You joined the team a few months ago as its manager. Now a challenging new project is on the horizon, and you have to decide which team member gets the assignment. Who do you pick?
Roy has been part of the team for years. The previous manager told you that he struggled in the past. But since you’ve been here, it’s as if a light went on: Roy’s work has been top-notch. Is Roy past his struggles and up to a challenging new assignment?
Bill goes through his workday with a swagger. He’ll tell you that he can handle anything you throw at him. And so far he has, although you haven’t asked him to do anything that was particularly hard. Is Bill just a braggart, or do you trust him to walk the talk?
Melanie’s work has always been good but not outstanding. A few months ago, when Melanie’s project encountered some unexpected bumps — not of her making — she surmounted the problems and delivered a great outcome. Was it a fluke, or is Melanie ready to rise to the occasion again?
Connie is the youngest member of the team, eager to learn and willing to do things in new ways. She’s already suggested some innovations that have paid off. Can Connie’s energy and new ideas overcome her lack of experience?
My take: don’t rely too much on the past, especially on things you’ve heard but haven’t observed firsthand. Instead, align your people’s current abilities with current and future needs.
The people in this story are fictitious, but I didn’t just make them up. They represent the personalities of the four teams that remain in this year’s major-league baseball playoffs: the Royals, Blue Jays, Mets, and Cubs, respectively.
When you watch baseball, or any sport, you learn that players and teams change and grow. As a manager you should acknowledge that growth: judge your people on who they are today rather than basing your expectations on who they used to be.
So….Who gets assigned to the new project? Why would you pick that person?
Who would I assign to the project? Ask me after the World Series.
I think it depends on additional factors you (as manager) need to consider:
– How critical is the product to the company? Is there any room for error? (If the final documentation product isn’t great, can it be fixed before it affects too many customers?)
– Is there enough time in the project to correct if things start going wrong?
I’d probably go with experience over enthusiasm, and maybe even “consistently good” over “highly variable.” And why not pick two writers to work together on the project if it’s important enough? (Not possible with baseball teams, but usually possible in the business world.)
Thanks, Neal. You’re right, of course: I didn’t give you nearly enough to make an informed choice. But I like the criteria you’ve suggested.
I especially like your idea of assigning two writers. In technical writing, our tools and processes are increasingly amenable to collaboration. That might be just the thing for this project.