by Donna Fitzgerald | July 17, 2012 | 5 Comments
Tom Peters (our keynote speaker at the 2011 PPM Summit) wrote a testimonial about Stephen Covey for the Washington Post yesterday (http://wapo.st/MuOysy). For those of you who follow Tom Peters, it was classic Peters and was quite heartfelt, in my opinion. Never having been a Covey acolyte, my reaction was at first just the common one of “oh my good I’m getting old”. People who have populated the landscape in the world I have grown up in and lived in are passing away. None of this is of particular note in and of itself – what is significant and highly disturbing are the comments down below Peters’ column. Nasty, petty and narrow minded. Nasty and petty is just bad human nature but the narrow mindedness is scary. Peters is of an age with Covey. They are both contemporaries and peers. No matter what any of us thought of Covey or think of Peters the article was an insight into their “world”.
I’ve recently been thinking about what is coming next in this unfolding saga of the new normal. In many ways this small blip on the radar of life (the article above) is a challenging proposition. Why does it matter if Peters is ego centric? Anyone who is over the age of 25 who hasn’t figured out that ego centricity comes with the territory for many thought leaders is simply missing a core insight about human nature. And if they are missing that – what else are they missing?
Add this to a call I had the other day where a client had built a mental wall around what they thought they were responsible for and what the “business” was responsible for and you have some possible indications of a disturbing trend. I’m not saying this is new. I’m just kicking the tires on the possibility that mental models are becoming more rigid in the new normal. I hope not. Now, more than ever, we need collaborative and innovative thinking. And that thinking starts by creating room for all sorts of human flaws.
I can go down the list of projects and programs I’ve run and time after time, it has been the fact that I am willing to accept people others class as difficult and ego centric as valued team members that has gotten us to a successful conclusion. Some of them have been so difficult I’ve had to find an office on another floor or in another building to preserve team harmony but in every case these same people pulled the rabbit out of their hats when we needed it the most.
In the new normal, as I see it, just following the rules won’t help your business. Checking the boxes off on a requirements document won’t produce good and valuable software. We need to do less to create and create more value and sometimes the only ones who can really see the end state are the ones whose ego is strong enough to think outside of the box.
Bottom Line– I’ll take an ego centric, bad tempered, brilliant human being who cares passionately about creating something of value on my team any day to a nice person who will do what they are asked to do, when they are asked to do it.
Category: Uncategorized Tags:
by Donna Fitzgerald | August 31, 2011 | Comments Off
“Appear merciful, faithful, humane, religious, upright, and to be so, but with a mind so framed that should you require not to be so, you may be able and know how to change to the opposite.”
I found this quote from Machiavelli in something I was reading this morning. I generally like to focus on positive management behaviors but this one hit too close to home. Many years ago I worked for a man who I later found out used The Prince as his personal management bible.
When I first met this gentleman I reacted the way everyone did when they met him. I was captivated and delighted that I would be privileged to work for such a terrific individual. He was brilliant, he was funny, he knew everyone in the company and he was a master glad-hander. He also promised me that I could go out and do my job with the complete understanding that his job was to have me back and that he wouldn’t let me down.
Two years later I had finally figured out that everything he said wasn’t even close to the truth. If you are tempted to laugh at my naiveté – let me ask you to hold those guffaws. I am not, nor have I ever been politically unsophisticated. I never trust easily and I can spot a liar a mile a way. What I couldn’t spot was a sociopath. And make no mistake what Machiavelli is advocating in his quote above is sociopathic behavior.
I admit that I was warned. A few people in the company came up to me and said “Watch your back – you really can’t trust him” . Being prudent by nature I promptly began quietly asking the opinion of others who knew my sponsor. When I got back nothing but praise I decided that the warnings were a result of unique circumstances and wouldn’t pertain to me. Was I wrong.
