Viewing Posts by Wanda Curlee
by Wanda Curlee
Not long ago, neuroscience was considered something akin to science fiction. In recent years, however, it has crawled out of that genre and into practical reality. By identifying ways people can reason, it’s even making major contributions to the project management profession.
Take the functional MRI (fMRI).
The fMRI creates an image of what a person’s brain is doing when they’re working. If you’re doing math, let’s say, the fMRI shows what areas of the brain are functioning.
Through these studies, neuroscientists have said that there are three ways a person can reason:
1. The detailed-oriented person. This is someone comfortable with schedule management, risk management, budget management, issues tracking, etc. Normally, this would be someone from the project management office (PMO) or a junior project manager.
2. The person who can see the forest for the trees. This is the seasoned project manager or a junior program manager. They are savvy with integration and can see the strategy that is needed for decision making.
3. The strategic-minded individual. Think senior program managers and portfolio managers. These individuals are focused on delivering the organization’s strategic objectives. They can see what the landscape needs to be into the future.
So how does this help you as a project leader? Studies show that if you provide the opportunity for a detailed-oriented person to work in the role of seeing the forest for the trees or putting a strategic person into a detail-oriented role, these individuals become more creative and innovative.
Think about it: By putting individuals in radically different positions—with some guidance and mentorship, of course—you are forcing that person to see problems from different perspectives.
When CEOs claim they do not have creative and innovative people in their organization, I would contend that the CEO is wrong. The CEO just doesn’t nurture the creativity and innovation.
Imagine a brainstorming session where you have individuals who have switched roles. These employees can take an idea presented at the brainstorm and now see it from different perspectives. You no longer have people trapped in thinking from only their own worlds.
Are you as a project leader willing to push your team to experience the world from a different perspective? Are you willing to take a detail-oriented person and cajole him or her into seeing the forest for the trees? Will you mentor and guide the person? You will need to help with the anxiety of doing something totally foreign.
If you are willing, then you have created a more innovative and creative team!
By Wanda Curlee
In my last post, I discussed the project manager-powered management model that centers on neuroscience and people. Many models that discuss project management forget that people are the center of a project team. It is the people that have the power within the project.
Below is the model—let’s look at it in more detail.
By keeping the triangle in balance, the project success rate increases to 60 percent.
Time is the anchor as it can’t be managed. After all, time is constant — a person can’t make it go faster or slower.
Variables are on another side. They incorporate all those items that affect the project or program, including environment, politics, lack of resources, risks, opportunities and more. The effects of the project or program can be positive or negative. Hence, a powerful sponsor can increase the project’s success rate.
Finance is the final side. The word finance was chosen deliberately. Today, there are many ways to support a project or program. It may be normal currency. But financial support could also come in the form of bitcoin, credit cards, loans, various apps used to exchange money and even bartering. Each type is no better or worse than the other. In the future, there may even be something different that has not even be envisioned today.
Project or program managers and their teams have to keep the triangle in balance. If one side falters, the triangle collapses — hence the red bolt in the middle.
The project manager should lead efforts to keep the triangle in balance and drive results; the project team has the power to accomplish tasks.
The entire model is based on human emphasis, which is predicated on neuroscience. And once project or program managers understand the foundation of what drives human behavior, they can then motivate and drive projects to success.
However, the project/program manager has to have a sense of pAcuity: The “p” is project, program, or portfolio, while acuity means keenness. The leader, along with the team, has to have the keenness to take the project/program/portfolio in the right direction by understanding how to harness individuals’ power. Individuals, then, need to have the keenness to assess what is going on around them to drive the tasks to completion. This is done through neuroscience or understanding how we as humans think.
Stay tuned for my next post to understand the brain and how it drives us to perform on the project or program.
By Wanda Curlee
There are two triangles commonly referenced in the project management discipline: The Iron Triangle (sometimes called the Golden Triangle) and PMI’s Talent Triangle®. Each provides insight into the complexity of even the simplest project.
However, I think there is a big component missing: the human psyche. Let’s look at both triangles.
The Iron Triangle
The Iron Triangle has many versions that have been enhanced by subject matter experts to help define how to manage a project. On the triangle’s sides, you’ll find time, cost and resources. Quality and/or scope, which was added later, can be found in the middle of the triangle.
My preference is to put time at the bottom part of the triangle as it is constant. When time has passed, it’s gone for good (until time travel is invented). All other sides and the interior of the triangle change and often do.
Some would say the scope is constant because there is a statement of work that defines the scope. A good theoretical basis, but reality normally prevails. For instance, out of ignorance, incompetence or “doing a favor”, the scope can change. It may also change because of a customer or vendor request. All these changes affect the other axis and interior of the triangle. However, your time is gone no matter how the scope changes. Quality may go up or down depending on scope, resources and time.
The Talent Triangle
PMI’s Talent Triangle acknowledges that the project professional must have soft and hard skills. These skills include leadership, a technical knowledge and an understanding of the strategic and business alignment of the project, program and portfolio—while also ensuring that projects stay within the Golden Triangle.
Understanding the industry helps project professionals realize the importance of the endeavor for the company. Finally, understanding the politics and strategic fit of the project or program is a must. If the project or program manager cannot articulate how the effort drives the company’s strategic objective, it might be time to move to a different project or maybe find a new profession.
