Thought Leadership part 1

Posted on: March 31st, 2013 by csaunders No Comments

Is your project stalled in the early stages? Do you have a good idea about what you want to do but no idea about how to get there?

Do you have your budget and charter signed off and your requirements all ‘gathered in’ yet detect a lack of acceleration despite the firing of the starters pistol being some weeks ago?

Unable to get your designer to start designing? Still finding your team talking about stuff that has already been decided and agreed upon?

Often a project stalls in the early stages of the project life cycle simply because of a lack of communication.

Whilst ‘the lack of communication’ is often understood as a common barrier to ‘cohesiveness’ and ‘uniformity’ it is seldom understood as also being a significant ‘delaying factor’, a drag on productivity.

It is not unusual in the early phases of a project, especially software projects, to have a moment between gathering requirements but before design when things ‘stall’ for a period of time.

It’s as if you have finally descended down from the cliffs of ‘common agreement and willingness to act’ (only scaled once at the beginning of every project when our hero, the project manager, must do battle with the exec to actually get the project underway) to then get stuck in the ‘quagmire of procrastination’.

What causes a project ‘stall’ so early in the game when things ought to still be in the ‘honeymoon phase’ and be rip-roaring ahead with ‘confidence and hope’ in the ‘rightness and just cause’ of your shared endeavour?

Well simply put, it’s because the ‘stuff in your head’ isn’t in everyone else’s head!

As project manager you will often find yourself in the unique position of knowing the ‘big picture’ when no-one else does.

In times when you get a ‘gut-feeling’ that things aren’t going as quickly as you would like, do a quick survey to find out how well your team know what is commonly agreed and what remains to be determined.

The ability to hold a meeting and discuss an issue, particularly for the design phases, can only occur in the context of a ‘world view’ and a ‘shared understanding of the guiding principles’.

(An individual’s ‘world view’ is somewhat unique to each participant, depending on their personal life-story, education, philosophy and emotional outlook – the ‘private understanding of how the world works’ influences how each person thinks and interacts with reality.)

The neglected but vitally important ‘shared understanding of the guiding principles’ will continue to be a problem and ‘hold-up’ to your project through-out the life-cycle of the initiative until each team member understands the ‘common view’.

Think of your project team as a bunch of ‘blind’ explorers blundering around an underground cavernous cave system, trying to find the way out.

Every time someone hits a wall they will shout-out to one-another, stop and have a group huddle to discuss what they have discovered and re-confirm their common understanding of the layout and map of the world around them.

Some people in your team will be better at shouting out to the others, keeping them so well informed of the landscape that the hearers don’t even need to stop exploring to absorb the new information.

Others will hit a small dead-end cul-de-sac and simply stop moving, waiting for the more confident team members to come and find them, to take them by the hand and lead them to another part of the cave system where they can continue exploring and being useful.

It’s almost like you are responsible for a team of robot “Roomba’s” that are in the world’s biggest lounge, they always seem to be learning the layout map and never seem to get around to actually start the vacuum cleaning!

With a few simple tools you can get your team communicating like pros and get them all moving again.


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