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Saturday, July 17, 2010

There are Three Kinds of People – Which One Are You?

In organizations, on boards, in social and business groups, and other similar entities, there are three kinds of people who are show up as busy and active – the PBR’s of group activities.  Each is vastly different but each has a strong influence on the group achieving success.

What’s PBR?  Planner…Buyer…Results Getter are the informal titles I use for these folks.

I can recall a project by a committee of volunteers several years ago - shortly after inception we each received a bound stack of legal-size paper about a ½ inch thick – what an impressive surprise!  Without input, one of the committee members had developed a detailed project plan to meet the project goal of increasing participation in the organizations activities.  The architect was dogged in pursuing updates to this plan and many, many hours of meeting time were spent on updates and reviews of the plan.  In the end, the committee may have had a minor effect on increasing participation but the project had morphed into maintenance of the Plan as the goal of action, instead of a tool for action to increase participation.

The Planner:  This person is usually quite organized, imposes order and structure to every situation, develops detailed documents for deadlines, dependencies, materials, and other resources – typically in minute detail.  As the project transactions grow, this information is useful as a tool to guide the progress of the project to a timely and complete conclusion.  However it is a tool not an end in itself.  The Planner tends to be so invested in process that the individual loses sight of the actual work to be done.

In the early days of the new technology explosion (early 2000’s) when my organization was going through the next upgrade of networks and internal systems to connect all locations, we were supported by an excellent network design and support firm.  When a problem developed, one tech would run a variety of diagnostics and poke around in the various computers and servers for a while and then go on-line for some research.  The eventual outcome was his recommendation to replace a piece of equipment or purchase some new equipment to solve the problem.  Acting on the recommendation we would often get up and running again for a while only to have a related problem develop.  {Would this individual keep buying new computers to correct the fixed format problems when revising written document which have hard returns after each line of text…just like the Selectric the typist used to have?}

The Buyer:  This person is quite knowledgeable about technology, equipment, software, and other aspects of business process tools that are evaluated and purchased.  In a project when the need arises, this individual is indispensable for collecting detailed information such as specs, capabilities, scalability factors, related resource requirement, and delivery timeframes.  This is put up in multiple spreadsheets and a presentation results with recommendation(s) and a purchase decision.  The Buyer is done with the project once the purchase decision has been made, but may return to check off the packing list at delivery time.  Cheerfully humming the tune “no one has been fired for buying IBM”, in their mind the project is done when the BUY decision is made.

Think for a moment about those projects you worked on or know about that were wonderfully successful.  I can picture my favorite project leader who immediately goes to what outcome is needed for a successful project and worked backwards to structure an approach to get there.  The emphasis is laser beam focused on outcome and how to achieve it on-time and in budget.  The measure of progress is based on what’s now in place that accomplishes the outcome.  The tools and aids to move the project forward are useful and necessary, but are not part of what is measured – outcome is measured and it is the target for all activity.  It is downright impressive when this person sings the single note song of results, results, results.  It reminds me of playing golf – you know the desired result and each stroke must advance you toward that result, even if behind a tree or in the weeds; you overcome the obstacle and advance. 

The Results Getter:  This person is focused on outcome and results, but is skillful in using project tools and aids (often written on the back on an envelope or napkin) to move the project forward toward the outcome.  The individual expects an update to begin with the achieved results, not a catalog of process steps working toward them.  He or she will do everything possible to obtain needed resources to complete aspects of the project, but will expect results in return.  No worries about micromanaging here – create top quality and timely results the best way you can, typically by drawing on the detailed knowledge of the doer to be creative and innovative in how it is done.  The Results Getter is there at the conclusion of the project congratulating the team for their excellent work.

People have different perceptions of what a project is and what is expected of them.  As a leader, we must be clear about the outcome expected from a project and match the results with this goal to monitor and evaluate it.  All too often we receive updates that catalog process rather than progress, in part to document activity justifying the worker’s continued employment.  If these are the ‘results’ offered, we have not been clear in what the expected project outcome is and must articulate the project vision and outcome differently until real results are achieved.

Have you worked with these three before?  Which one are you?

Our next two Sales Lab Leadership events are The New Management Is Leadership, July 20th  and
What is Web 2.0 And Why Should You Care? July 21st


Thoughthebrowser said...

I get cranky doing the plan or waiting for the purchases to arrive. I want to get to the "doin' it, doin' it, doin' it" phase.

Sales Lab has FOUR presentations coming up in the next 30 days! See!

Unknown said...

There's a happy mix of planning, getting and doing for most projects. It is NOT a linear relationship, however and many times some or all of these actions are taking place simultaneously.

Thanks for your thoughts.

Thoughthebrowser said...

Seth Godin had a (mercifully) short post that said be a project runner, not a project manager. The project manager keeps score, the project runner gets the results.