Over the next year and half little things happened that seemed strange (randomly finding that I’d been knifed in the back over small things) and then one day the mask slipped. I was facilitating an offsite meeting and 20 people had flown in from all corners of the globe to work out some issues we had. Essentially no one in the field was happy with the way corporate was doing things and this was the meeting were we hoped to work out a plan to resolve the issues. I was running the meeting because in theory I was the one person who both sides (the field and corporate) trusted.
As meetings sometimes do – this one quickly started to go downhill with the corporate senior VP basically telling everyone he didn’t give a d*** what they wanted – he was in charge and everyone could live with the service he chose to provide. Just before the meeting reached the boiling point my sponsor stepped in and pulled rank on the corporate VP. He told the field that he had heard and appreciated their difficulties and that he would personally work with the corporate VP to make sure that the changes that needed to happen happened. The tension level dissipated and the buzz in the room immediately became how lucky everyone was that they worked with a man of the stature of my sponsor. Except….
Five minutes later I was in the hall (away from the meeting) with my sponsor and the Corporate VP when my sponsor turned to the corporate VP and said “Do whatever you want. I’ve got them calmed down and as soon as we get them on their airplanes and away from here it won’t matter what you do.”
I admit I was shocked. He had just assured 20 people that he would make things right and five minutes later he had effectively sold them all down the river, while leaving them singing his praises. I transferred from that project three weeks later and six months later was working in another division (as far away from my former sponsor as possible).
What’s the moral of this story? A lesson that it took me years to learn. There are sociopaths working in organizations. As PMs our job is to identify them early and avoid them as much as possible, even if it means that we have to deliberately chose to de-scope part of the project. Even writing these words makes me crazy. In my heart of hearts I still think I was doing the right thing and on the surface it worked exactly as planned (if you weren’t privy to the hallway conversation) but doing the right thing only lead to a pyric victory.
Running projects and programs is some of the most difficult work I’ve ever done in my life and doing it perfectly requires almost prescient judgment and a deep understanding of the difference between what is right and what is correct. The right things to do was have the meeting. The correct thing to do was to avoid the confrontation especially since 8 months later the organization was dissolved and the corporate VP retired.
Sharing stories of lessons learned – especially the painful ones is risky for the teller of the tale, but I wish someone had been honest with me about this subject earlier in my career. Whether acknowledged or not there are people in corporations who behave exactly as Machiavelli suggested. Your job as a PPM professional, if you chose to accept it, is to identify them and work around them with craft and guile equal to their own. It won’t be easier and it won’t be comfortable but you can do it and still preserve your own integrity if you are smart.
Category: PMO Program Management Project Management Tags: Difficult People, Leadership, Lessons Learned, Politics
by Donna Fitzgerald | August 28, 2011 | 5 Comments
I recently read an article in the Wall Street Journal purporting to offer leadership advice to young women at the beginning of their career (http://bit.ly/qVTaae) . The only kind thing I can say about the article is that it serves as a very good example of what not to do.
Let’s go through the points one by one:
1) The article says that If young women “assert themselves forcefully, people may perceive them as not acting feminine enough, triggering a backlash”. There is so very much wrong with this statement that I barely know where to start. Project managers are NOT suppose to be feminine or masculine. They are suppose to themselves and be able to lead and make decisions. The classic sexual descriptions should never pertain. The goal here is to be accepted. A long time ago in a world far away, I worked with Carol Bartz (the CEO of Yahoo) http://bit.ly/qOmxHl. I loved watching her work because she was great at being a woman who was one of the boys. In Jungian parlance, Carol was the quintessential amazon. She was respected, fun and clearly smart and talented. I have to admit that I was a bit envious of her but I knew her style would never work for me. I aimed for being the sister everyone trusted. And now people have told me that I’ve become the Aunt you trust completely (oh the tyrony of time). Feminine and masculine are terms that have to do with finding someone to date—not to someone you’ll trust the success of your project with.
