Posted by: kerrywills | June 18, 2010

Fit for Duty


I am an optimist about people. Generally I believe that people don’t want to do a bad job at work and therefore I believe success is a matter of ‘fit’ between the person and the role. I have seen several examples of this in my career…

The first example that I have was on a project that I was managing early in my career. We were a small team made up of a Business Analyst, Architect, Business Subject Matter Expert, and the Technical Team. The Business Analyst was new to the team and his resume showed that he had a strong background in facilitating and documenting requirements. When he started working on the project it was clear that he had a hard time facilitating meetings, gathering specific requirements and documenting them in a way that the technical team would find useful. He was struggling with the work and was not happy. I was not happy because the quality was poor and we were at risk to miss the project schedule. Since we were a small team we couldn’t absorb any more productivity delays and we also couldn’t absorb the time to bring a new team member up to speed. Luckily, there was another Business Analyst on another project team that I was able to leverage to help us finish up the requirements work. At the same time we had a need for a Data Analyst to document the data requirements. I decided to give this resource the opportunity to perform this activity. To be honest, I did not have high hopes for him given the difficulties that he had with the business requirements. To my surprise, he did an outstanding job documenting the data requirements. His mind seemed to work much better around data elements than words and paragraphs.

Another example that I have was on a Program that I was running where there was a project manager who had a very deep technical background. He understood the nuances of the technologies that we were using and could relate to the architects and developers. The problem was that he was not a very good communicator and also did not interact well with the business customers. He would talk to them using technical terms instead of terms that they would understand.Similar to the first example I moved this resource into a role that was a much better fit for him. Instead of being a Project Manager I made him my technical lead accountable for the technology solution across the entire program.

The right fit of people to roles is critical

I have experienced several other examples where having a good fit is important but the theme is always the same; look for the right fit for people and they will excel at their jobs. No one wants to do a bad job at work so Project Managers, as much as possible, should try to align people’s work to their strengths and interests. That is not to say that people shouldn’t be in stretch roles or work in areas where they can improve their competencies.  On projects where timelines are tight and maximizing productivity is important, putting people in the right fit is in the best is in the best interest for the person (morale, satisfaction, etc.) and for the project (productivity, better quality, etc.)

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