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Getting Hard Results Through Soft Skills
You have all the hard talent you need so now go and get them to produce synergy using soft skills.
I once worked for a national firm as a programmer on a large scale project that was going to be the gnats behind of word processing programs. The people involved in this undertaking were well chosen for their hard skills. The crux of the problem that we experienced was a 750 page functional specification (the document that describes all of the features of the program) which was Marketing’s desire to go for 100% of the market.
Long story short, things got dicey where 4 hour design reviews took place on a weekly basis. It got to the point where the only collaboration that was going on was an attempt to usurp the VP of Marketing to regain any semblance of order and rationality. After 2 years of this corporate realized that the project was not meant to be and decided to shut it down. Two years later the company shut its doors – no product, no sales.
Extreme case – yes. As a side note, the company hired a team of psychologists to come in and try to correct the situation but it was too late to affect a turnaround. In retrospect the problem was brought on by a system where creeping eloquence that was tolerated – programming to a moving target where goals constantly changed and no one being able to measure their accomplishments.
Try to envision a DNA strand with a double helix supporting strands where one strand represents Upper Management and the other Soft Skills. All of the bonds supported by the strands are the Hard Skills that the company uses to create its product and subsequently its identity. Like DNA, a company can replicate itself to form Franchises. Work flow charts, fodder of Program Managers, show the order in which Hard Skills are scheduled but nowhere are Soft Skills mentioned or displayed. Subject for a future article.
It has been proposed that there are 12 basic Hard Skills that comprise any effort to produce services or products as follows:
- Research -- capture, analyze and evaluate
- Assess -- evaluate, project, codify and decide
- Invent -- design, create convert/modify and assimilate
- Manufacture -- build, assemble, mix/merge, disassemble/decompose & test
- Market -- entice, educate, sell, channel and present
- Support -- maintain, repair and clean
- House -- store and archive
- Manage -- plan, catalyze, manage, track, count, account and compute
- Remove -- destroy and deconstruct
- Deliver -- dispense, place and transport
- Acquire -- procure and exchange
- Promote -- represent and advocate
Each of these requires a varying set of Soft Skills to coordinate and successfully complete any service or product. Without soft skills you would not be able to perform any Hard Skill. Think of the often abused Project Manager who must accomplish without authority what the President of the company couldn’t do with authority. It does matter.
In closing: In our everyday personal lives we are relatively free to do pretty much what we want as long as it is not expressly forbidden. This is called negative interdiction. Now, contrast this with business realities where we are able to do whatever we want as long as it is expressly permitted, unless of course you are the boss and can do anything you want. This is called a job. Finally, consider that in our free-market business environment the majority of the players (companies) are structured like monopolistic singularities. This is the premise that causes people to conjure up concepts of a new order of corporate structure – coming soon to a theater near you – “Science of the DBOs (Dynamic Business Objects)”.
Learn more about the author, Arne Antos.
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- soft skills
- hard skills