Entries in effectiveness (59)


For Everyone Who Has Ever Missed A Deadline...

hat tip nathaniel


SHAFTED Model of Leadership

My friend and pastor, Paul Gardner, who shares my interest in writing on leadership, has written about a model of leadership he describes as SHAFTED: "Stolen From Here, There And Everywhere Deliberately". The model comprises three elements:

  1. Know, develop and work to your leadership STRENGTHS;
  2. Understand and fix your leadership FATAL FLAW;
  3. Work with your TEAM to achieve the rest.

Whilst I see the humour in it, I'm not too sure about the acronym SHAFTED given its negative connotations.

However, this is a very useful contribution to our understanding of how to be an effective leader. It applies whether your interest in leadership is primarily within the church (like Paul), or in business (like mine), or in other domains.

I recommend reading Paul's series in full.

What do you think?


Next Actions and the GTD Add-In for Outlook

Eric has written a post describing how he uses the standard Outlook task 'status' field to supplement the Netcentrics GTD Outlook add-in. In his case he uses it for what I call "subsequent actions" (he sets the status to 'not started') which only become active (a "next action") once a prior "next action" (he sets the status to "In Progress") has been done.

I use a slightly different technique, which I have described in a comment on his post, and here:

I achieve a similar result using Due dates. In my workflow subsequent actions will usually occur on a day in the future once the predecessor next action has occurred. I have a filtered copy of the standard Actions by Project view which has an additional filter on it for actions due on or before today. An implication is I have to due date all my tasks or those with a blank due date are also filtered out, as well as subsequent actions. If when the due date comes around and the ‘next action’ is not yet done, but the ’subsequent’ action appears on my list as now due, this prompts me to either do the ‘next action’ (remembering that I should have already!) or reassess when the subsequent action is due.

The same technique also works as a tickler. For future tasks/reminders I want to be ‘tickled’ about I simply create a task with the relevant due date. On that date it appears on my filtered view as it is now ‘due’.

How are you using the Netcentrics GTD Outlook add-in, and standard Outlook functionality, to manage GTD for you?


Review: SharePoint Roadmap for Collaboration

I have just finished reading Michael Sampson's second book "SharePoint Roadmap for Collaboration: Using SharePoint to Enhance Business Collaboration". Michael describes the book this way:

"SharePoint Roadmap for Collaboration is the indispensable guide for IT and business people wanting to use SharePoint to enhance business collaboration. The roadmap focuses on the business and human side of SharePoint, rather than the technology."

Michael has an engaging writing style. I almost heard him reading the text. I could easily envisage him delivering the content in a workshop or seminar context - both of which he offers!

The book is very readable despite being full of rich content covering some complex areas. For the last couple weeks I read a chapter every few days. Then today I completed the second half of the book in one sitting. It flows very well.

I have been a member of IT project teams for over 10 years, and in project management roles on such projects for over 5 of those years. The insights in Michael's book resonate closely with my experience.

The ideas Michael explores are equally applicable across a much broader range of IT projects. Not just collaboration projects generally, or SharePoint projects specifically. I encourage Michael to explore this further in his future writing.

This afternoon I am meeting with one of the business sponsors for the IT programme of work I am leading for his organisation, a client of mine. An imminent project within that programme - which he is quite wary of - is the implementation of SharePoint for an intranet, document management, search, reporting and collaboration. All of these processes are broken to some degree within this organisation, which is one of the key business challenges my programme of work is seeking to address.

I will be showing him Michael's book and encouraging him to buy a copy. It will enable him and his colleague executives on my steering committee to ensure they provide my programme with continuing oversight that is focussed on achieving what they need.

Now, on to reading Michael's first book "Seamless Teamwork: Using Microsoft SharePoint Technologies to Collaborate, Innovate, and Drive Business in New Ways".

