Veterans Day: Remembering My Biggest Hero

The United States honors people who served in the U.S. Armed Forces on November 11.

Veterans Day occurs with other holidays such as Remembrance Day and Armistice Day, that are celebrated in others parts of the world. Veterans Day marks the anniversary of the end of World War I.

On November 11, 1919, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the holiday. He said, “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations.”

Royce Charon Hall in the Phillippines (WWII)

Royce Charon Hall in the Phillippines (WWII)

As I remember those who have served to our country, I remember my biggest hero…my father, Royce Charon Hall. My father left the comforts of a simple country life in Ideal, Georgia to serve his country in World War II. I am thankful for the following:

How to Use the Degree of Agreement Technique

Figure 1: Degree of Agreement Process

Sometimes, we are asked to get parties to agree on a proposal filled with conflict. Asking individuals to vote yes or no can pit one group against another.

Is there a better way to get everyone on the same page and achieve consensus?

A few years ago, I was asked to facilitate a meeting where stakeholders were at odds with one another. The company wanted to add a new sales position to the sales force. However, the new position would have a direct impact on the existing office personnel in many of the remote offices, reducing hundreds of people’s responsibilities.

I was told, “You are going to have your hands full trying to get this group to agree.” I took that as a personal challenge and looked forward to seeing how things would evolve.

Consensus isn’t just about agreement. It’s about changing things around: You get a proposal, you work something out, people foresee problems, you do creative synthesis. At the end of it, you come up with something that everyone thinks is okay. Most people like it, and nobody hates it. -David Graeber

Projects: Creating Products, Services, and Results

I am often asked, “What is a project? Why is project management important?” The short answer is more profit and fewer headaches.

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Two Approaches – Different Results

Imagine that the MoonTrust Company conducted a monthly survey with its customers. The satisfaction rate on customer service had declined over the past year and hit an all time low leading to decreased sales. Senior management has decided to implement a new centralized customer service center (CSC).

Furthermore, let’s imagine two different approaches: one approach for Bill and another for Susan.

10 Simple Ways to Thank Your Team

“What I have discovered is that as I do the work of personalizing recognitions into the work of my team, I become a more empathic and involved leader in the process.” –Claire Jenkins

Thank you note

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Meet John, an ambitious project manager with excellent hard skills. He is the master of earned value and Monte Carlo. John meticulously tracks and reports contingency and management reserves. He appreciates his team but rarely expresses it.

Meet Susan. Susan has adequate hard skills, but she excels in her soft skills. People seek to be on her project teams. Why? Susan has a servant’s heart – she looks after the interest of others.

Susan provides positive and immediate feedback for special achievements. She thanks her team members in a variety of ways. Even in the face of great challenge, her teams consistently deliver great results.

It can be difficult for busy PMs to acknowledge the good work of team members. If this is to become a habit, PMs must be intentional. Watch your team members. When they do something above-and-beyond, express your gratitude.

Here are 10 (fairly inexpensive and simple) ways to thank your team members:

  1. Send a hand written thank-you note. I recently saw a Thank-You card pinned to someone’s cubicle wall. The card was dated 2008. Why would someone keep a card that long? Hand-written notes are a rare commodity in our digital age. Tangible notes may be displayed and savored.
  2. Send a thank-you photo card. Take a photo or two, create a photo card, and mail the cards to your team members.
  3. Take the team to lunch. If your project budget allows, take your team out for lunch after the completion of a major milestone or completion of the project. During lunch, share your thoughts and acknowledge each team member’s contributions. Reinforce the project’s significance to the company’s strategic vision.
  4. Send a gift card to a spouse. Send a gift card to a spouse with a thank-you note for his or her support during the project (use discretion on this one).
  5. Praise individuals one-on-one. Great leaders understand the power of the spoken word. When individuals complete significant work on time, make a point to visit them. Look the person in the eye and tell them why their work matters. Call virtual members to say thanks.
  6. Praise individuals before their peers. “I can live two months on a good compliment,” said Mark Twain. Make time in your project meetings to recognize your team members before their peers.
  7. Put a picture and article in the company newsletter. Highlight your team’s accomplishments in your company’s newsletter.
  8. Post a picture in the office. Take a picture and print a large copy for a company bulletin board. If your company has hall TV monitors, publish a picture with appropriate text.
  9. Give a gift certificate for a car wash. When team members are working overtime, things outside of work can slip. Think of one way you can help.
  10. Bake cookies. I am not the greatest cook, but I can slice cookie dough, put it on a cooking pan, and turn on the oven. If you don’t cook, try picking up cookies from a local bakery.

Some managers are afraid to reward team members for fear individuals will expect the same reward for similar tasks in the future. Reduce this pattern by rewarding team members after the fact. Vary the rewards. Make it fun. Be creative. Show your people you care.

Question: What are your favorite ways to say thank you?

