Tempus Resource 2020 Virtual Conference Recap: Donna Fitzgerald, NimblePM, Inc
We thank Donna Fitzgerald for her visionary insights and invite you to view her full keynote address below:
From working in the “post-digital age” to the massive changes brought on by COVID-19 to the “4th Industrial Revolution,” nearly everything about getting work done is shifting. Ms. Fitzgerald leads us through how focusing on people will be the key to adapting to major changes.
The resource management journey
First, she lays out a map to resource management maturity, which she sees less like steps on a staircase and more like the phases of human development—evolving organically. All companies start as reactionary and then decide that there’s a better way to do things. They find a tool like Tempus to achieve that goal with determination. They grow dedicated to continuous improvement and preparing their organization to be the best in class. When hitting innovation, the organization starts capturing the next right thing organically, with an innovation process that is less formal and highly nurtured. Finally, the ultimate phase is achieved: transformation, where organizations can operate, grow, and transform steadily.
Wherever you see yourself on this journey at the moment, Ms. Fitzgerald reminds us to remain focused on people. Traditionally, HR exists to “serve management and treat people as a group.” Instead, consider a new discipline to replace HR that focuses on individuals: understanding them and enabling them with the right access to tools, knowledge, and experiences to be best in their class.
Focusing on the people
Additionally, it’s critical that employees at all levels know the organization’s goals. Strategies should be translated into tactics that every individual can identify and align with.
One example of getting to know your people involves the generation of Millennials, who are often known to show discomfort with the way corporations are structured. Seeking autonomy and freedom to innovate, their solution has historically been to become entrepreneurs. This impulse, advises Ms. Fitzgerald, should be harnessed and leveraged. Those with entrepreneurial desire and acumen should be given opportunities and challenges to explore, think, and make vital contributions within the company.
For those wondering where to begin, Ms. Fitzgerald offers three steps toward resource management maturity. First, build a simple model; second, expand your resource and capacity planning effort; and third, focus on the individual—monitoring work and encouraging growth. Ultimately, thriving in the digital future will require adaptation, which means resilience in the people who make up our organizations.
Transcript: Resource Management Maturity Model
Thanks, Greg and Shawn for so many things and it’s a pleasure to be able to do the keynote today. What I want to accomplish is not to compete with all the wonderful presentations everyone else has been doing about how to use Tempus, how to do resource management because I couldn’t possibly do a better job than everyone else. What I want to do is paint a different picture and basically start with Simon Sinek’s perspective of why do we really want to do this. We all know we want to do it because things are fairly difficult at work if we don’t get people doing the right work, but I think there’s a completely different reason now. We’ve been probably five years moving towards a change and Covid 19 has really been a game changer. It’s moved that change curve up significantly so the new terms are that we’re in the post digital age; the new terms are that we’re in the fourth industrial revolution. What does that mean? I believe it means that we’re changing our view of what’s important. The last era was basically very much centered around what we’ll call financial capital (the little green box that you see). I would like to contend that what’s important today is people because you heard a lot of people say that people are the largest expense for corporations, but the reason that makes sense is because without people there is no output, there is no creativity, so let’s start by acknowledging they aren’t just an expense. We aren’t just an expense. We’re how things get done. So if we put people at the top there’s still something we understand and that’s the need for agility.
I want to share a really quick story. I was in Columbus, Ohio meeting with an organization and the CIO had asked me to come out to convince the CEO that he really wanted IT to convert to Agile, so we gave the whole long dog and pony show and then I said if you do this right, you can get teams and project managers who are empowered to do on the ground decision making to get things done. At that point in time, the man stood up, looked at the CIO and said, “I want what she’s selling.” That was a profound insight. He really didn’t care about how software development was done. It meant nothing to him. What meant something to the CEO was making decisions appropriately at the right time to continue to get something productive done. I think this shift is going to move us to focusing on the individual, the team, we’ll talk a little bit later about the human machine technology partnership and then I promise you I will get to why this is the perfect solution to making millennials happy.
So, many of you have had an opportunity to see that this is our third go-round with what we call the Resource Management Maturity Model. I want to put that in context. If we were in person I would ask all of you to raise your hand if you’re familiar with the old diagram that shows for Agile a skateboard, a manual scooter, a power scooter and a car. So, since I’ve been in the Agile movement since way before we called it Agile, I will tell you that this has been progressive, that we have done our skateboard, we’ve done our scooter and, as I’ve told my girlfriend in Australia last night, we’re actually in a golf cart today so I hope you appreciate the golf cart edition.
