Tuesday, February 19, 2008

February 19, 2008 – Welcome Aboard!

"Welcome aboard!" is, unfortunately, the only orientation some Newbies ever receive when starting a new job. If they are lucky someone shows them where the restrooms are...and how to find their way back. I can’t say how or why it happened, but I recently heard that a new project manager, on his first day, excused himself to use the facilities...and never came back. If you want to retain resources longer than a couple of cups of coffee, the PMO or department management should create a new hire initiation that covers the following areas.

People. Get them connected to others. An Org Chart helps. My biggest fear when starting in a new location is that the CEO will greet me in the hall and I’ll say something stupid. I can picture myself saying, "Must be great to be management and take all the prime parking spots!" Walk Newbies around with the Org Chart in hand and at least give them chance of not making fools of themselves. If possible, get a group to take him out to lunch and pay for it.

Access. A list of all required system, application and building accesses should be maintained. Prior to the Newbie showing up, make an effort to get the access set up. Add them to all of the distribution lists they need to be on. Extra Credit: Add to the list a paragraph or two describing what each system, application or building is and why it is important to them.

Tools. With great access must come great understanding. Too dramatic? Probably, but you need to know what tools are available and how to use them. Timesheets are a great example. Are employees required to complete one? How many different places is time recorded? When is it due? Oh, and how does it work? Make the documentation available and, when possible, step them through the first use.

Processes. For those of you who feel oppressed by process, be thankful you have one. Trying to run a project in a chaotic environment is worse. It is like hacking your way through a jungle with no paths. One client I was working had two IT departments: one had a well established process and the other took a more "whatever it takes" attitude. Several project managers moved from structure to chaos, thinking they were finally free. Within a couple of weeks they were calling back for templates and direction. They were drowning in their new found freedom.

Meetings. Every environment has a standard set of meetings that happen. In mature environments a Communication Plan exists that spells out each one along with its purpose, attendees, location, time and frequency. If the plan doesn’t exist, at least make sure they get sent the meeting invitation in time to attend the next one. Let them know what meetings they are expected to establish for their project. Is there an overall project status meeting? Does each area have their own? Are daily standing meetings the norm? Who handles the status with the Business? Is there a Steering Committee? Lacking direction some toes are likely to get stepped on.

Reports. From status to metrics, management doesn’t communicate without reports. This, too, is usually covered in a Communication Plan. Each company seems to have a different expectation for status reporting. Some obtain status information verbally at meetings with the team. Others expect everyone to produce a status report. I’ve seen several companies switch to a 4-Panel status approach (example: 1-page with 4 quadrants: Status, Financials, Schedule and Risks/Issues). Again, if the Newbie doesn’t know, someone isn’t going to get their expectations met.

Locations. The company I am currently working for has several buildings multiple miles apart on the same highway. When I first started out I would get meeting invitations for the "Large Conference Room" and end up in the wrong place. Let Newbies know where the different branches are, the best places to have lunch and how to decipher the meeting room locations. One place I worked used the names of different beaches for conference rooms. Cute idea, but where is Malibu in relationship to Laguna?

I would wait until last to mention the restrooms, though, just in case the Newbie gets the urge to check out and never return.

1 comment:

Brian said...

Great post. I just started a new job in the healthcare industry and my new organization did exactly what you mention. It helped me very much as a newbie!

One other thing they provided is an acronym glossary. Since healthcare was new to me, this has been handy. My department also has a lot of TLA (Three Letter Acronyms) that they covered as well. This made my first meetings make much more sense!