A Tale of Two Projects and Other Stories

Just-in-time, it could as easily have been called “just enough,” but its name was inspired; a fine tuned clock with all parts moving in order, with no waste or useless motion.  As the production manager surveyed his facility, he was delighted with the benefits this Japanese system had brought him.  There were no pallets full of raw materials and the big tables to fix faulty parts had been dragged out and thrown away.  Their first experiments with JIT had been painful but, as they learned, it got better and better, like rolling a snowball down a hill.  It was a satisfying state of affairs.  The employees were happy, he could make product changes in much less time and, best of all, it was cheaper.

This morning, he had had a meeting with the buyers.  He had been trying for months to get their biggest suppliers involved too.  If they could ship more often, in smaller deliveries, and invest in better communication with his factory, then he would really be rocking and rolling.

Then it happened.  The leading buyer said their biggest suppliers could only join in if they got some better guarantees.  Most of all, they wanted to be the only ones.  They wouldn’t play ball if the production manager’s company could change partners at the drop of every hat.  In short, they wanted monogamy.

Senge Limits to GrowthThat was the moment, the production manager understood his JIT project would never be fully realised.  He could viscerally feel the levers within the company pulling it to a halt.  His boss used to be the chief buyer and had decided years ago that they must have more than one supplier for everything.  Competition gave them the best prices and kept suppliers on their toes.  JIT would remain a project that stayed in the production manager’s own department and would go no further.  His bosses project of multi-sourcing over-ruled him.

Projects have their own momentum, which the systems expert Peter Senge described as involving three component relationships; acceleration, braking and a time lag.  Searching for a job is a good example of that.  There is a fair measure of acceleration as enthusiasm and interest builds during the application and interview process, time lags while waiting for news, and braking as reorganisations and competing candidates cut our prospects back down to earth.  Building up from these elements, Senge observed a number of common “archetypes.”   They are easy to recognise from our personal projects and their more public cousins, business projects.  The one I’ve described above is called Limits to Growth and is the first project archetype from his wonderful book, “The Fifth Discipline.”

Two other archtypes he described are Shifting the Burden and Tragedy of the Commons.  Like the archetype above, they reappear in projects again and again.

Senge Shifting the BurdenIn another company, a young manager has recently been promoted.  He’s struggling though, because it is expected that he continue to help out with his old work and take on the responsibilities of his new role.

An early area of difficulty is dealing with personnel problems.  There are long-standing disagreements between some employees that have started to affect performance among the other employees.  The manager looks for help from the Human Resources manager.  The HR manager is confronted with two choices.  If he solves the problem promptly, the new manager will lean on him too quickly in future to manage his team.  He’ll be prevented from developing the skills himself to solve problems.  On the other hand, returning the problem unsolved will cause delays and other problems in the short term.

The question becomes who will solve these problems in future.  Both the HR expert and manager are confronted by conflicting personal projects.  How they come to see themselves both personally and organisationally is laying a blueprint for future orientations of their personal projects towards either coaching or fixing.  One of them will “shift the burden.”

Senge Tragedy of the CommonsThe problems with lack of trust and taking opposing positions can be seen in Tragedy of the Commons.  The original version of this story goes way back to “commons,” an open area shared by people living in medieval villages to feed their animals.  This approach gradually collapsed as some villagers over farmed the fields, marginalising resources for their neighbours and limiting the time available for grass to grow back.

The same problem can be seen in a Shared Service Centre (SSC) whose resource planning is being increasingly driven by management escalations from customers and their internal representatives.  Eventually additional resources are hired in the SSC to deal with the higher demands and costs spiral upwards.  The confluence of each customer’s personal projects eventually makes the SSC too expensive and the work is transferred to a low wage country.

