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Tricky people issues take project off - track (again!)

Does it have to be this way?

I don’t think so and I bet many of you agree with me!

So if we recognise the problem, what has to change? 

Sam Huibers, lead author of The Evolution of Project Auditing, 2015 Global Benchmark Study tells the story of Sir John Franklin who set out in 1845 on a journey expected to last 2-3 years.  His aim was to discover the North West Passage - a sea route connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans via the Arctic.  Prior to departure Sir John organised the best for his crew.  Each of his ships was kitted out as a replica of a Royal Navy Officers Club, replete with library and silverware.  

Twenty years later remnants of the expedition were found - scattered groups of frozen bodies wearing standard issue naval uniforms and dragging improvised sleds loaded with silver.

It’s tempting to laugh at Sir John’s naivety.  But the Study uses this story to ask some provocative questions.

Is this a metaphor for our times?  At one level, we know the global business environment is changing as never before.  How much are these changes reflected in approaches to project delivery? How well-equipped are we for the challenges of the 21st Century ?

Are we open to casting aside ways of doing things that were suited to a different era? Or do some of us persist in dragging along baggage from the past – despite evidence that it’s useless?

The Study, with evidence drawn from more than 2000 projects across 22 industries in 43 countries is uncompromising.  It concludes  

A better understanding and management of social dynamics (why people behave as they do) provides the greatest opportunity for improving project delivery

It recommends developing effective project assurance frameworks which take social dynamics and organisation culture into account.  And it notes that project assurance frameworks (and therefore projects themselves) are currently weak at addressing these areas. 

What’s more, it states that in many cases auditors (and those commissioning audits) may add to project risk because they focus on demonstrating compliance with project methodologies, instead of highlighting what is needed for project success.  

The Study has plenty of suggestions about what has to change and it’s not alone in reaching these conclusions.

Quite independently the Enabling Change SIG has identified the shortage of tools to help PM professionals in these areas. And we’ve decided to do something about it.  We’ve launched a research project to develop a tool to close the gap.  

Just imagine for a moment that you have a tool to help you:

  • get behind the tricky people issues
  • identify what’s really going on and
  • do something about it – in an informed  way

What would that do for stress levels and productivity?

Do you agree it’s something worth striving for? Let us know what you think.

Click here to find out more about the research

Click here to join the leading organisations partnering with us in developing the tool.  

 

4 comments

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  1. Devin Weerasooriya
    Devin Weerasooriya 08 October 2015, 08:07 AM

    I agree with the general sentiments of everyone. However, there are two aspects that I'd like to point-up, on the general team of Socio-cultural dynamics.Agile methodologies, with their requirement for team-work and incremental delivery as a matter of course, have forced people to collaborate; i.e. team-members are now forced to work towards outcomes rather than worry about self-preservation. Not doing-so being the most serious impact on their preservation. That said, P2 themes are still as relevant as ever in Agile. Just focusing on three of them:• Change: While the attitude to Change is much more flexible, the Product-owner is accountable for product adequacy and is empowered and will reject some change requests.• Organisation: Organisation from the product-expertise view-point is much more in-focus. When the right people are not at the table it WILL BE felt.• Plan: Since the precise deliverable is discovered as one proceeds the granularity of planning is quite different from P2; but the Product-owner will have notions of the available budget and will reconcile that with the delivered functionality of the product.Given the pathos expressed by most people in-terms of the "Socio-Cultural" perspectives of most tradition project teams, disruption to the tradition is probably a positive, but most underlying principles from P2 would still be relevant; although not of course the processes.I agree with the general sentiments of everyone. However, there are two aspects that I'd like to point-up. Agile methodologies, with their requirement for team-work and incremental delivery as a matter of course, have forced people to collaborate; i.e. team-members are now forced to work towards outcomes rather than worry about self-preservation. Not doing-so being the most serious impact on their preservation. That said, P2 themes are still as relevant as ever in Agile. Just focusing on three of them: • Change: While the attitude to Change is much more flexible, the Product-owner is accountable for product adequacy and is empowered and will reject some change requests.• Organisation: Organisation from the product-expertise view-point is much more in-focus. When the right people are not at the table it WILL BE felt.• Plan: Since the precise deliverable is discovered as one proceeds the granularity of planning is quite different from P2; but the Product-owner will have notions of the available budget and will reconcile that with the delivered functionality of the product. Given the pathos expressed by most people in-terms of the "Socio-Cultural" perspectives of most tradition project teams, disruption to the tradition is probably a positive, but most underlying principles from P2 would still be relevant; although not of course the processes.

  2. Carole Osterweil
    Carole Osterweil 05 October 2015, 06:53 PM

    Agreed @John and @Patw. and the Enabling Change SIG has identified that for many project professionals this is easier said than done.The crucial social dynamics - things like the level of trust within and across stakeholder groups/ project teams; attitudes to conflict; willngness to name the elephant in the room etc... are  tricky for many to to identify and do something about.The tool the Enabling Change SIG is developing aims to make it easier to put issues like these on the table, and to do something about them.

  3. Patrick Weaver
    Patrick Weaver 02 October 2015, 09:03 AM

    Projects are done by people for people and the people involved are all stakeholders - forget this and fail.

  4. John Gordon
    John Gordon 01 October 2015, 06:03 PM

    Carole never has it been so true. People and culture are so important in projects especially those that often bring great change. I find more and more of my time with clients is spent handling the people and communication aspects as change becomes the normal way of things. This makes scoping the journey and engaging with stakeholders....socialising the project or change programme key to buy in and likley success. If people believe and engage then you can  build the momentum and support to move forwards to a common outcome despite change coming along the way.