You’ll make or break your business with your first hires HT @workcoach4you

I liked this video via SmartBrief. The lesson applies to initial hires in any size organization. They lay the foundational deliver ables and set the bar for performance expectations.

PM Quote of the Day — Abigail Adams

A little of what you call frippery is very necessary towards looking like the rest of the world

Besides the fact that that I love the word “frippery“, I’ve found that the United States’ Second First Lady had a point.  In my case, I sometimes tend to discount some of the small courtesies required of a leader.  You know, like sending a birthday note or putting on a end-of-project celebration party.

The reason I do so has nothing to do with malice.  I just don’t think such things are all that important or necessary; in other words, I consider them frippery.  My attitude is an example of why Karl Popper’s amendment to the Golden Rule — quoted in an earlier post here — is so important to remember.  Hard as it is to believe, just because I don’t think something is unimportant or trivial doesn’t mean that it is so for all :-)

I am more mindful of showing small kindnesses today.  However, as back-up, I take care to have someone on my team who is more aware of such niceties and reminds me of them as needed.


PM Quote of the Day — Florence Nightingale

Apprehension, uncertainty, waiting, expectation, fear of surprise, do a patient more harm than any exertion.

This quote resonates during these uncertain and surprising times.  Florence Nightingale was one of the first medical professionals to recognize that the mind and body work, or don’t work, together.  Her insight was not merely derived from anecdote.  She pioneered the use of statistics in medicine, especially the visual representation of those statistics for non-expert audiences (example here).

Most of us don’t need a statistical analysis to know our teams will flounder without direction, especially now.  I’ve found a couple of posts that address this challenge:

  • Rita McGrath points out (here) one approach to getting teams unstuck — clarifying assumptions, reaching out to the future, and making decision rationales clear. 
  • John Baldoni focuses (here) on just how and why these are especially tough times for managers, and gives some suggestions that parallel Rita’s.

PM Quote of the Day — Henry Ford

Whether you believe you can do a thing or not, you’re right.

I’m not exactly the biggest fan of Henry Ford — he had some unsavory sides and associations (here and here) — but this quote is spot on.  I remembered it as I was writing my comments on yesterday’s  quote from Colette (here).

When I am obsessed with control, I often consciously or unconsciously sabotage myself and others. This happens when my desire to ensure the dominance of my role becomes more important than my desire to ensure the quality of the results.

If I’m not getting my way, I must carefully check my motives when challenging decisions or directions.  To do so, I ask myself these simple, but not easy, questions:

  • Am I acting in such a way that will benefit my project or team, or am I simply trying to assert control?
  • Am I sabotaging work by being more concerned about confiming my belief that “we cannot do a thing”?

Warming up the old “functional vs. project skills” chestnut

Sreejith at PM Karma takes a crack at resolving the debate about whether functional or project management skills are more important when leading initiatives.  I’ll let you agree or disagree with his take directly on his post (here).

My take is that this topic is one where our friend — the much-maligned PMBOK Guide — is perfectly sound.  The discussion on pages 12-15 of the 3rd Edition (Section 1.5: Areas of Expertise) lays out the basic elements that the project management team must understand and use:

  • The project management body of knowledge (please note that Figure 1-2 on page 13 of the 3rd edition clearly depicts that the PMBOK Guide is a subset of the PMBOK itself).
  • Application area knowledge, standards, and regulations.
  • Understanding the project environment.
  • General management knowledge and skills.
  • Interpersonal skills.

If you’re looking to ensure that your project team has all the requisite skills and competencies, you could do worse that building a simple checklist derived from Section 1.5 of the 3rd Edition.  And yes, it is the project team, not the project manager.

Team Composition — All-stars, role players, or both?

I saw this post by Keith Sawyer a while ago about team composition (here).  There’s a teeny bit of jargon, but the results correspond to my experience.  I’m not sure that there’s an optimal mix, but neither all stars nor all-B players seems to work well. 

