Has the Older Generations Created the Millennial Leadership Dilemma?

#millennialleadership, millennial leadership

The Millennial workers have been cast with several adjectives: entitled, lazy, disrespectful, rude, blunt, job-hoppers, tech-savvy, intelligent. Some terms are positive, and some terms are negative. Articles state it is difficult to train millennials for leadership positions because either they think they already know what they need to know, or managers are afraid the millennial will leave the company after being trained. Seminars and webinars abound trying to overcome this conundrum helping companies retain and promote millennials.

As we reflected on this trend, we considered how this dilemma formed. During our discussions with others, we realized the older generations actually created this problem. How so? Firstly, we are the parents of the millennial generation and secondly, we trained them from birth to be this way. Why are we so surprised by the outcome?

Let’s look at several factors that contributed to this phenomenon. We believe factors impacting the parents translate into the children’s attitudes toward life and employment.

Workplace Trends

The parents of millennials started their careers during the late 1970s and 1980s. During that era, we see companies had become very comfortable trimming workforces through layoffs, outsourcing or sending positions overseas. It became common practice to trim the workforce just prior to quarter closing, in order to lower expenses and raise profit margins. This appearance of increased company performance elated stockholders and company executives.

Additionally, computers, networks and technology were experiencing massive adoption in corporations, eliminating routine tasks and needs for staff. Typing pools were decimated as PCs popped up in every office and email and faxes replaced interoffice mail. Voicemail removed the need for message centers and secretaries. Group fax machines eliminated the need for message centers used to transmit printed pages from one location to another (PDF had not become accepted yet). PC applications removed the need for central data centers, and workers were able to generate their own reports and data pulls. Other technology eradicated the need for other services which trickled throughout the organizations.

As a result, parents found themselves looking for new jobs in a decreasing job market. In many cases, finding a new position took months and years. Many displaced workers either transitioned into different industries or founded their own companies to support their family.

Those workers retaining jobs assumed the responsibilities of displaced employees, requiring longer hours at work and more time away from family, despite no additional pay. Workers were under constant pressure of future layoffs adding to the tension of losing their job and additional work. This pressure translated to the home environment either in discussions about the situation or through other unacceptable consequences: increased stress, illness, etc. Children quickly assessed the situation of the imbalance between work and home life. Subsequently, millennials clamor for better work-life balance. They have experienced the fallout of the imbalance.

Self-Reliancemillennial leadership

The mantra for many became less “company loyalty,” and more “self-loyalty.” In other words, workers learned to depend on themselves, not their companies, for continued work. Companies wondering why employees were not loyal were forced to reconsider their own loyalty to such employees.

The lesson of self-reliance was not lost on the children. We know we taught our children to not rely on others for opportunities, rather, make the opportunities for themselves. As we talked with other parents during sporting events, karate lessons, and other social outings, we learned they were doing the same thing, especially those who had at least one “downsizing”, “outsizing”, or “right-sizing” episodes. Some had been through several.

Translating the Adjectives

How does this translate into the millennial “adjectives?”

Millennials are viewed as selfish or self-centered. Maybe they are neither, but self-protective. They don’t easily give their loyalty to everyone. They lack the initial dose of trust the older generation gives when meeting someone or given an opportunity. Millennials are more skeptical and cautious than older generations. Maybe they don’t want to be hurt financially, emotionally or professionally by a disloyal organization. They have seen the struggles their parents suffered from the layoffs or having to accept a demotion to keep a job to pay the bills. They have seen the inequities of company leaders improving their positions while decimating others’ lives. Anyone witnessing this treatment, especially during the formative years, would not give full trust and loyalty without first experiencing the loyalty from the organization?

We have found, as we prove our allegiance to millennials, their walls of distrust fall away, and they no longer appear selfish or self-serving. As we build the trust level, we find them congenial, cooperative and strong team members willingly shouldering the load. As they see they are part of something significant, their interest and involvement increases.

Job-Hopping, a.k.a., Mobile#millennialleadership, millennial leadership

Millennials are seen as job-hoppers, never staying in one job very long. We believe several factors cause this phenomenon.

Firstly, the lack of loyalty from the company, as discussed above, eliminates the lack of emotional attachment to a current position. Why stay at a job very long? Learn what you can and move on. Yes, that may be self-serving, but where is the incentive to stay? Is the company offering tangible and intangible reasons to stick with them? Everyone knows, young workers with some experience have an easier time finding the next opportunity. As the worker ages, companies are more reluctant to recruit or hire them. Workers forty and above tend to slow down in moving to another job because of house ownership, school district, uprooting children, etc., whereas, younger employees don’t have those encumbrances.

Secondly, pay raises over the past several decades have been abysmally low for the average workers. The only way to gain a decent raise is by jumping to a new opportunity. When interviewing for the new position, millennials will negotiate for the higher pay and additional benefits. If the new company really desires the person, it will counter but still at a level higher than the current position. If the opportunity looks better and pays more, why not move?

Thirdly, millennials tech-savvy knowledge helps them move with more transferable skills than previous generations. With the advent of finding information on the web easily, millennials can make the transition with lower learning time because they can get the knowledge for the new position quickly. YouTube is a wonderful tool for learning new skills rapidly. In a matter of minutes, new hires’ transition into productive employees faster than previous generations.

Fourthly, they watched their parents move from position to position for higher pay. We, the older generations, were the role models for the mobile employee today. Because we had suffered through years of low raises, many which didn’t keep us even with the national inflation rate, we learned to move to other companies and negotiate higher salaries. The trend of low raises has continued, and millennials have learned the lesson of job-hopping for better pay.

Slowing the Mobile Millennial Migration

What can companies do to slow the migration of millennials? While we agree attrition and turnover is healthy for companies, having too many walk through the revolving door is dangerous and costly. Richard Branson is credited with saying, “Train people well enough so they can leave, and treat them well enough so they don’t want to.”

millennial leadership

Companies need to improve their loyalty to employees. We already covered this aspect earlier.

Companies need to provide training opportunities for employees in job-related areas, personal development, career advancement, etc. Too many times, training budgets are trimmed long before janitorial supplies are considered. It is the first line item to go. Unfortunately, this short-sighted approach produces under-performing staff and a stagnant workforce. In our whitepaper, “Training’s Impact on Your Business: Cost or Investment?,  we show the quick return-on-investment training provides. Additionally, it is tangible evidence of the company’s loyalty to the employee.

Providing work assignments where employees feel they are doing something significant and can take ownership of the results lead to a tighter bond with the company. When we are personally vested in an effort, we are much less likely to leave for something else.

And finally, compensate employees fairly. Let them participate in bonuses, employee stock ownership plans, contribute to their 401K and other retirement vehicles. The cost of these programs is lower than the cost of acquiring a new employee and recovered through increase productivity from a satisfied worker.


We will cover additional factors in part 2 of this series of articles.

As we contemplate the Millennial Leadership Dilemma, we see patterns emerging which indicate that older generations, who raised their children to be independent, self-assured and confident, are now perceived as negative. We agree millennials exist who are rude, lazy, selfish, and disrespectful. But those types of people have existed in every generation. We need to focus on the traits we have trained into our children who are now part of the workforce and leverage the lessons they have learned.

Maybe the older generations need to appreciate the independence and self-assurance exhibited by millennials and learn to channel that energy into productive and useful results.

We’d like to hear your comments on our opinions expressed here. Provide stories of your experiences as they align or don’t align with our thoughts.

Copyright © American Eagle Group

Leading the Four Follower Types – Sheep and Isolates- Part 4

#millennialleadership, millennial leadership

In our previous article, Understanding the Four Follower Types – Part 2, we described the types of followers a leader is likely to encounter in any team. Leaders must adapt their leadership style to derive the best from each type. Leaders need to be more adept in their skills because different situations and follower types require different leadership skills or approaches.

