Top 3 Reasons Key Performers are Essential

Our team has been in staffing mode for the last 2 weeks (Or as our HR staff says “Talent Acquisition mode”). Every time I am involved in starting up a new large program I start thinking about the people we are staffing into key project roles. I am constantly reminded by advisors that not everyone can be a “star performer” when we are choosing the project’s team and I know that to be true from years of managing people and projects.

So I always focus my attention on ensuring we get the top talent and skills in the key roles and positions. I came across and interesting blog post that summarized my reasons for this focus really well – even though it was not talking specifically about staffing a project.

Dr. Karen McGraw, President of Silver Bear Group, wrote a post on the Top 3 Reasons Key Performers are Essential to an HPI Analysis for the Human Capital Blog which performance consultants read. I figure that if performance analysts have tips on focusing on key performers, then so should managers.

Karen lists 3 reasons why key performers are essential to doing a Human Performance Analysis and they line up perfectly with why we as managers should ensure we have key performers in critical positions:

  1. They produce the outcomes that drive business results. Needs no further explanation!
  2. They have best practices and tips they can share. The top performers are going to provide leadership and practices to the whole team.
  3. They know how to work around barriers and across boundaries. I just wrote about forming coalitions in the last post (PMs dealing with Politics) and pointed out the need for working around barriers and across teams.

So there you go – short and to the point.  Your key performers are what will define the success of your organization or project.  Pick them wisely.  Human performance professionals already know this. As managers, we should follow their lead!


Is your project “Risky Business”?

Long time readers of FNP blog will remember that one of my favorite movies is “Risky Business” starring Tom Cruise.  For those that might not know the plot, it is about a teenager looking to have fun at home and takes a trip in his father’s Porsche – resulting in the sudden need for lots of money, which he raises in a creative way.

I was just reminded of that movie when I read about several Government failures and lack of planning – one being the current U.S. Healthcare Portal (  I wonder how the project managers and stakeholders did their planning for this web portal project?

I would like to talk about four triggers for some recent, very visible project failures, being one of them. Recognize that in all of these failures, good people were working to do their best, but because of key factors (or lack of), things went very wrong. (“There but the grace of God go I” comes to mind.)

1. Failure to address performance requirements. Example: US Government’s

  • How many people will use it at the same time?
  • How will we measure and test for stability?
  • How do we correctly size the infrastructure?
  • How do we launch it to improve chances of success?
  • How do we ensure accountability throughout the team of contractors, subcontractors, and client personnel to reduce finger pointing?

2. Lack of risk management/poor quality control. Example: Texas State IT Project

  • Have we identified all of the risks?
  • Have we underestimated the impact of key risks based on weak assumptions or poor decision making on our part?
  • Do we have a real risk management plan?
  • How will we ensure quality control?
  • How will we make sure we follow through on all quality action items identified?

3.  Inadequate resources/inadequate skill levels of resources. Example: ?

  • How will contractor and subcontract assign resources?
  • Do we have a resource management pool that helps us find resources with the right skills?
  • What is our staffing plan to fill key vacancies?
  • How will we retain key personnel with critical skills?

4.  Poor Scope and Contract management.  Example: National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom’s IT system (Lorenzo)

For those of you who work on government projects, please share your thoughts on why government projects continue to fail.

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