Monday, March 21, 2016

Invaluable Individual Contributors

"These people are the highly professional individual contributors.  In many cases they have deliberately chosen not to pursue a managerial career, preferring technical work or wanting to avoid the duties associated with being a manager, including budgets, reports, endless meetings and the never-ending people issues... Nearly everything they accomplish they do through influence, because they usually lack any formal 'role power'.” Jack Zenger, Forbes *
We all know the individual contributors in our departments or organization who are invaluable. That's the problem, when the leave or retire, they will take a huge amount of knowledge with them. 
Now is the time to shadow them, to write everything down, fully understand how their mind works, how they troubleshoot. If you don't, you might as well budget for 2-3 more positions to compensate. Plus, that great service level agreement that worked great? Forget about it.
This individual is more than herself, her connections and the accumulated trust they have in her, is part of the whole position she held. The invisible dotted lines to her need to be understood.

Documentation standards

Ok, your organization has good documentation standards, but what about the assumed or taken for granted activities that are done to get things done. How do you document respect and trust? 

The underlying climate

At the doer level there are always gripes people have with the process of getting work done. What are these issues? If you have invaluable workers, then you have issues with this process.

Mandatory shadowing / agile techniques

You could cross train your team, shadow the invaluable with the newbies. This gets you part of the way there. This does not negate the need for formal training. Each indidual will still thrive at what they do best, not what/how was done previously.

Leaving a void

The invaluable compensate for broken processes by frequently "saving" the day. They mask any issues with project management by patching the issues as soon as they occur. They serve as backup when other folks can't figure out what to do. They are victims of there own success in that they enable a less structured approach to documenting requirements, specifications, schedules, and processing. And when they leave, good luck filling their void.

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