The Art of Project Management: Expert advice from experienced project managers in Silicon Valley, and around the world
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Part IV: Herman has a Multigenerational Offsite with his Team

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He decides to set up an “action learning” session to solve schedule issues. By focusing on the solution rather than problems, he moved the group into thinking differently in an ageless way. The goal was to appreciate what was working with scheduling and how to make it easier and easier. All members of his team agreed with that goal for different reasons that would benefit them.

He knows that the youngest staff simply view this as meeting deadlines, and he wants everyone to focus on thinking about the schedule as a master plan they can influence with timelines or finishlines for whole team success.  He knows from his own mentor that this subtle shift in language (away from “deadline”) will make meeting the schedule a team effort to beat the clock which becomes the theme for the meeting.

He asks Tex the Y Gen guy to prepare a short demo of schedule delays and impacts. Tex guy loves games and gaming and works all night before the session creating a short game for “beat the clock against the odds”.  He has Otis the Owl try it the night before.

Herman asks Otis the Owl to prepare a case study of how it was done on a project he worked on similar to this one, with three key tips from experience.

Betty the Boomer volunteers to do all the logistics for the meeting, the name cards, the caterer, and set up of the room.  She wants to make sure everything gets done right so there is no distraction.

George the Gen X agrees to present an “action learning” simulation of a recent delay in schedule, and why it happened. He focuses on what went well, not just what delayed it. His role is to guide the group. George is asked to show the time and cost savings for a more Innovative approach.

The offsite is a success because each of Herman’s team got to work in age strength areas comfortable and exciting for them.

The afternoon was spent going over five core intentions common to all generations for an “ageless” solution:

How we will Get it done!

The group defined what they needed to get done using various scenarios of slippage.

How we Get it Right!  (better estimating)
They defined ways to ensure high quality in all decision to get it right the first time. Otis told his story about shortcuts when under pressure.

Get Along! (better coordination)
Tex focused on customer’s issues and vendors, and how to get them to assist with meeting schedule designed for them.  They decided he would show his game to the vendors and the Boss who would also learn what schedule issues are in a creative way.

Get Acknowledged!  (more respect for everyone’s strengths)
Everyone focused on their own strengths, and ways they could assist
with keeping the schedule shifts in better control.

Betty was acknowledged for all her hard work in setting up the session, and
all the work she was doing.  When she volunteered (naturally) to do the follow- up  tracking, the group vetoed this saying she was already overcommitted.
Betty felt acknowledged!  George took that role on.
And with this creative agenda, the meeting was fun. Everyone walked out surprised at how much energy they now had.

What was the secret?

Learning to play together was more important than learning to work together.

Herman had stayed on the “sunny side” of any schedule discussion. He did not take a problem approach, but rather focused the group on solutions.

Point of the story:

There is less generational factor when you remain positive in your approach. With everyone in the “creative” mode, a factor known as “cooperative competence” grows, and the younger staff see their role as “reverse-mentors”. They also become more open to seeing the need for collaborative rules of the road since the whole group created them.

Herman made the idea of the Future FIX fun for all and focused on the strengths each generation brings to a project.
Michele Jackman

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About the Author

MICHELE JACKMAN, M.S.W., M.S., has provided consulting and training on service delivery, quality, employee retention and organizational development to clients including Cisco, Sun Microsystems, Oracle, AT&T, and Deckers. She works with private, public and nonprofit organizations, and has developed tools and techniques that are widely used in Fortune 500 companies as well as small businesses. Ms. Jackman is a frequent presenter at conferences on the subject of promoting change and transition and has taught at UCSC Extension since 1990. mjackmanEA@aol.com
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