It’s the People, Stupid: Key insights from Brightline and Google

It’s hard to dispute that people are the fuel on which an organization runs. They’re what’ll carry you from an idea or a goal to a winning product or service. Without a doubt, you can have the best strategy and the most accurate resource plan in the world, but if the people don’t perform at their peak or aren’t on board with your mission, your organization’s main vehicle will stall before it even gets out of the driveway.

This is the crux behind the Brightline Initiative’s People Manifesto, a free PDF download worth checking out. As Brightline points out, “People form the link between strategy design and delivery.”

Brightline’s People Manifesto includes four central principles, each of which refreshingly dares to fly in the face of common thinking and practice. I’ve paraphrased below with my own commentary:

Leadership is Over-Emphasized – While Brightline recognizes the crucial role of transformative leadership, they point out that sometimes it’s best to follow someone in the know and support them to your best ability (this is true for leaders and followers alike). Likewise, not everyone’s value to the organization will be as a leader, so be sure to value great “doers” as well. Don’t fall into the trap of trying to make everyone a leader.

Collaboration is Key but Isn’t Everything – Nobody is saying collaboration isn’t critical, but individual efforts and heroism play a significant part as well. I’ve always endorsed this approach, so I was pleased to see it considered. Sometimes, teamwork is indeed vital for the synergies it brings, and sometimes the Herculean efforts of the few or the one is what saves the day. Nurture your heroes and know when teamwork is needed and when it isn’t.

Culture is Never Built – While culture can’t be forced, it CAN and SHOULD be nourished. As Brightline emphasizes, a shared sense of purpose and mutual trust can help create an environment where a positive and productive culture can emerge. Combined with strategy, a good culture can lead to greater employee and customer retention, higher productivity, and ultimately a strong competitive advantage. 

People Act in Their Own Self Interest – This should be common sense, but the fact that it isn’t makes this an important point to remember. People don’t do things at work out of the goodness of their hearts or because they’re forced to. They perform according to their internal motivators, which can vary by individual. Brightline wisely points out that even if people perceive that something is in the greater collective interest, if it impacts them negatively, they’re less likely to be on board and may even actively resist. Communicating the “why” is key, but so is learning their internal needs and motivating factors and trying to address them. I once heard someone say, “The trick is getting people to do what you want them to do because THEY want to do it.”

Understanding what people want and what drives them to perform is tricky. Recently, I read a report that Google spent two years studying 180 teams to see what drives high performance. The most successful teams shared the following traits:

  • Dependability (team members could be trusted to get the work done on time and correctly)
  • Structure and Clarity (they had clear goals and well-defined roles)
  • Meaning (the work had personal significance to each team member)
  • Impact (they believed their work was making a difference)
  • Psychological Safety (they weren’t afraid to ask questions or challenge the status quo)

This supports and augments the points made by Brightline quite well. Collectively, they serve as a good blueprint for getting the most out of your organization’s most valuable asset–its people. If that isn’t good resource planning, I don’t know what is.

Jerry Manas

Jerry Manas

Jerry is the bestselling author of The Resource Management and Capacity Planning Handbook, Napoleon on Project Management, and more. At PDWare, Jerry helps clients improve strategy execution through tools and processes that align people and work with organizational priorities. Connect with Jerry on Twitter and LinkedIn

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