This article is the fourth in a series of articles based on our research, analysis and findings. The articles in the series are

Additionally, Millennial Leadership Initiative – View Our Preliminary Findings Video contains our presentation at Pennsylvania State University – Abington Campus.

The four follower types we discussed are:

  • Proactive – actively participates in and aligns with the mission of the effort, generates ideas, challenges thoughts, and is interested in overall improvement. The Proactive’s loyalty is to the mission.
  • Die-hard Loyalist – enthusiastically embraces the leader, his/her ideas and goals, and follows the leader simply because of the leader. His/her loyalty is with the leader without regard to the mission.
  • Sheep – primarily interested in the work because it interests him/her and because he/she is getting paid. A sheep’s loyalty is to his/her work and pay, not the mission or leader. If the project fails, he/she simply moves onto the next pasture that pays and provides work.
  • Isolate – a Proactive or Die-hard Loyalist evolves into an Isolate because he/she becomes disenfranchised. The Proactive becomes weary due to the lack of idea acceptance or appreciation. The Die-hard Loyalist becomes disillusioned by the leader and has no place to direct his/her loyalty.

Note: These four follower types do not have hard-n-fast edges. Each follower can be a combination of traits. We present them here as if followers fall into one of the four categories, but that is rarely the case. Followers may exhibit traits from several categories. An astute leader will recognize the dominate category trait and be able to adapt the leadership style(s) accordingly.

In the article, Leading the Four Follower Types – Proactive and Die-hard Loyalists – Part 3, we described leadership conditions and concerns for leading the Proactives and Die-hard Loyalists. In this article, we’ll finish the discussion for leading the Sheep and Isolates.

Leading the SheepSheep Follower Type, #millennialleadership, millennial leadership

Sheep are motivated by the work to be done and the remuneration behind it. He/she is not necessarily loyal to the mission or the leader. A leader needs to understand that. To motivate sheep, a leader delegates work to the sheep. In many cases, the sheep work autonomously and moves to the next piece of work when the last task finishes.

To lead the sheep, the leader must outline the work to be done, provide the order of accomplishment and lay the plan out for the sheep. The sheep continues to move forward moving from one pasture of work to the next pasture. Once the project or mission is complete, the sheep will move onto the next leader who has work for them. If that is the current leader, great. If not, no emotions are lost moving to the next assignment.

Sheep rarely become Isolates. Sheep usually don’t offer suggestions or ideas like the Proactives do. He/she does not require the recognition of the leader as much as the Die-hard Loyalist does. In fact, he/she doesn’t really care who the leader is. As long as the work is interesting and there is enough to do, the Sheep will continue to follow. If the leader leaves, doesn’t acknowledge the sheep or in some other fashion, disenfranchises a Sheep, the Sheep simply shrugs his/her shoulders and moves on. There is no emotional attachment to the current situation.

The onus is on the leader to provide the work and direction and the Sheep will simply follow accomplishing the work set before them.

Please note, we are not calling the Sheep mindless automatons. He/she can be quite an intelligent and passionate person. He/she may even be very energetic and outgoing. What differentiates Sheep from the rest of the followers is the loyalty factor. As leaders, we need Sheep on our team, as much as we need Proactives and Die-hard Loyalists.

In many ways, because of the number of re-organizations, projects, life-circumstances, mergers/acquisitions and layoffs we have experienced, we might be considered a Sheep. While it is always great to have an empathetic and effective leader, we are more about the work than loyalty to a person. It is always good to be involved in a mission in which we can align but paying the bills has now trumped the missions. It would be super exciting to be involved in a mission with exciting work and great pay. If that were to occur, we’d be Proactive Sheep. Bah-ahh.

Leading the Isolate#millennialleadership, millennial leadership

The Isolate follower will be the toughest follower the leader manages. Isolates already have something against the team, mission or leader. An Isolate can be one of two flavors: saboteur or entrepreneur. In either case, the Isolate can be quietly biding his/her time until he/she leaves or outwardly caustic and troublesome.

Isolate Saboteur

The saboteur seeks to damage the leader or mission by underperforming, undermining the leader, purposely creating low quality results, delaying progress, or causing a ruckus through irritating or caustic behavior. He/she may use insinuation, snide remarks, negative body language, disrespect or a myriad of techniques to cause division within the team. He/she may openly undermine the leader or his/her reputation causing doubts in other minds about the leader’s ability or vision.

The leader needs to confront this type of Isolate. The leader must suppress any prejudice or preconceived ideas about the issues the Isolate may have. The leader should initiate an open conversation, preferably in private, where the Isolate can voice his/her concerns. The leader must clearly state there is no retribution or reprimand for voicing the concerns. The leader must listen carefully and without interruption. The leader must be prepared for personal insults and accusations and not react no matter how true or untrue the statement is. Any infraction of these rules by the leader will only exacerbate the problem rather than solve it.

Why is this important?

First, in many cases the Isolate simply needs to express these issues and feel he/she has been heard. Many times over our career, we have employed this technique and seen the animosity simply melt away and the situation resolved. We didn’t have to take any action. In many cases, the Isolate became a Die-hard Loyalist. In several occasions, the “Isolate” was the supervisor and we were the “employee.” We weren’t even perceived as the leader, yet, a simple conversation to clear the air where we only listened caused the other party to turn his/her adverse attitude to becoming our champion.

As an example, we were new to consulting. A previous boss hired us and negotiated the rate for our services. Shortly after starting, we were reorganized under a new supervisor who happened to be our peer at the previous employer. He struggled to pay our monthly invoices. The payments were delayed longer and longer. Finally, we decided to ask the supervisor why the payments were late, especially since the late payments caused us to pay our bills late. After much discussion and listening, the supervisor (ex-peer) blurted out our monthly invoice total was more than his take-home pay and he, being the supervisor, wasn’t comfortable with that. We tried the logical approach of stating we had to pay our taxes, benefits and travel expenses from our gross income leaving the net much less than his take-home. He said he understood all that, but it was simply the number that caused him the problem. We blinked our eyes and said, “What if we invoice you twice per month cutting the invoice in half? Would that work?” He thought and said, “Why Yes! That’ll do it.” We ended up with a Die-hard Loyalist and got paid more quickly on our invoices.

Second, the leader might uncover a general concern pervasive throughout the team but no one else has the nerve to bring it to the leader’s attention. The discussion might illuminate a blind spot the leader has, a habit which undermines his/her ability to lead, or a mannerism which annoys the team members, etc. As an example, we’ve all experienced the leader where everything must be done immediately. The team members know the panic mode is not necessary, but everyone fears mentioning the undue stress levels. Through a discussion with an Isolate, the leader might realize he is impacting his/her own success.

Listening is key to converting an Isolate Saboteur. Sometimes, the root of the issue comes out quickly and sometimes it takes a protracted conversation. The leader must remain calm, impartial, control all emotions and negative urges, and listen for the gems to resolve the problem.

Of course, not all Isolate Saboteurs can be converted back into Proactives or Die-hard Isolates. In these cases, the leader must take actions to remove the Saboteur from the team to eliminate further drama and disruptions. The actions or attitudes of the Saboteur is noticed by other team members and impacts their ability to produce or form as a team. This environment drains everyone, sometimes converting other followers to Isolates because of the perceived inept leadership.

Isolate Entrepreneur

The Isolate Entrepreneur usually evolves from the Proactive whose thoughts and ideas have been shunned by the leader too many times. As a Proactive offers opinions the leader ignores, he/she loses respect or trust in the leader’s ability. An attitude begins to form by the Proactive can do a much better job than the leader. We know this evolution from first-hand knowledge as our ideas were unheeded by our leaders. We found ourselves becoming more negative and felt disrespected. More out of happenstance than planning, we found ourselves transferring to other opportunities. Looking back, we hope we didn’t disrupt the team too much from our negative attitudes.

