No team member should be indispensable


No team member should be indispensable. That’s a *team* problem, not an individual’s problem.


The above is a quote from a LinkedIn discussion.

It  was related to the availability of a team member during a Sprint phase in a Scrum project, but not just for projects, but any situation where there is a group of individuals working together as a team.

It really captured what I’ve tried to portray in an earlier post – What secret agents can teach us about Project Teams“.

The Risks of having an Indespenable Team Member

Team members should not be indispensable. That’s a given.

If a specific team member leaves then you have the risk of a gap in knowledge.

This knowledge gap might be temporary, but you still risk:

A loss in productivity

(“We can’t get that finished until we find someone who can program in ABC.NET”)


A drop in client confidence

(“What do you mean that no-one else knows how your company set up my system?!!”)


Trying to work out how your product has been put together

(“John hasn’t left any documentation as to how he built this. We’re not even sure where the source code is.”)


And any of these can have a big impact on moral, and success of a company.

What you can do to ensure that knowledge gap doesn’t happen


A couple of ways to prevent this knowledge gap from happening include:

1. Backup Person –

Define primary roles for each team member. This is what that person is responsible for. At the same time, give the team member a secondary role. The secondary role is the same as another team member’s primary role, but not as in-depth.

This can be achieved through giving two people the same training. One person uses the knowledge as part of their primary role. For the other person, the knowledge is for “just in case”.

Allow the backup person to shadow the primary a couple of times per year to maintain awareness of what is involved.

2. Standard Methodologies

Having a standard way of doing something is also a good way to prevent a loss of knowledge.

This can include:

SOPs (Standards of Practice) – documented steps and procedures that outline either how certain activities need to be done, or what protocol needs to be followed in specific situations.

SOPs tend to be company specific. They are written, and maintained, in-house, and can include training.

Professional Standards – Often, in specific industries or specific professions, there are defined “best practices”. These can be thought of as guidelines in how activities related to that industry, or profession, can be performed.

These “best practices”, and standards, can often be incorporated at a company, with slight modifications depending on the specific situation.

3. Knowledge Capture and Sharing

A lot of knowledge that people have has come about through experience with the situation or product.

This is referred to as tacit knowledge.

While it is often challenging to force people to write down what they know, there are ways that the tacit knowledge can be captured and shared. These include:

  • Have an environment that encourages people to share. – Regular get-togethers in an informal situation.
  • Social rewards for recording what they do (you call even call this a type of gamification).
  • Strong messages – show how the company and the individual both grow if they share knowledge, rather than keep it to themselves.

For a great read on what more can be done with tacit knowledge, check out “Better Knowledge-Sharing: Fill The Dry Knowledge Well With These Practices


As discussed above, there is a risk of having key people in the team that are indispensable. if that person leaves or is absent there can be a direct impact on the success of a company.

By implementing a few of the steps listed above, this risk and the corresponding impact, can be greatly reduced.


Want to learn more?

Below are a selection of resources that I personally feel are relevant to this blog post, and will allow you to get more in-depth knowledge. I do earn a commission if you purchase any of these, and for that I am grateful. Thank you. (Important Disclosure)

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Becoming a Stronger Leader


The following is a guest blog, written by Marie Miguel

Being a strong communicator is an important part of being a strong leader. A good example of this can be seen on episodes of the TV Series “West Wing”, in which the US President was shown as a very good speaker. He is displayed as someone who can ‘hold his own’ in a discussion without a script writer. Likewise, he is able to approach every member of his staff regardless of their differences of opinion, personality type and communication style. This is part of what makes him a very strong leader and it can be said to be the most pertinent quality.   This still holds true outside of movies and television. Being able to communicate well with your team no matter what the circumstances, makes you an effective leader.

Communicating well doesn’t only mean you are good with words. As a leader, your communication style should effectively influence and motivate others. At the same time, you should also understand other communication styles to decrease the chance of conflicts and misunderstandings. There are many different models for communication styles. One of them in particular shows four styles namely: Relator, Socializer, Thinker and Director.

Relators are open and friendly, but they are also self-conscious. So, when speaking to them, give them time to open up. Relators need time to let their guard down and trust you. You can also get them to contribute to the discussion by asking for suggestions or their opinion instead of doing all the talking. For example, if you’re discussing performance targets with your ‘Relator’ employee, you can ask them to plan with you and for suggestions on how they can meet the set targets.

There are many different models for communication styles. One of them in particular shows four styles namely: Relator, Socializer, Thinker and Director.

On the other hand, socializers prefer working with teams. They also like fast-paced environments and are aggressive in their communication approach, thus it takes them no time to open up to their group. Likewise, to motivate a socializer, use an upbeat tone and make sure to incorporate a little fun coupled with team based work to achieve your goals.

