Eye on the Workforce

Workforce management is a key part of project success, but project managers often find it difficult to get trustworthy information on what really works. From interpersonal interactions to big workforce issues we'll look the latest research and proven techniques to find the most effective solutions for your projects.

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Recent Posts

PM Is Perfect Job to Hone Most Desired Executive Trait

Exploit Crisis for Targeted PMO Improvements 2

Exploit Crisis for Targeted PMO Improvements

Why A Little Anger May Go a Long Way

Leader Concerns vs. Your Workforce Issues

PM Is Perfect Job to Hone Most Desired Executive Trait
Categories: HR Mgmt, Leadership, Manage People

Do you exhibit the most desired executive trait? If you do, it certainly makes your work easier and even benefited your career.

So see if you can pick the “most desired executive trait” as determined in the  IIC Partners survey of leaders from this list of desired traits:

  • Strong Communication Skills
  • Decisiveness
  • Vision
  • Performs Well
  • Ability to Motivate

This should be a pretty easy choice. Executives around the world chose this 3:1 over the next most desired trait which is "Performs well."

I've got to admit, I might not have guessed it although I know of its importance. I might not have guessed because we are talking about executives ranking their own most desired trait. I may have been led astray by my experience or Dilbert. Anyway, the trait they chose overwhelmingly is Ability to Motivate.

Do you see why I would have selected something different? Is it your experience that executives are great motivators?

If you are a project manager and you have the ability to motivate, you can better get project teams to meet deadlines with expected quality. You can get stakeholders to participate more often. You can get decision-makers to make decisions. You can get your project core team to focus on the correct tasks and follow the best project management process. And that is good for everyone.

And, if you are thinking about moving up in the organization, there is even more reason to build your motivation skills. It's what executives are looking for in other executives they are hiring. The good news is that you can build and show off your motivation skills as a project manager!

There are many posts in Eye on the Workforce on motivation (filter the posts on Leadership or Performance Improvement to start) not to mention the rest of the site. You can find plenty of other resources on this topic.

Posted on: August 19, 2014 10:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Exploit Crisis for Targeted PMO Improvements 2
Categories: Manage People

OK, the last post was a cliff-hanger. You are in the middle of a crisis! But it is an opportunity to add a new PMO responsibility - as long as you are careful.

Recall that the problem is that uncontrolled projects are heading to tollgates at a similar time causing conflicts with resources and schedules. Your immature PMO does not currently control tollgate scheduling.

Use these tactics to seize this opportunity:

Create the rules and steps to resolve immediate problems only. For example, if many tollgates are scheduled around the same time in the near future, the PMO should not try to boil the ocean by putting in place a tollgate schedule and process for the rest of the year. Instead, the solution should be resolving the immediate backlog with the participation of stakeholders and leaders.

Specifically, get agreement from stakeholders on ways to prioritize projects and ideas for acceptable scheduling strategies. Use these agreements and ideas to create your plan to resolve the immediate problem.

Socialize and seek approval for plan, but, because the problem is immediate and you want show that you are responsive, assume you will get approval and start to implement the solution right away. The PMO can prioritize and create a tollgate schedule consistent with the plan, making adjustments as feedback warrants.

Once the PMO has approval to implement some prioritizing and scheduling solution, execute to the plan. Remember to document how it works and how it can be improved.

As soon as the backlog of tollgates has been dealt with and the previous frustrations are still fresh in the minds of stakeholders and leaders, it will be the perfect time to suggest that the PMO continue to manage tollgate schedules "so we don't have to go through that again." And guess what, you just happen to have a process agreed to by stakeholders previously, with some improvements based on learnings from actually following the "pilot" version of the process. You also showed that you were responsive to the needs for projects to maintain progress.

That's the way to build trust and responsibility during a crisis. If your PMO typically acts only as a source of best practices, there are numerous situations where you can use the same tactics to build areas of responsibility. You just need to identify an appropriate crisis or conflict point and be ready to react. You probably already know the pain points. Have solutions standing by and be ready to swoop in for a fast resolution to build respect for your capabilities.

Posted on: July 31, 2014 08:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Exploit Crisis for Targeted PMO Improvements
Categories: Manage People

This month we are talking about improving the PMO. There's a lot of opportunity here, but generally new PMO services will have to be built in an evolutionary fashion rather than a revolutionary fashion.

This is especially true if the PMO is at a maturity level where it provides guidance and best practices to the organization it serves. It cannot garner much respect at this point because it will not be seen to have much impact on results. How does such a PMO grow into a more valuable group?

By coming to the rescue in a crisis.

It is better in this case to wait until the time is right, when a problem is hurting a large number of stakeholders and a consensus can be attained for a particular improvement.

Here's how this can be achieved. Assume project managers and stakeholders are complaining in the hallways about how they are frustrated with the chaotic environment. They say that too many projects are using resources at once. Now tollgates are coming up for many projects and the problem is magnified with the same resources scrambling to ensure each project is prepared for review. You can see that stakeholders, some of whom have resources prepping for the tollgates and some of whom are leaders of business units that will suffer from any delays, are in agreement that there is a problem.

