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PM Hats – Six Thinking Hats in Project Management

Six Thinking Hats

Looking at a Decision From All Points of View

‘Six Thinking Hats’ is an important and powerful technique. It is used to look at decisions from a number of important perspectives. This forces you to move outside your habitual thinking style, and helps you to get a more rounded view of a situation.

This tool was created by Edward de Bono’s book ‘6 Thinking Hats‘.

Many successful people think from a very rational, positive viewpoint. This is part of the reason that they are successful. Often, though, they may fail to look at a problem from an emotional, intuitive, creative or negative viewpoint. This can mean that they underestimate resistance to plans, fail to make creative leaps and do not make essential contingency plans.

Similarly, pessimists may be excessively defensive, and more emotional people may fail to look at decisions calmly and rationally.

If you look at a problem with the ‘Six Thinking Hats’ technique, then you will solve it using all approaches. Your decisions and plans will mix ambition, skill in execution, public sensitivity, creativity and good contingency planning.

How to Use the Tool

You can use Six Thinking Hats in meetings or on your own. In meetings it has the benefit of blocking the confrontations that happen when people with different thinking styles discuss the same problem.

Each ‘Thinking Hat’ is a different style of thinking. These are explained below:

  • White Hat: neutral and objective, concerned with facts and figures
    With this thinking hat you focus on the data available. Look at the information you have, and see what you can learn from it. Look for gaps in your knowledge, and either try to fill them or take account of them.This is where you analyze past trends, and try to extrapolate from historical data.
  • Red Hat: the emotional view
    ‘Wearing’ the red hat, you look at problems using intuition, gut reaction, and emotion. Also try to think how other people will react emotionally. Try to understand the responses of people who do not fully know your reasoning.
  • Black Hat: careful and cautious, the “devil’s advocate” hat * 
    Using black hat thinking, look at all the bad points of the decision. Look at it cautiously and defensively. Try to see why it might not work. This is important because it highlights the weak points in a plan. It allows you to eliminate them, alter them, or prepare contingency plans to counter them.Black Hat thinking helps to make your plans ‘tougher’ and more resilient. It can also help you to spot fatal flaws and risks before you embark on a course of action. Black Hat thinking is one of the real benefits of this technique, as many successful people get so used to thinking positively that often they cannot see problems in advance. This leaves them under-prepared for difficulties.
  • Yellow Hat: sunny and positive 
    The yellow hat helps you to think positively. It is the optimistic viewpoint that helps you to see all the benefits of the decision and the value in it. Yellow Hat thinking helps you to keep going when everything looks gloomy and difficult.
  • Green Hat: associated with fertile growth, creativity, and new ideas
    The Green Hat stands for creativity. This is where you can develop creative solutions to a problem. It is a freewheeling way of thinking, in which there is little criticism of ideas. A whole range of creativity tools can help you here.
  • Blue Hat: cool, the color of the sky, above everything else-the organizing hat 
    The Blue Hat stands for process control. This is the hat worn by people chairing meetings. When running into difficulties because ideas are running dry, they may direct activity into Green Hat thinking. When contingency plans are needed, they will ask for Black Hat thinking, etc.

Exercise:

Here’s an exercise (inspired by Bono ideas) which will work very well with those who have been required to read Six Thinking Hats prior to getting together to brainstorm. Buy several of those delightful Dr. Seuss hats (at least one of each of the six different colors, more if needed) and keep the hats out of sight until everyone is seated. Review the agenda. Review what de Bono says about what each color represents. Then distribute the Dr. Seuss hats, making certain that someone is wearing a hat of each color. Proceed with the discussion, chaired by a person wearing a Blue or White hat. It is imperative that whoever wears a Black hat, for example, be consistently negative and argumentative whereas whoever wears a Yellow must be consistently positive and supportive. After about 15-20 minutes, have each person change to a different colored hat. Resume discussion.

Six Thinking Hats” is about improving communication and decision-making in groups.

Summary: Bono puts thinking into steps: 1. Information 2. Benefits 3.Critical thinking 4. Feelings 5. Creative thinking 6. Thinking about the thinking and creating and action plan for implementation.

How would you incorporate the ‘Six Thinking Hats’ in clinical data management?

Reference:

Six Thinking Hats by Edward de Bono, 1999

http://www.mindtools.com

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Do You Have a Team?

A team is a group of individuals who see themselves and are seen by others as a social entity, which is interdependent because of the tasks performed as members of a group.

Not every member works well together. We have team members that are passive-aggressive, others that do not participate and do not turn in their assigned task. However, we can bring out either the best or worst in one another.

