Consultancy & Training, Entrepreneurship, Graduates, Stability, Teams

Hiring the next generation: Why they are easier to recruit than generation X and Y


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“This is not a shy bunch,” he says. “They’re much more confident and assertive about their goals, and a lot more knowledgeable about employers, than Millennials were at the same age.” Dan Black, Former Head of Recruiting at Ernst &Young http://fortune.com/2016/08/14/generation-z-employers/

My business partner and I have done a mammoth 3hr recruiting stint today. I did a previous one at another prestigious business school for an earlier internship we were offering and the results were very much the same.

We had a choice.

When recruiting Gen X and Y 10 years ago, I can safely say we had a choice of 2. But never 3 or 4! This situation is crazy. What it means is that the competition is now higher than ever before and the bar is higher still.

Our applicants today were straight A students with extra curricular activities.

Let’s just compare this to my CV at age 19 shall we?..(I am paraphrasing somewhat but you get the picture..)

19, Wants a first but will probably get a 2:1 by cramming, Philosophy and Theology graduate who doesn’t know how to use Word or PowerPoint and doesn’t use email even though it’s 1999. More interested in boys, beer and playing the guitar/ Irish fiddle (badly).

Why a number of ad agencies in London interviewed me I will never know but unsurprisingly, I didn’t get much further. When I waltzed into their offices aged 30 to show them how to build better software products, I felt a lot better. But it took me over 10 years to learn how to sell myself and my company.

Today’s interns are a different kettle of fish.

They are worldly wise already. They may even have already made the leap to live in a different country at the tender age of 19/20 even if they are stuck at home for the short-term saving money. They often speak more than one language and it isn’t just holiday French or German. They present a pristine image.

I am in awe of their ambition, intellect, confidence and bravery.

But that’s not even the weirdest thing. I have been here before. After 11 years of recruiting I have now seen my fair share of grads. The Gen Y’s have somewhat of a bad rep but I believe they have a shorter route to the work life balance that us Gen Xers who didn’t really manage that one at all.

What’s more, they will do all of this while still achieving their life goals aka Tim Ferris https://www.amazon.co.uk/4-Hour-Work-Week-Escape-Anywhere/dp/0091929113. While they are industriously going about their business we reprimand them for their 10 O’Clock starts. But by 11am they have already taken over the world while we Gen X’ers have just about managed a coffee and a donut.

But they still weren’t as slick as Gen Z.

Gen Z are prepared.

Gen Z are listening to podcasts about productivity while working out at the gym.

Be afraid.

Gen Z is coming and your latest offspring will probably be working for them.

Hell, you will probably be working for them..

Steph Chamberlain, CEO Magic Milestones Limited.

Magic Milestones has relationships with the following university graduate schemes- check them out!

http://www.aston.ac.uk/alumni/volunteering/internship/

https://warwick.ac.uk/services/careers/workexperience/wsi/

agile, Investment Management, Leadership, Lean PMO, Product Management, Project Management, Project Office, Scrum, Stakeholder Management, Teams

SAFE: The good, the bad and the ugly


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Why Scaled Agile Framework? SAFe® 4.5*

There are lots of things that recommend SAFe to any organisation looking to Scale agile.

  1. It has some pretty comprehensive open source documentation that helps you work out how to implement it https://www.theknowledgeacademy.com/courses/agile-training/certified-scaled-agile-framework-leading-safe-4-5-training-and-exam/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIzvSO_47n2QIV5r3tCh0dGQLLEAAYASAAEgLHo_D_BwE
  2. For organisations where a framework needs to look ‘meaty’ in order to have any weight.  SAFe sure has the look of a meaty method.  There are lots of new words to learn, lots of additional organisational structural changes to be made and it looks and smells like a worthwhile endeavour just because of the sheer time investment needed to understand it.
  3. The Program Increment Planning session is a pretty good tool for any scaled agile team.  It takes a lot of people and it aligns them behind one plan.
  4. When an organisation is used to governance, and quite heavy governance at that, there are items such as the Portfolio layer of SAFe 4.5 that give these organisations some comfort in how to mesh the agile ways of working with the current governance of the organisation.  It doesn’t look too big a jump.  As such, it isn’t a bad middle ground if something like LeSS seems too big a jump.
  5. In terms of the layers needed to scale up SCRUM https://www.scrumalliance.org/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIhoKYs5Dn2QIVTb7tCh3zkQU2EAAYASAAEgIIrPD_BwE  SAFe does truly look at each layer according to the usual project management requirements.  You have the team, project, programme and portfolio layer easily mappable (especially in SAFe 4.5).

