Thursday, May 8, 2008

IQ testing at my work? It's more likely that you think.

A segment of my coworkers, project managers, are required to take IQ tests and personality tests. My understanding of the motivation for management to do this is because project managers are an easy scapegoat for late and over-budget projects. In my opinion, my company is going about treating the problem the wrong way--the problem is late and over-budget projects.
Let me say that I have been lucky enough to work with some of the best project managers I've ever seen at this company. They are sharp and on top of their game. World class. There are others here that are pretty run of the mill in my opinion. Some good, some not so good.
Since the problem of the late and over-budget projects has been attributed to poor performance and poor training of the project managers, the project managers are now facing a barrage of training and evaluation; including a set of intelligence and personality tests.
First and foremost, I believe forcing subordinates to take intelligence tests is an incredibly lazy way to manage employees. If you're a manager of a group of people and you don't know which ones are good at their jobs and which ones aren't, you aren't doing a good job of managing people. If you can't tell which ones have potential and which ones don't without the aid of IQ tests, again, you're not an effective leader of people.
Scoring an employee based on a number, or a set of data points that are disassociated with one's role seems like a foolish way to differentiate employees. Why not bring in a Playstation 3 and see which one is the best at Madden? It's about as relevant to one's ability to perform their role as how well they can perform an IQ test. Memo to my boss, if you want to do this I'd prefer that you use Madden '93 for the Sega Genesis.
How the data is used is really irrelevant. All that is known by the employees is that people are tested and the results are known by their managers. Every action taken from the point of testing onward will have the perception and under suspicion of being a reaction to the testing. How can it not?
I am not a lawyer, but testing people's intelligence has the appearance of creating a premise for employment discrimination. That doesn't matter though, because the real damage of mandating these tests is alienating employees. I wouldn't be surprised if most of the good ones leave on their own.
Lastly, let's look at the real issue why projects are late and over budget. My own armchair analysis indicates that the project managers are doing a commendable job considering the resources at their disposal. The project managers are only a piece of the dysfunctional machine. If I were the king, I'd focus on how the internal economy of power works.
Currently, those with project responsibility do not have the power to fulfill their responsibilities. Those who control resources, people managers, are not accountable to those who need them, project managers. They all report to different directors.
Additionally, the project managers and the people managers have a different set of priorities, the project managers are evaluated on when the project is completed against their forecasts, the people managers are evaluated on the distribution of how they spend their time, on capitalized projects vs. non-capitalized.
Instead of blaming pieces of the machine for failing, why not fix the machine by re-engineering it? People work well together when they have incentives to work well together. If the division were to align the incentives that not only didn't conflict, but actually complimented each other, people would naturally do what's best for each other.
To admit that the machine is broken though, is for many to admit that they made a mistake in their design.
It's a lot easier to blame people.

No comments: