contentgrrl

I am conTENT. My work is CONtent.

9 Minimalist “Chores” Streamline Project Management

Posted by contentgrrl on February 28, 2012

ironing is not really the kind of chore I mean

ironing is not really the kind of chore I mean

I am a big fan of Michael Greer (michaelgreer.biz). I first became a fan while I was an instructional designer with his ID Project Management, which I used successfully along with other tools to continually trim my ratio of design hours to student lesson time, whether it was a classroom/lab manual, live video training, or an e-learning program.

Now I do a host of other kinds of projects, including emarketing, knowledgebases, wikis, software release announcements, crunch time preparation, Webinars, video scripts, and newsletters.

Greer’s Project Management Minimalist is a godsend to those who are intimidated and even offended at the breadth and depth of professional PMI certification.

For example, check out his one-pager on page 10 of the free preview “Quick Start Checklist: The Absolute Least You Can Do“.

It shows 9 minimal “chores”:

  1. Mini-Charter (Get a statement about the “tangible finished product” approved.)
  2. Team (Gather contributors, users, and stakeholders.)
  3. Go Wide (Team brainstorms a complete wish list.)
  4. Slash & Burn (Team divides wish list equally among “Must”, “Could”, and “Can Wait.”)
  5. To-Do (Team assigns “Must” tasks to specific contributors.)
  6. Schedule (Team estimates time and sets deadlines.)
  7. Start (Team will start the “Must” tasks, “Keep moving,” and “Handle scope changes”.)
  8. Inspect & Correct (Check punctuality, quality, completeness, then discuss obstacles, assistance required, changes required and gain consensus.)
  9. Post Mortem (Review “lessons learned” for future projects.)

I LUUURVE “Slash & Burn”! Unfortunately, it seems to be missing from his more detailed one-page 10steps.pdf.

So many projects suffer from:

  • analysis paralysis
  • technology that doesn’t do what you think it will and must be rethought
  • directional changes that veer contributors off course
  • great ideas that come up in the middle but break the budget

But now for thoughts from you — have you done projects at work? Large-scale? Small-scale? In between? DIY projects at home?

What have been your biggest challenges in managing your projects?

Posted in performance, project management, tools, writing | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Figaro’s 5 ways to teach a kid to argue

Posted by contentgrrl on January 26, 2012

Years ago, I ran across a site that put Aristotle firmly in mind for his three Rhetorical appeals: ethos, pathos, and logos. The site, which is lost now, gave some wonderfully homey examples of how a child could use the three appeals to convince her mother to let her go to a certain party.

Recently I ran across FigaroSpeech’s Teach a Kid To Argue.

What?! If you teach your kids to argue, they’ll talk back! They’ll second-guess you! They’ll question everything! They might think independently…oh, wait. I actually want that.

Here is Aristotle’s Guide to Dinner Table Discourse, according to Jay Heinrichs:

  • Argue to teach decision-making, by playing devil’s advocate. “You seem to have good reasons for what you want to do. But what’s going to happen next? What happens down the road? How does that affect your friends and family?”
  • Focus on the future. “What’s a good way to make sure that toys get cleaned up?”
  • Call fouls. “Calling names is not going to win anyone over.”
  • Reward the right emotions. “Expressing anger with whining and shouting is not pathetic enough, because it doesn’t persuade me to empathize with you. Try using a calm, big boy voice.”
  • Let kids win sometimes. Reward a good argument.

Liking this better and better. Aren’t you?

Yep, I got the book: Thank You For Arguing. Chock full of pop culture examples to illustrate rhetorical devices. Thinking of getting his Word Hero once I have time to get through dozens of similar books on my shelf. Anyone read Heinrich’s latest?

And if any of you English & Rhetoric teachers out there can find me a great source on the three appeals, please share.

20120124-233435.jpg

Posted in heroes, persuasion, writing | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Firm response to #McDstories

Posted by contentgrrl on January 24, 2012

Nice use of Social measurement statistics in MacDonald’s response to its hijacked Twitter hash tag (hat tip Business Insider).

But the tweets are pretty entertaining:

20120124-225219.jpg

Posted in persuasion, writing | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

LinkedIn Does A Better Job of Communicating

Posted by contentgrrl on January 23, 2012

OopsSurprising phrase in an email from LinkedIn:

We could have done a much better job communicating about this change, so we want to clarify what this may mean to you…

This was the second message I’ve gotten about its changing feature set for displaying Twitter feeds.

The first alert had left me wondering if my Tweets would still update my LinkedIn status stream. This second message clarified that this service was still intact and unaffected by the change.

