I am going to Iceland again next week, the country not the store, to teach leadership psychology to business people on the Masters in Project Management at Reykjavik University. I have been doing this for the last four years. My book (https://www.routledge.com/Project-Psychology-Using-Psychological-Models-and-Techniques-to-Create/Mascia/p/book/9780566089428) is one of the text books for the course, so what is interesting about this? I have been involved in delivering many transformational change projects in large organisations. I quickly realised that project management is heavily focused on Gantt charts and Prince2 methodologies. People issues tend to be included as an afterthought and there is never a ‘people plan’. This was why I decided to write my book, to encourage project managers and those involved in managing transformational change, to recognise the importance of effectively managing the people factors.
It is quite unique that the University of Reykjavik dedicate two full days of a masters’ course in project management to exploring the people factors i.e. the psychological aspects of leadership that result in successful projects e.g. emotional intelligence, transformational leadership, techniques from positive psychology, facilitating flow, making pressure positive, encouraging creativity.
Why Do People Factors Matter When Bringing About Transformational Change?
You get different responses to this question, depending on who you talk to within organisations. If you talk to HR, they will probably tell you that it is important to win hearts and minds when bringing about change. If you talk to project managers, they will probably tell you that people factors are one of the principle risks to manage. The reason that people factors matter when you are bringing about change is because projects that fail to pay sufficient attention to them, tend to be unsuccessful. Research by: Yukl, Hylvari, Zimmerer & Yasin identified the following success factors for transformational change projects: ability to inspire/motivate others, ability to lead by example, the ability to create and share a vision, ability to effectively manage conflict. This research suggests that the ability to lead people well is crucial for success and yet, in the day to day practice of change project delivery, this are does not seem to attract much attention. Organisations are often very focused on having people who manage organisational projects trained to Prince2 level but to what extent do they invest in their leadership skills and their wider understanding and experience of how to handle the emotions that surface during transformational change?
ARE GANTT CHARTS SEDUCING THE WRONG PEOPLE?
In my experience, another issue in project management is that is tends to attract a significant number of project managers who are not people-centric. In the past, I have been involved in recruiting for senior project and interestingly, many of the candidates who came forward for those roles were predominantly not people-centric. I think that the discipline of project management, with its emphasis on Gantt charts and critical path analyses seduces people into thinking that projects are about mathematical, linear processes. Unfortunately, project success does not hinge on the quality of the Gantt chart, although a good Gantt chart helps, but on the ability of the project manager to understand, harness and manage the emotions of the people involved in and impacted by the project. Most of the candidates that I saw did not have the necessary people or leadership skills that would have enabled them to be successful in senior project roles. You have probably guessed that I am keen to see change/project management adopt a more robust approach that integrates people factors into every aspect of the project. I have trained hundreds of staff in ‘Pain Free Project Management’ http://cognoscenti.uk.com/cognoscenti/ which covers not only the practical disciplines of managing a project, but also the skills of engaging staff and stakeholders so that they make a positive contribution to projects.
If you manage projects in your organisation but do not want to go down the Prince2 route or if you already have Prince2 but want to learn more about managing the people factors in projects, Pain Free Project Management may be worth looking at!