In Part 1, I discussed the practical benefits of empowering the business team members on an IT systems project with the ability to make decisions on behalf of the business or, alternately, to use prudent judgment in knowing when to escalate decisions to management. Keeping as much decision-making as possible at the project level develops a momentum which contributes to project success.
In this post, I discuss another phenomenon with regard to this ideal called “empowerment”. It’s a red flag that I always watch for after having convinced the management of the business organization to relinquish control to the staff that they have seconded to the project. I should probably have entitled this post, “Dis-Empowering the Business Team”.
The problem occurs when management decides that they can’t stay away. Their lips state that they have empowered their staff, but their actions show otherwise. They decide to participate in various aspects of the project anyway – on an ad hoc basis, of course, because they are so busy.
Watch what happens next. If the business project staff “clam up” when management is in the room, that’s a huge clue that the business staff have not been truly empowered. The critical danger is that as management pops in and out, “gracing” the project with their presence long enough to make a decision or two, those decisions can be suspect. Why? Because ad hoc participation leads to decisions made out of context. Context, incidentally, in which their staff has been immersed daily as fulltime participants on the project. Again, project delays occur, or requirements are defined incorrectly, because management makes decisions out of context, and their staff is not willing to speak up with management in the room.
I am reminded of a senior manager of an organization who provided top-notch, fulltime staff from his division to project on which I was working. But he wouldn’t let go. He wouldn’t let go of his daily organizational responsibilities to work on the project; and he wouldn’t let go of what was happening on the project for his staff to handle. He would pop in and out as time warranted, and override project decisions made by his own staff, often without telling them. If a decision with which he was not involved went badly, he would loudly proclaim that it would have been better had he been consulted. If a decision with which he was involved went badly, he would blame the IT team for not understanding. At project meetings where his superiors were present, he would “beat his chest” and declare his heroics on the project. As a result, his staff felt powerless, whiplashed, betrayed. Several successfully lobbied to leave the project. The ones that remained refused to engage in any but the simplest of decisions.
How does that make the business team member feel? Will he or she volunteer for future projects? Will he or she ever make a decision to move the project forward again?
In my mind, if management is unwilling to empower their staff, and by their actions shows the staff that they do not have complete faith in them, then management should be participating on the project full-time. They need to stop dis-empowering their staff.
Project success requires empowering those entrusted to deliver.
[If you’re looking for an upbeat keynote speaker, an experienced seminar leader, an on-site project management coach, or an expert in project oversight and IV&V, you need look no further. Contact Merv to help guarantee your project delivery success.]
www.ElitePMStrategies.com • The Human Aspects of Project Management • Copyright ©2013-2014. All rights reserved.
Permission to reprint all or part of this article in your magazine, e-zine, website, blog, or organization newsletter is hereby GRANTED, provided: 1. You give full attribution to the author; 2. The website link to www.ElitePMStrategies.com is clickable (LIVE), and 3. You leave all details intact (i.e. links, author's names etc.).
Latest posts by Merv Jersak (see all)
- The Olympics of Project Management – Control and Balance - February 12, 2014
- The Olympics of Project Management – Unstoppable Performance - February 11, 2014
- The Olympics of Project Management – Competing with the “Big Guys” - February 10, 2014