Tools - placing people into RO levels

This blog-post is a sensitive subject but is win-win for employee & company!  It's a follow-up (part 2 of 2).  See video:

Note: if video does not work in the link, please visit to view it

In last post, we talked about 8 levels (0 to 7) or 8 strata that people can be placed within. After this is complete, then the work must be assessed and put into levels.  Then the key is to align the levels of the resource and the work at hand.

Organizational Design (or RO as many people call it) aims to provide a quantifiable process (scientific based) approach to help get tasks done within a project or a business.  It promotes the focus on trust and transparency through systems, methodologies and organizational design and attempts to take away subjective, emotional, political and people issues that we often focus on when hiring/promoting/allocating people into specific projects or jobs.

Both the company/project and the people doing or managing the work should have confidence that the job at hand is properly aligned with the capability of the person.

One challenge is that we often try to classify people by looking at their resume and placing tremendous value on this, and then conducting an interview process. To qualify people through a resume and an interview process, we use such a variety of tools and techniques that results are often hit or miss.

The missed opportunity is to be more trusting, communicative and transparent as to where gaps exist and what they are - between the job at hand and the person doing or managing the work.  This will be key to addressing risks and constraints and then ALSO lead to much better management of expectations (from both the person doing the work and the ones receiving the work).

As mentioned in the video above, 4 key parameters at a minimum must be assessed when trying to qualify a person's level.

Note:  others exist, but this post focuses on the ones below:

One can further describe the above parameters as:

IPC - Information Processing Capability - this is the most complicated parameter and takes a high level of experience to do it properly (essentially it is the ability of a person to work within a structure to do the work. If in order to do work you must be told step A then B then be managed and monitored to deliver that work - this would be the lowest level, as you move up into higher levels, then you can work with more processes, in more parallels and with more unknowns and in a more fluid/dynamic manner - you have comfort with the abstract and a spatial ability to flow through work with countless scenarios that adapt as work progresses)

KSE - Knowledge, Skills and Experience (this is the traditional way of assessing people, it still brings value, but one must focus on the knowledge/education listed on the resume and also the persons delivery of work using that knowledge, need to have the combination - learn the right methods to do things, then get experience trying to do it that way)

PS/PI - Personal Strengths (maximize these, this is your core so be confident with them) Personal Inhibitors (don't kid yourself, be aware of personality traits that will inhibit the task at hand and compensate for them or bring in people that are better suited than you - believe in yourself and talk about both of these more openly)

VI - Vested Interest (how much passion and enthusiasm do you have for the work, how much pain will you feel if you fail, how much gain will you get if it is successful - how does the work align with the stage of life you are in, if going through a traumatic personal event, be open about your priorities - we live in a society of work - personal life blending and carry emotions so again, don't kid yourself or others)

These four parameters are key pillars of RO and are extensively studied and proven within business and project management. I am not doing it justice to describe them within a few paragraphs so if interested in more details and to grow your understanding, I recommend to start with some of the links below:

Great Association Website for RO:
Great group of experts that promote RO and also share many free books/papers/videos about RO:
Great background on one of the leaders of RO:  

Tools - Is the Work Aligned with the Employee

Amazing how many questions/issues come up around organizational design. Are there systems we can use - and not the typical HR Operational stuff!  We need short term, simple, clear, structured yet agile systems for project type environments. The HR system must ensure the right people are in place at the right time - for the right work activities to be completed - With Success!

This is where we can leverage Requisite Organization (RO) theories, or Global Organizational Design methodologies and tools.  A guru in this areas was Elliott Jaques and now his work has continued to grow exponentially, gain momentum, clarity and validation by many greats like Ken Shepard and Don Fowke. These systems are actively followed by 100s of companies (small to big) in all industry and all environments.

Don Fowke helped me understand what is Requisite Organization, by explaining:  "There is a small number of very important constructs that help design and manage organizations by building trust and delivering effectiveness".

Two key principles that I have taken away from RO include:
1) people can be split into levels of capability (and hence their qualifications to do the work at hand)
2) work can be split into levels of longevity, complexity and uniqueness.

Note: It is important to not slot a person into one level and be black and white about it.  It is important to understand that the person is at that level, for that current time period for that current type of work.

If everyone understands these two principles, then basically next steps should be easy. All you need to do is align the people level with the work level and voila...... that simple!

Easier said than done, since it is common practice to put people into jobs or work levels that are:
  • too easy (get bored),
  • too difficult (get stressed),
  • politically influenced,
  • without a plan (hurry up and fill the spot, take who ever is available).

Also, don't forget when the business is just short on the right people, or the business is doing the wrong type of work (outside their sweet spot).

Thus, this results in high stress, anxiety, conflict, and then poor trust, performance and lack of efficiency & effectiveness.  This is especially evident in a project environment.

To further understand this, an RO Consultant once shared a matrix with me. This is not to be taken in stone but it gives an idea how the general population fits within the levels of RO. 

Before looking at the matrix, take a quick quiz.   If I said there are 7 levels of capability that the human population fits into - where do you put yourself?

Level 0 is where you are not capable to perform work, you need help to be managed and hand held, and still you would likely not accomplish the work.  Level 7 is where you are a super CEO that can run multinational companies quite easily. Where do you fit???

Level:   0     -     1     -     2     -     3     -     4     -     5     -     6     -    7

Most of  us put ourselves in the top half (4 or greater) - we all take pride in ourselves (which is a very good thing!). This is the beauty of human nature, we are generally positive and optimistic and strive to grow and feel that the work we do produces huge amounts of value.

