Show profile of Birger Kontek on LinkedIn Birger Kontek

Saturday, 1 April 2017

72.7 km #charity #run through mountains for the good cause

The worst thing that can happen to a parent is losing his or her own child

In order to give the needed support to affected parents I'm doing a charity run again an torture myslef for the good cause at the German Rennsteig Supermarathon on may 20th 2017.

The track is brutal and the longest I will ever run:


  • Total length: 72.7km
  • Ascending in total: 1,867 m
  • Descending in total: 1,382 m
  • Total vertical change: 3,249 m

http://www.rennsteiglauf.de/wettkampf/strecken/supermarathon/

The training I have to do for this is very hard to align with work and family and demands a lot of discipline from me. It's at the cost of y weekends and I need to get up an 04:00 am several times per week to go running before work. I addition, I need to stick to a diet because every kilogram of bodyweight needs energy and means stress for the joints. Hence, I need to lose at least 10kg from 98 in January to 88kg at the day of the run. It's also not easy from a psychological perspective. Everybody who has ever participated in a marathon knows the pain you feel the last 5 to 10km, but this time I will have about 38km to go. That's already worrying me a bit.

A "training" competition will happen on 8th of April at the "Kyhhäuser Bergmarathon". This is a run of 42km through the mountains as a test under real conditions because I do not have mountains and hills at home to train for the real track.
How can you donate?
Simply go to my charity event via betterplace by this link: www.charity-run.org

For what am I doing this?
The Verein Verwaister Eltern Schleswig-Holstein (VESH), which translates as Association of Orphaned Parents in Northern Germany, is a self-help organisation and a point of contact for mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and grandparents who grieve for a lost child in the family. The VESH wants to support the families in their grief and will help to find an individual way for a grieving process - independent if the child dies within the womb, as a little one or as a grown up. In addition, the employees support relatives, friends and also professional colleagues. All bereaved are supported in integrating the loss into their own life story, accepting life again and move on together with the family and the environment.

http://www.vesh.de

 
What's keeping me motivated?
The affected parents need to be much stronger as usual and look forward. As a symbolic expression of solidarity with these parents I also want to be stronger as usual and push beyond my limits.
That, while I think every run of more than 21km is rather boring and I'm also neither very fast nor very good at it. And of course I can image more pleasant activities on a Sunday compared to e.g. 19th March where I did a 35km training run at 3 degree, wind and continuous rain. But the donations from last year - which were doubled by my employer and will also again this year be doubled again - enabled the VESH to train 3 additional grief counsellors and open new groups in 2017. This is directly beneficial for the people who really need some help in a dark time and that's why I keep going.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Balance for #Multi #Project #Managers and #Programme Managers



A happy New Year to all of you. I know this is not internet’s most famous blog but some of you might have noticed during the last 3 years that I do less posts per year and with irregular frequency. I just shortly wanted to mention that this is on purpose and due to priorities in life. This is also a good start to come to the real topic: Balance.

In project management, you normally expect the workload to behave analogue to a sine wave: there are times of rising/high load and times of decreasing/low load. Overall the average will be some kind of normal workload. In times with less stress you find some rest, recharge your batteries and maybe get rid of some overtime hours on you HR account. This should be normal and reasonable – from an employee as well as an employer perspective – because ruining your health and delivering bad quality or making lots of mistakes due to being exhausted does no good, neither for you nor your employer.

It gets trickier when we are looking at people who manage multiple projects or big programmes and projects with multiple work streams. It isn’t too unlikely you’ll end up with overlapping sine waves in a permanent crisis mode and constantly high pressure and workload. And then it’s very hard to find some rest.

The bad news is that I don’t have any secret recipe to prevent this from happening. The good news is: it’s all within ourselves. We have to remind ourselves as well as bosses and co-workers that rest and rejuvenation is an essential part of being able to continuously perform on a high level of quality and deliver outstanding results. So we have to prioritize tasks, delegate things as good as possible and stand the truth that we are not able to handle everything in parallel. Some things have to be of lower priority and hence will need a longer period of time before we are able to perform the necessary tasks.

