Teamwork among the IT and business teams is founded on a sense of empowerment, respect for the individual, and mixing a lot of fun in with all of the hard work. My observation is that much of that comes from the top – from good management processes.
I’ve been on several projects – and I’m speaking now from the business side of the project – where several individuals rose to the top of their game. They were given freedom to contribute, to make decisions. As a result they became racehorses, invaluable to the project and representing their business organization very well.
And then comes the reprimand. Some manager starts harping on these high performers for a late time sheet, or inappropriate meal charges on an expense report, or arriving 15 minutes late. One of the most egregious that I saw was the holding up of a $2000 expense report because the employee had inadvertently charged a 45 cent stamp to her hotel room while on a business trip. I’ve witnessed these high performers virtually throw the towel, falling back on doing the bare minimum and no more. Racehorses stop performing when they’re hooked to the plow of organizational bureaucracy.
Notice what I’m saying here. The sense of letdown does not come from unmet salary expectations, or a missed promotional opportunity, or some setback on the project. Rather it is artificially introduced by rules-following managers who, quite frankly, could not perform on the project as well as their own staff.
Don’t get me wrong. I know that timely timesheets are necessary. Yes, every item on an expense report must follow the organization’s rules. Yes, timeliness on the job is important. But stuff happens. Problems are solved while timesheets wait. Expense reports can be corrected. Alarm clocks fail, cars get flat tires, and children get sick. Stuff happens.
I served a project on which the manager responsible for all of the business users was a fantastic task manager, but a horrible people manager. He would spend hours going over timesheets and expense reports, while not talking to his team members for two or three weeks at a time. If you were on the outside looking in, you would think that the reason for the project was solely to give him a job to berate the team, rather than to implement a major mission-critical system for his organization. At one point, I approached him about how fragmented his team was. His answer was to arrange for a day of teambuilding exercises. While the team went through its paces facilitated by a professional teambuilding facilitator, he sat on the sidelines thumbing his phone. The team had a great time, but their scorn for him only grew.
I love IT systems projects, not just for the sense of accomplishment that one feels when the system is implemented and is doing what it is supposed to do. The journey itself to get to the point of system implementation is priceless. What makes it truly worthwhile is being part of that team that works hard, collaborates well, looks out for one another, and just has fun.
[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.]
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