Posted by: kerrywills | November 8, 2013

Focus on the People and not the Process

I think the most important asset that a company has is its people. Therefore, talent has to be a critical part of a company’s strategy. I have always worked for large Fortune 100 companies and with larger companies comes a broader spectrum of talent. What I find interesting is that, as problems arise, companies try to solve many of them with process changes and additions. The result is massive frameworks and process diagrams that resemble the library of congress.

"The process says to have talented people"

“The process says to have talented people”

Frameworks are good for ‘guardrails’ to explain critical steps, but I have found that really good IT professionals can be successful regardless of the framework. This leads me to believe that frameworks are generally used as ‘a crutch’ for low performing or new employees as not really as a means of improving project delivery. I am sure others will disagree so please post comments and thoughts back. My point is that, if there are performance and delivery issues, companies should look to improve the people first and then see if there are process solutions after. But most companies just add process on top of more process and I believe that is it MUCH BETTER to have a high performing employee with a poorly defined process than a low performing employee with a great process.

I believe that we need to focus on the people – look to recruit for the raw skills (consultative skills, influencing, etc), build the talent through leadership programs and look to ‘upgrade’ lower performing people. Then after doing that, if there are process items to augment this strategy they should be considered. If you agree with me, please make sure to document this in your framework….


  1. Hi, great thoughts, and I agree without hesitation that competence is the key to successful project management. I’m not so sure about the process being just a crutch for low performing or new PMs. You seem to have missed the point that no matter how good the PM, they will be dependent upon others to succeed (sponsor, stakeholders, resources) and often those other parties are also involved in other projects. Without a shared process/framework/methodology there will be no consistency in approach and language, thus communication issues will blight the project(s).

  2. I wouldnt say that I missed the point about depending on others (see multiple prior blogs where I say that projects are ALL ABOUT the people and others). My point is that while there should be some basic fundamental processes, a great PM will be successful in any company and environment and therefore the person is the differentiator, not the process.

  3. Processes and frameworks provide a common vocabulary, stipulate roles and responsibilities, and otherwise draw boundaries so that large, complex organizations can collaborate and govern efficiently. Of course, you don’t have to apply all of the rules to every project, any more than you need traffic lights at the intersection of two footpaths, so the truly useful processes and frameworks have exceptions, guidelines, and other tools for tailoring. People who are good at their jobs, like good athletes and good poker players, seek to understand the rules so they can use them to their advantage. What would you think of a chess player who objected to “en passant,” because it limited his creativity?

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