Adapted from Mary Dossett and Julia Mallory, Results by Design: Survival Skills for Project Managers (Telos Publications, 2004) *Used with permission
(from the Introduction)
Imagine you are going to shoot a rocket to the moon. You don't simply point a rocket in the general direction of the moon and blast off, hoping for the best. Yet that is exactly how many projects are launched, with great surprise and amazement-and finger-pointing-when the target is missed.
There are, however, great similarities between a project and a rocket launch. That is not to say that it takes a rocket scientist to manage a project-it does not. However, a project destined for success has all of the attributes of a successful rocket mission:
There is one big difference between a rocket launched to the moon and a project, though. A rocket is comprised of complex electronic systems-programmed and predictable in their behavior. These systems are prewired to work individually and together for optimal performance. By design, when an element in a system, or an entire system, runs below its expected level of performance, another compensates for it. If the compensation mechanisms fail, mission control can send override instructions, and the rocket will comply. It then continues on its path, almost effortlessly destined for its target.
Projects, however, are comprised of teams of people. Complex? Yes. They are undoubtedly programmed in their performance but hardly predictable in their behavior-if you lack an understanding of temperament (Keirsey, 1978, Berens, 1998). Project teams may seem designed to work at levels far removed from optimal performance, and no amount of orders from mission control-the project manager-may seem to make a difference. Many PMs fall victim to a disastrous leadership style: "There go my people. I must find out where they are going so that I can lead them." Project teams can seem hopelessly destined to fail, simply because they are made up of people with minds and wills-temperaments-of their own.
Yet it is exactly this diversity-a rich diversity of temperaments-that is the greatest asset of a project team. The project management process requires a breadth of capabilities and perspectives that simply do not exist in a single temperament.
Imagine a project team whose members not only follow the rigors of a robust project management process, but have also unlocked the mystery of how to maximize their work with each other throughout this process. Imagine a project team that works together seamlessly, "hard-wired" to work at optimal levels of performance, anticipating and compensating for each other's strengths and challenges every step of the way just like the complex systems of a rocket.
Fantasy? Not at all. Impossible? Absolutely not-as long as team members are willing to invest the time and the effort required to develop the necessary level of understanding of themselves and others, to develop the required plans, and to hold themselves (and each other) accountable to follow the project management process.
In Results by Design, the authorsl identify the steps of an elegantly simple yet effective and robust project management process and associated PM best practices. As they describe each step, they identify how each temperament relates to it and, at the same time, to other temperaments. They identify strategies to leverage synergies between the team members and how to avoid pitfalls.
How each temperament communicates is unique. Consider the following aspects of communication for each temperament:
- Use abstractions:
people and needs
- Use concrete
- Use abstractions:
theories and concepts
- Use concrete data and similes