Albert Einstein once said “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.

May 3, 2013 8-48-28 PMWhen I first came to the PMI SFBAC board, we had a serious problem with continuity: The entire board was elected every year, and terms were limited to two, which meant there was little chance of any vision longer than a year being accomplished. In addition, the board was a working board, meaning each of the board members also wore an operational hat, which led to some odd silos within our volunteer organization.

Every year, we’d have an executive retreat and work on what the strategic goals of the organization should be. And the next year, a new board (often with little point of reference for the prior vision) would come in and do the same thing.

The board would try to apply PMBOK best practices to the organization, and implement things like PMO’s, only to have to end up starting afresh as we experienced another complete rebuild every couple of years.

I know we recognized continuity as a problem, and had a few things in place to help mitigate that problem, but the reality was, we had no real fix until we were introduced to Policy Governance® and combined that with another brilliant concept for our key roles: triplets.

Triplets was a concept that came out of some work we did trying to solve the problem of human capital in a volunteer organization. The issue was that we’d find a volunteer who was really good at something, and then for various reasons they’d be ready to move on. We’d scramble to find a replacement, often leaving the board member to do the work left behind for some time.

We also had this odd arrangement where the President was also the CEO and chair of the board, which meant the direction of the organization often changed completely when a new president was elected.

Because we’re a volunteer organization, accomplishments are a bit more difficult than they are in a commercial organization. Work is done on a part-time basis by people who have other more important things to do (like make sure the bills are paid). And since they work on something only occasionally, it often actually takes more person hours to accomplish (since setup tasks often have to be repeated, and simple tasks like turning on the computer are a larger percentage of time spent when you only have a couple of hours).

So the triplet idea was to assign three people to every job. This didn’t necessarily resolve the problem of losing key people, but it did at least ensure we had a candidate when one of our volunteers suddenly found  a new job and could no longer do what they’d been helping with.

Moving the operational work to the CEO, freed the board to focus on guiding the organization. It also separated the volunteers from any turnover in the board, since they no longer reported to a board member directly.

Athens KoliasAs of our last official board meeting, your PMI San Francisco Bay Area Chapter Board of Directors has a new Chief Governing Officer: Athens Kolias agreed to accept the appointment to lead your board and guide us in our journey toward leadership excellence.

When we adopted Policy Governance®, we learned that it was important to have a Chief Governance Officer to keep us on the track as we began the shift from working board to leading board, and that was the role to which I was appointed.

The CGO has two main roles: acting as the chair of the board which requires being assertive holding the rest of the board accountable to policy in order to speak with one voice, and secondly to interact with the board’s one employee (the CEO).

 

This video of an interview with John Carver will give you some idea of what we needed to consider in naming someone as CGO.

Please join me in congratulating the new board on a great choice for the new CGO, and congratulate Athens on showing the type of leadership that inspired her to be the clear choice.

In our first years with Policy Governance® we’ve managed to rewrite the bylaws, expand the size of the board, and create a more sustainable organization. With the help of our owners (the membership, the legal and moral owners of PMI SFBAC), we crafted our global ends statement (our guiding policy):

PMI-SFBAC members, people who live and work in Northern California, and virtual beneficiaries experience a continually improving standard of living, stability, a sense of community, self-esteem and self-actualization. These Ends will be achieved in a sustainable manner that represents value for the resources invested.

With this in mind, we’ve been able to focus on making the volunteer work more meaningful and useful in your professional life, and continue to build on sustainability. We’ve managed to increase what we are delivering, while driving down costs AND making our programs more accessible and valuable.

Thanks to the hard work of our CEO, Malika Malika, and her staff of volunteers, we have a growing volunteer operation and a sound financial statement, and solid reserves to carry us into the future.

In the coming years, we will continue the work of making sure the goals we are working toward are the right ones for the membership (you, our legal and moral owners), refine our policies, and continue to improve on what value that we can deliver together.

So here’s the board’s ask of you: take a moment to consider volunteering. We always have needs at all levels of the organization, the board is looking for people who want to learn more about servant leadership, and Malika has a variety of opportunities where you can help out and stretch your skills.

