Resource Planning

How Resource Planning Complements Agile

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Some people wonder if and how resource planning applies in an Agile world. There should be no question. The chassis may change from traditional to iterative, but the drivetrain always remains resource planning. In essence, the question is, regardless of delivery approach: How do we make sure we have the capacity to deliver on our strategies at the right time? 

In fact, resource planning not only applies to Agile; it turbo-charges it.

Aakash Gupta puts it succinctly in his article on Project-Management.com titled "Resource Capacity Planning for Agile Teams":

Given how agile is built as a meticulous process driven by a stringent workflow, planning capacity becomes integral to agile’s success... Agile projects make room for innovation, velocity and unparalleled levels of productivity. Tie it in with resource management and you will find yourself with a dream team!"

Indeed, Agile brings a lean, adaptive mindset and a continuous flow of value. Planning adds alignment with strategy, funding, and resources. These are not mutually exclusive concepts and, in fact, complement one another.

There's an old Arabian story about two men on a long trek across the dessert. They wake up one morning and one asks in a panic, "Where are the camels!?" The other man says, "You told me to trust in Allah so I didn't tie them up." The first man replies, "Let me correct my advice. Trust in Allah, but tether your camels!" There've been many variations of this advice since, but the same concept applies to Agile and planning. Allow the empowerment and freedom that Agile brings, but also plan in order to ensure alignment and feasibility.

Back to Gupta's article, which is well worth reading. In it, he introduces the concept of the "focus factor." In other words, when assigning people to teams, it's important to understand how much they are, in fact, available to focus on the actual Agile activity. It's rare when a person can focus 100% on any given activity. There are disruptions, administration, company meetings, emergencies, and so on, and that's not including planned downtime like vacations. The focus factor accounts for this by offsetting their allocation to the team by the desired FTE amount (e.g., Jim can focus 70 percent of his time to the team).

As an aside, PDWare addresses this in their software by allowing people to be allocated to teams by percentage, and then assigning teams to projects. Both numbers are considered in the individual's allocation forecast, along with any other work activities they're assigned to. This allows the automatic creation of a combined resource forecast across Agile and non-Agile work.

Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), created by Dean Leffingwell, bridges planning and Agile on an enterprise scale, aligning portfolio, program, and team activities, and is rapidly gaining popularity. A quote cited on the Scaled Agile website puts it perfectly:

"The more alignment you have, the more autonomy you can grant. The one enables the other."

 —Stephen Bungay, Author and Strategy Consultant


Stay tuned for a future post where I'll talk more about resource planning as it relates to SAFe.

If you’re new to Agile, or even if you're experienced but are finding it difficult to make it work in your organization, I'll be presenting a free webinar Wednesday, March 27 at 11am EST titled "Agile 101 for Resource Managers." It'll offer a complete overview of the basics of Agile, as well as an explanation of how resource planning can boost Agile performance. Click here to register.


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Jerry Manas is the bestselling author of The Resource Management and Capacity Planning Handbook, Napoleon on Project Management, and more. At PDWare, Jerry helps clients improve strategy execution through tools and processes that align people and work with organizational priorities. Connect with Jerry on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Takeaways from the Resource Planning Summit

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I had the good fortune to present with some excellent fellow speakers at this year’s Resource Planning Summit in Nashville, TN.

Speakers were on hand from leading organizations to talk about good practices in resource planning that have helped them succeed, as well as challenges to look out for.

Several common themes emerged across the diverse presenters:

  • Prioritization is essential to good resource planning

  • Engagement across business units is key to allocating resources properly across the enterprise portfolio

  • An ongoing cadence of portfolio reviews and resource allocation is necessary to keep things on track

  • Paying attention to demand distribution and how people and money should be aligned across demand types can help ensure optimal resource utilization

  • The human side of resource management cannot be underestimated. Resource optimization and productivity is as much a psychological issue as it is an alignment and capacity/demand issue.


The closing day keynote speaker was filmmaker/screenwriter David Hayter (X-Men, X-Men 2, Watchmen), whose behind-the-scenes filmmaking stories brought a wealth of advice in an entertaining and humorous fashion. Some key takeaways I noted, especially regarding the soft skills of leadership and resource productivity, but also in project and portfolio management, were:

  • All environments are chaotic to a degree. Some are exceedingly chaotic and downright negative. Sometimes this is because the leader WANTS chaos. They think that constantly changing directions will keep people sharp or give them an advantage (note: It may, but at what cost?). Then it becomes a matter of how to perform well in such environments. This is true in filmmaking and in business.

    • Being unpredictable is one of the power principles espoused in the book, 48 Laws of Power, by Robert Greene, a Machiavellian tome described by its own publisher as "amoral, cunning, ruthless, and instructive." Hayter added that this is by no means a recommended strategy, merely an expose into the mind of such leaders.

  • People set the culture of any organization. BUT… the leader's energy (positive or negative) often spreads to the whole team.

  • Regarding projects and programs: Don't be afraid to switch gears if it'll bring greater value, regardless of how much has already been spent. In the X-Men movie, a late decision was made to involve a lead character more because it was the right thing to do, even though it added cost. The value return was exponential.

    • In general, think more toward value than cost. Some of the best ideas weren't planned from the beginning. Sometimes you may need to make a case for taking corrective or new action.   

  • Ernest Hemingway said "Kill your darlings." This is applicable to project portfolios as well. Sometimes to bring greater value, there's more to be eliminated than there is to be added.

  • When given conflicting or contradicting direction by different stakeholders or leaders, have a dialogue to address the differences. Be a leader. 

  • Chaos happens, but a good, open culture can help expedite problem solving. You may reach the same finish line in both positive and negative environments, but the latter is unnecessarily stressful.

  • Since chaos and troubleshooting are the norm, the only thing you can control is yourself and your reaction to it. Some guidelines are:

    • Don't take on a fight you know you can't win

    • A combination of humility, listening, and adapting, plus knowing when to stand up and fight back is the ideal course to take.

