Managing High-Powered but Short-Lived Projects

by: Doug Michaelides

Warning:  this post is interesting but a little self-serving!

In the Feb. 25, 2010 issue of the Economist Magazine, an article entitled “Joining the queue” about recruiting firms stated:

“. . . Manpower [Inc.] is increasingly having to . . . help recruiters . . . manage high-powered but short-lived projects. Companies are putting together many more ad hoc teams often connected virtually around the world, notes Mr Joerres [CEO of Manpower Inc.]. “Perhaps only 20% of a team will be on the full-time staff,” he says, “so they need a much more on-demand talent spigot . . .”

I’m not an HR expert but it seems to me that “on-demand” talent is an idea whose time has come for a few reasons:

  1. Many companies coming out of the recession remain intentionally lean as a hedge against future uncertainty. This presents an obstacle to tackling new opportunities.
  2. An aging (i.e. retiring) workforce means that the depth of experience required to manage high-powered, business critical projects is in short supply.
  3. Communications and collaboration technology makes it increasingly easy to knit together project teams of internal and external resources stretching across large geographic areas.

Most managers are familiar with hiring contractors to provide more “horsepower” for project delivery. This has long been a common practice in the IT industry. However as the HR issue has shifted from a shortage of workers to a shortage of experience and talent, more companies are engaging experienced outside consultants to provide leadership for projects as well as coaching for internal resources.

Consultants that provide hands-on management services can overcome the “experience gap” and get important projects off the ground without the need for a long term employment commitment. An added benefit is that a company’s middle management receives training and development during project implementation. These employees recognize that coaching from a senior consultant is an investment in their professional development which helps with the retention of top talent.

The conclusion? Resourceful companies don’t let a lack of resources become an obstacle to achieving business objectives!

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