July 12, 2018.
Have you ever worked at a company where the same two people always got the most important projects? Me too. It's frustrating to watch these opportunities to learn from the side lines, and reliance on a small group can easily limit a company's throughput as it grows. This is so important that I've come to believe that having a wide cohort of folks who lead critical projects is one of the most important signifiers of good organizational health.
It's a particularly powerful metric because it simultaneously measures the company's capability to execute projects, and the extent that its members have access to growth. The first helps determine the company's potential throughput, and the latter correlates heavily with inclusivity.
In this context, there are two kinds of projects: critical projects and everything else. Critical projects are scarce. There are more folks who want them than can get access to them. Other projects are abundant, if you might not be able to get one immediately, but if you wait a month or two the odds are good. There's no need to be structured about abundant projects!
To increase the number of folks leading this kind of project, I've iterated into a structured process that has worked quite well:
Define the project's scope and goals in a short document. Particularly important are identifying:
Announce the project to a public email list, at an all hands, over Slack, or however your company does persistent communication; I tend to use email for these. What's most important is that you:
Nudge folks to apply who you think would be good candidates but who might not self-select. Particularly important for getting new folks into the process.
Done over time, you'll get a clear sense of who gets leaned on for the most important projects, and done well you'll see that cohort continue to grow!
The first few times you do this, it will feel very constraining and inefficient. Previously you would have just sent a ping to a favored individual and they'd have been off and running, now you have to run a slower and deliberate process, but increasingly I believe this is the most important change in my approach to leadership over the past few years, and that done well it can be cornerstone in your efforts to grow an inclusion organization.
I wrote about this idea a bit in an earlier blog post, but may have been guilty of burying the lede, hence this post!