Michael and I are friends. I remember us first meeting when we were teenagers. Then, in the mid-to-late 1990s, we worked closely together on the team that started a new church in our suburb. During this time our friendship developed, and continues to this day even though Michael and his family moved to another part of the country. We don't see each other very often, but communicate regularly on twitter, by email, by txt/sms, by commenting on each other's blogs and occasionally by phone. However, do not let my friendship with Michael detract from your reading of the above review. I do a lot of reading - both for my professional life, and generally. Michael's thinking and writing is world class. This book is clear evidence of that.


Jazz and Leadership

Earlier this month I wrote "Lessons on Leadership from Jazz" as the first expression of my thoughts on how "my preferred leadership and working style aligns closely with how jazz music is performed".

This synergy between jazz and leadership is something I had been pondering alone for over a year. Unusually, I had not looked around to see what others were thinking about it. Of course, nothing is new under the sun, and it turns out I am far from the first person to have made the connection!

Within a day of my post appearing Brian Fraser of Jazz Think emailed me (from Canada), and we have since been in conversation by email. I am very encouraged by how rich his thinking is on this topic. I particularly like his 'thought provoker' articles "Innovation, Organisations, and Jazz" and "The Workplace as Jazz Club".

I see Brian has also written a book on the topic, so must purchase it! - even though he also makes it available for free download.



Later today I will be posting my first substantive blog article for some time.

The article will be the initial expression of my thinking on leadership - which has developed significantly since leaving the employment of HP a year ago and embarking on life as a consultant engaged in a portfolio of projects.

In part the article will also be a response to Michael Hyatt's recent article '8 Things Leaders Can Learn from Symphony Conductors'.

The article will also be cross-posted as a 'guest post' on my friend and pastor Paul Gardner's blog - to add to the collection of content on leadership he is building there.

The image (a teaser to my thinking) is of Shamarr Allen - one of my favourite modern jazz artists - performing at JazzFest in New Orleans earlier this year.


Do You Maintain Balance in Your Life?

My close friend and Pastor Paul Gardner has posted a timely reminder on The 3 Basics of Balance:

  • Divert Daily
  • Withdraw Weekly
  • Abandon Annually

A good annual family holiday has always been a planned feature of our family life.

The recent improved implementation of GTD in my life has enabled me to improve my habit of withdrawing weekly.

But I need to re-prioritise putting aside time each day to 'divert'.

Like Paul, I've heard this many times before, so I'm not sure who to credit.  I first heard it from our former Pastor Andy Westrupp.

Do You Maintain Balance in Your Life? How?


Evernote + Blackberry now fully functional in NZ

Yes! My Blackberry Bold has just downloaded a new version of the Evernote Blackberry application (now 3.0.155).

My initial testing indicates it now also works over Vodafone New Zealand's mobile data network, as well as over wi-fi (which it already did).

This means I hold high hopes for how it can play an increasing part in my daily workflow as part of my current project of refining my implementation of GTD.

I will write further on this after trialling it as part of my daily workflow.


Evernote Blackberry App only works in NZ over WiFi

Update: Evernote + Blackberry now fully functional in NZ

I have trialled the Evernote Blackberry Application further and can confirm it works on my Blackberry Bold over my home WiFi internet connection.

This means I will proceed with assessing how it can play an increasing part in my daily workflow as part of my current project of refining my implementation of GTD.

However, as I found this morning when I first downloaded it, it doesn't work over my Blackberry's mobile data connection - which means it as not as useful as I had first hoped.  I have asked Vodafone New Zealand why this might be in the hope it can be made to work.

On balance though, I applaud Evernote for making available a directly downloadable release of their Blackberry application today after spinning their wheels yesterday by only making it available to those in the US, Canada and UK.


Well Done Evernote re Blackberry App!

Today I am very happy with Evernote!

They have now also made the Evernote Blackberry application available for direct download.  This sidesteps Blackberry's App World which is only available in the US, Canada and the UK - ie not to me in New Zealand - hence my disappointment yesterday.