This eventual outcome from tragedy of the commons is explored by the behavioural economist Dan Ariely in his book “Predictably Irrational.”  He describes how participants were no longer certain the sun was yellow or a camel was bigger than a dog when these statements were associated with politicians (p263).  Breaches of trust lead people to doubt even basic statements.  It can also lead them to act in ways that are detrimental to everyone, including themselves.

Projects in conflict is a rich vein of research.  These same issues can occur in our own lives, for example between domains like health and work, or between people like in the examples described.  The way Senge, and most other organisational experts, suggest to solve this is to restore trust by helping an organisation to visualise each party’s objectives and projects, test the assumptions used to underpin their personal projects, and finally look for a “third way” of mutually beneficial compromise (“win-win” in the language of Stephan Covey).  This has a number of challenges, not least of which is getting people to understand and be honest about their own projects.  In the pursuit of projects, people often act first and rationalise later the most favourable reasons for their actions.  Senge’s system of diagrams can be particularly helpful to capture the interplay of each project’s orientations, constraints and dominance and the three basic relationships with them.

By understanding the project relationships of acceleration, braking and delay we can bring clarity and help restore trust in serious conflict situations

Orientation, Constraints and Dominance (OCD)

Things People Self Triangle

Understanding our personal projects’ innate orientation is a fascinating area of study.  If we can find patterns in our behaviour and what really interests us, we are step closer to getting a clear handle on who we are and why we act like we do.  Project orientations reveal not just our preferences, but also our fears, the relationships between our present and past experiences, the nature of our dreams, and why we are conflicted when following certain paths.  By understanding our personal projects, we ultimately reveal something of the nature of the self that we often keep hidden from others and even from ourselves sometimes, our identity self.  

That’s not to say our orientations do not have a public face; they do and every personal project has its public counterpart.  To understand how other people see you, ask one or two people from your immediate circle to list the personal projects they think we are engaged in and compare this with a similar list of our own.  Any differences between these may tell us an awful lot about how we come across, especially if we ask someone who is not maybe a close ally.  The important perception differences are between our own view and others’ is the basis of information about the self we do not realise others are building for us, our organisational self.

CompassStudying our personal project orientations can lead in several interesting directions,  Its feasible to envisage as many areas of investigation almost as there are adjectives for projects.  Every description we can imagine for a project, be it “big,” “fast,” “deep,” “shrewd,” “demanding,” or whatever, has a possible antonym like “small,” “slow,” “shallow,” “dumb,” or “easy.”  Two sets of orientation stand out from research though that I’d look to look more closely at:

  • self, others or things
  • approach or avoidance

Our personal projects usually contain all of these, but often with a particular accent overall.  Highly creative people have been found to sit half way on the line between things and others.  That’s not to say that orientations do not change.  For example, making a presentation during our studies usually means impressing the teacher, digging into course material, and holding your nerve in front of peers.  All three of the self/others/things elements are clearly present.  For each of us though, the ratio of effort we will put into each each and what we consider important will be different.  As we make the presentation, our focus may switch suddenly.  Our initial apprehension for a bad audience reaction changes to an interest in their viewpoint, or we may realise something new while we speak and begin to think through some aspect of the material that hadn’t occurred to us before.    If things go well, we find ourselves effortlessly drawn toward getting the audience to appreciate our main points and the satisfaction of approaching and completing each key element.  The time can fly and our resource self is propelled along to the presentation’s conclusion.

3 SelvesChanges in orientation may surprise us and happen very quickly, like when we make a specific point during the presentation and it dawns on us that it is not clear, or that we are contradicting some earlier argument we’ve made.  Orientation changes that are not planned like this can take us some time to adjust to.  In general, important projects that do not go as well as we hoped, such as the experience of a poorly received presentation may dominate our minds, leading to anxiety, and teaching us to avoid making presentations again, or work at least twice as hard the next time.  With each switch, a focus change takes place and our identity, resource, and organisational selves become reconfigured.  We become aware of our breathing, we lean on our flowing words, or become aware of the audience’s attitude, leading to constructive or destructive results for our project.  It is an on-going, “thrown” experience and the orientation and our opinion of our personal project emerges into daylight as we experience it.