However, in the project/business world we are drastically constrained with money, time, equipment, material, etc.   If mistakes are made, there are consequences.  Worst case if a project fails, the company shuts down and people are sent home - there is no more money to pay a salary so hence no one wants to stay and work for free. So thus, personal vs paid project work needs a different level of disciplined approach - to ensure we have people classified in the correct level and then link them with the correct level of work complexity to ensure we have less "big" mistakes.

RO further alludes to that the vast majority of work completed in business or projects is not that complex and thus people at lower levels can deliver it. If someone tells you what to do, or you were trained in detail as to what to do and how to do it, then they also check up on you (manage you); then you are doing a lot of work and likely working very hard, but the level that you are working at is very low in terms of RO.

Lets take a look at an example matrix that classifies the majority of people in terms of levels:

Level  -  % of Population
7        -      0.5
6        -      0.5
5        -      0.5
4        -      0.5
3        -     7
2        -     41
1        -     40
0        -     10

The groupings of these levels show how the vast majority of people are in the bottom part - and truthfully, I am still surprised with these results. We were always taught by our parents, teachers, coaches, etc.  that we can do anything if we set our mind to it.  All of us are equal and all of us are all-stars!  We are born with the world in front of us and we carve our own destiny, anyone can be president, anyone can be an astronaut, anyone can be a star athlete or CEO business owner.  Mister Rogers preached this and we ran with it.

However, RO and the hundreds of companies that follow this state this is not the case.

So what can you take away from this...... I personally continue to study this and the key thing I take away............. is to have awareness and help others see the same awareness.

As always, people are the key reason for success or failure in projects and business.  To deliver the work, you must manage people.  However, people need to be in roles that they can excel within. Once you have awareness of the work/people alignment, you can better manage the risks - since it will never be perfect. 

AND remind everyone that is involved, this is not personal.  This is trying to set up a systematic approach whereby we can increase the probability of success for that task, at that time and with that set of resources!

PS:  if you want to know about RO, or how people are classified or how work is classified, be sure to visit the website below, or stay tuned and I will be doing a future post on both of these topics.


Tools - Business Plan or Project Plan

Every project needs a solid plan.  This is also critical for starting a business.  We need more overlap (don't re-invent) between these two.

Project management has much to learn from Start-Up Business Planning.  Business Planning has way more history, literature, training, tools, templates, checklists, forums, etc. available that PMs can leverage (and often for FREE).  You would not believe how much business planning support there is from governments, universities, associations and generally all over the web.

In a project, we often focus too much on scope and requirements, and miss out on the things that a business plan does so well at planning for.

Below is a sample I use when planning a new business and I also use this as a guideline or plan for projects.

This can be seen as a table of contents for a Project or Business Plan.  It can take considerable effort to do it correctly.  However, if not enough time to delve into the details, then at least it should be considered and presented to senior management and executives, so seeds are planted and you are working towards clarity and common understanding of each section and priorities.

I like to start out with one thing, the CUSTOMER.  Then everything should build off that.  You need to create a culture within your team that also owns this, believers in it and aligns how they deliver with that kind of theme.

A. Customer (who will pay and receive the value)
A1.  Value (product/service that gives the value)
A2.  Delivery (transition the value to the customer)
A3.  Resources (employees, material, equipment, time, money)
A4.  Relationships (relation desired and managed with customer)
A5.  Cashflow (input/output of revenue, expenses and infrastructure)
A6.  CSF (critical success factors to deliver sales)
A7.  Priority (trade-offs between scope, time, cost, quality)

A8.  Alliances (support & influence)

Thoughts - Value of training

How do people view training?  Often as a way to get out of the office, seen as a break and a good thing since they MAYBE will learn something and use it at work.

A challenge is how to find time to use it in the real world and enhance performance. Too often is too complicated once back at work, since you get overwhelmed by work!!!

It is rare to find Business/PM training that delivers immediate tools, templates and new ways of thinking that directly impact the company and job at hand (as soon as they get back into the office or field).

Business/PM training is extra difficult, since you have to train the individual (management skills, leadership skills) and also provide tools that improve the company and how it operates (management system).  Training needs to find a balance with the two that directly results in value at that time (since this also greatly changes over time).

Sometimes I think to advance Project Management and get rid of CHAOS we need to focus on not training Project Managers.  As the profession matures, we need to ensure the rest of the team is trained, not only the leaders.  We need to ensure the entire team understands project management, since they all are integral and the world has changed to focus on collaboration and innovation.

If you want to win a soccer or football game, all players need to know the plays and understand the game!!!

There is an abundance of PM training but it tends to get into the details and technical aspects of the profession.
One may find much more value in workshops (please no more lecturing from the front of a class and reading off power point slides that align to a book).

We need to challenge the instructors, have active discussions, scenarios, real world examples and discuss more openly and transparent the truths, then understand it may not be perfect, but there are tools, templates and techniques that can be used to increase the probability of success when we come across similar things at work (or at home).

It is like using a new hammer or drill press, or software application or paint brush or vehicle.  These tools enable the person to do more, they enable faster, more effective work.  However, these tools will have training associated with them based on complexity to operate them.

When we do business, often we lack the training on how to do business.  The PMI ( has a wonderful framework which acts as a common platform that is proven and globally followed and incorporates decades of learnings and thus best practices.  So why are not more people trained in this tool before they do project type work within their business.  Often we depend on a person's formal education, which sometimes just covers theories and ability to problem solve (which is a good thing but must be combined with tangible tools and frameworks).

A good framework will provide a formalized, concrete, tangible set of tools/templates/techniques so all people doing the work have the same:
- structured approach
- terminology and language
- set of tools (processes, checklists, templates, guidebook)
- expectations.

ALSO, the ideal framework must be rolling out across the world and across all industries.  Thus when you deal with any contractor or peer, everyone speaks the same language.  The world is more and more interconnected, org structure is flatter and flatter, and management systems will enable us to manage expectations.