Shadow [Whatever]

Dear Leaders, admit it. The most effective way in training new employees are by assigning them as ‘shadows’ to existing employees in the same position. The new recruit might be there to either replace, be a subordinate or even a manager to the existing employee. The advantages of implementing this shadowing technique are:

  • The existing employee, which nowadays is typically overloaded, gets the assistance s/he needs
  • The company saves cost for professional training, which normally are not so effective if not followed by real world problems
  • The new employee gets the experience, learning, and a new ‘friend’ s/he definitely needs to adapt to the new environment, without being burdened with full responsibility (yet)
  • (In case the existing employee is resigning midway from his/her position) the company gets the replacement right away

When we’re talking about shadows, there are actually 2 different approach with 1 similarity: the shadows are hidden from the outside world, i.e. other organizations doing business with this organization don’t know that these shadows exist.

  1. First approach, which is also commonly done, is putting the shadows as advisors/consultants to the company. This approach is normally used when an organization has to work on a big, complex project like it has never done before, and they don’t want to bother existing employees other than the ones assigned to the project but also don’t want to hire/contract professional consultancy service.
  2. Second approach is putting new employees as shadows of existing ones, the one we’re discussing in this post.

I might not be a good example when it comes to career path, but my many experiences have somehow enriched me to share. Please note that I’m a project manager, basically an individual contributor to a company, i.e. we work on our own with our own style at our own pace (hence we’re an ‘artist’ to our customer), without hierarchical subordinates.

  • I’ve been in a company where in my first months I was assigned as a ‘co-PM’ to other PM.
  • I’ve been in a company where I shadowed my assistant in my first couple of months before I was able to go on my own.
  • I’ve been in a company where I was ‘tried and tested’ to handle my own projects, closely controlled by my manager, followed by several formal training.

Out of all 3 experiences, I can say that all methods are good, depending on the nature of the company. If the industry allows, then training is the most constructive way to sustain and develop the employees. However, the quicker way to ‘use’ the new employee will be the shadowing technique because it is super hands-on.

*Confession: the title’s been there for more than a month now, but I was too lazy to update the post even though it’s been on my mind ever since. The original title is ‘Shadow Project Manager’ until I realized that this is applicable for all positions.*
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Project Manager as Organization’s Agility Initiator

It’s only the third week of November 2017 and we’ve seen a lot of businesses closing down throughout the year. Shocking enough, some famous names are among those closed.

Image from: The Straits Times

Why Those Businesses Are Closed is probably the first question people have in mind. Of course, when it comes to business, the main reason for closure is that it cannot survive today’s market. The next question will be why it can’t survive. Generally speaking, disruptive software-based competitors are the ones to blame, but they’re not the only reason. If we ever dig deeper, then we will find out that the startup businesses work in a faster, more precise and adaptive way than those older businesses that customers, especially when it comes to retail, seek for in this ever evolving world.

Project Management Institute, realizing that business operations are run by project managers, has published ‘Agile Practice Guide’ together with their ‘Project Management Body of Knowledge’ 6th Edition guide this year. This publication is firming project manager’s position in an organization: to be the agility initiator. In short, to help the organizations survive in the agile era by spreading the agile work ethics to the project teams which, expectedly, will spread even wider to the whole organization.

How Does Agile Project Management Work will be the next question people have in mind. Most organizations today are using the conventional project management method, where project plans are created and firmed prior to executing the projects. This is a very good way of running a project, but not so effective today, since this method typically takes a very long time (in some cases even months) for project planning alone.

Agile project management is not necessarily a new thing: in earlier version of PMBOK, waterfall method was introduced. Even though waterfall and agile are two different things, but the idea is the same in the sense that both do high level project planning and work on the details when the project is running. This way, projects can be completed within a shorter period and more specific, desirable results. It is not a secret that customer is #1 factor in a business’ success. Today, competition is getting tighter, hence customers have more options. If one business cannot keep up with customers’ demands, then they will certainly choose another option. When a business has no customer, then it will soon be closed down.

Project managers are the key persons of a business – they are the single point of contact between customer and an organization. Surviving organizations will quickly see their project managers as their best opportunity to change the way they’re working to agility. Starting with project teams, to continue to the whole organization, while keeping the business goals in mind.

on self-actualization

It wasn’t until I took the PMP preparation training back in November 2014 that I was aware of the existence of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It was briefly explained in the 5th Edition of Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK) Chapter 9: Human Resource Management.

maslow-pyramid
Maslow’s Pyramid (picture taken from: http://www.examspm.com/2017/01/18/5-human-resources-motivation-theories-thats-not-pmbok-guide/)

It is often depicted as a pyramid, read from bottom to the top, implying that one cannot reach the upper level before the lower level need(s) is fulfilled.

I was 27 years old when I joined the training in 2014, very much confident and fulfilled my esteem needs. The only thing I hadn’t accomplished was self-actualization, the top of Maslow’s pyramid. Hence, I was aiming for a PMP certification for my self-actualization (which I accomplished in early 2015).

Honestly speaking, I’m the kind of person who doesn’t like being the best in class. I’d prefer being a runner up, because that way I will have a goal for myself: beating the top of class. I love competition as much as I love eating and traveling.

Without second guessing, after I got my certification in 2015, I became a little demotivated, even until now, and keep aiming for more. I even ended my career as a project manager and started giving myself another career challenge (which didn’t work out, and got me back to project management world LOL).

There is no regret since everything that happened has given me lots of unmeasurable experience, but it looks like I need to find myself another self-actualization goals to keep myself motivated. Any idea?