PM Chronicles #14: Development Triangles #5, 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 everyone. Welcome back for our fifth discussion of the WSP Development Triangles.

               Here are all five Triangles. MC, What’s on the agenda for today?

MC         Well, today we are going to wrap up a few things and then let the Triangles sit for a while. Go ahead and apply them and see how relevant they are to your everyday activities. Letting this information sit would be a shame!

What about Jobs with Multiple Responsibilities?

MC         OK. Last week OPS mentioned something about separate job areas and how the Triangles might relate to that.

OPS       Yeah. I got to thinking that I have two separate job areas, operations and maintenance. The Triangles unify the process, and still allow for different assessments. I have been mulling that over.

PM         How is that working out?

OPS       Well, it turns out that it kind of mushroomed on me. I had to do two separate assessments.

PM         Help us understand that.

OPS       Well, as Operations Manager, I am responsible for operations, of course. That is my strongest area. Of course, I get input from the operations supervisors.

               However, I also have overall responsibility for maintenance, but that is much weaker for me. I need maintenance supervisors to advise me.

MC         So where do you think you fit?

OPS       In operations I am similar to TC. I am somewhere between #1 and #2.

               In maintenance I seem to be somewhere between #3 and #4. Sometimes I may even be a bit in #5.

LT           What do you mean by that.

OPS       We have maintenance supervisors and team leaders who are local experts for their areas. Sometimes I need to go looking for information and answers from them.

               I don’t see this as their deliberately withholding information. They may not even realize that I need it until I ask.

               I think #5 includes this sort of situation as well.

Beware the Halo Effect

MC         That is a brilliant example! People often don’t realize that operations and maintenance are very different mindsets. Excellence at one does not equate to excellence in the other.

               This allows me to segue into the next topic for discussion.

               Who can tell me what the halo effect is?

HR         That is when we assume that exceptional performance in one area automatically means qualification in another area, or at a different job level.

               For instance, we might assume that our best salesperson would automatically make a good sales manager.

TC          Yeah, or that our best machine operator will be a good trainer.

HG         Or even differences within one specialty. I knew a master mechanic who refused to work on small equipment, anything smaller than a lawnmower engine. He didn’t have the patience for little pieces.

MC         So what happens when we try to force a person into a job they are not suited for?

The Peter Principle

HR         We don’t talk about it much any more, but this is the classic Peter Principle, identified by Lawrence J. Peter back in the 1970s, I think.

               The Peter Principle is that we tend to promote people into their level of incompetence where they perform poorly.

MC         And then?

HR         We leave them there to struggle until they either quit or are fired.

HG         Why can’t we just return them to their old jobs where they were doing well?

HR         I don’t know. We just don’t. I don’t even know of any companies who do.

               I guess we think it would be a bigger black mark to demote them back to the job they are good at than to fire them.

               The reverse of the halo effect – they can’t do this job so now they can’t do any job.

Big Question for Supervisors – How do I respond to this person?

MC         So how do the Triangles help a supervisor with these situations?

HG         I often tell clients that one key mark of a leader is the attitude of, “Where are we going, and how do we get there?” It is positive and forward looking.

               Where does that fit into our discussion?

LT           I think the Triangles are a good tool for the supervisor to discuss with the performer those kinds of questions.

               Questions like, Where do you see yourself, now and in the future? What are you good at? And perhaps most importantly, How can I help you?

HR         You’re right. We tend to spend way too much time berating performers about their shortcomings and demanding that they fix things that maybe can’t be fixed.

               We probably should look at trial periods, perhaps 90 days, after which we assess and decide the best for the performer.

OPS       I have to agree. There are things about maintenance that I just don’t get. Fortunately, no one ever tried to make me a maintenance manager. When I need help, I go find an expert.

PM         Well, that is about all we have time for today. MC is busy for the next few weeks so we will take a break from the Development Triangles.

               MC, any final comments?

Richard Farson

MC         A guy named Richard Farson is one of my favorite management consultants. He wrote a book called “Management of the Absurd,” that pokes holes in a lot of management topics. In one chapter he talks about what we should do with new management ideas.

               His recommendation is that once you learn a new management tip or “trick,” forget about it and move on.

               His thinking is that too much reliance on one gimmick or model may blind us to other helpful models. it may become a way to manipulate people rather than to get ahead.

HR         Richard Farson? It seems I have heard that name. What has he done that we might know about?

MC         Well, he is the guy who came up with Active Listening. In his book he says he is sorry he ever published it because people have used it more like a magic trick than as a sincere way to talk with others. They spend more time trying to follow the process than trying to understand what the other person is saying.

HR         Oh my! I will have to take another look at that.

MC         So my advice is to use the Development Triangles where they fit, and remember they are just one tool in your kit.

PM         Thanks again, MC for your time, and everyone for your participation.

               For next week, I plan to get PHD back for a discussion about the multitude of models and diagrams we run into, and how to differentiate. I think this will expand on Richard Farson.

               See you 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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