Project Management

3 Approaches to Transform Talent Management to Environment Management

Mass Bay Chapter

Johanna Rothman works with companies to improve how they manage their product development. She is the author of Manage Your Project Portfolio: Increase Your Capacity and Finish More Projects, 2nd edition, Agile and Lean Program Management: Scaling Collaboration Across the Organization as well as several other books including the newest: Create Your Successful Agile Project: Collaborate, Measure, Estimate, Deliver. See her blogs and more of her writing at

We talk a lot about “talent management” and “employee engagement” at work. When we do, we reinforce the idea that people need direction and engagement. However, if we create a great environment—a great culture—we don’t need to spend time directing or engaging people. Instead, we free people to work in the best ways they can.

Here are three ideas I’ve used to move from talent management to environment or culture management:

  • Focus on the team’s work, not individual work.
  • Decriminalize mistakes and ask for short feedback loops.
  • Extend trust and ask for visible progress.

Here’s how some people have used these ideas…

1. Focus on the team’s work, not individual work. Amy’s agile project had the same problems every iteration. The seven-person team regularly “committed” to more work than it could complete. As a result, the team had a ton of stories in progress at the end of the iteration, without much to demo.

At the start of the iteration, each developer started their own stories. The features didn’t come together until the end of the iteration, so the testers were overwhelmed by all the testing at the end.

The team worked in small waterfalls, not as a team, to complete work. The testers said the developers needed to finish their work earlier, so the testers …

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