May 07

Tapping into New Employees’ Greatest Assets: Proper Planning


Have you ever been part of a project where Planning was under-appreciated or removed altogether?

Planning is a vital activity whether you are engaged in a client project or an internal one. Time allocated to internal process improvement projects is often very little because they don’t have obvious revenue generation like client projects do. Let’s explore why Planning should be an indispensable phase during a common internal project – tapping into the greatest assets of new employees.

Why this Should Be Important to you

For better or worse (mostly worse), we have likely all come across project members so excited about generating solutions quickly that they neglect the vital planning activities. They abandon proper planning because they feel the steps are obvious. The obvious commentary here is that something can only be created according to plan if there is in fact a plan. One might be surprised at how often a solid and complete plan does not exist. A few hours of work generating a plan using Microsoft Project or a similar competing tool will usually save many more hours in unclear requirements later in the project.

As the saying goes, timing is everything. Give new employees enough time to go through the Onboarding package properly, without being rushed onto live projects. This can be a difficult discussion with upper management who is looking at the revenue generated by each employee, but it is necessary. Think of a 12 week Onboarding period as an investment. Yes, those are 12 weeks when the new employee is not generating revenue. Waiting a few weeks to make someone billable is a no-brainer to me if the reward is profitable projects that bring huge value to our clients immediately after those few weeks are over. The alternative is letting new employees be confused for a year or more because they did not have a solid foundation.

How to Effectively Deploy this Strategy

  1. Create a plan using Microsoft Project or a similar tool.
  2. Adjust the plan as risks and issues are identified. An example of what this might look like is the following image.

A project plan requires use of a few best practices. Here are some key items to notice about the image above:

  1. Tasks should be categorized into a hierarchy of Tasks and Sub-Tasks so we can track detailed activities and how their completion contributes to the percentage complete of the main task.
  2. It is helpful to include both Baseline Start and Finish dates and Actual Start and Finish dates. This allows us to track how efficient we work and how good our estimation of effort skills are.
  3. Be sure to capture tasks and dependencies that should completed by multiple people working in tandem or by a resource outside your Onboarding group.

Planning is an often under-appreciated activity, but I hope it is now one that you will always take time to complete. It will inevitably save you time, money, and potential issues in the long run. It also has the benefit of creating something tangible that executives and the whole organization can rally around.


Tell me about a time when a well constructed plan served you well during an internal project.


Mar 20

My BizTalk Radio Interview!

BizTalk logo best used for web related and powerpoint presentations


I was recently a guest on the BizTalk Radio Show to discuss my book, “Onboarding – the Right Way”, and the podcast version of my interview is now available!

BizTalk is an AMAZING Resource!

When you check out BizTalk’s website, you will see that their previous guest list is a veritable Who’s Who of the greatest business minds in the world, including one of my personal heroes, Simon Sinek. Sinek has in my opinion produced the greatest TED Talk ever recorded. You should absolutely check it out at THIS LINK . Listening to his discussion provided some of those things that resonate with the core of one’s best self. Along with Peter Block, Simon Sinek has shaped the way I think as a business professional.

My point is that I would greatly appreciate you supporting my interview on BizTalk Radio and purchasing my book from the link provided there. However, above and beyond just supporting me, I want to implore you to take advantage of all the incredible content available from this resource provided by countless other greatly accomplished experts. I want you to take this opportunity to leverage everything that BizTalk Radio provides.


My Journey

I started working on my book, “Onboarding – the Right Way” about a year ago. I went through many iterations as my wife Susan served as my editor helping me to sharpen and focus the content. I’ve worked hard to market this book via Amazon and social media, and I’m so proud to have been included on such a prestigious radio show. One sets goals for oneself, and this marks the accomplishment of one of the highest priority goals I had.

OK, How Do I Get There?

Please click the following link to be routed to my bio and podcast. You can also get there by clicking on either picture in this blog post.

Please be sure to scroll to the bottom of that page to play the interview and see the link to my book on Amazon.




As always, I thank you for all your loyalty and support. Please contact me any time by adding a comment on my blog posts, or through any of the following methods. I look forward to hearing from you!

Twitter: @RussoConsulting

Mar 06

Data is Fake – People are Real

Why is Data Fake?

We should begin by defining what I mean by “fake”. I simply mean that data is an idea rather than a tangible item. It exists in theory and in the air. It is fake since its significance is less than the significance of human relationships. People exist in the real world. They walk past us on the street and we can feel them when they bump into us. The only reason data is relevant at all is because these people are either producers or consumers of it and care about what insights they can derive from it.

