“We” versus “Us & Them”
Just this past weekend my team and I were up at 4am for the deployment of a Software Project that had been in development for quite a few months. The Project is one of those “typical” Projects where there was attempted scope creep at the 11th hour, pre-deployment panic, and the “crying wolf” syndrome where every tiny issue found was going to stop the world from turning on its axis. On Sunday, during the post implementation verification I found the team trying to solve some problems on the fly that was the result of incorrect, mismatched data, which we all know that we don’t own, the business units do. My team was trying to find a way to fix something that we shouldn’t have been responsible for until I told them that I was going to push the issue back to the business. It got me asking the question of “where am I and how did I get here?”
Taking the last 24 hours to reflect on this, I realized that a lot of this situation has to do with the history of the IT organization in the company, the way that it was structured prior to the “new administration”, and the corporate culture. Prior to the new CIO stepping in about 2 years ago, IT was just dictated to and treated as though their value was little more than to fix what was broken and to do as they were told. Three of the key Developers in the organization have been around longer than that, and it made me realize that I have a big job ahead of me to change the thought process towards what the true IT value is, especially in Project work, not just internally to IT but to the entire business as well. I think I may have been in denial thinking that I had made more progress on this front than I really had. Until recently, enhancements were not consistently managed as Projects and were minor in nature in most cases, and IT was never given the opportunity to add much input into how things were structured as it was all business process centric and not about the systems. What has resulted is a messy system (I call it Frankenstein’s Monster – I’m sure that you all have your own pet names for that system-from-hell in your organization) but it’s our Frankenstein’s Monster and the system is so ingrained that refactoring or a full replacement is not an option in the near term. So what can I do to get us moving in the right direction and realize change?
Well, once again we are back to basics! Obviously first on the list is to educate the masses on a process, roles and responsibilities, teamwork and all the basic trappings of Project Management. I find it funny that I have been working at the company for about a year and knew that this needed to be done, but it wasn’t until I saw my own team sliding into “serve the business at all costs” mode that I realized that without that, there can be no true “Teamwork”, that there will always be an “Us & Them”. Digging in has brought to my attention that most of what we have been doing in terms of Project Management in the company for the last year has been talking, not actually tactically creating the “We” that is required to have fully successful Project teams. The company is truly in its infancy for any kind of Project Management so some of this is to be expected, but as I thought about my “ideal world” I thought of other great ideas that would really help to create the “We”, none of which are new:
- Co-located team members
- Dedicated Project teams
- Celebrate milestones as a team (any success will do!)
- Make sure everyone knows their role and their responsibilities on the Project
- Project Team autonomy
- Allow for constructive conflict
- “Buddy up” team members for development opportunities
- Create “fun” to glue the team together
This exercise has shown me that we all fall into a regular routine and that we get comfortable with where we are in terms of the company, the process and the situation. We wait for permission or incentive to make changes to the status quo. But if that is what we are doing are we really adding all of the value that we can? I know that many PM’s currently work in huge 400lb. gorilla companies that move slower than lettuce, but I wonder, what little improvement can you make with your Project that will move you closer to a “We”, than an “Us & Them”? Hmmmmm??
Margaret de Haan - PMP, MBA, CSM