handcuffWhen our schedule becomes very hectic, or health issues force us to change priorities, this sense of “throwness” can become more intense.  We may exhibit higher levels of avoidance behaviour, which has positive consequences when it allows us to finalise important personal projects.  As we age, through separation, job loss, project outcome failure, divorce or death, prolonged periods of exposure to the limits of our projects, leave a lasting mark and cause us to reflect on the fragility of our dreams.  These experiences create places where most of us, once learning of them intimately, would normally not wish to return to.  Studies have shown that aging predicts greater levels of avoidance, irrespective of gender.  They also show that we will probably perform important projects well, because we shut out the distraction of having too many projects.  Overall our personal project orientations drive cohesion in our actions and have a complex relationship with the constraints of everyday life.

Significant constraints can force us to be more bold or cautious than we normally like, providing answers to important marker questions like “how much am I able to give up” and “how badly do I want to make a change.”  In deciding to move house or start a new job, we weigh up starting on a new adventure, but when we need to pay rent or mortgage the answers are rendered self-obvious.  Our inner dialogue will draw on factors such as how comfortable our background is, how large we perceive the impact of failure to be, and our confidence in our own abilities and future.

Understanding what is driving us and where can build more objective approaches to our personal projects, such as spending more time critically preparing our knowledge so our resource self has the skills to handle the presentation.  It might mean identifying successful relaxation techniques like mindfulness to keep our identity self more calm.  If we find that our identity self is not in alignment with the projects being supported by our resource selves, this is known as “cognitive dissonance” and generally regarded as a negative situation.  It may alternatively mean identifying more closely what it is that our audience is interested in, to tailor our story towards them and develop a positive appreciation of our organisational self.  One approach is asking their opinion early on.  Be warned though, not every audience is amenable to being put on the spot.  If we are not at ease between our identity self and organisational self, this can be considered a “cultural dissonance” and may also not to be welcomed.

pack leaderPersonal project dominance can have different causes, such as a particularly demanding boss, a strong need to succeed, or just simply carrying on today what we did yesterday.  Maybe we have a preference for personal projects where our perfectionist tendencies, or associations with the in-crowd, make sure we are on a strong, winning team.  For some work keeps on going right through the evening and weekend, taking control of their lives through an endless trail of email to read and respond to.  The dominance of personal projects may even take over our sleep as we dream of answers, ready for the next morning.

When we have strong family and community bonds, studies have shown we are more likely to have avoidance goals that tell us to not take too many risks.  Conversely, in cultures where individualism predominates like the U.S., studies of personal projects show participants have similar levels of approach goals as other cultures, but there are fewer avoidance goals.  It seems weaker community correlates with taking risks.  This may also account for the popularity of quick acting forms of religion and resistance to gun controls as an alternative to the subjugation and taboos that other cultures use to control misuse of personal freedom.  It may also predict whether we move job or house more readily, or really give that presentation a go.

Our personal projects’ orientations, the effects of their constraints, and the reasons for dominance, help make sense of our identity, resource and organisational selves.

When Little Cultures Go Big

Frogs and tadpoles in a pondWithin management literature there are many books about company culture.  Words of wisdom emerge from them like “Hire for attitude, train for skills” and “Culture beats strategy every time,” attesting to the role of culture in successful companies.  Even though many people would ageee with this perspective, actually getting the “right culture” is not as easy as it seems.  Sports teams spend millions on players, companies buy expensive ICT, quarterbacks marry prom queens, and communities build vast, soulless, progressive apartment blocks, all of which fail because they have the wrong culture.  If we only understood culture, we could save ourselves so much trouble and expense.  But what is culture and where does it come from?  More importantly, what is a successful culture and how can we achieve it?  The goal of this blog is to look at the literature, identify some major themes and answer these knotty questions.

frogs tadpoles and sensemakingIt’s a big task.  We meet along the way different writers whose ideas sometimes appear similar Tadpoles begin to swim in patternbut who use different terms.  This requires us to reframe their concepts.  The starting point of culture is people, which means ourselves.  A set of psychological units called personal projects, are helpful to start with.

