Thoughts on ways to improve the management of professional services firms

Friday, August 18, 2006

People Management in Professional Services - Maister on Training

I am again grateful to Dave Lee for drawing my attention to a new article by David Maister on training. Dave's comments together with a link to the original article can be found here.

Maister shares three questions he asks potential clients to determine whether he'll take on the challenge of running management training for them:
  • did you choose people for managerial roles because they were the type of people who could get their fulfillment and satisfaction out of helping other people shine rather than having the ego-need to shine themselves? (No!)
  • did you select them because they had a prior history of being able to give a critique to someone in such a way that the other person says: “wow, that was really helpful, I’m glad you helped me see all that.” (No!)
  • do you reward these people for how well their group has done, or do you reward them for their own personal accomplishments in generating business and serving clients? (both, with an emphasis on their personal numbers!)

David Maister then responds as follows: "so, let’s summarize, I say. You’ve chosen people who don’t want to do the job, who haven’t demonstrated any prior aptitude for the job, and you are rewarding them for things other than doing the job? Thanks, but I’ll pass on the wonderful privilege of training them".

Dave Lee made a number of comments on the article. I just want to focus on one issue that I have referred to before, the reward question.

When talking to a prospective client, the most important thing I want to know is how they measure performance. The second is the linkage between this and remuneration. Once I have these answers, I can generally surmise both firm culture and operational performance.

It does not matter what the firm says. If the proposed training or management change is in conflict with performance measurement and remuneration, it simply won't work.

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