Now, Alsup’s Number 8 of 18 Immutable Laws of Corporate Reputation is to recognize your shortcomings. “We could have done a much better job of communicating” rang very loud about the faux pas. Think for a minute: LinkedIn might have been a little quieter about their previous oversight. But if they had left out that statement, the message would have come off as a high-handed afterthought, as though the audience was too dumb to realize the previously unspoken detail.

So that statement:

  • Brings LinkedIn down a notch
  • Keeps their reputation friendly and self-deprecating
  • Fulfills that rhetorical appeal of Ethos, or character. Kudos!

Ideally, when alerting customers about a change in services, you include a little disambiguation from the get-go. A good writer knows to anticipate and define terms the audience may find confusing. The writer’s challenge is to select details that will clearly support the purpose of the alert, while assuaging their biggest concerns and promoting a positive reputation for the organization.

In the first message, LinkedIn could indeed have done a better job of distinguishing the Twitter feed box being discontinued from a related feature that automatically integrates Tweets into your LinkedIn status updates.

But they freely admitted their oversight. Bonus, they successfully communicated the difference, while educating members about a feature that many might not have known was available.

It’s good public relations, too. If you want to temper bad news where you must take something away from your customers, come back to admit an oversight and highlight something great that you offer for free!

I may steal this trick sometime in the future. Shhh…

Two questions for discussion:

  1. What did you think of LinkedIn’s decision to remove the Tweets box from member profiles?
  2. What other examples have you seen of companies turning bad news around?

Posted in community, heroes, persuasion, writing | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Why I Write? Because I Can Spell

Posted by contentgrrl on April 12, 2011

Dictionary Indents By Till Niermann (Own work) [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsI was discovered as a writer because I could spell.

Spelling is not difficult when you have:

  • Great teachers early on fostering a love of etymology.
  • Great books peppered with foreign languages and highfalutin’ vocabularies.
  • A great father who gave me my first dictionary, set of encyclopedias, and book club membership. (Am I dating myself? It’s obviously before the Internet :-) .)

My writing had humble beginnings. In Texas, each school district sends students to district University Interscholastic League (UIL) meets, running the gamut of academics to arts to sports.

I was a geek: I won best actress in One Act Play, regional contests in Accounting and Typing, and several respectable ribbons in Ready Writing and Spelling.

Dr. Tom Buckner, director of the journalism department at McLennan Community College, had the dubious honor of judging such contests. Bless him, he always contacted the winners of a certain age for followup interviews, to recruit them to his department.

I got a scholarship, joined Dr. Buckner’s staff, became one of his editors on the Highland Herald, and went on with his guidance to win collegiate awards in headline writing, editorial writing, and investigative reporting. After I received a degree in journalism, he introduced me to an internship at a national trade magazine, Occupational Health & Safety, which hired me for my first full-time job as an associate editor.

I followed in Dr. Buckner’s footsteps a few times volunteering to judge UIL contests. I still keep in touch with some of the cartoonists, and other editors of the time. My contacts there have led to several gigs over the years.

For Dr. Buckner, I am very thankful. I have a career that I love.

How were you “discovered”? Please comment!

Posted in community, heroes, learning, writing | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Right Way to Add Adobe Connect to Outlook

Posted by contentgrrl on April 9, 2011

For Web conferencing, demos, and collaboration, Adobe Connect Pro is a nice tool for sharing a whiteboard, document, slide show, spreadsheet, or your whole screen, and record those conferences for later editing and publication.

Unfortunately, the ability to schedule Web conferences in Outlook is beset by a counter-intuitive installation interface for the Connect Pro Outlook Add-In.

I had to uninstall & reinstall many times, and I’d like to help you avoid that hassle.

The right way to do this:

  1. Print out or copy to Notepad your Adobe Connect logon ID, password, and room URL so you’ll have it handy when the configuration wizard comes up.
  2. Close Outlook.
  3. Download and run the installer (http://download.macromedia.com/pub/connect/updaters/connect_outlook_update.zip).
  4. Restart Outlook, which launches the 2-page configuration wizard.
  5. Uncheck Use secure connection, which removes the “s” from the “https” in the URL.
  6. Re-enter the “s” in “https” in the URL.
  7. When configuring the default text, you can personalize it with audio-conference information, such as the phone number, access code, and mute/un-mute keys. (I use freeconferencecall.com)

Hat tip to the kind folks on the Adobe Connect User Forum for steps 5 & 6.
(http://www.connectusers.com/forums/cucbb/viewtopic.php?id=4451)

In Outlook 2010, I can add the connection instructions to a New Meeting Request. If installed properly, the Adobe Connect button is in the New Meeting Request’s ribbon in the Add-Ons tab, as shown in the screen shot above.