Isolate Entrepreneur, while he/she might exhibit negative behavior, frequently leave to start his/her own endeavors or move into another area. He/she is looking for a position which nurtures his/her abilities and where his/her ideas are heard, if not implemented. Being heard and executing ideas motivates the Isolate Entrepreneur. He/she wants to point at a result and state it was his/her idea.

Die-hard Loyalists can slip into becoming an Isolate Entrepreneur. Because a Loyalist’s loyalty lies with the leader, when he/she becomes disenfranchised, his/her normal evolution would be toward the Isolate Saboteur. But, in some cases, the Loyalist may become an Isolate Entrepreneur, stick with team for a period of time and then leave to pursue his/her passion.

Regardless of the original follower type, an Isolate Entrepreneur can be won back into the fold through being heard. Once again, the leader needs to engage in a conversation and listen to the Entrepreneur. The leader can ask probing questions to elicit problem areas the Entrepreneur sees and invite him/her to suggestion solutions. The leader needs to listen impartially, without objection and consider the Entrepreneur’s suggestions. The leader, through questioning, should further probe suggestions, especially if the leaders knows additional information the Entrepreneur doesn’t. The goal is to have a mutual exchange of ideas with the attempt to develop a better solution overall.
The leader does not need to promise or infer the Entrepreneur’s ideas will be implemented. The leader does need to assure the Entrepreneur he/she will be taken seriously.

Concluding Isolate Thoughts

Let’s conclude our discussion of the Isolate in this manner:

  1. Isolates need to be heard
  2. Isolates need to feel respected
  3. Isolates may convert back to the team via a single discussion or over time. (he/she needs to rebuild trust in the leader)
  4. Isolates hold valuable information leaders need to know.
  5. Isolates will not divulge the information unless a leader listens intently, impartially and unemotionally
  6. Isolates won’t take the lead in re-establishing the relationship, the leader must.


Understanding follower types is essential to a leader’s success. Long gone are the days where “one-size-fit-all” or “my way or the highway”. Successful leaders meet their followers individually. They understand the follower, what motivates him/her and leads the person accordingly. An astute leader will look for traits and signs to identify a follower type.

The first question the leader needs to ask upon meeting a follower is, “Where is this person’s loyalty?”

If the person is loyal to the mission, he/she will exhibit more Proactive traits.

If the person is loyal to the leader, he/she will exhibit Die-hard Loyalist traits.

If the person is loyal to the pay, he/she will exhibit Sheep-like traits.

And, if the person is not loyal to any of the above, he/she will exhibit Isolate traits. As the leader listens to the Isolate, the leader can endeavor to bring the follower back into the fold.

We’d like to hear your comments on our opinions expressed here. Provide stories of your experiences as they align or don’t align with our thoughts.

Copyright © American Eagle Group

Leading the Four Follower Types – Proactives and Die-hard Loyalists – Part 3

#millennialleadership, millennial leadership

In our previous article, Understanding the Four Follower Types, we described the types of followers a leader is likely to encounter in any team. Leaders must adapt their leadership style to derive the best from each type. Leaders need to be more adept in these skills because different situations and follower types require different leadership skills or approaches.

This article is the third in a series of articles based on our research, analysis and findings. The articles in the series are

Additionally, Millennial Leadership Initiative – View Our Preliminary Findings Video contains our presentation at Pennsylvania State University – Abington Campus.

The four follower types we discussed are:

  • Proactive – actively participates in and aligns with the mission of the effort, generates ideas, challenges thoughts, and is interested in overall improvement. The Proactive’s loyalty is to the mission.
  • Die-hard Loyalist – enthusiastically embraces the leader, his/her ideas and goals, and follows the leader simply because of the leader. His/her loyalty is with the leader without regard to the mission.
  • Sheep – primarily interested in the work because it interests him/her and because he/she is getting paid. A sheep’s loyalty is to his/her work and pay, not the mission or leader. If the project fails, he/she simply moves onto the next pasture that pays and provides work.
  • Isolate – a Proactive or Die-hard Loyalist evolves into an Isolate because he/she becomes disenfranchised. The Proactive becomes weary due to the lack of idea acceptance or appreciation. The Die-hard Loyalist becomes disillusioned by the leader and has no place to direct his/her loyalty.

Note: These four follower types do not have hard-n-fast edges. Each follower can be a combination of traits. We present them here as if followers fall into one of the four categories, but that is rarely the case. Followers may exhibit traits from several categories. An astute leader will recognize the dominate category trait and be able to adapt the leadership style(s) accordingly.

In this article, Leading the Four Follower Types – Proactive and Die-hard Loyalists – Part 3, we described leadership conditions and concerns for leading the Proactives and Die-hard Loyalists. In the next article, Leading the Four Follower Types – Sheep and Isolates- Part 4, we’ll finish the discussion for leading the Sheep and Isolates.

Leading the ProactiveProactive Follower Type

One thing we know about the Proactive follower is his/her loyalty to the mission. He/she wants the mission to succeed. As leaders, we need to nurture that desire. The simplest method of nurturing a follower is to listen. Give the Proactive follower the ability to express his/her ideas and thoughts to make the mission successful. In many cases, the simple act of listening to the follower is all that is needed. Knowing he/she has been heard satisfies the follower he/she is contributing, that his/her efforts are appreciated.

As an example, earlier in our career, we lead the effort to introduce a set of products to the USA market. To be successful, we studied the current market and competition, wrote plans to gain exposure in the market and to gain sales growth through the existing customer base and expand through new acquisitions. We spent at least three to six months developing our attack.

Joined by the VP of Marketing, we met with the company’s president. Either he was already aware of our efforts and plans or he decided on a different course. Before we could give our presentation, he said he wanted to change directions. Needless to say, we were a bit deflated. Our work was for naught.

We decided to request he listen to our presentation anyway in the hope maybe some of our work would survive and add to his new direction. To our surprise, he agreed. We presented our work. In the end, he decided he preferred his original direction and we executed on that. We left the meeting feeling like we were heard and our efforts appreciated even though it was not used. The president intelligently decided to listen and gained an enthusiastic Proactive follower as a result.

On the contrary, if the leader only listens and never acts on any of the Proactive follower’s suggestions or idea, the follower may eventually become despondent. The leader must be willing to truly consider the follower’s ideas and act on some. The leader must be willing to risk he/she doesn’t have all the information or ideas and followers, who are closer to the ground, have valid suggestions. The leader should act on those recommendations.

Finally, a leader should be willing to give the Proactive follower autonomy in acting on the behalf of the leader and in the best interest of the project. Certainly, the leader can set boundaries around the level of autonomy given and expand those boundaries as the Proactive follower proves himself/herself capable and trustworthy. In empowering the Proactive follower, the leader grooms them to become the next generation of leaders.

During interactions with Proactive followers, leaders may feel challenged or even threatened by the ideas and suggestions made. Personal attacks are never acceptable, but if a follower challenges the leader’s ideas or methods, in a respectful manner, the leader should not give into a negative emotional response. Instead, the leader should willing hear the person, consider the idea and then respond accordingly and professionally. A follower may be able to see a roadblock, a blind spot or a pothole the leader cannot. If the leader responds negatively, the follower will be unwilling to share future important information resulting in “damage” to the project’s effort.

Die-hard Loyalist Follower Type, #millennialleadership, millennial leadershipLeading the Die-hard Loyalist

A Die-hard Loyalist is loyal to the leader. Whatever the leader sets his/her hand to, the Loyalist aligns with him/her and is willing to shoulder the load. He/she feels valued when the leader assigns them specific tasks, especially if the activity provides a semblance of authority. Empowered with the leader’s affinity, the Loyalist will complete the task. If the leader recognizes the Loyalist upon the task completion, the leader engenders more loyalty from the Loyalist.

In many cases, the Loyalist is not concerned with the project’s mission or the task at hand. He/she is motivated by the fact the leader asks him/her to accomplish it. The leader must consider the Loyalist’s abilities and talents. The leader should assign work the Loyalist can perform and some task with a bit of a skillset stretch to help the Loyalist continue to grow. Of course, assigning work beyond the reach of the Loyalist becomes a source of embarrassment and demoralization.

