Managing the Multigenerational Workplace

“Those who criticize our generation forget who raised it.”  ― Unknown

Throughout my professional career working for multinational companies around the world, I have seen the evolution of the workplace. This change has not only included the new professionals joining the workforce, but also the veterans as people are living longer and economic conditions are requiring many people to continue working past the traditional age of retirement.

For the first time in many decades the workplace has four generations working together. What this means for organizations is that they have had to deal with four sets of expectations, motivations, attitudes, behaviors and communication styles. That’s a lot of complexity and we haven’t even considered the upcoming Generation Z, or the cultural differences among the Matures, Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials that make up our current local and global work environments.

On a daily basis employees and managers continue to wrestle with typical work issues such as timelines, quality control, cost issues and risk management.  Yet, organizations find the need to develop additional leadership competencies. Managing the multigenerational workplace has moved to the forefront of many discussions about organizational success.

To many individuals, the generational gap is a set of stereotypes about one or more generations. This is one of the main factors that fuels certain types of conflicts in the workplace. To avoid this, organizations need to prepare employees and managers to develop and master a new capability: the generational competence, which fits squarely under soft skills (leadership). The generational competence term was coined by Seitel (2005) and is described as the adaptations that organizations and individuals must make in order to meet the diverse needs of the four generations in today’s workforce.

There is a common belief that generations are defined by age when in reality generations are defined by common experiences and key events that happen during their formative years. These factors drive people to focus on values and beliefs about communication styles, need for feedback, commitment, personal gratification and internal motivation which are all reflected in the workplace.

ManPowerGroup’s analysis of the United Nations population data shows that the two younger generations (Millennials and Gen Z) will outnumber the two older generations (Gen X and Baby Boomers) in 2020, which most likely will be a similar reflection of the workplace at that time.

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The year 2020 is around the corner and organizations and individuals need to continue to prepare for the new adaptations in the workplace. You can start now by utilizing the following cross-generational strategies:

Understand more and judge less

Although we often think about generations in terms of age, each generation is defined much more by common experiences than birth year. Understanding the key drivers and events that have molded a group’s behavior in each generation will help you understand more and judge less.

Embrace change

Generations and cultures both evolve over time.. In general, cultures evolve slowly due to environmental changes, technological advances, economies and interactions. Generations, on the other hand, will always be in a more rapid state of flux.

Develop generational competency

Generational competency is absolutely necessary in organizations, as well as in an individual’s portfolio of soft skills. Look for educational and professional endeavors that focus on developing competencies that will help you to meet the diverse needs of all generations in the workplace of the future.

Focus on relevance

Do not equate “different” with “bad.” Organizations and individuals must strive to modify behaviors and expectations where possible in order to be as relevant a leader as possible to each generation and to reap the benefits of the diverse workplace in which we find ourselves today.

ConradoMorlanProject Manager

An experienced global portfolio, program and project manager with more than 20 years of experience. His specialties include aligning projects with organizational strategy for multinational companies and leading virtual and co-located multicultural and multigenerational teams in the Americas and Europe. When Conrado is not blogging for DBS or PMI’s Voices on Project Management,  you can find Conrado hitting the asphalt in major US marathons, supporting US Men and Women’s national soccer teams, or at a race track watching an F1 Grand Prix around the world.

The Urgent and Important Work of DevOps

“What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.” – Dwight Eisenhower

There are things in our lives that are urgent and important, urgent and unimportant, not urgent and important, and not urgent and not important. The idea is, you first want to get your urgent and important things out of the way, then put a lot of energy into important but not-so-urgent priorities. DevOps adoption, as it’s currently being practiced, tends to focus on not-urgent or not-important problems – and sometimes both.

Some Background:

When the term “DevOps” was first introduced in 2009, the largest barrier to adoption was awareness. Managers and leaders didn’t know what DevOps was, much less why they needed it. As an industry, we tackled this problem with two main strategies: we appealed to the unicorns (i.e., Amazon is doing production deployment every 11 seconds), and we built grassroots proof of concepts. At the time, this was both urgent and important. Urgent because our competition was reading the same articles about the industry leaders, and important because the first step towards solving a problem is to recognize it and name it.