So classically maturity models are steps and, to be honest, I started presenting it like that and then I realized that’s really not appropriate for where we are today. We don’t want to convey that this is adding more and more and more stuff, more procedures, more paperwork, more this more that. That’s really not where we’re at. What we want to do is say that we’re maturing the same way a child matures. First babies can turn over, then they can crawl, then they can stand up with support and eventually learn to walk. All of that happens organically. That is how human beings are wired. I would like to contend that when we look at this subject it can be just as natural. It doesn’t mean that it doesn’t take effort. Those of you with little children know that there’s a lot of effort that goes into standing up those first couple of times, but it’s something that we can evolve through organically. So all of us start at a reactionary point. I don’t know about you, but I first realized there was something going wrong when I was sitting in a meeting with my team and I, like every single one of you, asked who have we got who can do this. I wasn’t expecting this. We’ve now go to jam this work in. It’s a reactionary perspective. I have sat in meetings with clients while I was at Gartner for years where they show me spreadsheets and we’re looking at 15 percent availability of somebody and we’re going try to take that 15 percent and we’re going to assign it to another project. Well, everybody on this call knows yeah, it might get us through what happens in one day, but it’s not a solution. So eventually all organizations come to a point where they go, there’s got to be a better way to do this. From there the next evolution is, and I like to say you find a great tool and you buy it, ala Prosymmetry, and that serves as your structure of progression of getting people assigned to the right work, getting work scaled to the right limit and that does take some determined effort. It doesn’t come for free. You have to keep your eye on the ball moving forward. From there, once you get the basic blocking and tackling done, I think all the good stuff starts. If you’re dedicated enough to continuously improve, this is where you start getting towards all the people stuff and really start preparing your organization for being best in class.
When we’ve got that accomplished, we hit the next point. Innovation starts to be where we simply are capturing the right next thing to do, the next mousetrap, again organically. That, by the way, is a trigger to where we can start to understand some of what millennials want. We need to not make innovation a highly formal process. We need to nurture it on an ongoing basis.
Transformation relates to the fact that right now corporations have approximately a 14-year lifespan on the stock market before they’re acquired, they go out of business, they file for bankruptcy, it doesn’t matter. What I talked about the last time I presented this is this where we jump the S-Curve. The key there is what jumping the S-Curve is is that I decide on my strategy, I intend to transform my business but while I’m transforming my business I have to keep operating it and then once I’ve created the new business, I begin to operate that.
Organizations Can Mix Components of the People Capacity Model to Meet Their Needs
These are the pieces that I’ve identified that are really where we’ve got to focus their time. Now, the first reaction may be that, Donna, we’re only talking about people and skills and getting things organized, etc., etc., and my answer is yeah, not so much. Everything is contextual. Part of the reason these transformations don’t work is that when we get then too isolated, senior management only cares about the product. As I had mentioned with the CEO, he didn’t care how software was developed. He cared about how decisions were made to keep the results coming. I would contend today what do we sell to senior management for those of you who are not already on the path? Enterprise Agility. That if we do this, if we become experts at what I’m calling “people capability management” and not just resource management because I don’t know about the rest of you, but for the last 25 years people have said to me, “Donna, resource management is a terrible term. It’s all about people” and yeah, I agree. So somewhere we need to make the main change, but if we start programming with Agility everything we do will get us better agility. We can then go to the next step. Now this was something that I had to struggle with a lot. My experience is almost exclusively on the strategy execution part other than when I worked for a consulting company. There are two entrance points. If you work for a consulting company or any fee-for-service organization, you usually come in through a need for operational excellence. Every hour is billable. That is your source of revenue. That is what you have to optimize. If you are on the IT side, you generally come in through strategy execution, so you get a conflict between strategy and how much is going in to run the business work. I do think it’s important which side you’re coming in through because you may need to do more technology sooner if you’re in operational excellence. You may need to do more team and individual work if you’re coming into strategy execution. The reason I bring this up is again, every single one of you as you go on your journey is going to need to take one from column A, one from column B, one from column C. It’s important to understand that this is a journey that operates in an integrated whole.
