A cautionary tale of credentials vs professionalism

My wife and I have had our house on the market for 6 months with very little traffic into the house and no offers.

With the real estate market and economy the way it is today, its very easy to blame ‘the market’ for the length of time on market.  Its very easy to shrug it off and say “it will just take time to sell.”

While its easy to blame ‘the market’…I do think part of the problem is the local market. We live in a neighborhood that is still building out.  We live in a town that has very high taxes compared to our neighbors (although the town is considered a very good place to live in the Dallas Metroplex).  We have a nice house on a corner lot with a good layout and quite a bit of room (over 3000 square feet of space).  We feel the price is right when compared to the other houses in the neighborhood, including the new houses being built.

But…

Is the price right for this market? Is the price right for us to actually be able to attract a buyer to our town and our neighborhood?  Do we have the features in our house to be able to demand that price?  We feel the answer is “yes” to all those questions…but…we still haven’t sold our house.  Or even had an offer.

So…what’s the problem?

Just because we think our home price is reasonable, doesn’t mean it is. Just because we want $X for our home, doesn’t mean its worth it….and a Realtor should tell us that.

That’s where a professional comes in.  Not just a realtor…but a professional.  A professional will tell us if we are wrong. A realtor can list a home…but a professional will sell a home.  There’s a difference between being a licensed Realtor and being a professional Realtor. In a market like we are in today, you can tell the professionals from the license holders.

Our listing expires at the end of December. We’ve decided that we are not going to renew the contract with our current realtor.  Why? Because I don’t see the value in what she’s provided to us.  This Realtor hasn’t gone out of their way to market our home. Anything that we’ve done (open houses, listing on the web, etc) has been done at our insistence and/or by us).

We’ll be listing with another realtor in January.  Will it help? Who knows. The market isn’t that great (see…there i go blaming the market again).

Before listing this time, I’m going to do my homework. I’m going to find a realtor that is a professional. I’m going to find someone that will tell me the truth rather than what i want to hear.  I’m going to find someone that will work their tail off to get people into the house and sell it.  They find a way to build a level of trust with their client.

There’s a huge difference in having a credential and being a professional. A realtor isn’t necessarily a professional because of the credential.  A project manager isn’t a professional just because they gained some experience and passed a test.   Sure…you can call yourself a realtor, project manager, doctor or airline pilot if you ‘pass the test’ but you won’t be successful unless you do the hard work that it takes to be a professional.

Something to think about.  Are you a professional or just a credential?

The Dangers of Hidden Talent – New CIO Series

TalentThe New CIO is a weekly article about the challenges facing today’s CIO as well as what can be done to prepare for future challenges.

Do you know the full capabilities of your team?

Sure…you know what their resume’s said.  You think you know their backgrounds and their experience…but do you really know your team?

Do you have a developer who, in their free time, is extremely active in the blogosphere and the social media world?  Do you have a project manager who really wants to make a lateral move into service management?

Do you really know your team?  If you don’t, you may be leaving a lot of talent, skills and passion on the table.

Dangers of Hidden Talent

Leaving talent untapped is unforgivable to me and should be unacceptable to you. We live in a world where we’re expected to do more with less and rely more heavily on people’s knowledge & skills to make our businesses work.

Knowing this is the case, why do we hire a person, train them (do you train your people?) and then forget about them?  Why do we ignore the idea of talent management and human capital? Read more of my thoughts on those topics here and here and if you’re looking for a great book on Talent & Competitive Advantage, check out Talent : Making People Your Competitive Advantage (amazon affiliate link) and/or Talent on Demand: Managing Talent in an Age of Uncertainty (amazon affiliate link).  Both of those books are excellent.

Do you have regular meetings with your team?  Do you talk about their careers?  Do you know that your star programmer is a widely read blogger?  Can you use the talent and passion of that programmer to more than just develop the next application?

Hidden talent doesn’t just sit within your front-line teams.  Did you know that your Director of Technical Support is working on her Masters of Fine Art in Creative Writing?  Are there things she can do to provide more value to the organization than just leading the service desk?

Hidden talent is hidden profit, hidden revenue and hidden advantage.  Hidden talent can also be the death of your team if it isn’t uncovered.

Uncovering Hidden Talent

Do you know what drives each of your team members? What really gets them excited in the morning?  I’d bet there are a few people on your team that aren’t that happy in their current role and who are looking for something else to do.  Rather than lose them to another company, why not help them find something more interesting within your team and/or organization?

What can you do to help them become happier and more engaged? Could you get your programmer / blogger to work on more projects where he can use his writing skills?  What could your Tech Support Director provide to the organization now that you know she’s extremely interested in creative writing?

Of course you can’t make everyone 100% happy all the time.  People still have jobs to do…but if you take some time to talk with your team about the career ambitions and do what you can to help them reach their goals, you’ll be amazed at the response you’ll receive from them.

