Monday, May 4, 2009

“You have three months”

• 40% Stock Market Decline.
• 8.6% Unemployment
• High Profile Financial Institutions Fail
• Legacy Fortune 100 Companies in Bankruptcy
• And, “You Have Three Months”

Gary is a respected program leader that I ran into the other day. When I asked him how he was doing, he said his management told him the job he had been doing had ended and he had three months to find a new position within the company. While this appears to be a fair and reasonable process, it is code inside big companies for “we wish you the best, but you are on your own.” What bothered me was how surprised people seem to be in these situations.

We work for ourselves. Our customers are the employers we sell our services to, and our products are the skills and capabilities we provide. Long before hearing “you have three months,” there must have been signals that the customer’s satisfaction had changed. Perhaps you no longer received the best assignments or toughest challenges. Maybe the services and products provided were not meeting a higher same standard or using the latest technology. We do not always have to agree with the “customer."

Do you believe leaders should have the ability to foresee when their services no longer meet customer needs?


David Engle said...

Hi John,

They sure better have that ability! If they don't the will end up like Gary - "You have three months".

It can be very difficult to really spot what the customer wants when this customer is your boss. However, you should be asking yourself at all times if you are creating value for the customer/company. The next question is the value you are creating compared to the guy next door - how is your value compared to his. You need to ask this question from the company's point of view - not your own. We most often feel that the work we are doing is creating incredible value. You really have to put yourself in the shoes of the customer and this is tough.

And then, I'm sorry to say, there is always the politics of larger organizations. This doesn't necessarily mean that you have to bring an apple to the boss every morning, but you better make sure that the boss and a whole lot of other people really know what kind of value you are creating. On this one I speak from experience - the bad kind. We were creating all kinds of value, but we didn't have the buy-in all the way up the organization for the work we were doing (value we were creating) - and we got axed. :-(


Unknown said...

You are right..."We do not always have to agree with the “customer." However, they are the ones paying the bills, and as the old saying goes Rule number 1) "the customer is ALWAYS ...???" and rule number 2)if they are wrong, see rule number 1.

Referencing your entry...Even IF the services and products provided WERE meeting the HIGHEST standard, IF they are the wrong service and/or product, it does the customer no good to pay for it. If the buyer is shopping for a new TV, how much effort should we put into selling them a new car?

If the customer no longer wishes to pay the bills for our products and services it is time to reinvent ourselves/products. How many times have you had to reinvent/redirect your career? I know I've had to several times...things don't always work out the way I'd like.

Unknown said... are right.

We must constantly ask ourselves..."if you are creating value for the customer/company. The next question is the value you are creating compared to the guy next door - how is your value compared to his. You need to ask this question from the company's point of view..."

As an addendum to my earlier post...Once (hopefully before) our project/skills become a "commodity", we must reinvent. There is a good book by Linda S. Sanford, Senior Vice President, Enterprise On Demand Transformation & Information Technology titled "Let Go To Grow: Escaping the Commodity Trap".

Mo. T. V8r said...

I do quite a bit of writing and speaking on generational differences and one of the biggest complaints I hear from managers is how 'young people' just have no loyalty anymore. Is it any wonder?

But to play devil's advocate for a minute, too.... is a company being loyal to an employee who no longer has the skills it needs. Do employers and employees need a new definition of loyalty for this new age?

Robert Fisher said...

I was amazed at a local news story of a departmental manager that was also suprised to find out she had been let go. All the signs are there if we are looking for them, in her case she had walked all of her staff to the gate pink slip in hand for the hmm 3 previous months. I think that sometimes fear allows denial to put our blinders on and say everything will be ok I am doing a great job. Unfortunately without the drive to keep skills updated to current needs and the focus to provide the very best service to all stakeholders, the cards are stacked against. With more and more qualified PMP's and PGMP's in the market I find that the old early bird gets the worm applies.

I like the comment about letting your superiors know that you are adding value to the project but politics in this arena seem to be a slippery slope too much is just as bad as too little with balance as the keyword to note.

Anonymous said...

In this case, his manager if he was worth his weight in salt should have been an advocate for Gary to find a position whether considered a lateral at the same pay, or a we need this position filled and we don't have any viable candidates. If you do a good job it's yours. The flip side of this is you don't know if the company is in the red and needs to let people go to stave off the blood flow. Gary needs to look at his resume, his skills and start finding out how to market his skill set or bring them up to speed to be marketable in todays work force

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