Team Discipline Examples
Now, we have five capabilities but there are two highly important sub-disciplines that I want to explore here. The first one is team discipline. For those of you who have already entered into the Agile software journey, you know there’s a focus on teams. I want to expand that notion we have. I see a lot of fixed teams; I see a lot of concentrated specialists all in one area, what we used to call centers of excellence. That’s really not the teams I’m talking about. The wave of the future, if you read anything from HDR, from Sloan, what you’ll see is we need cross-functional teams, not only formal cross-functional teams but casual cross-functional teams. We need to create an environment where all people who work for the company feel free to go to somebody else in the next department and say that there is a piece of work that needs to be done to accomplish a goal. I need your help to do it. I’ve talked to multiple organizations who tell me Donna, we got resource management in IT all settled and it’s good and it’s working and guess what. All we’ve done is shift the bottleneck. We now can’t get the business involved, we can’t get testing done. I’m just telling you what you experience on a daily basis. That’s a culture change that we’re going to have to do and we’ll talk about that in a little bit. So, what do we see with high performing teams? We’ve been talking about high performing teams for 20 or 30 years, but there are certain things that we know. We need associational thinkers. What does that mean? It basically means people who can carry a wide diversity of thinking and when they hear something they go, oh that might be the answer, the totally unrelated fact that solves the problem I have today. The team needs to be able to dynamically come together and share focus. They need to be self-directed and more than that they need to realize the change is going to happen as they’re moving forward. Basically in today’s world linearity is not really a common thing and it’s certainly not a goal.
Now, what are team enabling activities? All the stuff we know, resource capacity planning, skills identification, all that good stuff that we all understand and it’s critically important.
Individual Focus Area Examples
Let’s get to the last area, individual focus. I would contend that people have not been getting the right individuals, have not been getting the right acknowledgement or support. A couple of things there. A couple of speakers have mentioned the Resource Management Institute and I was privileged to do a closing keynote for them, and what I’d like to say is that we do need a new discipline that helps us focus on people. HR is too far away. We’ve seen that HR is there to serve corporate management. They’re there to treat people as a group. We also have corporate learning. Yeah again, they’re there to administer training to a group. I once had the opportunity when I worked for a very large consulting company to do a tour of duty through being head of curriculum development for the consulting group. I actually had to focus on individuals, but the important key was that I had to focus on individuals who I knew and understood as my peers. So when we talk about dealing with people, they’re really the people who sit next to us. They’re really the human beings and that’s a change. We can’t start looking at groups. We need to say, “Are we enabling each unique human being to get access to those tools, the knowledge, the experiences. They need to be the best in class they can be.
The Five Capabilities
So, let’s dig a little bit more into the five capabilities:
Enterprise Agility Capability
This model that I’m showing you is really different probably than what you’ve come to expect. I’m going to contend that we can divide it into threes. That’s as far as I’ve gotten right now and we’ll look at what are the specific activities. So for enterprise agility, where do we want to start? Like many of the speakers here have said, we want to identify people, roles required to replace to complete initiatives. Very simple, incredibly important. We want to do that early because we need to know if, because we’ve got all sorts of plans, do we have the right people and do they have the right training. And then as they go forward one of the things that anyone who has ever done portfolio management will tell you is guess what gets dropped. All the interdependencies. You approve this project or that project or that program and then you forget that they require other things. Simple, standard, but we’ve got to make sure that we’re not going any further than what we can execute.
Now at level three, I said plan for frequent deliveries of outcomes and then stop. Now that’s a shocking thing to anyone in IT. I’ll tell you a story that Jim Highsmith who was one of the signatories of the Agile Manifesto shared with me. He was working with a client who needed a CRM system and they broke the program into thirds and when they got the first piece of work done, which was a lead tracking system, he met with the CEO who said, “You know what? We don’t need to do anything else because lead tracking really was my problem and I’ve received 80 percent of the value that I can get out of CRM now and I don’t need to go any further.” Many people don’t know or have forgotten that one of the big original benefits of Agile was that it was designed to be short, fast, get it in and see what happens. There’s a great book on Agile software that said what I consider is the premier rule. All software is evolutionary. When we implement it, we fundamentally change the nature of reality. Now that’s a mental model. It’s not on my mental model list here but it’s an important one because it says that we only want to go as far as we need to go to make the desired change and then we want to see what will emerge.