2)The article says “One major problem is a shortage of female role models. People often learn leadership styles by observing others; but there are often few female executives to observe.” Not sure what planet the author is living on but if you think this is true you are living under a rock. There are women C.I.O. and women who run PMOs and manage major programs. I know I’ve been in those positions (though it was C.F.O in my case). Even when I started there were plenty of women there to help. Another woman I worked with back in the day was Carlene Ellis (http://bit.ly/o3IFgl) who later became Intel’s first woman C.I.O. So if there were women role models when I was starting my career there are even more today. DO NOT believe that a role model has to be in a C level position to inspire or to be someone to learn from. The best role models are successful at their jobs and are willing to talk to you. The higher up the management food-chain someone rises the less time they have to help young women starting out. Aim just a couple levels above your current position – that’s where you’ll get the best advice.
3)The article says “In theory, these mentors could be either men or women, but young women should realize that male mentors may not be as aware of the unique challenges young women face in asserting leadership.” I have one answer to this B* S*. If you believe this for even one second they you will FAIL. You do not have a unique challenge. The kind of sex discrimination women faced when I started my career simply doesn’t exist today. Yes, there are still pockets of it but there WILL ALWAYS BE CHALLENGES. No one regardless of sex gets a free pass into upper management. You always have to work for it and earn it.
4) The article says “It’s also important for young female managers to ask superiors to back them up when others second-guess them.” Like the rest of the advice this is terrible. If you have to ask for the support you have already failed. First off, always be willing to fight your own battles. If a senior level stakeholder disagrees with you then you need to go to them directly and explain why you made the decision you made and ask why they disagree. You might have missed a nuance that you could actually accommodate and change a potential adversary into a supporter. Every once in a while there is a major confrontation. At this point what should kick in is the normal relationship between a project manager and a sponsor.
The wonderful thing about being a PM is that it’s absolutely equal opportunity work. The only thing a young woman or a young man needs to focus on is what its going to take to get the team going in the same direction and to deliver the results the sponsor and the stakeholders want. Believe it or not if you focus on your job and then stay open to feedback and constantly learn from your successes and your failures – you’ll not only do fine—you’ll do great.
Category: Project Management Tags: Career Development
by Donna Fitzgerald | August 15, 2011 | 2 Comments
Last week I suggested that there was value in setting aside an occasional Friday to reflect, plan, and learn. This week I decided to take my own advice. I’m currently in the process of preparing my presentation on the subject of whether or not an organization is ready to establish and Enterprise Program/portfolio Management Office for presentation at the U.S Gartner Symposium and the Brazil Symposium. I’ve covered EPMOs for over three years now and I’ve collected lots of stories of both success and of failure. In the past, when I’ve talked about this subject I’ve often shared my own success stories. My intention in sharing my story wasn’t ego—it was simply to set a baseline that if I could literally stumble into success when I was at the start of my career then everyone else could be equally as successful since we now understand much of what works and why. Today though I found myself reflecting on the powerful learning that only acknowledged failure brings
Upon reflection I’ve decided that readiness for an EPMO has two dimensions – the first is whether or not the company is ready but the second and possibly more important issue is whether or not we are ready as individuals to do what it takes to get the job done. Are we willing to put in 5 years of hard work to build a foundation of trust and results though out the enterprise first? Are we willing to do what the company wants first–rather than insist on putting our judgment of what they need first? Are we willing to invest the personal time and effort necessary to build a relationship with the man or woman we’ll be working for?
At various times in my career I’ve answered yes to these questions but upon reflection there was one time when I answered no and worse than that I have occasionally been guilty of saying that the company wasn’t ready when in fact it was me who wasn’t ready to do the hard work that was going to be required to capitalize on what little readiness the company did have.
While my story will be different than anyone else’s I offer it because it shows a case of ego-centric blindness that we all suffer from to a greater or lesser extent. I could offer the excuse that it isn’t failure if you let an opportunity pass you by and that it isn’t failure if you are so focused on what you want that you can’t hear what someone else is offering you. But the truth is that it is failure. There’s nothing wrong with saying no to an opportunity that isn’t right for you (and this one wasn’t right for me) but there is something sad about not being able to even see or acknowledge the opportunity because it didn’t come wrapped in the right package.
