Effective Engineering e-Newsletter – 3/27/2003
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Do Jobs Right – Assign the Right People!
Tom Dennis – President, Effective Engineering [firstname.lastname@example.org]
How many times have you observed a situation where, when a job needed
to get done, the manager checked to see who was available, and simply assigned
the job the first available person, whether such a job assignment to that
particular person made sense or not? Sad
to say, this is an all too common occurrence, and the result is often
predictable and disappointing, if not downright disastrous.
While such behavior may be somewhat understandable in the case where a
new need suddenly arises, there are still better ways to address such
circumstances. In cases where
planning for a new project is being undertaken, such behavior is inexcusable.
First, let’s talk about what I mean by the “wrong person” or the
“right person”. The
“wrong person” is not meant as a pejorative term for a specific
individual. It only has meaning
in the context of a specific assignment. The “wrong person” means that the knowledge,
background, and experience of that specific person are not a match to the
requirements and needs of a particular assignment.
You wouldn’t want a road worker to perform brain surgery (or at least
I wouldn’t want a road worker to perform surgery on my brain,
no matter how nice a guy that road worker is), or ask a brain surgeon to do
road work with a jackhammer (where he could damage his highly trained hands
and fingers, the “instruments” of his profession).
You want to match, to the degree possible, the skills, talents, and
capabilities of the individual to the requirements and needs of the
What happens when the wrong person is put on an assignment?
► The person assigned often feels overwhelmed by an assignment that is
so far afield of his/her knowledge and experience that he/she become
demoralized and frustrated. He/she
attempts to do the job as best possible, but falls short, has to ask many
others for help (thus disrupting their work), and often delivers results
slowly and/or with poor quality.
► The other people associated with the project recognize that this
person is in over his/her head, and try to compensate either by providing help
to get him/her up to speed, or by trying to do some of this person’s work
themselves, sacrificing their own efforts, timely delivery, and product
quality. They become frustrated
that management has placed this person and them in such circumstances, and
overall project morale suffers.
► The assignment is generally disrupted, and results in project delays,
poor quality, and higher development costs (see eN-021107
– Ineffective Engineering Costs You Time, Money, and Customers!).
In contrast, what happens when the right person is put on an assignment?
► The person assigned is empowered because he/she knows that he/she has
been given this assignment because of the confidence management has in him/her
to do the job properly. He/she
feels challenged by the assignment, but comfortable with it, because his/her
background and experience have properly prepared him/her for this challenge.
► The other people associated with the project have confidence in both
the person assigned and in the management team making the assignment.
They know that this person is the right person to do this job, and that
it will complement and even improve their efforts to complete their project in
a timely fashion, with high quality.
► The assignment is generally bolstered by the addition of the “right
person”, and the probability of success for timely delivery, high quality,
and well-controlled costs is improved.
What, then, is the right way to approach putting the “right people” into
► In the case of planning for new projects, all of the jobs that
must be assigned and the skills of all those available to work on those jobs
must be analyzed and people must be matched to assignments.
If the “right people” are found not to be available, then an
assessment must be made of the impact, and it may be necessary to pull in the
“right people” from other projects and backfill them with suitable people
from the available pool. If this
is not possible, then the scope or timeframe of the project may need to be
adjusted to account for not having the “right people” available.
It is mistake to simply assign the “wrong people” and hope that
everything will work out fine. It
► In the case of assigning a person to a job that suddenly arises, again
it is essential that an assessment of the qualifications of the people
available to take on that job be performed.
If the “right person” is available, then the job can simply be
assigned to that person. However,
if the “right person” is not available, then assignments of other “right
people” must be assessed to see if one of them can be moved into this
assignment and someone else can backfill for him/her.
For example, if the “right person” is finishing up another job, it
may be possible to pull that person off of that job and assign him/her to this
new job, and backfill that person’s current assignment with someone else
whose capabilities are sufficient to finish that job.
All of this is just common sense, right?
Well, yes. However, common
sense is too often the exception and not the rule when it comes to assigning
people to jobs (and in many other areas).
In order for engineering to be effective, people must be qualified to
perform their assigned jobs. Management
must make it a priority to ensure this. That
is one of their assigned jobs.
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