Posted in illustrating, publishing, tools, video | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

GTD like Your RPG Avatar Builds Real-Life Character

Posted by contentgrrl on April 8, 2011

I love lists. I’ve used so many systems: daily checklists on my tear-off-a-day desk calendar from the ’80s, Franklin Covey and Success Management Institute in the ’90s, FlyLady’s Control Journal in the 2000′s. Post-it notes to be rearranged and updated daily on my wall. Folders/binders front and center for each duty or project, with immediate next steps clipped on top. Calendar time reserved for a couple of weeks ahead when I need to devote my attention and dissuade distractions and ding reminders.

And I gotta say I’ve accomplished a lot: master’s degree, happy career, healthy family, some spiritual development along the way, and forays into wide-spread interests. Not perfect by any means; always room for improvement.

Now I’m an iPhone app hound :P, especially for recurring tasks so I don’t have to write them down again.

My two current faves:

  • At home, I use [url=http://www.homeroutines.com/]HomeRoutines [/url]for its program inspired by [url=http://FlyLady.net]FlyLady.net[/url] to encourage good household and decluttering habits. I am motivated to fill up those stars!
  • For both home AND WORK, I use [url=http://www.epicwinapp.com/]EpicWin [/url]for its chores to-do lists inspired by role-playing games (RPGs). I build (“level up”) character in real life for quests, and feats of strength, stamina, intellect, social, and spirit. I use mine for work and various project to-dos.

I also get virtual loot, and can update Twitter and/or Facebook as follows: “I’ve been doing my chores and just scored a Undercover Shrubber – Epic Win! http://bit.ly/ao6xRS”. I’ve got several work to-dos slated there.

One site I have liked for fitness and diet is [url=http://www.sparkpeople.com/]Sparkpeople[/url]. But it is so rich in content, tools (menus, calorie counters, tracking databases, reports) and community (login point spinner, groups, blogs, forums, gifts, statuses) that it can be overkill. Eventually it becomes a time-sucking distraction from actually getting out and burning calories.

I keep falling off the wagon there. I tried to simplify – merely log in to note that yes I’ve exercised for 20 minutes today, and I’ve drunk 8 glasses of water, and eaten 5 fruits & veggies. The SparkPeople iPhone app is more about logging calorie intake and burnoff, which is not my program.

Now I can do my three simple daily health to-dos on my iPhone in HomeRoutines and/or EpicWin.

How do you get things done?

What do you do to build your own real-life character?

I look forward to hearing from you!

Posted in games, grrly, heroes, heroines, performance, project management, tools, writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Poll: Email Newsletters or Onesies?

Posted by contentgrrl on April 11, 2010

Posted in citizen, community, marketing, office, persuasion, publishing, reading, tools, Uncategorized, writing | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Making Work Addictive like World of Warcraft

Posted by contentgrrl on March 8, 2010

Hi, my name is Tere, and I’m a workaholic. The projects I do and the communications I draft make me feel productive, needed, adept.

But I am extremely averse to housework. I have tried to reframe it in terms of blessing my home, blessing my family and pets, blessing the neighborhood, blessing the friends and family who visit. That works sometimes. But more often I just downright hate pulling the same weeds that cropped up last year and picking up the same clutter as yesterday.

Today I was reading Jim Lee’s blog on KMEdge.org, Knowledge: How Much Is Too Much? and especially his comment lower down in response to another link, A better way to manage knowledge. The Harvard Business Review article said,

“the real value is in creating new knowledge, rather than simply ‘managing’ existing knowledge. …That’s why we’re not keen to spend time entering our latest document into a knowledge management system. …

We’ve found in our research into environments like World of Warcraft (WoW) that new knowledge comes into being when people who share passions for a given endeavor interact and collaborate around difficult performance challenges.

The HBR article touted how WoW player Gullerbone completed The Burning Crusade expansion pack within an impressive 28 hours after its release in 2007. How did he do it? By using his guild, and related videos, blogs, wikis that make up the social media “knowledge economy.”

Jim Lee’s response: “I’ve said for some time if ‘KM systems’ could mimic the behaviors of WOW players, that we would see immediate impact and improvment [sic] of collaboration and outcomes.”

I sometimes feel the same way about updating old documentation as I do about cleaning the toilet. It’s gotta be done, but it makes me feel all grungy, and I’ll just have to do it again soon enough.

