Archive for Tom Shaw

Overcoming Obstacles in the IT Industry

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As a professional in the information technology field, you’re often expected to work crazy hours and keep up with rapidly changing conditions while getting your job done every day.

So what challenges do IT professionals face and how can they overcome them? Overcoming communication barriers, staying organized, working in teams and making the most of meetings are the biggest challenges I have found in my experience in the IT field. Communication between departments is often sorely lacking. Demands from a variety of users with different levels of expertise and different expectations may hamper your productivity and ability to stay organized. Endless meetings and fruitless attempts at collaboration can make accomplishing goals a challenge.  Personally, I have found that using whiteboards can be a solution to all of these barriers.

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Whiteboard Learning: The Basics of Geometry

The grand pillars on ancient Greek temples, modern soda bottles, and the metric system all testify to the importance of geometry in our world. For millennia, human beings have been engaged in the study of geometry, which is a subset of mathematics that addresses issues such as position, space, size, volume, shape, and so forth. Today, it is a required course in most secondary education programs.Euclidean geometry is the most famous branch of geometry, but there are several other branches such as differential geometry, projective geometry, and others. This resource guide to geometry deals mainly with Euclidean geometry and features links to several resource pages with lessons, games, and other activities to help you master the subject. Use it to enhance your understanding of this important branch of mathematics and to have fun with shapes, lines, points, and more. Read more

What is Project Management and How Does it Affect Business?

Project management in its simplest form is the act of planning, organizing, motivating, and utilizing resources to reach a specific goal. A project is almost always a temporary procedure – whether it is short-term or long-term – with defined and expected results, a time line, and is generally meant to meet specific objectives and outcomes. Since projects are time-sensitive and have to meet certain guidelines, they are usually best handled by being properly laid out and outlined, with the right people working on it, and utilizing the correct resources, all within the allocated budget and still meeting a high standard quality. By understanding what exactly it is that project management involves, and discovering how companies can benefit from it, maybe those companies without project management strategies can learn to adopt them in time.

Business project management allows companies to constantly achieve better results through projects and other temporary ventures. Keeping the project focused and set on a linear course will reduce the chance that it will fail. By setting deadlines for different stages of results throughout the entire project, it is almost guaranteed that there will be a desirable minimum level of quality that meets requirements and expectations; there is still room to grow beyond hitting the minimum. All costs, deadlines, and resources will be able to stick to budget when they’re properly planned ahead of time. Using project management can also work as a great communication tool by providing all members of the project a single outlet to address anything of importance.

Project managers keep the entire team focused, safe, and working efficiently. They are the ones that handle the clients or customers (most of the time) in any manner whether it’s telling them good news, or breaking the bad news. The managers will also be incredibly influential and knowledgeable on exactly what it is the client wants and expects from the project. Managers keep the team and the project itself organized by constantly staying on-top of each resource, including project data and team member progress. Project managers have been called the glue that holds the team together while moving everyone forward by constantly thinking of new ways to innovate ideas for the tasks at hand.

Business project management begins at the idea stage where a single vision creates an entire outline from beginning to end. At the vision, you define the objectives of the project and brainstorm options to address specific needs and requirements. Once the project is approved it enters the planning stage where the project manager creates a time line which will set up the scope of the entire project. Smaller deliverables are identified while planning a budget for labor, project teams, and material costs. After the project is outlined and a timetable is created, it will be put into action. Managers will keep track of progress and team members to ensure that each target is met and that the overall project will be completed on time. Once every target has been hit, the final product is able to be sent over (any smaller deliverables are sent as the project is in progress), both to the client and to all of those involved internally. Contracts are wrapped-up and a few final meetings may take place to go over the project to review it and take notes for future reference.

No business, large or small, wants to waste money and time, not meet deadlines, have excess resources that will get wasted, and result in a bad final outcome to top it all off. The best scenario for a project would be using just as many resources as you have available, the right number of qualified people for the task in the team, and to hit every deadline on the day they’re due, if not sooner. Planning out the project before getting started and having someone keep track of everything will ensure that there are no (or few) bumps in the road, no extra money is spent that isn’t needed, and that each team member is not only working efficiently, but collaboratively with the others. If you and your company haven’t already implemented a plan for using project management, then now is a good time to focus on organization to be more efficient than ever.

