From the Ask Tom mailbag –
We’ve had to hire a lot of people this year to keep up with production and increased demand in our product. We’ve had to promote people to new levels of responsibility. Often we pick wrong. How can we know someone will succeed when we promote them? How do we test a person for capability?
Testing a person to determine their capability is counter-intuitive. I do not judge people. I did not go to school for that, I don’t have a degree in that. I am not certified by any agency to practice psychotherapy. I think I would stink at it. So, I just don’t do it.
There is something that I AM expert in. And most seasoned managers are, too. We understand the work. Work is problem solving and decision making. Given a role (to recruit, or promote), most managers have a very clear understanding of the problem solving and decision making required.
How do you test a person for capability?
You test a person for capability with project work. Every manager should constantly test every team member for capability with project work. I may not be able to judge a person, but I can certainly judge the work. When I delegate a project, I pay specific attention to the problem solving and decision making in the project. Then, all I have to do is determine if, during the course the project, the team member is effective, or not. Pretty much thumbs up, thumbs down.
Managers who constantly test their team will have a running intuitive understanding of the capability of each team member.
Here is the insight. Every manager already maintains a running intuitive understanding of the capability in each team member. Project work allows us to consciously calibrate effectiveness in specific decisions to be made and problems to be solved.
Give a person a promotion, and they fail, you have a chocolate mess on your hands. Give a person a project and they fail, you have a failed project, and, as the manager, you can manage the risk in the project.