So what’s NOT to like…

  1. The documentation while extensive is cleverly written so that only people who can really decipher it are those that have attended the course or who have direct experience of it.  If you are looking to implement SAFe with just this information at your fingertip, beware!  It won’t get you there like the Scrum Guide will.
  2. Just because a method looks meaty doesn’t mean it’s going to work.  Given how hard straight SCRUM is to get people to get behind, a whole new framework is even harder.  It is made harder by the SAFe folk insisting on using Scrum terms such as “Epic” in entirely new ways.
  3. Although the Program Increment Planning session is good.  It isn’t just one ceremony.  Early PIPs need preparation and the guides don’t tell you this.  The first PIP isn’t as easy as the PIP agenda suggests it might be.  As such a few ‘dry runs’ might be required before you attempt the big one!
  4. Although SAFe is fairly comprehensive, the biggest area in which it lets the practitioner down is in the proposed structure of the team.  The roles in SAFe just don’t make a lot of sense.  They are a mesh of an old world meeting a new and the beauty and simplicity of Scrum is lost in the new jargon.  This is further confounded by the assertion that roles such as the Solution Architect can be enacted by more than one individual.  The benefit of Scrum is the clarity of roles and this is lost in the SAFe framework IMHO.
  5. Governance in SAFe is probably the best part area.  It gives the best account of Portfolio level than any other scaled agile method in my opinion.  However, there are still some significant gaps in the ‘how’ of all this.  No doubt these will be ironed out in SAFe version 5.  At Magic Milestones we already have a Lean PMO method that fits nicely into this space and could support SAFe if required but could also support many of the other frameworks too.

Ultimately, organisations should be shuffling off the mortal coil of projects in favour of product structures and processes.  So as an interim between two states SAFe can be a good middle ground.  However, ultimately if you want to get to the punch-line quicker you will choose another method to get there.

*When referring to “SAFe” in this article it is always the trademarked version available to read about here.  https://www.theknowledgeacademy.com/courses/agile-training/certified-scaled-agile-framework-leading-safe-4-5-training-and-exam/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIzvSO_47n2QIV5r3tCh0dGQLLEAAYASAAEgLHo_D_BwE

Magic Milestones is an independent advisor on Scaled Agile methods and is not allied to one method over any another.  We train in all methods in order to choose the best options for our clients.

agile, Consultancy & Training, Lean PMO, Product Management, Scrum, Strategy

Wow! A PMO that are exactly what the world needs right now..


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So we can’t call them out because we are under NDA but wow.

I am currently working with the best PMO I have ever come across.

Forget Magic Milestones.  They don’t need us.  Why?  Because the people that are in the PMO aren’t even “can do” people.  They are “done before you even thought it” people.  So they can learn a little from Lean techniques and methods, yes sure.  But they have something that makes our job way easier and something which catapults a team to huge success.

Enthusiasm

Commitment

Delivery mentality.

I can honestly say that in 10 years I have not found a PMO more awesome than this one.  I guess it helps when the partners we are working with are also pretty awesome too but it is the PMO in particular that has made me wowed out this week.

Here’s to a wild time guys.  It’s going to be a challenge but a blast!

 

Consultancy & Training, Gender issues, Philosophy, Stability, Stakeholder Management

If change managers helped with.. babies


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We have change managers in business all the time. But in life we are somewhat lacking. If we had a change manager when a baby came into our lives – what would that look like?

I met a colleague this week. He won’t mind me saying this. He has looked better.

I took a small amount of pleasure in thinking about the last time we met. I had big bags under my eyes that time. Now those indicators of night time nonsense seem to have leapt across the room – right into his.

He is well versed in this by now though. I think it’s his 4th. He knows that this moment in time is fleeting. Amazingly, he seems to be enjoying the fact that he and his wife now have to play “whose bed is it anyway?” as his kids run amok at 4am.

So I have randomly googled a change management guru this evening to help us all in this tricky dilemma. In doing so, I have found 5 key themes that good change management call for. I then ask, “why, when we spend millions of pounds/ dollars in our work lives on investing in getting people to swallow the pill, do we not learn how to take the pill ourselves, during one of the most disruptive times of our lives?”

