Find Purpose to Unlock Exceptional Performance
Human Aspects of PM,
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Find Purpose to Unlock Exceptional Performance
By Peter Tarhanidis, MBA, PhD
There are three common maturity levels in developing project management leadership:
It takes many years to cultivate the skills necessary to execute complex initiatives of all sizes and types. And project leaders may find gratification in the personal development to sustain their performance, as well as their project achievements.
However, over time, it’s not unusual to lose sight of that passion, excitement and engagement for executing initiatives. Instead, the project leader may default to simply providing the project management administrative activities of project execution. This reversal of development is a leadership pitfall and creates a chasm between high performance and exceptional performance.
One way to bridge the chasm is to be purpose-driven. A defined purpose distinguishes oneself as a distinctive as a brand. A brand is underpinned by one’s education, abilities and accomplishments. By identifying what is central to your interests and commitments, project leaders can re-engage with purpose and unlock exceptional performance. This can be broad or can be very specific in a subject expertise.
I have use the following method to find my brand and define my purpose:
Having used this approach to define my purpose, I learned I enjoy the macro view of the firm. I regularly coach leaders and help them develop their teams. Therefore, I like to simultaneously drive toward exceptional performance to achieve a firm’s mission and to advance the needs of society.
Please share your purpose and any examples of exceptional performance you achieved toward that purpose.
High-Performance Teams Are Purpose-Driven
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Categories: Benefits Realization, Best Practices, Career Help, Change Management, Communication, Complexity, Education and Training, Facilitation, Generational PM, Human Aspects of PM, Human Resources, Innovation, Leadership, Lessons Learned, Mentoring, New to Project Management, Nontraditional Project Management, Program Management, Project Delivery, Project Failure, Reflections on the PM Life, Risk Management, Stakeholder, Strategy, Talent Management, Teams
By Peter Tarhanidis, Ph.D., M.B.A.
Program teams should collaborate like a world-class orchestra.
This ideal state of team engagement and performance requires the presence of several key elements, including an engaged sponsor, a governance committee, a project manager and a status dashboard to communicate performance.
However, maximizing this level of performance is especially challenging when working with cross-functional groups, external stakeholders and shareholders. This increases the complexity of the human performance aspects of team management.
I recall one assignment I worked on that required the team to design and build a new centralized model to bring together three different operations. The team was given two additional challenges. The first challenge was to consolidate disparate teams into two geographic centers. They also had to reduce the overall timeline from 18 months to 10 months.
These challenges exacerbated how teams were not working well with their counterparts. They quickly became dysfunctional and lost their purpose. The project was crashing.
Stepping into this situation I decided to conduct a stakeholder analysis. I used this approach as an intervention method to understand the underlying themes. The analysis revealed the team:
After reflecting on the team’s feedback, I realized that most members wanted to find meaning in their work. It seemed no one was developing their sense of shared purpose and putting their strengths to work toward this program.
I decided I needed to re-invest them as members of the team. To get the team back to performing well, I:
This approach strengthened the program and delivered on the challenges.
The lesson learned is, do not simply apply methods and approaches in complex program delivery. Manage the team’s purpose and establish shared values as an important driver of overall delivery.
How do you manage that purpose and invest in high-performing teams?
By Peter Tarhanidis, M.B.A, Ph.D.
Many organizations are shifting their traditional operating models to include new innovative collaborations and social networks to sustain economic growth. These new operating models, however, challenge the future of leadership.
Most operating models used today were designed in the industrial age. In these models, the division of labor is by specialization, which is hierarchical in nature. This approach has been analyzed and debated by philosophers including Plato and economists such as Adam Smith, whose analysis is incorporated in current organizational designs defining a company’s value chain. The advantage of this approach is that it drives increases in productivity and efficiency by allocating teams by their skillset.
Yet companies are boxed in today. They have become efficient and productive, but are at a disadvantage in sustaining innovation.
Companies are challenged to design and integrate innovative operating models to continue to drive economic growth. Some ways companies are leveraging new operating models to drive innovation include creating internal groups to access and fund startups and sharing resources with external research centers to drive external collaborations that drive new product pipelines.