What is clear from the study Keith cites is that the motivation and performance of less-skilled team members (or IGM for “inferior group members”) improves when mixed in with superior performers.  The post’s comments are excellent, and Keith explains the why IGM motivation would increase in his comment:

There are two possible reasons why IGM motivation could increase in mixed groups: one is “upward social comparison,” the IGMs adjust their performance upward… the flip side of this is that the superior GMs would then be expected to adjust their performance downward…. The authors of this article note this too: “One frequent concern is that motivation gains of IGMs might come at the price of motivation losses by superior group members so that the overall gain for the group outcome might be nullified.”

The second reason is “social indispensability,” the IGM motivation goes up if they know their contribution is critical to the group product. But if the IGM senses that their contribution is NOT indispensable, their motivation goes down. That happens when, for example, the group’s performance is determined by the strongest individual performance, or when a poor performance by one member can be compensated for by another.

SAP, India, and Innovation — this article understates the impact

It isn’t that this article by Navi Radjou of Forrester is wrong (here), but it misses at least three areas in which SAP leverages India’s talent and mind-set  Sure, what Ranjan and the SAP India team have done (and are doing) is impressive, but the impact of India and a globally adaptive approach are far more widespread:

  • Solution Development: I won’t belabor this, but many key parts of the SAP solution portfolio are developed in India.  The various SAP Labs sites in India moved quickly from coding functions, to designing modules, to delivering entire solutions.
  • Global Services Delivery: Jan Grasshof’s team is much more than a simple “me-too” outsourcing shop.  I was in Bangalore last week and saw the sophistication and speed with which they could bring value to the table.   A great example — coincidentially with Nokia, also in Navi’s article — was when SAP Global Delivery both supply chain expertise and rapid prototyping to accelerate an implementation. 
  • Management Development: My organization’s management program includes one week in Bangalore, a measure of how integrated a global mindset has become in our way of working.  SAP sends executives and managers half-way around the world so they can feel, taste, and touch what this new business world is all about.  We also have exchange programs — even within projects — to ensure better, more consistent communications and understanding among our various teams.

Quick post on other personality type approaches

As I noted in an earlier post, the logo-centric metaphor of Myers-Briggs is limiting; other approaches leverage graphical and color metaphors to good effect:

Enneagrams — A friend of mine turned me on to this approach.  I don’t understand the nuances — this site appears to be a good intro  — but three aspects struck me:

  1. Each Enneagram personality type has a coherent narrative.
  2. The confusing type-shifting possible in other tests is precluded.
  3. The visualization makes the type “enrichment” concepts — wings, triads, etc. — easier to understand and relate to.

True Colors — A straightforward approach that presents four basic personality types using a color metaphor.  The biggest advantages are the ease with which the test is administered and how quickly most team members relate to the color concept.  The True Colors organization site is here, a sample quiz is here.

Strength Deployment Inventory — SDI is based on a different psychological paradigm; it looks at motivation for oneself and one’s team (a good basic intro to SDI is here –a summary of some of the differences is here).  I like that:

  1. It identifies personal strengths and motivations, both when things are going well and when facing opposition and conflict.
  2. Both results are mapped on a grid, with a color metaphor to help interpret one’s positions on the grid.
  3. All team members’ results are mapped, so it is very easy to compare and discuss the interrelationships among the group.

Team Composition — Lessons from Pro Wrestling

Though it isn’t mentioned in this profile, my “most frequent” Myers-Briggs personality type (INTJ) supposedly prefers to work with colleagues of the same type.  Perhaps I’ve learned that this is a mistake, for now I am careful to ensure that my team has some degress of contrast in types.  In particular, I’ve found that conflicts between and among the same or very similar types can be explosive.  In my experience, imbalanced teams are very brittle and break when things go wrong.

Take one of the great tag teams of all times: Cactus Jack and Abdullah the Butcher.  They seemingly had it all: skill, ruthlessness, treachery, endurance, showmanship, and a shameless dedication to ethnic and cultural stereotyping.  But like all teams, it is how you handle adversity that counts…

It is hard to recommend skipping much of such a fine match, but the non-connoisseur might want to start the video about five minutes in…

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