Category: Room for reflection

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

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.

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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 🙂

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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

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.