CIPS Connections – June 27th 2008

Getting Work Done: the Human Side of Project Management

By Debbie Conrad, I.S.P.

Dhanu Kothari, President of D2i Consulting, defines Project Management as the art and science of “Getting Work Done” with the active cooperation of your team.

I had an opportunity to participate in Dhanu’s workshop on team building at the recent DPI/CIPS Summit 2008 in Ottawa.  As part of the workshop we played the “Bridge Game,” an experiential learning tool and process designed to develop leadership, soft skills, competitiveness, commitment, self-empowerment, and above all, improve the effectiveness of teamwork and Customer Relationship Management (CRM), all in a safe and typical project environment.

As part of the workshop, participants learned to manage projects, process, risk, time, change, quality, stress & resources.

The primary objective was to challenge and enhance people skills which are crucial to the success of a project or any business venture while meeting client expectations.

All teams, each one a competing company, were challenged to physically build a bridge with delivered materials, simple tools and specific guidelines.

Not unlike a common project, challenges included unclear roles and responsibilities, change of requirements, change in project members and ongoing interruptions not to mention time and resource constraints.

It was interesting to watch the myriad of teams trying to get through the project with or without sponsor consultation.

Most importantly, the workshop helped to confirm the benefits of good partnerships and team dynamics.  All participants identified their strengths and weaknesses throughout the half day.  Some withdrew from their active roles delegating or leaving responsibility to other team members.  Some withdrew from one project team to join another, which appeared to be more successful.  Some withdrew completely due to the pressure and sense of failure.  Those remaining had some interesting results.

The winning team could attest to the importance of effective teamwork, Client Relationship Management and not assuming anything.  Close communications with the project sponsor, project manager, and team members necessitated a constant review and refinement of the process in order for the bridge to be successfully built.

In summary, what the client was looking for was the quality of the product and quality of the process with no surprises.  While there was ongoing change throughout the projects, a priority should have been to keep the lines of communication clear and open with the project sponsor.  Per Dhanu, this was intended to better refine the client relationship and ensure an eventual positive outcome.

Most teams assumed they were stuck when hit with a roadblock and most did not contact the sponsor to discuss the issues or share the risks.  Only three out ten groups contacted the client when trouble arose.  Is it any wonder why our clients are generally disappointed?  Too often we become too busy and forget who we are doing what for.  We were reminded that projects are for the business.

Did each team really understand their risks and share these with their client?

The winning teams exuded trust, effective communications and non-defensiveness.  They kept their sponsor aware and actively involved.  They ensured that the roles and responsibilities were clearly identified and understood by all.

A project manager must create an environment for team building.  It is essential that the project organization is clearly defined and understood by all.  Everyone needs to know who is doing what to whom.  The “who, what, when, where, why and how” are all keys to effective project planning and team cohesion.

In closing, Dhanu suggested to think of CIPS when thinking of the five pillars of a good team.

Culture, Influence, Purpose (Passion) and Structure are characteristics of a CIPS professional.

Dhanu commended CIPS for their leadership in the Information Technology (IT) field over the past 50 years.

About Dhanu Kothari

Dhanu Kothari is President of D2i Consulting and specializes in innovative approaches to Project Management and the application of quality principles to manage projects successfully. His effective communications, team approach, and business-oriented style provide the foundation to manage projects for a successful outcome.