So for those of you who recognize the lattice and mental models that’s Charles Munger, and what I listed is the mental models as I learned them over time. It’s hard to talk about thinking models with most groups because they say that’s esoteric, but as we move forward these are the shortcuts. Every single thing on that list is a shortcut that will help your people plan better, respond better, understand what’s happening faster and you have to ask yourself, why aren’t we teaching this. If we can move organizations from analysis paralysis, if we can avoid political discussions which we’ll talk about in a moment, why aren’t we focusing on that? The answer is that largely we haven’t needed to because we’ve been muddling all around okay but in the future we do.
People Capacity Management Works with All Company Cultures
I’m going to skip ahead. Now, one of the things I want to bring to your attention is again what this model is designed to do is to help every single organization move forward in a way that is supportive of them. A long time ago in a world far away I developed this model. It’s very similar to a whole lot of other corporate culture models. I developed it specifically to help organizations know how to execute projects and initiatives in different cultures. So what it says is you can always do the work we’re talking about, you just do it a little differently in each culture. So the way that box is positioned it says if you’re in a meritocracy, a classic Silicon Valley culture, it’s pretty easy. People are trained. They know that it’s the preferred culture for most western-educated adults, so pretty easy to do that. If you’re in a process environment, it’s going to be a little difficult to convince people that all that paperwork may not be necessary. All those checks may not be necessary, but when it’s important enough, yeah, they’ll sort of step back and get out of your way to do it. In a network culture, and a network culture is a law firm, higher education, it actually turns out to have been Gartner Research. It’s any place where the basic revenue source is an independent individual who’s selling knowledge expertise. You can do projects but it’s all about the list of merits. Everybody asks why should I want this? It has to take a lot more work than the team approach you get in the meritocracy. I’ll be honest after talking to client after client, the hardest place to do real change is in a familial company. It’s not impossible, it’s just that you go slower. You check with more people. You’re much more inclusive. You cannot go at the pace you would have in a meritocracy. Now, if you’re coming in through the operational research, that’s pretty classically consulting and I will tell you that when I was in consulting I was product manager on the resource management system that Oracle Consulting used when Larry said if we use it ourselves, can we sell it. IF so, let’s make it a product and sell it. Pretty standard. You’ve got to get the FTEs. You’ve got to know high level skills. All of that’s the same. Now, what you need to know from a mental model perspective is how your industry works. Again, the point of that is every single individual who does that work, any work along this line, has to know the dynamics of your own business because that’s what’s going to be critically important.
Demand Management is the Key
And what will you do first? You will do demand management. There’s no way (and I’m preaching to the choir so I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this) you’ve got to match demand to your supply. Now in theory most operations say we could scale but there’s still always a limit and you’ve always got to make it work and you’re just going to cycle through. You’ve got to build the process. Now this is where when I show this slide, and I’ve been using a variation of this for a very long time, it’s here when people realize you can’t do this in Excel. It just does not help you. It’s a one-time off. Years ago I saw a beautiful product a consulting company did to help a firm do it. They truly did an excellent job. And then when I looked at it I said to the individual showing it to me, “How long did this last?” They said that it lasted until a few people left and this changed and that changed. That’s why this element has to become operational first
You’ve got to start with strategic goals. I could do an entire workshop on the fact that many companies have strategic aspirations, but they don’t necessarily have strategic goals. One of the hallmarks of how you know you have real strategic goals is over to the focus area. Do your employees know what the goal is?
I was talking to Sean the other day and I shared with him the story that I was in the UK meeting with head of PMO for a company and I was in this room with beige walls and then hand-written strategic statements across three of the four walls, the fourth wall was a window, and I was talking to this gentleman and it was clear that he wasn’t focused. I kept saying what does your company want to accomplish? He said I don’t know, I don’t know and then I asked him if he didn’t know what was it that was written on three walls around him. That was such a telling thing. There were words on a wall but he was really reflecting on the fact that there was no shared vision. He did not believe anything this company was saying because the work he was being asked to do was not the real vision. This is where strategy execution gets tied up and it gets difficult to work with, but again all of this says to start with what you’re sure of. Strategy, according to HDR, most company strategies are fine. What the problem is is they’re never translated into strategic tactics. If they’re not really translated into strategic tactics, then they’re not really executable. Work has to executable for us to actually take it on and get it done. Now there are other things in the mental models. Adopt a team of teams model. We’re going to keep coming back to the fact that decisions need to be made at the call phase. This is one of the reasons you have to focus on individuals.