When a group of individuals work together to achieve a goal, they often fail because individual agendas outweigh the commitment to the common goal.

In some companies, team members are provided with a great deal of feedback regarding their performance, they are encouraged to work for the common good of the organization. But there are also team members that do not understand the decisions that are made, or don’t agree with them.

Teams do not become effective overnight. Team building is a process that requires due attention and care. Team development means developing a person’s skills both within the group and individually, for the goal of enhancing project performance. Development as a team is critical to project success.

To be able to work independently, the team member must be creative, proactive and inspired by a vision of how things could be. At the same time the individual must be accountable for each task even if they have a team to do the work. I work from home and many of my team members live across the country. We meet once a week and we have access to email. As part of a Virtual Team Member, I must be able to stay focused to get things done.

anayansi gamboa team building

If a team member does not perform up to standards, for example, if he/she does not return a task on time when promised and does not advise the reason, the project team contacts them. If the member responds and asks for an extension, he/she is advised who will make a decision as to whether the member should be granted an extension. If at the end, there is no response, the project manager will make a decision as to whether the team member should be removed.

If we keep on doing what we’re doing and working as one team, the project will be a success.

Comments? Join us at {EDC Developer}

Anayansi Gamboa, MPM, an EDC Developer Consultant and clinical programmer for the Pharmaceutical and Biotech industry with more than 13 years of experience.

Available for short-term contracts or ad-hoc requests. See my specialties section (Oracle, SQL Server, EDC Inform, EDC Rave, OpenClinica, SAS and other CDM tools)

Effective Project Manager

anayansi gamboa PM planThe art of managing projects comes with many different approaches.

There are three skill groups a project manager must have in order to be effective: a technical skills group, a project management skills group, and a people skills group (a skill group is different from a skill set, which you will see later).

First, the project manager must know what the task is all about from a technical standpoint

Second, a project manager must possess project management skills—that is, the ability to create schedules and budgets, the ability to implement and manage change control systems, the ability to implement and manage risk management systems, and the ability to implement and manage the many other project management skills as well project manager must possess the so-called ‘‘Soft’’ skills. These skills are frequently called the people skills: The ability to get things done, and the ability to anticipate problems.

Here’s a scenario of a project manager leader:

During the project the leader must continue to treat the {EDC} Hands-On team, keeping them informed and closely coupled with the in-house {EDC} team members. He must continue to highlight to the team upcoming dependencies between groups.

The new liaison manager must promote frequent exchanges of information that will show what progress is being made and highlight immediately any misunderstandings regarding project or product goals.

As part of a team-building activity, {EDC} manager offered certain incentives to both site (first-class air fare, hotel accommodations, etc) in order to improve communication and collaboration between the two teams.

The {EDC} team members must be fully assessed against the alignment factors for their suitability for this job.   For each factor the liaison manager must identify possible issues, discuss them with the potential team member, and make a conscious decision. The following questions can aid the liaison manager in his assessment:

  • Are metrics of team performance collected and analyzed on a regular basis throughout the project?
  • Is regular feedback provided by management on team and individual performance?

Frequent interim informal reviews should be held on works in progress such as requirements specifications and designs, to uncover misunderstandings as early as possible.

In order to overcome the problems encountered in the past, the {EDC} team established weekly meetings between both teams. The project manager is responsible to build a positive, supportive atmosphere where team members operate cohesively.

So does your organization give ownership and empowerment to their employees?

Conclusion:

When a mixture of ideas and backgrounds come together in a group to design a project, it’s expected to have variations. There is no single right way to performing all the tasks needed as long as each is done with appropriate precision. This kind of diversity prepares a project for success if everyone is willing to work towards the common goals of the organization.

If a company believes that those who contribute to the success of the organization should benefit from its success then it must allowed for their project manager to work together with their team members to accomplish the end goal. As it is, employees would feel part of the big picture because they care. It’s not just investing in a company; it’s investing in themselves, their performance and their future.

Do you provide regular feedback to your team? How do you reward them? Share your thoughts in the comment section.

Comments? Join us at {EDC Developer}

Anayansi Gamboa, MPM, an EDC Developer Consultant and clinical programmer for the Pharmaceutical and Biotech industry with more than 13 years of experience.

Available for short-term contracts or ad-hoc requests. See my specialties section (Oracle, SQL Server, EDC Inform, EDC Rave, OpenClinica, SAS and other CDM tools)

As the 3 C’s of life states: Choices, Chances and Changes- you must make a choice to take a chance or your life will never change. I continually seek to implement means of improving processes to reduce cycle time and decrease work effort.

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