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Loss Indicators

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Originally I'd planned to write about facilitation but then I learned our team will be experiencing a 30 percent staff reduction.

And instead of going out of town, I'll be sticking around, helping management with planning and execution of the reduction. Here are my thoughts ...

In any business, there are cycles. In our particular department, we are chartered to provide services and products to internal customers who provide services/products to the external customers that pay our bills.

In our case, our staff reduction is really a leading indicator of what may be coming down the road. Several factors leading to the current overhead reduction include:

•    Inability to capture key business pursuits (in management speak, the must-win proposals turned out to be losers)
•    Too much reliance on traditional customer base--which is getting poorer each year
•    Lack of will to follow through
•    Conflicting leadership initiatives

What's happening within your work environment? Are you still experiencing these kinds of staff reductions?

Be sure to read my next post and I will explain what I mean by conflicting leadership initiatives.

The Search Is On

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For project managers out of work or just looking to change gigs, the recession and job cutbacks have made the competition tough. John Thorpe, managing director of Arras People, a project management recruiting firm in London, England, offers some tips for landing your dream job.

1. Focus on you, not your projects. Many people make the mistake of ticking off all their successful projects rather than talking about how they contributed to that success. "People are interested in what you did," he says. "You could have been serving coffee on that project. But if you made the difference in a project's outcome, be loud and proud about it."

2. Experience trumps training. Hiring managers are most interested in a proven track record. Mr. Thorpe suggests you put project experience front and center.

3. Market yourself. Your résumé is your sales literature and you have to sell your experience and education in a way that speaks to the person doing the hiring. "A generic CV is not going give you the best chance, particularly in this economy when hiring is tighter and roles are much more specific," Mr. Thorpe says. He suggests tweaking your résumé for each job, emphasizing your experience in a way that specifically relates to the position you are applying for.

4. Keep it short and sweet. Recruiters have hundreds of résumés to sort through. If yours is 17 pages long, they're likely to pass it by. "You have to grab their attention in the first half of the page or you are not going to make the cut," he says.

5. Consider contract work. Many companies are opting for temporary employees to fill gaps in staff without making a long-term commitment. For those with the right skills, contract gigs can garner decent wages and help you get your foot in the door.

6. Go to networking events. A lot of jobs never even get advertised, so it pays to network. It's a time-consuming but necessary part of the search, he says. "Finding a job is a job. You need to work hard at it and commit yourself full time."

Want to know where the hotspots are even in a down market? We've got it covered PMI's Career Track in the May issue of PM Network. We will also have stories on making time for training and moving up the career ladder.

And in the 10 April issue of Community Post, PMI members can check out an article on how to highlight your credential when you are jobhunting.

In Search of Long-Term Value

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I am writing after having just finished conducting a seminar in Bahrain and am preparing to fly back to London tomorrow morning.

For the third year in a row, CIOs identified project alignment with the strategy as the number one management priority in a CIO magazine survey. And for the first time, CEOs rated "meeting other strategic objectives (e.g., reputation of your business, entering a new market, securing access to natural resources)" as more important than "maximizing financial or shareholder return" or "meeting or exceeding a specific financial return" (e.g., return on invested capital).

In most organizations, business heads select the majority of projects. Those projects are then submitted as part of an annual budget allocation process, with the selection often based on these functional managers' needs, not as a response to an aligned strategy.

Often these initial proposals have to be cut back when budgets are reduced. And because the current organizational focus is on short-term results, the projects that are cut are mostly those that would produce long-term results. But the recent economic downturn has brought into light the failure of the short-term financial profit approach and the need to look for longer-term sustainable value. Recent surveys show the interests of top management are shifting; increasing competitive advantage and the ability to adapt to change have become foremost in their priorities.

The key to delivering this value is in the development of an integrated portfolio-program-project approach supported by a sound governance system. Typically, executive stakeholders agree on the strategic objectives that will produce competitive advantage. At the program level, they are translated into business benefits. Project deliverables are then defined to produce new capabilities that will enable the realization of these benefits.

As project results are measured and benefits are assessed, the program and the strategy are modified to adapt to changing circumstances. This, in turn, gives the organization the necessary agility to stay competitive in a challenging environment and to realize value consistently.

Managing Through Layoffs

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The bad news keeps pouring in when it comes to job markets around the globe. In Israel, nearly 20,000 people lost their jobs in January. In Ireland, that number neared 37,000. And in the United States, it was a staggering 600,000.     
   While such details are simultaneously horrifying and fascinating, it raises a question: Who is taking on all the work these layoffs have left behind?
   In a recent article, Cynthia K. West, Ph.D., vice president of Project Insight, highlighted several factors that organizations, resource managers and project managers must face when job losses occur. They include:

•    Replacing resources on existing process
•    The loss of best practices, business practices and other knowledge
•    Assessing project priorities
   She goes on to say:

"The most immediate challenge that arises is the replacement of resources on existing projects. More often than not, projects in process still need to be completed on schedule--and within budget. The questions that must be answered are: Do the remaining resources on the team have the skill sets to complete the work? Can we transition these tasks without getting behind schedule? Does the organization have an effective way to look into the resource pool and know what skill sets the team members have?"
    So what is the solution?
    Ms. West makes several suggestions for managing these problems, for example she suggest organizations should put together a resource pool together to keep track of employee skillsets, while at the same time creating a knowledgebase that all employees can access and benefit from. It should include best practice documents, lessons learned, etc.
She also says it's important to ask the question, "Does this project help the organization reduce cost?" And then prioritize.  
     But what do you think? According to a recent poll here on Voices, more than half of our readers organizations' have experienced layoffs thanks to this global economic crisis. How is your organization dealing with  the mounting workloads--and making sure you don't lose any critical knowledge?

Come Out of Hibernation ...

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Even in these tough economic times, it's important to remember that organizations can still improve. Not everything has to be about cutbacks and budgets. (I mean, some things do, but not everything.)
    I came across this great whitepaper by @task called Driving High-Performance Projects Despite Shrinking Budgets: Three Keys to Increasing Productivity and Reducing Costs Across the Enterprise. It seems to sum things up pretty well:
    "There are many corporations getting ready for hibernation. They've already resigned themselves to crawl into a cave and wait things out. Organizations may need to reevaluate the way they do business in today's market, but there's no need to hide and let potential profits evaporate like the snow in spring. ... Project managers challenged by shrinking budgets can still drive high-performance projects."
    The whitepaper gives three keys for increasing productivity and reducing costs across the organization:

1. Make sure your organization has access to accurate information.
2. Focus on bottom-line activities.
3. Make the organization's vision accessible to everyone.
   
What do you think? Is your organization hibernating or rising to the challenge?

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