Posts Tagged ‘Students’

You are a new college graduate and have just landed your first real job.  You’ll be moving to a large Metropolitan area and you’ll need to find a place to live in the new town.  Looking at the Apartment Finder booklets, the Sunday paper and Craig’s List you find there are thousands of apartments available, across a 100 square mile area!  You don’t know anyone there so you tell your colleagues at the new office you want to rent a two-bedroom apartment and ask their advice on location.  Here’s what they say:

Suzie says “Drive around and look for “apartment for rent” signs and find something within your budget.  Neighborhoods are all pretty much the same here.”

Jan says, “I live in River Estates and they have apartments for everyone’s budget.”

Bob says, “Any place is safe in the metro area if you just stay alert.  Pick a location like I did near the shopping mall.  It’s a longer drive but worth it”

How do you pick the right one?  Here’s a decision tool I’ve used many times when I changed jobs and moved ourselves or our family members:  Think Safety, Security, Proximity and Value, in that order.

  • Safety:  Avoid living in high crime areas even if it means you must drive further to work each day.  Go to www.CrimeReports.com  and check the crime statistics for the areas you are considering for apartments.
  • Security:  Only seriously consider apartment complexes (or apartments in houses) that are bright and well lit at night.  If you’ll have a car, look for off – street parking in a secure area.  (If without a car, look for easy, well-lit access to public transportation — wide, bright sidewalks for example)
  • Proximity:  If driving to work remember you’ll be doing that every workday so pick an area to live that has several routes available to and from work, preferably an interstate-sized highway and another major route.  This gives you options when an accident blocks a route.  And choose a location as close as possible to your work location (biking/walking distance would be ideal for many people).  If you are moving with another person[1], and they will be working at a different site, to be fair try to pick a living location that requires each of you to drive roughly the same time to and from your work.  And, of course, proximity to recreational areas, downtown restaurants and shopping areas will need to be factored into the decision.  Then drive these routes at rush hour and/or the times you’ll be commuting.  An open road at 3 PM can become a rolling parking lot at 5:30.
  • Value:  As the list of apartments being considered shrinks, you’ll think about value and amenities — What you’ll get for your money.  A list of pros and cons will help you make the decision:  number of bedrooms, baths, washer and dryer, fitness center, pool, proximity to work and other locations, monthly rent, length of lease, acceptance of pets, amenities fees, etc.

If several apartments are equally desirable, a tie breaker might be the direction (and the times) you’ll be driving to and from work.  If working 9-5 you’ll want to drive generally westward in the morning and eastward in the evening, so the rising/setting sun is always at your back and not in your squinting eyes!  All else being equal for nine-to-fivers, live east of where you’ll be working.  Traffic congestion is often aggravating enough without the added stress of a sun-glare-induced headache twice daily, not to mention the ever-present risk of traffic accidents due to poor visibility (ask Los Angeles – dwellers about this)!

Who knew there was a preferred process for picking your new place?!?


[1] Agreeing on priorities for each of the four factors—and then adding a weight (importance, twice as important, three times as important), before looking at the first apartment or neighborhood, can prevent debates and arguments.

Students from around the world list starting the project without clear requirements as their #1 problem. Last week, in a workshop addressing this issue an interesting response surfaced in about a third of the students. In a word, discomfort. Why would this happen when something that benefits the PM and team is being developed? Let’s explore.

Some background about the method will help. It teaches simultaneous development of a scope of work and determination of a possible political path providing a high probability of successful implementation of the proposed scope of work. No small feat, just ask any project manager!

Scope and Politics

Developing scope in a no-scope environment entails using a method developed by the astrophysicist Fritz Zwicky. It is called Morphological Analysis. The short version of how to use it goes something like this: using the variables associated with the project think of all possible scopes in the situation. Go through and eliminate those that have contradictory requirements, e.g., simultaneously tall and short. This will reduce the list of possible scopes dramatically.

Now, switch to game theory. List the stakeholders (players) who can impact the development of the project and its execution. By stakeholder, list the way they are playing their particular game (strategy), and the reward (payoff) they want. Generate a 3 dimensional grid, comprising player, strategy, and payoff. Now the fun begins!

Map the list of possible scopes into the strategies and payoffs.  List the scopes that have the highest probability of surviving the games being played. This typically leaves a very short list of possible scopes. Pick one and start promoting it. Keep the other scopes as possible backups should a shift in plans be needed.

Seems straightforward enough and, for many it was. So why would some attendees experience discomfort?

Fear and Honesty

In her classic book, When Things Fall Apart, Pema Chodron states:

“Fear is a natural reaction to getting closer to the truth.”

In the workshop confusion, discomfort, fear, and some anger arose. The class was paused and a chart session was used to find out what was happening. Students gave a range of responses. Here are a few:

“Looking at gamesmanship so directly pushes on me. I have to go into my unconscious incompetencies and decide what to do about the politics. This is good.”

I made a career-altering decision 8 months ago and things have been tough ever since. This class, though, is validating I made the right decision and will continue implementing it.”