These innovative operating models challenge leaders to work collaboratively across value chains and external business partners. To meet that challenge, there must be a shift in a leader and team skill sets.
The organizational design shifts from a division of labor and specialization to one that taps into knowledge workers and social networks. This shift—to forge new innovations and operating models—challenges leaders to define new behaviors, styles, skills and professional networks to sustain economic growth.
Project leaders and their teams have been at the forefront of working across these emerging models, navigating both internally as productivity experts, externally as innovation collaborators, and professionally to develop social networks to foster and sustain economic growth.
One’s future as a leader comes down to navigating your development against these current organizational trends. One approach I find helpful is to define personal 360-degree feedbacks. Start with three simple questions to determine where you need to develop and build from, such as:
Having used this personal approach, I learned the following three themes to form my development opportunities:
One must then consider what actions they should commit to developing — whether it is leadership behaviors and styles, business relationships or knowledge — to lead today’s organizations and sustain economic growth and relevance.
I’m frequently asked for insights on performance measurement criteria for project managers. This comes as a bit of a surprise given how professional certification programs, such as PMI’s Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification, have brought more consistency to project management skills.
Organizations’ typical performance measurement framework for functional roles is focused on growth and results. But that framework is becoming less effective at measuring project managers.
Project managers differ from functional roles in that they perform their duties with definitive time periods, outside influences, ever-changing activities and a higher level of uncertainty.
At the same time, more and more companies are seeking both individual and aggregate project management performance measures. Aggregate measures provide insights into overall capabilities and indicate if improvement initiatives — training, methods, processes — are actually increasing project manager productivity.
I’ve spent some time thinking about how to improve measurement criteria for project manager performance. Here are three areas I believe must be included:
Over time, individual project manager metrics, such as schedule and budget, can be analyzed to show the project manager’s track record. Supplementary metrics, such as change control activity, deliverable finish date delays and cost of poor quality, can provide a complete picture of project manager performance.
By aggregating and averaging these metrics — as well as using other data points such as labor cost — the enterprise capability of project managers can be measured.
2. Project Manager Engagement Reviews: The ability of a project manager to successfully engage with stakeholders is a key success factor for projects. A high level of engagement allows for early visibility to potential delivery issues, as well as a stronger understanding of the success criteria for a project.
The most effective means to measure project engagement is to conduct a post-project review with the project’s primary stakeholder. As engagement is not a binary yes/no condition, open-ended questions allow for deeper insights into the project manager’s level of engagement. For example, probing when project managers anticipated potential project issues would help to reveal engagement. These reviews are not meant to be punitive, but instead to guide and educate.
In addition, the reviewer should also look at the engagement level of the primary stakeholder. It’s not uncommon to find unengaged stakeholders, which can lead to poor delivery results for which the project manager is unfairly held to account. A balanced view of both the project manager and stakeholder will give the reviewer a true measure of engagement.
Capturing project performance data allows project managers to share successes, as well as provide rationale for when things might not have gone as well as anticipated. It serves as a platform for career growth.
In today’s world of ever-increasing project complexity and scale, both companies and project managers need to expand their demonstrated performance results beyond what is found today.
How do you measure project manager performance? Do traditional performance measurement frameworks for functional roles continue to meet the need?
Hi! I'm so pleased to join you on the Voices on Project Management blog! I works for best of breed technology companies around the world managing programs of change, projects, and people. My areas of expertise are talent management, building high performing teams, working globally, and changing cultures to adopt new ways of working like DevOps and Agile methodologies, and my blog entries will be sourced from YOUR questions on ProjectManagement.com.
The Questions forum on Project Management Central is a great place for you to ask questions on… almost everything! One of the recurring questions you have is around preparing for an interview – what types of questions should you expect; what type of interview formats do hiring managers use; and general tips and tricks to help you secure that next position in your career. Over the next columns, we’ll be looking at industry advice as well as your comments and feedback. This week we are focusing on Types of Interview Formats:
“Is there really more than one type of interview format???” some people ask… “Surely its just people asking you questions and determining your fit for the role???”… “Be yourself”, the advice reads. “Be the person the company wants to hire” say others. How can you use the interview format to your advantage, and crucially, not be caught off guard when you walk into the room.
