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Archive for the ‘performance’ Category

Improving performance of an organization, its processes, its systems, or its employees.

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 ( 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 »

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=]HomeRoutines [/url]for its program inspired by [url=][/url] to encourage good household and decluttering habits. I am motivated to fill up those stars!
  • For both home AND WORK, I use [url=]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!”. I’ve got several work to-dos slated there.

One site I have liked for fitness and diet is [url=]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 »

I gained 27 years in one day on our Wii — and a new Web browser

Posted by contentgrrl on January 3, 2008

Yay! According to Wii Sports, my fitness level improved 27 “years” since yesterday, based on my performance in boxing, tennis, and bowling. I think yesterday the level was based on boxing, tennis, and baseball. It does factor in strength, agility, and balance. But I think I’m just better at bowling than I am at baseball, even in real life. And I’ve got to give my dear husband some credit for his attempts to coach stubborn ol’ me. But the boyz and I are having a lot of fun together, cheering each other on.

We also started using Wii Points to buy a Web browser. My boys can now play Starfall in our TV room to learn to read, as well as other games (see my related series on free preschool games). But since the hunt-and-peck game is getting a little old while we enter Web addresses, we’re ransacking our closets looking for a USB wireless keyboard. Unfortunately some sites like NBC and SciFi have Flash applications that don’t support the Wii browser.

We also used some points to get some classic games from other systems, including Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time (originally Nintendo64). Sonic3 works fine, but the Ocarina wants the classic game controller instead of the Wii remote. Aargh for the delay.

But I’m just happy that after Lego Star Wars the Complete Saga, when we play with Legos in real life, my boys are suddenly building walls on their own, and a house for Yoda to sleep in, and a Star Destroyers to go flying through the house. Before, they could only watch as I helped them build cars, planes, and houses. They were never so creative; they never really knew what worlds and stories they could build.

And so I gush, we are so thrilled with our Wii. Thanks, dear Granny, Grandpa, and Uncle!

Posted in games, grrly, performance, What They Play | Leave a Comment »

my Wii fitness level 59 and Lego Star Wars

Posted by contentgrrl on January 2, 2008

For Christmas, the grandparents on my side got the kids a Wii, with much thanks to my dear brother, who pulled favors with his connections in the local Wal-Mart.

So we’ve had the console, Wii Sports, an extra set of controllers, and Lego Star Wars the complete saga, for a week now. My husband played the Wii Sports with the boys and his nephew for five hours on Christmas Day. He started out with a fitness age of 63, and is now at age 28 after seven days and a sore shoulder from boxing, baseball, golf, tennis, and bowling. I just tried the fitness test today, and I wanted to record my age of 59 with a similar goal.

I feel we’re in pretty good company. After all, if frugal guru Trent of The Simple Dollar can justify it, then so can I.

I should say that my sons love playing golf, especially when they hit the ball into the water hazard. They do the same with Tiger Woods on the PC. But this way they actually stand up and swing instead of hitting keys. It does indeed get us off our collective buns.

Wii golf water hazard

Not to say there aren’t more sedentary alternatives. Lego Star Wars, for which we mostly sit, has been both fun and frustrating, partially because of the required fine motor skills that my boys just don’t have yet, and partially because my boys don’t want to destroy all the things that will score you enough points to get to the next level or build a minikit.

But my preschoolers now know this epic very well. They can name all the characters, creatures, and machines like the geeks their parents are. And it’s fun playing out scenes like Luke on a tauntaun on icy Hoth, being attacked by that Wampa monster, hanging upside down, grabbing the light saber with the Force’s telekinesis, and cutting off the monster’s arm (one of the brothers works very hard to take his arm out of his sleeve, and then falls dramatically to the floor).

Video courtesy of NextGenWalkthroughs.

