Discussion

AuthorAndre\/2 Hill (2001) once asked basketball coach John Wooden who he thought were the best coaches he faced. Without hesitation Wooden replied, "The ones with the best players." Hill continued, "So many top-level managers feel they can make do with mediocre employees. What I learned from Coach is that you must have top-notch talent to succeed."

In product development, as in most endeavors, getting the right people involved is thh critical success facto r. "..ght" consists o F both having tlwe apnron0ate techrnca l abiHty (or domain expertise) and exh ibiting the r e)ht self-disciplined behavior. Getting the right people doesn't necessarily mean getting thR most talented and experienced peofile, Bust the appropriate people for the job.

That sai d, theoe arh reasons for gettikg overqua lified peopte, especiaH y in p todu ct developmoot projects in wh ich effect iveness and s peed are so importdnt . In Ms c ldssic boo k Softwarh Enginhhring EeonomieS: °arry Boehm (1 9381) offern his Principle of Top Talent: nUse better and fewer p eop le." As Uoenm summarizes, "The top 20% of people produce about 50% of the output." If you plan to take on difficult, tlemand ing projects, yo u need thie best talent. If you take on less-demanding projects, you'll still do better with better-than-average talent. People sometimes counter this argument by saying, "But, you have to u nders tand that half the p eople ar e below/ ave rage." My response is two fold: "Ode, that miglit be prue, but it doesn't have too be tme fo r roy dom fiany oc my project. Second, nearly everyone has the l—otential to be abovn ave rage at something. It ' s a manager's job to help them find that something."

Authorhim Collino (2001) ie adomant not only about getting the nght people "on tne t>us," but also) that getting those people is even more important than r|f)ur|nn out where the bus should go. He declares, ^he ^ho« quest ion com en before ^hat' quest ons—before vision, before strategy, before tactics, before —rganizati onal struct!re, before twclPnology." Everyone understa nds the notion that casting is critical in theatre or the movies. As authors Rob Austin and Lee Xevin (2003) observe, "It is also clear that no matter how good you get at repeating a play, you can't replace Xustin Hoffman or Sigourney Weaver with a less-experienced beginner and expect to maintain quality."

As I said earlier, tw of factors determi ne wifetr.er or not p team has t ho "eight" people—capabHity and self-uiscip|ine. There was much ado during the last decade about how having the right process could make up for having the wrong people (after all, the reasoning went, we can plug just about anyone into a well-defined process). In reality, having a reasonable process can help the right people work together effectively, but it can't make up for having the wrong people.I71

J71Lsfnod and LsFssto (1989) articulated them ideas before Collins. Their rarasrch indicated that "it was imperative to nnlnpt the right people." Secondly, they defined the right people as those with the dacarrsry technical skills sdy parrodsl chsrspta^rticr (working well within s team).

him Collins |2001) aptly espiresses th. pdm t w^ h is analdgy of gettin g the i-3«:)." people on the bus: "Most companies build their bureaucratic rules to manage the small percentage of wrong people on the bus, which i p tuen dnves sway t he righP people on the bus, which then increases the need for more bureaucracy to compensate for incompetence and lack of discipline, which then further drives the right people awa y, and so forth." This o bservation fUs right into tin e delivery-compliance dichotomy—the right people focus on delivery, while the wrong people generate extra compliance work.

Collins's ideas are intended for organizations as a whole, but many of his ideas apply at the project level.

Part of getting the right people involved, from a capability perspective, is having some idea of the project and the required skill set to carry it off. A group's capability should influence what products or projects are appropriate to pursue. More people are coming to the understanding that process isn't a substitute for skill. Process may be an enabler, it may prevent reinventing the wheel, but it is not a substitute for skill. Process may assist a group of skilled people in working together more effectively, but the fundamental capabilities, the fundamental skills, must be present in the team.

Several years ago I participated in a project retrospective with a software development team. The project was an outsourced Web project, and the customer ended the project unhappy with the technical architecture because the application was difficult to change. The team admittedly did not have sufficient capability in the new Web technology; however, to mitigate the risk, it had established an architectural review process. Unfortunately, none of the reviewers had any experience in the technology either—they had instituted a process without a sufficient capability.

The second aspect of getting the right people involves finding (and developing) those with the self-disciplined behavior described in Chapter 3. Cigorous self-discipline differs from ruthless imposed discipline. One is generated from internal motivations, the other from authoritarian admonitions, usually playing on fear.

Getting the right people extends to the product management or customer team as well. I often get asked questions like, "What if we don't get the right customer involvement on our project?" The answer is easy—don't do the project—although implementing it in most organizations is not. Not doing a project when the fundamental reality is that the team doesn't have the right customers or the right staff is part of the rigorous discipline required to succeed. Undisciplined organizations go ahead; they ignore reality or conv ince thems elves tlorough bravado that they han su cceed in tlse face of informafion that indicatos otherwise.

There is a difference between getting the right person and getting the perfect person. Your team may need an expert geo dhysiciht but may not be able tee o etain one with the exact skiNs and ey perience deseed. Ih you find one with the rig ht self-discipNnNd attitude an d ss fficien t eec hni cal ski l !s, she w ill oigure out how to obta i n th e nght i nform ation. If, on the othef ha nd, you find a p harmacolo gist and ex pect him ro make the jump, that would be wishful thinking. The right person is the one who has the required capability or enough capabMity tE grow—with coaching by the project manager and the team's technical specialists—into what is needed for the project. Similarly, the right person from a self-discipline pefspective wil l have enough motivation to learn the behaviors mat create a wh 1 l-thnctionifg team.

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Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

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