Let’s take each point in turn shall we? I take my change management steer from https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newPPM_87.htm

  1. Sponsorship: Ensuring there is active sponsorship for the change at a senior executive level within the organisation, and engaging this sponsorship to achieve the desired results.

Okay.. hopefully you were both in on this. If one of you wasn’t in on it all I can say is oops and good luck!

2. Buy-in: Gaining buy-in for the changes from those involved and affected, directly or indirectly.

This is a wide one. All stakeholders. Well, that’s a long list. You know why? Because once you have a baby almost the whole world will be involved. I remember taking my first born out for a stroll in August (in the UK) and being told by a well-meaning middle aged lady to “be sure to put on a hat now”. Hmmm it was 70 degrees but even strangers have opinions on these things. Again, let’s hope both parties were involved in the decision. “Mistakes” might be hard to handle at this point as I’m sure each person blames the other for the “changes affecting them directly or indirectly”. Oh dear. Take cover. Mother-in-law/ Mothers are also very important at this point. Ignore them at your peril.

3. Involvement: Involving the right people in the design and implementation of changes, to make sure the right changes are made.

From decorating the nursery to what to feed ’em. Again, your stakeholder list will be very, very long. Involving everyone in these decisions is exhausting but better than the alternative. If you involve NO-ONE? They will laugh at your smugly as you struggle to attach the buggy on Sainsbury’s car park. Ask everyone for their opinion. Then ignore them all.

4. Impact: Assessing and addressing how the changes will affect people.

Oh dear. I really messed up here on my communications plan. My main aim was to set expectations early. My 4 year old found out about the impending cuckoo at about 6 month’s from blast off. BIG MISTAKE. Never tell people about a change too early. Often they don’t know enough and it bugs them. She bugged me for all that time because she just wanted to know what sharing me was like but I couldn’t really tell her. As a result she turned into the female version of The Omen until finally she realised what she was dealing with.

5. Communication: Telling everyone who’s affected about the changes.

Here is the question of WHEN to tell people. I am of the opinion that the 3 month rule is a stupid one. Mainly because anyone that knows me well, also knows I’m pregnant the first time I say “I’m not drinking tonight.” That aside, the 3 month rule leads any long suffering puker to have to suffer in silence. For the first 3 months what they really want to do is get as much sympathy as possible as they deal with (what feels like) the worst hangover they ever had in their life. One that no carbohydrates in the world can make better. Any men still listening to this.. you are having to deal with the worst individual you ever lived with and nothing you can do can ever be good enough unless you too are puking at the same rate. Don’t get drunk to try to achieve this. At least don’t be around when you do this. It doesn’t help.

6. Readiness: Getting people ready to adapt to the changes, by ensuring they have the right information, training and help.

So there are a number of people to get ready for this change that you are about to embark upon. Sorry.. let me rephrase.. A change that will happen to you. But the two people who are never made ready are the parents. Dads are not put into an SAS style, sleep deprivation setting that prepares them for just 4hrs sleep a night. They aren’t taught how to follow this up with a 4hr conference call across 4 time zones with people who think the words “plucking the low hanging fruit” are acceptable phrases in polite society.

And mum..

The new mum is not prepared for the biggest change of her working life. She was pregnant yesterday but at least she was still a teacher/lawyer/CEO/banker/entrepreneur/social work/ nurse/ doctor/ business analyst/ scientist/ blogger.

Now she isn’t pregnant anymore. But she isn’t the above anymore either. Instead she is a cleaner, cook, nursery teacher, swimming instructor, bottom wiper, nose wiper, poo sniffer, expert stain remover and her partner in crime is the worse deputy that ever lived. He hasn’t been on any bloody courses either!

But they are also both overwhelmed, amazed, blown away and happy beyond words. Love will sweep them up and take them on a roller coaster ride of epic proportions. No matter what. They will be

But if anyone had painted this particular picture for them – they wouldn’t be able to truly enjoy it. A paradise promised by a brochure is not half as sweet as the one we just happen upon.

Now, my major stakeholder is calling me. Best get off to see what she wants..

agile, Brexit, CIO, Investment Management, Leadership, Lean, Lean PMO, Politics, Stability, Strategy

A Nifty Article Fifty Breakdown


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If you are a UK CIO you have a lot to think about if June 8th takes article 50 to its natural conclusion…

Here is a nifty breakdown from CIO.com..