Posted in games, grrly, performance, What They Play | Tagged: , , , , | 11 Comments »

writing about policy using ABCDEs of performance objectives

Posted by contentgrrl on December 20, 2007

As part of my rather broad work in writing, I’m often asked for policy statements or alerts. In an effort to communicate completely about a policy, I like to concentrate on the ABCDs of performance objectives (interlaced with the 5Ws and the H from newswriting interviews):

  • A is for Audience: Who is required to perform a task or comply with a new rule?
  • B is for Behavior: What skill, task, or operation is required?
  • C is for Conditions: How are tools involved in performing the task or complying with the rule? Are there prerequisite procedures that must already be completed in advance? Are there certain deliverables, inputs, or variables that need to be given?
  • D is for Degree: Why, Where, and When is it critical? What are the measurable constraints (in time, place, budget) that determine whether the behavior is successful? Is there a minimum and/or recommended criteria? What resulting benefits and consequences may be persuasive motivating factors?

I come from an instructional design background. There, the standard ABCDs of instructional and performance objectives are used to design lessons and identify the criteria for testing whether a student actually learned the new skill. It’s based on the work of Mager, Gagné & Briggs.

The ABCD formula works in everything — from basic math drills to complex software troubleshooting labwork to sales techniques to regulatory compliance training. But it may not be obvious that the performance objective typically comes from an organizational need. The objectives are measured so that the people in one stage (such as a Kindergarten class or a network engineering division or a marketing team or a safety inspector) do their jobs well enough for the rest of the organization to take it from there and fulfill expectations.

But I’d like to take it one step further:

  • E is for Exceptions: Are there exceptions to the rule? How do you know if a rule or issue does not apply to you, or that you are outside its scope? Are there special situations that may apply, and if so, how do you proceed?

Understanding exceptions takes a level of expertise that may not always be available when writing policy or alerts. But if you can nail that down, it’s one way to set your communications apart and be truly helpful to your readers.

Posted in citizen, heroes, learning, performance, persuasion, reading, tools, writeroll | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

quantifying personal IP

Posted by contentgrrl on November 11, 2007

Management likes to be able to monitor employee performance and development. And to do that, sometimes they need to be able to quantify personal IP. By “personal IP” I mean personal Intellectual Property, and not Internet Protocol. ;^)

It’s simpler than you think, especially with a team of people who know their jobs. Make a list of measurable skills and competencies, assign a value, assess your people, and add it up. It helps identify skill gaps, training needs, expertise, and compensation rankings.

You’re looking for concrete behavioral objectives, using verbs and objects and success criteria as needed. What should they be able to do, using what tools or methods, (and maybe under what conditions or limitations)? For example,

  • “Given a corrupt file or file needing conversion, runs XXX program to compress the file into fields based on Data Dictionary”
  • or, in the project management arena, “Explains the criteria of selecting a stakeholder or subject matter expert to approve various deliverables throughout the life of a project.”

For the software help desk at DDMS, we’ve made a list of the concepts, procedures, and troubleshooting methods that our techs should be able to explain and do, and assigned a value to a group of skills related to the software we support. Some skill groups are for Level I or II techs, and some are for specialists at each level. Our managers currently use a spreadsheet as an annual assessment checklist, reviewing calls, self-assessment, and asking spot questions.

Ideally, you turn those competency items into test questions or lab activities, assess your people’s performance, and periodically monitor their individual advancement. There are systems out there that incorporate a database with user rights and more objective assessment tools, such as online tests or 360-degree peer & workgroup feedback. I have used such a system for a former company’s clients.

And two organizations in particular have helpful resources on this topic:

Posted in learning, performance | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

best ways to help adults learn difficult concepts through interactive design

Posted by contentgrrl on November 8, 2007

I know this doesn’t sound much like the “adult” way to learn, but…Let them PLAY!

When I worked for Creative Education Institute, a good portion of the target audience for the reading and math software was adult literacy programs. They may not seem like difficult concepts, but tell that to someone who can’t read or figure. The programs are very interactive, designed for specific cognitive goals. In the math program, manipulatives (like learning toys) are used in tandem with animation to teach basic operations including addition and division of fractions.