Over the coming posts, I will go back over territory from earlier ones, using a simple metaphor with frogs and tadpoles to hang ideas, like captured beasts around personal projects from.  By discussing our personal projects, their relationships with us, and their relationships with others, eventually we arrive at how culture is formed.  Hopefully a map will develop that can be used to find our way through this challenging task.  Centrally there is a re-framed conception of ourselves proposed.

Seeing the world in terms of our personal projects or “extended sets of action in context” offers great insights into people’s nature.  I firmly recommend anyone interested in this area to read the book “Personal Project Pursuit.”  While I will refer to some of its material here, there are also some new concepts that I introduce around it.  Brian Little and his co-writers have created something more in my eyes than a tool for analysing people’s character, they have identified a very natural way to understand our activities that we can all inately relate to.  We all have large and small projects that run simultaneously, such as go shopping, pursue a life path, build relationships, ensure we get enough  to eat and sleep, and sometimes we start new ones or move on.  Where I go beyond the existing concept is to create a new construct of three selves, to provide a translation framework into the world of management and organisation.

Frogs tadpoles and plops

Personal projects involve us in three ways; resourcing them, our self-identity with them, and what they tell the world about us.  Any functioning project, personal or otherwise, requires time and effort to “resource” them.  If a project isn’t resourced then it is simply wishful thinking.  Each personal project uses a new instance of us, which I call our “resource self.”  Sometimes the project involves only thoughts and words from our resource self and sometimes it involves all of our ideas, capabilities and relations to achieve it.  If we struggle or prosper in our projects we develop opinions about who we are, and we combine these with the acknowledgement of others, to build an “identity self.”  Not every personal project is close to our hearts (e.g. compare the student studying for exams to the one going out with friends).  The personal pleasure we draw from them is key to our identity, but what about other people?  People can never really see each other’s full identity.  Instead they draw inferences about who we are from visible attributes of our projects.  Our personal projects become “public projects” that are sometimes quite different to the inner dialogue that is really going on.   This leads people to build new identities for us, not one that we might necessarily agree with, but an “organisational self” they construct by making associations with our projects.  There will be at least as many of these as observers.

Tadole projects reach alignmentThese units are linked to experts like Edgar Schein, Peter Senge, Daniel Kahneman, Karl Weick and others.  To link them an important question is posed: “what if these writers expressed themselves in terms of personal projects?”  In answering this question, my intention is not to create a dry work of academic study; the blog will also be based on ideas from my own inner life and experience and is eventually aimed at creating something new, even occasionally straying into more artistic ways of addressing issues.  The reason is simple for this; it seems to me more fun.

guggenheimFinally, a short story.  Reviewers of this blog tell me to keep it short, which is something I confess to struggling with.  Some ideas cry out for more space, and then vandalise the flow of discussion.  Digression I suspect is the real “writer’s block.”  The reason perhaps lies in a story told by Frank Gehry.  He was once asked to design a house by a customer without any specific requirements.  Gehry has designed the remarkable Guggenheim museum in Bilbao and Disney building in Los Angeles.  He is currently working on Facebook’s new campus and is one of the most imaginative architects in the world today.  His designs stretch concepts of how a building should look and function.  On this occasion though, he simply couldn’t complete the task.  He missed a problem.  Without any guidance and without identified challenges to fix, Gehry’s marvellous creativity could not become engaged.  We all need frameworks to guide our actions.  I have discovered in writing a blog, where I am owner of its purpose and perpetrator of its content, how easy it is to follow the many avenues available, without keeping to the big themes.  It is a tricky balance to keep and I will do my best not to digress too much.  I hope at worst it takes just an extra cup of coffee or tea while remaining enjoyable and informative.

