30.07 20120

The Price of Everything…

The Irish writer, Oscar Wilde, once said, “The cynic knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.”  In order to maintain momentum as innovative organizations, we have to fight cynicism from becoming prevalent in our groups.  In a downturned economy, it is easy to become cynical about our fates.

During a downturn, companies begin to exercise protectionist strategies that usually involve reducing expenditures, including the workforce. As more and more reductions in force occur in an organization, employees become more and more paralyzed, feeling an inability to impact their own fate.  Often times, the predominant view of the situation is that the company views its employees only as a cost instead of seeing their value.

People generally perform their work at the level equivalent to how much we value them.  When the workforce begins to feel devalued, their work product declines, just at the time when the organization needs their creativity and focused work the most.  Morale for project teams during economic stressful times can be challenging, leaving project managers wondering how to get the most out of teams when team members are primarily worried about their own personal survival.  There are a couple of strategies that seem useful for organizations managing through a downturned economy.  In the book, The 12 Pillars of Project Excellence, Adil Dalal discusses the importance of valuing the people, the only appreciating asset in an organization.

Money for raises and bonuses may not be available; however, motivation for your group may not be financial.  Motivation could be saying to your group, “You are an important asset to us, and we value your skills and need them the most at this time.” “Low tide exposes rocks”… the companies’ problems and issues become more apparent when they are uncovered in economic rocky times.  Pain is an essential teacher, necessary for survival and growth.  Let team members know that their skills are more essential now than ever to help the company innovate, correct problems and manage through the downturn.  It is important that the team knows that management knows that their importance has increased rather than decreased.

While money may not be available for outside training and promotions, let the people know that the company is still focused on personal growth.  Identify people’s strengths and give them an opportunity to be challenged in that area…giving a sense of purpose and growth.  Give people internal training in terms of establishing formal mentor programs where mentors are rated based upon how well their mentees perform.  This creates a sense of advancement of knowledge in the group and a sense that the team members are growing in useful skills.

As in Dalal’s organization, let the company be known as one that leaves a legacy of people…when people retire, their value is measured by the success of the people they have helped.  Let the organization be known as the organization that knows the price of capital but knows the value of human capital.




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