Category: Room for reflection

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

Trust and Teams

We often hear ‘I trust X” or “I do not trust Y”. I discovered that the level and manifestation of trust affects the team performance and ultimately the achievement of the project’s objective.

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 a variety of sources, including but not exclusively from

– knowing that someone has your back,

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

– being certain that they will show up at the product launch on time,

– having faith that they will tell you in good faith when you make a mistake and help you either own it or remedy it together.

Trust has come to stay when there is integrity, consistency of words and deeds, commitment to the project goal and genuine investment in building relations. Trust is not built by sharing gossips at the water cooler.

You may want to read more on the topic: “Trust: does it impact team performance… or not?” by Wendy Hirsch https://scienceforwork.com/blog/trust-impact-team-performance/

Advertisements

Sharing is caring. About whom? About what?

– Oh, you have a new décor!

– Yes, Japanese. It is thanks to you!

– Me?

– You told me about Tanaka and I introduced it in my wellness center. My clients love it and my services are in high demand.

My heart rejoices. The dialogue was with my dear reflexologist – Joelle.

Sharing is caring is a buzz word. I hear it often around me.  How come? We live in the era when sharing is a click away, effortlessly. So, why is there more demand for sharing?

Perhaps it is this effortless share that makes it meaningless. Perhaps those with whom we share it – the public, friends, acquaintances – do not need it or do not see the value of it.

Sharing is caring, when we share a piece of bread and a hot meal with someone who is hungry. And sharing is something more. It is sharing with those who have a first for learning and knowledge.

Can we go back to public lectures? The times of Agora meetings are behind us and long forgotten, with a few exceptions, here and there in some Universities. And even if we are there, at the public lecture, our eyes are on the phone, finger scrolling down.

I came across the name of Karl Friston, the author of the free energy principle, the organising principle of all life and all intelligence. He avoids one-to-one human interaction and has no mobile phone. He is the most prolific author in any discipline – 85 publications in 2017 alone, i.e. a publication every four days.   He opposed the patenting of the statistical parametric mapping and this is how PET scans became widespread (source: https://www.wired.com/story/karl-friston-free-energy-principle-artificial-intelligence/?utm_source=MIT+Technology+Review&utm_campaign=403ce86738-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_11_15_11_44&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_997ed6f472-403ce86738-158060557). You get the point.

Next time I will hear the call ‘sharing is caring’, I will be sure to ask myself: when was it last time I stood in front of an audience of people eager to learn and shared my learning, so that it becomes everybody’s learning? Or produced something and gave it for free? Don’t hesitate to join!

Motivation

I was having a conversation the other day with a colleague about motivation. I am a believer in self-motivation. She strongly believes in external motivation and the managers’ ability to motivate staff.

A recent research shows “Psychologists have been considering the question of our “locus of control” since the 1950s. Those with an external locus of control have a sense of life happening to them; they believe their lives are primarily influenced by forces outside their control.

Those with an internal locus of control, by contrast, feel in charge of their own destiny and attribute success or failure to their own efforts. An internal locus of control yields vastly superior results. 

knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/the-new-science-of-productivity/

At the end if the day, it is about what works best in each team, the degree of emotional intelligence of each manager/leader and the individual’s choice. Self-motivation is a choice and, even better “news” it is a learned skill.

Size and teams

Size matters. Not only in architecture.

How many people on a team is just right? Shall we go for a big team or small is the new big in projects? are questions popping up at the design phase.

The biggest team I managed had 20 people and the smallest – 3. The Palm Jumeirah Island mega project had teams commensurate with the scale of the project.

On the face of it, larger teams get more done. Yet, there is evidence that individuals in big groups actually perform worse. It is the “social loafing” syndrome: “someone else will do it. why bother?”. It is known as “Ringelmann effect“. Although it may not manifest in a construction project, I would think, when your client is a Sheikh .

So how many is just right? Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has the “two pizzas rule”: if a team can’t be fed by two pizzas, it’s too large. According to Katherine Klein from Wharton University, the widely accepted ideal size for a working team is five people “If you go beyond five people the team starts to lose individual performance, while teams smaller than 5 people can experience awkward team dynamics and skills gaps”.

Smaller groups appear more agile, robust and pro-active. Yet, research shows, disagreements happen more in smaller teams than bigger teams. It could be the frequency of interaction. Or just the fragility of egos.

Through trial and error, I noticed three rules of the thumb valid on my mind in approaching the decision on the number of team members:

1. If the project needs legal advice and financial services/accounting and a candidate is competent in both, take him/her on both roles, for a blend of skills. It will save time and effort, which will be otherwise spent on collaboration or its failure.

2. The size of the team may not be a constant during the lifespan of a project. Each stage may need additions or downsizing. It does not preclude you from inviting everyone to celebrate the project completion and you can order more than two pizzas on this occasion.

3. Size matters, but more important are the quality and performance of the team members. Stay humble in expanding your kingdom and bet on quality. Find the best and nurture them. Not with pizzas. At least not only 🙂

team_size_97151_strip_print

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/

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