“The major milestones for CIOs to keep an eye on include the following:

  • U.K. parliamentary review of Great Repeal Bill (Late 2017): This will provide the first opportunity for an initial assessment of legal impacts on managed service agreements and other IT contract documents.
  • Royal assent of Great Repeal Bill (Mid 2018): At this point, any gaps in the legislation should be addressed, enabling IT organizations to confirm legal impacts and initiate contractual change activities.
  • Brexit negotiations wrap up (Fall 2018): This will create clarity the regulatory, operational, audit, and reporting impacts on IT services.
  • U.K. Houses of Parliament, European Council, EU Parliament, and remaining 27-member Parliament vote on deal (Early 2019): This will confirm IT impacts and enable CIOs to begin related IT change programs
  • Transition period begins (March 2019): CIOs can structure timelines for completion of IT projects to address necessary digital transition and transformation requirements.”

http://www.cio.com/article/3189040/it-industry/how-brexit-will-impact-global-cios-and-it-services.html

However, with all these (less face it) rather boring boxes to tick and cross there will be little resource to deal with the ever increasing pace of change within the wider economy.  As such, the threat of Brexit is not just one of legal and commercial wrangling (Although that will certainly feature heavily).  The real issue is going to be that already stretched IT departments are going to be hit with “Regulation, Regulation, Regulation” when they also have to deal with “Innovation, Innovation, Innovation”.

If Brexit goes ahead the latter is likely to be the biggest casualty.

So how can the CIO keep pace with this?

During this period 3 things will be key to the post-article 50 CIO:

  1. A razor sharp focus on investment in the biggest IT return.  Yes Brexit projects will HAVE to happen but others will need to be picked for their direct impact on organisational outcomes.  This might be revenue or reputation, either way it will be high on the agenda.
  2. Use of Agile to ensure that those BAU projects are kept on track.  Agile methods and techniques such as KANBAN will be needed more than ever to keep visibility high.
  3. IT departments will need to become product centric and better at marketing than the marketing department!  No-one will use your internal product let alone your external one if your team can’t break through the noise of Brexit.

Magic Milestones has a number of services specifically designed to give you maximum bang for buck in times like these.  Read more here.. https://magicmilestones.com/services/

Entrepreneurship, Gender issues, Leadership, Philosophy, Product Management

Why there are only 2 women listed in HBR’s top 100 CEOs this month


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Someone once told me that politics and business don’t mix.

I agree. Hence, I am going to be as objective as possible in this post.

I read the November 2016 edition of HBR with interest and have to admit that it took about 10 minutes for me to clock that the faces on pages 46 and 47 in “The best performing CEO’s” list were overwhelmingly, predominantly male.

Debra Calfaro tops number 43 and Marillyn Hewson number 51. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of other groups missing too. Alaypal Banga is at number 64. A lone ranger by the looks of it.

So the world’s top companies are mainly run by White Men over the age of 45. I guess there are no surprises there. But the question I am really interested in, is why.. when women make up around 50% of the world’s potential workforce are they only making up 2% of the top CEO list?

One potential answer might be that there just aren’t as many women at work.

But that just isn’t true!

If we look at the worldwide female workforce there has been a decline since 2005. But it was already pretty high. Women’s worldwide participation went from 52% in 2005 to 50.2% in 2012.http://bit.ly/2i1eptj

So why has it declined so dramatically?

The US has an interesting history on this..

“Women’s labor force participation was driving the overall upward trend in labor force participation through 2000, so the plateau and then decline in women’s participation in the ensuring years is an important factor for explaining the national trend. ..In 1990, the United States had the sixth-highest female labor force participation rate amongst 22 high-income OECD countries. By 2010, its rank had fallen to 17th. Why have other high-income countries continued their climb while the United States has stalled? Research by economists Francine Blau and Lawrence Kahn suggests that the absence of family-friendly policies such as paid parental leave in the United States is responsible for nearly a third of the U.S. decline relative to other OECD economies. As other developed countries have enacted and expanded family-friendly policies, the United States remains the lone developed nation with no paid parental leave.” http://bit.ly/2gDjCKi

43% of CEO’s on the list are from the United States. So, there are 43 slots available to women there. But guess what? Women take up 2 of them.

The only two female slots for top HBR CEOs are occupied by women from the USA.

The USA. Where they also suffer a larger than average struggle to juggle family and career.

So the plot thickens.

I am no statistician and the sample is small, so I will not try to deduce anything from these numbers. All I can give is my thoughts on the matter.

