Category: Room for reflection

A space for the reflective practitioner, inspired by Donald Schön.

Nice project teams vs Respectful project teams

confirmation-bias
image credit Ted Bauer

– This is the nicest project team I worked with, my fellow colleague shared enthusiastically.

– What makes it ‘nice”? my curiosity jumped in.

– It’s the harmony. We think alike, act alike, talk about the same…

I could notice that they even wear similar glasses frames. Those black, thick, square looking frames. It’s just the fashion trend, perhaps.

I worked with very nice project teams and not-so-nice project teams. The former give you the feeling of daily comfort, cosiness even. The latter are like a good hot bitter -sweet coffee, with a long-lasting after taste. I prefer the latter.

These teams tend to be more productive, focused, diverse, authentic, out-spoken and result-driven. They are exactly the type needed to deliver projects on time, within budget and with lasting effects. The culture of these teams is of respectful openness and unbiased information sharing of any kind. They are truthful to themselves and the project’s sponsor/client.

I wondered what is behind, what makes them the way they are. The article by Jonah Sachs “At work a respectful culture is better than a nice one” offered insights and answers to my questions.

As a project manager, one has to ask him/herself: do I want it nice or truthful? Do I create and maintain a culture of safe sharing of information? Do I tune in my emotional intelligence to react to all kind of information coming from all members of the team? Do I have a ‘confirmation bias”? What effects these have on the project team members?

As Jonah Sachs puts it: “Those further from the centers of power risk more and have little to gain in terms of increasing group harmony by speaking up. So they don’t. To make matters worse, women, more than men, have been raised with cultural expectations that they will be always be nice, further silencing important but perhaps inconvenient contributions they might make. Nice workplaces thus quickly become tyrannies of conformity and inequality. ” more https://work.qz.com/1260571/at-work-a-respectful-culture-is-better-than-a-nice-one/

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Thought of the week

Work-life balance is not about a balance. It is about boundaries, choices and priorities. Choose wisely!

Thought of the year

2017 felt as a year of resilience testing more than before. Constant demands. Changing circumstances. It brought the knowledge of thyself and others to a new level. Humanity was put to test. Relationships evolved. All these are precious gifts of knowledge.

Thank you, 2017!

2018, let’s make the most of it and continue to thrive!

Inspired by “Those leaders with strong self-knowledge – who have a clear understanding of their skills and shortcomings, their frustrations, and their core principles – are more likely to sustain those needed reserves of resilience to thrive through adversity and change.” Ron Carucci, The Better you know Yourself, the More Resilient You’ll Be, Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2017/09/the-better-you-know-yourself-the-more-resilient-youll-be?utm_campaign=hbr&utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social

Why involve civil society in projects?

This week I was one of speakers at an international meeting on civil society involvement in projects. There were lots of inspirational speakers from both sides of the story. 

Will retain for now an advice from Goran Forbici, Director of the Centre for information service, cooperation and development of NGOs, Slovenia:

“Imagine four housewifes in your neighbourhood. One has a chocolate, the second – 2 eggs,  the third  – some butter and sugar, the forth – some flour. With the exception of chocolate, there is little use of ingredients by themselves. But together they can make a chocolate cake.”

I would replace “housewifes” with neighbours, any neighbors. 

If you are not a chocolate-lover, replace it with fruit or another preferred  ingredient. The process and the end-result is what matters most. 

So, next time i am asked why involve the civil society in project design and implementation, i’ll make sure i have all the ingredients in my bag. I might look like a housewife just back from the market, but the result matters in this case, not the impression i might make.  

The “how” in the equation on the involvement of civil society   in projects is a topic for another post. TBContinued. 

The future is here. The future is here?

The title “Are Chatbots the Next Project Managers?” of a linkedin post drew my attention. “For now, project managers can remain calm as their roles are safe, but they should be weary of chatbots slowly stealing their jobs from right under their nose.” https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/chatbots-next-project-managers-aaron-montemayor-walker?trk=v-feed&lipi=urn%3Ali%3Apage%3Ad_flagship3_feed%3BJjB5wpQXj4RNeQKbCfjJzg%3D%3D

The article seems to imply that project managers’ job is to chat, a function that can be replaced by chatbots. I wish my job would be about mastering the skill of chatting only. Light chatting, water cooler conversation, coffee room chat….  I’ll maybe try doing that. Chat for a week and then look at the project’s dashboard and show it to the project sponsor and board.

The above article also brings some good news as well: AI replaces professions with a high degree of professionalisation. “In fact, as time goes by, it becomes easier and easier to replace humans with computer algorithms, not merely because the algorithms are getting smarter, but also because humans are professionalizing. Ancient hunter-gatherers mastered a very wide variety of skills in order to survive, which is why it would be immensely difficult to design a robotic hunter-gatherer. Such a robot would have to know how to prepare spear points from flint stones, find edible mushrooms in a forest, track down a mammoth, coordinate a charge with a dozen other hunters and use medicinal herbs to bandage any wounds. ” from http://ideas.ted.com/the-rise-of-the-useless-class/

That shows that project managers are not in danger of loosing jobs to AI, given the variety of skills they need to master and apply. Not as physically intense as those of an ancient hunter, but still. One more study shows that “workers who successfully combine mathematical and interpersonal skills in the knowledge-based economies of the future should find many rewarding and lucrative opportunities.” https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/09/jobs-of-future-and-skills-you-need/. for instance, negotiating with a difficult client and delivering for a financial and performance audit are project manager’s duties, which go right into this categories.

Still, no time to rest on laurels, while chatbots deliver and develop. The only way to keep a job and to continue to love what you do is to keep learning. People smarter than me know it and do it.

See my talk with Alex/Siri today