Friday, January 16, 2015

The Things a New Team Manager Should Do First

When you join a team as its leader, either taking over an existing team or starting a new one, it generally creates some nervousness. Everyone wants to know what you’re going to change and where you’re going to take the direction of the team.

Your actions in the first few weeks can have a major impact on whether your team ultimately delivers results. Unfortunately some new leaders skip over the basics of team building.

Be as open and transparent about what you’re thinking as quickly as possible. You can start by outlining your 30-day plan. While you may not yet have opinions specific to the business, you can tell people what you want to learn about and evaluate. You may not yet know your strategy, but you can certainly talk about your values, priorities, and observations. The more transparent you can be, the more comfortable people will feel being candid with you.

Figure out What People Really Want to do
Meet with all of your direct reports individually for at least an hour within your first week. Ask them about what they really enjoy doing and what they aspire to be doing in the next 2 to 3 years. It can often be the case that the role the individual is in today is not necessarily fully utilizing their skills or motivating them to be their absolute best. Being genuinely interested in what’s going on within the organization builds credibility, and generally makes you more approachable.

Get Your Hands Dirty
Spend time doing the work that your team actually does. Not only does this help establish you as someone who leads by example, but you also learn first-hand about all of the different challenges that people experience every day. If you can understand what it’s fundamentally like to be on the front lines of your team, you have the perspective when making larger strategic decisions and communicating them to your team.

Be Decisive
Once you have a good lay of the land, explicitly lay out your vision and then plan to start moving toward it. People feel less unrest when they understand the bigger picture and can see where things are heading. This is often the hardest thing to do when you’re new, and can be difficult to recover from if you don’t do it.

Getting people to work together can be a challenge. And, being new is rarely easy. But if you take the time to get to know your team, chances are they will follow you when you step up and lead.

I encourage you to leave a comment by clicking on "...comments" below...
David Schuchman

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Why Hire a Professional Contractor

I write this post having recently started my own IT consulting company, Princeton Technology Advisors, LLC. In making this career decision, I reflected on why I previously contracted with professional consultants, and how I demonstrated doing so will bring value to my projects and the organizations where I worked.

A consultant is a person that is a subject matter expert who is paid to perform a specific set of tasks over a set period of time for an agreed upon sum of money. In this case, I mean for you to consider when it is appropriate to hire an IT consulting professional for your next important project.

As you approach starting a new project, take stock in the skills, backgrounds and timely availability of the in-house resources already accessible to you. Then, determine the skills and availability that you need to complete your new project on schedule. If there are gaps between those two reviews, consider bringing in consulting professionals. It’s important that the assessment of the skills, backgrounds and availability are performed objectively. An over confident or over ambitious program manager may not see these clearly (or truthfully).

What a professional consultant brings to a project are:
  • Works with you, your team and/or your management on goals and deliverables.
  • Accountability for results, schedule and costs to complete key project tasks. These tasks and goals can be identified and added to the contract, which can translate into significant economies as compared to in-house efforts.
  • A proven methodology and skill set applied to the appropriate tasks.
  • Creativity drawn from a robust base of prior experiences.
  • No significant cost of training or “experimenting” on how to complete the assignment. The consultant will focus on achieving results. Training of in-house staff can be scheduled into the project both during execution or as the final tasks to perform.

Once you determine that you will hire a consultant, you have several options for finding the right resources:
  • If your project involves purchasing a product, consider the vendor. While this may appear to be a costly upfront option (e.g. highest hourly rate), the vendor will provide well-trained product resources that will effectively perform the needed tasks.
  • Large multi-disciplined contracting companies have a variety of technical resources and specialties within their in-house staff. Some specialize in a specific set of technologies. While that can provide good value to your organization, you need to be sure the companies you speak with actually have in-house staff proficient in skill sets that your project needs.
  • An independent general contractor is a consultant who will manage your project and has access to a wide variety of the specialty sub-contractors needed on your project. It is often the case that the general contractor can be more cost effective and flexible as compared to specialty contractors since the team assembled is not limited to in-house resources. In addition, an independent general contractor typically does not have the overhead of larger firms.

Hiring a consultant can be extremely advantageous by helping you plan, manage, and implement your key project goals. The apparent cost may actually be less than the real cost when you consider the benefits gained from hiring a professional consultant for your short-term needs.

I encourage you to leave a comment by clicking on "...comments" below...
David Schuchman