Recently I attended the Madison PMI Professional Development Day at the Monona Terrace. I attended many excellent talks but a few really hit home for me.
Kathryn Jeffers gave a talk on using candor in your projects. One of her examples included an unruly team member that would talk on his cell phone, work on his laptop and would not participate during team meetings.
The team members felt that this was disruptive so she spoke with the person (Mr. Unruly). She asked him if he wasn't going to be part of the project she would find a new team member. Mr. Unruly said that he couldn't leave, because his boss (the CEO) wanted him on the project to be his eyes and ears. So she went to the CEO to ask him to speak with Mr. Unruly about cleaning up his act.
Several weeks went by and several more team meetings and Mr. Unruly was still unruly (the CEO didn't have time to speak with him). Shortly after that Mr. Unruly tried his meeting tactics at a meeting involving several Executives. After that he was fired.....
Lesson: don't be afraid to speak up if you see a problem.
Craig Plain gave a talk on process improvement within the Air Force. One of his examples was improving the time it took to change the oil on a military plane. Using their dated old methods they determine the team that changed the oil spent ~19hrs and walked 17,000 feet to complete the task. They were able to improve the process to under 4 hrs and ~3000 feet traveled.
Lesson: even something as simple as an oil change can be done more efficiently.
The keynote speaker Gene Kranz (a retired NASA flight director and is best known for his role in directing the successful Mission Control team efforts to save the crew of Apollo 13) walked us through the Apollo 13 mission (which included dozens of photos from ground control during the mission).
During this mission he was given 2 options to get the astronauts home, fire the thrusters to turn the ship around before the moon (taking 1.5 days to get home) or sling shot around the moon (5 days to get home). Option 1 they didn't have enough fuel to do. And option 2 their batteries would run out if they didn't cut off one day from their timeline. So the engineers came up with a plan to cut off 1 day. After they sling shot the moon they would fire the thrusters for 5 minutes which would increase their speed by 1000ft/sec.
So the plan was a go. Fire the thrusters for 5 minutes and then off. Their calculations after this indicated that they would make up the time! But their splash down zone changed by several thousand miles. What happened? When they made the calculation they thought that 2 men would be in the rear of the craft and 1 in the front. That wasn't the case. All 3 were in the rear.
Lesson: from that point forward they would not make any more assumptions.