Category: Room for reflection

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

Trust. Teams. Politics

No matter their lifespan, projects need people to trust each other. I agree with Simon Sinek: “Trust emerges when we have a sense that another person or organisation is driven by things other than their personal gain”.

Members of a project team – be it a NASA project or a local community street cleaning project – need to trust each other. And trust is a feeling. It can be individual or shared. It comes from

– knowing that someone has your back,

– believing that your team mates will deliver on time their part and that you’ll take it from there and move it forward.

– being certain that they will show up.

– having faith that they will tell you in good faith when you make a mistake.

Trust comes slowly and evaporates in the blink of an eye.

Does it mean that when there is trust between members of the team, there is no conflict? Not at all. Pat Lencioni answers it well: “When there is trust, conflict is nothing but the pursuit of truth. Without trust, conflict is just politics”. And no one well-meaning wants politics in projects.

The perils of copy-paste in projects

“Just copy-paste from other projects’ documents” was a response I heard quite often, at the start of my journey in the project management world. It was usually coming in response to a concern from a project team which lacked data or status information. I still hear the same kind of response sometimes. With much regret, because such a response goes against the tailor-made approach and contextual project management. Evidence shows that it is a no-no in development management.

Every organisation has project management methodologies. There are formalities, templates, procedures to follow and rightly so. There is also the reality on the ground and the context the project will be implemented in. Making these two tensions meet and lead to a positive outcome might require finding an answer equivalent to “Give to God what’s God’s and give to Caesar what’s Caesar’s”.

If the project team was to follow the copy-paste advice, the stakeholders’ analysis and needs assessment would not matter. The stakeholders voice will be silenced. As a result, there will be no (or very limited) partners’ commitment and ownership of the project and its results. Will this bring the change the tax-payers gave money for? Highly unlikely. Will this be professionally fulfilling for the project team? I know the answer. You may want to find it yourself.

I truly believe any project is unique and requires a unique approach in both design and implementation. The context will demand it. So will the project team’s professionalism, accountability and integrity. Yes, it will take time and resources. With good planning, commitment and couple of tips it can be done.

Do’s in conceptualising:

  • Determine the project’s boundaries
  • Put together a classic literature study list (it is also nice to go back to the student-mode)
  • Place all materials on a shared drive for the team to have access to 24 hours a day (particularly helpful for remote teams)
  • Put together a stakeholders registry and decide on interviews modalities
  • Apply participatory methods when talking to people: they will feel empowered and gladly share their knowledge and aspirations
  • Stay aware of biases and assumptions, your own and others’
  • Bring in the data
  • Decide how the differences between the team members’ assessments will be dealt with in full transparency and with integrity

Do not:

  • Search for the truth: it is neither practical nor realistic. Accept a degree of subjective
  • Discard what does not support your idea. It will boomerang. Try not to get it wrong
  • Stick to the story just because of the evidence you collected at some point in time. Stay prepared to change your story if new evidence appears.

***

Need more arguments against copy-paste, see the story of the “expert” – found to have “mastered” the “art” of cut-and-paste in respect of the same evidence for several different cases https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-48444605

 

Thank you 2019

2019 was generous with me with connections, relationships and a great deal of learning.

The words of the year are for me: adaptability and generosity. They apply both to my personal and professional lives.

The heroes of the year for me are those who reletlessly work for others – the team of Diaconia Moldova remains for me an example I truly admire. Spending a day with such a team can be a humbling experience for those of us who work in development management.

The recipe of the year’s success was a healthy mixture of ironic and slightly sarcastic mood. It worked like magic on some occasions. Those who experienced it, know that “nice” is fine and “authentic” is so much more 😉

There were many instances of success we celebrated as teams and as individuals. My highlight of the year was to deliver a 15 minute speech on anti-corruption and public sector integrity in Prague on a stage on wheels. I prayed silently that I will not have to show my skateboarding skills.

For all the project teams team this year, yet again, sharing a good laughter worked like an emotional super-glue. We will remember these moments and let go of frustration, sadness, disappointment and all of that which does not let us grow together and as individuals.

I also practiced a lot of “let go” this year (in a variety of ways :)). It made room for new and generous harvests.

I took pride in blossoming “trees” thousands of kilometers away from “seeds” my colleagues and I planted years ago. I am grateful to all those who took time to write me about those projects. We also learned from the “seeds” which did not make it to the surface.

Yet again, this year kept reminding me that context matters in development management. Ignoring it has the effect of ignoring an Italian mother-in-law (no stereotyping, it is meant as a compliment).

This year, I met numerous new professionals who touched my heart with their authenticity and generosity in sharing their knowledge. Thanks to them, I discovered my new shades of rainbow colours. So, 2020, get ready for a splash of colours, with adaptability and generosity.