For many high performing managers, this is a strange concept and an uncomfortable feeling to not finish everything by working day and night. Look at it from this perspective: if you constantly work 60-70 hours and give all your energy you will likely lose social contacts, do less sport, eat unhealthy, lose your humour and your inner peace, maybe lose your family because you are never there, lose your health (physically and mentally) and then lose your job because you do a lot of mistakes and just can’t perform on the same level for a longer period of time. So you might have 2 to 4 years of really high performance but at really high cost and – depending on your age – a negative overall balance if you ruined your ability to perform for the next 30 years of your working life. But if you keep a level of high performance which still allows you to do sports, enjoy time with your family, find rejuvenation from the stress and stay healthy you will still be able to perform on a high level, but for a (nearly) unlimited amount of time.

Stay balanced.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Successful #Restructuring as a #Project



When market changes, competition becomes more fierce or senior executives leave the company and new people join it is often time for a restructuring of the company or parts of it like e.g. single departments. This is the time where classic patriarchal management literature would suggest that one to three very senior and highly educated people from the highest hierarchy come together to draw the new world and present the glorious structure top-down to their employees.

In a world where highly educated people are to be found amongst all ranks and where the HR functions are struggling with the shift to an employee market (war for talent) the top-down approach might not be the wise one and may lead to attrition, frustration and severe drops in productivity.

I would suggest that we pick our best peers and people when there is an ask to restructure. We should communicate more and involve the people who are affected as far as possible. I’m saying “as far as possible” because I know not everybody can be involved and such decisions are generally treated as secrets until they are finalised and approved. But with some NDAs for overall trustworthy people their input will be highly valuable. And not only can they contribute from a content perspective to find the best new structure and restructuring process, they also become promoters of the change afterwards when it is announced as they have been involved as of day one and are highly committed that this is the best way forward.

Involving more people might be more painful. We have to consider more options and opinions and have more lines of communication. There are more people to bring on the same page and hence it is harder to reach consensus or compromise. I still think it’s worth the effort and the only way we can on the one hand gain promoters of the change so that the organization adapts quicker and on the other hand we avoid opponents of the change and saboteurs who try their best to prevent the organization from changing.

We might think we’re so much smarter and have more pull. But we should always be careful to affront people with a restructuring as nobody fights as hard and does one’s utmost to prevent the change as the people who are negatively affected. And what nitty gritty detail makes some feel negatively affected we should never arrogate to have sufficient knowledge of.

Friday, 1 July 2016

#Project #handover success factors



There are times we come into a project which is already running. Maybe the former project manager left the company or maybe she was assigned another topic. Whatever the reason, there are really bad handovers where we only get the name of the project and a person who might know something. Or we have nobody to ask but have to find documentation of the project and the needed information within that. I’ve experienced both and both ways it was really awful.

As I recently experienced a really good handover when taking over for a colleague I thought it would be good to share what I think were/are key success factors for a smooth handover.

1 Be prepared
We should first of all make a list of what is to be handed over: tasks, documentation, key information, risks and so on. I personally think that a handover of any normal or more complex project can only be successful when we are prepared to handover everything that is needed.

2 Have everything up-to-date
As a second factor we should have all governance, risks, documentation and the like up-to-date right before the handover. It’s embarrassing to say “Oh, here’s the project charter but it needs to be updated as it is 7 months old” and stuff like that.

3 Introduce the new PM
Although your successor might already work at the company I think it’s good to show up in team meetings, stakeholder updates and steering committees together and officially introduce the new face to the people who already work on the project. This should then be followed by an email for those who could not attend the latest meetings in person. So everybody is aware and not irritated when suddenly a new PM knocks on the door and asks for something.

4 Be formal when needed
There are things you just need to do officially/formally and there may vary from company to company. Often, at least an email to the Steering Committee and/or the new PM stating the official delegation of all duties and right to person XYZ is needed to fulfil project governance requirements.