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Building your on-demand team: low-risk and flexible

“This new structure allows team members to focus on leveraging their unique set of expertise to deliver greater results…”

Michael, like many managers, is in meetings almost every day from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and triple-booked much of the time. Michael is a rising star in the company and is highly valued by executives who often ask him to work on important projects. As a result, everyone wants a piece of him. His team values him as their manager and trusts him to be a great advocate for them. Michael’s professional success has opened many doors and new relationships, but has come with a cost—huge burdens on his time and priorities. He runs an important but relatively small team that has many responsibilities.

He manages to hold it all together, but barely.

Recently, Michael’s budget was slashed by 20%, although he is expected to deliver on the same goals with even fewer resources. He if frustrated; if he is such a valuable employee, why is he still expected to deliver the same level and quality of work with fewer resources? Complaining is out of the question because nobody wants to hear problems, only solutions. Unfortunately, that mindset from management won’t spur success. Michael’s stress is mounting as he works to figure out how to get it all done because, after all, he is a star.

How will Michael handle this dilemma? How will he justify getting more headcount with a 20% cut in his budget? Meanwhile, his normal work still needs to get done, so he’s behind and even more panicked about his credibility, which rests on his ability to deliver on key goals. He needs creative solutions, and fast.

Like Michael, I’ve seen this scenario become common as organizations must deal with changes in their markets and internal resources. Managers try to do their best, but there are challenges, including:

Managers have to do more with less.

There’s no time to specify desired outcomes.

There are too many generalists and too few specialists.

Where does all of this leave you? “Finding talent is much more fluid, opportunistic and fast-paced,” a 2014 article in the Harvard Business Review said. “This new structure allows team members to focus on leveraging their unique set of expertise to deliver greater results…It also leaves the old ways of acquiring talent, measuring goals and relating to employees in the dust, because they were designed at a time when business was consistent and static.”

SPEED in action looks like this:

S: Success = Begin with your project goals If you don’t know where you need to go, it’s impossible to tell if you’re on track to get there. Then, determine the desired outcome for the project; that will help you set a path to achieve project success. Also consider how the project contributes to your company’s goals.

P: Plan = Once you are clear that your project’s success will mean bringing in a specialist, it’s time to form a plan designed to meet your goals and priorities in order to fill the talent gap you have. The planning process starts with the drafting of a comprehensive project description, then budget, rates for the expert, ways to access the expert talent, and the screening/interviewing guidelines.

E: Execute = The key to successful execution of the project is setting and then meeting expectations. Execution comprises documenting the project deliverables in a Statement of Work (SOW), onboarding, and then integrating the consultant into your team. This phase is about the nitty-gritty details for everything and everyone involved.

E: Evaluate = Metrics are vital to understanding if you investment is generating the intended ROI, and they are also an early warning system for you to get ahead of possible issues. Scorecards and dashboards are useful tools for evaluation.

D: Decide = When you have achieved your project goals, you will feel empowered to tackle the next project in a faster and more efficient way. But first it’s time to decide if the project remains a priority. If so, then keep going and perhaps expand it. If not, decide if it is time to shut it down.

The SPEED strategy helps you identify what your goals are, helps you find your on-demand experts, starts the project with clear expectations, measures the results, and takes action to keep going or to pivot in another direction. It works because it enables you to have a much broader viewpoint than simply placing names on an organization chart. It’s about asking what your business needs and goals are and what talent and skills you’ll need to achieve them.

In my next article in this series, I’ll sum up my perspective after spending more than a decade in this shifting talent landscape.

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