Saturday, June 1, 2013

People are objects with attributes too.

Statements like "...soft skills are an essential and often overlooked aspect of project management..." and "...the importance of getting the right people for your project team cannot be understated..." are the sorts of thing that make me want to swear off the canon of generalist project management literature for good.

Not, you understand, because it's not true. But, because it's self evident and this sort of nonsense makes the job of project management look like the job of professionalising common sense.

I was addressed by a senior member of public sector management some years ago who offered (and I paraphrase here) that "... in the 1990's we hired people for their skills, in the 2000's we hired people for their knowledge and in the 2010's we'll hire people for their behaviour." I hope this worked out okay for those people adopting such an approach.

Quite how you hire someone (or even assess someone in interview objectively) on the basis their behaviour I'm unsure. For all I know, it might not even be lawful.

I do remember thinking at the time that I would continue to hire people on the basis of their talents, track record and ability. I offer it's served me satisfactorily in almost all instances. And, as often as not, supremely well.

Whatever organisational hiring framework you're faced with (challenged by...?), you can adopt and overlay the following approach to determine what you need and help you go and get it.

Someone may offer something supplemental to this appraisal but for the purposes of employment I seek to assess initially what I need someone to know, what I need someone to do and what I need someone to be. Hence the term, "know, do, be framework".

For, let us say, a prospective defect co-ordinator we might define the following know do be framework. I've made the file accessible here if anyone's interested.

So we've taken something somewhat nebulous and intangible, put some structure around it and quantified it. This is I hope well understood to be my general preference for most things. I don't know about you, but I'm already feeling a lot happier about my ability to define and articulate what it is I want.

If you're lucky, you'll be solely responsible for the hiring and you can now formulate some interview questions (or other assessment) via which you can assess a candidates alignment with the know, do, be framework.

Even if you're simply a passive invitee to an interview you can assess a candidate's suitability against your identified criteria and express your preferences accordingly. 

One other point worth noting. You can reverse engineer most job descriptions with this approach. Pick out the key requirements and define some key points in line with what you know, what you are, and what you do that support those requirements. This can be very helpful if you're filling an application form (who still uses those?) but can perhaps more usefully equip you with some very strong responses to likely interview questions.