Reprinted from The Decoded Company: Know Your Talent Better Than You Know Your Customers by arrangement with Portfolio, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, a Penguin Random House Company, Copyright © 2014 by Leerom Segal, Aaron Goldstein, Jay Goldman, and Rahaf Harfoush.
Aaron Goldstein and Leerom Segal, COO and CEO respectively of Klick Health, came up with the idea behind an internal tool called Project 360s, one of Klick’s foundational tools that helps team members quickly communicate important project information if they ever feel like a project is coming off the rails. Embracing a people-first philosophy means that you can’t let a project that impacts your people run off the rails that badly ever again. Nothing is higher order than the engagement and satisfaction of your team. Losing good people ultimately means losing good clients and customers.
Project 360s are a diagnostic that uses a mix of self-reported and ambient data to evaluate the status of all open projects. The process is simple: Every week Genome, a ticketing system that tracks each individually assigned task and collects vast amounts of data used to gain new understandings of how our company is running, looks at all the projects an individual interacts with and asks that person to rate the state of the project as red, yellow, green, or blue for awesome. If they select anything but green or blue, it asks them to give one bullet-point reason as to why they feel there is a risk that this could become a problem (yellow) or that it will have a negative impact if not changed immediately (red). We trust our team implicitly; their experience and tenure is worth much more than its weight in gold, so some of the best comments have been as simple as “My Spidey sense is tingling.” The employee is also asked to look at the allocated budgeted hours remaining for that project and say whether they are a realistic estimate of the amount of time needed for the work still to be done. Every person who is working on a particular project, regardless of discipline or rank, answers the same set of questions.
Each week, the project managers and their managers, the program directors, sit down for a quick review of their portfolios. The collected data provides them with very relevant information, capturing the collective health sentiment of a project and flagging problems before they become serious issues. It also makes it harder to avoid talking about issues or to evade them by pretending that everything is okay. Program directors used to have to rely solely on their intuition combined with the project manager’s assessment of their own project. While the program directors still rely on their gut feel, their intuition is better informed by using this new, far broader data set; it gives them a sixth sense. Furthermore, the ability to dive deep into complex programs efficiently without investing the time to interact with the broader team allows Klick to leverage tenure more effectively.
This team input enables Genome to quantify the gut feelings and experience of all project participants while communicating a clear cultural mandate of the value of moving quickly and not being bogged down in procedures. In the absence of this tool, a program director only discovers that something is wrong after the fact, when there’s an unhappy client on the phone or a deadline has been missed. Project 360s enable directors to look at the big picture generated by the data and Genome and to apply their own tenure to making sure that big missteps are avoided. It’s more efficient, as it applies the wisdom of crowds – the collected data – to institutionalize an organization’s learning and to rapidly accelerate the tenure of new employees in senior positions by helping them avoid mistakes others have made before.
Part of the automation that we enjoy is thanks to the data that we’ve already amassed. Genome’s ticketing system has collected massive amounts of historical data on estimates, budgets, hours tracked, projects, clients, and talent. Depending on how we filter that data, we can gain all sorts of insights about our organization. These include everything from broad organizational insights (e.g., Has the introduction of a new policy actually increased efficiencies?) right down to the granular day-to-day level (e.g., measuring a specific project manager’s performance and contribution to the business).
Additionally, because Genome contains years’ worth of project completion averages, the system is designed to intelligently identify any project that deviates too much from the general historical averages and flag that project to the appropriate person for review.
How cool is it to be able to capture and quantify your entire talent pool’s collective power of intuition and then incorporate an easy to use tool for quickly raising the alarm? It’s the equivalent of sending a bat signal into the night sky, and every Klick team member knows that they have the power to fire it off at any point in time to call in reinforcements. The technology has also made it easy for people to raise an alarm in a safe environment. Like any company, we have a lot of people who can be shy or introverted. They may not be willing to speak up during a tense meeting or to their manager, but they can be very comfortable expressing their gut feel as objective feedback in Project 360s.
Leerom Segal is the co-founder and CEO of Toronto-based Klick Health, the world’s largest independent digital health agency. Aaron Goldstein is a co-founder and COO of Klick, responsible for orchestrating the creative application of technology that drives the company’s operations. Jay Goldman is a managing director for Klick. Rahaf Harfoush is a technology author and lecturer.