    • Patrick Swayze in Roadhouse said, "Be nice... until it's time to not be nice." But keep in mind the above. There is a nobility in the Zen response.

  • Leverage opportunities when you get them, but be prepared to deal with a variety of situations. Remember, "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity" - Roman philosopher Seneca.


In addition to the above takeaways from David Hayter, attendees were asked to contribute their favorite quotes from the event. Below is a short summary:

  • You can't change an event, but you can change the outcome.

  • Normal is the exception to the rule.

  • People are the fuel on which an organization runs.

  • Life is change.

  • Resource management is the cure for disengagement.

  • Life isn't always the party we hoped for, but while we're here we might as well dance.

  • If you want to create a movement, get people engaged.

  • The first casualty in any battle is the plan.

  • Employee entrepreneurial orientation delivers innovation.

  • General Custer could've used resource management.

  • Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.

All in all, the event was a splendid time for all (to paraphrase the Beatles).


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Jerry Manas is the bestselling author of The Resource Management and Capacity Planning Handbook, Napoleon on Project Management, and more. At PDWare, Jerry helps clients improve strategy execution through tools and processes that align people and work with organizational priorities. Connect with Jerry on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Top Considerations for Project Prioritization

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The Forbes Technology Council has a nice little article, Project Prioritization 101, that highlights ten key elements of any good prioritization model. Here are the first five (I've paraphrased):

  1. Align with business strategy - Be sure your projects align with business goals and strategies

  2. Rank projects based on impact and effort (aim to do the impactful ones, discard the rest)

  3. Anticipate setbacks and assess potential losses (it helps if you assess resource needs and have a contingency plan in advance)

  4. Attack time-sensitive and highest impact projects first

  5. Understand your team's bandwidth

On that last topic, which is near and dear to my heart, the article quotes Zohar Dayan, CEO of Wibbitz, who says:

"When it comes to prioritization, the biggest consideration is to measure the impact of a project versus the time and resources that need to be devoted to it. A firm understanding of the value each project brings back to your company coupled with a knowledge of your team’s bandwidth is crucial for prioritization."

I couldn't have said it better. To this , I’d add that Success = Prioritization + Resource Allocation + Execution.

Back to prioritization, I’ve also seen organizations adopt the Eisenhower Matrix (later popularized by Stephen Covey), where projects are categorized based on urgency and importance. Obviously, things that are urgent and important should get done first. Projects that are important, but not urgent, should be scheduled accordingly.

The tricky ones are those that are deemed urgent, but not important. This either means someone has exaggerated the urgency or was unable to articulate its importance. So it’s a matter of determining which it is. And of course, the last category are those that are non-urgent and unimportant, which should be quickly rejected.

Some industries have a rigorous project acceptance process whereby all approved projects are by default highly important and thus use a FIFO (First in, First Out) approach to ranking. Though, with increasingly common resource constraints, this is a weak method in and of itself., and would benefit from a relative impact/effort assessment.

Check out the Forbes article for additional prioritization info, and the remaining five tips.

Also, for information on lean prioritization methods, see this insightful article from All About Lean, titled, “How to Manage Your Lean Projects - Prioritize.”

Finally, to complete the trifecta of valuable prioritization articles, see this HBR article, “How to Prioritize Your Company’s Projects,” which talks about how having a “Hierarchy of Purpose” is critical to any prioritization model. This involves tying together the 5 Ps (Purpose, Priorities, Projects, People, and Performance).

Happy reading!


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Jerry Manas is the bestselling author of The Resource Management and Capacity Planning Handbook, Napoleon on Project Management, and more. At PDWare, Jerry helps clients improve strategy execution through tools and processes that align people and work with organizational priorities. Connect with Jerry on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Can You Really Deliver That Strategy? What You Need to Ask

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Strategy execution is more than just agreeing on your strategies and doing them. There are multiple facets that enable successful organizations to deliver on their strategy, not the least of which is resource planning.

A recent Brightline article, "Uncertainties and Risks of Strategy Implementation" by DTU (Technical University of Denmark), originally published at The London School of Economics and Political Science on October 11, 2018, proposes four aspects of successful strategy implementation that must be considered:

  • Technical Feasibility - Can it be done?

  • External Factors - How is the world affecting our strategy?

  • Execution - Can we do it?

  • Objectives/Market Needs - Do we have the right objectives?

This is an excellent model that puts all the right elements in perspective. Often forgotten under Execution (Can we do it?) is the act of resource planning. After all, if you don't align the right people with your priority initiatives, you're throwing marbles in your own path.

Meanwhile, on LinkedIN Pulse, Vishal Lall, Chief Strategy Officer for Hewlett Packard Enterprise, authored another insightful article titled "Three Reasons Your Strategies Don't Execute -- and How to Fix Them" that echoes this approach, specifically emphasizing the resource alignment issue. In particular, Lall proposes three key questions that organizations must ask:

  1. Was the strategy designed correctly?

  2. Were the teams aligned around the objectives?

  3. Were the right enablers in place?

Supporting this model, Lall cites six areas that can help improve the link between strategy to execution, again citing "Be brutal with resource allocation" as one of them.

I'm glad to see this finally being recognized as a key component of strategy execution. I highly recommend both articles (links above).

PS: Not long ago, I posted another article highlighting Brightline’s 10 guiding principles for strategy execution, where resource planning and prioritization were key elements. Check it out HERE.


Related to the topic of resource planning and strategy execution, PDWare was recently recognized in Gartner’s 2018 Market Guide for Strategy Execution Management Software. See the PRESS RELEASE for details on how an increased need for speed and agility is driving growing interest in strategy execution software.


