Friday, May 27, 2011

It's 3:30, do you know where your gorilla is?

We were really cranking through the PowerPoint. I was so energized. We were finally making some honest to goodness progress on the project plan and I had some glimmer of hope that we'd make the next milestone.

All of a sudden Jake looks down at his phone. His face soured for a second and then he quickly shut his computer. "I've got to go to another meeting."

Another meeting? I started to panic, but we were making so much headway! We had a great agenda and we were plowing through it. And besides, I'd scheduled this meeting weeks in advance and everyone knew just how important it was. Why was he leaving early?

Then Bob glanced at his phone, tapped a couple of keys and stood up. "Yeah, I'm late for a client meeting. Gotta run."

Sigh… I was used to Bob texting in the meeting, but again this was scheduled! He knew it was scheduled.

Sue and Carlos started packing up their gear as well. No…

What was happening?

Hogarth leaned forward. His large size meant he could easily sit in a chair on the wall and still whisper into my ear. "Maybe you should check the time?" he offered.

The time? Wait, what? I looked down in the right corner of my computer screen… dang, in PowerPoint slide mode you can't see your task bar, no clock. I looked up on the wall. Oh, right. The clock in this room was missing. Finally I dug into my back pocket to dredge out my iPhone.

3:05! Five minutes over? How did we get to be five minutes over? I had an agenda!!

Hogarth was there to offer his "helpful" advice. "Maybe a watch would help?"

I looked down at my bare wrist… "A watch? How 20th century, I've got an iPhone and a computer."

He began to casually peal a banana, "How's that working out for you?"

A Wrist Watch? A Wall Clock? Really?

It's the digital age. I've got a clock in my car, a clock on my computer, a clock in my iPhone, a clock on the desk phone. There are clocks in almost every piece of technology out there. So why then do we need wrist watches and wall clocks anymore?

Why indeed…

Perception and Effectiveness

I have talked about Effectiveness many times, you can read an entire blog on it here. And Perception is really just another aspect of effectiveness. If perception is off, then you can't be fully effective.  So it can be said that perception is effectiveness.

So why isn't my iPhone effective? It does everything I need!

Efficiency is not always effective. The iPhone (or any other smart phone) is a wonderful tool and it is not unlike my own mantra of a $200 tool box over a $1000 dollar screwdriver. And while the iPhone can do everything, it is sometimes like trying to use a Swiss Army knife the size of a loaf of bread to screw together a set of eyeglasses, big and cumbersome. Or in the iPhone's case, it is the perception that is an issue. The toolbox is better than the platinum screwdriver, but you have to take tools out of the toolbox to be effective.

Look from the outside. You see someone pulls their phone from their pocket. They do something with it, and then they put it back. What did they just do? There in lies the problem. When you can do any of a thousand things, people may well assume he's doing something other than checking the time. "Did he just get a text message from Bob? I knew Bob didn't like me." Much like in the "I can see you Gorilla", people typically will assume you are doing something not productive when you are fiddling with your phone. This  isn't just about being in meetings. A wrist watch may be a single tasker device and thus not "efficient", but it is a highly effective device. When you look at it, people know exactly what you are doing. It is incredibly easy to use as well. Sure, your cell phone is on the table and you just have to push a button. Your watch is on your wrist, just roll your arm two inches and look down, simple.

An analog wall clocks serves an equal value, especially in meetings. If you run an effective meeting, you have a time boxed agenda. Each item starts at a specific time. That wall clock makes it easy for everyone to know what time it is. Post the agenda right next to it and people can see exactly where the meeting is.

Everyone has a computer, they all know what time it is!

 In an ideal world, only the presenter would have a laptop. Of course we don't live in an ideal world and most folks will have their own laptop, so why not just have everyone use the clock on the screen? Is their computer's time correct? Can they see the clock with the stuff on their screen? Do they look at the clock? Manager Tools also pointed out that a digital clock can lead to a disassociation with time passage. You look at the clock and it say 1:30. That's a single snapshot in time. You look at a wall clock and you can see a visual representation of how much time is left, is passing, has passed.

My advice
Wear a watch: It's a highly effective tool. People know exactly what you are doing when you look at it. An added bonus is the watch can help to improve your overall appearance and looking professional is effective.

Own a wall clock: I have my own clock. I take it with me to any meeting where I'm not 100% sure the wall clock works and is easily visible (If the clock is on one wall and the projection screen on the opposite wall, people have to turn around to see the time). Fashion up a little stand for it and place it at the end of the table.

Keep you phone in your pocket: Put it on stun and leave it in your pocket. Remove the temptation to check it .

No computers in the meeting: I already referred to the "I can see you Gorilla", but it bears repeating. Recently it was reported that the head of Google declared no more laptops in his meetings. If the uber technology head of Google sees the value of leaving the laptop home, maybe there is something to this thing…

Stay on time, stay effective:

Joel Bancroft-Connors
The Gorilla Project Manager
Want me to talk to your gorilla? Send me an email
You can follow me on twitter, @JBC_PMP