Using Visual Communications in Business

Imagine the Internet without YouTube, Flickr, Twitter, or Facebook. Better yet, envision the world without any graphics, images, symbols, or even color. Think of a fast – food menu with only words and prices. It probably does not sound very stimulating. Humans rely on visual aids to better understand the world. Visuals enhance the human experience by a large margin. In fact, humans communicate using nonverbal, visual communication through body language. Studies have shown that 55 percent of communication stems from body language, 38 percent from tone of voice, and 7 percent from the actual words spoken. Therefore, it only makes sense to incorporate visual aids in every aspect of daily life, especially in business. Communication through use of visual aids excite the perception filters of the intended audience, making it an effective tool in marketing. Nothing else comes close in the business world, not even radio broadcasts with repeat ed advertisements. Visuals make it happen. 

What is Visual Communication?

Visual communication is the conveyance of messages through visual aids. Visual communication relies on vision to receive and process images. Visual aids may come in the form of advertising, animation, illustration, graphic design, typography, drawing, or industrial design. Visual communication takes place through graphs, charts, pictures, signs, signals, and symbols. A combination of these may create an expression unparalleled by words alone.

Visual communication explores the idea that a visual message combined with text or audio has greater power to educate and influence a person or audience. In fact, many marketing endeavors incorporate both verbal and nonverbal communication to help sell a product. Without visual communication, the world would rely on strictly words to get a message across. Thankfully, the world has evolved beyond plain text to colorful images that can be used to enhance information-sharing and marketing strategies.

Using Visual Communication In Business

In the world of business, communication plays a vital role in keeping an operation running smoothly. Many applications exist for visual communication in a business environment. Business managers may incorporate the use of infographics during their presentation to keep the attention of their staff. Sales staff may attempt to sell a product or service based on the visual aid of photographs in testimonials. A corporation may use enticing photographs to help sell their product. But incorporating visual aids may have a potential downside in business communication if used improperly. For instance, presenting irrelevant signs or symbols during a presentation may prove counterproductive for the promotion of an idea. Visual communication should attempt to clarify any misconceptions about the written or spoken word. It should never confuse the intended audience. Think clearly before adding visual aids in a marketing scheme.

The Benefits of Visual Communication In Business 

Investing in visual communication has become the norm among businesses, mainly because it provides more benefits to the operation than downsides. Visual communication does help businesses save time and money, but that only covers a fraction of its many advantages. Visual communication encourages teamwork, increases productivity, and improves learning. With video conferencing systems, many people can make presentations from home. Not only does this save time, but it protects the environment from carbon emissions made during excessive travel.

Visual communication connects everyone through use of technology and innovation. Businesses can use visual aids during meetings to promote a broader understanding among those who attend. Visual aids may include whiteboards, posterboards, handouts, video excerpts, projection equipment, and computer-assisted presentations. All of these media-based technology systems help businesses to incorporate visual communication in the workplace. Visual communication can reach more than those interested in the business itself: It can reach the targeted consumer. Businesses can turn their retail or head office into a space that stands out from the crowd with visual aids. This may engage customers through advertisements, resulting in bigger profit margins. The benefits of visual communication in business are practically boundless.

Here are some more resources on visual communication in business:

Can Whiteboards Improve Patient Satisfaction and HCAHPS Scores?

Can Whiteboards Improve Patient Satisfaction and HCAHPS Scores

The patient experience is an area of healthcare that can no longer be overlooked. Patients are routinely questioned about the care they receive through HCHAPS surveys. The results of these surveys can have an impact of the level of Medicare reimbursement a hospital receives. According HCAHPS to December 2014 summaries, 21% of patients did not feel like nurses always communicated well, 36% did not feel they were always provided information about their medications, and 32% did not feel the hospital staff were always responsive.