What you have here is a crisis that can be exploited for targeted improvement. This is the time when the lowly PMO can step in with specific solutions that will satisfy a broad spectrum of stakeholders. But you have to be ready in advance!

This is not all that difficult. If you are in the PMO, then you have probably looked ahead many times and anticipated what problems are going to happen when. You may even know of business cycles or release cycles that generate periodic crises. The tactics to use to be ready and to execute the targeted improvement are more clear using the example of the tollgate traffic jam.

I'll post the tactics and steps in a couple of days.

Until then, consider these questions:

  • Are PMO changes better effected as evolutionary or revolutionary changes?
  • Can a lowly PMO that serves mainly as a source of guidance and best practices see into the future and anticipate crises?
Posted on: July 29, 2014 07:21 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Why A Little Anger May Go a Long Way
Categories: Communication, Manage People, Performance Improvement

If you are like me, you spend some time making sure you don't make people around you angry. You get expected reports out on time, you strive to deliver on time at the expected quality, you don't ignore your budget, you try to work collaboratively with stakeholders, you don't sneeze without covering your mouth. Likewise, if they are angry you try not to interact with them until later.

And when you want to motivate someone to act, you commonly use fear. You say things like: "If your team doesn't complete this work on time, it will lead to a significant budget overrun." "We'll never meet the deadline if we don't get additional resources."

So if you wanted someone you work with to want something more and work harder to get it, would you make them fearful or angry?

New research tells us that it is better to make people angry if we want them to want something in particular. Specifically, people who were shown a picture of an angry face desired objects more and exerted more energy to obtain those objects.

So consider using anger as a motivator rather than fear.

For example, when you are talking to the individual who can approve needed resources: "The shared resource we thought would be available will not be available. We requested the resource far in advance, so I do not blame you if you are mad. Let's get a contingent worker to finish of this work so that we can stay on schedule."


"Other project managers I have spoken to do not think we can get requirements and design completed fast enough to start development on time. They think it is too complex for this team. I hope that makes you feel as angry as it does me. Let's show the doubters what we can do."

A little anger may go a long way.

Posted on: July 01, 2014 05:52 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Leader Concerns vs. Your Workforce Issues
Categories: Communication, HR Mgmt, Manage People

You as a project manager do not work in a vacuum. The issues that leaders in your organization worry about effect the environment in which you work. Some things they tell you and some things they don't necessarily make public. This blog is about workforce management and so keeps you updated on workforce concerns of leaders so you don't have to worry about sneaking into their offices at night to find out.
A recent report gives you an insight into how workforce management concerns stack up against other areas. Business leaders were asked to identify what they worry about when it comes to threats to the business.
See how well you understand business leaders' collective mind. (Don't be afraid. Results will not be tracked.) How would you rate these factors (highest to lowest) as threatening your business?
Attracting and Retaining Talent
Cyber Risk
Complying with Laws
Legal Liability
Increasing Employee Benefit Costs
Medical Cost Inflation
When asked business leaders said that they worry "a great deal" about these threats at the rates shown below.
Medical Cost Inflation 32%
Increasing Employee Benefit Costs 29%
Legal Liability 24%
Cyber Risk 18%
Complying with Laws 22%
Attracting and Retaining Talent 18%
So you see that the original list posed to you was in reverse order. The order shown above represents the order where "worry a great deal" and "worry somewhat" are bundled together. No matter how you slice and dice the numbers, talent management remains lower than the others. Maybe I better rethink my blog topic.
Now it might be more clear why you wrestle with workforce issues in your project! On the positive side, this report does help develop tactics for resolving certain workforce management problems.
You may have to make strong efforts to resolve your more difficult workforce issues to get them on the radar. For example:
  • Band together with others in your organization who are experiencing the same workforce issues, be it need for more workers, particular expertise, or a re-look at who gets shared resources.
  • Specify the urgency of the problem. Urgency is a good motivator to action. Your workforce issue can be urgent because your project cannot be completed on time or that, once implemented, it cannot be utilized properly to gain the business benefits projected at the beginning. It can even be that your workforce issue may keep you from obtaining the necessary stakeholder input for a successfully accepted project.
You can increase the possibility of success if you connect your workforce issues to an item that is a higher priority on the "worry a great deal" list (or any other item on the priority list). Example connections:
  • Inadequate staffing in your project may result in legal problems later due to defects or problems with controls provided by software.
  • Shared resources prioritizing projects other than yours may make complying with laws more difficult or impossible.
  • Lack of expertise and slow hiring may make cyber risk more likely. Here's a struggle that we will all continue to experience: We are asked to get results through people, but organizational barriers to doing so keep getting in our way.

Here's a struggle that we will all continue to experience: We are asked to get results through people, but organizational barriers to doing so keep getting in our way.  

Posted on: May 29, 2014 07:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song, A medley of extemporanea; And love is a thing that can never go wrong; and I am Marie of Roumania."

- Dorothy Parker