Focus more on others and get immediate success

 

Team Management

I have recently bought and read a management book by Patrick Lencioni (« Thriller psychologique pour manager autrement » Edition d’Organisation): this short roman (120 pages), really easy to read, explains what are the 5 main temptations a CEO (or a team manager) must absolutely avoid to succeed. Below an attempt to summarise main ideas from the book: temptations 1 to 5…

  1. Status. Forget on your own career path. Step back and try to focus again on results. This situation may happen when you have reached the « dreamed » position you were looking for since many years in the company. As a manager you have responsibilities versus the organization (customers, stakeholders and colleagues) and also versus your team. Be convince that, by focusing on result, your own position will positively evolved.
  2. Popularity. Hold people accountable for their work even if it may turn you unpopular. Each team member must be conscious of his own responsibility versus others members and act accordingly. Removing responsibility from one colleague’s shoulder is not a good long term bet. Everybody must be aware and assume its part of the job.
  3. Certainty. Be clear and direct. Start bu explaining game rules to your team. As a manager your role is to take decisions and accept that you might not have all necessary information on your hands. Do not wait for the perfect moment. Take risks and accept failure. Your role as a manager is also to organise the team rules: when and how often will we meet all together ? Who will prepare and drive this meeting, how long will it last and what is the process for decision making ? Etc… Share, explain and adapt if necessary your team working template / best practises.
  4. Harmony. As a manager you must accept conflicts into your team. Constructive conflict of course…Your team members should be able to explain their perspective and defend their point of view on every subject. First aim is to avoid any hidden issue on the topic discussed. Second is to reach a common understanding and acceptance of the decision. Don’t let anybody on side as it brings to frustration and discouragement.
  5. Invulnerability. Let you ego on the back court. Accept to be criticised and to fail. By officially recognising failure, manager will prove that he’s not different from his team. Everybody can fail and above that we should fail fast in order to learn from it, to be better on the next try.

All this is quite logical and seems not so hard to apply, isn’t it ? Just take others as they are, accept to have equal to equal human relationship, give and receive trust, be open-minded, take time to discover what are your people’s dreams, what do they like do work on, etc… Manage people first by understanding their wishes and try to give them opportunity to feel happy and comfortable in their job.

Project Management

Now let try to step back on that and look at the most basic task into a company: project management. And let start with a series of « basics » :

  • people hate doing boring things – administrative tasks, repetitive actions, etc… (*)
  • people are bad at forecasting the future. See recent pooling research institute misfortune…
  • taking a decision into a team can be quite complex. It needs clarity on objectives, rules, organization and team leadership. See beginning of this article…
  • the biggest the team is and the wildest the decision making will be. Therefore it should be a great idea to cut down teams into small groups from 7 to 10 persons max. This simple logic must be applied for projects management, maintenance and even companies executive committees
  • It is really difficult to stop a derivative / drifting project « on time ». The more the company invest into a project and the more it is difficult to cut it, even if all evidences are there. Simply because nobody wants to be the one who has decided to throw a couple of millions euros directly into the trash (see temptation 2 above…). These unrecoverable expenses are called the sunk costs.
  • World is moving so fast that what is true today can be false in less than one year. Whatever the situation or project context. Business is a complex and moving area with multiple dimensions.

Obvious isn’t it ? So starting from these evidences, how a company can manage to be efficient in project management ?

All consultants will answer in chorus: Agility. Note that this is presented as a method nor a tool but more like a brunch of best practices. Quite logic if you accept our last assumption above: things are changing fast and the business environment is a chaos. No way to create a tool in that context. So the message is: here are behaviors we have tested on many company and globally if you follow our advises you have more chance to succeed than if you continue working on the old way…

Agility concept exists on computer science since more than 10 years now. And has proven that it could be very efficient. What is new today is that this concept start to spread out in all company services. On IT side one of the best-known « method » is SCRUM. This concept can be adapted and completed with others best practices like Lean Management, Kanban or Six Sigma. Of course these methods are slightly different – better for monetizing them 🙂 – but basics are still the same:

  • work with small teams – 7 to 10
  • define a leader into the team who will be in charge of facilitating others team members work (material constraints, management issue…). Purpose is to facilitate the workflow agreed between members, eliminate waste, improve team or process efficiency, etc…
  • meet 5 to 10 minutes (max) on a daily basis. Whole team and customer are always invited and welcomed. Meeting frequently is really important as it forces the development team and its customer to share information, changes and get confident on each others.
  • to deliver Minimum Viable Product on every stages – which last from one week to two weeks maximum. Very important to always stay in the market, align with real life needs.
  • to use visual tool to share the work in progress, issues, remaining task, prioritization, etc… Think about white board (or walls) with few columns and lot of Post-Its… Using that visual communication is really important as it’ll help creating the team – being part of the same group with same objectives – and of course informed all others teams of the current situation. Are we online with our schedule ? When will you have finish this part ? Etc…

Conclusion

Being a leader means many things: build and maintain trust and solidarity between team members, share freely all information and clarify common objectives, protect your team, ease their work, recall responsibilities, communicate and learn from your success and failure, etc…

Managing is project is simply creating conditions to have all individuals working for the same purpose and target.

I would summarize all that in: as a leader and/or project manager start taking care of your people as soon as possible.

(*) these ones will certainly be quickly replaced by robots and/or artificial intelligence based tools. Have a look at this recent article for reference: http://www.lemonde.fr/pixels/article/2016/05/27/une-intelligence-artificielle-fait-son-entree-dans-un-cabinet-d-avocats_4927806_4408996.html

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