Can a simple whiteboard be used as effective communication tool to address these problem areas and improve patient satisfaction and HCAHPS scores?

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The Ultimate Guide to Project Management Approaches

A good project management strategy will ensure that the final result comes from concentrated effort as opposed to wasted efforts. However, not all product management methods work for all applications. For those who are new to project management, there is a learning curve and a period of adjustment. Project managers must find the approach that works best for their specific project. Even the same company or industry must employ different management approaches depending on the nature of the project. It’s a good idea to know and understand some of the different types of project management approaches available.

The Traditional Approach

The traditional approach to project management is also the simplest. It is also the backbone that forms many other types of project management techniques. The traditional approach, as its name implies, is a tried-and-true method for project management. It’s the best approach for simple or straightforward projects. Projects that require customizations or projects for specific applications may need a different approach. The traditional approach uses initiation, design, execution, and monitoring in various ways until the final step, completion.

PRINCE2

PRINCE2 is short for Projects in Controlled Environments Version 2. Simply put, it is a method of project management ideal for applications that have a known and clear framework. If the framework is essentially unchangeable, like a specific business or government application, then projects must work within the confines of that framework. PRINCE2 works on seven principles. These include risk, change, progress, quality, organization, plans, and business case. It’s an approach that can help divide projects up and assign members to each area of the project. While it may seem rigid in approach, those same principles offer a level of flexibility.

Critical Chain Project Management

Critical chain project management puts more focus on the resources available for a particular project. Because this method is more resource-based, it uses the management philosophy called Theory of Constraints. This approach zeroes in on project constraints, such as resources, and attempts to repurpose those constraints into strengths by restructuring the management chain around it.

Event Chain Methodology

Event chain methodology focuses on finding the chain of situations that lead to a problem or a delay. As such, many project managers will use it with other project management approaches. Any event can cause a change in the normal progression of things. Once identified, the project manager can deal with these event chains accordingly. Some consider this method a furtherance of the critical chain approach.

Process-Based Management

Business strategy is often based around the core goals and ideologies of the business itself. Process-based management works with a company’s vision. It starts with defining the process. Project managers then create a method of measuring the effectiveness of that process. With the means to measure, the evaluation process starts. Once management analyzes the data, they must decide if the process is effective or needs changes. Next, they plan those improvements and then implement them. The process repeats. This management path is ideal for dealing with customers, both internal and external.

Agile Project Management

Agile project management has a strong foothold in software development. Its focus is on the team and human interaction. The approach relies on the team to communicate with one another to facilitate completion of the project. This method keeps all members of the team responsible for finishing the project. It’s also a good method for finishing projects quickly, as constant communication and shared responsibility will keep everyone involved motivated.

Lean Project Management

Lean project management focuses on doing more with less. It’s a part of a “lean” philosophy that exists in many industries, not just project management. Project managers can combine lean principles with other management techniques to take real advantage of getting a project from start to finish while using less time, less material, and less of anything else if applied correctly.

Extreme Project Management

Extreme project management is all about adapting to the situation. Much like agile project management, extreme methods are about teams doing what they need to do to finish their respective parts of the overall project. However, the extreme method allows for a lot of flexibility. Individuals have the burden of completing their parts of the project within a loose time frame and with a certain degree of quality. It is an unorthodox approach, not practical for every application. A team that uses this method must have goal-oriented, self-managed people. This method allows for a lot of change during the project: What was intended at the beginning may come out as something altogether different. However, that is also strength of this method.

Benefits Realization Management

A strong focus on the outcome or the benefit of the project is what benefits realization management is all about. Consider that most management techniques focus on the final product of the project: Benefits realization focuses on what benefits that product will bring to the table. The goal isn’t to start and finish a project in a certain time frame. The goal is to start the project and make it to the point where the benefits of project become realized. This makes this method strongly goal-oriented but in a way unlike other methods.

