Published here January 2000.


Musings Index

Critical Questions from an Overseas Web-site Visitor

An overseas visitor to our web site has posed the following questions [January 2000]. Here are our replies in the context of project management based on our experience.

Visitor: Is the glass ceiling (the fact of restricting women from getting to upper level positions ) still a major problem faced by working women today?

Reply: That depends on the country, the culture and the industry involved. In North America it remains an issue for the older smokestack industries but in our view is no longer a major issue in newer technology oriented companies.

What performance appraisal techniques are used for measuring the performance of employees?

In a project environment, appraisal is somewhat easier than in a purely administrative or corporate function. On a project, assuming a project time frame, workforce motivation towards the project's goals is easier, and an assessment of project achievement is part of the project. Individuals can be assessed on the knowledge, experience and competence they demonstrate in meeting project challenges.

In a purely functional environment, the classic technique is to arrive at mutually agreed performance milestones or measures of achievement important to both the company and the individual's professional development. The time frame is typically through to the next appraizal period usually one year. This 'Management-by-Objectives' scheme was very popular with big corporations a few years ago. This attempt to 'projectize' a person's ambitions over an arbitrary time period rarely benefited the company or the employee. The best that can be said is that it was probably better than nothing.

How is your organization facing the globalization challenge?

This is both an exciting and risky business. It is a different matter moving from a domestic market to a world market. The risks in the domestic marketplace are reasonably well known. The global market place involves different cultures, business practices and legal structures that take time to become acquainted with and involves different company issues, solutions and cultural accommodation.

The most important company strategy is to work hard to enlist local project talent and not depend on expatriate resources. This does not obviate the use of expatriate expertise but it does call for the training and use of local people. This is critical for a long term relationship with an off shore company.

Does your organization integrate the Human Resources Department in its strategic planning?

Reply: Yes, especially in this high tech age, one must consult with and integrate the HRM function that will be responsible for the securing and administrative management of the key project resource, that is, people.

Visitor: In your opinion, what are effective problem solving skills?

In our view, the single most important problem solving skill is listening. The next is effective communication and the ability to arrive at consensus. Or, if not consensus, then at least consent.

To what extent do you practice knowledge management (That is, the "obsoleting what you know before others obsolete it and [hence] profit by creating the challenges and opportunities others haven't even thought of")?

We use the Wideman Project Management Knowledge System to categorize, archive and retrieve relevant project management information. See Issacons #1001 and #1002.

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