The Human Psyche
While these two triangles are good, they don’t incorporate the missing link—the human psyche.
We need to understand how to drive the project team to make sure no sides of the triangle fail. What does this mean? If one side of the Iron Triangle falls short or goes long then the triangle fails. The same could be said for the Talent Triangle.
Three inherent manners can help: integrated reasoning, strategic focus and creative thinking. I want to look at integrated reasoning.
According to neuroscience, there are three ways a person thinks. He or she can be a rock star, coach/playmaker or rainmaker.
The rock star is the junior to the experienced project manager and is normally focused on one or two tasks. Think budget timelines, schedules and risk management, among other things.
The coach/playmaker is the senior project manager and junior to the experienced program manager. These individuals see the forest. The coach knows how to lead to the final goal.
Finally, there’s the rainmaker. These are the senior program managers, portfolio managers and C-suiters. They can see years into the future. The rainmakers know how to decide which projects and programs make sense for the strategic objectives. They see success.
Why is this important? It leads to integrated reasoning. Project and program managers should recognize where members of their team fall on the spectrum. He or she then needs to encourage and provide the opportunity to jump into a new reality so they can be more effective on all sides of the triangle.
For example, I am very comfortable in the rainmaker role. However, I force myself into the coach and rock star role. This allows me to see the organization, strategy and people from many angles, which increases my political rationality.
So, what is the political reality of your project or program? Does your reality agree with that of the sponsor? How about the project management office or portfolio manager? If you do not understand your political rationality from all angles you will fail yourself, your team and the triangle.
Stay tuned for the next post in which I will put integrated reasoning into reality to help drive the strategic focus of your project or program.
By Wanda Curlee
Recently, my doctor’s office was attacked with ransomware—potentially causing a major safety issue.
Think about it: What happens if you have a life-threatening illness? All the medical records, including any tests and results, are no longer available. How can the doctor treat or even advise patients without that information?
For instance, a relative of mine recently had blood clots. To diagnose the issue, doctors performed a special blood test with the results delivered to the doctor within an hour. Had the doctor’s office been hit with ransomware, the results would have been lost—and there would’ve been a high probability of death.
Artificial intelligence (AI) and the number of devices that are now connected to the Internet of Things (IoT) heighten the risk of hacking—and the potential devastating effects.
So, how does this affect project management professionals? Project managers must understand that hackers are a reality and they must ensure that their team has the necessary training.
Program managers should establish the security protocols for all projects in the program. Each project will determine the security within the bounds of the program’s processes.
At times, the program manager may have to determine if security needs to be linked between the various projects. The program manager would need to monitor all protocols and make sure that program-level personnel coordinate the activities between the projects.
How does this affect the portfolio manager?
The portfolio manager needs to understand the company’s industry, the strategy objectives and the project/program landscape. At times, the portfolio manager may even have to present safety precautions as it relates to the industry’s IoT and AI to senior executives. By presenting the information, senior executives may alter a strategy or advise the portfolio manager to include security for IoT and AI in business cases.
And remember: In the future, project management tools may include IoT and AI. Can you imagine if a hacker were able to adjust settings, wipe out projects or use ransomware to block all access to project information that’s stored in the cloud?
This could be devastating. Let’s face it—a company without projects is a dead or dying company!
How are you ensuring hackers don’t devastate your projects or those of your customers?
by Wanda Curlee
I often write about neuroscience and its affects on project management. So I spend a lot of time scouring academic research, trade journals and even LinkedIn for new information on the topic. That’s how I came across this recent Business Insider article about what makes a good speaker.
Neuroscience is the very first thing mentioned in the piece, which makes the cognitive case for storytelling. It argues that understanding how our brains work can make us better speakers.
According to the article, you have about 15 seconds to grab your audience—and the average attention span is about 5 minutes. So how do you keep people engaged?
By using stories, says Princeton University researcher Uri Hasson. Mr. Hasson and his colleagues used fMRI machines to measure blood flow to regions of the brain of a speaker and the audience while a story was being told.
This research “found that the brains of a speaker and his or her listeners ‘exhibited joint, temporally coupled, response patterns.’ Simply put, the listeners' brains mirrored the speaker's brain—only when the speaker was telling the listeners a story.” The implication? Our brains are wired for story.
While I was in the Navy, stories were often used as a learning tool. And as a university professor, I’ve seen this approach work with students, as well. But what does this mean for people working in project management?
Relate and Resonate
Project professionals need to be storytellers. We may not all be on a large stage speaking to a big audience, but we’re always presenting, whether it be to stakeholders, sponsors, senior executives, etc. And think about the mundane information we often have to report.
An effective presenter is able to tell a story that will resonate with his or her audience and make mundane information more interesting.
Recently, I was a speaker for the Human Capital Institute (HCI). I used stories to make neuroscience resonate with the audience. I was delighted with the feedback I received. Each person that approached me remembered one of my stories that stuck with them and even resurfaced previous memories.
So when it’s your turn to talk to the C-suite, interject stories. You will be remembered by your ability to relay the information well—and that may serve you well when the next difficult assignment comes up.
What’s one of the best presentations you’ve ever heard? Did the speaker use stories to illustrate his or her presentation?