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Project Management Blog
Monday, 11 August 2014 23:04

Brain Gain

Brain Gain

Organizations the world over have been witnessing employee disconnect for decades. There are people who have been working for over 20 years and are earning a good salary, yet are discontent and uninterested in their jobs. For this reason, organizations have been unsuccessful in retaining their most valuable asset - people.

Sad but true

When the CFOs of a few American companies were asked the basis for increased organizational value, two-thirds mentioned employee training. However, when questioned about workforce effectiveness, only one in five CFOs cited formal on-the-job training. HR and top management have been trying to retain their employees by providing training, compensation and other rewards. The returns are nevertheless unclear.

While rewards seem to be the top driver of employee productivity, employees’ inherent zeal and competence can never be ignored. Very often employees are unaware of their contributions to the business goal. Employee contentment is attainable only when the employees are conscious of the influence of their day-to-day activities on the bigger picture of business goals.

The connect factor

World-class organizations never overlook the dynamics of employee engagement. They work on the principle that everyone in the workplace knows where he is heading, and that the vision is clear and goals communicated at all levels.

Training should be an ongoing process. Typically, organizations need to steer clear of the monotonous training sessions employees are often made to attend. Fun with training, outdoor activities and mentally stimulating sessions can be interwoven into the regular training.

Recognition is a human need. People like to be rewarded for their efforts and guided whenever they go wrong. Establishing positive recognition systems will boost employee engagement - the key to higher productivity.

HR tends to focus more on the process than its people. This is a major deterrent to growth. Demographically, countries like India and the United States are more inclined to acquire talent than to develop it. Japan, on the other hand, prefers to build talent. Organizations in Japan have shown higher growth opportunities. Retaining talent involves strong performance-management systems and fine career development. Flexible work schedules and work/life initiatives directly affect retention rates.

Handle with care

An unambiguous approach to training and performance review can work wonders for the workforce.

One organization has a built-in report system for all its employees. Employees are individually classified into their prime roles, their supporting roles and the various other skills they possess. This classification aids in determining those employees who are ready for up-skilling. For example, if it foresees an increased need for programmers in a particular division or project, it identifies top performers in areas that could soon become outdated. These efficient workers are trained in the forthcoming projects so their skills can be upgraded. This organization thus retains its valuable talent and saves time and money hunting for talent. These efforts ensure employee commitment.

On the right track

Once management has identified exceptional talent, a more strategic approach needs to be adopted. Depending upon the nature of work, training needs are identified. Investments go in the direction where the returns are maximized. Simply put, critical jobs and the top performers are considered most vital to the success of the organization.

On the home front

Creating and sharing information is encouraged throughout the organization. Clear communication channels via exchange of information, proposals, results and best practices reinforce a positive workplace. The outcome of this initiative is combined intelligence and greater exposure to varied subjects and thoughts.

Nevertheless, organizations will benefit if they develop a synergy that allows the spirit of high performers to soar. A quality workplace ensures and sustains a quality workforce. What do you have?

At TenStep we are dedicated to helping organizations achieve their goals and strategies through the successful execution of critical business projects. We provide training, consulting and products for organizations to help them set up an environment where projects are successful. This includes help with strategic planning, portfolio management, program / project management, Project Management Offices (PMOs) and project lifecycles. For more information, visit or contact us at 
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Gareth, Gary and Jeff would like to thank our guest author, Peter Taylor, for sharing his material and writing this article with us, which is adapted from material previously released by Peter (see for more details). 

'Progress isn't made by early risers. It's made by lazy men trying to find easier ways to do something.' Robert Heinlein (1907 - 1988)

The subject of this article is the keys to being a 'lazy' project manager. Now, by this, we do not mean that PMs should be lazy and leave everyone else to do the work. Obviously, that would be ill-advised and would result in an extremely short career in project management . . . in fact, most probably, a very short career, full stop!