Seven years later the unicorns have all been spotted, rounded up, studied, analyzed, reported on, photographed and imitated.  So why do we still feel that it’s important to drive awareness? Certainly there is still a good deal of uncertainty about what DevOps really means, and this needs to continue to be refined.  But the awareness is there. IT VPs are beginning to put DevOps initiatives in their budgets.  The elusive “DevOps Engineer” is a hot commodity for enterprise recruiters. Go to any technical conference, and there’s sure to be a session on DevOps for developers. Undoubtedly, many organizations have at least one team that can showcase automated builds, tests and deployments. It has now become urgent and important to begin realizing the gains that have been promised by all the grassroots champions.

It’s Not About the Tools:

Any student of the DevOps movement will tell you that it’s not about the tools – it’s about building the culture. And yet, everyone is organized around building and leveraging those tools. We are seeing teams that are able to check in code and automate processes all the way to deployment into QA, but then things stop. The change advisory board is still there.  IT security is still there. Ops is still on edge about frequent deployments. But let’s not forget what the whole point of all of this is: to deliver business value quickly. It is now unimportant if you go from 1 build a day to 10 builds a day, if you’re still sitting at 1 deployment per quarter.  It’s not urgent to lower your WIP from Dev to QA if you’re letting it all stack up on your staging servers. Clearly the important work is to address the culture, relationships, security, and change control processes that have previously been stuck in a not-urgent/not-important quadrant.

DevOps Graphic

What You Can Do:

This shift towards focusing on non-technical matters is hard for developers. When we’re staring at our screens thinking, “what can I do to make this better?” we usually come up with technical answers like writing a script to automate a process, or creating a tool to assist with build metric collection. These are great ideas, but a better answer may be to go find an ops guy and take him out to lunch or to sit in on a release management meeting to better understand why getting through production control is so difficult.

Rule of Thumb:

If you’ve already developed some automation, then do not favor more automation over relationship development with operations. I witnessed one mid-sized company focus entirely on agile development practices and build automation without ever addressing the production control variable. Sprint velocity and story acceptance was high.  Builds were automatically deployed to development servers on code check-in, and were push-button deployable to QA servers when QA was ready. All final binaries were automatically packaged up for deployment without any developer involvement. Yet, during a 12-month period not a single line of code was deployed to production. Clearly automation didn’t provide any business value here.

Conversely, I worked with a Fortune 500 company that was struggling with large, complex software releases. Big-bang releases would frequently be rolled back, causing the deployment complexity to continually ratchet up. Some rollbacks were the result of configuration or usage issues, rather than bugs. Failed deployments became a self-fulfilling prophecy. While developers were improving the build pipeline no new build or release automation was put in place to mitigate the deployment issues. Instead, the problem was solved by establishing a better relationship with our operations partners. We figured out that if we had the right players involved, we could collaboratively deploy smaller incremental releases to a limited production audience. This allowed developers to work side-by-side with end users to quickly certify changes and develop fail-forward plans in the event of mistakes. Release frequency went from a monthly ordeal with regular rollbacks, to multiple weekly deployments with nearly zero rollbacks.

It is time for the development managers and directors to start playing a more active role. Managers need to recognize that to fully realize the benefits of DevOps, they can’t simply delegate all the work down to the technical staff. Someone needs to champion the organizational changes that need to occur to get development, operations, QA, change management and security all working to take the same hill. Someone needs to start the grassroots work of building the organizational tools (not technical tools) to get the products through security and release management teams. These are the highly important, and increasingly urgent tasks that are needed to solve the DevOps puzzle.

JimDrewesManager

Jim Drewes joined Daugherty Business Solutions in 2013 as a Senior Consultant. With extensive experience in account management and sales growth, Jim quickly became a key member of the Customer Development Line of Service team. He moved into a managing Application Architect role at Daugherty, specializing in DevOps practices and large enterprise software engineering. Prior to his time with Daugherty, Jim worked in a number of IT management positions. In October 2010, he was named a Top Small Business Executive by the St. Louis Small Business Monthly. Jim graduated from Truman State University with a bachelor’s degree in computer science. He earned his MBA from Webster University, specializing in business and IT management.

When Customers Attack! Engaged To Engraged In The Blink Of An Eye

Looking to make a few updates to your loyalty program? There are a few things you should know… If you’re not careful, there could be a volcano of negative sentiment waiting to erupt in the form of your customers.