Thinkers are very different from socializers; they tend to take their time in making decisions because they like to think things through. They also take more time to open up and bond with the team. Before speaking to a thinker, you need to make sure you prepare your “numbers”. What are the pros and cons in the discussion? What are the advantages and disadvantages? For example, when talking about movement within the team or a new task that you’d like them to work on, explain the broader picture to them and how their part impacts it as a whole. Similarly, if they are put in a position in which they have to make a choice, make sure to explain the different possible outcomes related to the decision you want them to make. You will also need to give them time to think about it and not pressure them to make a decision on the spot.

Finally, there are the directors. These individuals can be more aggressive, very competitive and extremely independent. Directors usually aren’t too enthused to work with others, especially if it won’t make a difference in the results they need. When communicating with a director, you have to be specific and get directly to the point. Right away, they will want to know what results you need so they can start figuring out what they need to do to get them. The good thing about a director is you usually don’t need to over explain yourself. Since they are results-driven, they will immediately get to work to achieve the specific result you indicate is desired. All you need to do, as a leader, is oversee a director during the process, especially if you expect them to collaborate with the rest of the team. With all of that being said try not to have a preconceived notion about a qualified person based solely on how they seem at the interview.

For more information on why you shouldn’t, check out this article.

As a leader, one of the most important things you should have is the ability to communicate well with others. Because each member of your team will have a different communication style, this is not an easy task. However, knowing the different communication styles will help you apply the right strategies so you’ll have productive and harmonious discussions with them. Which in the long run will make the team more productive and you a stronger leader.

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The best no-bullshit "Rules of Networking"


The question was asked, on Quora,  “How do I get better at networking?

There were 38 answers. The response that got the most upvotes, was the one by Zach Freedman. Someone who tells it like it is. His response was certainly different from the other responses, and garnered the most comments (and, as mentioned, upvotes)…

  1. Networking is bullshit. You don’t “network”, you meet people. Get out of the results-oriented mindset and enjoy the conversations. Be a goddamn human about it. Put down your phone, because…
  2. Comfort zones are bullshit. The only network worth having is one that has a diverse group. Wide and shallow is the name of the game. With a wide network, you have more interesting conversations, more options for solving problems, and more ears on the ground to spot trends. Grow some balls, leave your silo, and make friends with people who are utterly unlike you. Twitter and Facebook shield you, which is why…
  3. Social media is bullshit. Talk to people in the real world. A lot. Expand your options using meetups, clubs, mixers, and getting friends to drag you along to their social stuff. Try and talk to everyone at the event. Ignore your business cards, because…
    Business cards are bullshit. There’s exactly one reason to use a card – you take their card because you want to follow up on something they said. They like old Benzes and you have a friend who collects them? Ask for their card, write “Connect w Jeff re Benzes” on the front, pocket the card, and follow up with it. Don’t give out your card unless asked, because…
  4. “Let’s talk later” is bullshit. They’ll never follow up with you. The ball is firmly in your court. If the conversation went well, call them back within two days, link them with what you wrote down, and check in every two weeks or so. Two weeks?! Yes, because…
  5. You never stop selling. You never stop shipping. Your life is vibrant, fascinating, and fast-moving. Every week, you have new people to connect and new developments to tell others about. And you do so.

Your regular contact builds friends. Your excitement makes them want to listen. Your activity spreads the word that you get things done.

Conversations aren’t “How are you doing? Fine, how are you?” They’re real, visceral, and worthwhile. Most importantly, you’re actually helping people, and that’s why you start networking in the first place.

 You can read the original in Quora here.

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A insightful observation on communicating with technology, or "What's better than texting"?


Text-speak came into existence in December 1992.  It was a quick way of typing SMS messages on mobile phones, back in the days when it was slow and laborious, having to bash away at the keypad with your thumbs.

Thanks to more modern phones, texting has been on the decline. There are, however, still people who use it. Even adults! They claim that it’s quick to type. That may be true, but it takes longer to read it….

An adult I know insists on sending out cryptic messages using Viber, an instant messaging/VoIP app. I often have trouble translating these. And they annoy me – effectively, the responsibility is upon me to work out what the message is about. It should be that the responsibility is on the sender to make sure that their message is clear.

After partaking in a transfers of messages with this person (in which I pointed out that txt-speak is very dated), the person sent me a voice message that I actually had to listen to. Her message was…

As I see it, technology has moved forward so much that we can now actually talk with each other.”

I smiled.

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Now this is the right way to do it – webinar times in a big world

Kudos to ProjectTimes.

The Internet is a global thing. This means that anything that you publish on it could be read by pretty much anyone in the world. As a result, it is incredibly valuable to offer times, dates, et cetera, in a way that can be easily “localised’.

Project Times promoted a webinar, and were good enough, with the time, to add the offset to GMT. This meant that I could easily calculate what that time was in my time zone. (Rather than having to try and google a translation.)

webinar instructions

My only grumble with this, is that UTC should be used rather than GMT.
However they are both aligned so it’s not that bad.

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Understanding the Frustration of a Project Manager


So there he was. Charlie had been assigned as lead BA on a project with an external client. “Cool” he thought, but still felt a bit nervous. There were others in his department that had been in the game longer, and he was still reeling from having the proverbial  “slap in the face” in an earlier project that had turned slightly pear-shaped..