The “Parliament of Selves”

Last time out I discussed how our personal projects, working within the constraints of their environment and based on the orientations we give them, collectively work together to create an “individual culture.”  To help illustrate this I used a metaphor, based on tadpoles swimming about a frog, each tadpole coloured to reflect their relationship with the frog.

“Identity Self”

Froggy selves and tadpole projects

The frog in the metaphor represents our identity, our conscious selves, while the tadpoles represent our personal projects.  The frog, or our “identity self”, initiates, controls, arbitrates, re-frames and stops personal projects but is not directly involved in actual execution of the project.  It is concerned with meaning and motivation and its centrality in personal accountability is important for topics as diverse as leadership and criminality.  While everyone can understand the existence of this part of themselves, it is one-step removed from direct participation in projects and therefore more difficult to analyse.  A rather poetic way of looking at the “identity self” can be taken from the old Irish story of Bríd, a mix of saint and fertility goddess, who is celebrated each year at the start of Spring. The legend goes that the goddess met a king one day and requested some land to bestow on her followers.  She persuaded the king to give her the territory she could lay her cloak over.  In spite of his assent, he laughed at her proposal.  Bríd removed the mantle which matched her slight frame, sweeping it out over the ground.  As it unfolded and fell, the cloak grew and grew, eventually covering a very sizeable area (traditionally much of the Curragh in County Kildare, an area synonymous these days with horse racing).

Celtic Priestess

Bríd’s drawing of the fertile fields into a new extended personal identity, using the mantle she already identified with, resembles the process that Apple makes such successful use of in positioning its products.  Indeed, releasing a product that doesn’t capture the popular imagination and people stop seeing themselves in, breaking the process of identity extension, represents the biggest single risk to Apple’s future.  This is much more important than technical limitations or supply chain bottlenecks.  Competitors like Samsung understand this, portraying older people using Apple products in their advertisements to muddy the hipness in Apple’s product identfication waters.  Just like Bríd and her magical cloak, we establish the scope of our personal projects, and our own position in doing so.

Our “identity self” looks for answers to questions like:

  • Am I accepted?
  • Can my choices be justified, or at least rationalised, to show I am consistent?
  • How autonomous, competent, and related am I?
  • What will I leave behind and can I respect myself?
  • Do I make use of my time to have fun, avoid fear, and create?
  • What do my words say about me?
  • Are there discrepancies that threaten my view of myself?

In essence, the “identity self’s” main task is to develop, and later assess, “our personal status.”

“Resource Self”

Resource SelfOf course we don’t just spend our days looking in the mirror, asking ourselves “am I looking good?”  Our projects need work, sometimes with other people or things, and sometimes we can pursue them on our own.  This second, or “resource self,” is flexibly adaptive in each project and situation, changing role as called upon.  It lives on its wits, thrown into and in reaction to changing circumstances.  If everything goes smoothly, it is not under direct attention of the “identity self,” unless apparent imperfections awaken interest.  It’s job is to roll up its sleeves and get on with things.  If the “identity self” is preoccupied with “extended sets of (the) personally salient,” the “resource self” is more concerned with “action in context.”  Karl Weick summarised best the relationship between the “identity self” and this “resource self” using the naive, but insightful, statement of a young girl:

“How can I know what I think until I see what I say?”

Occasionally the result may seem perverse as the “resource self” gets caught up in the momentum of its projects.  Making the best of our own abilities to respond under the circumstances, sometimes leaves us asking the question “how did I get here?”  Our “resource self’s” task though is, as Nike so succinctly put it, to “just do it.”

