Wednesday, 28 October 2020




At this time of covid and economic crisis it is useful to rethink our priorities, projects, processes and how we look after our people.

by Tim Rogers Adapt Consulting Company

I was amazed by one firm who said they have stopped all projects: those that save money; those that make money; those that meet regulation or underpin services. This type of paralysis can only create anxiety at a time of uncertainty which cannot be good for people, products or profits.

I accept that it should be a time of reappraisal, but that should be as much about the things you remain committed to, and your plans beyond covid as it is about the necessarily flexible and agile response to the ever-changing rules, direction and guidance.

It is perhaps useful to think about why projects (and the strategies they underpin) fail. This is not to say that businesses should stop projects because by definition a project should be delivering a benefit. The task should be to eliminate anything that undermine that benefit (which may be the lifeboat for your people, customers or business)

  • Scope Creep
  • Over allocated Resources
  • Poor Communications
  • Bad Stakeholder Management
  • Unreliable Estimates
  • No Risk Management
  • Unsupported Project Culture
  • The Accidental Project Manager
  • Lack of Team Planning Sessions
  • Monitoring and Controlling

My nearly 30 years of experience in projects and change has taught me to ask the following questions and where-ever the answer is NO I know that that is the missing ingredient that I have to deliver to help the people, process, and performance .

  • I know what is expected of me at work
  • I have the materials and equipment I need to do my job right
  • I have the opportunity to do what I do best every-day
  • In the last 7 days I have received recognition or praise for doing good work
  • Someone at work encourages my development
  • At work, my opinions count

As a consultant I often give advice, as a coach my role is to listen and support and be the sounding-board for people to create or innovate their own goals, paths and tasks. This however is always a little harder with teams because of the number of people and interests which need to align to be able to achieve the best outcomes. Peter Hawking suggests the key steps to team coaching (and performance) are

  • Commission. Are we clear about what our stakeholders are requiring from us?
  • Clarifying. A great team creates its own sense of collective endeavour- what are we here to achieve
  • Co-creating. How do we work together in a way that is generative?
  • Connecting. What we do when were not together as when we are together. How do I carry the sense of the whole team with me.
  • Core learning. How does the whole team develop and learn, not just the individuals within it?

This requires a style which is different from project management or consultancy. Goleman notes the following leadership styles, and I think it is interesting to reflect on what new combinations work best in this time of covid and economic crisis with many people stressed-out, anxious, uncertain and in many cases either physically or emotionally remote.

  • Visionary mobilize people toward a vision. Works best when a clear direction or change is needed. Most positive climate.
  • Coaching develop people for the future. Works best when helping people and building long-term strength. Positive climate.
  • Affiliative create emotional bonds and harmony. Works best to heal rifts in teams or motivate people in stressful times.Positive climate.
  • Democratic build consensus through participation.Works best to create consensus or get input. Positive climate.
  • Pacesetting expect excellence and self-direction.Works best to get quick results from a highly competent team. Negative climate.
  • Commanding demand immediate compliance.Works best in crisis or with problematic people.Negative climate.

Remote working is an opportunity and an issue. The Allen Curve is an illustration of how, in an office setting, people who are stationed within 10 meters of one another have the highest probability of communication. Employees who sit more than 25 meters apart have a low probability of communication. This will inevitably effect relationship, engagement and commitment and demand new ways of working.

We perhaps need to re-think businesses as large employers and instead as composites of many smaller teams or tribes. Our brains can only handle this much information for a certain number of people, which seems to be about 150 (The Dunbar Number) Within a group of about 150 friends, there will be different levels of familiarity. We might have just a few very intimate friends, perhaps 15 people to whom we feel close, and 50 to whom we speak regularly.

In agile / scrum projects the ideal size for a development is between 3 and 9 people, not including the ScrumMaster and product owner. Any smaller and the team couldn't accomplish enough each sprint. Any larger and communication becomes complex and cumbersome, because of the complexity of Communications, Relationships and Channels. I think in terms of different tribes or teams whether that is Squad A, Squad B, or Client 1, and Client 2.

The number of potential communication channels is calculated with the following formula n x (n-1)/2 Team of 2 = 1 channel Team of 3 = 3 channels Team of 4 = 6 channels Team of 5 = 10 channels Team of 6 = 15 channels Team of 7 = 21 channels Team of 8 = 28 channels Team of 9 = 36 channels

My approach is to blend and flex between consulting and coaching to create the right environment and circumstances for reflecting, thinking, engagement and commitment. When coaching teams you are coaching individuals and the connections in between. You must understand the person, their aims and talents. How best to direct their energy. You must also understand the team goals and process: What makes the boat go faster You must understand the relationships between each individual and their relationship with the team, goals and objectives. How can these elements achieve (and enjoy) more together than they could ever do apart: progress and performance. In sport performance we often think of this as flow.

The key conditions for flow are...

  • Knowing what to do
  • Knowing how to do it
  • Knowing how well you are doing
  • Knowing where to go (if navigation is involved)
  • High perceived challenges
  • High perceived skills
  • Freedom from distractions

What flow feels like...(which is surely what we want to create for our teams)

  • I was challenged, but I believed my skills would allow me to meet the challenge.
  • My attention was focused entirely on what I was doing.
  • I really enjoyed the experience.
  • It was no effort to keep my mind on what was happening.
  • I felt I was competent enough to meet the high demands of the situation.
  • I was not concerned with how I was presenting myself.
  • The challenge and my skills were at an equally high level.
  • I did things spontaneously and automatically without having to think.
  • At times, it almost seemed like things were happening in slow motion.

The aim to the connect the people to the task,to their roles and to each-other. People > Process > Progress > Performance

In a time of uncertainty this offers some stability, reduces anxiety, and creates the foundations for future success.

Whatever your challenges there is always at least one step that you can do to move nearer your goal.

Perhaps your next step is getting in touch.

Tim HJ Rogers
Mob 447797762051


Top 10 Reasons Why Projects Fail

Key factors in team success

Peter Hawkins Five Cs Model for High Performing Teams

What is Flow in Psychology? Definition and 10+ Activities to Induce Flow

Goleman Leadership Styles

The Allen Curve and Why it Matters to Team-Builders

Dunbar's Number - How Large Can A Team Be?

Idea size of scrum team

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