Keeping People Interested

If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”
– Albert Einstein

Every week we have a 45 minute class for our team on topics ranging from Business Development to Project Management. Sometimes we get into the technical nitty-gritty, while other times, we focus on business development and proposal development processes or improving project delivery. We call it “MCFA University,” and the premise is simple – 1 hour/week focused on learning new topics, sharpening our skills, and improving our systems and culture.

This week, we talked about KPIs. I know, KPIs…blah blah blah. KPIs are the vernacular of anyone involved in the management (and improvement) of organizations, people, and processes. But I was using KPIs to teach our Junior staff how everything they do, from searching and screening RFPs to tracking their billable hours, is connected to some part of “Getting Work,” “Doing Work,” and “Getting Paid.”

So while we are used to KPIs being the management dashboard of the health of our projects, departments, or organizations, KPIs really should be the scorecard by which every member of our teams knows they are “winning the day” and “winning the week.” Because if everyone on our team is winning the week, then at the end of the quarter, we should see the results we want on the “management dashboards.” (And if we aren’t, we can focus on the effectiveness of our KPIs or our systems, but that’s a topic for another week.)    

No one, and I mean NO ONE, hates the billable hour as a KPI more than yours truly, but it is a necessary evil in a world driven by rates and hours. After recently retiring as an attorney, my father-in-law said, “Today is the last day of tracking my life in 6-minute increments.” The billable hour as a KPI focuses everyone on the time economy vs. the results economy. It turns clients from people to help and problems to solve into “entities to be billed.” But it’s here to stay…for now.

So yes, billable hours, utilization rates, and overhead multipliers are the KPIs of the industry. I challenge you as a leader to think less of KPIs as Key Performance Indicators and more as a tool for “Keeping People Interested.” NO ONE WANTS TO BE A FAILURE. Maybe they aren’t in the right role, maybe they don’t have the capacity to do the job, or perhaps they aren’t a culture/core value fit. Whatever it may be, they can move to another role or another organization. But if you are looking to improve employee engagement and business effectiveness, think about what metrics your team needs at the individual level to help you win and keep them feeling like they are doing a great job AND helping the team win.

BJ Kraemer, President

Semper Paratus

“It usually takes me two or three days to prepare an impromptu speech.” – Mark Twain

“Prior Planning and Proper Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance.”

I heard some version of this old military adage a million times growing up. Beginning of sports seasons, getting ready for a big test, on the pool deck, at home, at West Point. The list goes on…preparation is in our control! 

Planning and Preparation are the things we can control.  

Of course, we know that. Be prepared. Think about a plan. But how often do we get caught up in our own brainstorming, planning, and preparing that we leave our subordinates with little time to make their own plans? As leaders, decision-makers, project managers, we have to remember that we aren’t the only ones who need time to prepare. I was reminded this week of the 1/3 – 2/3 rule. You may have heard of it before, but I think it’s worth reminding. Simply stated, leaders should take a third of the time until a deadline to make a plan and then provide their subordinates with the remaining time to develop their own plans and execute them. As a Platoon Leader for Field Training Exercises, this often meant if we had 30 minutes of planning, it was 10 minutes for me and 20 minutes for Squad Leaders.  

This week, we were reminded of all the planning that goes into every step of the Project Development Process. We are moving quickly on an entire portfolio master plan, project development, and construction management engagement for a client. We have different team members helping with different portions of the project, but when you are at the right hand of the client and your team is responsible for Planning, Design Support, Development, and Construction Management of an entire portfolio of projects, you begin to remember that the further a project advances, the more detailed the planning and preparation is.

So whatever your role in a project, mission, or plan, the further upstream you are (and the closer you are to the decision-maker), remember there are people downstream that have to turn your plan into their plan…and the project is counting on both of you. Be diligent, but be quick…as Thomas Edison said, “Good fortune often happens when opportunity meets with preparation.”

“Semper Paratus!”

BJ Kraemer, President