How’s Your Bench… Really?

By David Nour

The most valuable resource you have to work with as a Project Manager on your projects are people. With this fact in mind, one of my favorite questions to ask senior executives early on in our relationships is: How’s Your Bench… Really? Here’s why:

1. It makes them think for a second – not typically something they’re often asked, but certainly something every astute executive is thinking about right about now.  You see, as we emerge from the current economic climate, your post-recession execution strategy will make the fundamental difference between a market leader and a distant market follower.  And without a bench of nimble, execution-focused, employees all the greatest strategies in the world won’t help you gain mind-share, wallet-share, or in the process – market share.

2. It makes them think about their talent development and retention strategy. How good of a job… really, have they done in being a talent scout in their organization?  Have they kept dead weight, which should have been shed a long time ago?  Have they formally or much more importantly, informally mentored both high performers and high potentials?  Have they surrounded themselves with a group of “yes” men & women who tell them what they want to hear, versus what they need to hear?  How are global best practices captured and shared across the organization by those who are passionate about raising the bar, versus those who are simply gunning for the next promotion at any cost?

The way an executive answers this question also has an immediate impact on whether they choose to enhance their credibility or dilute it.  Answer it haphazardly and you clearly don’t have a game plan and more than likely will be looking for a new job in the next six to twelve months.  Answer it defensively and you signal that you’re not open to outside perspective or independent insights.  Answer it thoughtfully, decisively, vulnerably and truthfully and you’re not only human, but you also understand that a motivated and prepared bench is a moving target based on the real-time insights you gain from the markets in which you choose to compete.

Talent – it may overrated but a competent, capable bench is developed, nurtured, enhanced, elevated, and when the playmakers simply don’t show up for the big game, it’s shed.  If raising the bar on your immediate as well as 2nd tier bench isn’t a priority, how relevant will you remain in our current dynamic market?

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