What can you do to uncover hidden talent?  Simple…talk to your team.  I mean really talk.  Try to understand their aspirations and what drives them.  Look for their hidden passions & skills.  Work with your team to uncover the hidden talents and you’ll see new vigor from your team.

Finding the Talent – A New CIO skill

So…time to add one more skillset to The New CIO’s job requirements…that of Talent Miner.  Of course, this role can be fulfilled by any member of the IT staff (and anyone else in the organization), but as the top dog in IT you’ve got to lead people in this area.

The New CIO needs to get things done with the resources given to them…but those resources might be able to provide  more value than originally thought…if you look for the hidden talent. “Doing more with less” is the mantra these days…find those folks on your team who are passionate about something and find ways to let them bring that passion to their job.

Uncover the hidden talent within your team/organization and watch the growth that occurs.  Fail to uncover that talent and you’ll fail to reach the potential of your people and your team.

Join me next week for another article in The New CIO series.

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Project Success and Failure and The New CIO

The New CIO is a weekly article about the challenges facing today’s CIO as well as what can be done to prepare for future challenges.

The CIO's role in Project Success and/or FailureEarlier this week, I listened to an interesting webinar hosted by Michael Krigsman and led by Chris Curran.  The topic of the webinar was the CIO’s role in success or failure of IT projects. Great webinar with some excellent folks. Both Michael and Chris provided after-action blog posts about webinar…you can jump over and read them at:

Chris has a few great points on his post (did you read it? Please do).  Basically, he asks whether the CIO’s role is one of Influence or Control.

Great question…because it gets to the heart of the issues we see today in organizations & how The New CIO can influence the organizations to succeed (or fail) in the projects that are undertaken.

Command & Control – The Old Model

IT groups (and organizations) have historically been run in the command and control mentality with the CIO being the one that commanded IT and taking orders from the CFO, COO or CEO.

This worked well in the old days of legacy systems,  centralized application & centralized IT.  Those days are leaving quickly with users quickly adopting web applications to get their jobs done quicker.

The New CIO – Influence First

As Chris suggests,  the CIO’s role in the future will be that of influencer in large organizations and influencer and controller in medium and small organizations.

I believe The New CIO will have to be an influencer first and foremost. The New CIO will need to influence both upward (to the CEO), sideways (CFO, COO,CMO, etc) and downward to their teams.  She’ll have to find ways to build consensus on the “right strategy” while keeping an eye on how to implement that strategy and continuously building the best the she can.

The New CIO & Projects – Influencing Success

There are a lot of things you can do to improve project success, but the most important method to improve things are often the most overlooked. Those overlooked items can be addressed via Influence…either by influence others in the leadership team, influencing the organization’s project selection or influencing the ability to deliver.

Here’s a few examples of what The New CIO can do to influence project outcomes:

  • Influence others within the organization – This helps ensure that the projects undertaken by the organization fit the organizational strategy as well as the technology strategy for the company.
  • Build relationships with the other CxO’s & VP’s – CIO’s have been notorious for not have good networking and relationship building skills.  Work on that. The better you understand your peers, the better you can understand what their needs will be.
  • Clearly communicate what success /failure means – Does your team / organization understand what a successful project looks like?  Do you have people who think that a successful project means one with zero problems?   You need to let the organization know what success looks like.
  • Build your project management team – Project Manager’s are a dime a dozen.  Certified Project Manager’s are too.  But GREAT project managers are hard to find.  Go find one, hire them, pay them well, give them the ability to lead your project team(s) and watch out.  BTW – Project Management Certification does NOT equal good project manager.
  • Build your project delivery team – How many times has a project slipped because of manpower?  If you have the ability, dedicate some of your staff to be project delivery staff…take them away from the busy work that most IT folks find themselves buried in.
  • Improve your relationship(s) with your vendor(s) – You need your vendors. You need them to make money and you need them to be happy.  Don’t treat them like second class citizens.  Your vendors can make or break your project.
  • Improve the lives of your contractors – Do you use contractors for most of your projects?  Then you need to see above.  You need your contractors to be happy too.
  • Stay Involved – A CIO that doesn’t say involved in projects is setting themselves up for failure.  Staying involved doesn’t mean you need micromanage or be in every project meeting, you The New CIO needs to stay close to the projects to be sure to see any problems that might pop up.

There are other things (feel free to share your thoughts in the comments) but as you can see, project success / failure hinges on the soft skills…those pesky people skills.

On that topic – People Skills + Analytical Skills

While analytics and metrics (project schedules, % complete, etc) are necessary, you need to be able to talk about your projects with your team & with the organization.  Engage in discussion early and often to see what’s happening in the project(s) and what can be done to address any issues.

Don’t wait for someone to bring you a problem…talk to folks and find the problems before they come up.  Have meaningful conversations about the project(s) and even take time to debate the issues to find solutions.  Add this rhetorical skill set to your project team’s skills, and you’ll see an increase in the success rate of your projects.

