What’s the virtual candy jar?

Years ago my friend, mentor and boss introduced me to the simple wonders of the candy jar effect. If you have a jar, basket, drawer, etc always supplied with candy, people across the organization will come to you. This is a great and super easy way to find out what’s going on in other parts of the organization, and with people in general. It also helps you develop an idea of what they like, so you can come bearing gifts when you need some assistance.

That said, I haven’t worked in an office full-time since 2008. With that in mind, I try to make sure i’m extra communicative. But, what about everyone else? Flexible work schedules are becoming more and more the norm, so how do you keep pulse on the organization and obtain all that knowledge you would have gained had you been in the office with a candy jar?

I have two separate thoughts on this spanning both sides of the spectrum. On one hand, I would argue that the people who are most effective in working remotely are often times their own “candy jar.” In my case, I find that people come to me with questions because they believe I have something to contribute. This allows me to get some of that additional information and continue to foster those connections outside of the immediate people I work with day in and day out.

But not everyone does a great job working remotely. I have had team members who were extremely difficult to figure out. Even the basics of determining exactly what they were working on, or how a project was progressing was difficult to ascertain. In this situation, I tried the daily stand up call. That helped a bit, but that was all the communication I got in the 24 hour period, unless I initiated it. An additional problem with the daily stand up call is that it gives you insights into the very specific yesterday’s work, today’s work and any roadblocks but doesn’t necessarily allow you to get a pulse on how the person is feeling.

As a manager, I think it’s my job to know what’s going on with my team. As a project manager, you may not be responsible for the team members but it’s still important for you to know the general pulse of the team. But in lieu of a better option, I think I’m stuck with doing my part to check in and ask. I’d love to hear if you have better suggestions.

What’s your virtual candy jar?

What did #givingback teach me about team dynamics?

My younger daughter and I did some volunteer work yesterday at the Capital Area Food Bank warehouse in Washington, DC. We were part of a group of about 12 people, some parents with kids who needed community service hours and other adults. It was fascinating to watch us evolve from individual or small groups to a graceful machine that just did what needed to get done. I left thinking about how a group of strangers working for a good cause can naturally meld, while we have all been in professional situations where people seem to work against the natural evolution.


Our job was to unload several pallets of breakfast and lunch foods in the refrigerator, repacking it all into individual banana boxes. Our group of volunteers started working either individually, or with the people that came together. Fairly quickly, people started stepping into roles that just needed to get done. Instead of fighting for floor or pallet space to load boxes, started opening all the boxes and handing them off to packers. Stronger individuals started collecting the boxes as finished, and others stepped into to funnel empty boxes to those that were packing. As pallets were packaged and left empty, others stepped into to breakdown boxes. And we did all of this, with politeness and instinct. I’m not sure anyone even asked any other person their names. It was awesome to have a bunch of strangers work together so seamlessly, all pursuing the same goals (either the short term one of getting out of the fridge or the more altruistic one of helping a worthy cause.)

Why is it then that I have been in more than one professional situation where the team  doesn’t meld in any capacity, let alone as smoothly as yesterday? I’m not talking about the individual who marches to the beat of their own drum, as I’m pretty sure I fall into that position quite a bit. I’m talking about the person or team that seems to fight against almost every request or initiative to solve our customers problems. Maybe it’s because I’ve grown up around small businesses as a child and for most of my professional career. Small businesses need be customer focused to survive in a way that larger companies some times forget. My professional roles have always been in bridging the gaps between customers and technology, so for me, every decision I make is with the customer in mind. It’s unfortunate then when I’ve been in situations where process or team goals have been misaligned. If I’m working to deliver customer value but all efforts are stymied, does it mean the unhelpful person or team isn’t aligned to delivering value to the customer?

I know that this is a harsh criticism. I also recognize that different people have different motivations, and are provided different team goals within organizations. While I don’t truly believe that these teams intentionally set out to hinder what I’m trying to accomplish, I do think it’s unfortunate that there’s that much misalignment across organizations. Too often, customers see the results of this disfunction and ultimately are the ones that get hurt.


The Curse of Your Procrastination

There are an abundance of articles on procrastination – ways to avoid it, reasons why it exists, etc. I wasn’t able to find many resources on how procrastination negatively impacts other people. When it comes to procrastination, It’s really not all about you! Your procrastination is impacting everyone you work and/or interact with.Procrastination Chart

As a project manager, this comes up quite a bit. The project manager diligently breaks down the work, assigns the baseline schedule and owns overall responsibility of making sure the work gets done. We rely on the project team to fulfill their responsibilities and ensure the work gets completed. If a single project team member procrastinates on any single task, it will have a trickle down effect on all other tasks that need to be completed. Procrastination by definition is the avoidance of doing tasks that need to be done. This does not include the scenarios where work goes more slowly as a result of a problem or new information. This is truly the work that a resource puts off because he/she just doesn’t want to do it.

While project managers know that this is a common enough occurrence, I think it’s human nature to assume your procrastination isn’t hurting anyone other than yourself. But in reality, it will impact anyone directly linked to you. A couple of days ago I got into an argument with my daughter for this exact topic. Her high school requires that each student fulfill 15 hours of community service during the course of the school year. While 15 hours over 10 months doesn’t seem that cumbersome, my daughter plays ice hockey September-March. She is on the ice 6 days a week and has to fit homework and other responsibilities on top of that.