Just ask Starbucks who recently announced this past month that it was changing its loyalty program structure from a frequency-based model to a model based on what customers actually spend instead.

For those of us who eat, sleep, drink, and live loyalty, announcements like this are never that much of a surprise. In fact, Starbucks’ recent announcement harkens back to the changes Southwest made to their frequent flyer program circa 2011. What seems to catch some companies off guard though is the customer backlash that ensues.

You’ve seen it, maybe even had a similar experience. It’s when your fiercely loyal customers turn on you and go from engaged to what I’m calling engraged by spouting mad declarations through social media, showing how their ex-favorite company has ripped their loyal heart out and eaten it… Raw.

So what is engraged? My definition: When a loyalty program member cares so deeply about the program and its brand that any unilateral change to the program’s core structure is viewed with outrage and a feeling of downright betrayal.

Seems fitting, right?

Hyperbole aside, for most companies, the decision to alter the foundational structure of a rewards strategy is a long time in the making. However, you can minimize the damage done by your “engraged” customers. The key lies in your mindset, advanced planning, and strategic over-communication well in advance.

Below are a few pieces of advice you should consider if you’re planning changes to an existing loyalty program or strategy you have in market today.

Don’t Panic – Your Strategy is Sound

If you’ve done your due diligence in coming to the difficult decision to alter the fabric of a loyalty strategy, you’ve probably worked through a number of scenarios and put in the “hard yards” to get to that decision. You can take comfort in that fact and remember that the ensuing backlash will lessen with each passing day. After all, Southwest certainly lived to fly another day after their program changes. I suspect Starbucks will too.

The Right Customers Will Adapt

A change in a program structure like the aforementioned can also serve as an opportunity for you to indirectly ask for a “hand raise” from your customers. Customers will choose with their actions whether they’re still in, or whether they choose to no longer do business with you. For a lot of companies, that’s scary. Some companies are reticent when it comes to recognizing the belief that all customers are NOT created equal. Those companies should remember though that the best loyalty programs – especially rewards-based ones – should be designed with a best customer in mind, not every customer. And sometimes, the definition of “best” can change and doesn’t always equal “most frequent.”

Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail

As a consultant, I often tell clients that the best time to craft your program’s exit strategy is before you even launch it. The same principle can be applied to situations where major changes are being made to the rules of a program structure. Realistically, the announcement of changes should be made at least a full 6 months AFTER the decision to make the change is made.

Why? That’s how long it takes to develop the right communications plan, analyze the legal (if any) and financial risks, and prepare and train your frontline employees to handle question and inquiries. If the plan is simply to issue a press release and make the change, then you should revisit it. It’s critical to be methodical and to take your time, or risk one of the worst case scenarios you’ve thought about come to pass.

Put the Customer Center Stage in Your Planning    

All planning you do around communications, timing, and risk should be done with your mind squarely focused on the customer backlash. Looking at worst case scenarios and planning for them will help to minimize the impact such an announcement can have financially on your company’s bottom line. In essence, you need to be ready for whatever comes your way. Part of this planning is determining the size of the bone you can throw disgruntled customers when the inevitable complaints arise. That size should be determined by customer value and your frontline employees should be empowered to address complaint situations.

Communicate Early and Often

If you drop an atomic bomb on your customers’ loyalty, you can expect them to go nuclear. Ideally, customers should be notified that changes are coming at least 6 months before the effective date with subsequent communication streams aimed at promoting any new program benefits and helping customers realize the impact the changes will have on them. Your messaging should be as devoid of “spin” as possible, but still should accentuate the more positive reasons for the change (tied back to the customer) and should definitely highlight any new features or benefits that are also getting introduced.

For instance, Southwest highlighted how the new program structure would save the customer from having to endure expiring credits. The new points program had no expiration so long as a customer remained active. They also highlighted ways to earn even more based on new fare types and promotions.

Provide the Engraged with a Platform to Complain

When angered customers are left to their own devices, that’s when perceptions of a brand can tank. In one fell swoop, customers can show that not only did your company devalue the program they once loved, but now you’re being unresponsive to their complaints. The way to circumvent this perception is to provide them some recourse or platform to lodge their complaints. Take caution however – the expectation will be that a response will be provided. If you let them complain in a one-sided dialogue, then risk the perception of your brand getting even worse.

