What’s your contingent workforce program plan of action?

Many years ago, I attended an industry awards dinner, during which one of our executives was being introduced to people around the table. I will never forget one person introducing themselves proudly as “strategic group business development director,” only for the executive to respond: “You do know that your importance to the organization is inversely proportional to the length of your job title.” “Ouch,” I thought to myself, “that must have hurt!”

Although said tongue in cheek, I believe that you must “think” something to “say” it. Let me give you an example: You are sitting around the dinner table and someone asks you to pass them the salt. You reply (jokingly maybe), “No. Get it yourself,” and then just a second later you follow with, “Of course. Here it is,” while handing the saltshaker to them. My point is that you could not have said, “No. Get it yourself,” without that thought first going through your head. So, in the same way, this executive at some level must have believed this statement to be true and worth putting out there.

While I’m not here to argue the case for long job titles or the rights and wrongs of executive behavior, I am here to talk about the importance of strategy — the first part of that aforementioned job title — and more important, understanding what we mean by strategy in the context of running a structured workforce program.

First, some strategy definitions:

  • A plan of action designed to achieve a long-term or overall aim (Oxford Languages)
  • A plan, method, or series of maneuvers or stratagems for obtaining a specific goal or result (Dictionary.com)
  • Also strategics. The science or art of combining and employing the means of war in planning and directing large military movements and operations (Dictionary.com)

Given the definitions above, one of the most fundamental misunderstandings of strategy is that strategy itself is subject to change.

Think about it: You set about a long-term strategy for your program of say two to three years, detailing how you will go about achieving your goals at the high level as well as the tactics you will engage to achieve those objectives and milestones.

But the world, candidate behavior, the market, the strategic needs of your organization and a plethora of other things change. Without continually assessing your strategy, and indeed your end objectives, your program is likely to fail in achieving them.

I was watching one of my favorite tournaments the other day, and one of my golfing heroes, Sir Nick Faldo, talked about how a professional golfers’ journey to achieve excellence is like driving a car at night in dense fog. You know your end objective, but you can only see what’s possible directly in front of you and you will only achieve that end objective by successfully navigating the multiple short journeys between your eyes and the visible road in front of you.

I like this simplistic analogy of strategy navigation in the pursuit of excellence, the only difference being is that I believe that the end destination can (in fact often must), change — especially if the journey is long.

This is why many organizations around the world use lean and scrum-type methodologies to shorten strategies to a series of sprints, achieving and delivering on their short-term objective in a matter of weeks and then reassessing the work necessary to achieve the next goal, continually delivering output in pursuit of a final destination.

When I first started in this industry, some Ministry of Defence projects in the UK went on for decades, continually building to an ultimate objective. Thankfully, those days seem well behind us, and by using agile methodologies across our workforce programs, we can also continually deliver against short-term milestones and an ever-changing series of strategic objectives.