Again, we talked about new work involves emergence. Emergence, for those of you who are not familiar with the term, is something unique or unforeseeable happens. Pretty much like Covid 19, it’s horrible and it changed our world, but it was an emergent problem. As I said before, look at operations. (Are your people the source of revenue?) or strategy (Do we need to change to survive, to grow, to thrive?) as your two entrance points and then start tailoring your approaches to that.
Decision Making Heuristics: The Stacey Model
One of the things that keeps coming up, and I’m going to go over this pretty quickly so we don’t run out of time, is when we talk about decisions being made at the call phase, which is the lowest level of employee who understands exactly what it is. One of the pushbacks is, “Well, we can’t let people have that kind of authority. That’s just not appropriate.” I love this Stacey model because when you look at it it says, “Well, wait a minute. You actually can train people. You can actually frame the discussion so that everybody understands.” So most of the decisions that people worry about are high in agreement and high in certainty. So we go ahead and we write policies and procedures, we write desk procedures, we do all sorts of micromanagement on the stuff that’s pretty clear. Okay, make some people happy. Now we run into running programs. Well, all programs are complex and all programs are highly political. What that means is that we are not going to get a perfect solution. We are going to turn a blind eye to some things. I won’t even admit in public sometimes what I’ve had to do to get a program executed. All I can say is that it wasn’t illegal and it wasn’t immoral, but it certainly wasn’t something I would have done by choice. That’s the compromise. Was it worth it to get it done? Absolutely! It was highly successful, but it took a lot of compromise and I knew it going in. Now, IT people are often allergic to politics. I once wrote a paper and did some research and politics is not something people are comfortable with. So, if you’re doing a complex program, you just staff accordingly. Now, what about difficult programs? You know that there is an answer. There’’ definite certainty that this can be done. You just don’t know quite how you’re going to get there. We’ll call that experimenting. Again, that’s a different group of people. When you’re outside of that, you start training people with problem solving, listening skills. I’m a huge believer in active listening and appreciative inquiry. You start training people. The message of this slide is we’ve not paid enough attention to probably some of the most critical blockers that we have. And if we train people to do this, we can be comfortable with delegating decisions further down.
Individual and Team Capability
I just want to reiterate again that cross-functional teams and developed fixed specialist teams. I had a client once and his organization bought 20 companies every quarter and the CIO had to bring these companies onto their technology. And when we looked at what it was taking because he was swamped in IT, we realized that what we needed was a fixed group of 20 people that included legal, people from IT, all who could work on doing nothing but bringing those 20 companies in every quarter because his company had no intention of stopping that acquisition. To do that, one of the things we want to do with teams, we want a growth mindset, which most of you know about, and we want to cultivate entrepreneurial behavior. Now effectively, and I’ll make this really quick because I know I’m starting to take time you’d all like back, I had dinner with a young millennial several years ago and he shared with me some experiences but it took me a very long time to understand what he was really telling me. I finally added up the dots and I realized that a lot of millennials are uncomfortable in corporations as they’re structured. They don’t know how to have a sense of authority in and of themselves, so they want it to be delegated, and people won’t delegate it to anybody who’s not comfortable with it so we’ve got a blocker there. So your solution is to go jump off a cliff and become entrepreneurial. Wonderful. They sink or swim, but those who swim really learn it. I’m proposing that the entrepreneurial behavior they wish to express should be turned into “interprepreneurial” behavior and that we can give them opportunities and challenges to do that kind of exploration, that kind of new thinking that they want to do in our corporations as long as we understand it and plan for it.
Top Ten Essential 21st Century Skills
What is important for the future is changing. You can look at the list and the only one I’m going to highlight here is digital fluency.