Maybe we can find the answer by looking at the lives of these two women.. http://nyti.ms/2gNlAUY. Debra Calfaro was not born with a silver spoon in her mouth. Her father was an entrepreneur out of necessity. She has taken a company on the edge of bankruptcy from $217 million in equity and $1.1 billion in debt in 2000 to $5.9 billion in equity and $3.5 billion in debt today. No mean feat.

I bet you are thinking she has no kids.

She has two.

Marillyn Hewson has much in common with Debra Calfaro. http://bit.ly/2hTQAri

Although born to a middle class family, her father died when she was young, “She was born in the middle-class family as the eldest of three daughters and two sons. Her father’s death at her early age burdened the little girl with the responsibility to take care of her younger sisters and assist her single mother in every possible way.”

She has two children.

These women haven’t sacrificed their roles as mothers to get where they are. However, another thing they have in common, is gumption. Both women have been used to fighting adversity from an early age and they aren’t scared of hard work either.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying the men on the list didn’t work hard. They had competition too. I’m sure when they had kids they had sleepless nights and a tough time.

But the numbers are intriguing don’t you think?

So what IS the reason for this statistical anomaly? Why did the only women that made it into the top 100, make it, despite the unsupportive family policies of their environment?

There are no obvious answers but it could be one of the following:

  1. Although the USA has unsupportive public family policy, it also harbours a culture of inclusion and ambition. Hence, there is always a place for one or two heroes (or heroines) to make it. Note that Alaypal Banga (no. 64) is based in the US too although he was born in India.
  2. The unsupportive policies of the US mean that women cannot afford to throw themselves whole-heartedly into stay at home motherhood as they do in Europe (having 1yr off on maternity leave for example). They also don’t get a chance to get a taste for it. Perversely, I would argue that the unsupportive family policies of the USA actually put women on a par with men rather than work against them simply because they have less choices than their counterparts in Europe. In for a nickel in for a dollar.

These are just theories I have. I am happy to hear arguments against them.

Interestingly, another HBR article has found that women CEO’s tend to be insiders more often than their male counterparts. (i.e. Working their way up rather than across)..

“The consistent theme in the data is that steady focus wins the day. The median long stint for these women CEOs is 23 years spent at a single company in one stretch before becoming the CEO. To understand whether this was the norm, we pulled a random sample of their male Fortune 500 CEO counterparts. For the men in the sample, the median long stint is 15 years. This means that for women, the long climb is over 50% longer than for their male peers. Moreover, 71% of the female CEOs were promoted as long-term insiders versus only 48% of the male CEOs. This doesn’t leave a lot of time for hopscotch early in women’s careers.” http://bit.ly/1smI4dD

This still leaves us with the question at the start of this article..

“Why are there only 2 women listed in HBR’s top 100 CEOs this month?”

A summary of the facts so far..

  1. Only 2% of the top CEO’s as chosen by the Harvard Business Review are female.
  2. Neither made the top 40.
  3. The ones that did make it into the top 60 both had children. Perhaps disproving the motherhood theories?
  4. Both women live, work and were born in the United States. Perhaps suggesting a unique environment in the USA.
  5. Both women faced early life challenges which one could argue single them out as ‘survivors’ in tough circumstances.
  6. There are no women represented from any other country despite the highly supportive family policies of places such as Europe.
  7. Female CEOs have to stay at a company 50% longer than their male counterparts to end up as CEO.

Potential reasons for the 2% outcome..

  1. HBR are sexist in their selection? (note they have been specific about the criteria so I doubt this)
  2. Are women just simply bad at being CEOs?
  3. Is the CEO role better suited to the male psyche?
  4. Are women too busy having children to work up to the level of CEO?
  5. Do women neglect to apply for the role of CEO for some reason?
  6. Is the CEO role too tough for women?
  7. Are women treated unfairly when applying for the CEO position?
  8. Do women generally shun the CEO role due to personal preference?
  9. Is the CEO role incompatible with family commitments?
  10. Do pro-family policies contribute to a lower participation of females at top levels of business?
  11. A bit of everything above?

Answers on a post card please..

About the author

Steph is CEO and Founder of www.magicmilestones.com. She is interested in the economics of female participation in the workplace. Steph has had a positive experience throughout her career but believes that women face unique challenges in their careers. This is not necessarily a problem to be solved but a problem to be understood.