Fishing in World of Warcraft, by Captain Oblivious on Flickr Creative CommonsIn World of Warcraft, that kind of chore is akin to fishing. If you want to level up your skills enough to make some great coin and get the ingredients for the meals that will elicit extraordinary buffs for your guildies in raids and dungeons, you gotta pay your dues in the water. Many dedicated players are so addicted to getting that next level, they don’t mind putting in a few hours at the shore. Of course, it’s not as physically messy as it would be away from keyboard.

And so I’m trying to find a new way to reframe some of work’s less glamorous chores.

I wish that someday we may bring the addictiveness of gameplay into the world of work, and even (ugh!) housework. Can you imagine being able to track in reality:

  • how much coin you’re earning or wasting on your current task,
  • the buffs you gain by eating well/working out/working well with certain people, and
  • the upgrades/badges/titles you can win along the way?

Wish, wish, wish…

Meanwhile, here are the ways I’m making my chores more attractive:

  • Breaking them down into bite-sized chunks. For example, I made a long outline of what I need to do, and categorized it, counting the documents and estimating how much will fill a half hour or an hour.
  • Scheduling the bite-sized chunks across several days.
  • Rewarding myself for completing a bunch of chunks with a fresh cup of Joe and a break where I do something more creative like the next newsletter draft.
  • Testing it like my target audience would, and putting myself in their shoes when I find it easy to learn how to do what I want.

I’m glad I work in a place where the coffee is free, even the flavored kind, and the cleanup is minimal. :-)

The next challenge is even more social: making technical edits fun for my wonderful developers, product managers, project managers, and technicians. There’s gotta be more than bringing cake and asking pointed questions. Any other thoughts?

Posted in community, games, grrly, learning, writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Real Me & My Authentic Niche(s)

Posted by contentgrrl on March 5, 2010

Isn’t the point of blogging to offer insight, value, and entertainment?

But I abandoned blogging for several months, partially because it became inauthentic. It didn’t feel like me. And I have precious little time to be anyone else.

My new profile pic.

Here is reality. For proprietary reasons of course, I don’t reveal much if anything about what I’m working on for my paycheck company or even my freelance work. I have also been escaping from housekeeping, procrastinating administrative tasks, spoiling my kids and then struggling with their behavior, stuck behind boxes of un-scrap-booked photos and memorabilia, losing and gaining the same five pounds, and wallowing in unfulfilled yearnings in my spiritual journey.

There: transparency. :-) Sounds just like hundreds of thousands of other working moms slash writers out there.

But I love writing, and I love having a blog. I would like to publish an blog entry weekly. I could even schedule a poll/survey or book review for when I’m in crunch time elsewhere.

Maybe I can spend time with an editorial calendar, leaving a bit of leeway every month. My interests are so broad, and something new is always happening!

Maybe I can narrow it down to a niche of topics I actually care about, that can help mentor other people. Something that makes me shiny and happy.

Something may come to me as I purge and reorganize my bank of drafts. Some of my older essays discuss things I don’t actually want to associate with my name. For example, even though I did well years ago to train in JavaScript, ASP and MySQL, I have to admit I am not a programmer; it’s use it or lose it.

Better, I like to use and polish my wordsmith skills to make life and work easier for people.

My own niche is in there somewhere. I can spend some time formulating my direction and exploring the passions where I will invest the next 10 years or so of my life’s work. I can’t even think about moving to my own hosted URL until I’ve got this down.

I tried an elevator speech:

“I translate experts from various industries into plain, compelling English (and sometimes images), making them look even better on paper and online.”

But elevator speeches and mission statements may not be enough.

Here’s the big question:

Does contentgrrl need to split into two or more niche blogs, or disintegrate?

Here are some possible splits:

  • writing & inspiration from news, media, TV, movies & books (Some gems may go to my freelance editor’s site, http://www.MarketItWrite.com)
  • wife, mom, home & gaming stuff (these get more hits, but newer material may go to Facebook & BigTent)
  • spiritual stuff (I thought I would blog more about the heroes who influence me, but I never seem to do them justice. I may just return to my favorite forums, like http://www.parentingbeyondbelief.com/forum/)

Related links/tweets:

@cywitherspoon “You can’t build a reputation on what you are about to do!” -Henry Ford (1863-1947)

anything on http://copyblogger.com

Entrepreneurs Who Blog Well Foster Trust Among Prospects, Partners, Industry | Mashable http://bit.ly/ahErtx

30 Tips On How To Make Your Company’s Blog Rock http://bit.ly/bxmLYQ

StoryToolz: Readability Statistics, another online tool with FleshKincaid reading level and detailed counts http://bit.ly/c2e2Bu

Good tool for bloggers on the go, per @10000Words: http://www.polishmywriting.com – not only spellcheck, grammar, but style guidelines too

Posted in community, grrly, learning, project management, publishing, writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.