When I taught DOS way back when, one of my most effective lessons was having the students role-play parts of the computer during startup. It was fun, and they actually remembered the sequence. has tons of Try It examples, where you can play with different HTML, CSS, and other script source code and see the results.

When I was at the SBC (now at&t) Center for Learning, most of the network tech training consisted of lecture and lab. That’s a good thing, as long as the lab exercises are real-life tasks, and it’s fairly easy to restore the system if a student screws up.

Back in ’97 I was lucky to be involved in the design of a telecom technician training simulation, that turned out like a video game. The tech was first instructed with animation how to use metering equipment and a little bit of theory (with quizlike questions interspersed), and then was given a job assignment in a virtual world. Assuming their truck was well equipped, they had to perform all the troubleshooting techniques and procedures required to solve the problem.

But the simulation program had to run on special Silicon Graphics machines, which SBC (now at&t) had to have an instructor travel around with on a truck. And once the monitoring equipment was upgraded (a frequent occurrence), the simulation became outdated. It was expensive to maintain.

Nowadays the game engines are so advanced that it’s cheaper to develop and much cheaper to distribute and maintain. Granted, the last games I’ve actively played/watched were:

  • Planescape Torment — a great RPG exploration of factions holding philosophies such as anarchy, hedonism, entropy, chaos, order, freethought, cabalism, and so on.
  • San Andreas — a stupendous playhouse of a first-person shooter/driver/dancer/whatever. My husband thinks that game companies should integrate all kinds of play, so you only have to have one world, but be able to play all kinds of games in it, including his favorites: golf, racing, and shooting.
  • Half-Life 2 — a groundbreaking sci-fi first-person shooter that gives the user control over so many unexpected items in the environment.

SecondLife looks interesting as a mechanism for developing such environments and training labs, where a gamer or trainee won’t hurt anything in the real world, and I’ll be watching to see what comes out of it.

Posted in games, learning, performance, project management, reading | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

7 Web conferencing technology providers compared (part 2 of 2)

Posted by contentgrrl on November 5, 2007

In part 1, 7 Big Considerations When Shopping for Web demo or conference services (part 1 of 2), we looked at seven questions you need to answer before you begin shopping for a Web conferencing technology.

In this part 2, let’s take a look at the pricing and particulars of 7 Web conferencing technology providers. Most of the following rated well in a Patricia Seybold Group report on web conferencing technology, but Linktivity and Ilinc were positively responsive to my queries even though they weren’t on that report:

  1. Linktivity has a hosted service that gives you 10 connections for 30 days for $450 (5 for $300). We’ve been really happy with our Webdemos and Virtual Classes, hosted ourselves on our own server. Our setup is limited to 50 concurrent connections for the visual portion of each demo or class. We have audioconference lines set up through our Telecom provider.
  2. ReadyComm/Genesys I saw 24 cents per minute per user on their site for both audio and Web.
  3. ilinc Under Buy ilinc, I saw 10c/min for audio plus 10-30c/min for the web conferencing portion, depending on how much collaboration you choose.
  4. Macromedia Breeze had options of 32 cents per min per user, or $375/mo for 5 users, or $750/mo for 10 users. Partnered w/ Premiere Global for audio, but can’t tell if audio is included in price. Like Webex, Microsoft and Adobe/Macromedia may charge an additional 20 cents a minute for each audio connection, or let you rely on your telecom provider.
  5. Microsoft LiveMeeting had similar options of 35 cents per min per user, or $375/mo for 5 users, or $750/mo for 10 users. Again, can’t tell if audio is included.
  6. seems like more of a long-term provider, requiring you to purchase and install software in order to manage your conferences. I couldn’t tell you about their pricing.
  7. WebEx. The current Pay-Per-Use rate is $0.33/minute per user with an additional charge of $0.20/minute per user.