Since Loyalists align with the leader, he/she may be hesitant to question or challenge a leader’s ideas. As a result, obstacles or gaps in the leader’s plans may either go unnoticed or not mentioned. While a leader can see many issues, he/she will not be able to see all. If issues are not brought to light, major problems can occur.

A leader guides the energies and efforts of the Loyalist. When the leader assigns tasks the Loyalist can accomplish and when he/she does so, the leader needs to acknowledge that effort. In the case the Loyalist doesn’t perform as the leader would like, the leader should acknowledge the positive aspects of the work and instruct the Loyalist how to correct the other parts which need fixing. While this can become tiring or tedious for the leader, he/she needs to recognize what motivates the Loyalist – the recognition of the leader. The leader must keep a balanced approach so the recognition doesn’t become gratuitous.

Loyalists can be disillusioned by the leader though a myriad of circumstances. In some cases, the leader moves to another project, department or company and leaves the Loyalist behind. The Loyalist feels betrayed. It happens enough times and the Loyalist could become bitter and cynical, essentially evolving into an Isolate. In other cases, if the Loyalist feels embarrassed or shamed by the leader, he/she can become disheartened. If the leader is overly critical, the Loyalist will feel resentment.

The leader could break the Loyalist’s trust in a number of ways: divulging confidential information, speaking ill of the Loyalist, or simply ignoring him/her. The Loyalist become disillusioned because he/she doesn’t understand why the leader is acting this way. The leader needs to be profession, not break a person’s trust and apologetic if the leader inadvertently makes a mistake.


In our next article, we will discuss the other two follower types: Sheep and Isolates.

In this article, we described the leadership methods for managing Proactives and Die-hard Loyalists. Because the two groups are motivated differently, they respond to the leader differently. Proactives are motivated by the mission while the Die-hard Loyalists align with the leader. Proactive followers may be challenging to the leader due to questions asked, ideas offered or working autonomously. Die-hard Loyalists require more direction and guidance from the leader since their desire to be in lock-step with the leader.

Leaders must recognize the different motivational forces and skillfully use methods best suited to the follower type and situation. Because a team is comprised of the different follower types, a leader cannot not motivate the team using one method. He/she must consider the individuals in the team and lead them accordingly.

Leadership is no longer about one-size-fits-all. Leaders of today must be nimble and responsive.

I welcome your comments and thoughts. Please enter them below.

Copyright © American Eagle Group

Understanding the Four Follower Types – Part 2

#millennialleadership, millennial leadership

In our first article, 5 Traits of Millennial Leadership – Part 1, we described the 5 trait Millennials look for in their leaders:

  • Mutual Respect
  • Appreciation for Accomplished Work
  • Assigned Something of Significance
  • Adaptability
  • Trust

This article is the second in a series of articles based on our research, analysis and findings. The articles in the series are

Additionally, Millennial Leadership Initiative – View Our Preliminary Findings Video contains our presentation at Pennsylvania State University – Abington Campus.

During our study to answer the question of Millennials’ perspective of leadership, we examined follower types. We discovered four main types with one type bifurcating into two branches:

  • Proactive
  • Die-hard Loyalist
  • Sheep
  • Isolate

These categories are broad generalizations of people groups. Each follower typically possesses the characteristics of each follower category to varying degrees but displays a more dominate follower type. Additionally, there are no “hard edges” between the categories. In other words, a particular follower could be considered in two categories.  These categories are described for the benefit of the leader to help determine the make-up of a his/her team and how best to lead each team member.

Additionally, followers may exhibit different follower categorization depending on the leader and situation. This phenomenon is understandable since neither leadership and followership is a science but more of an art form.

We provide leadership suggestions for each group in a subsequent article.


The Proactive follower actively participates in the team’s mission and leader’s vision. He/she provides input, generates ideas, questions and challenges thoughts and invents new solutions. His/her loyalty is to the work at hand and the goals to be accomplished. He/she believes in the mission and wants to be materially involved in the generation of the effort’s result.Proactive Follower Type

The challenge of a proactive follower is his/her questioning the leader. In most cases, he/she is respectful of the leader’s ability and is only challenging ideas or methods to accomplish the ideas. The questions stem from the desire for improvement, not to bash or tear down the leader’s image or thoughts. If taken wrongly, the leader considers questions to be challenges to his/her authority, knowledge, expertise, etc. Of course, too many questions or suggestions can impede progress and wear on others’ emotions.

Die-hard Loyalist

The Die-hard Loyalist follower enthusiastically embraces the leader. He/she is less concerned about the team’s mission or leader’s vision. In some cases, he/she blindly follows the leader wherever the leader leads. In the mind of the Die-hard Loyalist, the leader is right, has the brightest and best ideas, knows what needs to be done and delegates to the followers the tasks to accomplish the goals. No need to question or wonder if the path being taken is right or leading to the desired end-result.

Die-hard Loyalist Follower TypeGood leaders appreciate loyal followers, but Die-hard Loyalists don’t help the leader see blind spots, errors in judgment, missing knowledge or information, etc. The “band of merry men/women” continue down the primrose path, and in some cases, to undesirable results. In most cases, the highest quality outcome is not achieved because of the lack of insight or questioning. Fortunately, few teams are comprised of a single type of follower.


The Sheep follower is neither wedded to the leader or the project. He/she is emotionally detached to the effort and leader. Basically, he/she completes the work for the pay. He/she does what is necessary to maintain the job and collect the paycheck but doesn’t really care what he/she does to earn the wage. His/her work may be stellar. He/she could be an overachiever. But his/her loyalty is to himself/herself and earning a living. Sheep come in different shapes, sizes and colors. He/she may be hard to distinguish because of the manner of work. The key identifier to determining a follower type is the loyalty: to the mission, the leader or the pay?Sheep Follower Type

For a leader, the difficulty of this follower is motivating the Sheep. Without digging deep through questioning and listening carefully, the leader may not detect the follower is a Sheep. The leader may think because of the follower’s performance, he/she is onboard with the mission. On a positive note, the Sheep usually follows and does the work to be done, but he/she doesn’t necessarily consider the next step, consequences of current efforts or anticipate anything beyond the work assigned. The leader must always be ready with the next item to be accomplished ready to assign to the Sheep for continued work.


Isolate followers are peculiar. For the majority of Isolate follower cases, an Isolate did not start out that way. Usually an Isolate starts out as a Proactive, Die-hard Loyalist or a Sheep. Due to circumstances or experiences, Isolates evolve over time to the isolate state.

In the case of the Proactive follower, he/she experienced enough leaders who either didn’t listen or respond to the Proactive’s questions, suggestions, ideas, challenges or discussion. The leader’s actions or inactions demoralized the Proactive to the point of no longer caring about the mission, thus, the Proactive evolves into an Isolate. He/she simply continues to do the work, but withholds the valuable questions, ideas, etc. intrinsic to the Proactive. As a result, the overall mission is compromised, but the oblivious leader is none-the-wiser. The leader assumes all is well and now, since the Proactive is silent, he/she obviously agrees and is aligned with the effort. Silence is considered approval.

Isolate Follower Type, #millennialleadership, millennial leadershipA Die-hard Loyalist follower becomes disillusioned about the leader. Something happens where the Loyalist no longer views the leader in the same way. Situations occurring such as the leader ignoring the Loyalist’s loyalty, damning news reveals the leader is not the person envisioned by the Loyalist, bad outcomes shake the Loyalist’s confidence in the leader or simply some action taken by the leader leaves the Loyalist despondent such as the leader abandoning the Loyalist when he/she moves to a new position. Without a leader, the Loyalist is lost and isolated.

Sheep typically do not become Isolates. Since Sheep are motivated by the pay, not the leader. If the leader is bad or good, a Sheep doesn’t care. If the leader does or doesn’t listen, a Sheep doesn’t care. He/she continues for the pay. At the same time, a Sheep’s apathy can grow to the point he/she becomes an Isolate.