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Jerry Manas is the bestselling author of The Resource Management and Capacity Planning Handbook, Napoleon on Project Management, and more. At PDWare, Jerry helps clients improve strategy execution through tools and processes that align people and work with organizational priorities. Connect with Jerry on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Resource Planning Can Make You a Superhero: The Human Side of Resource Planning

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People often associate resource planning with cold numbers or hard skills, and speak in terms of "FTEs," "resources," and "head count." For a high performing, motivated team, it's crucial to remember that it's human beings we're dealing with. Unlike machine parts, human beings have good days and bad days and family issues and working styles, and all sorts of things that can impact their work, for better or worse. As one of the key founding fathers of Agile, Alistair Cockburn, once shared with me, "People are not suitcases, to be moved around at will." 

Indeed, optimizing resources means creating an environment where people can do their best work. A pioneer in the positive psychology movement, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, created the concept of Flow, where people are so immersed in what they're doing that time seems to stand still. To enable that optimal state, they must be doing work that both has an appropriate level of challenge and is an appropriate match for their skills/strengths. Too little challenge creates apathy. A skills mismatch creates frustration. Either will reduce interest and productivity.

Of course, for Flow to happen in the first place, the environment must be suitable for it. 

A big part of enabling people to do their best means not overloading them with multitasking or forcing them to work out of their comfort zones. This is best addressed through resource planning (for lack of a more suitable term), which involves ensuring that incoming pipeline projects are prioritized and the availability of people with suitable skills is assessed. There are multiple approaches for addressing any shortfall, including delaying or altering the incoming work, securing outside or additional resources, or shifting priorities.

Management guru Ken Blanchard said, "Profit is the applause you get for creating a motivating environment for your people and taking care of your customers." With this in mind, you can become an absolute superhero to your organization, and the people in it, by introducing and/or improving a resource planning process that will enable optimal performance.

Speaking of superheroes, I was especially saddened to hear of the recent passing of Marvel legend Stan Lee. I grew up reading his stories and had the good fortune to meet him at a comic con a few years back, where I happened to be speaking on the art of storytelling (side note: I write sci-fi in my other life). He was a gracious man with a knack for telling captivating tales. A consistent theme he'd always preached through his characters was that doing the right thing was heroic, and that superheroes can come in all shapes and sizes.  

It does not seem a stretch to extrapolate from that a valuable lesson that introducing resource planning is simply the right thing to do. It's right for the people, right for creating value, and right for the top and bottom line. The other choice is to continue business as usual, burning people out while projects get delayed, errors increase, and customers get irate. The question then, is: Can you afford NOT to do resource planning? 

I know which option Stan Lee and Ken Blanchard would choose.


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PS: Related to the topic of superheroes and resource planning, noted screenwriter and filmmaker David Hayter (X-Men, Watchmen, and more) will be delivering a keynote at the 2019 Resource Planning Summit in Nashville, TN (Feb 10-13). He'll be sharing team-building and resource planning lessons from the fictional world of superheroes as well as real-life superheroes, the teams that make the films, amid high complexity, constant change, and tight deadlines. To learn more, visit www.ResourcePlanningSummit.com


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Jerry Manas is the bestselling author of The Resource Management and Capacity Planning Handbook, Napoleon on Project Management, and more. At PDWare, Jerry helps clients improve strategy execution through tools and processes that align people and work with organizational priorities. Connect with Jerry on Twitter and LinkedIn.

When It Comes to Resource Planning, Timing is Everything

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Brightline (a PMI-led coalition of leading global organizations dedicated to helping executives bridge the gaps between strategy and execution) released an excellent infographic, developed by the Technical Institute of Denmark, called "Timing is Money." 

The infographic looks at four dilemmas that represent the four dynamic tensions that relate to timing when implementing strategy, particularly:

  • The Horizon Dilemma (near horizon vs. distant future)

  • The Urgency Dilemma (implementing quickly vs. moving too fast for your organization)

  • The Process Dilemma (tightly defined strategy vs. business agility)

  • The Rhythm Dilemma (natural work rhythms vs. getting everyone in sync when needed) 

Having written a book on common leadership dilemmas (Managing the Gray Areas), this approach is near and dear to my heart. Not surprisingly, for each dilemma, the infographic offers practical solutions that balance both sides of the equation.

I was particularly pleased that, for the Rhythm Dilemma, the recommended solution was to "dedicate and mobilize the right resources" and embrace new leadership rhythms that allow for syncing the disparate rhythms across the organization. 

This, of course, requires effective resource planning, which itself ties back to the other three dilemmas. For instance, the Horizon Dilemma applies, because you need to strike a balance between short term named resource planning and longer term skills planning. 

Regarding the Urgency Dilemma, having a clear picture of demand vs. capacity will let you know if you're taxing the organization beyond its ability to immediately take on something new. It also gives you the data to make informed tradeoff decisions.

Lastly, the Process Dilemma, which aims to balance strategy and agility, requires that resource forecasts show all types of work (Agile and otherwise) and depict how effort is being consumed across the overall prioritized backlog of the organization. This, in effect, helps tie effort utilization back to strategy, while also allowing for the change that business agility necessitates. 

Check out the infographic. Not only does it serve as a compass for bridging strategy and execution, it also serves as an excellent foundation for resource planning.


JB Manas - website photo.jpg

Jerry Manas is the bestselling author of The Resource Management and Capacity Planning Handbook, Napoleon on Project Management, and more. At PDWare, Jerry helps clients improve strategy execution through tools and processes that align people and work with organizational priorities. Connect with Jerry on Twitter and LinkedIn.

The One Thing You Need to Do To Resolve Project Overload

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Too many projects and not enough people. It’s a battle cry heard in organizations everywhere. A new article published in HBR (Harvard Business Review) titled “Too Many Projects: Why Companies Won’t Let Bad Projects Die” tackles the issue head on. Authors Rose Hollister and Michael D. Watkins offer key insights into the root of the problem, along with some practical, spot-on solutions.

The gist of the solution can be summed up in two words: Resource Management,

This includes:

  • the demand/capacity visibility and transparency that prioritization and resource planning brings

  • continuously considering the triple constraint of demand, supply, and priority with every new project request, ongoing resource assignment, and project execution checkpoint. 

