Match Project Needs With Individual Strengths

April 14, 2009 by  Filed under: Management 

How do you match the strengths of an individual with the requirements for a specific project or assignment? How do you determine if a person’s strengths are “historical” strengths or “assumed strengths?” What are their limitations? Who can step in and take over a key role or position if there is an emergency? And, how do you know?

Typically we assign people to a task or project because they happen to be available and breathing. Or, they have done similar projects in the past. Or worse, a crisis causes a group to be formed quickly which may or may not include the right people for that particular problem or situation.

Use a performance-based 360-degree assessment to identify who has the specific skills and competencies you need for a wide variety of projects and special assignments. This will help you develop quantifiable bench-strength that you can draw upon for current and future projects, when you want, not when you face an emergency that forces you to do it. You can assign people to tasks or projects based on the competencies you need. You can create teams with people who have complementary abilities. You can control the process, rather than be controlled by it. The choice is yours.

How to get started.First, identify the project goals and the competencies you believe will be needed for the success of the project. Next, identify the people you believe have the competencies you are looking for now. You can do this by committee and perhaps through your traditional performance appraisals. Supplement these methods with a performance-based 360 survey that best aligns with the competencies you need for a specific project. Consider an assessment that measures both task and relationship competencies. The feedback results can identify how effectively personnel perform with tasks and things and how effectively they interact with others.

Focus on a performance-based 360. Measure what people actually do, e.g., how they communicate, resolve problems, delegate, and not necessarily what they think or what their attitudes are about various topics. The questions in the 360-assessment should measure how effectively the person applies the competencies you need currently and what they could be doing differently to maximize their effectiveness.

You can measure what someone knows. Identifying people who know what they are doing is critical. Yet, understanding how effectively the person applies what they know is much more critical and often the difference between knowing content and the effective application of that content to the project.

Who provides the feedback. The people who will be assessed, the participant, need to receive feedback from those who know them well. Include raters who interact with the participant on a regular basis. It would be very productive for the boss and participant to collaborate when selecting raters.

The participant must also want to receive feedback from these people. It does no good to receive feedback from sources the participant does not value. Participants will not change their behavior for people they do not care about or feedback from people the participant believes are irrelevant to the process.

You can increase the credibility of the results when you recommend (require?) participants to select between eight and fourteen raters. Logistically this may not be possible in smaller organizations. Nonetheless, having at least eight raters strengthens the statistical worth of the results. The feedback results identify the strengths to build upon and areas to develop for each participant. Participants with the greatest number of strengths that align with the goals and requirements of the project should result in a better alignment between those you assign to the project compared to those you do not.

Keep rater groups logically consistent. If one of your goals is to measure overall strengths and weaknesses and also how effectively they interact with different functions, then consider a 360-process that allows you to divide raters into specific subgroups. For example, rather than group six or eight peers into a single group, consider creating two peer groups based upon function or frequency of interaction.

Unfortunately, it is more typical for participants to lump their peers into one group, regardless of function, frequency of contact, where they are located and so on. If at all possible, group peers from the same or very similar functions. This will provide participants with more specific and targeted feedback from a well-defined group. Sub-grouping helps confirm solid strengths and areas for development and can make your job easier when you match individuals to specific jobs or projects.

Summary. 360-degree feedback can help you match project and job requirements with individual competencies. The feedback can help you create and build your bench-strength, help you develop your high potentials performers, complement your talent management goals, and make matching individuals with specific tasks and assignments easier and more quantifiable. It can help you create a more structured talent management process that is proactive, rather than one that is more reactive.

Performance-based 360 can help you establish a culture that embraces the concept of feedback as a positive event, rather than something that has to be endured. It can help each employee understand that it is in everyone’s interest to contribute to the development of their fellow employee. And that you are reinforcing competency, rather than longevity. It can help you reduce favoritism. When you match individual competencies with the requirements of an assignment you help the employee develop and help the organization thrive. As the individual performs effectively, so then does the organization.

The concepts in this article can be found in Mr. Cipolla’s new book, Building Performance-Based 360-Degree Feedback: From Design to Delivery. He wrote his book based on his extensive knowledge, insights, and experience gained from more than thirty years working with clients from around the world.

© 2009. CCi Surveys International. All rights reserved.

Larry Cipolla, President and Director of CCi Surveys International

Practical Ideas for Organizations in Transition

February, 2009. Vol. Five, No.02 CCi Surveys International the innovative leader in 360-degree feedback

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