 

 

 

 

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Once upon a time, there was a kingdom of people who were busy managing projects named Pee-Em-Eye Ess-Eff-BeeA Sea. They were busy doing this work, and they found themselves wondering if there was a better way than just telling people what to do, and then scurrying off to the next project.

A small group of people in the kingdom thought that there was a better way to manage the kingdom of Pee-Em-Eye Ess-Eff-BeeA Sea. They believed they could apply some of their project management skills to help all the people in the kingdom to be more successful and happy.

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I recently had an experience that reminded me that you truly can negotiate anything.

I got a call from a buddy telling me that he his manager was looking for a contractor to replace somebody who wasn’t performing to the level they needed in a business analyst type of position. The person they were replacing was a low-range contractor, so the rate they had been paying was substantially lower than what I’ve been making (as a program manager), but they also expected they’d need to pay more to get the skill-set they were looking for.

That set my expectation to expect that there would be some serious negotiation around rate, so I tried to take my usual approach: avoid discussing rate with the client. In general I was able to succeed, and and instead talk about the job and how I would be effective in helping them (particularly in areas that the prior person had failed).

I do have another rule, however, which is that I will honestly answer a question put to me directly, so inevitably the question of rate did come up. The dreaded question of “what was your last rate?” comes up, and is always uncomfortable for me. I thought I did a good job of answering the question by letting them know that rate is not the deciding factor for me, that I expect a fair rate for the work being done, and that I wasn’t expecting anything like my prior rate. After that preface, I did let them know my last rate (as a program manager on an implementation project), and tried once again to set the expectation that I wasn’t expecting to recieve that sort of rate on this engagement.

I had this conversation with the Director of the group that was looking for help, and everything went well there. We connected well on our phone screen, and he turned me over to his hiring manager to complete the process (since it was her group and I’d be working for her).

At the end of the process I asked my usual questions about how I did, and whether they had any concerns that would keep them from offering me the job. It seemed I had done well, and that the next step was for them to complete their interview schedule, and check references. The Q&A about prior rates came up again, and I thought I once again responded with rate not being the deciding factor for me.

I diligently followed up with a thank-you email to each member of the team, and continued to ask my buddy about my chances. Eventually I got an email from the hiring manager telling me that it was between me and one other candidate. My friend told me there was no comparison, and that the only reason I might lose out would be on rate, since I was more qualified and had his backing.

After another weekend, I got an email from the hiring manager telling me that they had decided to go with the other candidate based on rate. This surprised me a little since I didn’t really think we’d ever discussed rate. So I dropped an email back to the Director (cc’ing the manager) asking why they thought my rate was too high when we hadn’t discussed it. I carefully crafted the email as a question about my communication skills and helping me to improve them:

I heard  from <your manager> and my friend that the decision was to go with  another  candidate based on rate.

I was a little surprised since I   didn’t think we had gotten to the point where a negotiation of rate  had  started, beyond my responding to questions about my rate on prior  engagements.  My experience in the past has been that if the  rate is too high,  they simply ask me if I’ll take less.

If you  could help me out in  understanding if I set an unreasonable  expectation, or if this was instead  just a matter of the other guy  being a better fit, I’d appreciate any feedback  you could give me.

Interestingly what the net result of this email was, was that the negotiations were reopened. He replied to me that they had compared the rate I had told them from my previous work, to the rate that the other contractor was asking for, and simply assumed that I wouldn’t be happy with a reduced rate. We traded emails back and forth a few times, and we agreed on a rate that was the same as what they were looking for with the other candidate, and it felt like there was a chance I’d won the engagement.

In hind sight, I think one mistake I made here was sending this email to the Director instead of to the hiring manager, since she was the one who would ultimately make the decision. That said, I did re-learn a valuable lesson about negotiating: it ain’t over until it’s over ….

It’s all about getting to yes, and by asking these people if they could help me understand why we hadn’t negotiated on rate, I helped them understand they could have negotiated for a more valuable resource a little better, and kept the negotiation open.