Medium 9781567264203

Maximizing Project Success through Human Performance

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Acquire the leadership skills that are the hallmark of the successful project manager!

Project management is often defined by processes and methodology, but projects are accomplished by people. Successfully leading those people is the core of a project manager's job. Even the seasoned project manager will encounter situations that present unique leadership challenges.

Bernardo Tirado offers a clear path to help develop leadership skills within the project management framework. Using a hands-on, practical approach, he presents a model for taking any project manager's leadership skills to the next level. His model focuses on techniques to develop and apply three areas of awareness—self-awareness, awareness of team dynamics, and organizational or “political” awareness. The first three parts of the book provide tools for understanding and influencing behavior and the last part brings the three types of awareness together in a case study.

Exercises throughout make the book interactive and offer a continual assessment of the reader's progress.

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Chapter 1 Introduction to Business Psychology

ePub

The discipline of business psychology, also known as industrial psychology, originated with the U.S. military, which wanted to know whether they had the right soldiers in the right jobs, and it evolved from psychologists administering psychometric tests to recruits to the development of human relations models where employees were the focal point. If you’ve been in the workplace for long enough, you may have noticed that how you work today is quite different from how you worked ten years ago. There has been a shift in how people perform work. For example, beginning in the 1990s during the dot-com boom, many companies changed their work environments to allow employees to dress down (“business casual”) or to relax and play games, all based on the theory that relaxed employees will spend more time at work and increase both their creativity and their productivity.

Today, many companies want people to work in teams, where previously they wanted their employees to work independently and to compete against each other. So what’s driving this change? It’s the need to be innovative, to be relevant in the marketplace, and to have sustainable products and services in which shareholders will want to continue to invest.

 

Chapter 2 Understanding Sense of Self

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To become a great project leader, one must have a good sense of self. I define sense of self as the ability to be consciously aware of how one comes across to others.

When was the last time you asked someone for feedback on how you come across to them? We typically don’t ask others to critique our behavior, but I believe we should—because our perception may not always be reality. To find out if how you actually present yourself matches how you believe you do, you need to do two things. The first is take a psychometric evaluation to understand how you make decisions; the second is obtaining 360 degree feedback to understand if others see you as you see yourself.

When I ask clients to take a psychometric evaluation as part of the Sense of Self exercise, they are often resistant and usually want to run for the hills—because they think deep dark secrets will emerge if they do the exercise. That’s possible, but for the most part a skilled industrial psychologist like me won’t take you there. These evaluations are tools to increase awareness about aspects of yourself that you may already be aware of—or may not be aware of.

 

Chapter 3 Creating a Consistent Brand

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Your brand is both your persona and your reputation. For this chapter, brand has to do with what I call Brand You: the way your self-presentation communicates a message to the world.

We wake up every morning, get dressed, and head to work. Without giving it too much thought, we go into our closets and pick out the clothing we want to wear that day. Some of us get dressed based on our mood, while others just take whatever is in the closet.

The clothes we choose are an unconscious representation of the persona we portray to the outside world. Whether we like it or not, people judge us based on how we are dressed. For instance, people tend to pay close attention to shoes. They notice if a heel is badly worn or a shoe is severely scuffed. Without giving it a second thought, a judgment has been made: The person either can’t afford to buy new shoes or doesn’t care about personal appearance. Either way, a judgment is made.

The same concept applies when you are leading a new team. Within 30 seconds of your entering a room full of strangers, unconscious assessments are being made of you even before you begin to speak. Our brains like to categorize information to quickly process the data presented to it; that said, people naturally assess your confidence, socioeconomic class, gender, and many other attributes to help them understand how they should approach you.

 

Chapter 4 Building Advocates

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Project managers work with people from all levels of an organization. Whether you are a junior or seasoned project manager, influencing without authority can be difficult at times.

Having advocates is extremely important when managing projects—and even when managing your career—because your advocates are interested in promoting you and the work you do. Advocates can be team members, stakeholders, or project sponsors, and they can help the success of your project.

I’ve witnessed the failure of many projects because there were no advocates for the project, let alone for the project manager. Many times I’ve found that the person someone thought was an advocate was, in fact, not actually helping his or her cause. To help you assess who’s a true advocate, let’s start by understanding the Advocacy Model (Figure 4-1), which I created to help my clients plot out and analyze their relationships with their advocates. It’s based on the theory that the more familiar and likeable you are to a person, the more that person will be motivated to help you succeed.

 

Chapter 5 Profiling People at Work—Unconscious Behavior at the Individual Level

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Before we dive into this topic, let me define what I mean by profiling. Profiling is the ability to observe behaviors either through body language, facial expression, voice tonality, and word choice, with the spirit of understanding the other person’s baseline, or normal manner. With a baseline in hand, one can then look for deviations from that baseline so that you can either detect deception or uncover an issue that’s not discussed.

Kinesics is the study of nonverbal communication. The term was first used in 1952 by the anthropologist Ray Birdwhistell, who studied films of people in social situations and concluded that posture, gesture, stance, and movement convey most of the social meaning of a conversation.

In the 1960s, Dr. Albert Mehrabian, a UCLA psychology professor, published his ground-breaking communication model, the 7-38-55 Rule. This rule states that when we communicate, the person listening focuses seven percent of the time listening to the words being used, 38 percent focusing on the tone of voice of the speaker, and 55 percent on the nonverbals (e.g., facial expression, body language). This means that every time you interact with someone, you are unconsciously sending and receiving messages based on your gestures and body movements, such as a simple handshake.

