types of things did happen in the vicinity of Peter. Those two cats are SO party’n! Courtesy of Sun International South Africa.