Organisational Self

Organisational Self

The third type of self, is the “organisational self.”  This self is as much about the relative power and opinions of others, as it is about our role and impact on their lives.  In our metaphor it is represented by the colour of the tadpoles.  For others, our personal projects infer our place within the organisation, “embodying the values, beliefs and goals of the organisational collective” (Weick’s “Organisational Sensemaking”).  We are all members of changing communities throughout our lives, moving through families, schools, circles of friends, neighbourhoods, companies, clubs and so on.  “Organisational self” provides important references that help to answer the following questions:

  • What is “out there”?
  • What is “in here”?
  • Who must I be?

The “organisational self” is a result of others’ expectations and experiments, and unlike the other two selves, it can only be inferred since it lacks direct awareness.  Our “personal brand” is closely tied to the esteem with which our organisations are held by others, which in turn has impacts on our “identity self.”    The importance of the relationship between communities and personal well-being is made by Brandstätter and Lalonde following studies of Canadian Inuit, where social problems and suicide rates are traditionally high.  They note “those communities that effectively own their own past and control their own future have the lowest suicide rates” (Personal Project Pursuit, p282).  Those communities which are booking successes by taking control of their own police and fire services are successfully building self-esteem and combating personal depression.  This same point is borne out by vivid stories of severe depression among bank employees in the wake of the great crash in 1929, repeated more recently from 2008.  The anecdotal evidence suggests that the changed status of the bank worker in the public imagination from a “steady, but not very exciting, job” to “reckless speculators and profiteers” has played a key role in the greater frequency of bankers leaping from skyscrapers following periods of financial turmoil.

A “Parliament of Selves”

3 Selves

 

Together these three selves represent a “parliament of selves” each pulling in their own way on our personal projects.  The froggy “identity self” is asking itself “am I looking good from this project?”  The “resource self” is lending something to the identity of each personal project through its abilities and limitations, establishing traits that we can infer from its peculiar ways of working.  Meanwhile our “organisational self” affects our personal projects directly, not just through the resulting availability of resources, but also through its effect on our cognitive processes.  The result is the emergent character of our personal projects, which like the tadpoles, swim around us, defining who we are.

Our Many Selves

The influence of each self on our personal projects will notify us of important observable tendencies.  A strong bias towards answering the question “am I okay?” within the “identity self” relates to the Big 5 trait of neuroticism.  The relative strengths of our “identity self” and “organisational self,” and the question of whether we hide within the activeness our “resource self,” will be reflected in the other Big 5 traits of openness, agreeableness and conscientiousness.  Extraversion, on the other hand, may relate to the desire to get on with things within the “resource self” and having a stable and strong “identity self.”  Above all, what is clear is that neglecting the development of a well-nourished identity, failing to build the right abilities to carry out our chosen projects, or not gaining the recognition and support of others, will be expected to lead to important personal project constraints.

The alignment and support offered by each of these three self-types goes a long way to determining the success and flourishing of our personal projects.

Cracking Culture!

Right now, you’re probably busy with something (besides reading this blog).  Perhaps it’s studying for a qualification, doing laundry, working out how to tell your sister to get rid of her boyfriend, deliberately losing weight, renovating Mom’s kitchen, looking for a job, or getting ready for a weekend full of fun and activity.  All of these smaller or larger personal projects engage our effort and time, jostling for our priority, to achieve a whole host of situations we perceive as desirable (even if that will include a sore head on Monday morning).  The renowned psychologist, Dr. Brian Little, describes these personal projects as:

“Personal projects are extended sets of personally salient action in context.”

(Personal Project Pursuit, p.25)

In other words… we infuse what we’re doing with meaning under certain circumstances, by linking up our actions.  These personal projects we create can be in just about any domain; health, work, family, leisure, etc. – Simple eh?

farm and factory workers

Dr. Little’s definition makes it clear that our personal projects are heavily influenced by their context and, if we think about it, the importance of context is obviously really.  An African farm worker will have a very different set of projects to an Asian factory worker living in a large city.  Our cultural context means an awful lot to our personal projects.  It helps to define the types of personal projects we pursue and how we will pursue them.

