Bas de Baar is a Dutch visual facilitator, creating visual tools for dialogue. He is dedicated to improve the dialogue we use to make sense of change.
As The Project Shrink, this is the riddle he tries to solve:
“If you are a Project Manager that operates for a short period of time in a foreign organization, with a global team you don’t know, in a domain you would not know, using virtual communication, high uncertainty, limited authority and part of what you do out in the open on the Internet, how do you make it all work?”
I wonder why I haven’t raised this question sooner. Hmmm. Here is my shot at it.
A “culture” is about the shared notion of “how we do things around here”, shared values, assumptions and beliefs.
So. A “project culture” is about the shared notion of “how we do things around here in the project”.
A “project culture” provides direction to the essential conversations around projects. About the goals, the roles, what people have done before, the trip itself, the way interaction with the stakeholders is done, how we know how far we are.
What fascinates me is how a project culture comes into existence? How can you bootstrap a project culture? How can you facilitate these essential conversations without freaking people out?
Currently, I believe there are three steps to bootstrapping a culture.
1. Setting the agenda.
2. Enable the conversations.
3. Explore associations.
In this presentation I describe all three steps with examples. The presentation starts with an introduction to the concepts around culture. You can view the presentation below, or follow this link to Youtube.
Culture is a minefield. Far too many senior people think they can just establish the culture by command, and that rarely, if ever works. Culture is ALWAYS about bottom up - the leadership may embody and inspire the culture they wish but that only works if those on the shop floor truly see this and believe it.
Culture is generally driven by a few individuals at low levels of the organisation but who have an influence far above their formal position, and large groups of "followers".
The same is true in projects. PMs, Sponsors, project execs etc can all influence project culture, but only to a limited extent. There will be individuals who due to particular skills and experience tend to be involved in many projects, often in a limited capacity, but still frequent participants, and to make project culture work you need to get those guys involved in actually working the way you want, and sometimes that means giving them things that they may not technically be entitled to, but which will win them to the right behaviours - this might be additional resource for their area of the project, or involvement at a higher level of the project structure/governance, or simply accept their ideas when they otherwise would have missed the cut for inclusion in some phase.
All this may sound a little too much like bribery, but is actually justifiable investment - because the return you'll get from a positive engaged project culture absolutely justifies this.