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4 ways good project leaders create cultures of success

Moira Alexander | Feb. 24, 2016
Recognising why or how people impact overall project success is important, but determining what you can do to unlock your team’s full potential is the tricky part.

People are not machines. They can’t be programmed to simply do as they’re expected. People are complex, dynamic and intuitive, and they bring education, experience and emotions to work every day — all of which plays a role in their interactions and contributions. These factors have the potential to make people – employees, consultants and management alike – either the best assets or the biggest liabilities to any project.

Who has the greatest impact on projects as a whole?

The simple answer is everyone (executives/sponsors, vendors, customers, consultants and especially employees). If any one of these individuals is dissatisfied, the project suffers a loss in terms of participation, productivity and buy-in. These losses can be tangible or intangible, and are not always easily or successfully quantified. The one thing that’s certain is that dissatisfaction will imprint itself on project success or failure in one way or another. This can be through low morale, decreased productivity, conflict, absenteeism, an increase in turnover and so on. The end result is project teams and companies as a whole operating at greatly reduced competence due to various forms of dysfunction.

In “5 trends that will transform project management,” I covered the move away from traditional operational hierarchies to systems that identify and optimize employee strengths, redrawing org charts in a way that allows people with “intrapreneurial” mindsets to share ideas with decision-makers, despite the chain of command. In no way am I suggesting that larger, mature organizations simply disband those chains of command.

The traditional enterprise hierarchy was created for the purpose of orderly decision-making, and provides a sense of control, security and balance of power. That said, there are many ways to structure an organization, ways that can allow for optimized flow of information within the project decision-making process. These options will take more effort and time for projects within larger organizations, as they are historically less nimble than smaller companies when it comes to project planning, execution and monitoring.

Here are four steps progressive-minded project leaders can take to create a culture of success and identify and optimize project stakeholders’ true potential.

1. Create visibility and empower your project stakeholders more

Hierarchies – even within project teams – can easily slow decision-making and block the flow of great ideas from lower-level stakeholders, due to the “chain-of-command” mindset. Within projects, and organizations in general, this information and innovation blockage can be removed without fully dismantling the traditional hierarchy. It is critical that business owners and project leaders work closely together to identify and facilitate the implementation of the best ideas. As a rule, most project team members are interested and willing to do their best if they believe their contributions are sincerely valued. Furthermore, project leadership should be willing to recognize and reward such team members equally for their time and effort contributed throughout all phases.


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