Product Management, Teams

A Good De-Clutter


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This week I set myself the task of sorting out some areas of the office that aren’t used as often as others. We can try to avoid it as much as we like but whether personal or professional, somewhere in the building there is always that ‘Monica cupboard’. It’s what I discovered whilst doing it that gave me food for thought. I’m not talking about dead bodies or lost employees; but more the information that is kept ‘just in case we ever need it’. I found the notebooks of previous colleagues, project plans and strategy roadmaps from the last 9 years of  Magic Milestones. It made me feel quite nostalgic.

I spent more time than planned working my way through the paperwork identifying what should be kept and what can be recycled and I couldn’t help but think about all those who have moved on and smile fondly at the challenges (successes and failures) that have lead us to become the business we are today. Those lessons have been what have helped to shape us and I think we ought to be proud of the companies history. I know I am lucky to have been part of the Magic Milestones story for almost 3 years now. Its a great people focused company that makes me feel appreciated and also offers me (and all its employees) great flexibility ensuring an excellent work life balance. The last three years have raced by, time really does fly when you’re having fun!

The most positive result in this exercise, apart from a lovely clean work space, is reflecting on how we have grown and progressed over the years with help from all of those good and bad experiences, and of course our current and past employees. It made me realise how proud I am to be member of the Magic Milestones team. I’m already looking forward to having another de-clutter and reminiscing over our ‘yet to be written’ story in another few years.

By Rachel Wheeler

Consultancy & Training, Lean PMO, Product Management

Having the Courage to Take Risks


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A refreshing change

I had a refreshing meeting with a client last week, when my client talked about how she wanted to encourage the leadership team in her organisation to start taking more risks.   Not in the dangerous sense such as taking up cycling in central London, or investing their departmental budgets with the local bookies. She was discussing how to foster a more innovative culture within the organisation. This particular organisation isn’t funded on a purely commercial model and as such, is under a great deal of pressure, both regulatory and morally, to justify how it invests its money.  As you can imagine, this doesn’t necessarily lend itself to creating an innovative, risk taking culture. 

When looking to become more innovative as an organisation, its vital to understand that innovation necessitates some risk taking. You can’t get away from this, as the very nature of doing something new means its hard to predict how its going to turn out.  Its a big deal to ask your organisation to invest a significant budget into commissioning a new product or service when you don’t have hard and fast facts about how its going to be received by the intended customer base. However, it’s a lot less scary and indeed sensible, to take a small educated risk, rather than a giant leap in the dark.  Here is my advice on how to take the right kind of risks.

Use a technique that repurposes the language of risk into something more positive and turns a risk into a hypothesis that can be tested and learned from. Take for example Lean Start Up http://theleanstartup.com/principles and Google Sprint http://www.gv.com/sprint/. Rather than invest significant budget into creating that all singing and all dancing product, these techniques encourage you to work out what the smallest thing is that you can deliver to provide customer insight and feedback.  While a few brave leaders might be willing to gamble a 6 month investment in a vision for a product that is based largely on matter of opinion; many more will be much more comfortable to take a risk with a week’s worth of budget that will provide valuable customer insight and data that can be used to inform strategy and therefore, budgets going forwards. In turn, the organisation becomes more comfortable with taking risks within the structure of selecting a hypothesis to test, collecting the data and then using fact based decision making to deliver a strategy.

How does your typical Project Management Office view risk?

In the context of traditional Project Management Offices, the language of risk normally comes with a lot of negative connotations, those which are typically addressed by ensuring that RAID (Risk, Actions, Issues and Decision) Logs are up to date.  Project Management Offices tend to be very concerned with documenting how risks will be mitigated and managed, monitoring when risks need to be escalated to senior management and creating governance systems of gates and approvals that manage those risks. While its very sensible to protect your delivery from the risks that could knock it off course, it would also be good to use some of that PMO effort and energy to support the good kind of risks.

Project Management Offices usually operate within a governance structure that requires detailed business cases, which are often based on shaky or assumptive data and information.  Typically, these business cases require large chunks of a budget to be allocated for the year ahead.  As a result, project sponsors and stakeholders, will sometimes manipulate the data, or simply be overly optimistic in their projections, in order to get their business case signed off and their project initiated. In more risk averse cultures, the project won’t get put forward at all and never sees the light of day, leaving the business exposed to a risk that could ultimately be avoided.