To make a very long story short I was consulting at a company several years ago and my executive sponsor recognized that that I had the background and the experience to build something he was only vaguely aware he needed. Without talking to me he was busily making plans to hire me when I chose to take another job in his organization (also without talking to him). Let’s be clear what was going on here. If he had made me an offer to set up the EPMO then and there I would have taken it, but he correctly knew that positioning me elsewhere in the organization to give me time to build grassroots support and acceptance was a better approach than simply creating a top-down organization. I, on the other hand, saw a fun and exciting opportunity to do something completely new elsewhere in his org and wasn’t willing to invest years in building something I had already built and run successfully elsewhere in the past.
So here’s the learning. If there’s a mismatch between your readiness and the organization’s readiness the organization’s needs ALWAYS TRUMP YOURS.
So how has this reflection changed my own thinking? I would have to say profoundly. Running an EPMO isn’t like running finance (something else I’ve done in the past). It’s a unique function and as such needs to be in sync with the organization at a level that most other organizations (like purchasing and IT) don’t need to be. This means that in order to be successful you either need to build it yourself over multiple years or you need to have already invested multiple years in the company to have established yourself as a know quantity if you are going to succeed with taking over an already established EPMO.
If you are interested in learning more about our view of the EPMO please check our research
The Enterprise PMO: An Emerging Force in Strategy Realization (free to current Gartner clients)
Category: IT Governance Organizational Development PMO Tags: EPMO, Personal Mastery
by Donna Fitzgerald | August 5, 2011 | 1 Comment
I’m a big believer that no matter what job we’re in we need to spend some time looking at the big picture. It keeps us honest and it keeps us from making silly mistakes. The problem is when we are surrounded by trees it’s hard to see anything that isn’t right in front of us.
Years ago, I used to schedule 2 days a month to work from home with the intention of actually thinking about what was going on around me and making sure that I understood the bigger picture (how my boss was looking at things, how things might be affecting my staff, what the ultimate outcome would be of all the work we were busy doing, etc). I also tried to read divergent material to make sure my world view didn’t get too insular. The truth is that while I scheduled 2 days a month I only actually took about 1 day every two months, but even that level of reflection proved valuable.
Things have changed for many of us since we went into an office every day. Working from home can make the work day expand to something approaching 24/7. It can also make it much harder to gain the altitude necessary to see the big picture. Twitter helps with the alternative perspectives if we are careful to follow the right mix of people. But we still need to take time to think.
I’d like to suggest that everyone designate at least one Friday a month to getting out of your normal work-a-day mentality and think about what you and your team members are actually accomplishing. What value are you really delivering for all your hard work? Who are you making happy? Then add a triple loop learning concept to your reflections. Based on the way you are working today what culture and ultimate outcomes are you building for tomorrow?
It might take a couple of months to get the hang of building the big picture but I have always found the process a valuable one when I’ve taken the time to do it. I often discover that there’s a risk lurking in the dark corner of possibility that if I get on it now I can keep it from ever happening. I have also realized that a class of work that we’ve done no longer needs as much time and energy as it did in the past and that we should refocus our priorities to something that is of much higher value now. I also found that taking this time made me a much better leader, if for no other reason than my team knew they could trust me to keep them safe from things they didn’t have time to see themselves because they were so busy doing the work we paid them to do.
I’d be interested to hear how what approach others use to accomplish the same thing. Also if you decide to spend a Fridays getting a big picture view I’d love to hear how that pays off for you as well.
Category: PMO Program Management Project Management Tags: Leadership
by Donna Fitzgerald | January 14, 2011 | 1 Comment
As many of you know October and November are symposium months and this year I had the opportunity to the around the world circuit of Orlando, Cannes and Sydney. It’s a well kept secret that sometimes these events are a bit of blur for the analysts and I am afraid I’m no exception. I had planned to get this blog entry written a month ago but holidays and the beginning-of-the-year rush delayed me.
