HOW TO CREATE THE PERFECT TEAM AND CIRCUMSTANCES FOR PROJECT SUCCESS
As a former athlete and coach (Commonwealth Games Triathlon and World Champs Rowing) I appreciate that success is teamwork. Even for solo events you often need the support of a coach, mentor, physio and guidance on nutrition, technology and even help with admin and logistics.
I love Lane4 famous quote from Olympic swimming "We create the environment where success is inevitable" (see link below). They put it down to Leadership, Vision and Standards.
I tried to emulate this for the 2014 Commonwealth Games Team (see link below) I have long been inspired by Robert Dilts and a key phase “I can do that here” or indeed “I can’t do that here” because it breaks down some of the key components of values and culture into things we can easily understand and manage.
I – Is about me, myself, my core belief, my talent. (Individual)
Can – Is about capability, competence, and capacity. (Belief)
Do – Is about action, permission, freedom, responsibility. (Capability)
That – Is about values, culture and behaviour. (Behaviour)
Here – Is about place, environment and timing. (Environment)
Now what is interesting about this model is that whilst ostensibly it starts with the individual who thought a step-by-step process might change the world, it also suggests (going in the opposite direction) that the world might step-by-step change the individual.
So this is where I would start with to create the perfect team and circumstances for project success.
STEP 1 - CHANGE THE ENVIRONMENT
For a project I would want the whole team all located and working together like a tribe (see below link to Seth Godin) We know from the Allen Curve (link below) that people communicate better when they are closer together. We also know that communication is faster and better when the group is small.
STEP 2 - CHANGE THE CULTURAL CONTEXT
This is easier said than done, especially when you understand all the elements that make-up culture. (see Johnson and Scholes’ Cultural Web Model below). However I think that Seth Godin Tribe is a neat way to encapsulate all these elements.
“A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea.”
“A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.”
“Tribes need leadership. Sometimes one person leads, sometimes more. People want connection and growth and something new. They want change.”
It should be possible to create a tribe that has its own....
1. Stories and Myths
2. Rituals and Routines
4. Control Systems
5. Organisation Structures
6. Power Structures
STEP 3 - BUILD A TEAM
The Robert Dilts model talks about Belief, Behaviour, Capability which are essential to the individual and the team. Godin talks about shared interest, and John Adair Action-Centred Leadership (link below) talks about the need to align corporate and personal goals.
This needs to be started by dialogue. There is an informal and formal aspect to this. First it is necessary to talk to the individuals about their aims, ambitions, needs and understand how to align this with the project outputs and outcomes. This is a personal agreement about mutual support, dependancy and responsibility.
Then there is the more formal aspect of aligning rewards and recognition so that incentives of pay, bonus, training, promotion, holidays etc., are all supporting the same alignment and not pulling in a different direction.
Understanding the individuals motives (Psychometric MBTI), ways of working (Personality DISC) and best contribution (Belbin Team Types) all help to pull all the jigsaw pieces together (lots of links below)
It is also essential that the organisation is flexible to accomodate these elements and provide the support, training and safety net (willing to tolerate occasional failure) in order for the team to learn and grow.
I believe if you really listen and understand people and create the circumstances where they can thrive, then you will have the makings of a great team.
STEP 4 - METHOD
I am a PRINCE2 qualified project manager and I fully know the strengths of a structured approach to delivery of projects, outputs and outcomes. I am also a programmer and fully know that 10 programmers tasked with creating the same outcome will choose many paths to delivering that result. I am also a qualified Change Manager and I appreciate that every gantt chart is a lie and every budget is fakery. I appreciate the importance of agile and of scrum.
Every high performance athlete has vision, mission, goals, objectives and measures. But they are also flexible about rest days, injury, weather and very often the key maxim is "What is the most important thing I can be doing right now."
I know this from personal experience: I broke my arm 5 weeks before the Commonwealth Games Triathlon and rather than come up with a list of problems, issues and a demand for sympathy I simply realised I could still run, ride on an exercise bike and [by covering it in a plastic bag] even swim! This is being agile, and whilst I didn't win I came in the top 20, which is better than abandoning [which is how so many project fail!]
Exactly what method is best depends on the people, project and politics. I am increasingly finding a blend between waterfall (plan everything in advance) and scrum (make it up as you go according to circumstance) seems to work: Waterfall + Scrum = WaterScrumFall.
However see link below for some stark warnings of trying to apply a method which doesn't align to corporate knowledge or expectations. I am a pragmatist.
STEP 5 - PURPOSE
You may be surprised that this appears last. Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action is a book by Simon Sinek. (see link below). I don't think this applies for projects.
If you are a firefighter or elite soldier you build your competence, capability, drive and desire before you actually know the situation you are going into. You do not train for one scenario only.
I believe the same should be true of projects. Success is a journey not a destination (Quote: Arthur Ashe) and We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. (Quote: Aristotle)
And so, perhaps controversially, I believe to create the perfect team and circumstances for project success is not predicated on the project purpose. To illustrate the point, I would take more or less the same approach whether I was delivering an IT Project, a business transformation or creating a high-performance rowing team.
For example, for a high-performance rowing team by having the right ENVIRONMENT (coaches, facilities, funding) and creating a CULTURE (practices, habits, behaviours) I'd aim to attract the right people and build a TEAM of common interests. The METHOD will need to reflect the task: 2000 meter rowing on a lake is different from 8000 meter coastal rowing, but in the end the aim is that we achieve a PURPOSE.
We create the environment where success is inevitable
2014 Commonwealth Games Team
Tribes - Seth Godin
Group-size and Relationships
Johnson and Scholes’ Cultural Web Model
Action-Centred Leadership - John Adair
Belbin Team Types
ScrummerFall, WaterScrum, WaterScrumFall
Start With Why
This is part of a series of blogs, posts and articles on consulting, leading or managing. Please feel free to comment, add feedback or perhaps share your own experiences, recommended reading or favourite resources from the internet.
If you want to meet to discuss any of the elements mentioned here please don’t hesitate to get in touch.