With thanks to Toby Tester for this topic, I wanted to explore a subject which has been close to my heart for more years than I can say.
How did we get to a situation where the presumption is that human capital productivity stays constant in periods of intense change?
I know this blog is supposed to be a series of incisive commentaries based on personal consulting experience but the reality is that if you question a 5 year old about how successful an activity was, they will give you a relative answer…”it was good but not as / better than good as the last one I did.” And when you ask the question why (if you still have their attention!) he or she will tell about circumstances which influenced their performance…typically, time, materials or indeed mood, health and other external factors which have resulted in a different outcome.
So when we take that insight into a work environment or better still a transformation project, what happens? Well, in the desperate need for certainty and predictability, we create work plans which are, at the most granular level, task focused and we assign times, allocate resources and end dates in the hopeful expectation that these are close to reality….when in fact, we have no idea how long anything will take. A good project manager will instinctively take a conservative approach, which coupled with an equally conservative approach by his stakeholder, adds up to a relatively generous timeframe. Or at least it seems that way at the beginning of the project…not so much at the end usually!
Now, some project managers will recognise that that resource planning exercise is only the smallest start to the ultimate challenge and task which he / she faces: Maintaining the motivation, energy, drive, willingness to question and communicate within the team such that they continue to perform and deliver. Others will presume that having done the plan, delivery is guaranteed or at least, subject to earth shattering events, relatively certain.
Now, if I find myself in the former group which recognises that challenge, where do I find the section in my professional qualification process which helps me develop the set of skills required for that activity?
To reiterate my position from previous blogs, I’ve no issue with professional qualifications or indeed with the planning activity. The former makes an important and, in my opinion, honest and dedicated contribution to what we do, and the latter (for many!) is indeed what we do! My point is that an assumption such as static productivity in resources is fundamentally flawed and without an acknowledgement and indeed recognition that the skills to maintain a motivated and productive team need to be assessed in the recruitment of PM resources, we will continue to see poor results in complex transformation projects.
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