So what did I observe on my travels? The unfortunate side of the equation two things that stuck in my mind. The first was that too many companies are struggling with incorrectly scoping their projects and programs and the second was is that too many companies absolutely had no idea of either the role or the benefits that can be gained from program management.
To go a little deeper into the scoping issue that I observed, the problems seems to be a struggle between IT and the business as to who does what when, and with how responsibilities should be partitioned between each organization. Our research has shown this is a very prevalent problem with companies at PPM maturity level 2 or below (see Exploring Level 2 of the Program Portfolio Management Maturity Model for more details) but knowing it’s common doesn’t make it any less comfortable for the companies that are struggling with the issue.
To be honest the program management issue surprised me. Naively I had come to the conclusion that most of the program management misconceptions were limited to North America but on this trip I found it not to be true. The GFC (otherwise known as the Global Financial Crisis) has caused organizations that might have known better two or three years ago to make the decision that they should approve all work at the project level even if they knew it was or should be part of a program. To make matters worse organizations were also beginning to add back in all the project processes and governance that programs are designed to simplify which was unfortunately beginning to result in higher cost, longer project durations and potentially a higher level of duplicative or unnecessary work.
Of course I don’t want to leave the impression that everything I observed was negative. As frustrating (for clients) as I found the two issues above I also found some overwhelmingly positive factors. The first big plus was what I would consider a sea-change in management’s willingness to be involved in creating a culture of results. I normally bend the ear of anyone who will listen about the dangers of believing that projects can be treated like a repeatable process. According to me, no matter how attractive it seems, the notion that if the requirements and the estimates of cost and schedule are right up front it’s possible to get to the end with absolutely no variance or change is based in wishful thinking and not fact. This trip when I explained that the reason for this was that projects and programs generally function as complex adaptive systems with inherent risk and unknowns I saw both nods and active requests to “tell me more”. Given that I did my public conference presentation on the “Uses of Chaos theory in Program Management” 14 years ago at a PMI conference, I was delighted to see interest and inherent understanding of the subject in many of the companies I spoke with.
Finally the interest in how to move to an Enterprise Program Management Office from an IT PMO (see The Enterprise PMO: An Emerging Force in Strategy Realization) has been encouraging. While developing an EPMO isn’t appropriate or desirable for every company it’s an approach that a significant number of companies are finding valuable as a way to ensure that they have rapid and effective execution of strategy in today’s uncertain economic times.
All in all the trip was a wonderful opportunity to meet and speak with clients and even though I always say I’d like to travel a little less, every year I find it an opportunity I don’t want to pass up.
Category: New Normal PMO Tags: Complex Adaptive Systems, Program Management, Symposium
by Donna Fitzgerald | October 12, 2010 | 2 Comments
There are concepts and connections I kick around in my mind for years before I get to the core of the issue. One reoccurring point of interest has been the relationship between leadership and courage. Somehow the concepts have always been connected for me but I’ve been told repeatedly that I’m wrong and overly romanticizing the concept of what Leadership actually means.
This morning I woke up thinking about how important safety is as a concept in a project environment and the proverbial light-blub went on over my head. In the Agile world, safety is an important element in team building. Effectively if your team is spending too much time watching their collective backs or playing politics (or even ranting about politics) then they aren’t getting anything done. As leaders it’s our job to make our teams feel safe to get their work done. The only way to accomplish this that I know of is to be willing to give up most of our own safety issues and that — the last time I checked–takes courage.