Now that we are winding down hockey season, I asked her to conduct some research and  identify opportunities she could do over spring break. She promptly told me she “had it covered’ and would fulfill the hours, but when I pushed her for more details, she had nothing to offer. She assumed that I was pushing her because I didn’t trust her. That really had nothing to do with it. In prior years, we had to scramble to get everything done in time, rushing around in the last minute. Given my other projects and responsibilities, I need her to plan more effectively. I got quite frustrated with her as there is no real effort to do the research (the school provides a list of pre-approved organizations and activities). In this case, her procrastination doesn’t just have the potential for disrupting her grade, it will most likely disrupt my schedule as we have to cram 15 hours over the next month (and she doesn’t drive yet).

As you push off until later the thing you need to do today, please consider the impact you will have on those around to you.

What’s your Super Power?

Ms. Hucek’s First Grade Superheroes!This morning as I was trying to identify a topic for this week’s blog post, I came across this  post from The.Project.Management.Hub on what superpower you wish you had as a project manager. This reminded me of the icebreaker activity at last night’s STEM for Her Volunteer Appreciation event.

I recently read Strategic Connections and was very interested in the mechanics of how people introduce themselves during networking. While I hadn’t really thought about it beforehand, I was definitely able to relate to the problem of having a conversation shut down once names, titles & companies were exchanged. While I was planning the volunteer appreciation event, I really wanted to make everyone feel welcome and make networking easy. Instead of the attendees getting bogged down in the details of companies and titles, I created an ice breaker focused on each person’s super power. Since these were all women affiliated with advancing the #stemforher mission, I thought there might be some pretty interesting responses. I was not disappointed.

Today, I’m going to share some of these super powers with the hope of inspiring you to think about yours.


This super power allows you to quickly assess the needs of people and bridge the gap to other people who can help. The connectors among us establish lasting relationships and generously share of their network.

Leap tall buildings in a single bound

This super power allows you to overcome large obstacles and deliver amazing results. This  power allows you see beyond the problem obstructing your path and allows you to create the plan to circumvent it.

Seeing the future

The ability to see the future puts you ahead of the game. You can anticipate the direction and adjust your plan to fulfill your goals.


This super power allows you to be malleable to any situation. This power makes it easy to  adapt to the temperament, setting and character of any situation. It allows you to rise above the fray to be successful and deliver your desired outcome.

Time travel

This super power combines the ability to see the future with anticipating issues before they arise. Time travelers can adjust quickly to prevent small issues from escalating.

I hope you were inspired to think about your super power – that unique thing that you do really well and allows you to excel at whatever you do. I also hope you’ll consider sharing it with me the next time we meet. Instead of saying “Hi, I’m Dagny Evans, Managing Director at Digital Ambit”, let’s initiate our conversation with “Hi, I’m Dagny Evans, I use my time travel super power to successfully deliver complex data projects.” It sounds a lot more interesting!


3 Considerations When Managing Globally Diverse Project Teams

Global project teams happen more often than not these days making it no longer feasible to get everyone in a room to facilitate a project. As a Project Manager & leader for both global team members and global customer teams, I’ve experienced the added complexity of this on my projects.

A LiquidPlanner blog post by Tim Clark from October 2013 “7 Tips for Managing a Global Project Teams” highlights time zones, cultural, religious, and sociological differences. Mr. Clark also recommends staying on top of advances in software solutions to simplify the process.

Global Teams

My Experience with Global Teams

Inc. published “5 Tips to Manage a Team Across Multiple Time Zones” by Will Yakowicz in July 2014, which also had very applicable information. Mr. Yakowicz reminded us that we can’t work 24 hours/7 days a week, emphasizing a consistent schedule. He also encouraged us to leverage the latest technology, invest in airfare to facilitate team cohesion while also recognizing that we must be extra aware of those people who aren’t sitting in the same room as us.

In my experience, there are a few additional key considerations for successfully managing global teams.

  • Be Flexible – As the project manager, it was my responsible to facilitate the project. Some things do just get lost in translation over email, and it’s necessary to have a phone or video session. Unfortunately, it’s not all about me, therefore it can’t be all about my time zone. I often had calls in the early morning or late night to coordinate with Europe (EMEA) or Asia (APAC) as required.
  • Be Available – When you have remote teams, it is imperative for each team member to be more communicative than would be required if everyone was in the same place. I can’t hover at someone’s cubicle when they are based in Ireland, but I can make myself as available as possible, as well as encourage each of my team members to do the same, on any mediums used by the respective regions.
  •  Diligently Break Down Barriers – Communication is hard. It’s even harder when you’ve never met a person, other than via email or phone. More often than not, when you are driven to a phone call it’s to resolve an issue. I encourage you to take the time to introduce yourself and chat. By learning the personality traits, and what drives your team, you will be better able to motivate them.

Managing global teams is difficult. The pace of project delivery, technological advances and life adds to the complexity. However, it is the new normal. We’ll need to step up our game to learn to do it well.