Two Sub-categories of Isolates

Isolate followers will fall within two sub-categories: Saboteur and Entrepreneur.

A Saboteur, also known as a disgruntled employee, can be both visible or invisible. A Saboteur may challenge everything the leader says and does just to be disruptive. He/she may become rude and disrespectful but not always to the point of being dismissed. His/her work may become sub-par resulting in lost time, money and productivity. His/her attitude may infect other team members causing divisiveness among the other followers.

An invisible Saboteur does not exhibit those characteristics. Instead, he/she is resistive to anything the leader says or does. He/she may quietly shake his/her head, show negative emotions or facial expressions, or un-affirming body language which impacts other members. The invisible Saboteur may purposefully slow the amount of work being performed, roadblock efforts or scuttle necessary information to impede progress. The impact of these hidden efforts is only seen after a period of time and the damage detected.

An Isolate Entrepreneur does not sabotage a project, instead, he/she leaves the team to pursue other interests. The departure can impact the project due to timing or the loss of a key person and knowledge. The Isolate Entrepreneur continues to support the project, albeit, less enthusiastically, until the next opportunity is found. The Isolate Entrepreneur may transfer to another part of the company, leave for another position or start his/her own company. Transferring to another part of the company is the best of the three scenarios since the brain-trust and connections are still available. Moving to another position or starting a separate company could cause additional loss of knowledge if the Isolate Entrepreneur recruits former colleagues to the new position.


Four follower types exist: Proactive, Die-hard Loyalist, Sheep and Isolate. Teams consist of the different types. A leader’s job is to know the various types within his/her team and leverage the benefits of each type. Identifying which team member fits which category can be tricky because the boundaries around each type may not be well defined and members may exhibit traits of more than one follower category.

Additionally, members may exhibit different traits based on the situation and the leader’s skills. Under a domineering leader, a Proactive may be less vocal and willing to ask questions. A Die-hard Loyalist may cower from fear more than demonstrate genuine loyalty. Sheep may come and go quickly. Isolates may exhibit exaggerated negative traits. Under an emotionally distant leader, all will react differently still.

By understanding the different follower types, an astute leader realizes one leadership style does not fit all people for all situations and circumstances. The leader will adapt to the people, the situation and the mission to be accomplished.

I welcome your comments and thoughts. Please enter them below.

Copyright © American Eagle Group

5 Traits of Millennial Leadership – Part 1

#millennialleadership, millennial leadership

For the past several months, our team of researchers have dug through many articles, discussed what they have learned and explored their own desires concerning leadership as being Millennials. This article lists the five points we have learned so far.

This article is the first in a series of articles based on our research, analysis and findings. The articles in the series are

Additionally, Millennial Leadership Initiative – View Our Preliminary Findings Video contains our presentation at Pennsylvania State University – Abington Campus.

5 Traits of Millennial Leadership

Point 1: Respect

Millennials understand respect for current leaders is important. They also want to be respected by the leadership. Respect is always a two-way street. By showing disrespect from either side, the other party is immediately alienated and the relationship breaks down. As a result of the damaged relationship, the leader has little to no influence.

Millennials need to be respected for what they know. Because they grew up in an age of hyper-technology, they think differently than the older generation and as a result, come at problems in dissimilar manners. These manners may bring about challenging questions by which the leader should not be offended or become defensive, but consider their viewpoint because the questions may lead to answers. Millennials don’t expect all their questions to be correct or in the proper direction, but at least being heard and considered goes a long way in showing respect. And this is not too dissimilar to any generation’s desire – to be heard and taken under consideration.

Point 2: Appreciated

Millennials are eager to do the work assigned to them. They are eager to perform and complete the tasks at hand. They are eager to participate. After all, in majority of cases, they participated in team sports and competitions. They know the feeling of winning and losing.

#millennialleadership, millennial leadershipWhen leaders show appreciation for the work being done by millennial workers, it provides the workers with a sense of pride and accomplishment. They want to know they are part of the team and helping to move the project forward. Again, which generation does not want to feel appreciated for their work?

Point 3: Doing Something of Significance

Millennials want to know what they are working on is making an impact, making a difference for the company. They understand there are menial tasks that must be performed, but they want to feel their efforts contribute to the success of the company.

We have all worked those situations which were boring and in the end, had no impact or significance. At the time, it might have appeared to be important, but in the end, the project was canceled or abandoned and the result useless. Those situation are understandable, but if day-to-day work doesn’t amount to anything, then we all become demoralized.

Leaders need to provide the vision which leads to meaningful and productive activity.

Point 4: Adaptability

Leaders need to adapt to the situation at hand and to the people involved. One-way does not fit all. It never did and never will. Different situations require different approaches. For example, in emergency situations, the leader may become more dictatorial and demand certain actions. The followers will most #millennialleadership, millennial leadershiplikely follow. But under normal conditions, if the leader continues in the dictator mode, the followers will resent the heavy-handed approach and eventually rebel.

As the team composition changes or the environment, market factors, upper management, etc. varies, the leader must adapt accordingly. Again, this concept of adaptability is just good leadership anyway. There is nothing new here concerning the millennials. It seems they desire good leadership models.

Hmm, maybe it is not the millennials we should focus on, but those people who currently hold leadership positions who don’t really understand leadership!

Point 5: Trust

In many cases, millennials have put in long hours of study to learn their skills and have the loans to prove it. In other cases, in addition to their education, they have spent years in the workforce and have experience harden by the reality of mistakes, corrections and leading by other employees and life in general. They want to be able to exercise that knowledge. They want to be trusted to do the job. Leaders need to delegate authority and responsibility to these workers and trust the job will get done.

Some leaders have been hesitant to delegate authority and responsibility. This attitude makes no sense. When they were younger, they were eager to prove themselves. Their leaders and management gave them opportunities to prove themselves, otherwise, they would not be in the position they are in today. Leaders need to trust the millennial will get the work done. Delegate the authority and responsibility to do so.


When we sit back and look at the situation, the millennials are no different than many of us when we were their age. We remember applying for jobs to start our careers and the job requirements stated experience was necessary. We often wondered how do we gain experience if experience is needed to get the job in the first place. Eventually, someone took the risk and hired us. We grew into the position.

As we researchers discussed the articles we read and our desires concerning leadership traits, we came to the realization that our leaders probably had the same concerns about us when we started our careers as current leaders have about millennials today. Are they capable? Can they get the job done? What if they make mistakes? How can we hand off our positions and know it will be successful? The fact is, just as we learned through our successes and failures, the next generation will do the same.

The difference may be in the fact we, the current leadership, have raised the millennial generation. One of the things we taught them was to not kowtow to the whims of poor leadership. And maybe, just maybe, we are not as confident in our ability as leaders to withstand the very trait we taught our millennials. We will cover that in future articles.

Copyright © American Eagle Group

Millennial Leadership Initiative – View Our Preliminary Findings Video

#millennialleadership, millennial leadership

We presented our preliminary findings from our research, survey and study data analysis at Penn State University - Abington on April 25, 2018. View a video of the presentation here.

This article is part of a series of articles based on our research, analysis and findings. The articles in the series are

Additionally, Millennial Leadership Initiative – View Our Preliminary Findings Video contains our presentation at Pennsylvania State University - Abington Campus.


Copyright © American Eagle Group

Why Formalize Project Management – RTMI Baby!

RTMI, Project Management

We need to ask the question, “WHY do we need project management?” Moree specifically, “Why do we need to formalize it?” We get the job done, don’t we? Nights, weekends, overtime, “the beatings will continue until the moral improves” as Blackbeard the pirate was fond of saying. We do what it takes. So, why formalize project management?

Let’s be real. We seem to get projects finished. It may not always be pretty. We may burn out a few people. And we may end up over-budget and behind schedule, but we do get them done. How can using processes help us?

