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Bad behaviour - it's about people, not process

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Report from the Committee Secretary, Jim Dale, incorporating some personal reflection

Tuesday 15th was a busy day for the SIG.  The Committee met in the afternoon before the main event, which featured a riveting presentation from our guest speaker, Brenda Hales. 

There will be more about Brenda’s excellent presentation shortly.  Another event: "More bad behaviour..leading your team through to outperform even their own expectations!" is being held on 15th February 2012 in London - please click here for full details.

The key points discussed and agreed by the Committee were:

1. Sign off of the SIG plan which was presented by our chair, Adrian Pyne;

2. A commitment to progress the plans developed by Bob Thomas (committee member) to host a one day conference in London on Wednesday 15th February 2012.  This will include two corresponding strands directed towards programme management activities within the private and public sectors.  A key aim will be to encourage the identification and dissemination of evidence based decision making. 

3. A commitment to take further steps to profile the work of the SIG within and outside the APM.

4. A commitment to actively investigate the feasibility of jointly hosting two business specific themed SIG conferences in 2012.

If you would like any further information about the work of the Committee or would like to become involved, please don't hesitate to get in touch.

It was standing room only for the main event which followed the Committee meeting.  After a short overview of the work of the SIG, Adrian handed over to Brenda Hales for her thought provoking interactive presentation entitled “Bad behaviour - it’s about people not process”.

Ever since reading Dan Goleman’s excellent book,  “Emotional Intelligence - why it can matter more than IQ”,  I’ve been fascinated about what that ‘x’ factor is that differentiates project managers and teams.  My own experiences also suggests that soft skills make the real difference.

You will be able to view Brenda’s slides by clicking on the link here.  I will therefore focus on a few points which I found poignant:

1. The context is that most projects and programmes fail to achieve their planned benefits.  Brenda cites the Cranfield University study figure of 70% although according to UK Government’s own estimation this figure is, alarmingly  higher, at 80%  (OGC, 2006, Business Benefits through PPM).

2. Brenda’s work focused on neuroscience, a subject I confess I know almost nothing about.  If neuroscience can help explain the way people react, as is claimed, then surely this information could be invaluable in all areas of our lives.

3. Brenda proposed a number of simple models (depicted in the slides) which we could start using today. The two models I found most helpful were:

• the primary emotions and responses paradigm:  When faced with sudden or destabilising change the primary response is almost certainly going to be perceived as being negative.  Yet survival is the primary response.  You must engender trust before teams can thrive, or in the words of Brenda, deliver that ‘discretionary effort’ that makes so much difference, and;

• the logic versus emotions decision making paradigm:  Our perception of how decisions are made are different to the reality.   As Brenda explained, while we may think that decisions are made using logic and external rules, the reality is somewhat different.  Feelings and emotions direct decision making.  We then seek to use logic and rules to rationalise our decisions. 

Brenda’s key objective was to encourage us, the audience, to start thinking about what we would do differently.  For some time I have been a strong proponent of Rolph’s (2001) simple but effective model of reflective practice:

• What.
• So what.
• What next.

So next time I encounter ‘bad behaviour’ in the workplace, either in the form of resistance to change or the way in which I make decisions,  I intend to stop and consider the contents of Brenda’s presentation in order to develop my understanding and help me respond appropriately.


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