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10 Things I am Thankful for This Year

“Thanksgiving dinners take eighteen hours to prepare. They are consumed in twelve minutes. Half-times take twelve minutes. This is not coincidence.” – Erma Bombeck

Allow me to take three minutes to share things for which I give thanks:

  1. Family. George Barnard Shaw said, “A happy family is but an earlier heaven.” I am grateful for the precious gift of my family – Sherri, Austin, and Macy. I am thankful for my extended family too.


    Hall Family: Harry, Macy, Austin, and Sherri

  2. Wife’s New Business. I am thankful for a wife who deeply cares for others. Sherri stepped out this year to start Creative Counseling Solutions for Women, a ministry to help women deal with life’s challenges and to reach their full potential.
  3. Son Graduating from College. I cannot tell you how proud I am of my son Austin. He is graduating from the University of Georgia Terry College of Business with a degree in Accounting. He will start his new job as an accountant with Bethlehem Christian Academy in January.
  4. Family of Faith. I am thankful for my church family at Ingleside Baptist Church. I am particularly grateful for the college class and our small group.
  5. Job. I am blessed to be a part of the Georgia Farm Bureau team. I appreciate the opportunity to exercise my gifts and talents of project management and risk management.
  6. Food. Paul wrote in I Timothy, “But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” It is a great thing to sit around the Thanksgiving table with my dear family and friends and break bread together. (Thankful for farmers who put food on our table every day too.)
  7. Music. Martin Luther said, “Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world.” Play on.
  8. UGA Football. Go Dawgs! This year’s team has battled through a challenging schedule and numerous injuries. Hats off to Aaron Murray, an exceptional leader and role model. I am praying for a speedy recovery.
  9. Friends. I am thankful for my many friends in Macon and beyond. For Thanksgiving, I am particularly grateful for the Robbins family, who we enjoy celebrating Thanksgiving each year. Also thankful for the many new friends I have gained through my social media world of LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and my blog.
  10. Love. “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” I Corinthians 13:13.

Question: What are you thankful for?

How to Improve Execution through Strategic Risk Management

Imagine a company who has a clear, superior strategy.  They know 1) where they are, 2) where they want to go, 3) how they will get there, and 4) how they will measure their progress.

Strategy, execution, success

Companies struggle with execution. Strategic risk management can aid companies in achieving their goals.

Superior strategy does not guarantee superior execution.

Let’s get personal for a minute. How would you rate your company’s ability to execute? Does your company consistently meet its goals?

The best-laid plans of mice and men oft(en) go astray. Life is filled with uncertainty. When we fail to manage the uncertainty, our strategy turns into a vapor. We remember it like a dream.

Why Plans Go Astray

How does the train get off the track? Many companies lack a consistent, repeatable method to 1) recognize and seize opportunities and 2) recognize and mitigate threats.

Companies fail to manage opportunities and threats in a systematic fashion. These companies fly by the seat of their pants and hope everything will be okay. Hope is not  strategy (or a process).

How to Embed Strategic Risk Management in Strategic Planning

Strategic Risk Management, a critical component of Enterprise Risk Management, is a  process for identifying, analyzing, and managing risks most critical to achieving an organization’s strategy and goals. Consider the following steps:

  1. Define the Vision, Mission, and Values. What is your preferred future? What is the purpose of your organization? What do you value?
  2. Define Long-Term Goals. What are the long-term goals (typically 3 year goals) to support the mission? These goals will likely be broader than your annual goals.
  3. Define Annual Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). What will you measure? For example, you may have a KPI for profit or expenses. What is the target for the KPI? How do you calculate the KPI?
  4. Define Annual Goals. Using the KPIs, we can define specific, measurable goals. For example: “To complete the year with a 5% increase in profit.” Cascade the goals. Lower level goals should align and support higher level goals. For example, you may have a hierarchy like this:
    • Corporate Goals (i.e. Enterprise Goals)
      • Business Goals (i.e. Business Unit or Division Goals)
        • Functional Goals (i.e. Department Goals)
          • Team Goals (i.e. Project Goals)
  5. Define Strategy. How will you get from your present state to the desired future state?
  6. Identify Risks. Here is where risk management comes into play. What are the opportunities and threats for each goal? Who are the risk owners?
  7. Analyze Risks. What is the priority of the risks? Which risks matter most? At a minimum, complete a Qualitative Risk Analysis to prioritize the risks. In some cases, you may wish to complete a Quantitative Risk Analysis.
  8. Plan Risk Responses. Develop the risk response plans for the highest risks.
  9. Build a Scorecard. Develop a scorecard where actual results are reported for each of the goals. Determine the frequency of reporting (e.g., monthly, quarterly, bi-annual, annual).
  10. Monitor and Control Risks. Periodically review the risks. Update assessments and response plans as needed.

Strategic planning and strategic risk management never ends. Regularly review and adjust the strategy. Each time the strategy is modified, identify risks, analyze risks, and plan the risk responses.

Question: Most companies are immature in strategic risk management. How would you recommend companies start?

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