By defining a process, we take the best of what we have done and do it again. If we never document what we have done, we have a hard time repeating it. We have a hard time transferring the job to someone else. If the person who knows the method to accomplish some task gets sick, leaves the company or worse, goes on vacation, how will we finish the work?

Processes make what we do:

  • Repeatable
  • Trackable
  • Measurable
  • Improvable

For those in the know, this cycle is simply a restatement of Walter Shewart and Peter Demings’ Plan-Do-Check-Act quality improvement methodology.

Processes are Repeatable

 By documenting our processes, we see what we did before. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel each time we perform a similar function. We simply pull out the documented process, follow the steps and end up with the same or similar results.

Another benefit of documented processes is “institutional knowledge.” We transfer the knowledge of the best practices to others on our team. They don’t have to learn from scratch or from observing others. The steps are defined and refined to improve our productivity and effectiveness.

Documenting processes does not need to be complicated. For example, following the nine steps while building your project plan as defined in this manual saves you time. Yes, there is a learning curve and lower productivity while you learn the process, but the end result is repeatable actions saving time and delivering predictable results.

Processes are Trackable

 Once we can repeat processes, we can track them. We determine if we are doing the right step at the right time. We know if we deviate from the method defined. While there might be a reason to do so, we want to do so intentionally and not because we mistakenly took the wrong path.

For example, after a while, people learn the shortest or fastest path to get to work (well, more likely, to get home from work). They use the same path over and over because they know it works. The first time they took the route, they probably mapped it out using Google Maps or some other service, GPS, etc. Once they became familiar with the area, they may have learned shortcuts not originally given by the earlier process. They actively decide to take the shortcut. Had they not had the original route, they wouldn’t have known the shortcut was truly shorter. By tracking the original path, they knew when they deviated from it and how to improve it.

Processes are Measurable

 Once we define our repeatable process, we can track it. As we track it, we realize we have certain measurements which help us determine if the process is working or not.

Going back to our drive-home route example, we learn by leaving the office at 5:00 pm, we should be at the red light on 45th and Main Streets by 5:25 pm. If we are there earlier, we’re doing great. If we don’t reach the intersection until 5:45 pm, we know we are running behind schedule.

Those measurements let us know how we are progressing and if the process is still working. If we discover a slightly different route which chops fifteen minutes out of the schedule and yet delivers the same results (quality, performance, outcome), we modify our process – the route we drive. By knowing the amount of time prior to the improvement and the new time after the improvement, we have a comparison for future performance measurement.

If the time begins to increase back to the original – others find the same route and it becomes jammed – we begin to look for improvements again. The measurements let us know how we are performing.

Processes are Improvable

 Just as we saw in the example under measurement, we were able to improve our method by finding a new route. Unless we can repeat what we have done through defining our processes, we cannot track, measure or improve them.

The key, therefore, is the very first step: eliminate the Wild-West approach of “just gitt’er dun,” by documenting the processes, tracking, measuring and improving.

Consequences of Process

 We defined the benefits of processes. Let’s be fair and understand some of their downsides.

1.  Implementing processes takes time, lowers productivity and adds bureaucracy and red-tape.

To document what we have been doing and creating processes is a lot of work – True. They slow people down – True. They create more paperwork – True. Processes hold people accountable and we know the responsible person when something goes wrong – True.

Well, all those are true and more – at least initially. There is a learning curve to anything new. Fact is, people are following a process now, whether it is documented or not. But in many cases, only they know the process. Therefore, if the person has to be replaced, the substituted person struggles and typically can’t keep up. Overall, the work slows down.

By defining the process, others learn or at least have some reference information to accomplish the tasks and in the proper sequence.

Additionally, we know who is responsible for doing what. We are not here to point fingers, but more to determine how to fix problems. Is it training? Does the person have the wrong authority? Are they physically capable or incapable of doing the job? We can pinpoint the problem and apply a solution.

2.  People hate being told what to do and don’t like change. They want the liberty to do it their own way. If the truth be told, processes are more liberating than confining. Rather than fretting over the next step, their decision-making capacity is spent on improvements, not reinventing the wheel. By making them a part of the process development or improvement, they become co-owners and more involved raising the quality of their work.


Process has its benefits and detractions.  Once it becomes part of the daily routine, we simply do it and stop noticing it, just as we stroll the same route to get a cup of coffee. Any change to the path causes consternation to many; a loss of productivity until the change becomes part of the regular course of business. By having a formal process, we can examine it for inefficiencies and fix them because they always exist.

Project management is not a singular process, but a complex interplay of processes and methods across multiple divisions and disciplines within the organization. Without process, without formalization, we cannot keep the lines of communications, work and results from becoming entangled. Following the RTMI discussed in this article, companies can reap the benefits of formal project management methodology while minimizing its disadvantages.


Copyright © 2014, David A. Zimmer, PMP  All Rights Reserved

IT Cube – Six Perspectives to Project Requirements

IT Cube, Project Management

Gathering requirements for a project is critically important to the overall project success. Without proper requirements, detailed so they are attainable, a project manager’s ability to achieve project completion or stakeholders’ satisfaction is greatly diminished. Basically, he is shooting in the dark hoping he’ll hit something akin to the thoughts and expectations of the influential powers. For many organizations, requirements gathering is not a process but rather a race to implementation.

A company hired us to help them conduct proper technology selection for a strategic business application. At our first meeting with the client, we asked if requirements had been gathered concerning the new platform. They proudly produced a half-page, bulleted list of items the new system was to provide. We politely asked if that was it. No details. No lists of user needs, business tie-ins, strategic propositions, or customer service thoughts. Ten bullet items of “wants.”

Fortunately, and in anticipation since we had seen this before, we produced a document listing requirements and their descriptions we had accumulated over the years working with other clients. The ‘thud’ on the table startled the client a bit, but he was very excited we had something real from which to work, and more so, because he didn’t have to create the same list and description – the work was done!

What’s the PMBOK® Guide Say?

The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide ver. 4) states in Process 5.1 – Collect Requirements, “Collect Requirements is the process of defining and documenting stakeholders’ needs to meet the project objectives. The project’s success is directly influenced by the care taken in capturing and managing project and product requirements.” It goes on to describe the inputs, tools and techniques, and outputs of the process. Fundamentally, the discussion is accurate, but it leaves out the perspective of each stakeholder. While implicitly suggesting the six perspectives outlined in this article, explicitly and proactively viewing each perspective provides clearer and more complete requirements for any project.

What’s the BABOK® Guide Say?

We turned to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK® Guide ver. 1.6) to see if they included discussion of the six perspectives. Again, they discussed the tools and techniques with a mention of various stakeholders. Once again, we want to be more explicitly clear of the viewpoints.

What is IT CubeTM?

The IT Cube is a conceptual method of ensuring all aspects of a project, technology selection, or decision is adequately considered.

Imagine a project as a sphere. Place that sphere inside a six equally-sided box or 3D cube. Each side is transparent so the sphere is easily seen. As you view the sphere through each of the clear sides, you see a different aspect of the ball. From one perspective, the ball may appear blue. From another, peach. From a third, dimpled and so on until you have looked through all six panels. Each view portrays a different “idea” of the sphere.

The same holds true as you focus on project requirements, product definition, service features, etc. By explicitly considering each angle of the project, different requirements emerge. Some may be in direct conflict or compliment requirements from another view. Unless studied in this manner, those requirement clashes may not emerge.

The Six Perspectives

Six perspectives for any project exist. They are:

1. The “Technician”

2. “Technical” Management

3. Business Management and Executives

4. The User or Customer

5. Analysts and Pundits

6. Vendors

Each has a unique view of the project and a vested interest in its outcome, with a possible exception of the Analysts and Pundits, although, their opinions can influence decisions.

Let’s define each and understand their needs.

