#agileday2011 Reflections on Job Candidates and Dr. Linda Rising

I was revising a job description as I need more Project Managers at my company.  I stopped for a second on what seems like a standard, throw-away phrase in these sorts of things:

…attention to detail, a collaborative spirit, and a readiness to learn…

What do these really mean?  If you are looking to hire someone, how do they really exhibit these qualities?

“Attention to Detail”

There are two levels to paying attention to detail.  One is the ordinary task of “making sure.”  “Making Sure” means that we don’t let something small slip through the cracks.  That’s really basic to Project Management.  Candidates better have that quality.

But there is another level of “attention to detail” and that level really is about awareness.  It’s noticing what’s happening on a team, but it’s also noticing how you *are* on the team.  It’s noticing if what you are doing is really adding value to the team and to the end result, or if it is just following a process by rote.  It’s the awareness of self and other at the root of truly successful teams.

“Collaborative Spirit”

Collaboration is the only way that we can work efficiently.  Why?  Because we don’t want *your* process, but we might want *our* process.  Everyone has great ideas on how to do.  It’s important to listen to these ideas and to keep in mind that very few decisions are made rationally.  Process can be like religion once we are convinced it is “the right way to do” and this can block our ability to collaborate.

“Readiness to Learn”

The religious quality that process can take on for us can cause us to lose our “attention to detail,” resulting in getting stuck. In these cases we lose our awareness. We lose our ability to learn. In the talk I recently attended by Dr. Linda Rising (at Agile Day NYC 2011 see my notes here), she encouraged the audience to always take the approach that the person that disagrees with you is the wisest in the world.  Play the active listener, but more importantly, play the active learner. Seek these people out and respect their point of view.  A “readiness to learn” is at the root of truly collaborative spirit.

One of my former team mates said to me once “Are we getting the band back together?” when we won additional work from a client.  That is at the root of great Project Management. It’s the ability to form a team, yes, but it’s also the ability to get the team working together in an attentive, collaborative way, learning from mistakes and successes, and producing the great music of valuable outcomes for our customers.

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