Winning with Talent Management: Three Real-Life Examples

The wrong person in the wrong role costs real money.  Studies suggest bad hires cost 250% of the role’s salary. In other words, a bad $100K hire will cost you $250K! And when it comes to  the cost of a bad project manager, look at it this way: , what was the size of your last failed project: $1 million, $10 million, $100 million?

You win the talent game with the best talent. But how do you identify “best”? PM College has a tried-and-tested Competency Assessment Program that helps you find and develop the best project managers. Three of our leading clients are using it to get a competitive edge:

“We want to offer learning and development that our talent really needs.” Talent development and training are two critical drivers of job satisfaction, loyalty, and engagement.  These are the sweet spots for our assessments: to develop and sustain superior project management performance.

PMO leaders at a long-time client need to target their training, thereby eliminating unnecessary training programs. The PM College assessment program will do this, ensuring more return from their learning investments. They also want the assessment to  not only discover project managers with the most potential, but also to inform job assignment and development opportunities.

“We need to make sure that new hires can deliver our projects.” Bad hiring decisions drive eighty percent of employee turnover. Another PM College client requires absolute on-time delivery for every project: a hour late is a crisis; a day late can be a national disaster.  Their project managers need to be the best of the best … from Day One. Catching a single bad hire before the offer letter will provide a huge and immediate payoff.

We are working with this client to develop a profile of the ideal candidate, based upon assessments of their current staff. PM College will also use this profile to develop a set of interview guidelines to evaluate candidates on the most critical personality and knowledge topics, in order to target development plans for current project managers.

“We work in an emerging, fast-growing industry.” Organizational agility defines today’s most admired and innovative project-driven organizations. We are working with a global client to extend our standard assessment to cover two additional competency areas: industry and organizational knowledge. Just as PM College can deliver custom learning, we can also create custom assessment packages at a great value. This client will use the results to verify that its current – and future – project managers can keep up with its explosive growth and unique culture.

Are you ready to find, develop, and hire better project talent? Contact PM College now

Here’s A Quick Way to Measure Learning Impact

We ask for client feedback on nearly every class or workshop we hold. It’s the way we ensure continuous improvement, instructor/client culture fit, and client satisfaction. It also opens the door to other opportunities; many students express opinions about what they want to see next.

However, a number of clients get stuck when it comes to justifying training spend. Senior leaders know that talent development is critical, but they want to see results. And as I noted in my last benefits realization post, if you don’t go in with a measurement plan, you’ll struggle to find those benefits.

Here’s my advice: pull together a simple assessment tool to provide a “before-and-after” look at training’s impact. Such a survey establishes a performance baseline, against which you then can measure impact. I’d keep it simple: a “Net Promoter” question, followed by just a few focused questions. Below is a set of questions that I’ve used in other contexts:

  1. How likely is it that you would recommend ORG UNIT to a friend or colleague?
  2. How often does ORG UNIT meet its deadlines?
  3. Which of the following words would you use to describe ORG UNIT? Select all that apply. (attributes like high quality, quick, unresponsive, etc.)
  4. What changes would ORG UNIT have to make for you to give it an even higher rating?

If you’re familiar with Survey Monkey, you will find it easy to replicate these questions. Once I have this template together enough to share, I’ll share it.

Do you have practical suggestions about measuring learning impact?

Why Project Management Expertise Isn’t Enough: Lessons Learned from Security Breaches

How many times have I heard that “a good project manager can manage any project?” Too often for my taste. My biggest issue with the claim is that it begs the question: he statement assumes we all agree that any project manager with a mastery of the profession’s tools and techniques can succeed anywhere.

We’ve finally learned better, and PMI has acknowledged this in its new requirements for PMP continuing education. As PMI itself puts it:

As the global business environment and project management profession evolves, the [certification] program must adapt to provide development of new employer-desired skills…. The ideal skill set — the PMI Talent Triangle — is a combination of technical, leadership, and strategic and business management expertise. (PMI 2015 Continuing Certification Requirements (CCR) Program Updates)

Our pending research on project skill gaps (stay tuned for a webinar invite) shows that executives and senior managers understand this much better than project practitioners. They emphasize strategy, business, and leadership improvements, while practitioners don’t.

Perhaps an example from the current headlines will help. As most of you know, security breaches have wreaked havoc on a number of prominent firms: Target, Home Depot, Sony are simply the most well-known. The sad thing is that the most famous failures could have been prevented.

One of my new favorite podcasts is from Andreessen Horowitz, the venture capital firm. My most recent listen was an interview with Orion Hindawi of Tanium. I recommend listening to the whole thing — it’s less than 30 minutes — as Orion provides some great color to what, where, why, etc. on security attacks and vulnerabilities. The summary hits his sobering message on the head:

The paradox of security is we pretty much know what we are supposed to do most of the time — but we don’t do it. If you examine all the recent high-profile attacks, somebody in the organization knew something was wrong before it happened. They just didn’t have the ability to escalate the problem, or the ability to raise a flag that people took seriously.