Hollister and Watkins offer a few cautions as well.

They warn against prioritizing by function or department alone, lest silo thinking will sabotage enterprise prioritization efforts.

Likewise, they advise against simply instituting an overall prioritization process without deciding what to cut (i.e., planning without execution). 

They also suggest avoiding uniform percentage cuts for each department because then organizational priorities aren't considered.

The authors include four areas to assess before each new initiative is undertaken, all of which relate directly to resource management (which I propose includes balancing demand with capacity).

The four areas are (the parts in parenthesis are my added description):

  • Analyzing the project (for goals and expected benefits)

  • Assessing the resources (and the resource and cost impact on the organization vs. other work)

  • Sizing up stakeholder support (for commitment and to validate priorities)

  • Setting limits (and identifying tradeoffs needed in order to fit the work in)

For more on the causes and cures for project overload, I highly suggest reading their article.


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Note: Whether you’re new to resource planning concepts or an experienced veteran, you may find value in the 8th Annual Resource Planning Summit, February 10-13, 2019 in Nashville, TN. Registration is now open. I’ll be speaking at the event, along with PMI Fellow Frank Saladis and a number of other leaders in the field. The full speaker lineup will be announced shortly. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION.


JB Manas - website photo.jpg

Jerry Manas is the bestselling author of The Resource Management and Capacity Planning Handbook, Napoleon on Project Management, and more. At PDWare, Jerry helps clients improve strategy execution through tools and processes that align people and work with organizational priorities. Connect with Jerry on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Strategic Planning in an Agile World

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I've often written about the importance of continuous planning at multiple levels, while also emphasizing the urgency of fostering business agility to meet dynamically changing needs.

I came across an HBR article by Alessandro Di Fiore, founder and CEO of the European Centre for Strategic Innovation (ECSI), titled "Planning Doesn't Have to Be the Enemy of Agile" that, to me, captures the essence of the tension between strategic planning and team-based agility. More importantly, it offers examples of how to make the two seemingly opposite concepts work well together.

As Di Fiore says, "The logic of centralized long-term strategic planning (done once a year at a fixed time) is the antithesis of an organization redesigned around teams who define their own priorities and resources allocation on a weekly basis."

To resolve this tension, he proposes that a new form of "Agile Planning" is needed that aligns top down strategic planning, bottom-up team-based decision-making, prioritization, and execution, and a mid-level process that helps bridge the two.

In effect, this blends the best of both worlds -- where agile teams leverage qualitative data and judgement to aid in prioritization and resource allocation, while big data continues to flow in through the strategic planning process and Information Technology. The sweet spot is the right combination of human judgement and hard data.

Put another way, I think it's safe to say that team judgment without data is blind, and relying on data alone is deaf. The corporate graveyards are full of companies that have done either or both.

When Corporate Strategy Meets Team Execution

The idea of blending top-down and bottom-up planning is consistent with other successful examples I've seen. The great author and cultural expert, Fons Trompenaars (Did the Pedestrian Die, 21 Leaders for the 21st Century, and others), once shared how Heineken learned this lesson the hard way.

As Trompenaars explains, Heineken released a TV ad where a woman was frantically rooting through her closet trying to find something to wear for a date. Then the doorbell rings. It's her date, who throws her a leather jacket. The next scene shows them in a bar drinking Heineken with the slogan: "Beer as beer is meant to be."

Well, in some countries, sales went down, not up. Upon research, Heineken learned why. Apparently, in those particular cultures, the message received was: "Only slobs drink Heineken."

Oops!

After than, Heineken changed their approach. The provided a top-down theme and general priorities (e.g., In the European region, portray Heineken as a casual, relaxing beer) and left it up to the local advertising departments within that region to come up with an ad that would work in their country. It worked like a charm.

They chose another theme for the Caribbean region (Portray Heineken as a metropolitan beer), with each island creating their own ads. Again, it work so well, that Heineken began winning all sorts of advertising awards. To this day, they continue to win advertising awards, with what I might call a hub-and-spoke planning model. 

It's a similar concept to Agile Planning: Remain agile in terms of priorities, methods, and execution while providing corporate themes and strategies from the top. What Di Fiore details is the bridge between corporate planning and individual teams. I highly recommend reading his article.

Bottom line: When it comes to strategy execution, resource planning, and business agility, you CAN have your cake and eat it too.


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Jerry Manas is the bestselling author of The Resource Management and Capacity Planning Handbook, Napoleon on Project Management, and more. At PDWare, Jerry helps clients improve strategy execution through tools and processes that align people and work with organizational priorities. Connect with Jerry on Twitter and LinkedIn.

7 Practices of Resource-Savvy Organizations

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Maximizing your organization's human capacity to get things done doesn't have to be complicated. It fact, it's pretty much common sense.

Note that I'm NOT talking about increasing capacity. That's easy. Just hire more people or pay for contractors. I'm talking about maximizing the resources you already have.

To start, there are two fundamental principles at play for maximizing your resources:

  1. Increase value focus

  2. Increase performance

In other words, if your resources are working on the right stuff at peak performance, you're operating at optimal capacity. It's as simple as that.

Now the trick is how to achieve that.

For guidance, it pays to look at high-performing, resource-savvy organizations. From studies I've been involved with, I've found that such organizations tend to observe seven distinct practices that increase both value-focus and performance. 

Specifically, they:

  1. Prioritize all work - All work should be categorized and prioritized in the context of overall value to the organization. Otherwise, precious time could be spent on lower value activities. Also note that priority is methodology agnostic. 

  2. Eliminate waste -This includes excess approvals when checklists would suffice; redundant process steps; extraneous data on forms; excessive documentation that nobody will read; capturing data that nobody is using; and more.

  3. Clarify goals - If people aren't clear on the organization's goals and priorities, then their interests may not be aligned with value. Always reinforce goals as opposed to "tasks." Better yet, engage them in strategizing on how to achieve the goals.

