Rob Purdie on values-based project management

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This year's Web of Change conference included a session with Rob Purdie of Important Projects on values-based project management. Here are my notes on the session, which focused on collaboratively sharing tactics for boosting the various aspects of organizational culture that support effective project work.

Success of any project can be judged by 2 criteria:
1. were the objectives met?
2. did the team find the work itself rewarding?

Projects not going well has to do with not having a project friendly environment

What is a project?
A project is a temporary endeavour undertaken to produce a unique product, service or result.

ALL PROJECTS HAVE:
- objectives: the things the project is unertaken to achieve
- deliverables: what project will produce in order to achieve objectives:
- requirements: qualities deliverables must have/criteria deliverables must meet in order to achieve objectives
- constraints: that project must be delivered within [time/scope/cost] (the iron triangle) [scope=quality]

Project management is the application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to project activities to meet project objectives.

On good projects, people take the time to define objectives.

ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURE
Org culture is the river; the project is the boat.
If org culture is flowing smoothly, you just have to steer the boat; otherwise you're driving upstream
Projects involve risks, so risk-averse organizations will have trouble
With problematic culture you need more money, and more authority as project manager

Build a project-friendly environment, at least within the project team.
Build a culture of personal empowerment and risk-taking.

WHY PROJECTS DON'T GO WELL....
b/c of a set of assumptions that turn out not to be accurate
confusing the politics of anti-hierarchy with the need to get shit done


WHAT MAKES A GOOD PROJECT MANAGER?
- people skills: being able to listen and communicate well; need to manage expectations and explain things clearly so all sides understand; integrating into project culture is all about people skills
- they need to be bright and flexible and quick and adaptable and know how to talk to people
- persistence: keep coming back for the piece of info they need
- do they need to be values aligned?

Need balance between outputs and processes (ends and means)
Don't burn people out.

Cross-functional integration is valued
Risk taking is supported
High conflict tolerance; need to be able to engage in healthy conflict; a meeting with no conflict is not valuable
Value open and honest communication; respect for one another

5 groups: (how to build each)

Personal empowerment -- grow our teams so people feel empowered. Everyone wants to contribute their best work (whether they know it or not). When people feel frustrated it's b/c they feel blocked. How can we remove things that get in way of allowing people to contribute their best work?

Trust -- need closure in communications as pro-active way of building trust. Whenever I have a conversation with anyone about anything i want to know who is doing what by when. If you can do that with every conversation, nobody is going back to their desk wondering if the other person is going to be doing the thing that needs to be done for me to do my work.

Respect -- what are some specific tactics for instilling this in group. Being late is disrespectful.

Commitment:

  • Buy-in. Are you going to stick with the project through hard times?
  • What is everybody's standard of excellence?
  • Commitment is a great quality for organizers, but it's different in a project context.
  • Can't focus on the meta-level of commitment at every project level -- objective of producing the brochure can't be saving the world.
  • Project has a beginning and an end.
  • Commitment can be to doing a great job, to saving the world....but need a long-term theory of change.
  • Need to make sure we continue to find projects that the team finds meaningful. Team wants to be happy as well as paid.
  • Make sure that the projects speak to the values of the people I'm working with.
  • What projects you're choosing -- projects can be aligned with a range of values. When does choice of project become strategic -- not just about feeling good about the projects you're doing.
  • Can someone who's not values aligned authentically serve the role of supporting other people's values.
  • Think of this as irrigation: project manager is irrigating the growing plants -- the people who are trying to get the job done.
  • You are serving a group of people who really care about this --
  • How can you transform someone into excitement about this value of promoting social change?
  • Ask them: are you interested in transforming?
  • Commitment builds trust.
  • If you do what you say you're going to do -- you make a commitment -- that builds trust. If you can't fulfill a commitment you've made, you go back to people and tell them you can't make it and tell them when you can meet them.
  • Staff commit to timelines but then don't meet it. People commit to overly amibitious timelines as a way of proving their commitment.
  • PMsĀ  need to ASK, rather than tell, when something can be completed.
  • Time estimates should be offered by the person doing the work.
  • Need to create a culture of honesty about how long things will take.
  • Projects are always in a longer/larger context.
  • Overcommitment -- working overtime -- as a sign of commitment. Burn-out as a sign of commitment.
  • Sometimes the culture can be great, but people are just wrong about how long something will take.


PERSONAL EMPOWERMENT:
- need to be engaged in planning
- how to embed project into longterm goals of org -- creating a culture

TRUST:
- establishing groundrules; closure on all conversations -- who is doing what by when; clearly defining roles & responsibilities; including play in project activities to build trust
- project debriefs to make transparent what was broken
- Quakers: creating formats for appreciation -- framing contributions in ways that are around appreciating fellow team members' work
- book: The art of possibilities

RESPECT:
- tied to trust, communication and accountability
- clear expectations about individual expectations
- what everyone is responsible for as a team member
- groundrules for ccing people, lateness
- here are the ground rules we're going to stick by
- issues board: every specific period -- if you're feeling disrespected , there's a way to bring that up
- respecting what client brings, client respecting what shop brings

CONFLICT:
- proactively handle team by getting to know how they handle conflict
- establish ground rules
- separate problem from person -- give people a sense that the objectives are the enemy, not the people on the team

ACCOUNTABILITY:
- clarity of objectives
- remember that decision-makers aren't the same as the implementers
- create culture with open feedback channel
- bilateral clarity of expectations -- client needs to be accountable for their inputs


FUTURE CONVERSATIONS:
- bioteaming manifestos
- distributed teams

Comments

Bastiaan says

September 25, 2007 - 1:55pm
Alexandra, if you discuss distributed teams you will have to discuss technology. Check our website/blog.

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