Technology is really changing things and that sounds kind of stupid because technology has been changing things my entire adult life, but I really think, now I’ve had two conversations about ALI and machine learning in the last week. That’s not normally a conversation I have with anybody but it’s now becoming real. It’s now becoming critical. So again what we look at is how we are managing. We’re not trying to fit people into jobs as they exist right now. What we’re trying to do is understand where the future is going and train our people and involve our people such that they’re equipped to meet the future. We want people at the cutting edge so we have to truly spend time thinking about how to accomplish that.
Technology Impacts Every Aspect of the Business
What I liked about this is that the matrix is something from Gartner and if you’ll notice in the middle there’s people, business and things. That’s part of when I really started the changes. Again, if we were in person I’d ask you how many of you talk to Alexa, Google and the answer is probably a lot of you. We are already incorporating machines into our daily life. We need to start looking at what else we can do. Where can we offload things? Robotic process automation is something that can be used to unemploy people, or I was talking to a gentleman who worked for a company who sold them, and he said actually his clients really were using them to assist human beings, to free the up to be more capable. This is part of our new ecosystem. Do we understand it and can we do the right thing with it?
Overview of the Three Steps Toward Resource Management Maturity
Resource Management & Capacity Planning Doesn’t Have to be Hard
Again, I apologize for rushing. I apologize for technical problems but for those of you who say, “Yeah, I wanna,” “all good,” “all esoteric”, here’s the simple version of what I said. If you just print this slide out and say as a shortcut of what you need to do, I’ve got everything jammed onto one page. Now, it’s pretty much activity oriented (doesn’t worry a lot about mental models), but we start with the gray. We’re going to model the high-level strategic resource plan, we’re going to define roles and skills because that’s resource capacity planning, and then hint, hint, hint to all of you like many of my former clients who have not done this, we are going to cancel all old, late projects. We are not going to sit around and tell partner analysts that we’ve had projects running for 18 months that were originally scheduled to be six months. We are not going to tell them that one program has been running for 16 years. That unfortunately is not a lie; it’s a true conversation. We’re just going to clean house if it doesn’t make sense, if it hasn’t delivered something by now, odds are it’s not working. There are one or two exceptions I’ve found in my entire career, but pretty much you can go get rid of it.
Next thing to do is load FTEs. This is something that there’s probably shades of gray here, but I’m a huge believer that says model first with FTEs because you want it simple. You want it clear. And the only thing while we’re at the simple stage, is you do want to identify bottleneck resources.
Then you want to do what I call model executable work. All sorts of things get into project schedules that just don’t make sense and we really need to say what is the work that we are doing? And I will remind everybody, and I’m sorry this is a low level distinction, but it’s highly important that work and duration are not the same thing. When you talk about human beings, human beings live in duration, we live in time. So if you give me 20 hours of work and I have 30 hours of previous commitments, I’ve got a 10-hour gap for a week. I’ve either working 10 hours of overtime or I’m not going to be done, perfect world, a week Tuesday. We don’t think about that. I can’t tell you how often I’ve seen work estimates. We’ve got to fix it. What is the executable work? Who’s going to do it and how much time do they have free, really, really free. That includes, do they have to take their kid to the dentist? It doesn’t matter what it is, but if we want things done on time, we’ve got to address that.
We can move now to named resources. This is the next step. If everybody who has not already embarked on your resource management journey. Just as that first blue box you are so much further ahead, life is so much better, and be happy with that. Don’t get too far above that. Take this incrementally. Make sure you work. Then we come to the next step. I call it who knows what, where? Now you’re dealing with real people. This gets more complex. It gets more involved. Be sure you’re equipped to go to that step. And by the time we get to the third step, we’re really talking about the stuff I think is important. We’re talking new learning skills, creativity, encouraging personal mastery. And we’re also talking about how do we improve velocity. How do we really monitor project performance? There’s a lot here that is complex and advanced. It’s very simple when you’ve done the other parts.
So, again, since we’ve gone past time, send in questions through Chat. Please, please if you have any questions and I’d like to invite anyone who would like to make comments or work on the model. What my hope is is that this is a community project. No one person or two people or three people can build a model that we all can live with and that’s really my goal. Years ago I formed one of the first project management virtual communities called Newgrange back in 1997 and it ran for 14 years. I’ve seen what communities can do. I believe in communities and I would like to invite everyone here to join me in working out what works for all of us.And with that, thank you very much. Contact me on LinkedIn. Donna.Fitzgerald@Nimblepm.com