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HRCI offers credentials for new HR professionals (aPHR) through Senior HR professionals (SPHR). For more information on the various types of HRCI certifications available and to determine which one is right for you, click here: Which Certification is Right For You?



project management

Near panic, I began listing all the projects I had been in charge of over the years. Our instructor had suggested we review just how common project management is by creating a historical record of our own projects. Pen to paper, I was grinding out a history of, at best, mixed results. One pattern emerged, however: that of getting better over time and learning from mistakes.

My concern in this endeavor was two-fold: 1) How can I remember all of the stuff I have managed over four decades? And 2) I’m not sure I knew what I was doing half of the time. So, the list contained training projects, computer upgrades, employee handbooks, health plan changes, company reorganizations, remodeled kitchens (not for the faint of heart); a whole bunch of personal and professional projects.

As I inventoried these projects, I was reminded where I had caused myself (and others) grief, trouble, and a few dollars. Hindsight, as we all know, seems to bring about a clearer focus. The semi-reassuring part of this process is that the mistakes I had made were very common and correctable. Apparently, my experience mirrors many others. Perhaps there is some comfort in that.

It turns out that a few simple Project Management steps can really improve processes and outcomes. Not a natural planner by nature, I am so thankful for those who are, those who have gone before us and can now show us the way. There is hope for the project manager! Since that exercise years ago, I have studied the art and science of Project Management and found that I really enjoy teaching the basics and facilitating discussions of Project Management Improvement.

Often, with the best of intentions, we take on a new program, some developmental change, a new workplace initiative, a project. We are “gung ho!” to make this new thing ring all kinds of bells. Yet, most of us fail to plan and design in a way that anticipates communication and stakeholder needs, staging, contingencies, and costs.

When talking to those who manage projects for a living, I consistently hear them list these critical considerations that lead to project success:

  • Timelines
  • Core project team and stakeholders
  • Dependencies/Contingencies
  • Milestones/Gates
  • Roles/Responsibilities
  • Communication Process
  • Assumptions (yep, we all make them)
  • Resources
  • Tools

A strategic review of all of these inevitably saves time, money and heartache. It is the 1:10:100 rule that seems to get the attention of most cost-conscious managers.

The 1:10:100 rule plays out something like this: The cost of most projects when properly planned ends up 1:1 in accordance with the budget. Any correction, however, that happens once the project has started may result in an increased cost up to 10x. Any correction at the time of full implementation may cost us up to 100x the intended and projected cost. Our classes inevitably produce some great discussion of how this rule has played out in workplace after workplace.

Of course, we cannot anticipate all the things that might happen. But working with a team, finding the voices of experience, and really drilling down on the dependencies can help reduce our blind spots. This underlines the business case for some basic planning.

As a side note, a participant in one of our Project Management classes also insisted that we add to the list “Make Planning Fun.” She is right. The planning stage can be an exciting process of checking boxes and getting people involved before we start our project’s journey. After all, projects should be about improving team engagement. Even for the reluctant planner, joy can be found in “working the process” rather than diving in uninformed.

My construction friends remind me of the planning mantra: “Measure twice, curse once” — or maybe it’s “Measure twice, cut once.” What is your Project Management Mantra?

We would love to hear your project success stories or what you have learned from making a mistake or two. Please be in touch at bswift@cascadeemployers.com.



sketchnote feedback

It’s hard enough for many of us to summon the nerve to provide someone with constructive feedback. Ideally we’ve done some work preparing for the conversation: we’ve thought about a way to convey that we mean well from the start, we’ve identified the specific behavior in question (rather than focusing on someone’s personality), we can use data to evidence observation of said behavior and we know how to articulate our expectation for that person moving forward.

Therefore it’s particularly difficult when, despite our best laid plans, we encounter resistance, blame or outright denial that there is a problem. Below are some ways to effectively respond to specific types of defensiveness. However, the overall general formula for responding is three-fold:

  • Listen to the person’s objections thoroughly without arguing against them. If necessary, convey that you understand their point-of-view by restating the essence of their position or perception.
  • Validate and empathize with the emotions that accompany their position in order to diffuse the tension. Agree if they raise a legitimate point and reaffirm that you’re not interested in blame – rather you are just trying to find an effective way forward.
  • Redirect by restating the expectation and ask if they are willing to help you reach a solution. (Note: Do everything possible to avoid saying the word “but” between your validation and your redirection. It comes across as undoing the validation you just provided. Instead segue with the word “and.”)

