Leaving Behind The Technological Barriers of Project Management

One of the biggest responsibilities Matthew White, Director of Programs at the Zygo Corporation, faces on a daily basis is the overseeing of extreme precision optical components from the early stages of development to the moment they are purchased by a customer.

As anyone with a background in project development knows, projects—especially in their early stages—undergo numerous iterations before reaching the final product. All the while, it’s the responsibility of people like Mr. White, to ensure important steps of the development process do not fall behind.

But the responsibility does not fall on Mr. White’s hands alone; in fact, his team consists of a number of Project Managers, Product Operators and Engineers that are in constant communication as they prepare their product for market.

Ensuring that every member of the team is on task and in the know with the latest project developments has been a priority for Mr. White since he took on the position in early 2016. Prior to assuming the role of Director of Programs, project management was handled primarily through the use of online spreadsheets; an element of the development process that was less efficient than you may assume: Continue reading Leaving Behind The Technological Barriers of Project Management

How One of 2016’s Best Movies Proves Whiteboards Are Awesome

This past weekend I got a chance to catch the new Amy Adams film: Arrival at my local movie theater. If you haven’t already, I highly suggested you check it out. The film covers numerous themes such as loss, love and the unknown; set against the backdrop of an alien invasion—but it challenges the conventional formula of your typical sci-fi blockbuster.

Adams plays the role of Louise Banks: one of America’s top Linguistics professors, hired by the US Government to comprehend exactly what type of threat the ominous foreign spacecraft presents. With the fate of the entire globe left in her hands, Louise must establish some line of communication between humanity and the alien species without provoking a war.

Sounds simple enough, right?

As it turns out, learning an alien language is a bit more complicated than picking up a copy of Rosetta Stone and sitting down with your favorite snack—it requires a much more hands on approach.

Minor spoilers for ‘Arrival’ follow below

Continue reading How One of 2016’s Best Movies Proves Whiteboards Are Awesome

How To Prevent Important Tasks From Being Forgotten

The Easton, Redding, and Region 9 school district is a tri-district located in Easton, Connecticut made up of five schools: Redding Elementary, Samuel Staples Elementary, Hellen Keller Middle, John Read Middle, and Joel Barlow High School—all of which fall directly under the supervision of Walter Czudak.

Working as the Director of Buildings and Grounds, Mr. Czudak is responsible for at least 250,000 square feet of educational facilities. With jobs ranging in difficulty from changing a few light bulbs, to overseeing the installation of a centralized air unit, the typical day for your average Director of Buildings and Grounds is anything but relaxed.

Earlier this year, the district came under hot water when two separate boilers located in the elementary and high school were installed and inspected, but local permits for the units were never acquired.

While the boiler issue was solved quickly, Mr. Czudak believes the issue could have been avoided if his team was better prepared to handle the multiple step process.

“The boilers came in, but our local inspection never came through. There are so many steps to the entire installation process and we let the permits slip through the cracks. When you’re dealing with two entirely different facilities, it’s easy to have actionable items fall off the radar in favor of one thing or another. ”

As a precautionary measure, Mr. Czudak recently contacted our team at Magnatag Visible Systems to help create a reliable means of tracking actionable data for his facility. Using the working concept of a Work-In-Progress board, the goal was to design a visual display board that would prevent a similar accident from occurring in the future.

With the help of one of Magnatag’s many Visual Systems Specialists (life-long Magnatag employees that specialize in creating visual systems that work), the school district was directed towards the company’s Do-Done StepTracker Whiteboard.WalterDDXT

The StepTracker whiteboard provides users with the ability to actively track projects in real time as they progress along a series of steps in a project. Using red/green double-sided magnets to mark when a step has been completed, the system enables users to accurately standardize project communication status.

“I wanted to create something that could keep everyone on the same page. With so many things going on across all five schools at any given time, the real challenge is keeping everyone up-to-date on the latest progressions. Ideally, a Principal or Superintendent should be able to walk into one of our facilities and know exactly what is going on.”

Prior to contacting Magnatag, Mr. Czudak did not have a visual system for tracking steps of internal projects. Project status was kept within multiple files spread across all five buildings making status updates a nightmare.

With an updated form of tracking—and customized headlines built to cover every step of the state and local government’s guidelines—Mr. Czudak’s newest addition to the district’s permitting process will provide his staff with an added measure of assurance.

Visit our website for more information on how you can design a StepTracker whiteboard for your own use.