I have just downloaded it direct to my Blackberry Bold, will test during the day and post my thoughts tonight.

Hat Tip: Sean via Twitter


Disappointed in Release of Blackberry Evernote App

Earlier today I was very interested to see via Twitter that Evernote has released a Blackberry application.

I have been waiting for such an application for some time as I think it could be the key to making Evernote a tighter component of my daily workflow, and my current project of refining my implementation of GTD.

However, having tried to install it, I am very disappointed to find it is only available in the "US, Canada and UK" as those are the only countries allowed to install the Blackberry App World, which is how Evernote distribute their application.

I'm hoping that either Blackberry extend Blackberry App World to New Zealand, or Evernote provide an alternate way of downloading their application.


Inbox Zero, but not quite Getting Things Done

My journey with Outlook and GTD continues, and is settling into a nice routine at the level I have currently achieved.

I am sleeping much better, and heading into work each day with a clearer view of what it might contain!

I astounded a client project meeting the other day when the client side Project Manager said he had hundreds of unprocessed emails. He went on to speculate in front of the full project team that I must be in a similar position as a service provider PM. I took great delight in stating I clear my email inbox each day! and therefore always have a clear view of all the actions I need to take.

I have reverted to using my Filofax as my primary note taking tool for meetings, etc. I bought one day per page sheets and use those for my notes each day, which I transfer into Outlook daily. Side bar - I got 75% off from my stationer simply by pointing out at the checkout that the year is nearly half gone!

However, my frustrations with further tuning GTD to my workflow and tools continue:

  • I still haven't got my GTD definitions right (for me), particularly Projects v Actions v Contexts;
  • I still can't meaningfully view my tasks outside of my primary copy of Outlook (on my main laptop) which is an issue for a mobile worker like me who isn't always sitting in the same place in front of the same PC;
  • I am still wading my way through my accumulated physical inboxes to extract all the projects and actions buried in them.

image courtesy nerd merit badges



Using Outlook for Getting Things Done

I have been sharpening my implementation of the GTD behaviours recommended by David Allen in his book Getting Things Done*. Until recently this had been supported by a kluge in the way I use Microsoft Outlook - it worked, but it was clumsy, and I was getting very frustrated with it.

So, I am now using - and am very happy with - NetCentrics' Getting Things Done Outlook Add-In. I was motivated to do this because my close friend and pastor Paul has been experiencing phenomenal results with his implementation of Eric Mack's eProductivity tool for Lotus Notes to support him in applying GTD to his life. Paul has written extensively about his GTD and eProductivity journey on his blog and his twitter.

I am happy with Microsoft Outlook; which I have been using for many years. I have integrated Outlook with a number of web-based 'cloud' services for online access, backup and syncing with my Blackberry. It would not be easy to replace Outlook in my workflow. However, I desired getting something like Paul's results, and sought a GTD add-in for Outlook. I contacted Eric and he recommended Netcentrics as he has no plans to also adapt eProductivity to Outlook.

Here are my observations after nearly a month of using NetCentrics' Getting Things Done Outlook Add-In:

