Are You Ready?

I have been writing and speaking for a number of years about the need to create an environment for successful projects. It’s heartwarming to find a “student” who personifies this approach.

Here is a summary of postings by Vickie M in a UC Extension course on management, leadership, and team building in the project environment:

I’ve never taken any formal training or classes in project management until now. It is quite interesting to know that what we have been doing are now validated and some smart person(s) have put this together in a precise and concise manner for everyone to learn. Wow!!! It has been a breath of fresh air to be in this class. I am so thrilled that there are other people out there who think outside the box and have proven that it can be done….

I believe in a win/win structure for my people. Morale is quite high. Our employees and consultants are paid very well for their contribution to project success and ultimately our corporate goals. We have implemented incentive and bonus programs for our project managers and team members. Each milestone they reach and exceed, there are additional incentives and bonuses to get the project done on time or earlier, within budget or under, and fulfill the scope of work plus added benefits. We encourage creativity, suggestion and innovation. If they can show me a better way of doing something better than what we know, there are incentives for that as well. Ultimately my people have pride in what they do and will try to not only meet but exceed expectations. People are mostly motivated by making a difference in other people’s lives whether it be a project team, their peers or colleagues, their management team, their family and friends or the customers. Everyone likes to be recognized as someone who betters someone else’s lives or contributes to the betterment of a team and society.

We all work towards the same goals. I find that most people want to be appreciated as a contributor to the success of the project, the company and the team. We respect and support each other. I believe in team work and encourage everyone to support each other. Occasionally we may have someone who shines independent of others, however for the most part, the team always wins together. My people are like family so in our company the culture is one which is supportive, nurturing, trusting, and respectful. We operate at the highest level of integrity. We only hire like-minded with similar personality traits and values. It is more important to me that the person fits in with our corporate culture, of course he/she should also be the most qualified person to do the job.

We have more net profit to share. Our people love the flexibility of owning their own deliverables/projects i.e. I personally do not care where they work whether at home or in our office as long as they get their job done (right the first time), furthermore the more I give them freedom, the more they become passionate about their responsibilities. For example, I found out that everyone in our company loves to work here so much that they want to make sure that they will never have to be put under typical corporate constraints ever again, thus making sure all work is done on time, within budget, excellent quality and preferably with little or no mistakes the very first go-around. When we produce major events or implement programs for our clients, we have no room for error. The sense of pride and satisfaction shows up on their faces when we have our weekly status/update meetings. People like to be appreciated and told that they have done a great job and be recognized among their colleagues and peers especially in front of their boss (if they have one).

Our culture has evolved to almost now everyone can work effectively from their home office including me. When we have our team meetings, I now let them choose the location. We will get to eliminate our office eventually thus saving us even more money in expenses and be able to have an even higher net profit to share with our people. And all of our people get paid very well.

BTW, we have a much higher rate of retention now than ever in terms of our people & vendors. Most people are so jealous (in a good way) and everyone wants to work for us but we are (now able to be) quite selective and look for like-minded people. This environment has shown us that people are very good in general until they get treated unfairly or bullied or misunderstood… you get the idea.

I appreciate your comment, Randy, to ensure that the organizational structure does not get in the way of doing projects. In addition we have, and I quote “clarity of vision, effective processes, well defined roles and responsibilities, the right people assigned to tasks–these are elements that lead to optimized results.”

We have a strategic planning session for our organization in the late 4th quarter of each fiscal (in our case same as calendar) year. In this session we review lessons learned, successes and revisit current business objectives and discuss new ones which will move us to meet and perhaps exceed the corporate goals. The way our company is structured, we encourage open communication between departments, cross functional teams and leadership team. We are small enough where everyone knows everyone well enough to have transparency between peers and colleagues. The communication process within our company between team members is very important to the success of all we do, therefore we have streamlined our communication plans both internally and with our customers. Typically there will be weekly status calls/meetings (when possible) between each project management team. Most key members and stakeholders will be on the calls. Updates are given almost real time and next steps provided during these calls. The customers will be updated at the interval agreed upon in advance and can be adjusted as needed (schedule changed, traveling conflicts, etc.).

Our current structure is very conducive to our project success and at this time we have very detailed level of task definition and quite specific members’ norms and obligations for all of our projects. The level of task flexibility, type of required knowledge, most frequent decision style, control by hierarchy, coordination & control and predisposition toward change and innovation are moderate to fairly specific. The commitment is to the project manager and the organization. We communicate constantly and multidirectional. We often work in multidisciplinary teams and the relationships between groups and individual performance as well as organizational objectives are very high.

It is so very true that people matter the most in a project environment. And to check with key stakeholders and ask them for their definitions of success is what we do at all times. It is so beneficial to know what outcome the client expects before we start any project. People do define their project success in so many different ways and as long as I or my team cannot read minds, we had better know what it is that they want.

I heard this a long time ago and think that it applies to a project manager “Managers are hired for what isn’t there.” I believe that if it is already there, they will not need you. So it is an advantage to know what it is that isn’t there for the client to contract us to find out and how can we provide “that” and then some to succeed and exceed their expectations.

We are almost there but not quite… glad to know we are heading in the right direction. I’ve always been known as a maverick. Now I know better that it is OK to push the envelope and be the change agent.

Thanks again for thinking outside the box and sharing it with us….

Are you ready to create such an environment in your organization? Join me for a full day workshop on Toolkit of Soft Skills for The Complete Project Manager on Saturday, June 8, 2013 in Sunnyvale, CA, sponsored by the PMI Silicon Valley Chapter.

Randy Englund, Englund Project Management Consultancy


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