Turning the Page

This could be another New Year’s reflection piece. There is something about starting a new calendar which promises that everything can change.

Turning the page on the past is something we can do or can have done to us.

My mind still goes back to that day in March 2020 when my world changed. I attended a few events in February prior, where we joked about the pandemic “out there”. At one workshop, inspired by the images circulating through social media, we held a contest to find the most creative way to greet without shaking hands. There was the foot shake, the elbow touch, the hip bump, the wave, and the bow, all done with a giggle and a smile. It felt surreal, a make-believe theatre. Why were we changing this most fundamental of human rituals?

Then, like a thunderstorm sweeping through the city, came the lockdowns. When the premier announced Friday morning that all offices would be closed the following Monday, I raced to see the facilities manager, asking to cancel my month-to-month lease without the required 60-day notice. To my surprise, she agreed. We all were confused at the moment. I still don’t know what led me to cancel because I loved my downtown office. The lockdown could not last that long, no? I rented a car next door, emptied my office into it and drove home. Thus started the weirdest year – going on three.

On that day, the page was turned on me.

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What is your TAC – Talent Acquisition Cost

Photo by Jen Theodore on Unsplash

Despite the front-page news of layoffs at Big Tech, there is a shortage of tech-qualified staff in the real world outside of Silicon Valley. 

The reasons are many. I believe the pandemic pause, which here in Québec lasted almost 24 months, derailed many people’s career plans. There are the direct and ongoing effects of that period on physical and mental health. And most importantly, the accelerating pace of technological change means that more companies of all sizes are hunting for the same people.

As an emerging startup, the investment required to build your team must be at least as significant as your investment in finding capital and customers. You cannot find and hire people at a moment’s notice. They are not lining up outside your door. Even when you hire them, they can leave at a moment’s notice, forcing you to start the process again while slowing your development and deployment efforts.

Understanding your Talent Acquisition Cost

The financial investment in acquiring talent is substantial. Your Talent Acquisition Cost consists of two direct expenses:

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Resolutions – the futile hope of willpower over reality

Resolutions are the futile hope of the triumph of willpower over reality. If you want to change things, you need to instead use a Project framework based on the power of action.

I’ll say it directly: if you’ve made resolutions in this New Year’s season, stop it. You’re setting yourself up for failure right from the start. Google tells me that studies show that over 88% of Americans fail to follow through with their resolutions. I think this number is rather optimistic…

Why don’t resolutions work? Because the act of making a resolution requires resolve – betting that willpower will triumph over reality. Unfortunately, our brains are not wired up to make it happen that way.

If you want to change things, you need to stop drawing on your finite reserve of willpower and instead create a framework based on the power of action.

In my initial career as an aerospace engineer, one of the first things I learned is that everything is a project. Any time we received a request to fix or change something, that request was assigned to a project that was actioned, tracked and managed until the desired result was achieved.

So if you want to really make changes in your results, whether professional or personal, it pays to think in terms of projects with measurable deliverables. By executing your project, you fall naturally into action mode.

A project is an organized system with a mission, a deliverable, and the resources (time, people, actions) to carry it out.

The key elements of a project are:

WHY – Mission: A concise description of the problem or opportunity you want to address, and the motivation or need that justifies the change. The mission statement should address the importance and urgency of taking action now.

WHAT – Deliverable: The tangible, measurable and demonstratable result to be achieved. The deliverable should be a change that is evident to the outside observer.

HOW – Strategy and Resources: The actions needed to acheive the deliverable, and what you need to execute your project (time, team, tools, money)

WHO – Accountability and Communications: Who is responsible for what, and reports to whom?

WHEN – Timeline: The delivery date and the milestones that demonstrate progress, plotted on a calendar (or GANTT chart)

For example, if your resolution is to “lose some weight”, the questions to ask yourself are:

– Why? What is your motivation? Why is this important to you? Why now? This becomes into your “Mission”

– What? How much do you want to lose? By when? What is a tangible measure that you have reached your objective, something that you do? This leads to your Deliverable

– How? What actions do you need to take? What resources are needed to make it happen? What is the strategy you can take to achieve this result (the elements of your Strategy and Resources)

– When? What is the timeline, the end goal and intermediate milestones

– Who? Who is your team (accountability and communications)

I organize my projects, whether they are personal or professional. Each project gets a number, and all communications, plans, logs, and every other record goes directly into the project folder in my Dropbox, with corresponding actions planned and logged in Omnifocus. In 2014 I had over 160 projects defined and tracked. Some were carried through to deliverables, some others were closed or suspended, but each gave me a point of focus to create change.

So as you plan a New Year, try the project strategy. Take a “resolution” that is important to you, and build a project around it, with a mission, a deliverable, resources, timeline, and an accountability structure. Experience how adopting a project mindset can produce results with less stress and more productivity than simply wishing for the triumph of willpower over reality.

For more information

Photo credit: Bekah (beXoutloud) via Flickr
Direct link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bex_x_pi/3157409347/sizes/m/
Used under Creative Commons licence

Updated from the original published on LinkedIn (26 Dec 2014):