  • it is a solid tool which has facilitated my quick extraction of commitments from emails, meeting notes, etc - so I now increasingly run at 'inbox zero' and have an increasingly reliable list of Tasks respresenting the commitments I have made to myself and others;
  • I am not yet happy with how I have defined my Projects and Sub-Projects - the main issue being it also blends the Roles I perform as well as the Projects I'm working on - I need to better learn how GTD and Netcentrics supports Roles as distinct from Projects;
  • I haven't yet nailed the concept of a Context (Action in Netcentrics) but for now suspect this is more that I am still learning GTD concepts and applying them to the complex mix of roles, clients and projects for which I am responsible as a husband, father, consultant, entrepreneur, writer and church leader - rather than any issue with Netcentrics itself;
  • I have started undertaking a type of Weekly Review, usually every couple days, and Netcentrics provides useful support to it - but I would also like a tool like the eProductivity wizard Paul has described to me;
  • I have stopped syncing my tasks to my Blackberry as I haven't yet found a way to filter it across all dimensions of Project, Sub-Project, Task and Action - while the Blackberry continues to be my almost ubiquitous capture tool (I have another post coming on the different modes in which it performs that role for me) I can't yet trust it to tell me at any given moment what I should be doing, or even to present me with a contextually relevant filtered list to choose from - so I'm not yet at the 'empty brain' point where I can rely solely on my GTD system as I still tend to carry my immediate task list in my head;
  • the Someday functionality does not seem to be consistent within Netcentrics - a Task seems to get flagged differently when you 'Someday' it compared with when you simply change its Action to Someday - and this flows through to the ability to filter out those Tasks;
  • I would like to bring the Netcentrics icons on to the front toolbar ribbon of the various Outlook forms I use (emails, tasks, appointments) rather than having to constantly switch toolbars - I'm pretty sure this is simple using standard Outlook but haven't yet made time to find out how.
I will continue to write about my GTD and Netcentrics journey.

* I will receive a 10% commission if you purchase this book through this link.


Increase your Effectiveness using Twitter

I've been using Twitter for over a year, and like many Twitter early adopters I get my fair share of friendly insults from friends and colleagues who just don't get it.

For me Twitter has facilitated closer friendships - especially with friends in other cities, including internationally. Twitter has become significantly more useful to me in recent times as more and more of my real world friends have started using it too. By way of analogy, I've always wondered what the first guy to buy a fax did with it!

Twitter has also given me another access point to news on topics I'm interested in, and the integration with other online services like Twitpic, Facebook and Evernote increases its power even more.

Today my friend and pastor Paul Gardner has written about how he has increased his effectiveness as a leader using Twitter and regrets missing an opportunity to share how.

Lifehacker has also recently written on Six Ways You Should Be Using Twitter. I particularly like this:

Twitter has become a phenomenon, and like any phenomenon, all the Twitter talk grows quickly tiresome.

But despite what you may think, Twitter isn't just for narcissists; it's actually insanely useful.

So let's assume that you already know about the navel-gazing uses of Twitter—the aspects of Twitter that most people criticize when they complain about the site.

Discounting Twitter altogether because you think it's ridiculous that people tweet about what they had for breakfast is like claiming that email is useless because of forward chains.

It's a mistake, and you'd be missing out on a great tool if you let that put you off Twitter completely.

the image above was sourced from Lifehacker article linked above


#blackout protest has had some success!

yay for democracy!

the #blackout protest has had some success

I'm putting back my avatar on Twitter and Facebook now

Dave: "Great news. Section 92A of the Copyright Act has been delayed until 27 March so a voluntary code of practice can be nutted out. If there is no agreement on it, S92A will be suspended. Even if an agreement is reached, the Act will be be reviewed and monitored by the Government in the first six months. That's what happens when a group of people get a viral protest going, it gets support and gets into the mainstream media before midday and into the Aussie papers and into the Cabinet agenda."

Internet NZ: "New Zealanders can breathe a sigh of relief that their Internet access is no longer under threat due to unproven allegations of copyright infringement. Section 92A still needs to be fully repealed. It is disproportionate and unfit for purpose. But this deferral is a good start."




My New Blogging Strategy

I took a month long break from blogging from early January, and have struggled to get back to anywhere near my previous target of writing an article per day. Partly this is because a lot of my writing last year was prompted by the election, but I'm also finding my online habits are changing - and I've decided that my blogging strategy needs to change accordingly.

I will continue to write here at GavinKnight.com, but less frequently. I am currently targetting at least one substantive article per month for each of my four major themes - Politics, Christianity, Technology and Effectiveness.

It will be interesting to see what this does to my Tumeke NZ Blogosphere and M&M NZ Christian Bloggers rankings seeing as their methodologies have a bias toward high frequency posters - although my rankings couldn't go much lower given my reduced writing frequency over recent months!

