Project Management

Resolve to Adapt to New Pressures in Organizational Culture

From the Eye on the Workforce Blog
Workforce management is a key part of project success, but project managers often find it difficult to get trustworthy information on what really works. From interpersonal interactions to big workforce issues we'll look the latest research and proven techniques to find the most effective solutions for your projects.

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Welcome to a new year! This year, more than ever, project team members desire work that keeps them engaged and motivated. If they don't get it, they are tending to move on to another project or employer.  The replacement costs in time and performance will be high. It will not help your disposition either.

 In my recent article,  Principles for Adapting to New Pressures on Organizational Culture, I provided some ideas for you (whether you are a project manager or a Scrum Master) to design work to achieve this engagement. In this post, there are more ideas based on research conducted by MIT. Keep in mind the key point:  You can execute needed changes quickly for your team, even if your organization is not the best in engaging and motivating its employees.

 You, no matter your skill level, can facilitate effective improvements in social relationships at work. You just need help from the experts. Work Design Principle #3, created by the MIT group, can help you enhance social relationships in your project team by understanding what techniques are most effective. Two techniques are appropriate for project managers and are used here to get you started.

 Improve Familiarity Among Team Members

Social relationships are improved when people know more about each other and self-organize as a team. You can design easy quick activities that occur before meetings or in their own meetings to allow team members to share something about themselves even if they are shy. Here are some ideas to get you started planning.

  • Have team members guess each other's hobbies from a list. Another session can be people talking about their favorite charity. These are neutral topics that can shed a little bit of light on each member, so they're not thought of as a two-dimensional role at the workplace.
  • Set aside a part of meetings to provide time to allow team members to specify how they like to work with each other. Let people explain whether they prefer, for example, to have phone calls over emails, or whether they prefer to create documents over actually making presentations to stakeholders. This helps your team self-organize to make use of the preferences and strengths of its members.
  • Your team will also benefit from participating in fun non-work activities. Something with a common objective is best, such as working for a charity, perhaps from your workplace or supported by your organization. Find online charitable work that can be done as a team in a limited number of days. Once complete, the sense of achievement will last.
  • Even if you cannot arrange an objective-based activity, something fun that everybody does together is also beneficial. If co-located, the team can eat together periodically, go on a fun trip to the same location, attend the same event or festival. If your members are spread around the globe, this is not an insurmountable obstacle.
  • Schedule special meetings to get team member comments and complete follow-up actions on recent organizational meetings, training events, webinars and so on. Work together to adapt and improve.
  • If you have already completed similar activities to the above, consider whether any team members from marginalized or underrepresented groups are involved as much as others. Remedy any gaps. Everyone should get equal attention to maintain engagement, so remain aware of how your team members are participating and being involved.

Solve a Problem Together

A bond among team members is also achieved by solving a problem together.

  • Choose a problem to solve that has to do with an obstacle to getting work done. A fix would bring about an achievement that would bond the team together. This could be solving a source of delay, creating a template that helps the team members complete tasks easier or some other improvement.
  • Let the team choose their priority among the many sources of performance problems. For example,
    • the need for team development in new technique or skill,
    • the need for guidance from SME,
    • fixing a process bottleneck,
    • a discussion for a deeper analysis of an emerging risk,
    • training on a change in a standard,
    • clarification of a business question that has been outstanding for a while,
    • The need for Q&A with an organizational expert on a topic of interest to team. 

Your attention to social relationships will pay dividends at work and also prevent team members from leaving to other projects or employers. Not only will you avoid the hassle of keeping work progressing while replacing someone, you will maintain a high-performing team. And that will help your career.

Posted on: January 20, 2022 10:01 AM | Permalink

Comments (7)

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Sound advice and tips. I know I've worked in organizations in the past where tips found in the "Improving Familiarity" section are looked at as 'mandatory fun' events. What suggestions do you have to stave off that mindset?

Dear Joe
The topic that you brought to our reflection and debate was very interesting.
Thanks for sharing and for the two techniques, with particular reference to: "Solve a Problem Together"

So true, Joe. I often ask someone on the team to plan and lead social activities. Not only do I usually get a taker but they often do a better job I every could!

Let team members decide what they want to do. That way, it is not mandatory. They will enjoy the interaction, even if it is not something they felt comfortable with initiating in the past. People enjoy learning about each other or interacting where there is no pressure.

Team charter - missing document in many organisation; Scrum master should encourage team to document the agreed rules for maximum productivity

Communication structure is very important to team engagement and fostering familiarity among these individuals. These avenues are greatly needed for accomplishing project objectives.
Thank you, Joe, for administering this significant data.

Thanks for sharing the insights mate.

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