More Management Techniques

Project management can be complex. That’s why there are whole industries dedicated to serving those who need a management solution. There’s also software and other services that cater to project management. Some research into the subject can help many, but it can also confuse some. This is especially true once it starts involving charts, graphs, formulas, and diagrams. But at its basic level, the core concepts are simple to grasp and integral to any project endeavor. The sheer amount of management practices out there all share something in common. That commonality is their ability to facilitate the start and finish of a project efficiently. These methods can vary, as some have different versions in different places and others are combinations of even more methods. Finding what works for a specific project is key.  Successful project managers make sure everyone can see the project status overview with details of each line-item’s timeline milestone.  Visual communicators, such as whiteboards, charts and signs go a long way in ensuring proper team communication.

The Importance of Communication

Compared to all other living creatures, humans have incredibly advanced methods of communication. It is the main way in which we convey information and get certain points or ideas across to another person. The way we communicate can also vary depending on who we might be talking to. For example, think about how differently the same person might address a child versus the president of a company. Communication is powerful enough to sway opinions, cultivate relationships, and form impressions. Read on to learn more about different types of communication in various scenarios.

Types of Communication

There are two main types of communication: verbal and non-verbal. Verbal communication involves speaking, as well as other sounds such as laughing or crying. When it comes to verbal communication, listeners do not only take into account the words that are being spoken, but also the tone, volume, and accent. Non-verbal communication consists of body language and facial expression. These components begin when people are still babies and cannot yet speak. We all pick up certain aspects of other people’s body language unconsciously. It is precisely this instinct at work when we have a hunch that someone might be a threat to us, that they may be insincere, or that they may be attracted to us. Non-verbal language can be controlled to a certain point, such as resisting the urge to fidget or cross your arms. However, some aspects like sweating or pupil dilation are quite uncontrollable.

Communication in Relationships

Many experts say that a healthy relationship is founded on strong communication skills and with good reason too. When people form close bonds, they often reach a stage where they need to discuss a sensitive subject with the other person. Instead of shying away from it or allowing the antagonism to build up to unhealthy levels, it is often better to calmly but honestly discuss it in an open manner. By doing this, people can address the issue early and work to resolve it quickly with minimal damage to the relationship. Compromise is also equally important since it introduces a sense of give and take among both people.

Communication in Business

Business communication is usually quite different from communication in personal relationships. At work, people usually strive to maintain a professional appearance. Unfortunately this often ends up in miscommunication, especially since a lot of business communication is done by email or over the phone. As with personal relationships, perhaps the best approach is to simply be tactful yet open. When issues arise, discuss them with the right person in an appropriate manner. Another major aspect of business has to do with cultural differences. Since so many businesses employ or work with people from other countries, it can be quite tricky at times. Brush up on cultural etiquette beforehand to avoid mistakenly saying something that could offend the other person.

Personal Communication Skills

Business Communication Skills

  • Communicating in Writing – Learn how to improve business communications in letters, memos, and more.
  • Telephone Calls – Handle telephone calls effectively by adopting a leadership role in the conversation.
  • Improving Communication at Work (PDF) – Find out how to communicate with superiors and subordinates alike.
  • Listen to Others – By listening when people talk, we can get to the root of issues at work.
  • Dealing with Conflict – Learn how to frame issues in different ways to communicate better and get the best results.

General Interpersonal Skills

The History of Whiteboard Learning

According to one version of events, a Korean War veteran, Martin Heit, discovered while working with photographic film that he could write on the negatives with Sharpie pens. Heit went on to invent the first whiteboard in the mid-1950s using the same laminate material used in film negatives. Read more

