Must Defend The Precious!

From the Game Theory in Management Blog
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Modelling Business Decisions and their Consequences

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As we wrap up ProjectManagement.com’s theme for July, Strategy Implementation, I would like to reference a couple of things for this week’s blog: last week’s blog, where I discussed the optimal technical approach for implementing a given strategy, and my favorite go-to structure for organizational behavior and performance issues within the project team, the one presented in Michael Maccoby’s brilliant book The Gamesmen (Simon and Schuster, 1976). A quick refresher of the worker archetypes Maccoby posits:

  • The Craftsman cares a great deal about his output, but not so much for whom he works.
  • The Company Man tends to assume the persona of the team around him.
  • The Jungle Fighter gets ahead through calumny and deceit, avoiding blame for his errors while taking the credit for the successes of those around him.
  • The Gamesman (after whom the book is titled, obviously) doesn’t see his paycheck as the roof over his head or food on the table; rather, he sees it (and other perks) as analogous to prize pieces in some grand game he’s playing. Because of this, this type tends to be more comfortable taking risks, while becoming masters in the industry in which their “game” is being played. Due to these two characteristics, this type tends to be the most successful.

From last week’s blog, I passed along some lessons from Game Theory, that to advance a capability (in our cases, Project Management) the approach must have the following elements to maximize the odds of success:

  • The new capability must be falling-off-a-log simple for the project team members to perform.
  • If you are counting on active participation from the project team to make your advancement happen, you must be in a position to recognize and respond to any participant who’s not, well, participating.
  • If the team members from whom you need participation are feeding you poor data, they’re still golden. Better quality data can be taught – participation can’t.

Finally, Hatfield’s three critical elements of managerial leadership will come in to play:

  • The manager/leader must have the optimal technical approach to resolving the project team’s problem.
  • The manager/leader must care about each and every member of her project team. If you don’t care about them, how can they be expected to care about you, or your technical agenda?
  • The manager/leader must be willing to execute the selected strategy, alone if necessary. The image I like to use is that of U.S. General George S. Patton. If he were to be dropped into the middle of Europe in 1942 without the rest of the American Third Army, he could be counted on to attack Nazis single-handedly. In business, the manager who half-heartedly pursues a selected strategy will be immediately found out, and the project team will match his enthusiasm.

Meanwhile, Back In Middle-Earth…

In J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic series on the goings-on in middle earth, the character Gollum plays a major role, from being introduced in The Hobbit, all the way through to his death in The Return of the King. Gollum holds The Ring at the time of its introduction into the story line, and has become rather addicted to its powers, to the point that he refers to it as “the precious,” and becomes incredibly obsessed with re-possessing it.

From the Maccoby archetypes, it’s easy to see the Jungle Fighters as a nest of Gollums, physically unattractive and intensely obsessed with only their own self-advancement, somewhat obvious in their machinations to detract from project performance. But that’s not reality: any of the Maccoby Archetypes can be turned into detractors. From my three critical elements, the first, that of selecting the optimal technical approach, is key, for if the PM selects a sub-optimal (or even poor) strategy in pursuing the project’s scope, then:

  • Craftsmen will be frustrated, since they seek high-quality output, and the sub-optimal approach won’t deliver that.
  • Gamesmen will be turned from contributors to neutrals (or even detractors) for similar reasons,
  • …and Company Men will tend to mirror the persona of the previous two archetypes,

…all while the Gollums Jungle Fighters will “perform” as they are wont to do. Drawing from the three Game Theory lessons from last week’s blog, it will prove virtually impossible to execute an implementation strategy that’s so easy that none of the members of the Project Team will be in a position to enact the counter-strategies of the Silent Veto or Slow Roll, should the original technical approach be seen as a poor one.

Four Maccoby Archetypes, three implementation strategy guidelines derived from Game Theory, and three Hatfield Rules of Managerial Leadership, and all have as their linchpin the need for an optimal implementation strategy, or technical approach. That’s the One Ring To Bind Them All, the “precious,” the indispensable element of strategy implementation. If you don’t have it, get it.

And if you do have it, don’t let creepy, glowy-eyed trolls thwart you by biting off your finger.

Posted on: July 29, 2019 09:23 PM | Permalink

Comments (6)

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Great post Michael. The 2 points that speak to me are: care for people (treat them well) and put effort into developing an appropriate/suitable delivery approach. Ash.

Michael, great job in binding those strategies together and getting a quintessence out of it. In the end it is all about trying not to forget the humans behind all strategic thinking.

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