As such, Charlie decided to ask some of his colleagues for help. They were most forthcoming, and decided to hook in other expertise. “All fine” he thought, “the more experience available in this, the better.” 

Continue reading

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Is the PMI-PBA of more value?

Is the PMI-PBA actually of more value than other Business Analysis certifications?

The PM & the BA – two different perspectives

In a recent ProjectTimes article, Kiron Bondale described the oft-seen misalignment between Project Managers and Business Analysts.

In his article, he lists some comments made by each about the other…

From the Business Analyst’s point of view

From the business analysts, common complaints about project managers include:

  • Appear to be focused solely on cost or schedule constraints without also embracing the criticality of having good quality requirements
  • Demonstrate an unwillingness or inability to provide assistance in ensuring that stakeholders are attending and contributing to requirements gathering or review sessions
  • Don’t bother to read or understand high-level project requirements documents
  • Support or initiate scope change decisions without proactively engaging the business analyst

From the Project Manager’s side

On the other side, I’ve frequently met project managers who complain about business analysts who:

  • Appear to have no sense of time or cost constraints when producing their deliverables or appear unable or unwilling to provide effort or duration estimates for their work
  • Produce requirements documents which are unusable by other project team members or which don’t address the customer’s stated and unstated needs
  • Appear to forget that the second word in their job title actually implies the task of analyzing, distilling and refining requirements as opposed to just parroting what’s been received from stakeholders
  • Become unavailable for the remainder of the project’s lifetime as soon as their requirements documents have been signed off


The Passion of the Business Analyst

A lot of these comments are very familiar to me.

As a Business Analyst, I have often felt that the interests of the Project Manager weren’t always in the interest of the customer. More or less exactly what the comments above describe.

I have often felt that the interests of the Project Manager weren’t always in the interest of the customer.

Often the BA is the one that is talking with the various stakeholders from Management level through to the people performing the business tasks each day.

Because of this, the BA often feels that they understand what the real users want, as well as understanding their pain points.

As a professional, also, the BA wants to ensure that they have correctly, and thoroughly captured the users needs, and business/technical requirements, so that these are reflected in the final outcome.

This sometimes takes more effort than planned for, or expected. And this can cause
issues with the PM’s expectations who, while also wanting to provide a good solution, is also concerned with things such as costs, ongoing impact, etc.



Does this “misalignment” occur because Project Managers are from Mars, and Business Analysts from Venus? That because they come from different “worlds”, they have different views on reality?

Taking into account that the PM is the one “in charge” of the project, would it be that a BA with a better appreciation of the world/ideology/background of the PM is of more value to the project?

would it be that a BA with a better appreciation of the world/ideology/background of the PM is of more value to the project?

And … does this mean that the BA certification offering from the Project Manager Institute, is going to play a bigger part in projects in the future?

Your thoughts … ?

Want to learn more?
(Important Disclosure)

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Funny … teleconferences in Real Life

Having attended several teleconferences, I can really relate to the video below.

If you want some more chortles, click here.


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The Power of Comic Books!!

In a more appropriate context, Rulah Jungle Go...


Comic Books are fun!

They are a great visual medium. And they are a great way to tell a story.

One of Jorge Cham’s latest editions in his PhD comic series is on an interview that was held with Keegan Lannon at Comic-Con. Keegan is a PhD student and is studying “the narrative of comic books“. (Yep – it seems that Comic-Con has an intellectual side.)

This edition struck me on many levels:

The Content

Keegan describes his study. It’s on how comic books tell stories. “What does the mind do as it scans across the page and sees all the words, and put something together. What can we learn about information and communicative process by the way narratives tell stories.”

Keegan has even created a Taxonomy of Word Functions in Comics:

  • Neurolingustic Text – Speech/Thought bubbles
  • Sound Effects – Motivated/Unmotivated
  • Narrative Text – Intra/Extradiegetic
  • Printed Text – Consequential/Incidental

Keegan provides an interesting description of the difference between films, books and comics.

One fascinating thing that resonated with me was the observation that Keegan made about the power of a graphic. People can write many, many words to describe something, when a good graphic and a caption can be just as powerful.

The Presentation

The way that Jorge put this edition together is amazing. Instead of just having a film of the interview, he made amazing use of various ways to present the information.

Jorge uses different ways of capturing various topics into panels. He also emphasises main points by adding speech bubbles, as well as extra drawings.

What could of been a mildly interesting way of capturing information from a PhD student is turned into something very, very captivating!

It’s a well spent 4 minutes and 43 seconds!

  • Comics for Learning

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How do I influence to get the desired behaviour?

Shoaib Ahmed, a friend of mine who wites an excellent blog on Project Management, wrote a post after he attending a training course given by an industrial psychologist.
I really enjoyed the post and want to reblog it here.

  • Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model and Guidelines for Establishment (
  • Time Management VS Project Management (

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