 

Chapter 6 Understanding Power Dynamics—Unconscious Behavior at the Group Level

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Power dynamics are the unconscious group behaviors that are driven by people who have a need for power and control. There are two main parts to power dynamics: the power seat and group dynamics. The power seat focuses on the physicality of power, whereas group dynamics focuses on the psychology of power.

To begin, let’s define a group. Social scientists have formally defined a group as a collection of two or more interacting individuals with a stable pattern of relationships between them who share common goals and who perceive themselves as a group. There are formal and informal groups.

Formal groups are created by an organization and are initially designed to direct members toward some important organizational goal. For example, project teams are formal groups because they are mobilized to deliver an initiative.

Informal groups develop naturally among an organization’s workforce without any direction from an organization and typically form because of common interests shared by its members; employee networking groups are one example.

 

Chapter 7 Project Management Leadership

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Whether you are new to project management or a seasoned project manager, leadership is one of the skillsets necessary to succeed in leading projects. When I was studying to become a Six Sigma black belt and a certified project management professional, I noticed that the content that was taught focused solely on the technical aspects of their methodologies and hardly touched on the leadership aspects of managing projects.

Being an industrial psychologist, I was curious to see whether other methodologies did the same. After doing some research, I found that Agile, Prince 2, ISO 2001, APM, and other methodologies also rarely focused on leadership.

Many companies have caught on to the fact that there is no direct correlation between being certified in any of these practices and being a good leader. Therefore, there is a heavy emphasis on developing project management leadership. More and more hiring managers are paying closer attention to a project manager’s leadership skills rather than just relying on their technical ability.

 

Chapter 8 Building a High-Performance Team

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A high-performance team is a group of individuals who have complementary skillsets and have been given a single task. These types of teams are most useful on short-term projects that require specific outcomes, such as mergers and acquisitions or agile development. Having a high-performance team may not always be the best option for every project, because it is extremely costly. The resources of a high-performance team are 100 percent dedicated to the completion of the task at hand. Often, the time of project managers and team members is split across multiple responsibilities or teams; therefore, the high-performance team may not always be the best option. But if you’re able to pull in 100 percent dedicated resources for at least a short period of time, then the effort may be worth it. To build a high-performance team, it is helpful to understand

•   The different types of teams

•   The importance of team size on performance

•   The characteristics of a high-performance team.

 

Chapter 9 Using SWOT Analysis to Reorganize Your Existing Team

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SWOT analysis is a powerful technique for analyzing an organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, or “SWOT.” It’s a tool more commonly used for assessing business opportunities than for assessing teams, but I’ve been using it for that purpose for many years. I’ve created a two-step process to get an in-depth look at individuals’ skillsets and use that information to reorganize a team for optimum results.

But first, I’ll explain how I’ve redefined SWOT analysis for team use. SWOT analysis first identifies a team member’s strengths and weaknesses, and then examines the opportunities and threats a team member might face:

•   Strengths are what the person you are evaluating is good at. Think about strengths relative to those of the other people in the team. For example, Jane is great at contract negotiations—but so is the rest of the team, which means it’s not really a strength on this team. However, Jane has extensive Java developer experience the team doesn’t have, making this skill Jane’s strength relative to the team.

 

Chapter 10 Navigating Organizational Politics

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Whether you work in a small organization or large one, organizational politics are inevitable. This chapter focuses on raising your awareness of office politics that can hurt your project. To begin exploring this topic, complete the self-assessment questions in Worksheet 10-1, which are intended to reveal the current political climate of your organization.

WORKSHEET 10-1: Organizational Political Self-Assessment

What do your responses on the political assessment worksheet mean?

For questions 1 and 2: If you answered yes to both of the questions, this means that your project will less likely be compromised because your project is linked to one of the company’s top priorities and senior management is monitoring the success of your project; however, if you answered no to either question, then there is a higher probability that your project may be threatened. Projects that do not have senior leadership visibility or are not seen as a top priority for the company typically are scrutinized more closely when funding cutbacks take place.

 

Chapter 11 Determining Organizational Readiness

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All too often, project managers downplay—or fail to understand—the importance of assessing organizational readiness for change: the ability and willingness of an organization to shift from its current way of operating to a new way of doing things. Assessing organizational readiness becomes particularly critical before implementing large-scale transformation projects.

All project managers should conduct an organizational readiness assessment in the early stages of their initiatives:

1. It allows them to understand the barriers they will face when implementing the project.

2. It helps them strategize how to manage communications and overall change.

3. It helps them assess their project failure rate.

Assessing organizational readiness will identify major challenges that could delay or prevent your project’s successful start-up. Organizational strengths can be leveraged to assist in project development and acceptance. Organizations that successfully implement change have the internal ability to move in a new direction, which could include building new capabilities or enhancing existing ones. For an organization to be ready, there must be a willingness to change. But performing an evaluation of organizational readiness does not need to be time-consuming and in many cases can easily be accomplished in a day.

 

Chapter 12 Case Study

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Throughout this book, we have covered various concepts and techniques required to maximize project success through human performance. Here, these concepts and techniques will be applied to a situation in which a project manager is tasked with bringing high-level change to a company. The objective is to provide an end-to-end thought exercise requiring application of the concepts covered by Chapters 2 through 11.

The Success Company, Inc., generates $2.5 billion in revenue year over year and has grown mainly through acquisition, with approximately 60,000 employees worldwide. Due to her expertise in human performance, business transformation, Six Sigma, and project management, Courtney Jones has been hired to take on an active role in leading Project Blue, a global initiative that will result in automating the company’s sales tracking process.

Up until now, the sales process has been manual; accounting processes have been inconsistent across regions, resulting in a $2.5 million loss year over year. Senior management has decided to invest in a $2 million solution to stabilize the sales process and ensure accurate financials.

 

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