  4. Align people with their strengths - People perform best when they're able to leverage their primary strengths toward an interesting challenge. A strength mismatch will create frustration, while a lack of challenge will create apathy. This is the concept behind the Flow principle.

  5. Reduce multitasking - It's been proven that multitasking decreases productivity. Encourage people to schedule "downtime" to focus, and avoid diluting productivity with multiple concurrent initiatives.

  6. Enable with tools and training - Even the most talented, motivated people will struggle without the proper tools and training to do their job effectively. Skimping here is like burdening your people with a heavy backpack and expecting them to run at peak performance. 

  7. Institute continuous resource planning - Resource planning looks at work in the context of three variables: supply, demand, and priority. The goal is to meet demand with supply in priority order, so that if any work gets bumped, it'll be the lower priority activities. Regular, ongoing resource planning ensures that people are always aligned with value, and that they aren't overloaded beyond their capacity. 

Collectively, these practices can drive value-focused performance, while also fostering a positive, inspiring culture. Resource-savvy organizations that have adopted them have seen a boost in productivity, employee retention, and customer satisfaction. Best of all, they've gone from reactive to proactive.

I’d venture to say they've also taken to heart the wise words of Albert Einstein:

Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.


JB Manas - website photo.jpg

Jerry Manas is the bestselling author of The Resource Management and Capacity Planning Handbook, Napoleon on Project Management, and more. At PDWare, Jerry helps clients improve strategy execution through tools and processes that align people and work with organizational priorities. Connect with Jerry on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Is Your Organization Value-Focused?

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Professor and author Morten Hansen wrote an excellent article on the American Management Association Playbook site titled "One Big Mistake Managers Must Avoid (It's About Your Time)". 

In the article, he shares a key finding from his study of more than 5,000 managers and employees: namely that they tend to focus more on internal goals and metrics than on the value being delivered.

To remedy this, he suggests first identifying what's valuable, then assessing your calendar and reducing non-value items, and finally, reallocating your time, shifting from goals to value activities.

While the article is directed at helping managers and their employees shift to higher value activities, I'd add that the same principles should be applied at a macro level organizationally. 

To start with, it's important to define a strategic hierarchy of organizational missions, objectives, strategies, and programs/projects that support those strategies. This can help ensure that program and project work is tied to value from the beginning. 

What about non-project activities? Some organizations consider all work to be "project" work. After all, even operational and sustaining work can be tied to an annual or quarterly bucket project, which itself is tied to the objective of "keeping the lights on". Percentage-based or effort-based resource allocations can be applied to that work.

In essence, the goal is to see the big picture of demand for people's time for the entire spectrum of activities. From there you can get a better sense about whether you're distributing that time wisely at an organizational level.

This is where resource planning and continuous reallocation based on priorities come in, always striving for greatest value (which we know can change over time). The result is greater business agility, less waste, and happier customers.

So, at a macro level, the same three principles outlined in the article apply:

  • Identify what's valuable (by setting a strategic hierarchy and tying programs and projects to it)
  • Aim to reduce non-value work (by assessing your funding and resource allocations by strategy)
  • Shift to high value work -- (by continuously reallocating based on priorities and value)

If this is combined with Hansen's article's recommendations for managers and employees to focus on value, then you can truly say you have a value-focused organization from the top-down and bottom-up.


JB Manas - website photo.jpg

Jerry Manas is the bestselling author of The Resource Management and Capacity Planning Handbook, Napoleon on Project Management, and more. At PDWare, Jerry helps clients improve strategy execution through tools and processes that align people and work with organizational priorities. Connect with Jerry on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Resource Planning Recognized Among Key Strategy Execution Principles

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Brightline has published an excellent set of 10 guiding principles to bridge the ubiquitous gap between strategy design and delivery, and I think it should be required reading for all leaders. 

The Brightline Initiative™ is a coalition of leading global organizations assembled by the Project Management Institute (PMI), dedicated to, in their words, "helping executives bridge the expensive and unproductive gap between strategy design and delivery." 

I'm particularly pleased that that they recognized the importance of resource planning in their list of 10 key guiding principles, particularly on points 3 and 8.

In point 3 (Dedicate and mobilize the right resources), they say:

Actively balance “running the business” and “changing the business” by selecting and securing the right resources for each — they often have different needs. Recognize that team leadership skills are at a premium, and assign the best leaders with sufficient capacity to tackle head-on the most challenging programs and those essential for successful strategy implementation.

To build on this, part of resource planning is determining and prioritizing the various aspects of the business and aligning the right resources accordingly. A general rule of thumb is to give "running the business" the minimum effective amount of resources it needs (not shortchanging it, however, lest it become a critical issue) and giving the "change the business" initiatives the maximum effective resources, even applying a concentration of force where appropriate to strategic programs (to use an age-old military principle). Again, these are general guidelines, not unilateral rules. 

In point 8 (Check ongoing initiatives before committing to new ones), they state:

Add new initiatives in response to new opportunities, but first be sure you understand both the existing portfolio and your organization’s capacity to deliver change. Actively address any issues you discover.

This gets to the heart of resource planning: assessing capacity and keeping the existing portfolio in mind whenever considering new initiatives. It's possible that shifting resources, shifting projects, or seeking alternate sourcing may be required. In any case, potential capacity issues shouldn't be ignored, as many companies are prone to do.

It's great to see these oft-forgotten principles recognized as key elements of the strategy execution process. They also promote other principles I've always touted, including simplicity, engagement, and cross-business cooperation, I highly encourage reading the full list and sharing it with others in your organization.


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Jerry Manas is the bestselling author of The Resource Management and Capacity Planning Handbook, Napoleon on Project Management, and more. At PDWare, Jerry helps clients improve strategy execution through tools and processes that align people and work with organizational priorities. Connect with Jerry on Twitter and LinkedIn

Resource Management Success Factors: Benchmarks Are Consistent

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I recently rediscovered this insightful paper from noted consultant and trainer Kent Crawford on PMOs and Resource Management. Titled "Mastering Resource Management: The PMO's Role", the paper was originally presented at the PMI Global Congress in Orlando, Florida in 2009.

