Archive for category Human Resources for Project Managers

A Sincere Apology

In the fifteen years I have been with Tenrox I have seen two kinds of people managing businesses and running projects:

  • Type 1: A person who apologizes for his or her own mistakes and accepts the mistakes of others
  • Type 0: One who never says sorry, denies everything

Like most companies we have both types of people at Tenrox. Thankfully we have more type ones than zeros. Recently, there has been a huge surge in customer activity and we need everyone at Tenrox to be at the top of their game these days to try and serve every single one of our users.

A few days ago I had to talk to a type 0 project manager regarding some of the issues we have with his performance, the projects he manages, his overall approach to the challenges we have, and how important he is given the current resource crunch.

As usual, his automatic patterns kicked in. I got the “It is just your impression”, “but you don’t understand”, “no this is not true”, “you are wrong” … types of responses. This is a hard working person with good intentions and reasonable abilities. Unfortunately, his inability to take responsibility for any mistakes, wholeheartedly apologize for them, and his constant slippery denials virtually guarantee that he will always be nothing more than a second rate mediocre consultant or project manager, at best.

I sometimes call myself the Chief Mistake Officer at Tenrox followed by a list of my personal and professional mistakes just in the last twelve months to try and convey how important it is for everyone to take chances, innovate and get out of their comfort zone … but none of that is any good if we don’t have the capacity to sincerely apologize and to accept our mistakes.

Here is a very nice article on the power of apology:
I hope more of our team members adopt this mindset.

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Opening and Closing Doors in Project Workforce Management

Another post by Boaz Rauchwerger at inspired me to think about the successes and failures that project workforce managers encounter, and how we handle them.  Boaz describes a bank he visited that had an elaborate system of security doors that forced him to stop and wait while one door closed before the next door would open. He writes:

While between the two security doors I had to stop everything for a few seconds. I had to let the door of the past, the one behind me, close completely before the door the future, the one in front of me, would open.

I think that too much of the time we drag things from our past and let them affect our future.

The entire article is posted here.

This is a valuable lesson for our lives in general, but it is particularly applicable to people who manage projects and workforces.  Every planned project has milestones and deliverables, kick-offs and post-mortems, beginnings and endings. These are the doors we all pass through to get our work done.

I often see project leaders and teams, after they have trouble on a project (and we all do), get stuck between doors. They dwell for too long on the missed opportunity, and lose sight of what is relevant here and now. They don’t let the door to the past close behind them so that they can focus on delivering the next project better.

Likewise, when successful milestones are not celebrated and shared, then the good experiences can be left behind as the doors close behind us.

I encourage project workforce managers to think of the tasks and milestones on their project plans like doors that are opening and closing.  Manage what passes through them carefully.

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Talent Management and the Project Workforce – Part 2: What Drives Business Strategy in the Flat World?

In Part 1 of this essay, I challenged SuccessFactors, based on their white paper, “Talent Management 2017,” to go even farther to take into account a “worker’s market” where individuals will take increasingly more responsibility for managing their own talent.

Although the changing model represents challenges and opportunities for talent managers (and the makers of Talent Management software, such as the authors of this white paper), more importantly it represents an exciting outlook for the project workforce. I believe the advantages of the developing “Hollywood Model” far outweigh the disadvantages. While the knowledge and expertise of the old-fashioned workforce is being dispersed as project teams form and disband, the levels of knowledge and expertise among these workers are increasing, because workers will not be stagnant. In Workforce 2.0, workers are likely to be more excited and engaged in their projects. They don’t get bored as easily, and, because they must take responsibility for their own talent management in the long run, they don’t let themselves become “legacy employees” or get into a rut.

The Workforce 2.0 model will also keep businesses sharp, and responsive to their markets and customers. I disagree with the statement in this white paper that “Talent management will drive the business strategy [by 2017].” Companies cannot afford to set course based on the skills on their rosters—in fact, when they seek the same business again and again, it indicates that they are seeking business to keep employees “busy,” to “cover payroll” instead of building business value, and their collective skill set has probably become inert.

