Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Are you worth your paycheck?

I'm sure this may be considered a controversial post. First, let me explain my background. I've spent the last 6 years in higher-ed. Prior to this, I worked in private industry (primarily for mid-sized manufacturers) for 20 years.

Whether you are a project manager, developer, support staff, or production laborer, you need to ask yourself... do I add value? Do you bring more to the table than you take away?

Small business owners, especially partnerships and sole proprietors, have a different perspective on what they can... and will pay employees... and their vision of value. It's a very simple kindergarten style philosophy. If I pay employee "X" 40K per year, do they add either through efficiency, quality, or sales, of at least 40K per year? If the answer is no, then "X" isn't adding value... and should find a way to add value, or refresh their resume.

You make these utilitarian decisions every day. Should I change my oil, or should I pay a mechanic $30. Should I clean my carpets, or pay Stanley Steamer to come clean them? Businesses make the same decision every day. If your carpets aren't that dirty, or you can get by with a quick vacuum, Stanley probably won't get your business.

If you're not adding more than your taking away in a paycheck, you're probably a really good candidate for downsizing. Ask yourself... would I pay may salary to do this job if I were the owner, and it was coming directly from my paycheck?

Let me put it another way. Recently I had a conversation with one of my employees about adding value. He was discussing how he liked to code projects from scratch because that was a process he enjoyed. I asked him... if I paid you $5K to do this project, and didn't care how you did it, or how long it took, how would you do it? Would you take a few months to hand code it, or finish it in a month? The month was the answer, of course.

This is the type of question you always need to ask yourself. It isn't to get a short term focus, it's to focus on the addition of value. If hand-coding was more efficient in the long run, and this was a multi-year project, of course he would have chosen to hand-code it if it would have provided the opportunity for him to make more money over the long haul (and would have saved the business money). This would have still require the project met expectations for functionality, performance, maintainability, standards, and usability.

Project Management adds value through efficiency. If you are managing a project and things get done on time, and resources are utilized efficiently, they you can probably answer yes... you add value... if your projects add value. If you're an extremely efficient project manager, you must select projects which add value... or you do not add value.

Ask yourself... are you really adding value... and are you worth your paycheck. If you can't honestly answer yes, I suggest you either find a way to add value, or think long and hard about your potential career choices. Companies only pay charitable salaries for so long, in a down economy, it's the performers who succeed and prosper.