I found it remarkable how consistent the findings were with two benchmark studies I provided analysis on back in 2014 and 2016, both conducted by Appleseed Partners.

Three major findings fuel the paper:

  • A strong correlation between resource management maturity and organizational performance
  • A strong correlation between an effective PMO and resource management maturity
  • A strong correlation between project portfolio management maturity and resource management maturity

None of this is surprising, but it's helpful to see it validated.

Despite, the encouraging news, according to a 2009 Center for Business Practices benchmark study on Resource Management Challenges, resource management maturity was deemed low in nearly three-quarters of organizations studied. Resource planning and estimating were particular challenges. Crawford also reported "a significant disconnect between decision makers" regarding whether there were enough resources for all projects. Usually, there weren't.

However, the paper also has good news. For the organizations who improved their resource management practices, overall organizational performance also improved. So there's a light at the end of the tunnel.

Regarding Project Portfolio Management (PPM), a key enabler, Crawford states, "When used effectively, PPM ensures that projects are aligned with corporate priorities and optimizes resource allocation." With that foundation, Crawford says, business assumptions about people, costs, and time can be validated, and cross-functional resource conflicts or synergies can be highlighted and addressed. And who better to drive all this than the PMO?

As for a strong PMO, Crawford highlights three particular PMO roles as being beneficial to resource management: that of a resource evaluator, a competency center, and a project management consulting center. Regarding the latter, Crawford states, "Establishing the PMO as an organizational home for project management expertise helps to surface existing skills in project management and related specialties that are presently diffused across the organization."

In its closing summary, the paper offers a set of resource management best practices, compiled by project management leaders from dozens of Fortune 1000 companies who gathered in 2009 to benchmark their resource management practices.

For anyone implementing resource management, the paper is definitely worth a read.


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Jerry Manas is the bestselling author of The Resource Management and Capacity Planning Handbook, Napoleon on Project Management, and more. At PDWare, Jerry helps clients improve strategy execution through tools and processes that align people and work with organizational priorities. Connect with Jerry on Twitter and LinkedIn 

3 Drivers of Successful Strategy Execution

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In this informative 7-minute video from Harvard Business Review titled "Why Strategy Execution Unravels--And What To Do About It," three cornerstones of successful execution are discussed, as well as five common myths. 

Specifically, the cornerstones are:

1) Coordination - Coordinating across business units, keeping key information clear and simple (and make sure your systems support cross-business unit management as well). The video offers a smart reminder that execution should not be top down, but should be driven from middle managers closest to the action, with general guidance from the top. This is where the crisp, simple messaging is vital.

2) Agility - Rapidly adapting to change in line with strategy, even if it means shifting people across business units (but beware of chasing every opportunity; strategic focus is key)

3) Reallocation - Constantly reallocating resources and funds based on current strategy and priorities (allocation isn't a one-time decision)

I couldn't agree more regarding all of this. Having a clearly communicated set of strategies and business priorities that are coordinated across the business; being adaptive to change through regular portfolio reviews and adaptive delivery methods; and regularly reallocating resources and funds based on priorities are all crucial to successful strategy execution.

These principles are what we've been preaching at PDWare for some time now and what I've been writing about for ages, so it's great to see it so well articulated in this insightful video. As HBR reports, 75% of organizations struggle to implement strategy. I'd venture to say it's because they're not paying attention to cross-business coordination, execution agility, and regular reallocation. 

One telling statistic highlighted is that only 16% of team leaders and frontline supervisors feel they have a good grasp of how priorities fit together. This is because communication is often focused on quantity over quality and dilutes the message with too many elements.

An example in the video depicted a company trying to communicate a message with dozens of objectives, values, priorities, competencies, and new terms. Who's going to remember all that let alone care about it? Another mistake is an over-focus on hitting the numbers vs. compelling messages and rewards that actually drive behavior.  Sadly, I've seen all of this in far too many organizations.

For those seeking to better execute on strategy, viewing the video will be 7 minutes well spent.


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Jerry Manas is the bestselling author of The Resource Management and Capacity Planning Handbook, Napoleon on Project Management, and more. At PDWare, Jerry helps clients improve strategy execution through tools and processes that align people and work with organizational priorities. Connect with Jerry on Twitter and LinkedIn 

Are You Leveraging Your Team's Strengths?

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Robert Heinlein said, "Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig."

It's wise advise. So why do so many organizations keep trying to do this to their teams? 

How many of you have seen this: Accidental project managers who are great subject matter experts, but don't know a thing about influencing people or bringing a project home; Excellent technicians who can't relate to human beings but yet are thrown in customer relationship-heavy positions; Leaders who don't in any way, shape, or form belong leading people, but who were put there because they were good "doers" (aka the Peter Principle).

How much time is wasted coaching and training in attempts to fix people's weaknesses instead of amplifying their strengths? I was once asked by a client to help their best technical person, a real workhorse, become more customer-friendly. It was apparently causing him and the team frustration when customers complained. I said, "Why on earth would you want to do that? He is who he is, which happens to be a superstar technician. Better to pair him with someone who IS customer-friendly." Fortunately, they had someone in mind (once they freed her up from some activities that weren't in her area of expertise) and it worked wonders.

Having team members work against their strengths creates what I'd call "negative flow," counteracting any resource productivity improvements.  If Flow (as its conceptual creator Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi defines it) is about finding the optimal balance of applied skill and challenge, having people work against their strengths (negative flow) creates friction and resistance, slowing team progress along the way. This is very much a resource planning and productivity issue, yet is often overlooked as such. 

One colleague in the positive psychology movement compared it to bringing in a pitching coach to strengthen the left arm of a right-handed baseball pitcher. It's fruitless. Likewise, Tom Peters once lamented that you don't take a first violinist in an orchestra and automatically say, "He's so good, let's make him conductor!" yet companies do the equivalent all the time.