Obviously it’s not my intention to demand anyone take a risk they aren’t comfortable with but some jobs are more ‘risky” than others. Back when I started my career we had the simple statement “if you don’t like the heat get out of the kitchen”. We all knew what it meant and we all accepted that we were playing bet your career when we took on a difficult project. Back then part of the basis on which I took a project was a calculation of the odds of succeeding. I used to joke that 51% was a sure bet and I’ve even taken a program where management put the odds of success at 20% and still been successful. Obviously the quality of the team and the support factors available to the project had to go up as the odds of success went down, but the truth was most things aren’t quite as difficult as people feared once there was true commit to achieving the goal. There are exceptions of course. Some projects I’ve been offered have been suicide missions–carelessly crafted and designed to fail for political purposes. I will never forget a gentleman offering me a job leading an ERP implementation all the while chortling that they’d pick my bones for supper. (Yes, it really did feel like a bad fairy tale – needless to say I ran as fast in the other direction as humanly possible)
Reflecting back on what I’ve seen in my own experience and my discussion with clients I think there’s a simple rule of thumb. Anyone who needs to be completely safe can’t lead and shouldn’t be asked to. Additionally high process, excessive rules and responsibility delegated upward under the guise of governance all contribute to environments were the possibility of leadership has been sacrificed on the altar of risk avoidance.
Projects are risky, uncertain undertakings with no guarantees of success. As leaders we need to be very clear about that to everyone involved and make the appropriate decisions about who we put in charge. My suggestion is we shift our perspective and focus a away from things like certification and a whole lot more on things like leadership born through an innate sense of courage. Bottom line: I can train someone on how to create a Gantt chart or how to put together a scope document. I can’t put steel in spine where it isn’t already.
Category: Agile IT Governance Organizational Development PMO Tags: Leadership, Risk
by Donna Fitzgerald | September 17, 2010 | 1 Comment
I’ve been noodling the issue of how much of an impact the younger generation is actually going to make on the workforce and as you might expect I’ve come to a minority conclusion. Most of the prognostication I’ve read are suffering from a fatal flaw. The opinions of high school students and freshly minted graduates who are not yet earning a living, paying off a mortgage, or raising their children makes their preferences interesting but not earth shaking. Anything that is kinesthetic to them is important to note. They won’t give up texting. IM rather than email will be their preferred method of communicating to each other. They are much more visually oriented than older workers, so get any training you want them to see in a youtube format, but other than that it’s safe to say they will tow the corporate line just like any other generation before them. If they don’t they will be both unemployed and unemployable.
So what does that mean if you are managing a project team? Turn on IM obviously, but from here it gets much more difficult. I was privileged to have managed a young develop staff several years ago (90% of them were under 30 and the youngest was 19) and I didn’t have a complaint in the world. I’m not sure everyone else can count of being so lucky. What I’m concerned about is a workforce that has never been exposed to competition or honest feedback. Once upon a time, in a world far away I had a new college grad who worked for me that thought he was God’s gift to the universe. Yes he was smart, but he’d never had to compete against people as smart or smarter than he was and he simply couldn’t cope. He actually told me that he expected to have been promoted within six months of joining the company because he was sure we would recognize his brilliance. Within three months of his hire date I had him on verbal warning and eventually we were forced to fire him because he simply couldn’t get it through his head that we had rules and that our rules pertained to everyone, even him.
Back in the 80s, the story I’m recounting was an oddity and rather sad. Unfortunately, with many of the trends that are going on in the educational system I’m concerned that this story might become the norm and not the exception. So what do I think was the difference between what I’m seeing now and what I managed just a few years ago? Economic reality. Nobody who worked for me lived at home with their parents. Almost everyone who worked for me was married with a spouse who stayed home with their children. They were smart, talented and driven to succeed. They felt they had to be in order to take care of their families.
So circling back around to my starting proposition; no we don’t need to make a lot of special concessions to the next generation. We need to be reasonable (turn on IM, don’t worry about facebook, understand they are more electronically socially networked than most older employees) but mostly we just need to treat them the same way we treat everyone who works for us; with respect and with confidence that they are competent to get the job done.