So, my new blogging strategy revolves more around the following ...

I have been on Twitter since March 2007, and I'm now posting there more frequently - typically multiple times per day. I'm finding I can often say something just as effectively in a succinct 140 characters as I can by taking the time to write a full article here at GavinKnight.com! So, I encourage you to sign up on Twitter (if you're not already) and 'follow' me there. If you're one of my personal friends on Facebook most of my Twitter posts also appear there as status updates.

A lot of my articles here at GavinKnight.com used to be simply to share interesting items but as most of my online reading comes to me via RSS I'm going to move my sharing of them to sharing from Google Reader. Sometimes I will simply share an article, but I'll try and add a brief comment to some too. To see these, and everything I'm doing online go to FriendFeed (no account required, but it makes for a richer experience).

Are you experiencing a similar change in online habits?


Leading Effective Business Change

Jim Donovan has some good advice on how the project team should be drawn from the best people in the organisation, and on how to lead and generate effective business change generally. His advice is given as '10 rules' (emphasis mine):

1. The project team should be drawn from the best people in the organisation, the ones who will drive the new way, and will likely hold leadership roles in it. Don’t staff projects with your third-rate cast-offs. Don’t rely on contractors for roles that should be held by business experts.
2. The naval officer on site in the dockyard overseeing the construction of a new ship is ideally the officer who will be its first captain. The best person to lead a change project is the person who will run the new process afterwards. Failing that, get someone even more qualified and powerful, not less, to be your change agent. Sitting on a governance committee is not enough.
3. The change leader and the change team must have been indoctrinated into the new way of thinking, and be passionate, effective advocates as well as good at their jobs.
4. Don’t treat change as an IT project, even if largely based around new IT systems. It’s a business project. The best businesses train their business managers in smart project management, process design and change management. These are not IT skills, they are business skills. Having said that, good business-savvy IT people can make great business change people if you also follow rules 1, 2 and 3.
5. Be ambitious but realistic about what you can achieve with the money, time, resources and ownership support you have available to you. Despite knowing this, I too have sometimes fooled myself or been pressured into going ahead on over-ambitious projects without adequate resources, with predictable results. Heroism, hope and luck are not reliable ingredients for success.
6. Give the change leader the power to decide, as far as possible, and have fast access to higher decision-makers when necessary. There is no value-add and much cost from constantly briefing and waiting on uninvolved decision-makers.
7. Like any major change proposal, nothing will happen unless you dedicate resources (people, time, money) to make the change happen. Expecting people to design and implement a major change while doing their day jobs rarely works, especially when their core process is broken. Put your best operational people onto the change project; here’s where you can usefully deploy contractors - to fill in for them in the operational teams.
8. Avoid highly structured project management methodologies. I recommend a much more agile, lo-tech approach. Don’t try to specify everything before you start. Have a high level “architectural” concept to guide you, but get going!
9. Keep the alligators at bay, but focus on the swamp draining. Don’t worry about dealing with the current stream of problems - that’s the job of the operational teams. Put in place some holding plan, but concentrate your best resources on creating the new model that will work. Get it working, put all new customers, and new transactions onto it, transfer all customers without problems onto it, and then, last, not first, deal with the problem backlog.
10. Notwithstanding rule 9, try to deliver value quickly, in chunks, rather than going for the big bang. Incremental success builds support.
11. Bonus rule: communicate, communicate, communicate; up, down, across, inward, outward.

This is great advice Jim, which lines up with my experience as a project manager bringing about business change, often enabled by IT.



updated About

I have updated the About GavinKnight.com page to reflect my recent move to self-employment through Jireh Consulting Services and Top Performers


may the Lord set an impossible task before you

a great prayer from Danielle Strickland

May the Lord disturb and trouble you,
May the Lord set an impossible task before you,
And dare you to meet it.
May the Lord give you strength to do your best;
And then - but only then -
May the Lord grant you peace.