Project Management

Who's in Your Bullpen?

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Who's in Your Bullpen?

Recently I had the privilege of working with staff from my local county government as part of a two year training program they host for “emerging leaders.” Over the first year their emerging leaders attend half-day sessions on various leadership topics, and my workshop was the last in the series. Then, during their second year of the program they are assigned liaisons as they break into teams and run county-wide projects while continuing to meet together monthly to compare notes, share lessons learned, and grow as a leadership team. Each team member is assigned work in areas outside of their current work area in order to further develop their knowledge of the county and how they conduct their business.

Coming from a healthcare background, I compare it to a fellowship program where administrators and physicians serve in various areas of the hospital for a year to help guide them toward the area where they are best suited.

I asked one of the program leaders what led to this initiative, and he reported that a sharp analyst discovered that over 30% of the county’s current leadership is eligible to retire today. That is nearly 1/3 of their leaders! Fortunately for them (and us, as county residents), our county council agreed to support a program whereby current county employees, who have shown a propensity toward leadership, would be trained, mentored, and groomed for future leadership positions within the county.

Our county is developing a bullpen…leaders who, when the time comes, can step up to the mound and assume control of the game.

We have a similar approach at my employer, although it is not purely a leadership program as much as it is a staff development program. Over the past year our leadership in IS (IT, analytics, and informatics) has observed that we have a vast pool of highly skilled workers that we are overlooking – our interns and administrative fellows. We have interns in our department every year, but we have never been allowed to invest in training for them. Once they graduate, our assumption is that they will leave our department and find full time jobs. Although several of my interns have been hired by our department, it was not due to any structured approach to helping them find a fit but rather that they just liked what they were doing as an intern. I have been lucky, as one third of my PMO staff are former students who served as interns with me prior to graduation.

But, we can’t just depend on luck! So, we are now developing a more formal internship program within our department, investing training time and dollars in their development, encouraging them to work in multiple areas over their internship with us, with the goal that a higher percentage of them will want to continue working with us after graduation. And not because of dumb luck, but because they have had a chance to experience real work and grow as employees through training and experience we offered.

Part of this program will include administrative fellows, those masters’ prepared students who work in our operations areas of the hospital for a year before deciding on their chosen career path. This year the organization offered them a two-day course in the fundamentals of project management, and they are scheduled to attend a follow-up two-day course that will give them hands on experience using such basic tools and techniques as multi-voting, conducting a lessons learned, performing a risk assessment, and developing a WBS. After that, they will be working on projects with the PMO where they will be able to experience the benefits of managing a project using the many tools and techniques that we find valuable.

We are building a bullpen for our PMO…staff who can step into a job upon graduation that they know they will like (because they have tried it out), and that they can do (because they have done it), and are ready to be successful (because we have trained them and they now have experience), and, of course, to make our PMO be successful.

Do you have a development program to ensure a continuity of talent for your leaders, for your project managers?

So, I ask you again, Who’s in Your Bullpen?

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Posted by Dan Furlong on: October 20, 2017 01:41 PM | Permalink

Comments (8)

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Another excellent contribution - thanks for sharing. I really like the idea of coaching talent and succession planning.

Great question, Dan. We have to ask ourselves constantly that question and properly plan for succession.

Sounds like a great program you are involved in.

Dave, thanks for the feedback! I know you are all about coaching talent and building your bench....but how do we get our profession, as a whole, to adopt this philosophy?


Thanks for the comment and interest. Since you brought it up, how do we plan for succession without beginning to feel like we are working ourselves away from a position of importance?

Dan, that might be the definition of succession, working ourselves away from a position to allow others to fill these roles. However given there are so many roles, and they aren't run like roman dictatorships, having a glass-half-full mindset is the only way to handle succession planning. If we are worried someone we assist might take our job to the point we don't engage, then the business, the target of succession, and we as leaders and project managers lose ultimately.

Good one!

A coaching and mentoring program is vital to the continuity of any organization. I feel sometimes that we don't take the long view because we just concentrate upon job training. Coaching and leadership development is job agnostic & there is a difference. Great read & thank you very much for sharing.


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