In other words, we don’t lack the technical understanding of security risks, or the tools and techniques to mitigate them. We lack the leadership and business savvy to confront the challenge of communicating the risks, then deploying and using our toolkit effectively. The last two sentences show how these skills gaps drive the root causes:

  • Ability to escalate the problem” is a leadership challenge. This suggests that “somebody” wasn’t connected, articulate, or brave enough to get to decision makers.
  • Ability to raise a flag that people took seriously” is a symptom of weak strategy and business skills. If the threat isn’t framed, articulated, and understood in terms serious leaders get, then such warnings are ignored…or even worse, viewed as counterproductive scare mongering.

Now THIS Is What I Mean By “Advanced” Training

We’ve had a ton of discussions with clients after the Project Management Institute (PMI)announcement that it would soon demand business and leadership training from its certification holders. Some organizations wanted just the facts – who, what, where, when, why, and how — then were on their way. A few weren’t interested for personal reasons: their organizations don’t require or reward PMI certification.

The most interesting talks, however, were with customers who didn’t really focus on the requirements at all. The original blog post or email had merely crystallized needs that they already had. We heard it again and again: “We’ve already had the basics, we’ve already put everyone through the curriculum. How do we get better, how do we advance?”

These kinds of conversations are music to my ears, because it means that we’re going to talk about building new and differentiated capabilities. In other words, these clients aren’t just thinking about industry standards and compliance. They now think strategically about how their staff’s strengths and weaknesses match up to their organization’s opportunities and threats.

So how does this play out in practice? Each firm or agency is different, but we believe there a few useful questions that help focus on the learning that your organization needs to advance.

  1. Knowledge and Skill Gaps: These are items that were simply missed in previous training or need formal reinforcement. Example course topics that address gaps:  How to Lead a Team;  How to Model, Analyze, and Improve Business Processes.
  2. Knowledge and Skill Mastery: Here’s where one truly goes beyond the basics and gets command of a subject. Courses like Project Cost & Schedule Management; Project Risk Management; Strategies for Effective Stakeholder Engagement; and  Vendor Relationship Management take one to the next level.
  3. Behavior Change: Here’s the real opportunity to breakthrough performance: ensuring that skills manifest themselves in behavior. Our simulations — for example, Managing by Project; Managing by Project: Construction; and Leadership in High-Performance Teams — move participants from mere understanding of skills to application of these skills back in the working world.

As always, if your organization would like discuss these ideas and how it will impact your project management training curriculum, please use the contact form below. We are happy to review your current curriculum, your upcoming learning plans, and make recommendations.

Become Focused by Failure

Great WSJ article by Prof. Ken Bain that takes the Cub Scout motto of “Do Your Best” to the next level. 

It also hits home personally.  I was often praised for being “smart”, which is like being congratulated for being “lucky.”  The implication is that I didn’t have much to do with it.  That approach wasn’t too “smart” it turns out.  As Prof. Bain notes, for about 25 years social scientists have developed:

key insights into how successful people overcome their unsuccessful moments—and they have found that attitudes toward learning play a large role from a young age.

The most important attitude is a “growth mind-set”: the idea that knowledge comes from trying, learning, and yes, failing at, new things.  

Prof. Cain also references research that our brain makes more and stronger connections after exposure to novelty.  While he presents the research obliquely — as part of a psychology experiment about priming learning attitudes  — my understanding is that there is real neuroscience to support this insight.

I wouldn’t rely on the priming approach solely.  If you believe in priming, whatever you do don’t read this Nature article by Ed Yong on the problems with social science experimental design!

The Tsunami and Knowledge Management

Talk about wisdom of the ancients… this CBS News article highlights the Japanese village of Aneyoshi, which heeded the warning of an old stone marker:

“High dwellings are the peace and harmony of our descendants,” the stone slab reads. “Remember the calamity of the great tsunamis. Do not build any homes below this point.”

The east coast of Japan has these scattered about, but apparently not all of the warnings were heeded.  Or perhaps the warnings weren’t so clear.  Another interesting tidbit is that awareness of the tsunami danger didn’t persist simply by word-of-mouth:

“It takes about three generations for people to forget. Those that experience the disaster themselves pass it to their children and their grandchildren, but then the memory fades,” [Fumihiko Imamura, a professor in disaster planning at Tohoku University in Sendai, a tsunami-hit city] said.

Continue reading

PM Quote of the Day — Carol Burnett

You have to go through the falling down in order to learn to walk. It helps to know that you can survive it. That’s an education in itself.


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