Thursday, September 15, 2016

Exploring Forward-thinking Workplaces: What do people really lack and long for at work?

Dear Readers, for the next several weeks, this CMMI Appraiser will be sharing excerpts from a conversation with Bill Fox on Exploring Forward-thinking Workplaces™. Bill interviewed me about our innovative approach to creating forward-thinking workplaces. Here’s my response to Bill’s third question, “What do people really lack and long for at work?” Enjoy!

Hey, Jeff,

What do people really lack and long for at work? ~ Bill Fox, Exploring Forward-thinking Workplaces

Hey, Bill,

It's interesting because this has really evolved over the last decade. When I was a young programmer and then consultant, what was most important was a solid career track, making more money, and moving up to be a partner, senior manager, or vice president. People were really focused on that. 

I've been excited this past couple of years because it seems like the workforce is evolving. People are more interested in the work environment with time and challenge being the most important things. People want to have time to do the things that are important in their life. A career, making money and moving up are the things that people do, but it's not the reason we work. We don't work to move up and get a new title. We don't work to make an additional $50,000 per year. Those things are nice and good things (and wholly necessary), but what we really work for is to spend time with our family, relax, read, and do other pursuits outside of our careers. And be challenged every day.

As part of our own Holacracy journey, we have implemented a couple of new policies. One of them is we have an unlimited Personal Time Off (PTO) policy. We have no designated vacation days by role. We used to say if you were a senior consultant you got three weeks. If you were a manager, you got four weeks. Now we say, “OK, you take the PTO that you need to take to make yourself successful.” That way people get ample vacation time, but more importantly they get ample time to take off to do things that are important to them. All they need to do is collaborate with their peers to ensure nothing falls on the floor.

What we were finding with the traditional model of time management was that someone would use up their vacation, and then they would have miss important family events, or have to come to us asking special permission to get that time off. Who likes doing that? With the model we have now, it's much more about supporting the team and being collaborative. The person brings it to the team and says, “I need to take four days off to go to a wedding.” And the team will say, “Ok that’s fine with us, we can pick up some slack and succeed without you being there.” If someone on the team were to abuse the policy – which has not happened in the two years we’ve been doing it – the team would most certainly let them know that they’re not being a team player!

We do, however, have guidelines. For example, our clients have to be taken care of, and important internal tasks must be accounted for. Team members know that if they have your back, you’ll have theirs. Allowing people to use their time in a way that satisfies their life, as well as their career, has been a game changer in the business. It frees up the organization to be a lot nimbler and a lot more focused on what is important. It's created a very strong and dedicated group of professionals.

[Please check back soon for Question #4 from Bill Fox on Exploring Forward-thinking Workplaces: “What is the most important question leaders should be asking employees?”]

Like this blog? Forward to your nearest engineering or software exec!

Jeff Dalton is a Certified SCAMPI Lead Appraiser, Certified CMMI Instructor, author, and consultant with years of real-world experience with the CMMI in all types of organizations. Jeff has taught thousands of students in CMMI trainings and has received an aggregate satisfaction score of 4.97 out of 5 from his students.

Visit for more information about running a successful CMMI program.

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