 

How To Amplify Sales Tracking For Your Team

The end of the year is just around the corner, and with that being said, many of my own friends have been putting in extra hours at work to help meet quarterly sales goals. I caught up with a few of my friends last weekend to catch up and discuss trade negotiations on behalf of our fantasy football league, when two of my friends became engrossed in a conversation regarding their sales targets for the end of the year:

“It stresses me out to know I have to hit this sales goal before the quarter is over. It’s not as easy as simply picking up the phone and asking someone to buy something, you know? It’s not really even in my control; I do my part of the job and get someone on the phone, and then it’s in the hands of one of the senior guys to close it out. Half the time I don’t even know who’s responsible for my sale, and it’s not until later that I actually know if it went through.”

Rather than interrupting in the midst of a conversation I had no part in, I continued on with my evening and enjoyed the time spent with good friends. Yet the conversation has stuck with me for the past few days. After digging deeper into the intricacies of sales, I was reminded that American businesses frequently divide their metrics up into monthly, quarterly, and yearly reports. However, nearly every sales team we work with primarily divides their metrics into monthly forms of tracking. In an effort to maintain a better understanding for why our monthly boards are so popular, I spoke with a few members of Magnatag’s own sales team.

What I found was that many Sales Managers approach their quarterly goals on a month-to-month basis, and while it may sound counterintuitive to further consolidate a calendar year, many managers believe daily and monthly tacking offers sales teams more control over their quarterly expectations. Continue reading How To Amplify Sales Tracking For Your Team

Top 3 Ways To Improve Your Office With Dry Erase

Now more than ever before, companies across the globe are taking proactive measures to create high levels of employee satisfaction. Major tech companies like Google, Netflix and Facebook are viewed as trendsetters for deliberately crafting their workplace around their employees, redefining defining company culture in the 21st century. But you don’t have to offer free gourmet meals or gym memberships to your employees to increase satisfaction! In fact, according to recent statistics, 2016’s leading job satisfaction contributors include: respect, compensation/pay, and job security—none of which require a personal chef.

October 4th is National Improve Your Office Day, a day created to help bring a sense of well being and excitement to your office. In an effort to celebrate the day ourselves and help your company bring about a culture change of your own, we thought we’d bring you a list of a few ways you can revolutionize your workspace with the help of dry erase.

Continue reading Top 3 Ways To Improve Your Office With Dry Erase

How To Crush The Language Barrier Between Departments In Your Organization

Every industry develops its own set of words and phrases. Whether you’re a lawyer, production manager, executive, accountant, or engineer, you’ll encounter catchphrases and trade names on a daily—if not hourly—basis. Frequently used as a method to help us communicate complex or multifaceted items quickly and efficiently, industry slang is a great device for the sake of simplicity in the workplace. The thing about industry-specific terms and phrases is that they carry an enormous amount weight for people familiar with the trade. The only downside is: they’re not universally understood.

How many times have you found yourself in a meeting and heard one of these phrases and felt slightly embarrassed for of asking what that stood for? It’s not necessarily words that trip us up, but the thought process and industry specificity of them that ultimately trips us up. In cases like these, a lack of base-level communication creates anxiety among professionals and can even lead to frustration at times. Imagine how much more productive you would be if you could bridge this communication gap. Well, some companies are setting out to do just that.

We recently caught up with Henry Jacobson, Product Manager of Pulsafeeder, to inquire about the difficulties he faces when aligning the sales, marketing, and engineering departments that work as a collective. Pulsafeeder is one of the few manufacturers that specialize in highly engineered chemical injection pumps—think chemical processing plants or wastewater treatment centers. Part of Henry’s responsibilities as a Product Manager is to strategize a roadmap for Pulsafeeder’s products, defining their purpose and position in the marketplace; this requires a constant need for simultaneous collaboration between members of every department in their organization. When speaking to us in regards to his duties as a Product Manager, Henry also made note of the distinct language barrier that can be found between different departments of a company.

Continue reading How To Crush The Language Barrier Between Departments In Your Organization

3 Tips For Translating Exceptional Leadership Into Tangible Results

The beginning of every great organization starts with excellent leadership. With that being said, it seems obvious that companies should not only put thought into whomever is overseeing the leadership structure of their enterprise, but also delve deeper into what precautions are being taken to ensure their management is driving results. After all, the qualities you instill within supervisors should parallel those found in within the vision of your organization.

We recently polled a group of tested leadership experts in hopes of uncovering the realities and myths behind executive action. Here’s what they had to say:

Learn To Master The Difficult Conversation:

“One quality that truly sets leaders apart is the ability to master difficult conversations. By difficult conversations, I mean those that involve holding employees accountable for missed commitments, providing honest feedback, and resolving challenging conflicts between individual and teams. Many leaders either avoid these discussions because they are uncomfortable or they handle them too aggressively and cause unhelpful negativity and hurt feelings. Handling these types of conversations requires a lot of practice and leadership skill in areas such as self-awareness, emotional regulation, and empathy.