Using the PMO to drive risks and innovation

From my experience the solution is to facilitate a sensible risk taking culture, by putting in place a governance structure that supports the concept of testing hypothesis; such as a Lean Project Management Office (Lean PMO).  In this instance, the Lean Project Management Office should support management decision making by implementing a business case model to support governance, that can demonstrate the delivery of value.  The decision making “gates” in this process will be used to demonstrate that a product based hypothesis has been tested, together with the results and a summary.  The decision on whether or not continued investment should go ahead will be dependent upon whether or not the results of the test or experiment, show that progress is aligned to the organisational strategy.

The Lean PMO

At the beginning it’s difficult for organisations to take risks.  It’s a challenge, not least in changing ingrained behaviours; though taking risks is critical to any businesses growth. Of course risk comes with dangers, but executed and planned properly, using the right methods and empowering your team with the right training, can bring successes. The traditional PMO needs to evolve into a Lean PMO https://magicmilestones.com/lean-pmo/

Its a lot easier for us all to take risks if some one is there to provide some structure and boundaries to stop us from making really big mistakes. Is your organisation the kind that encourages you to take risks or do they deter you from it?

By Ann McPherson

Leadership, Product Management, Teams

Kerching! Money as a Motivator


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Now I’m sure that by now you are all sat on the edge of your seats waiting to see how motivation levels are going at Magic Milestones, so here goes the last instalment of my motivational blog trilogy. 

I’ve been working with the Senior Management Team to help bolster everyone’s self-confidence throughout the company and get the whole team really believing in their ability. Everyone seems to be really motivated and giving things their all. The Sales Team particularly are already starting to see the fruits of their labour and the buzz they are generating in the office is great to see. As we have seen such great motivation levels within the Sales Team, we have now thrown out our motivational experiment to all teams across the company. So it is with great optimism that I turn to look at the third topic on motivation – money and rewards.

Rewarding staff for their hard work and success is something every employer knows is important. Making staff feel valued and appreciated goes a long way to helping create a motivated team as well as having an impact on staff retention.

So once again putting my MBA head on, what do the theorists have to say on this matter? J. Stacy Adams, a workplace and behavioural psychologist, developed his Equity Theory in 1965. It focuses on the need for a fair balance between what employees put in and what they get out and suggests that when the feeling of fairness is not achieved, employees become dissatisfied and create lower levels of motivation (Adams 1965). The idea of there actually being ‘demoralisation costs’ for companies when this fairness failed to be achieved was first put forward by Michelman in 1967.

So how is a sense of fairness achieved within a company? The most obvious answer is remuneration. If employees feel that the money received for their hard work is not a fair amount when compared to the effort expected in doing the job, then they won’t feel particularly happy or motivated in their role. If they feel they are being paid fairly then they are much more likely to put a fair amount of effort into doing the job they are paid for. I know from experience (as I’m sure most of you reading this also do) that simply paying a fair level of salary is not a magic key to having a highly motivated team. So how are we meant to interpret this theory?

Money as a motivator has been discussed from many view points over the years.

Pepper et al’s study (2013), based on the motivation of senior Executives; shows a clear linear improvement between the amount being paid and the effort placed into performance (Pepper et al 2013). Akerlof (1982) falls very much in line with Adam’s Equity theory and Pepper et all’s research, holding fast to the argument that if earnings are less than the perceived fair wage then the level of effort input into the work will fall to reflect this, while being paid a higher amount will increase the level of effort being input. (Pepper at al 2013). However, Herzberg and his Dual Factor Theory argues the contrary stating that money and pay are ‘hygiene factors’ (Job dissatisfaction causes) rather than ‘motivators’. He argued that eliminating issues that fall into the hygiene factor category would stop dissatisfaction at work, but would not be able to improve motivation. Motivation, he argued could only be addressed by looking at ‘motivators’, and as such money should not be used as a reward due to its basic inability to motivate (Hertzberg et al 1959).

To me this sounds like paying a ‘fair’ wage is only enough to stop dissatisfaction. To actually achieve an increase in motivation, there must be seen to be some form of ‘extra’ reward above and beyond basic salary to act as a true motivator. Does it really matter though if this extra reward comes in a money form or in some other guise? I decided to take this question to the Magic Milestones Team and see what they thought. I was also interested to see if there was any difference of opinion between the Sales and the Operations Teams.

Everyone agreed that some kind of bonus/ reward scheme is indeed motivating for them. The Sales Team was quick to voice their opinion that they preferred the cash based bonus scheme that has been in place for a while, rather than receiving vouchers or prizes. However various other staff put forward ideas such as being able to earn extra holiday days due to good performance, or shopping vouchers that could be saved up and awarded for Christmas time. The idea was also suggested of a ‘friendly’ competition between members of the team or even between departments with alcohol or chocolates being awarded on a monthly basis to the team/ individual who wins. I came out of the discussion thinking that yes, money can play an important part in improving motivation but it isn’t the be all and end all. The team atmosphere and recognition of effort being put in also goes a long way.

