Whats the story ? - 19.09.11

“I cant get no satisfaction, and I try and I try…. I cant get no satisfaction “, from Mick Jagger.

“Then a hero arose, a funny looking dog with a big black nose…. Snoopy fired once, then he fired twice, and the bloody red baron went rolling out of sight”

Lyrics. Love them. We can use them as metaphors. The Red Baron is anything interfering with a successful project outcome. Snoopy is the project manager.

Mick Jagger, well he is the constant wail of the project team working with Snoopy trying to enjoy their work, and score some project goals,  while the red baron does all in his power to prevent that satisfaction.

The red baron is anything that stops the project team achieving the project goals

More often than not the red baron is just stupid. Sometimes he is cunning. Rest assured though, if the wail is heard, you can bet the red baron is at work, and really has little interest in the project succeeding. Its more about the red barons personal glory.

John Smith, the project manager clearly set out the objectives for the week. The team talked about them, and then John set out a plan on the whiteboard. The team all commented, and then signed off on the weekly plan.

John left the meeting, and Mary Brown, the designer’s representative talked a bit more with Fred Nurks, the geotech consultant, and Jim Jones about the design solution for relocating the services. They agreed on what had to be done, by whom and by when, and then went back to work.

John Smith the project manager knew that authoritarian leadership wouldn’t work with most of the people he worked with. It just wasn’t the culture. He gave priority attention to the needs of his team members. He made sure that the “environment” on the project encouraged innovation, collaboration and feelings of success in his people. Where ever they were. Everything that he did considered the people on the team. From the way he communicated his plans to the way that the team reported progress. Research had shown that where this type of leadership was used that there was a definite correlation with project success.

Similarly, because of the egalitarian nature of the country he worked in, the concept of distributed leadership worked well. He knew that the leader is a member of a group, and leadership is a series of interaction processes wherein leaders inspire followers by creating common meaningful images of the future. He aspired to the view that leadership is something that is co-constructed in a team rather than exercised by a single person.

The organisations and people that he worked with understood the use of technology to enable distributed work teams to achieve success in providing outcomes from projects that contributed to the organisation’s success.

If an organisation asking to work on a project, where they touted that they had the latest technology and that this technology provided them with benefits far in excess of the accepted technology, he tried to steer clear of the assignments. He knew that they often fail. He knew that they failed because the technology did not provide the advantages that those selling at claimed that it provided. He also steered clear of organisations that had more of a focus on reporting, where the reporting and the technology that he had to use to provide the information was counterintuitive to the successful completion of a project.

After a while he was able to identify the signs which indicated that some of his co-workers could not or would not contribute to the success of a project. Sometimes this was evident from repeated missed deadlines. At other times it became evident when he looked at their output, which appeared to have no originality. At other times it was evident from his co-workers very average, to poor ability to communicate in writing the results of their work.

John Smith knew that communication, (talking, writing, drawing, tone of voice and written communication, body language, what people wanted to talk about, what they didn’t want to talk about, the way that meetings were organised, the frequency of meetings, the right structure for different types of meetings, the ease of reading and understanding written communications), all contributed to success on projects. When communication was stuffed, so was the project.

Initially John set some rules for communication. He proposed templates for all of the important communications, then workshopped the templates with the team, until he was pretty sure that the team had buy in to the rules for communicating and the templates. If someone showed evidence of being unable to write a coherent, easy to read document, he made sure that they were helped to improve. Even proposed drawing schedules were scrutinised in detail. This, he had come to realise, often “communicated” to the designers the direction for design development. If the drawing schedule was too tight, too loose, not thought about, not tied into the project plan, then there would inevitably be problems during design development.

Technology was also important. Especially using the web, to communicate. If an organisation asking him to work on a project, where they touted that they had the latest technology for managing distributed teams,  and that this technology provided them with benefits far in excess of the accepted technology, he tried to steer clear of the assignments. He knew that they often fail. He knew that they failed because the technology did not provide the advantages that those selling it claimed that it provided. He also steered clear of organisations that had more of a focus on reporting, where the reporting and the technology that he had to use to provide the information was counterintuitive to the successful completion of a project.

More often than not, a simple “cloud” based technology, (http://www.google.com/sites/overview.html ), (http://sharepoint.microsoft.com/en-us/Pages/default.aspx)    providing the basics for enabling  team members access to important documents, and storage of communications, as well as “skype” or an equivalent was a best use for technology in communications on the projects. Anything else had to be handled off the web. The plan for communications management included rules for use of the web based tools.

Mary Brown (the chief designer) and Jim Jones (the site manager) had worked on a lot of projects. This was the first that they had worked on with John Smith. The thing that surprised them was how organised the project was. On previous projects, they had to utilise a plethora of different systems, and organisation specific tools. Often, a lot of time was spent reconciling information between the different systems. On this project, John Smith got the team to design their own processes and systems, using software and technology that was the most basic, such as simple spreadsheets. Reconciling information between systems was a thing of the past. If it had to be done to meet a clients needs, then John Smith engaged an external consultant to take the teams output and put it into different formats. On this project, the systems, processes and reporting was simplified, and owned by the team. It seemed to create bonds between the different members of the project team. Almost as though they all spoke a unique and different language. One that was only known to the team on this project.

The last thing that I heard about this project was that the same team had been appointed to a new project, which was a landmark project.

It was fairly obvious to me why.

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  3. difficult project teams and how to handle poor performers
  4. Actively engaged ? or disengaged ?
  5. Why coaching in the infrastructure area 2 ?

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