Out There

Where is “Out There”? People always talk about the different kinds of data that are “out there”. Where is that exactly? Is “There” an actual place or a fake place? I could argue that it is a fake place because data is invisible. I could probably make a compelling argument that data lives in mid-air.

The Internet

The Internet is a revolution of modern human innovation. Yes, it connects countless kinds of data in a way that is easily accessible, but this is only important because people care about it. At any given point in time, the same data can live on a physical server, within many different wires on its way to various people who need it, and even in midair via Wi-Fi connections. I struggle to think of another walk of life where we have an object that resides in multiple places at once that we consider “real”. These things are usually seen in cartoons or time travel movies.

How to Properly Care for your Metrics

How many metrics is too many? In my experience, and in discussions I’ve had with many other professionals, I can tell you that what most people think is the right number is in fact too many…usually WAY too many. I call this phenomenon “Metric Mania” and we need to keep it from running wild on you. I’m going to give you all sorts of explanations about how “it depends” and other qualifications. However, in the end, so as not to leave you proverbially hanging, I will also give you concrete best practice numbers to help avoid Metric Mania.

Humans enjoy measuring things, or at least asking others to provide us with the measurements. We want to know how fast our vehicles will go and their fuel economy numbers. We want to know how tall we are and how far we’ve run in our last workout. However, I would guess few of you have ever measured the outer circumference of your house. Why? Because there is no good reason to do this. There is no value to be gained that would justify the effort (except if you live in a town that calculates your property taxes by this method… True Story!). A great way to avoid Metric Mania is to measure things when you have a good reason.

Why are People Real?

People are tangible. They have unpredictable responses to our questions based on their moods, experiences, and perspectives. They do not simply return a predictable response like data does. Furthermore, I will argue that all data is about people in one way or another. People are therefore far more interesting. We spend so much time measuring performance, length, height, distance, volume, and other things, that we forget that those things only matter in the context of how people interact with them.

What is (and isn’t) a Leader?

Simon Sinek has delivered 2 very powerful Ted Talks where he explores his take on this topic. I implore you to watch both of them. They are really eye opening. You can find them here:

He says a leader is like a parent who helps his children feel safe. Leaders also strategically empower people.

The idea that projects transform people into something devoid of all their humanity in favor of creating results-driven robots is one that is strange to me and all too prevalent. Certain situations generate certain feelings from people whether they verbalize them during projects meetings or not. Being belittled by another person generates negative feelings like sadness, resentment, anger, and hopelessness. These feelings don’t go away just because a higher ranking person is delivering them. Recognition and merit-based bonuses generate positive feelings like happiness and gratitude. Surprisingly, empowering people by fully listening to them often generate the same positive feelings. It does not always take money to make people feel good, and people that feel good give their best.

The Philosophy of Clear Communication

Instant messaging has proven to be a valuable business communication tool, especially internally within one’s own company. It helps us quickly learn whether the person we are contacting is online and available. It also allows us to communicate important items quickly rather than waiting for email turnaround time. We use the uber-popular Skype in our projects, but there are countless equally capable competitors.

As instant messaging has become more prevalent in the workplace, so have alternate communication styles like using emoticons to display moods :) , using non-standard acronyms concocted on the fly, and even proposing deeply philosophical questions to our colleagues like “R U There”, or any of its even more confusing counterparts like “RYT” or “yt?”. The first time someone asked me this question via Skype, I felt like Aristotle pondering the meaning of the universe. I thought to myself, “If I am here, any answer I give will prove this fact. If I am not here, I obviously will not respond.” Since I was then in full character, I drifted into additional questions, “Where is there?”, “Is there here?”, “Who am I?”, “Who is this person asking me such a difficult question?”. :)

Finding Project Allies

People need advocates, in business and in life. They need someone who cares enough to focus on their best assets. They need someone to help them find new and innovative ways these assets can create the most value and the biggest sense of accomplishment. When I interview potential candidates for business analyst positions, I do not ask them about their strengths and weaknesses. Regardless of what euphemism we use for “weaknesses”, discussing them is not empowering people. It causes them to dwell on what they don’t do well. Although there is something to be said for helping willing participants develop new skills, this comes only after gaining their trust by fully leveraging the things they already do well.

Why is Data Fake while People are Real?

Data is fake because in a vacuum it is actionless. It is only valuable to the extent that it moves human beings to action or makes an impact in the lives of human beings. Human beings are both the input and the output of data processing. Without them, there would be no need for it, so we need to remember the value of treating humans like humans instead of task-oriented robots. Together, we can Re-humanize the American workforce 1 human at a time.


