Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner…

door-guests.gifThanksgiving at our house is a family affair.  Everyone from the youngsters to the elders all come together under a single roof to enjoy the holiday feast.

Now that’s not to say we all come to this occasion with the same perspective.  There are many differences in how we approach the event.

For the elders, it’s a chance to finally let the “children” do all the work.  Yet more often than not, Mom continues to bark out orders and expectations on everything from how to properly prepare the food to place settings at the table.  She just can’t give it up, kick back, and give the “Boomer” generation a chance to make our own mistakes. After all, she’s from the “Traditionalist” generation*.

The same goes for the people who show up on projects.  We have team members from multiple generations, each with their own perspective on how to approach the task.

The senior members of the team are typically from the “Traditionalist” generation.  These post-war babies grew up in a relatively prosperous time and as a result generally respect authority, rules, and conformity.  In fact they are the forefathers of project management processes we use today.  No wonder many of our senior leaders require strict adherence to the PMBOK or similar structured project management methodologies.

If demographics have any impact, you will likely have a BOOMER on your team.  This is by far the largest group in the workforce today.  Growing up in a time of relative unrest with Viet Nam, presidential assassination and impeachment, protests and the civil rights movement.  This generation is typically anti-authoritarian, highly competitive, and out to change the world!  So when you get resistance to conforming to the process, you now know why.

Enter generation X.  These are your 27-42 year olds of today.  Typically growing up with both parents at work, high divorce rates, and workforce layoffs, these team members put less faith in established institutions: including their employer.  They tend to be self-reliant and hungry for multiple options and change.  Having grown up with the Internet, they are information rich, have strong social networks, and a world-wide footprint.  With this backdrop, Gen-X team members are perhaps good candidates for global virtual project teams.

Make way for Generation Y, the Millennials.  These young bucks on your team have never known a time without the computer and immediate gratification.  They have seen global disasters, terrorism, and 9-11, so realize life is full of peril.  Very confident, and very impatient, you will find it difficult to get them to wait for the next meeting to address the next project issue.  You will have to work hard to keep up!

So as you look around the Thanksgiving table this year, see if you can identify each generation represented on your project team. 


You may be surprised who shows up for dinner.

Doug Bedinger / Consulting for Results / (925) 947-5726 

“Helping project teams work better together”

* Based on information presented by Tamara Erickson, The Concours Institute


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