Project Management Institute

Churning, and other facts of work life

PM@Work

by Greg Hutchins, Contributing Editor

EVERY YEAR OR SO, I look at what's changed in our work/careers/jobs in the last year. What a year this has been! Perpetual change, instant dot.com millionaires, opportunities and chaos. Just take a look at some of the changes.

Chaos Reigns; Nothing Is Sacred. Organizational transformations are now considered a normal business event. With more people having access to business information, markets are becoming more efficient and effective. To remain competitive, companies are forced to rethink every aspect of their business and their basic assumptions—their business models of pricing, demand, delivery, inventory management, marketing strategies, and branding. If companies see a better way, they'll adopt a new business model and adapt their business systems in a heartbeat.

The New Economy Wars. The Internet and Web “New Economy” business models took over our work life. We all know someone who made a killing in options and we learned to envy/hate these people.

Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said information technology “has begun to alter fundamentally the manner in which we do business and increase economic value” [“Yes, America Has a ‘New Economy,’” Technology, Wall Street Journal, 21 Sep. 1999, p. A27].

“If [Silicon Valley] were a nation, its economy would rank among the world's 12 largest” [“The Silicon Boys,” Newsweek, 14 June 1999, p. 49].

… And How the Wars Infect Us. Just look at how the New Economy impacts people—infects is probably more accurate.

Many of America's “best and brightest” are moving to the Web. The Wall Street Journal describes it as the “seismic shift shaking every corner of corporate America, reflecting the forceful pull of the Web” [“KKR Partner Exits, Signs on Dot.Com Line,” Wall Street Journal, 30 Nov. 1999, p. C1].

“It's all part of the technology fever striking college graduates the way the Gold Rush once hit fortune-seeking prospectors. Tech is hip and edgy and has an attraction so strong that many recent students are snubbing Corporate America to join or launch Internet startups,” says USA Today [“Tech Grads Loving Life: Pizza, Jeans, Happy Hour,” 21 June 1999, p. 1B].

Churn, Baby, Churn. Only a couple of years ago, a company was very contrite when it selectively downsized. Now, this is a normal part of business. Downsizing, or the PC term “churning,” is becoming an organizational strategy to ensure that human resource capabilities and loading matches the organization's strategic and operational needs. Welcome to the world of churning.

“Good or bad, the ‘churn’ seems to be reaching unprecedented levels as companies that once might have retrained employees for new roles, or waited for them to leave via attrition, are now jettisoning them to make room for new blood,” said the Wall Street Journal [“In Current Expansion, As Business Booms, So, Too, Do Layoffs,” 13 Mar. 2000, p. 1].

Projects: Your Braggables. What does this have to do with project management? Everything! We're working in a “just in time” work model. As itinerant professionals either inside an organization or as contractors, we'll be moving from project to project either as leaders or as sole contributors. These temporary and virtual project groups that disband when the project is done will complete work. What guarantees higher paid work? Our project successes.

Tom Peters, today's greatest work and career prophet says, “Brand You is about breaking bounds and creating unmistakable value-added ‘products’ (projects!) for identifiable ‘customers.’ The products/projects become your ‘braggables’” [The Brand You 50, N.Y.: Alfred A. Knopf, 1999, p. 41].

So What's In It For You? The fundamental work unit in today's “New Economy” is you. You are a brand, say David Andrusia and Rick Haskins in Brand Yourself. “What is a brand? It's a way of encapsulating and communicating a product's power, pitch, and position in the most succinct way: the combination of one name and visual image—a personality— that anyone, anywhere, will recognize and interpret in precisely the same way” [Brand Yourself, N.Y.: Ballantine Publishing, 2000, p. 10].

YOU MANAGE YOUR CAREER assets much like you manage your finances. Why? Your finances are the product of your work. If you want your financial assets to grow, you've got to burnish your personal brand. That's the key work and career message of this year. ■

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Greg Hutchins, PE, is a principal with QPE, a program, process, and project management advisory firm in Portland, Ore. QPE's core competency is leading/coaching project teams to do the right things right on time. He can be reached at 800-COMPETE or gregh@europa.com. Comments on this column should be directed to editorial@pmi.org.

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI.

August 2000 PM Network

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