What it is about is adopting a focused approach to project management, to exercise effort where it really matters rather than rushing around like busy bees involving ourselves in unimportant, non-critical activities that others can better address, or that, in some cases, do not need to be addressed at all.

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 In part 1 of this blog, we talked about not all communication events were pushed out to the project stakeholders.  Let’s look at some different types of communications interventions that represent the information, ideas, topics and subject matter that flow to and from the stakeholders through formal communication channels.

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Tuesday, 21 August 2007 15:51

Point 14 - Deming in Project Management

Total Participation Starting From the Top

This point speaks to the need for
(1) commitment from top management and
(2) commitment from everyone else in the organization.
Quality is everyone’s job, and if any implementation is not total, it will not fulfill its full potential. 

In project management, I see this point alluding to executive formation and support of a company-wide Project Management Office. That PMO must be the central source of all project management knowledge, under continuous development by the practitioners of project management. Lessons learned and any potential improvements to the project management methodology used by all PM’s in the company should be evaluated, tested, and implemented as a positive change.

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Tuesday, 21 August 2007 15:49

Point 13 - Deming in Project Management

Training Not Related to Job/Task

In order for continuous improvement to become organizational culture, it must also become a personal goal for every employee. Self-improvement should not be limited to immediate application, that would be an example of short-term thinking. Employees are the most important assets of an organization, and therefore require effort to retain and enhance them.

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Sunday, 12 August 2007 21:11

Point 12 - Deming in Project Management

Enable Pride of Workmanship

Deming claimed that the sense of having helped other people is the most significant motivator and source of job satisfaction. It is one of the biggest enablers for pride of workmanship.

Of the projects you have worked on, think about the ones you are most proud of. What is it that makes you look back and say, “Wow! Look what we did!!!”
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Sunday, 12 August 2007 21:03

Point 10 - Deming in Project Management

No Slogans or Disingenuous Pep Talks

This point consists of two elements as I see it. (1) Walk the talk, and (2) hold systems accountable.

Walk the Talk

Slogans are phony. The word slogan has a connotation of something that is not real. It sounds like an advertisement, and not something you can really trust in. In a project management organization, it is much better to have published guidelines and a vision that defines your philosophy and practice. Train your project managers and teams on the methodology. Then, let them execute within that framework, and put a system in place so that the practitioners can revise the process and make it better.

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Sunday, 12 August 2007 20:54

Point 9 - Deming in Project Management

Break Down Departmental Barriers in Pursuit of a Common Goal

Many processes are cross-functional. The same is true of projects. {mosimage}This point is about dissolving the “us versus them” scenario that so often exists in one form or another within organizations. In most projects that I work on, there are individuals from departments such as operations, central services and other support functions, MIS, IT, Service Engineering, etc. The “us versus them” attitude comes about when project managers and project team members look at their own interests at the exclusion of others, and instead of working towards a common goal, work towards their own separate and distinct goals.

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Thursday, 05 July 2007 19:05

Point 8 - Deming in Project Management

Drive out Fear and Create Trust

Fear encourages short-term thinking. One of Deming’s classic stories was about a foreman who didn’t stop production to repair a worn-out piece of equipment, because he feared that stopping production would mean missing his daily quota. Instead, he let production continue. When the machine failed, it forced the line to shut down for 4 days.


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We’ve beaten Mr. Genius, Ms. Bellows, Mr. Promise and Mrs. Process.  But what chance do we have against Ms. Meetings?  She is very sweet.  As a matter of fact, she brings donuts to all of her meetings.  And she certainly has a lot of them.  Any time there is a question she calls a meeting.  She has regularly scheduled Status Meetings, Team Meetings, Progress Meetings and Recap meetings.  During testing there is a meeting at 7:00 AM to determine the daily schedule, a meeting at noon to check on status and one at 6:00 PM to review results.  Then every hour on the hour she meets with the individual areas to make sure progress is being made.  She even had a couple of meeting to determine why productivity was so low.
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