The Complete Guide To Conducting Effective Business Meetings

Meetings are an important part of nearly every business. Effective meetings allow owners, management and employees to communicate with one another, and also help to facilitate company growth and success. While they often take place between members of the same company, a business meeting may also be with prospective clients or between companies that wish to do business together. Unfortunately, not all meetings are as productive or as welcome as they should be. Often this may be attributed to poor planning, lack of participation and boredom. When conducting a meeting, it is important that organizers recognize what it takes to make it a success.
Be Prepared
Preparation is paramount when it comes to the success or the failure of a business meeting. There are very simple ways in which this can be done. To start, consider the purpose of the meeting as there should always be a clear purpose and desired outcome. Meeting planners will need to consider what items are needed to get the message of the meeting across and help facilitate the meeting’s goals. Some common tools that may be needed include white boards and projectors. Choosing the right location is also an important part of preparing for a meeting. It should be at a place that is convenient and that will comfortably seat all attendees. When it comes to who should attend, only invite people to the meeting who are affected by the topic on hand or who are needed to accomplish the goal. They should be given notice as early as possible so that they can free their schedules and make any preparations to attend. The final step in meeting preparation is to set up the room before people arrive. This typically involves situating the chairs in a manner that enables attendees to see one another and the person who is heading the meeting. Placing chairs in a square or a semi-circle formation is an effective way to accomplish this.

Outline and Follow an Agenda

Agendas are crucial when creating effective meetings and should serve as a type of road map or blueprint. They provide a list of items that are to be discussed during the course of the meeting and they should be closely adhered to. When creating an agenda, prioritize it by placing the most important or pressing issues at the beginning so that they are the first items of discussion. This will ensure that all of the most important issues are addressed within the timeframe allotted for the meeting. Items of less importance should be placed at the end of the agenda. These should be items that, if not addressed due to time constraints, may be carried over to the next scheduled meeting. When possible, agendas should be sent in advance to everyone who will be attending the meeting; otherwise they should be given to attendees at the onset of the meeting. At the start of the meeting the agenda should be reviewed, and during the course of the meeting it should be referred to frequently to ensure that it is being followed and that the meeting is staying focused and on track.

Start and End on Time

Starting meetings on time is an important step when it comes to good business meeting etiquette. Whether it is a meeting for co-workers, clients, or employees, take into account that their time is precious and meetings inevitably take away from it. For this reason it is important that they start on time every time. The start of a meeting should not be postponed or delayed due to the tardiness of an attendee. Organizers should stress the importance of punctuality and always practice it themselves. As important as it is to start on time, it is equally important to end on time as well; however, it is acceptable to end meetings earlier than expected.

Maintain Focus

Keep the meeting as focused as possible. This will ensure that both the objectives are met and that the meeting concludes as scheduled. As the organizer of the meeting, stick to the topic and steer any off-topic discussions back on track. Ensure that everyone participating in the meeting follows good business meeting etiquette by respecting others’ time. Keep anything that does not have to do with the topic on hand, including individual grievances, gossip, or personal discussions, to a bare minimum, as these types of discussions have no place at a meeting. Just as important as keeping people on topic is keeping input from long-winded participants to a minimum.

Encourage Participation

Successful meetings rely on the participation and input of everyone present. During most meetings there are certain people in every group who will regularly comment and be active participants. While their input is important they should not be allowed to dominate the conversations, nor should they be the only ones taking part in the meeting. When conducting a meeting, encourage attendees who are generally silent to express their opinions and provide input. Let everyone know that their contributions have value and that they are appreciated. When running a meeting, make it clear that personal attacks and other disrespectful behavior are not acceptable.

Get Feedback

Feedback is just as important as preparation, agenda, or any other step associated with holding successful meetings. While talking to individual participants is one way of getting the necessary feedback, it is time-consuming and commentary may not be as open and straight-forward as it should be. One of the simplest ways to get valuable information is to have the attendees fill out a questionnaire at the end of the meeting. The purpose of the questionnaire is to determine if the meeting achieved its objective, time was used wisely, or if there were any areas that were unclear or could have been presented better. In addition to learning what went wrong with the meeting, feedback also lets organizers know what went right.

Biggest Benefits & Reasons to Track Student Progress

 

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As technology becomes more dominant in the educational setting, it is important to have a system that will work cohesively among a number of areas to enhance communication and productivity. The implementation of whiteboard systems has been a welcome advantage in assisting teachers and administrators in the identification of student and district-centered solutions.

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