Projects, Processes, and People

Photo by Marcelo Braga, licensed under Creative Commons 2.0.

Today, I experienced an interesting discussion and later this evening I read three related articles. That all came together more or less incidentally.

At work we are going through a restructure phase and one team had a coffee to discuss what it meant for them. In general, the people were concerned about the lack of detail, what the change meant for them personally and how “it” was going to work.

I don’t actually need to go into the details who the team was and what they currently do, it is immaterial. Not one team member was or is a change agent, not one was able to translate the strategic vision into something tangible.

Later I came across these 2 articles:

First, a blog post from 99U published in April 2014:

he Difference Between Projects and Processes:

Projects create change. Processes resist change.

Wow, so obvious and still – I forgot about it at the discussion. The people are used to work in a particular way, they are used that someone is responsible for this, then another person does that, and finally a third one completes the task. Quite obviously the new structure is meant to break that. Its objective is to create, to force change. That’s not going to happen if processes stay the same. Hence implementing the new structure must be treated as a project.

And that’s where the second article comes in. This one published by the Smashing Magazine in July 2013:

People > Projects > Processes:

Having a process is good, but be careful that it does not overshadow the project itself or the people involved.

Processes are good to get the same quality every time. The ISO 9000 family is designed to do just that.

Projects are meant to create new processes or make existing ones better. And often they rely on processes themselves (PMI or Prince2 anyone?).

And what is the most important asset any organisation has? Its people. What is in the top 5 most important things organisations try to improve on? Employee Engagement. Why do projects fail? In 72% of all cases it is a communication breakdown.

Summary

Coming back to our discussion. Yes, I failed to appreciate the disruptive value of the restructure. But also, uncertainty about mapping the vision to the structure on middle management level means learning by making mistakes in creating new processes for the same business objectives must be acceptable. Disruption to existing support processes and delays in delivering functional projects may also occur. All under the vision of creating a better service in the near future.

You gotta break some eggs to make an omelette.

The Liability of Complex Communication

Guide4ClearYesterday I found a study published by the University of St. Gallen “Complex to Clear – Managing Clarity in Corporate Communication“.

The authors Martin J Eppler and Nicole Bischof argue convincingly a business case for clarity in all types of corporate communications. They address reports, emails, and even Twitter. That fascinating study can be downloaded from the University’s website and there’s also a presentation on Slideshare.

I was so fascinated by the clarity of the report – it follows to a great extent the recommended principles very closely – that I decided to blog about it straight away. It took me just half an hour to read through the 67 pages.

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Data’ism

data'ismA new word turned up in my weekly read of random pages. David Brooks wrote in the NY Times about “The Philosophy of Data“. Instead of the buzz word “Big Data” he used “Data’ism”.

“We now have the ability to gather huge amounts of data. This ability seems to carry with it certain cultural assumptions — that everything that can be measured should be measured; that data is a transparent and reliable lens that allows us to filter out emotionalism and ideology; that data will help us do remarkable things — like foretell the future.” Continue reading

Doing just enough …

Good EnoughI just read a blog post by Seth D. Cohen “The cost of doing just enough“.

When I saw the title I mental picture in mind of a certain person. I struggle to get that person stepping up. And here comes a promise that may help.

Disappointment

I really am disappointed by that post it states the obvious and doesn’t address how to create the change of mind. A few days earlier John Stepper wrote about “the Influencer’s checklist“. Now that was much more practical. Thanks John.

Doing just enough is an attitude statement. It tells a story. It says something about not being engaged, not being in tune with the organisation, the team, the project, or the task. As a leader I have an obligation to understand “why”. This is my team and my project. Success doesn’t come by sitting on my hands. High performance teams don’t emerge if I don’t plant the seed, nurture it and get the environment right.

Doing just enough is a statement that something is wrong. It could be a personal thing, it could be a cultural things, it could be a change that doesn’t sit well, and it could be a change in the person itself. People grow and change. A job that is perfectly fine today may not be tomorrow. I, as a leader, need to understand. That’s the only way to decide what to do about.

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Gartner ITxpo Gold Coast

nexus of forcesDuring the past 4 days I attended the annual biggest Gartner conference ITxpo.

I haven’t been here for a number of years and was really looking forward to it. My program was not aligned to any of the pre-defined streams and had a good selection of mobile, big data, business intelligence, cloud and enterprise architecture with a sprinkle of leadership and management aspects.

Gartner always has multiple sessions in parallel and I find it difficult to choose at times. Nonetheless I was happy with my schedule that looked ram-packed with exciting stuff.

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When does a set of complex tasks become a Mini Project?

Last week I had organised a workshop for the team. It was about Project management.

The whole thing came about because we have an inconsistent approach to PM in the wider team. That inconsistency makes hard work for all of us.

  • we cannot easily see who is working on what

You might say, a classic resource management issue. Actually it is not. The team leaders have a very good understanding what the workload of their guys is and what they can add or what has to wait. No, the issue is different. The people in the other teams don’t know that workload and as such their expectations to get things done is not matched by possible actions.

  • we cannot report on project progress consistently

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