The experiment we have been conducting over the last few weeks at Magic Milestones has shown me that by involving the team in target setting, supporting their work performance with regular feedback and helping them to gain a real ‘can do’ attitude, the level of motivation has continued and in many areas even increased. To keep the existing buzz going I think ensuring there is some form of ‘extra reward’ system in place is a definite win/ win situation. As well as motivating the team to go the extra mile it also helps to make sure they feel valued and appreciated. I think the decision on whether the reward should be money or an alternative, is something that needs to be decided upon for each individual team, as people don’t all value things the same way. Although money will be a powerful motivator for some, for others the opportunity to ‘earn’ extra days’ annual leave and a bottle of champagne may well be the perfect motivator.

Cheers everyone, and here’s to all of our highly motivated teams. Long may it continue!!!

By Helen Milanes Tidmarsh

Product Management, Teams

The Power of Believing in Yourself as a Motivator


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We’re now into September and the evenings are noticeably beginning to draw in. Me and the Magic Milestones Sales Team are busy with new potential clients, catching up with existing or old contacts and developing a new sales target list to focus on for the next 3 months. Everyone has come back off annual leave excited and focused, and it’s my goal to make sure they stay that way!

As I mentioned in my last blog, getting the team involved in target setting and ensuring that while those targets stretch the team they are still realistic and achievable has made a real difference. Enabling them to have input and be able to discuss their goals with managers, really seems to have helped achieve more team buy in and higher levels of motivation.

So what now – how can I (and the rest of the Senior Management Team) try and maintain these levels of energy and enthusiasm? The next step is to keep our team motivated and get them into a positive upward sales cycle.

Well you know I like my theories so here it goes! Self Efficacy Theory- simplistically is an individual’s belief that they are capable of performing a task. Bandura (1997) states that ‘Self-efficacy beliefs regulate human functioning through cognitive, motivational, affective, and decisional processes’ (Bandura & Locke 2003 pg 87). In essence, the higher the self-efficacy of an individual, the more confidence they have in their ability to succeed and in turn the more likely they become to achieve success. They are also more likely to respond positively to negative feedback.

It’s critical to note, Managers and Team Leaders can have an important role to play in achieving high levels of self-efficacy which coupled with the Pygmalion effect (a form of self-fulfilling prophecy) could start to make a big difference to a team’s results, especially those in sales. If a Manager shows they believe in their staff or their team’s ability this can lead to self-belief, and therefore creating the right mindset for them to achieve their set goals. Coupled with ongoing feedback and regular meetings around planning and goal strategy this theory continuously gives great results.

Similarly to the self-efficacy theory, Victor Vrooms’ Expectancy Theory (1964),‘argues that the strength of our tendency to act in certain ways depends on our strength of our expectation of a given outcome and attractiveness focusing on three relationships’: (Robbins & Judge 2015 pg 237)

    1. Effort – performance relationship
    2. Performance – reward relationship
    3. Rewards – personal goals relationship

Although there are many theorists that have criticised Vroom arguing that not many individuals see direct links between effort, performance and rewards, many organisations reward individuals for seniority and skill level rather than performance.

This could well make it an invalid motivational theory for many teams, but in the case of Sales Teams it might just be worth some consideration. If a Sales Team earns commission as part of their package, then the level of commission will almost always be related to their achievements. So here we can see the direct link between effort, performance and rewards. What we must consider for the expectancy theory to really have an impact on a team as a motivator, is that the team must see the rewards as desired and at an appropriate level. If targets are being hit but the reward is perceived to be too low for the effort invested in achieving it, motivation will be more likely to reduce than increase.

The Magic Milestones Sales Team seem happy and bought into their agreed targets, and they are really working hard to hit and even exceed them! I now need to make sure that they really believe in themselves and their abilities. So this week I am discussing with the rest of the Senior Management Team how we can implement ongoing feedback and support to help them believe in themselves and their ability.

The mention of rewards as a motivator brings us nicely onto the theme for next week’s blog. I hope to be able to report that our Sales Teams motivation is still high and they are full of self-belief! 😉

By Helen Milanes Tidmarsh