Sometimes you may need to repeat these three steps as new objections are raised. However, it’s important to respond to each new point in a similar fashion.

Here are some common types of defensive responses you may encounter and some potential ways to reply:

Scenario: Two or more people in the office are not getting along or experiencing a breakdown in communication. When addressing the situation one-on-one with one of the individuals they put the bulk (or all) of the blame on the other person.

Response: It sounds like you think I’m taking sides or putting all the blame on you for the situation. I can see why it feels that way – after all you and I are the only ones here. I want to be clear that I’m not putting this all on you. And, at the same time, I think that in any communication breakdown or disagreement some responsibility lies on both sides. What I’d like is to discuss ways to improve communication moving forward. Can you help me with that?

Scenario: That person responds by saying it’s more the other person’s fault.

Response: Perhaps. We could probably talk all day about what percentage each person is responsible. I’d rather focus our time and energy on a solution rather than blame. How about you?

Scenario: That person says their behavior isn’t a big deal or that you or someone else is just being “too sensitive.”

Response: I understand that you didn’t mean any harm and why the same thing might not bother you. At the same time, everyone has different sensitivities regarding different things. There might be something that bothers you that doesn’t bother someone else. In either situation it’s important to try to adapt to the other person’s preferences since it’s essential to creating a respectful and effective workplace. Given that, would you be willing to try a different approach with so-and-so?

Granted, in the heat of the moment, it can be hard not to follow someone down the rabbit hole of blame, deflection and other tangents. Yet, if we can remember to genuinely listen, validate, and redirect back to the underlying issue we’re more likely to have a productive conversation.

Cascade Employers Association provides varying training on giving feedback, conflict resolution and supervision skills.



View of Buchanan Cellers Mill in 1954

Housed in one of McMinnville’s oldest industrial/commercial buildings, and with tangible reminders of the City’s agricultural beginnings, this Cascade member provides a shopping experience that sets you back in time. Did you know…

  1. In 1977, Jerry Legard purchased Valley Feed and Supply on the north end of McMinnville, Oregon. Just a couple of years later, the McDaniel Grain Company sold its retail and feed business to Jerry. He decided to combine the two businesses, keeping the name Valley Feed and Supply and operating out of the historic Buchanan Cellers Mill building. It was in 2007 that the business decided to rebrand its operation from Valley Feed and Supply to the current Buchanan Cellers name, keeping with the historic feel and ties to the local community.
  2. In the beginning, Jerry would personally drive the company truck each morning to pick up animal feed in downtown Portland, making it back to McMinnville in time to open up the store for business. The retail store eventually evolved from a focus on commercial accounts (primarily local dairies) to a store serving the needs of pet owners, wild bird enthusiasts and hobby farmers.
  3. The distribution side of the business has grown from using a 4,500 square foot warehouse with one small delivery vehicle to their current 72,000 square foot distribution warehouse on over six acres, utilizing eight tractor trailers and a 26’ box truck. The distribution warehouse also houses a mineral blending operation where the company produces a number of products under their Equi-Lux, Nutri-Lux and Beaver brands. Jerry has been instrumental in developing a wide range of products for livestock and pets that has led to a dramatic increase in sales over the decades.
  4. While Jerry remains active in the business, his son Jay now serves as the General Manager for the family business. Jay is a perfect match for the role, after all he grew up working at the store and earned an accounting degree from Oregon State University.
  5. In 2012, after years of hard work by Margaret Legard, Jerry’s wife, the Buchanan Cellers Mill was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Today, the five-story downtown shop offers more than 8,000 square feet of retail space in addition to its warehouse.

Cascade is proud to feature this member, where customers can meander past historic relics of an old feed mill on wood plank floors under huge fir beams hewn from logs salvaged from the Tillamook Burn as they shop for livestock feed, pet food, wild bird food, seed, fertilizer, garden supplies and more.

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