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PM Essence

Project Management Learning Tools – What planet do they come from?

                                                                 -David Trickey

    Our clients, quite rightly, expect measurable learning solutions which deal with their major business challenges. A common and reassuring label for a learning solution in organizations where they expect quantifiable results is a 'tool'. This is especially true in more engineering oriented organizations.


Tools fix things which need fixing. But what's the tool to fix a breakdown in trust?


A breakdown which has occurred because John in Country X has upset Jane in Country Y. John has been unintentionally over direct in giving feedback via email and has CC the boss? Not so easy.

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In TCO International's new book published this month: Managing Challenges across Cultures: a multicultural project management toolbox, co-authored with our client Comau and published by McGraw Hill, we attempt to redefine what we mean by a 'tool' in the context of learning. We set out to design an approach to manage cultural diversity and distance which combines the three different planets in the Project Management 'solar system'.

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Organizations should not to resort shortcuts and unethical means in order to generate profits because that will be disastrous for the project, client, and the organization in the long run & highly damaging to the social image and brand. For new-age companies, being ethical is becoming an increasingly important component of their business practice, particularly in the era of fast Internet, powerful social networks and smart instruments where opinions and perceptions can flow at lightning speed
Why Being Ethical Matters
 

Firstly, there is planet IT - no, not that world in which your friendly technologists live. This is the objective world of facts, of processes, procedures, data, measurement, KPIs, systems, structures, models, theories, logic and scientific proof. It is the world of truth. This IT world is very familiar to most of our clients – sometimes to the exclusion of the other worlds. And IT is a mechanistic world where learning tools fit comfortably because tools leverage, fix, drive and measure (I also discovered that the world of IT is populated by people suffering from such serious medical problems that they are in need of learning 'pills').

 
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But there are two other important planets. There is the world of 'WE' - the interactive world of connection, of relationships, of morals, of good and bad, of listening, of dialogue, of 'teamness', of corporate and national cultures. We create this world in the moments of downtime, coffee machine conversations and lunchtime chats in our organizations. This world is populated by people in search of collaboration because no individual is smarter than us.

 

Finally there is the planet 'I'. This is the subjective, inner world we all inhabit, populated by hidden talents, aspirations, self-reflection, perceptions and feelings. It's where the personal commitment and motivation comes from, to hit that KPI today. Unfortunately, this is often the planet we learn to park outside the office gates because most organizations haven't given it official security access yet.

Some of these planets have been more closely explored by the Project Management community than others. But we can't do without any of them. You can't solve a WE problem simply with an IT solution (mutual trust won't be rebuilt by giving ourselves different KPIs), or an I problem with a WE solution (my personal commitment to rebuilding trust with you can't be guaranteed just by talking things through with you), or even an IT problem with and I solution (we can't develop a fair system which we can all put our trust in by going to a silent retreat to discover our inner self).

 

We need to look for solutions where these three planets intersect.

 

In practical terms, we can go back to our problem of the email which caused a breakdown of trust on the other side of the globe. In the book, we devised a tool - the Team Ground Rules tool - which is based on a questionnaire and scoring system (an IT perspective) to get team members to explore how individual preferences for collaborating in the project team (an I perspective) can be explored and negotiated - leading to a definition of the best ground rules to manage the dynamics in this specific multicultural team (a WE perspective).

 

We need learning tools which give people a structured way to reflect on themselves as individuals (self-knowledge) while also reminding us of our inevitable interdependence with diverse others to get things done (insight about others and what do we want to do together, and how to get there). The 'structured' aspect is useful because innovation in a global organization comes from the careful balance between divergence and convergence. Converge too soon and the silent minority leave uncommitted; diverge too long and we make diversity an excuse for endless discussions with no action.

 

In our approach to Managing Challenges across Cultures and the development of the toolkit in particular we have attempted to keep these planets in the same solar system.

 

Is yours an organization where the planets I and WE revolve distantly around the planet IT? Or are all the planets inhabited and fully explored?