There are different interview formats depending on the stage of the interview process you are in. These interview formats are typically used at the beginning of the candidate selection process, instead of identifying the chosen candidate for the role.
Screening is an important step of a recruiter’s role. They want to ensure that candidates they are putting forward is a good fit for the role and the company. These screenings sometimes take place by email, and sometimes on the phone, lasting 15 -20 minutes. The downside of screening is that you might not have long to prepare, so fall back on your elevator pitch; your key successes and achievements; why you are right for this type of role; why you are right for this industry. Don’t be afraid to ask questions “why is the role available – is the business expanding or is this a replacement”; “what are the success factors associated with this role”, “how does this role fit into the organisation”
Sometimes you will match what the recruiter is looking for, sometimes you won’t. Don’t despair, as making a great impression here will add real value for your job search later on as the recruiter will likely have similar roles in future.
Telephone interviews are usually screening interviews with the company, instead of the recruiter. They will be focused on getting to shortlist of candidates to interview face to face, so the trick is to be on message. Do your homework on the company strategy, how the company is performing in their respective industry, and their recent news (big deals, reorganisations etc). Read the job profile very carefully, identifying what the real criteria are for the role – these items will be repeated in differently terminology across the job spec – and practice your answers to likely questions, which could be competency based. Have questions you are ready to ask: “what metrics will define success for the role”; “is the project team centrally located or distributed across offices [in the country / in the world]”
Tip: Find the job posting on multiple sites (eg. LinkedIn, Monster) to help you identify those key criteria for the role.
Tip: Don’t forget to get the names of who you speak to as they might be in subsequent interviews.
These next interview formats are usually Face to Face. There will normally be two people interviewing you, and they will likely be asking the same questions for all interviews, and ranking you against other candidates they are seeing.
Competency Interviews, sometimes called Behavioural Interviews, are quite common and are designed to predict future behaviour based on past behaviours and experiences. This is why all questions start with “tell us a time when…” as the answer will inform the interviewer on your competency and your approach
Competency interviews are driven by the competencies required for the role. These will be listed in the role description, and can be identified in part by answers received to your questions in the screening and the telephone interviews.
Tip: Competency questions can focus on the good (“tell us a time when you built a successful team that…”) or bad “tell us about your worst project management experience and what you learned”. Be prepared for a negative competence question.
Panel Interviews will have multiple people attending the interview, sometimes dropping in for a section, to ask questions relevant to their area. They will introduce themselves and their role / role description will contain clues for what competencies they are particularly interested in. Have a question prepared on their area “what type of technology do you use for…” that will demonstrate that you understand their responsibility and role.
Presentation Interviews usually are a part of an existing interview. You will be given very clear instructions on the presentation, which might be intentionally vague. For example, the presentation might have a fixed length and an idea of a topic for you to interpret, or vice versa. My advice would be to follow your intuition, but not to break any of the guidance. I once had a five minute presentation take 45 minutes, which meant there wasn’t enough time to run the rest of the interview. One of the competences was to communicate clearly and effectively, which definitely was not demonstrated with a 900% increase on time.
Assessment Centres & Group Interviews are ways for the company to review multiple candidates simultaneously, ranking them against one another. They are traditionally used when a number of roles are available, perhaps the creation of an entire department or area. Assessment Centres do exactly that – they assess your competence and capabilities across a range of activities. These activities can be team based (to measure how well you get on with others), or individual one on one and are usually a mix of the two. In assessment centres, my recommendation is to be the best version of yourself, relying on the preparation you’ve done for the telephone interview, and refining your elevator pitch, key competencies and experiences based on the answers.
Also prepare answers to competency based questions “tell us about a time that…” based on the criteria you’ve identified from the job spec.
Note that in Group Interviews, you will be in a single interview with multiple candidates. Ensure you get enough “airtime”
Role Play Interviews are rare but do sometimes happen in project management roles. This will be to assess your competency deeply in a single area or network of competencies. There will be a script which may be given to you to prepare answers from.
That wraps up the types of interview formats you can expect to encounter in your job search, and I hope you found it helpful. Next time we will focus on how to prepare for interview questions; and tips and tricks. Share your tips and your experiences in the comments below.
See you next time!