Please tell me about a time when you shifted from a task focus to a human focus and were able to achieve amazing things!


For anyone interested, this blog post is a teaser for my forthcoming book: “Data is Fake. People are Real”. I’ll keep you up to date on it’s release date and as always I appreciate all your support.

Feb 24

The Power of Positive Networking

DSC_6559Why is Positive Networking so Powerful?

What is it?

Networking is simply linking 2 or more things or people together, but it can be very powerful. Let’s talk about the power of positive networking.

Networking typically has an objective. The objective can be to accumulate lots of friends, to bond over common ideas, to enhance the chances of getting a better job or new business for your own company, or to work together toward a common goal. Networking, when done correctly, offers benefits for all parties. It shouldn’t be a 1-way street where one person is always giving to the other. A person in that scenario is better defined as a benefactor than a networker. We all network in one way or another to different degrees. We just might not categorize it as networking. ere are some examples that come to mind.

  • Church parishioners network over shared ideas of faith and religious practice.
  • Families network to plan holidays or reunions together.
  • We network with anyone who provides services for our home, like housekeepers, building contractors, or landscapers. They provide benefit through the service we seek, and we provide benefit through the money they seek.
  • Professional affiliations bring together networks of people that want to learn more about their niche together.
  • Swim clubs bring together people in a similar geographic region that enjoy swimming during the hot weather.

The examples are many.

What do I Mean by “Positive” Networking?

Well of course, just like anything in life, there is the concept of good and evil. Networking with your LinkedIn connections to help a friend find a job is a good example of networking. However, there are also negative examples. The mob and drug cartels are also examples of networking, albeit nefarious examples that I don’t support or condone. They join like minded individuals toward a common goal. By “Positive Networking”, I mean undertaking activities with your connections that result in benefits for all parties and accomplish something ethically good (not bad) for yourselves, a third party, a beneficial organization, etc.

Networking in Unlikely Places

Most people network within their own sphere of accomplishment. If they are mid-career software engineers, they reach out to other mid-career software engineers. If they are professional chefs, they collaborate with other professional chefs to devise innovative new recipes. This is fine if the intent is to reminisce over similar experiences, or to grow within a limited scope, but simply doesn’t paint the whole picture. Although networking can be beneficial when all parties are of similar experience, it can spark a true transformation when open minded people from different backgrounds converge. Consider a custom car builder who created a car with a very exotic design that does not appeal to most consumers. Let’s pretend this car includes a valuable feature never before seen in any other car like a magnetic force field that prevents other cars from tailgating too closely. Although this car builder struggles to reach a large target audience due to his exotic car exterior, millions of people would benefit from this technology.

What is The Power of Positive Networking?

Consider our example of the custom car builder above. This is where the Power of Positive Networking comes into play. The car builder uses his social networking connections to meet a brand licencing expert who helps him forge a lucrative partnership with one of the major well known luxury automobile manufacturers. The Power of Positive Networking has made everyone a winner:

  • The car builder is able to share his innovative technology with the world and be paid handsomely for it.
  • The major well known luxury automobile manufacturer is able to charge more for their vehicles and position themselves as a leader in luxury and safety in their market sector.
  • The licensing expert receives a percentage of the contract revenue and the satisfaction of knowing that she has helped potentially save the lives of millions of people due to accidents that will now never happen.
  • Finally, a much larger consumer audience becomes aware of this new feature and benefits from its superior safety characteristics.

Notice this networking collaboration resulted not only in everyone benefiting, but also in an outcome that is ethically positive. Three parties put their skills and experience together to greatly improve the safety experience of driving for potentially millions of consumers. It’s OK to make money if you are accomplishing positive things for others in the process.

Why is Positive Networking so Powerful?

Positive Networking is a powerful tool for professionals aspiring to increase their contributions. It helps us tap into a vast geographic or virtual landscape that would otherwise be fully out of our reach. Trying to succeed all on our own is very hard, and a mistake in most cases. Some people take pride in accomplishing things alone, but it typically wastes a lot of time and money on activities that would have been much easier using the Power of Positive Networking. I’d rather be happier with an accomplishment sooner than be prideful and struggle. In today’s world of online social networks, it is easier to network than ever before. We can connect with people who are extraordinarily accomplished in their fields in a way that would be highly improbable before these technologies existed. For example, I’ve connected with renowned TED Talk speaker, Ernesto Sirolli on LinkedIn over similar interests. The technology we have available lowers the confidence hurdles we would have had in the past with forming these connections in person.


Now it’s time to hear from you. Tell me about a time when you leveraged the Power of Positive Networking to accomplish something great for yourself and for others.


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