True Sucess Comes With A Supporting Organization

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True Success Comes With A Supporting Organization

Cindy Berg, Phd (ABD), PMP Glendale, Arizona, USA

If organizations avoid risk planning, aggressive problem seeking, and timely issue resolutions, it could be due to a problem with the culture. Those on a project team who play the devil’s advocate are often labeled as troublemakers. If the organization is quick to “shoot the messenger”, team members will avoid sharing troublesome issues and there may be an inclination to hide project problems.

This type of cultural setting encourages blaming behaviors which work to the detriment of the entire organization, individual employees, and the customers. The role of the software project manager is to provide a predictable project delivery, with as few unexpected events as possible. With no one pointing out pitfalls early, there are often “surprises”. Seldom are they good surprises; rather, ugly ones which show foresight and planning were impossible as developers hid issues from exposure.

Wise executives will make sure the company is supporting the attitudes and behaviors that allow developers to be effective. This includes evaluating human resource policies and incentive plans to make sure that they are in alignment with behaviors that lead to the development of strong products and services.

A classic example of misalignment is an organization that officially “preaches” team work, but then consistently rewards individual contributions. People are smart; they know which path serves their own best interests. If upper management can establish consistency between what they profess to believe and what they provide as a work environment to encourage productive behavior, both the individuals and the organization can flourish.

For those of you who find yourselves in non-supportive or dysfunctional organizations, here are some steps you can take.

1. Ask and ask until you understand the scope of the project so you can work within it.

2. Locate probable team members and other stakeholders. Whenever possible, include them in brainstorming, planning, and project execution.

3. Allow the people who are doing the work to fully participate in project updates and decisions, at least until they finish their activities on this project.

4. Always be an honest software project manager. Never gloss over or simplify problems to avoid conflict or uncomfortable discussions.

5. Provide the environment within your project team you’d like to see mirrored by the whole organization.

Project managers must provide objectivity toward the project. They occupy the unenviable role of owing their first allegiance to the organization that pays them, while at the same time needing to build a trust situation with the developers. If the project outlook looks bleak, an astute and principled project manager should make a recommendation that it be cancelled until peripheral problems can be addressed.

We all want to work in an organization with a cohesive strategy to support new software project development. But sadly, that capability level may vary enormously even between departments within a single organization. Since moving toward a more supportive environment benefits all, it should become a part of the software project manager’s role to alert upper management regarding cultural conflicts between project priorities and performance rewards.

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