“I work with a nice guy who isn’t pulling his weight. We have the same boss, whom I like, and she wants him to do better but nothing gets done. I am feeling a lot of pressure. This class is getting confusing!”

“Why this game stuff? We have technical work to get done and I just don’t see where politics applies.”

“I don’t see where any of this is relevant! Just how am I supposed to use this?”

That first respondent is very self-aware. She stayed with her discomfort and did quite well with the material. Prima fascia, she would make a good team member. The last respondent left in anger at the next break.

But the other respondents, what about them? There isn’t enough space to go into them right now. Instead, it would be better to close with a list showing a few responses people may choose in a no-scope situation. Having this list may help you profile your own situation and determine how far you could get with a given scope based on the stakeholder population, time, money, and resources present. Here are a few of the possible positions people can take:

  1. Is a natural in this situation and is on board;
  2. Has a fear of dealing with politics and reacts by actively work against the project;
  3. Can see benefit but is afraid to go to those uncomfortable spaces where politics is addressed and stalls;
  4. Is afraid but sees the benefit of pushing on themselves and working through the difficulties and is willing to push through;
  5. Only likes working in defined situations and goes blank in no-scope environments.

Maybe by keeping the above in mind and looking at your own power, authority, time, and resources you can gauge just how far to push with which scope. Ideally, you’ll do reasonably well and live to see another day and manage another project.

If your company is hiring Gen-Ys (aka Millennials) fresh out of college, you will be eager to get them folded into your operation and feeling part of the team.  But you will need to handle this cohort of youngsters differently than any other generations entering the Western workforce.  At first glance, you might ask “So what is different?  After all, Gen-Ys are doing the same thing other generations have done before them: Leaving college friends and lovers, settling into new job and meeting new people.”  And that is true and the typical corporate socialization techniques designed to ease the transition of new employees from college to work – – –  social mixers, assignment of mentors, integrated product teams, etc. – – – will also be useful for incorporating Gen-Ys into your organization… OR one could get really creative with ideas such as these, to bridge this gap.

But it will not be enough because there are other, much more complex dynamics at work in the recently-employed Gen Y community.   We know this because we teach courses in Project Management and we have had some eye-popping, private conversations with Gen Y attendees about their job environment, their stress levels, their egos, expectations and fears.

Gen-Ys have an additional layer of issues affecting their mindsets and, hence, their job performance.  More than any previous generation, Gen-Ys:

  • Have grown up with iPods and near-constant music.  This is the first 100% iPod ™ generation and music has been a near-constant companion for them while driving, walking, jogging and even while studying or working.
  • Are accustomed to very frequent social contact with friends via texting, IM and Skype.  Boomers snicker at the typical Gen-Y texting with friends every few minutes and are amazed when they first see Gen-Ys on their phones while watching movies and sporting events.   Tweeting their remote friends about the movie or ballgame, and even Tweeting with friends right there in the crowd with them, is commonplace for Gen Ys.
  • Believe in a “flat” equalitarian culture, where levels of organization do not exist.  As a freshman in college a Gen Y could email (or call or visit) the President of the university, on almost any subject, and the President would discuss the subject, and thank the student for being straightforward and for bringing the problem to light.  “Chain of Command” is usually an alien concept to any Gen Ys who are at their first jobs and who lack military experience.
  • Have developed comparatively fragile egos and rely on frequent feedback on how they are doing in each class and with their friendships.

So the next time a Gen Y, new to your workplace, behaves strangely or does something you as a Gen-X or Baby Boomer might consider odd put yourself in their shoes:

  • The comfortable, predictable college world they have known for 4+ years is completely gone.  Professors with whom they could negotiate grades and arrange for “extra credit” work when needed have been replaced by a boss who is part of an entirely different culture, and embedded in a more rigid hierarchy of departments/divisions run by anonymous bureaucrats.
  • The social fabric that held their lives together is missing.  The face-to-face contact with college friends and professors is gone; only a poor electronic substitute is now available to them remotely through texts, Facebook, Twitter and cell phone calls.
  • A music-rich college world has been replaced at work by endless meetings, discussions and conference calls.  Colleagues and bosses constantly pop by the cubicle for chats, causing the iPod ™ ear buds to be constantly popping in and out as well.
  • They are functioning in this new world very much “in the blind”, without the comfort of frequent homework assignment and class quizzes to confirm their understanding of a subject and their comparative standing among peers.  Now there is no paper graded “B” to show the Gen-Y where they can improve performance.  In a new job, just when they desperately seek feedback, they get little or none from their bosses until a scheduled performance review occurs (once or twice a year, quarterly if they are lucky).

There are some simple things we can do to fix this disconnect between realities of the workplace and the expectations of our Gen Y colleagues.

In the next post we’ll learn what bosses, and Gen-y workers themselves, can do to ease the college-to-work transition.   And we’ll recommend a new frame of mind for Gen-X and Boomers to help fold-in the Gen-Ys who, if the rest of us are ever going to retire, must take their place in the workforce.

Copyright: Solid Thinking Corporation