The New CIO – Project Manager in disguise?

Kind of. Perhaps project manager is the wrong term but you will need to be a Project Leader.  On top of the other items on the plate of The New CIO, you’ll need to do everything in your power to ensure project success.

Help the organization pick the right projects, make sure you can implement those projects by building a great delivery team and stay involved in the projects as much as you can (do not micromange…just stay involved).

Any other suggestions for The New CIO to take help influence projects along the road to success?

Join me next week for another The New CIO article.

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So you want to be a Change Agent?

I was recently reading Dagmar Recklies’ article titled What Makes a Good Change Agent? and started thinking about some of the people that I know who are good at change…and some who completly destroy any opportunities for change.

In the article, 15 Competencies are listed that a good change agent should have.  These competencies are:

15 Key Competencies of Change Agents

  1. Sensitivity to changes in key personnel, top management perceptions and market conditions, and to the way in which these impact the goals of the project.
  2. Setting of clearly defined, realistic goals.
  3. Flexibility in responding to changes without the control of the project manager, perhaps requiring major shifts in project goals and management style.
  4. Team-building abilities, to bring together key stakeholders and establish effective working groups, and to define and delegate respective responsibilities clearly.
  5. Networking skills in establishing and maintaining appropriate contacts within and outside the organization.
  6. Tolerance of ambiguity, to be able to function comfortably, patiently and effectively in an uncertain environment.
  7. Communication skills to transmit effectively to colleagues and subordinates the need for changes in the project goals and in individual tasks and responsibilities.
  8. Interpersonal skills, across the range, including selection, listening, collecting appropriate information, identifying the concerns of others, and managing meetings.
  9. Personal enthusiasm in expressing plans and ideas.
  10. Stimulating motivation and commitment in others involved.
  11. Selling plans and ideas to others by creating a desirable and challenging vision of the future.
  12. Negotiating with key players for resources, for changes in procedures, and to resolve conflict.
  13. Political awareness in identifying potential coalitions, and in balancing conflicting goals and perceptions.
  14. Influencing skills, to gain commitment to project plans and ideas form potential skeptics and resisters.
  15. Helicopter perspectives, to stand back from the immediate project and take a broader view of priorities.

Looks like a fairly good list.

Take a look at some of the main terms found in these competencies.  You’ll see words like:

  • Sensitivity
  • Flexibility
  • Networking
  • Tolerance
  • Communication
  • Interpersonal
  • Political Awareness
  • Influencing

Great list…and one that many many people overlook when they are trying to bring change into an organization.

If you want to be a Change Agent, the first thing on your agenda should be to understand where the organization (and you) have been.

The second thing you need to do?  Listen.

Why is listening so important?  Because you can’t change what you don’t know or understand.  The only way to learn and understand is to listen to the organization and the people within it. In order to create lasting and meaningful change, you’ve got to understand why things have been done before you suggest changing things.

For lasting change, take a look at the 15 competencies above and make them your competencies. Do this and the change you want might just be a bit easier to bring about.

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Clarizen – A great Project Management tool via SaaS

I had the pleasure of watching a demo of Clarizen today.  Well…watching isn’t right…I was watching as Gil Heiman, Director of Community at Clarizen, walked me through the tool.

I really liked what I saw. Clarizen’s strength comes with the collaboration tools it provides to make it easy for project team members to work together, update their progress and share information.

I’m not going to go into detail about features and functionality…you can find that at Clarizen’s website as well as on their Community. The thing that Clarizen does best is break away from the MS Project mentality that makes people think that Gantt charts “is” project management.  Clarizen gets project managers back to the basics of tasks, people and getting things done.

The recent 2.6 release (released in December) has some new resource management capabilities that I believe makes the tool an ideal choice for many projects.  Future releases look to have some very interesting functionality (multi-currency for example) and based on their history of releases, the company will continue to add more functionality quickly.

Clarizen isn’t going to dethrone entrenched enterprise project management (EPM) tools but it is definitely a contender for organizations that don’t have an EPM system (and don’t really need one) but want a tool that allows for a more collaborative project management experience.

The pricing model and SaaS platform makes this system ideal for small and medium sized businesses and/or those groups that need a project management tool but don’t want to sell their souls to MS Project.

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David Daly: Great Websites for Project Managers

David Daly over at Outside the Triangle recently posted a listing of “Great Websites for Project Managers“…and I was surprised to a link to my blog on there!  woohoo! 🙂

Jump over and read through the list…there are some great blogs there including some of my favorites:

Raven’s Brain – Raven does a great job covering many aspects of PM.

Bruce’s Brain – Great blog from one of the leaders at LiquidPlanner.

PM Hut – A great resource for PM information.

Project Shrink – A great blog focusing on the people in projects.

David listed many more…jump over there and check them out.

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