PM Chronicles #12: Development Triangles #3, by Wayne Pon and Fred Parker

On a video conference. Present are:

  • MC – Management Coach
  • OPS – Operations Manager
  • HR – Human Relations Manager
  • PM – Performance Manager
  • LT – Learning and Talent Development Coordinator
  • TC – Training Coordinator
  • HG – Consultant (Hired Gun)

PM         Hello again everyone. Good to see you. It looks like you all are staying safe and healthy.

               Today is our third session on the WSP Development Triangles.

               Here are the first four triangles. So, MC, tell us what we are going to discuss today.

MC         First a quick recap. These triangles illustrate the development of skills and abilities on the job. A person starts any new position at #4 where they know less than almost everyone senior to them.

               I think it was TC who remarked that this looks like a funnel. That’s good. The person is ready to absorb what they need.

               At #3 the person has progressed to being basically even with everyone else.

               At #2 they are more capable than their seniors but still learning.

               At #1 they are the most capable person in the organization in that position.

               First question for today: Why should a person want to progress from Triangle #4 to Triangle #1?

LT           It seems to me that at each level they increase their value to the organization.

HR         Yeah! That also improves job security. It becomes more and more expensive to replace them.

MC         That is exactly right. Anything else?

PM         I believe there is also a strong sense of personal satisfaction in the development process. Someone said earlier, “As good as the best and better than the rest.” That is part of this.

HR         There is an organizational responsibility here as well.

               I have read several articles lately that talk about employee dissatisfaction and job turnover, what we call “churn.”

               One major area of this is that people want to develop, but in some companies there is little opportunity. People feel stifled and begin looking for other places to work.

               If we want to keep good people we need to give them that opportunity.

OPS       What about those who don’t respond, but who just want a paycheck.

HR         One of the painful things we have to do in HR is release people who don’t measure up.

MC         That’s really good. The organizational piece is something we will dig into more as we go along.

               But now, let’s consider the pros and cons related to each Triangle, starting with #4.

LT           I think most people come into a new position with a certain amount of excitement, looking forward to new and different things. So, I guess one of the pros for #4 is the opportunity for growth.

TC          I agree. On the con side is that it can be a bit discouraging to younger employees as they begin to realize how much there is left to do in their development process.

MC         So what happens?

LT           What I have seen is that most people rise to the challenge.

               For those who don’t, as HR said, they should be encouraged to seek employment elsewhere.

MC         All right. Back to the Triangles.

               What are some possible pros and cons for Triangle #3?

TC          As you said earlier, they have progressed to being pretty much even with everyone else. That is good.

MC         OK, What else?

TC          There may still be some discouragement at not progressing more rapidly.

MC         Good. And now there is another wrinkle we need to discuss.

               Is there ever a situation where we want people to stay at #3?

LT           I don’t think so. Don’t we always want people to progress?

MC         Are there any aspects of this company where you want everyone with the same skills and abilities?

PM         Wait a minute! I think I begin to get what you are asking. Safety comes to mind as an area where we want everyone to have the same development.

MC         What about the Safety Manager? Should everyone be as capable as the Safety Manager.

HR         I think that situation is similar to mine. Both of us are at Triangle #1, as unique jobs go, but everyone else in the company needs to be Level #3 as related to safety.

TC          Yeah. That is why I do frequent refresher training to make sure everyone stays conscious of safety requirements.

LT           Now I get it. I just thought about the Job-Task Analysis (JTA) we have been doing. We have a whole section that details Common Skills for all employees. Those fit into the Triangle #3 area, right?

MC         Exactly so. We are beginning to dig into the dynamics of these Triangles.

               OK, moving on before we run out of time. Last week TC talked about being in between Triangles #2 and #1. Who recalls that discussion?

TC          I keep thinking about that. Is it OK for me to be kind of in between #2 and #1?

LT           I will jump in here. I think so. To me it seems that in between #2 and #1 should be OK. It allows for more growth, but still puts someone like TC in a very strong position. They are still the “go to” person for TC kinds of things, but TC knows there is still more to learn and apply.

MC         Perfect! That brings us to a key point of discussion.

               Is it always a good thing to be a Level #1, or should you be in between, similar to TC?

PM         What am I missing? Don’t we all want to get to Triangle #1?

MC         Let’s think about this for a minute. So far we have identified HR and Safety Manager as #1 positions. They are what I often call “One-of-a-kind experts.” They are the only people who can do their jobs.

               I suggest that is OK because we count on their expertise in those areas.

               However, do we want lots of “One-of-a-kind experts?” Would there be any problem with that? Do the rest of you want to be “One-of-a-kind experts?”

HG         Let me jump in here a minute. You may remember way back when we started this project, you identified SMA (Subject Matter Advisor) on line #1 as the place to start because SMA was the only person who could operate Line #1 efficiently.

PM         That’s right! We agreed that having only one person who could operate that line was a bad thing. We would be in trouble if something happened to SMA, so we needed to train several other operators to be as efficient as SMA.

               Wow! We are out of time for now.

               You have really got me going on this “One-of-a-kind experts” thing. I think we need to discuss this some more. Something to chew on in the meantime.

               Thanks everyone, good discussion. See you all next week.


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Wayne Pon is an influential leader who believes an organization’s strength comes from its people.  Understands that investing in building relationships and creating environments where stakeholders feel respected, appreciated and valued delivers sustained results.  Known for applying globally developed skills, a key differentiator, in organizational transformational change.  

Inspires and motivates by using a collaborative approach through clarifying, simplifying and focusing on the critical few.  Helping to “connect the dots” by being open to learning and questioning to gain broad stakeholder alignment.  Driven and committed to “win” the “infinite game.”

Practical versatility gained from broad international oil, gas, mining production, development, research (patents), joint ventures, business, government and military experiences in targeted roles of increasing responsibilities and broadening assignments.  Servant leadership, active listening, clear decisiveness and technical depth with the ability to integrate stakeholder needs into executable strategic and tactical plans.  These have been key personal attributes grown over time and enhanced through formal “executive coaching.”  This has helped to ensure successes in guiding diverse/multi-cultural teams that safely achieve tangible results and create real value in the areas of organizational effectiveness, operations management and technical engineering.  

Fred Parker is the Director of Course Design and Development at Fred has half a century as a Performance Management Consultant designing, developing, and delivering performance-based training including all manner of technical training, individual development soft skills, and basic leadership. Clients include all sizes from a local sandwich shop to the military to fortune 500 multinationals. Now Fred is converting previous ILT courses to remote delivery courses available on our web site.

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