In my last post, I introduce the concept of “pacers,” the handful of individuals in your organization who are needed so often and by so many that they are literally slowing your top line revenue growth. In this post, I want to tell you what can be done about them.
The first thing to remember is that pacers do not operate in a vacuum. They are part of a larger talent and management ecosystem that can be organized to ensure they provide the highest value while also keeping the waste, burnout and frustration to a minimum. And, it is very unlikely that they’re trying to be pacers, despite how it may look sometime. At the Steve Trautman Co., we work with them every day and I can assure you that none of them would be proud to be called pacers and they rarely know how they got themselves into this pickle. Nor do they or their teams know what to do about it.
Pacers In Your Organization
Instead of continuing to be pacers, here’s what could be true for these valued people:
- They are known as experts, not just in the general sense but for a defined list of silos.
- Each silo is prioritized relative to the others with a keen eye toward the silos that lead to revenue growth first.
- We know who else is (or could be) working in each silo and we’ve documented these first three bullets in talent risk assessment tool we call the Knowledge Silo Matrix (KSM).
- With the KSM filled out, we look for any low priority silos where the pacer can simply stop working. Pacers are often stuck in legacy work because “they’ve always done it.” Management can make the decision to pull them off of low value silos either immediately or as soon as someone else has been trained.
- High priority silos can then be deconstructed down into a list of tasks and skills that is measurable and trainable. We call this a “Skill Development Plan” and use it as the foundation of our knowledge transfer process.
- With a Skill Development Plan in hand showing what the expert actually does in that silo, management can analyze the work and highlight the tasks and skills that are high value and current. They can also call out those that are out of date and even destructive. Even your best experts occasionally do things the “old way” and we don’t want to transfer knowledge on bad habits.
- Note: Don’t worry if this sounds hard or you think your expert is too complicated. We do this work every day and one pacer can be unpacked as I’ve described in a matter of hours or days, not weeks or months.
- With the data and analysis in hand, the team can figure out what to do:
- Stop working on whole silos
- Stop doing some tasks within a silo
- Redesign/refresh some tasks to make them more efficient and less reliant on the pacer
- Transfer knowledge on whole silos when you need to increase capacity en masse.
- Transfer knowledge on some tasks within a silo, targeting the easier work that is time consuming but doesn’t require an expert like your pacer
- Individuals who want to learn from the pacers can request a knowledge transfer session to drive their own development and help out the team.
When I discuss the issue of pacers, every executive can make a list and then tell me what is at stake because of over reliance on these folks; top line revenue, market share, competitive threats, team morale, client satisfaction, are all at risk. The good news is that pacers are just experts waiting to be managed with a process and a plan. While they may be unique and confounding to you, we see them as our next challenge and look forward to helping them.