Generally, customers are hearty, adaptive, and most of all, not stupid. Loyalty programs have been around long enough for them to know that sometimes changes need to be made. If you take the time to remain positive about your decision, plan carefully, and most of all communicate strategically, you can minimize the impact sweeping changes may have and at the same time reaffirm your commitment and loyalty to your best customers.

JRSlubowskiDirector - Digital Engagement & Analytics

JR Slubowski is an integrated marketing strategy, customer engagement and loyalty professional with over 15 years of experience. As a Director in Daugherty’s Digital Engagement and Business Analytics Center of Excellence, he’s helping clients create, implement and evaluate their customer engagement initiatives. JR has his Master’s from Northwestern University in Integrated Marketing Communications and has taught marketing courses as an adjunct professor at Maryville University in St. Louis, where he is based. When JR’s not flexing his business smarts for Daugherty’s clients, he enjoys playing competitive tennis (most days), cooking elaborate meals, and drinking really good wine.

Organizational Project Management (OPM) Trends Upward

“Without strategy, execution is aimless. Without execution, strategy is useless” – Morris Chang, CEO of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.

When you think about a project, it makes sense that all projects should be enablers to reach organizational goals. If not, why would a company work on that project? More and more, companies are making an effort to ensure this occurs, but it’s not exactly as easy as it sounds, especially within large corporations.

Within our own clients, companies are looking to reduce the chasm between strategic planning and results, and the solution for this is good execution. This only happens when you can translate organizational strategy into a portfolio’s components (i.e., programs, projects, operations, initiatives, etc.) and align them to overall strategy. Below are a few great resources for helping you with this whether you’re a large organization or just getting started in your career as a project manager.

Research Available:

In the last five years, PMI (Project Management Institute) conducted surveys in government, for-profit and non-profit organizations to identify their approach on how their organizations are aligning their portfolios with the organizational strategy and what they have done to improve execution. The results of the survey have been published in different issues of Pulse of the Profession.

Guides:

There’s also a new guide that the PMI developed: Implementing Organizational Project Management: A Practice Guide. This guide helps executives and project management practitioners to envision the alignment and execution that can create the required synergy to produce the products and benefits to achieve strategic goals. It’s everything you need to meet or exceed the stakeholder’s expectations.

What are the real applications of this?

One great example in the public sector on how project portfolios were aligned with strategy to enable success is the City of Frisco, Texas, which has been named “The Best Place to Raise an Athlete.” To keep achieving that vision, it has run several projects partnering with the U.S.’s major sports leagues and teams to create a thriving sports-related market. The City of Frisco secured the right capabilities – not available in the public sector – and implemented them in the right place at the right time throughout partnerships with external sources that share Frisco’s vision. Today, the stadiums and arenas used by professional teams are surrounded by sports academies that help young kids to develop tomorrow’s athlete.

In the private sector, organizations like 7-Eleven do not limit their employees and executives to staying in the same position forever. As an example, their CIO held several leadership positions from logistics and merchandising to operations. His strategic and business acumen helped him to select and prioritize the alignment of IT projects with business needs to gain full support from stakeholders and to execute and prioritize business initiatives through innovative technology solutions.

Key Takeaway:

Organizations can take advantage of those combined skills in business and strategic management, and versatile resources are driving their success. As business evolves, there is a great opportunity to elevate your value as a strategic partner and be more successful as an organization.

PMI identifies these versatile resources as the PMI Talent Triangle. It’s the ideal skill set combining technical, leadership, and strategic and business management expertise. This is what we’re seeing within our own clients at Daugherty and how we’re helping many of them be more successful.

Does your organization have an approach to align and execute portfolio components to consistently and predictably deliver corporate strategy that produces better results? If you’re a project manager, do you have the additional skills to stay competitive in the ever-increasing complex market? With the right capabilities and planning, this can make a significant difference in your success.

ConradoMorlanProject Manager

An experienced global portfolio, program and project manager with more than 20 years of experience. His specialties include aligning projects with organizational strategy for multinational companies and leading virtual and co-located multicultural and multigenerational teams in the Americas and Europe. When Conrado is not blogging for DBS or PMI’s Voices on Project Management,  you can find Conrado hitting the asphalt in major US marathons, supporting US Men and Women’s national soccer teams, or at a race track watching an F1 Grand Prix around the world.