You can learn "stuff." Attitude and natural strengths, not so much. Fortunately, there are tools for assessing your natural strengths. Perhaps the best known is the CliftonStrengths Assessment (formerly called Strengthsfinder) from Gallup, made popular in Marcus Buckingham's books, which I highly recommend.

Perhaps Peter Drucker said it best when he said, "The task of leadership is to create an alignment of strengths in ways that make weaknesses irrelevant."

Knowing this, think about your teams. What are some ways you can pair or augment strengths that can make their weaknesses irrelevant? It can be a tricky puzzle, but it beats the alternative.


WEBINAR ANNOUNCEMENT: Join me and PDWare CTO Paul Samarel this Thursday, June 28 at 11am EST for a one hour FREE Webinar on Strategy Execution. CLICK HERE TO REGISTER.


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Jerry Manas is the bestselling author of The Resource Management and Capacity Planning Handbook, Napoleon on Project Management, and more. At PDWare, Jerry helps clients improve strategy execution through tools and processes that align people and work with organizational priorities. Connect with Jerry on Twitter and LinkedIn 

Project Priorities Are the Foundation of Effective Resource Allocation

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When staffing an onslaught of incoming and active projects, it's tempting to try to "fill in the gaps," assigning resources to meet the stated skill needs. But if multiple projects are clamoring for the same resources (and let's face it, they usually are), which projects take precedent?

This is where priorities come in. Resources (or teams) should be allocated to projects in priority order (and ideally, your software will accommodate this automatically). This way, if a lower priority project needs certain resources and they've already been assigned to a higher priority project, well, that's exactly as it should be. Conflicts can then be discussed if need be, and priorities can be reexamined. 

But it's more than just that. Priorities should determine the incoming projects to begin with. All planned strategic and business initiatives should be in support of defined and prioritized strategies and goals, and should be submitted with a relative priority (this is where portfolio review meetings come in handy).

Ensuring projects are prioritized also avoids the case where individuals find themselves overloaded and begin to prioritize their workload.

Stephen Covey said, "The key is not to prioritize what's on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities." There's a subtle difference, and it's all about whether you want to be in reactive mode or proactive mode.

In other words, rather than operating in reactive mode by prioritizing an incoming list of initiatives (many of which are often submitted based on the idea du jour or the "squeaky wheel" syndrome) or a schedule of activities, focus first on your  organizational priorities and then proactively schedule activities to deliver them (taking into consideration your finite resource capacity of course). Then, resources can be allocated in accordance with each initiative's relative priority. 

In essence, the time to think about priorities is when the projects get submitted, not after you have your daily to-do list. The project priorities should determine individual and team priorities.


JB Manas - website photo.jpg

Jerry Manas is the bestselling author of The Resource Management and Capacity Planning Handbook, Napoleon on Project Management, and more. At PDWare, Jerry helps clients improve strategy execution through tools and processes that align people and work with organizational priorities. Connect with Jerry on Twitter and LinkedIn 

Goal Setting Key to Project Success and Resource Planning

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Albert Einstein said, "Confusion of goals and perfection of means seems, in my opinion, to characterize our age."

In my opinion, it also characterizes most project and resource planning efforts. So much attention is spent on improving project mechanics (e.g., critical path scheduling, task estimating, financial planning, resource assignment, baselines, change approvals, running meetings, etc.), but precious little is spent on understanding the goals of the project, and of the portfolio.

Understanding and articulating the goals leads to more informed decision-making, better-aligned resources, and greater customer and employee engagement. Often, there are conflicting goals among stakeholders, and this needs to be rectified as well. It's why Napoleon said, "It's better to have one bad general than two good ones."

Unfortunately, many leaders are overly focused on mechanics and tactics, especially newer project managers. I often compare it to someone just learning to dance; They're so busy watching their feet and counting steps that they forget to just listen to the music.

There's no doubt, when goals are clear, the organization operates like a well-tuned orchestra. Otherwise, you can have the best systems and processes in the world and you'll still come out sounding like a grade school band (no offense to parents of grade schoolers out there).

Bottom Line: Next time you're leading a program, implementing a system, or attempting to allocate resources, make sure the goals of the endeavor are understood and widely agreed upon. Fix that, and everything else will fall into place. Put another way, Focus + Purpose = Productivity. Now that's an equation even Einstein would like!


JB Manas - website photo.jpg

Jerry Manas is the bestselling author of The Resource Management and Capacity Planning Handbook, Napoleon on Project Management, and more. At PDWare, Jerry helps clients improve strategy execution through tools and processes that align people and work with organizational priorities. Connect with Jerry on Twitter and LinkedIn 

Process and Productivity: Finding the Right Balance

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Many organizations struggle with how much process to put into place versus "letting people do their thing." There are a number of perspectives to consider.

Quality legend W. Edwards Deming said, “If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you are doing.” My wife used to manage Deming's events, so I had the pleasure of meeting him a number of times and took a tour of his TQM principles in action on the USS John F. Kennedy. A consistent theme of his is that people don't fail, systems do.

Before improving a process, you have to have a defined process to begin with. Thus, key business functions need to be defined in terms of functional processes along with inputs and outputs of each. Then improvements can be made, either using Deming's "Plan-Do-Check-Act" method, Six Sigma, or other process improvement approaches.

But where do we draw the line between having defined and measured processes and creating an environment where people can flourish in an empowered fashion? After all, as highlighted in this Fast Company article on 5 Ways Process is Killing Your Productivity, managers can take it a bit too far, for example:

  • Damaging trust and bogging down progress with approval steps
  • Focusing on process over people
  • Excessive meetings (especially recurring ones) to "keep things on track"
  • Empty jargon-filled slogans and mission statements
  • Micromanaging and filtering new idea

One way to help ensure the right level of process and standardization is to engage people in creating it. Even the late Peter Scholtes, author of The Team Building Handbook and standardization proponent advised, "By involving people in the standardization of work, we can remove some of the oppressiveness of it. People are less likely to balk at standards they have devised." He went on to say, "We need not standardize everything."

