If you were to ask most managers if they trust their teams, they would probably look at you a little shocked and say ‘of course!’ And yet many aspects of our organisations have not been designed for trust. And because we live inside the organisations we are often blind to how a lack of trust has been designed into, well everything (including technology). Let me give you an example.
Managing a team of managers
At one point in my career I was managing a team of international project managers. All of these managers were at different stages of their careers, working in multiple hybrid locations and all bright and dedicated people. I had no desire, interest, inclination or time to sit on their shoulders and second-guess them. Nor did I want them constantly looking to the hierarchy or looking over their shoulders. I am not a controlling person because all you get is compliance (not learning) and often terrible services. And I certainly understood that the two pages of job description were not a useful or viable method. Instead I wanted them to decide and do what was best for customers and the business in a simple and effective way. After a brief discussion with my very supportive leader (he was brilliant like that), I had the green light to move forward.
Using Purpose in practice
Gathering the team together, over a few weeks we worked up a core purpose and some simple objectives that worked dynamically together. The aim being that the managers then began to put these to use in their projects to guide them, and at the same time give them discretion, choice and control. And we tried every week to share learning, talk about issues and develop as a group.
The Project Management Purpose and three simple objectives
As a group we decided that the purpose of Project Management was
‘To create the Right Change, Right First Time’
And to do this:
1. Add value by delivering projects and improving situations that achieve a positive outcome for customers and the business
2. Keep studying and learning about better ways of achieving purpose and objective 1
3. Apply that learning in practice and evaluate the outcomes and improve as necessary
Together these summed-up the general aims of the job description in a more useful way.
Acknowledgement – On the use of Purpose for direction
Nothing emerges in a vacuum and I always believe in acknowledging origins. I was lucky enough to have learned and worked with the inspirational occupational psychologist, public speaker and management thinker John Seddon. He taught consultants working for his company (Vanguard Consulting) to follow purpose and principles. In this way consultants are able to exercise both discretion and judgment in how the purpose is delivered. If a consultant wished to reflect upon an issue, John and the network of fellow senior consultants were always available. He always provided consultants lots of opportunities to share learning (and mistakes) through regular learning sessions. The result is a mature autonomy and not a top-down ‘I say, you do’ approach as found in Theory X.
I have a duty of care to organisations that I work with. Information related to the organisation is commercially sensitive and never discussed. I always anonymise the article and wherever possible obscure which organisation this might be. Although I feel it is fair to write about what I have done and General concepts. And I have worked in well over 20 organisations and on 30 plus projects.