I have coached many leaders and businesses over the past years and have found difficult conversation to be the number one issue that causes frustration and anxiety for managers, executive, and business owners. That’s because conflict and communication challenges come up on a daily basis in a business setting and do great damage to an organization’s health when they are ignored. The most effective leaders are comfortable and confident in delivering tough messages and doing so in a way that builds consensus and commitment. Further, they are willing and able to keep others in dialogue to foster open exchanges of information and ideas. This is very relevant to maximizing the potential of employees because these conversations are at the very heart of providing honest feedback and guidance to emerging leaders. It also models a leadership style that
directly results in improved organizational communication, morale, problem
solving, and results.” – Seth Sinclair, Co-Founder & Leadership Coach at Modern da Vinci

Inspire Rather Than Instruct

“When working in any industry, the best leaders inspire action rather than telling their subordinates what to work on. This means cultivating a scenario where your employees are coming up with the ideas that drives their work. This can be done though ‘leading’ questions.

Continue reading 3 Tips For Translating Exceptional Leadership Into Tangible Results

How Org-Charts Can Be a Powerful Leadership Tool in the Workplace.

On its surface, an org-chart is simply a mapping of a company’s corporate structure. However, with the proper knowledge, an org chart can influence a team’s behavior. It can communicate an organization’s priorities, while simultaneously highlighting core competencies and where to best utilize them. An org-chart can promote collaboration and accountability. Basically, in the right hands, an org chart can help a leader steer their organization down the right path.

Forbes recently published an article that detailed the industry demand for a flexible alternative to the stationary org chart. In the article, David Burkus looks to the likes of Broadway production teams to help uncover the value of operating with an org chart that is formed around products and problems as opposed to a fixed structure. The big takeaway here is this: the more willing you are to part with a predefined structure for your organization or business—in favor of something that allows for resources to be allocated where they are needed the most—the better you can perform in your competitive marketplace.

But Burkus’ article also hints at a dynamic shift in the way we visualize information to better suit the flexible nature of the 21st century. There has to be a degree of parity between structure and flexibility in everything we, as modern professionals, do; that’s why Burkus’ article is so poignant. It highlights that as times are changing, technology and familiarity need to meet somewhere in the middle—hence the familiarity of an easily manageable org chart that provides features to expedite a hectic production schedule.

So what benefits can an org chart provide your company? We’ve put together a list of three key takeaways that organizational charts can provide to the everyday business professional:

Continue reading How Org-Charts Can Be a Powerful Leadership Tool in the Workplace.

5 Insider Secrets For Creating The Perfect Business Proposal

Picture this: You’ve just sent out an email that briefly pitches your product or service to a potential client, only to get a response that goes something along the lines of:

Hey Reader,

Yeah that sounds like something I would be interested in. Do me a favor and send me a business proposal and we can talk further. Thanks.

Mark

Mark’s response is standard—if not commonplace—for anyone that has just been pitched regarding a possible business solution for his or her business. As a business professional, it’s up to you to not only draft a proper proposal, but also create something that smart, unique, and convincing; so people just like our buddy Mark can feel confident associating with yourself and your brand.

But perhaps you’re a bit stuck; you’ve written business proposals in the past, with a very low success rate. This doesn’t necessarily mean that your product’s a bad fit for your client or that your writing abilities are not up to par, but it’s more than likely an indicator that the execution of your proposals are ineffective. It all boils down to the art of the sale: finding the proper way to present your product and showcase it’s value to a client makes all the difference between losing and closing a prospective deal.

So how should you structure a business proposal? Forbes has an extremely comprehensive list of talking points you should be sure to feature in your proposal, while Proposable.com features a complete collection of over dozens of customizable templates that serve as an excellent source for nailing the structure of your piece. Once you follow the guidelines and draft your proposal, you may be feeling a bit anxious—maybe even a bit exhausted—but you’ll definitely be ready to hit the send button.

But don’t.

Before you send that document off to Mr. Mark, take look through our list of 5 expert tips that can help give your business proposal a competitive edge above the competition.

Continue reading 5 Insider Secrets For Creating The Perfect Business Proposal

Six Rules for ‘Smart Simplicity’

As Visible Systems Specialists we talk to people everyday who buy one or more of our whiteboard systems to improve productivity and increase collaboration between employees. They tell us about the need to simplify communications and the operational improvement they seek by having everyone working together.

One of those customers told me about this TED talk on why productivity at work is so disappointing despite all the technologies available and why there is so little engagement with people at work. Please watch this video to see an energetic 12 minute video by Yves Morieux that clearly addresses the causes and 6 rules for smart simplicity.

Continue reading Six Rules for ‘Smart Simplicity’