Panel One: The “Technician”

Our background is IT and therefore we think in terms of business application software and hardware infrastructure. Not all projects are IT focused, consequently, we want to broaden our discussion here to be more generic. The term “technician” has more to do with the people implementing the project. For example, in construction projects, the technician would be the laborer whose skills build. In marketing projects, the marketing person developing plans becomes the technician. The chemist and research scientist would be the technicians in pharmaceutical developments. And so forth.

The questions a technician might ask concerning the project and therefore, their requirements will be more of a technical nature. For example, they might ask
•“How will the new system impact the current infrastructure?”
•“Is this an additional item to our list of services to the organization?”
•“Do I have to learn new information or will my current knowledge be sufficient?”
•“If new knowledge is needed, will I be trained?”
•“Are we doing away with something else?”

As shown, the questions concern the day-to-day operations. Support questions might come to mind once the new “technology” is selected, especially if the technician will be supporting others. In the case of the research scientist, it might be “what support will I get” and so forth.

Therefore, gathering requirements from this group of people is important because they will be the ones implementing the solution and possibly supporting it. As a result, day-to-day operations success after implementation depends on the buy-in and commitment of this group of individuals.

Panel 2: “Technical” Management

“Technical” management concerns are different. This group of people is the managers of the “technicians.” The management must answer to two groups: Business Management and Technicians. Essentially, their requirements include meeting the business ROI, TCO and SLAs while at the same time, supporting the needs of the technicians to operate the technology efficiently.

Their questions may be:
•“How will this technology meet the organizational ROI and TCO requirements?”
•“Will the new system help me meet the SLAs better or more easily?”
•“Will it make the technicians’ work easier so we can provide other services?”
•“Are there other methods of meeting the needs expressed or do we already have systems in place so we don’t need to add another?”
•“Will this meet the business initiatives and align with the strategic plan?”

The questions follow a more business line of thinking, but still with a technical orientation.

Panel 3: Business Management and Executives

Business Management and Executives look at the profit and loss propositions of any new implementation. Their goal is to meet their goals as stated in the strategic plan, along with their own initiatives. Each project should move them further along those plans.

This group’s questions might be:
•“How will this technology align with the strategic plan?”
•“I don’t care about the technology so much. I’m more concerned with it meeting my goals, objectives and initiatives.”
•“How will this project move me further along my initiatives?”
•“How will this implementation make us more revenue or profit?”
•“What is the cost?”
•“What is the priority of the project compared to other needs?”
•“Does the return outweigh the cost or the cultural impact we will incur?”

Notice the questions center around financials and investments of money with overtones of impact on the company environment.

Panel 4: The User or Customer

The users or customers employ the project’s outcome. Their needs determine the usefulness of the project’s result and its use. Whether the project results in a building, a new medicine, a software package to automate tasks, or whatever, the acid test of any successful project is its users’ acceptance. Involving the customer during requirements gathering is essential in the final analysis.

Customers or users may ask:
•“Why do we need something new or better?”
•“How will this benefit me?”
•“Will this help me do my work better, faster, or with less people?”
•“Does it eliminate the frustration I am feeling with the current method or system?”
•“I need this item or this feature. Will the new system do that for me?”

The questions center on their particular set of tasks or duties. They are more tactical in nature, getting down to the day-to-day operations of the business.

Panel 5: Analysts and Pundits

Industry Analysts provide valuable information from a different perspective. They may rate the technology vendor’s stability and longevity – an important aspect for large investments or long term usage. They review the feature set against other offerings of similar ilk and point up the highlights and lowlights of the offering. They present ideas and opinions based on customer surveys and questionnaires. In many cases, they present a more objective viewpoint.

This group of people might wonder:
•“How financially stable is this vendor?”
•“What is their customer support structure? Do they support both large and small customers?”
•“What is the vendor’s current customer base?”
•“How does their product or service feature set stack up to the competition’s?”
•“Do they support just a niche market or do they serve a more general audience?”
•“Do they meet the expressed needs of customers according to our surveys and research?”
•“What advice can I tell my customers about this product or service? What opinions will they find valuable?”

Panel 6: Vendors

Vendors are the ones producing the product or service you want to buy. In many cases, the product or service you are considering will meet some, but not all of your needs or desires. Vendors want to know what your requirements are so they can help you understand which ones they support and how closely. For the ones they don’t support, they will find creative ways to support them.

Vendors will ask:
•“What is your ultimate end result you want to achieve so we can show you how we can help you get there?”
•Why do you think you need that feature or function?”
•“In order for us to be able to support your need, you need to do X, Y and Z. Is that OK?”
•“If this project is successful, what quantity of products or services will you purchase?”
•“How can we aid in making your project successful?”

The vendor is looking to sell products and services. They might place requirements on your project to make it better.


While all the perspective descriptions may not be directly valid for every project, the different angles should be addressed. For example, an internal project that doesn’t use outside vendor offerings still has internal vendors and customers. Those perspectives must be considered and documented. If no requirements come from a particular perspective, then we should explicitly note that fact.

IT Cube is a conceptual model to follow to ensure all stakeholder needs are considered. Missing one side of the cube will leave an opening dumping the project’s success onto the floor.

Tell Us What You Think

We invite you to comment on this article. Does the concept make sense to you? Are there additional sides we should consider? Is it a useful model for eliciting requirements and practical enough to ensure full consideration of stakeholders’ needs? Let us know what you think by leaving a comment.

IT Cube is a trademark of American Eagle Group. All rights reserved. Use of term permitted with credit citation to respective trademark holder.

Copyright © 2009, David A. Zimmer, PMP All Rights Reserved

Project Management and ITIL for UC: Recipe for Sanity

IT Service Management

Recently, I spoke with my old partner of the Unified-View, Art Rosenberg, about the recent press release by Orange concerning UC Hosting services. In particular, they announced their support for ITIL (IT Infrastructure Libraries) practices in order to best support their customers.

Since I last worked with Art in 2002 or 2003 timeframe, I have diverted into another path of consulting: project management and IT service management. These two areas answer many of the questions Art and I raised several years ago in search of the migration strategies for IT managers as they planned their UC implementations.

We wanted to know what methodology people would follow to plan UC projects while at the same time maintaining current technology so the business did not grind to a halt. We needed to know how individual users would determine which features and functions would best benefit them in doing their jobs better. We knew one size does not fit all. How can the telcom/IT managers align with both business initiatives and end user needs or would they simply cobble something together and dub it UC? Once in place, how would UC continue to evolve seeing it has so many moving parts with new technology and releases coming out rapidly while supporting SLAs and stability requirements?

My Evolutionary Process – Part 1

After twenty-five years of managing small to large technology projects, I learned there was formal training needed in project management. While for many, formal education was an obvious opportunity, I always felt, as many do, project management is simply learned by being around other people who managed projects and mimic them. I learned within the first session of my education, I was wrong. Now, I am not only formally trained, but I am certified as a Project Management Professional.

Since 2004, I have trained thousands in the art and science of project management with great success in turning projects within companies around simply by instituting a few simple processes.

My Evolutionary Process – Part 2

Similarly, I never realized formal industry standards existed for day-to-day operations of IT systems until I ran into the ITIL framework. I simply thought fixing fires and trying to predict future flare-ups was the norm. (Sadly, it is, but that can change with proper methodologies.) I am certified in ITIL version 2 and ITIL version 3 fundamentals.

In speaking with Art about UC implementation, I realized a broader audience would benefit from our discussion. Because of the nature of UC, its fluidity, variance of definition by company and user-base, and rapid advancements, project management and ITIL concepts and processes are key to successful deployment and upkeep of the system.

The Changing PMO

The PMO or Project Management Office is the focal point for project management governance and oversight. It establishes the guidelines and standards to be followed. Typically the PMO focus is on projects only. They have not been concerned with day-to-day operations.

For many companies, the PMO originated from the need to manage IT projects more successfully. Industry studies report close to 75% of IT projects fail. The PMO was implemented to increase the success rate. For those companies who have gone the certification route through the Project Management Institute (www.pmi.org) and trained their project managers, studies report a 70% success rate instead.