Posted in learning, marketing, performance, project management | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

7 questions to answer before buying Web demo or conference services (part 1 of 2)

Posted by contentgrrl on November 4, 2007

I wanted to share what I’ve learned while shopping for online demonstrations or Web teleconference services. Here are seven questions you need to answer before you begin shopping.

  1. How many? Gather the information about the number of users you want to meet, and how many sessions.
  2. How long? Do you want a small, short-term solution to train a customer who has remote sites? Do you want a hosted solution, rather than install the software on your own server? How long each session is going to be?
  3. How will your audience connect? Can you assume your customer’s users all have broadband Web access, Windows, Internet Explorer 5.5+, and enough administrative privileges to install a requisite browser plug-in? Some corporations previously standardized on a specific older version of Netscape. Make sure you understand the end-user minimum requirements for the conferencing system you choose, and maybe check with your client’s IT department to be sure they can comply.
  4. Is Audio separate or integrated? Some conferencing systems rely on a separate teleconferencing line, and some integrate audio with the web. But your customers’ PCs may not have the sound cards or speakers that will deliver the audio to your audience. You’d hate for them to miss out on your trainers’ words. If audio is integrated, look for an alternative phone number to be made available and easy for participants to find.
  5. How easy is it to use? Your should be able to schedule and host a session with ease, and it should be crystal clear for your clients to connect and get support if necessary. The fewer steps the better. Ask for a pre-sale demo from cradle to grave that includes scheduling, hosting, user connecting, and any post-conference reports, which can help you determine whether the initial sessions had technical difficulties that you need to address with the provider.
  6. What’s the cost basis? Pay-per-use can be 20-40 cents (US) per minute per user, or you may be limited to a 5-10 seats for $300-750/month. With pay-per-use, look to be charged for actual minutes used. If you’re charged for all the minutes you reserve, it can certainly cost more.
  7. Can you customize with your branding? If it’s important, consider a hosting provider that lets you show your logo on the registration page and/or web conference interface.

In part 2, 7 Web Conferencing Technology Providers Compared (Part 2 of 2), we’ll take a look at the pricing and particulars of 7 Web conferencing technology providers.

Posted in learning, marketing, performance, project management | Tagged: , , , , | 5 Comments »

becoming certifiable in Webmastery

Posted by contentgrrl on November 3, 2007

I have learned so much on the job. But the more you know, the more you discover you don’t know. I am always discovering new gaps. When I need to fill those gaps to meet my long-term goals, and a book won’t cut it, sometimes a little more formal training is in order.

The International Webmasters Association partnered with the HTML Writers Guild to offer a certification program via eClasses.

I completed most of of the classes required for the Web Programming certificate, but the Design curriculum looks good as well.

In my case, each class required about 6-12 hours of work per week. Pretty standard online experience: register for membership, pay for class, buy the text, wait for class to begin, log on to read lectures & assignments, peruse classmates’ questions/answers (VERY USEFUL!) and assignments (EVEN MORE USEFUL!), post your own work, and wait for an acknowledgement from the instructor.

It doesn’t look bad on the wall, and it doesn’t look bad on the resume either.

I have to stress that you can’t plagiarize. You do your own work on the hands-on exercises, and the assignments are structured to encourage projects that will help you on the job, and will therefore be more individualized. And often the instructor’s feedback and comments from fellow students are very eye-opening.

At the time of this writing, course prices range from $80 to $270 or so, depending on whether you’re a member. Session durations range from 4-8 weeks, with a staggered schedule (new classes begin every week) rather than a semester-like schedule.

As of June 8, Rend Lake College (RLC) in Illinois offers the Webmaster certificate program online through a partnership with eClasses, and you can request 2 credit hours per course completed. (see 2nd link below)

RLC is listed by the U.S. Department of Education as an accredited institution by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, Higher Learning Commission.

Always search the US DOE database if you’re concerned about accreditation and creditability.

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