The intersection between HR strategy and HR technology

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I remember when I moved into my last house (I’m in a condo now, it’s what happens when you move to the Bay Area, a house becomes an apartment).  We moved in and my wife had in her mind that she wanted butter yellow walls.  She had a very specific “butter” in mid – not the dark color associated with butter that has been sitting out for a while and is room temperature, but the butter that has just come out of the freezer, and is quite light in color.  So I went on my merry way to the local paint store and bought the color called “butter,” went home and proceeded to paint a room with it.  “JANE!!”  ((Name made up, for Jane Doe”)) I called as my senses were assaulted with a richly glowing room the color of maize.  So we proceeded to go back to the paint store and get a lighter yellow.  This pattern proceeded for what would eventually be five rounds before we got it right (and yes, our house had 5 different shades of yellow since I was rather unwilling to repaint the whole house). 

Sometimes you just don’t know what you want until you see it.  This actually drives me crazy.  When I plan a project, I actually start with the end state in mind.  I’ll usually design what the final report looks like and go backwards from there, even though I have no idea what the content in that report will actually be.  What I do know is what data I need to run and how I’m going to go about analyzing it.  I might have an idea what the data will tell me, but the discovery process is always fun as I’m often surprised.  The point is that I actually start with an empty shell and tell myself what data I need and how I’m going to slice and dice it.

It drives me absolutely crazy when people have no idea what it is that they want.  A project sponsor might know they want a business case, but once they have it, they decide that they didn’t want qualitative, they wanted quantitative, and then they wanted hard dollars only, not soft, and then they wanted 7 years out, not 5, and then they realized that they wanted qualitative after all.

It’s not just consultants that get in a never ending grind with projects that won’t end, but many companies have internal teams that suffer from sufficient visioning from their sponsors as well.  Part of initiating a project should actually be a pretty precise definition of what the outcomes are and what the output requirements should be.  We generally all spend too much time doing and too little time preparing whether it’s a project or an implementation, and much energy is wasted on going back to the paint store when the first trip (ok, perhaps the second) should have sufficed.

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