The success of the PMO governance and guidance of projects has lead many to believe that daily operations would benefit from similar oversight. As a result, the PMO has to morph into an organization supporting two industry standards. Traditional project management methodology does not support operations.

Additionally, the experience set of the two domains are quite different. For example, projects are a specific scope of work defined by begin and end dates, and the resulting product or service transitions into operations.

Operations, however, is ongoing, so they have no end dates but must smoothly transition new functionality and supporting infrastructure without any impact to the business.

What’s To Come

Here is a bullet list of topics to be covered in this series of articles:

•An overview of PMO functionality,
•Determining the need for UC (It’s not just IT management!),
•Proper project management methodologies,
•ITIL practices as they pertain to UC – both version 2 and version 3,
•Comparison of Project Management and ITIL methodologies,
•UC planning and implementation strategies,
•UC lifecycle – evolutionary definition, evaluation, implementation and support of business needs as experience dictates and business drivers change (mobility, device upgrades, new technology, regulations and legislations compliance, competitive needs, social impacts, etc.),
•Ongoing enhancements and support of the UC infrastructure,
•And more.

I will reference practical experience from my past, but I would like to showcase others’ experiences also. Tell me how you handle your daily operations, any experience you’ve had with ITIL or project management practices, sticky points you’d like an opinion on, etc. You can reach me at info@ameagle.com or www.ameagle.com.


Copyright © 2008, David A. Zimmer, PMP All Rights Reserved

When Solving A Problem, Get To The Root Cause, Don’t Redefine The Symptom

Problem Solving, Project Management

I recently read an article appearing in CIO Magazine titled “Common Project Management Metrics Doom IT Departments to Failure” where the subtitled mentioned a report by Forrester Research stated the metrics used to measure IT project success influences the perceptions of failure. It goes on to say that we need to change to increase the perception of success instead.

We’ve all heard the adage “perception is fact” implying perception is not fact, it only has the allusion to be factual. I don’t know if it is my sense of humor, but the statement of “increase the perception of success” was strangely funny. Did it mean the project was actually a failure but we make it appear successful? Does it harken to another well-tread cliché, “In project management, we simply redefine the parameters and declare victory. That’s how we have successful projects!”

The article further details four things the PMO can do to help increase the perception of success. While I agree with them:

  • keep project steering committee on task,
  • improve communication with project sponsor about changes,
  • improve reliability of project plans, and
  • better communicate estimates of costs, schedule and resources;

I believe they miss the fundamental basics of the problems – the root causes.
According to the Standish Group, IT projects have only a 29% chance of succeeding. You would think with the advance in technology, the development of quality processes and increase of understanding humans; we’d have a better shot of being successful. In 2003, the Standish Group estimated we spent $382 billion on IT projects in the US alone. They further stated $82 billion was an outright waste. Using the 71% failure rate, we spent $271 billion on failed projects. Maybe that’s why we need to increase the perception of success – so we can balance the books!

Based upon my years of managing IT projects (I’ll admit, not all were successes, perceived or otherwise) and experience training more than a thousand people in the art of project management, I believe the following are the root causes for IT project failures.

1. Project managers are chosen, not trained.

In my training seminars, I ask how many people actually chose project management as a career. I have had only three people raise their hands. Usually, we are selected because we are doing well in our “real” jobs and seemed to be organized getting things done. One day, as we arrive in our office, twang, we are dubbed project managers. No training.

Then I ask how many have any sort of formal training in managing projects. Regardless of the industry, the percentage is basically the same, only 20% have had any form of training. I reduce the definition of training to the ridiculous of a one hour discussion and very few additional hands go up. Only 5% have more than a day and 1% go on to be certified through Project Management Institutes’ Project Management Professional certification.

It is not we aren’t intelligent and can’t learn the ropes, but usually we learn by observing others who have gone before us. They learned the same way – by observing others. As a result, improper methods are learned and used rather than industry accepted practices. We just gitter dun – whatever it takes, nights, weekends, extra shifts, Herculean efforts – we gitter dun.

As a result, we don’t put the proper measures in place to give the information business people need. Worse, we really don’t know where we stand in our own projects. We can’t repeat our successes because we don’t know what we did to be successful. We don’t always learn from our mistakes so we are doomed to repeating them. And finally, many projects we considered successful really weren’t causing us to repeat bad habits because we believe they are good practices.

Through training, we learn proper techniques, why certain processes should be followed and the tools we need as project managers. To contrast untrained project managers with a failure rate of 71%, studies have shown using trained and certified project managers – PMPs specifically – succeed close to 75% of the time.

Root cause #1: project managers aren’t trained to do the job we ask.

2. No formal change process in place to determine success or failure.

In the CIO magazine article, someone placed a comment contrasting construction project management with IT project management. He stated IT methods are primitive to constructions processes. I agree totally.

First, construction follows a methodical, time-proven method. They work from blueprints with every detail shown. They research the site and understand what lies hidden before digging. They understand the necessary inventory of materials and labors in advance of the start date. But most importantly, they have a change process.

Once the deal is signed, any changes to the agreement require a change order with signatures. The change order details the impacts to schedule, increase to budget, amendment to the project scope, etc. Each party must sign before the change occurs, otherwise, the original plan holds. No changes are made unless the boss says so.

In IT, we take a different tack. Again, from my survey of many attendees, only three or four people stated their company had a formal change form and process. Worse, they reported changes to the project can come from any where through any channel to any member of the project team. Since many things are considered “easy,” the impact to the rest of the project and beyond is never considered. If a change is formally documented, no one dares sign it. Accountability is forbidden.

As a result, what is defined to be the project is not really the project. As time passes, changes are requested but not tracked. The project morphs and twists into something other than the original definition. As a result, the original project may have been successful using the traditional metrics, but no one can prove it because no clear definition of the project exists.

Additionally, changes come through various portals. There might be a formal request sent from the CIO to the IT project manager. Another request comes from the sales manager tapping someone on the shoulder in the hallway. A third and most insidious is the IT staffer who “sees something needs to be done, and does it” without tracking the impact to the overall project.

Solution for such a situation is two-fold: a well defined and followed project scope and a formal method for requesting changes.

Root cause #2: No formal change process which defines a single point to funnel change requests.

3. Project Expectations Not Defined In Detail

A successful project must meet the expectations of the stakeholders. Even if it comes in on budget and on time, if it doesn’t meet their expectations, it failed. Unfortunately, we don’t document the expectations. We document the technical requirements, the inventory list of hardware and software needed, select the team of implementers, etc., but we don’t seem to jot down the expectations.

If we don’t document the expectations, how do we know when we are finished? If the expectations are met, we would have success by definition, correct?

Of course, the stakeholders don’t always reveal their expectations for us to conveniently document. In fact, their expectations change over the course of the project. Even if we met the original expectations, we still fail because we didn’t meet the current list of desires.
As a result, project managers must spend a good deal of time understanding the stakeholders’ motivations, desires, intents, and rationale for the project. Periodically, he must check in with the stakeholders to verify current understanding of their needs and make adjustments accordingly.

Root cause #3: lack of understanding expectations leading to no formal documentation listing motivations, desires, intents, etc. of stakeholders.


I don’t feel it is right to simply change the perception of IT project success. To me, that’s cheating and we don’t solve the real issues. We need to change how we “do” IT project management to be successful. Proper training is key number one. I, like many, managed many projects before I was formally trained. Boy did I learn about my bad habits and improper ways of managing projects. As I instruct others these days from my lessons learned, I see the same transformation in them.

IT doesn’t have to suffer the fate of poorly run, failing projects. Solving the root causes for those problems would go a long way in better return on investments, fewer dollars wasted, and happier IT people. Once these are fixed, we can begin to work on the list from the CIO article.

Copyright  © 2008, David A. Zimmer, PMP All Rights Reserved