Category: New Normal PMO Project Management Tags:
by Donna Fitzgerald | September 3, 2010 | 4 Comments
As part of the “new normal” everyone is redefining how things get done in order to reduce the number of people it takes to do the work. Normally I’d say that’s a good thing because I’ve always believe Robert Heinlein had it right:
“Progress doesn’t come from early risers — progress is made by lazy men looking for easier ways to do things.”
If you didn’t grow up reading science fiction the quote might lose something in translation because Heinlein wasn’t advocating either sloth or hedonism. He just felt that there was so much to do in life that anything that could be simplified should be.
Now on to my point; I’m not seeing the increase in creativity or innovation I would be expecting as part of our changing economy and I’m not sure why. I’ve got a gut instinct that says we’ve cut too far and adopted too much of an attitude that if we have enough process than any trained monkey can do the work. The problem is that trained monkeys don’t innovate.
Part of my concern comes from a recent personal trip I took. Almost everyone I spoke with in my travels was angry, over worked and stressed almost to the point of breaking. Stress kills creativity. It also kills productivity over the long haul (though not unfortunately in the short run).
So here’s what interests me. How do we as managers and leaders identify when we’ve crossed the line? I’m sure most of you reading this will be saying – “I’m on the receiving end of this – it’s the folks in the c- suite who make decisions” and my answer would be that we don’t help them make decisions if we can’t show them facts or if we don’t have facts at least a cogent model that makes a case that we have to do something different.
I really don’t have a definitive answer to this problem especially since I think the surface, easy answers you’ll hear advocated on television aren’t right (and here I’m including pundits on both side of the political equation). I’d love to know what the rest of you are thinking and more specifically what you as a manager think YOU can do to help turn the corner on this issue.
If I were still managing I know I’d be doing everything I could to get the stress level down and I’d probably be doing that by talking to my people and seeing what work we could eliminate… And maybe, just maybe if we eliminated some work we’d find we made some progress…
Comments? Agree? Disagree?
Category: New Normal Organizational Development Tags: Leadership, Productivity, Stress Management
by Donna Fitzgerald | August 24, 2010 | Comments Off
I had a call last week that helped me connect the dots on a situation I’d occasionally found frustrating, but hadn’t really known why. Every once in a while a client will call and ask for information they can hand to their boss. For support personnel that is a completely valid request but if the person on the phone is at a manager level or above the request generally means a missed opportunity on their part to increase their value to their own organization. Essentially treating any request to provide information from a superior, without having a plan to also include a recommendation for next steps is a waste of a golden opportunity.
In my world a request of information is always one of the first ways that any individual can begin to prove their leadership capabilities to an organization. If the boss says “Can you ask Gartner about X? Can we improve it, reduce it, change it, etc?” then what should come back is an answer that includes the requested information AND a well thought out recommendation as to what the organization should do to actually make good use of the offered advice (which by the way we are always happy to help you prepare if you are a client). In my experience the people who get ahead in organization have all these recommendations. Even if they weren’t accepted, there’s generally often unspoken credit for effort. The rule of thumb is usually that while the first time doesn’t have to work, the goal is to figure out why the proposal was rejected and how to use the next opportunity that presents itself to provide recommendation that are a little closer to the needs and desires of management until the stars align and the proposal is accepted with a “looks good, why don’t you run with it” response.
If you are a senior manager, then I suggest that you owe it to your staff to make sure they understand that they will ultimately be judged by their willingness to contribute solutions, not just effort to the organization. If you are having trouble getting this point across, because you let them upward delegate too much then get a copy of Managing Management Time: Who’s Got the Monkey? by William Oncken and Kenneth H. Blanchard. It’s been out of print for years BUT it’s the single best guide I’ve ever found for solving this problem. If you aren’t yet a senior manager and you’ve passed up opportunities to prepare these recommendations then I suggest you also get a copy of the book. A little bit of initiative doing what’s important to management rather than just what’s important to you has never been known to hurt a career.
Category: Organizational Development PMO Tags: Leadership