As for process vs. productivity, Fons Trompenaars, my favorite author on cross-cultural communication (his book, "Did the Pedestrian Die" is a landmark achievement in that area), advises taking a "through/through" approach when trying to balance two seemingly opposite agendas. Instead of focusing on one or the other, think how you can improve productivity "through" process improvements, and how you can improve processes "through" a greater focus on productivity. it's not "either/or" and it's not even "and/and." It's "through/through."

In other words, always consider the people perspective when defining processes, and find ways to improve processes to boost productivity and reduce barriers.  For more on this, I expand on this and other common leadership dilemmas in my book, Managing the Grey Areas.

Meanwhile, whether you're instituting processes for resource management, project management, portfolio management, or anything, for that matter, consider the following points:

  • Before you improve a process, you need to define one
  • Keep it simple, and consider the people aspect
  • Engage people in defining the process and identifying two or three key measures of success
  • Use checklists instead of approvals where possible
  • When balancing two seemingly opposite perspectives (e.g., process vs. productivity), try a "through/through" approach to incorporate both perspectives
  • Once a process is defined, use Plan-Do-Check-Act or Six Sigma's DMAIC model to improve specific areas as needed

Author Subhir Chowdhhury summed it up nicely when he said, "Quality combines people power and process power."


JB Manas - website photo.jpg

Jerry Manas is the bestselling author of The Resource Management and Capacity Planning Handbook, Napoleon on Project Management, and more. At PDWare, Jerry helps clients improve strategy execution through tools and processes that align people and work with organizational priorities. Connect with Jerry on Twitter and LinkedIn 

Project Estimation and Resource Planning Go Hand in Hand

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Effective project estimates and resource planning are indelibly linked. After all, if the estimates are wrong, it'll skew your resource plans. And if resource planning isn't done, it'll skew your estimates because people may be overloaded, causing everything to take longer.

In this PM Times article on improving project estimates, author Rich Butkevic points out common estimating fallacies, such as assuming nothing will go wrong, attempting to estimate tasks in a vacuum, and underestimating due to faulty assumptions based on prior projects. 

Butkevic also highlights a number of factors when making estimates, including project dependencies; past performance of similar projects (with proper cautions about assumptions of course); necessary buffers and contingencies; third party availability; consulting the team on resource availability; and more. Of course resource planning can also help from the availability perspective.

Bottom line: Next time you're thinking about resource planning processes, don't forget that sound estimating practices are a key success factor. And beware of Dilbert's boss.

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Jerry Manas is the bestselling author of The Resource Management and Capacity Planning Handbook, Napoleon on Project Management, and more. At PDWare, Jerry helps clients improve strategy execution through tools and processes that align people and work with organizational priorities. Connect with Jerry on Twitter and LinkedIn 

Visibility of Resource Capacity and Demand Drives Decision-Making

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Visibility of resource capacity and demand isn't just important. It can be the difference between good decisions and bad ones.

To use an analogy, assume you need to buy a car. You have your checkbook in hand, but you have no idea what's in your checking account.

There are two kinds of people in this situation:

 

  1. The optimist, who takes a chances and hopes the check won't bounce.
  2. The pessimist (or perhaps realist), who doesn't want to take a chance and forgoes buying the car.

Both of these people can end up with bad outcomes. One may overextend their resources and the other may miss out on a car they very much need.

It's the same with organizational resource capacity. If you don't have a good picture of the complete set of demand that your people are faced with, how can you really know which projects you can afford to take on? 

Maybe you'll take on too many projects, overloading your staff and causing excessive delays. It's been known to happen. Or maybe you'll decline a potentially valuable project that you just might have been able to staff using untapped skills in your organization.

It all boils down to a simple question.

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Do you feel lucky? Or would you rather know for sure?

To avoid the Dirty Harry "Do you feel lucky" approach to project intake, be sure to have a prioritized inventory of your projects, an inventory of your people resources and their capacity, and at least a high level effort forecast of who's scheduled to work on which projects and when.

Equipped with better information, you'll find yourself getting luckier by the day.


JB Manas - website photo.jpg

Jerry Manas is the bestselling author of The Resource Management and Capacity Planning Handbook, Napoleon on Project Management, and more. At PDWare, Jerry helps clients improve strategy execution through tools and processes that align people and work with organizational priorities. Connect with Jerry on Twitter and LinkedIn 

Are You Sabotaging Your Resource Planning Efforts with Poor Talent Management?

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You can have the best resource planning processes and systems in the world, but if you have the wrong people in the wrong roles, you're sabotaging yourself.

Likewise, you need to be staffed with the future in mind to remain agile and adaptive. This is especially true in management and leadership positions.

This Forbes article on solving the big talent problem gets it right. Hire for soft skills, particularly curiosity. People who are eager learners and socially adept will shine regardless of how much technology and skill needs change in the not-so-distant future.

"Stuff" can usually be taught. Behavioral traits, not so much. There are of course exceptions for specialized knowledge workers, but that in itself doesn't qualify them to manage people. 

As management guru Tom Peters likes to point out, an orchestra doesn't say, "Hey, he's so great as first violinist, let's make him conductor!" In baseball, having been a great third baseman doesn't qualify you to be a great manager. So why do we do this all the time in business? The Peter Principle is alive and well as we regularly promote people to their highest level of incompetence. 

Bottom line. If you want to really maximize your resources, you have to get the "people" part right.

#WednesdayWisdom


JB Manas - website photo.jpg

Jerry Manas is the bestselling author of The Resource Management and Capacity Planning Handbook, Napoleon on Project Management, and more. At PDWare, Jerry helps clients improve strategy execution through tools and processes that align people and work with organizational priorities. Connect with Jerry on Twitter and LinkedIn