Archive for March, 2007

Generation Next: It’s Changing Project Workforce Management

In this blog we’ve discussed the “flat world” and the demands that a global economy is placing on businesses–including the need to collaborate and automate business processes. But here’s another compelling reason to collaborate and automate: the next generation demands it.

The cover story of PMI magazine is titled “Bridging the Gap,” and they are referring to the generation gap. Here’s the article in Project Management Institute’s magazine.

Here’s an excerpt:

While older workers may cling to the comfort of proximity, this globally aware generation views technology as a way to access a borderless, boundless marketplace. And although seniority must be respected, older generations can learn a lot from how the younger workers in this group communicate. Their ability to multitask and maintain several ongoing dialogues makes them versatile communicators, a plus for staying on top of project problems around the clock and around the world.

The next generation of workers is forcing its predecessors to make some changes–many of which sound like the same changes being brought about by globalization, dispersed workforces, and other economic factors.

  • Working anytime, anywhere: They have never known a world where information was not available 24/7. So, they are more comfortable working anytime and anywhere than their more office-bound elders.
  • Fewer long-term commitments. This generation doesn’t expect, and doesn’t freely offer, loyalty. Younger workers can handle more risk, so they are more likely to go where the best jobs are. They are more open to the “Hollywood Model” of workforce management we described recently.
  • Wired. They are accustomed to technology and instantaneous communications. So not only are they always on and always connected, but they multi-task more effectively. They are more likely to manage their tasks and communications electronically, and don’t rely as much on face-to-face meetings.

So, the companies that benefit from the energy and innovation of the next generation will be the ones who can support and accommodate the collaborative, electronic, “always on” ways of working and communicating.

Project and Workforce Managers (especially those of earlier generations): take note. You will do well for your workforce, and your business overall, to harness younger talent by being open to these trends.

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PPM Needs the Project-Centric Approach

We received interesting comments from Philip McGuin of Atlantic Global in response to our recent series from David Hofferberth about the Project-Centric Approach.

We enjoy the debate. McGuin says Project Portfolio Management (PPM) empowers the business, but he assumes that project-centric approach is old news. Hofferberth says that taking a project-centric approach is a key stepping stone to successful PPM, and that it has not been adopted as much as we may think.

PPM and a project-centric view of the business go hand–in-hand. Unless a project centric approach is adopted, standardized and perfected, then projects will most likely fail—we have all seen the research and statistics on the percentage of projects that fail or go over budget. Granted, some projects fail because they might not have been the right projects in the first place, but more often than not, execution and management of resources are the problems.

If standardizing project management techniques and methodology is unsuccessful, then moving up to the next level of managing portfolios of projects could mean that organizations are getting ahead of themselves, and not getting to the root of the problem.

There are several associations and communities in the project management arena that continue to educate and introduce new methodologies, standards, and best practices. These groups continue to grow. Clearly, a lot of people are still working hard to perfect project management—and therefore the project-centric approach. And they must reach a certain level of maturity in the adoption of a project-centric approach before they can even entertain PPM.

PPM is a great goal for the more mature project-centric organizations, where empowerment is at the level of the business (top-down), but the first step in empowering the “top” is making sure the right approach is adopted at the bottom— in the trenches, at the foundation. Empowering the project-driven workforce with the tools, methods and best practices is paramount for executing projects successfully and for providing the “top” with the information needed to make better decisions faster.

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The Management Information Mess

ITWorldCanada has reported on an Accenture study, which reveals that managers spend inordinate amounts of time searching for the information they need to do their jobs — and they often come up with the wrong information.

In this day and age of information technology, searches, and online collaboration, how can this still be such a problem?

Here are some interesting statistics from the study [emphasis mine]:

Managers often face additional challenges because they don’t save important data in a collaborative place.

The majority of the managers surveyed said they store their most valuable information on their computers or individual e-mail accounts, where others can’t access it, Accenture said. Only 16 per cent of managers said they store valuable data in a collaborative workplace, like an intranet portal.

Just less than half (42 per cent) of those surveyed said that they accidentally use the wrong information at least once a week.

Of all the managers surveyed, IT workers are the least likely to say the information they find is valuable and they spend the most time trying to find it. They dedicate nearly 30 per cent of their time trying to find information.

The entire article on the ITWorldCanada site is here: http://www.itworldcanada.com/V.aspx?i=2d15749973db4f2daf12 (Access is free at the time of this writing, but may be limited in the future.)

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New American Workforce: About Projects, Not Companies

A book that has caught our eye is The New American Workforce, by James O’Toole and Edward E. Lawler III. Its listed on Amazon.com at: http://www.amazon.com/New-American-Workplace-James-OToole/dp/1403969590/

Here is an excerpt from one of the reviews on Amazon:

Their not-so-startling conclusion is that the U.S. is attempting to implement tomorrow’s competitive strategies with yesterday’s managerial ideas and public policy infrastructure. Many U.S. companies trying to find a middle ground to serve the new global economy are shackled with an antiquated corporate mentality that does not keep skilled workers engaged in their careers or meet their aspirations.

I agree with this assessment of the current state of the U.S. workforce.  In fact, in the absence of an effective "middle ground" as mentioned above, we see that workers stay engaged by placing their loyalty with the project, not the company. They seek work that inspires them, and stay with a company based on its ability to roll them onto the next interesting and worthwhile project ("adventure").

Tom Peters put it another way:

Work and career is a succession of discrete “projects” strung together in consecutive stages of advancement and accomplishment.

We call this the "Hollywood Model." Whenever a Hollywood producer wants to make a movie, he or she assembles a team to make that movie: the director, screenwriter, actors, and so forth. When the movie is completed, that team disbands and moves on to other projects. Hollywood people don’t talk about production companies that they work for–instead they talk about the best movies they’ve worked on, and the best people they have worked with.

Perhaps there is a lesson in the "Hollywood Model", the business of show business, for ways in which companies can overcome this "antiquated corporate mentality."

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