Agile companies allow market demand (instead of their current talent pool) to drive business strategy. Then, they manage their project portfolios to meet this demand, and manage their resources and talent to deliver the projects in their portfolio. They bring in new skills to meet demand—either by developing them internally or attracting them from the global talent pool. Talent Management plays an important role in identifying and attracting right-skilled people to the organization, and by supporting the project workforce managers who require and deploy the talent.

Companies in the flat world of Workforce 2.0 will be more creative in the types of work they seek, and keep their workers engaged through their agility.  In this way, they will not only serve their customers better, but they will keep more knowledge and expertise in-house because of the variety and the challenge of their projects.

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Talent Management and the Project Workforce – Part 1: I Want to Go to Hollywood

A recent white paper from SuccessFactors, “Talent Management 2017,” touches on many of the phenomena we have been discussing on this blog, such as the Hollywood Model, and points to some new research on the ways that the project workforces expect to work, and the ways that HR must adapt.

Over a decade ago, it made perfect sense for the human resources departments of large and mid-sized companies to implement Talent Management solutions to proactively manage talent inside and outside the organization. These systems were built on the assumptions that corporations would be hierarchical, workers would prefer a long-term career with a single employer, and a centralized approach to career development—driven by the best interests of the corporation—would be not
only appropriate, but widely accepted as a good business practice.

How times have changed! And they are continuing to change. By 2017, according to the SuccessFactors paper, free agents will drive their own career development paths, working throughout a global network. Workers, not employers, will be in charge of developing their own skills and grooming their own talent for future opportunities.

SuccessFactors cites these challenges for talent managers in the coming decade:

  • Finding and acquiring talent in the age of the free agent
  • Aligning talent in a borderless world
  • Developing talent in a way that interests and engages the next generation of workers
  • Driving performance with predictive, relevant information

In the third challenge, “Developing talent…” there is implied what I believe to be the greatest challenge of all: talent is walking out the door more easily. Corporations can no longer assume that they are “farming” talent that will stay within their organizations. The investments they may make in training, mentoring, and on-the-job skills development can be lost easily—even taken by competitors. However, it is also “table stakes” to offer these opportunities for growth—no company can attract workers, even for short-term assignments, without helping them develop new skills.

The real challenge for the Talent Management industry is to think even less in terms of “command and control” and more in terms of “supply and demand.” The flat world is creating a “worker’s market,” which I call Workforce 2.0, where individuals manage their own talent.

The question then is: should companies focus primarily on managing their talent as this paper suggests, or let market forces drive their business and dictate what are their talent requirements?

In Part 2, I will discuss how businesses will drive their business strategy to leverage, not resist, the “Hollywood Model” of Workforce 2.0.

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Look for the “Ditch Diggers” in Project Workforce Management

Kris Dunn, who blogs as the HR Capitalist, has written an article on "Does Your Company Need More Ditch Diggers or Stars?" In the article he makes the excellent point that, although HR appears to be obsessed with "high performance" and "always hiring the best," the steady workers bring critical value to the workforce. These are the people who meet performance expectations and compete to produce in the roles where they are assigned–but do not compete to climb the org chart. They are best suited in roles that are not "star-driven" (as sales or business development jobs are), but are more production oriented.

Dunn’s perspective in corporate HR is centered around filling full-time, permanent positions. But it so happens that these "ditch diggers" are the reliable producers who are often on the teams that Project Workforce Managers manage. Indeed, teams could barely function if everyone was a "star," trying to outperform the rest of the team at the expense of the tasks at hand. "Ditch diggers" are the ones who get projects done.

In a Workforce 2.0 world, where roles are defined on a project-by-project basis, Project Workforce Managers, and the Resource Managers who help them staff projects, need to know how to identify the "ditch diggers" who will give them reliable, predictable results. So I recommend Dunn’s article, and, if he writes it, the book on the same topic.

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