What about the other way around?  What do our personal projects mean to our culture?  It turns out quite a lot.  Culture is a highly malleable term that can be used to explain the behaviour of small groups, companies, countries, societies (“western” and “eastern” culture) and even to describe the planet (“global culture”).  Edgar Schein, who spent most of his life studying and coaching organisations doesn’t use the psychological term “personal project” but he does describe some things that are very close to them.  Later on in a future blog, we’ll look at Schein and some other people’s ideas and compare them to Little’s to build a new way of looking at culture.

Froggy selves and tadpole projects

For now, a metaphor is helpful to explain.  Consider the pond shown in Image 1.  It contains a number of “tadpoles,” representing personal projects, and each personal project is the progeny of a nearby frog.  Just like in the wild, these young tadpoles are often how we become aware of the frog’s presence, even when it lies very still.  Hyperactive “tadpole” projects are a visible sign there is life in the pond.

Each of these personal projects, just like their amphibious counterparts, can only swim within the constraints offered by the gentle undulations of this strange, sombrero-shaped pond.  After all, there is no such thing as true freedom for tadpoles without the ability to hop.  They do not mind though.  Later, they will grow legs and mature into very similar beasts to their progenitor, fully fledged representations of a red, yellow or purple frog.  Until then, there is room for everyone.  So much room that some may even swim out of sight.

tadpoles

The rest of the tadpoles will swim back and forth, from one place to another.  Over time, the directions they swim along might display the tendency to move along certain orientations.  Their activity might show a preference for hanging out with others.  It can also be a preference for chasing things like the light playing on the water’s surface, or it can be a preference for working towards outcomes that directly affect their own development.  There are many possible orientations, such as personal projects that betray a tendency for “approach” or “avoidance outcomes.”  We too can have these “approach” (e.g. to finish work on time) and “avoidance outcomes” projects (e.g. to not have an argument with the boss).  These orientations will naturally have a strong relationship with past experience of constraints, and they will sometimes spill over into different domains.

sisters boyfriendJust like shoaling tadpoles swimming among the rocks and reeds, certain tendencies will be observable within everyone’s personal projects, betraying their preferred orientations and the constraints they act within, and even saying something about the DNA of their froggy progenitor.

The sum of our personal projects is the founding of an “individual culture”

The Lacuna in Project Management

Follow up to The Whole in Project Management

John seemed to have managed the De Rossa project really well.  Every document and plan was complete, clear and up to date.  Michael almost found it hard to suppress his disappointment.  He’d hoped fixing the administration, the deliverables, would resurrect this project but something else was up.  His own contacts couldn’t be that wrong.  They’d told him it was a project to avoid.  This was no longer an option and he would have to dig further.  John agreed with Michael that he’d be introduced at their next team meeting.  He warned Michael that they need a firm hand to keep them focussed.

“Welcome everyone.  This is Michael.  I’ve decided recently to leave the company and Mike will be my replacement.  Over the coming two weeks, we’ll work together to get him up to speed.” Continue reading

The Whole in Project Management

“Hi Michael, please take a seat.”

Office ChairHis boss motioned towards an empty chair.  He’d been asked to come in just 10 minutes before, with no idea what it was about.  Struck by the sombre, low-tones of his manager’s request, he noticed John, one of the other project managers,  sitting just across from him.  Although both were project managers, normally they had little to do with each other, except for the occasional gathering to discuss broader company news.  Michael hadn’t attended recently due to his heavy project workload and a vacation.  The things they talked about were always “nice to know” but he felt it was more efficient to read the same information in the company bulletins.  He’d realised it was expected but it did cost him time.  Time he didn’t have.  Usually, when it finished he would race off to take important phone calls, listen to several voicemails or deal with the deadlines that needed to be met.

He knew his boss was very keen on this meetings and he began to suspect John and he were going to be read the riot act for missing them.

“Daft.” Continue reading