Divergent-Convergent Paths Process For Conflict Management

By Luigi Morsa, Aerospace Engineer and Project Manager, SII Engineering & IT

Managing a team is complex and challenging at the same time. Team members naturally have different perceptions, personalities, characters, ideas, and they may be from different cultures. Getting along or minimizing conflict within a team is not easy. 

In managing conflict in teams, we consider two possible relationships: one where the leader interacts with team members, and one where team members interact among themselves and the leader is a “spectator”, but with a task to bring calm in difficult situations. 

Managing Conflicts in Projects

At first glance, conflict management could be perceived as distant from the project management environment, but managing conflict can be extremely useful to better understand and appreciate the diverse thinking of people in a team. 

All this leads to the well-known Conflict Management Techniques laid out in the PMBOK® Guide. The PMBOK® Guide recommends five techniques that project managers can use to manage or eliminate conflict in project teams: 

  • Withdraw / Avoid 
  • Smooth / Accommodate 
  • Compromise / Reconcile 
  • Force / Direct 
  • Collaborate / Problem Solve 

In the same project management guidance, the project manager is also described as a conflict manager. Among the critical skills needed to succeed as a project manager is the ability to manage and mitigate the frictions that are counterproductive and can lead to undesired sources of inefficiencies within a team. 

Regardless the details of the techniques, it’s worth pondering why people develop different ways of thinking and how they arrive at different conclusions and therefore divergent opinions. To address this complex question, we may consider a treatise of psychology or sociology concepts, or we can look at some parallels of how a mathematical theory is built. 

Our perspective draws parallels with a math theory which has no space for opinions. A math theory relies on a set of assumptions (called axioms[1]) accepted by all (or stakeholders, in a project management context) and considered as conventional truth. Through a logical process, other truths are obtained until no one questions the deductions or results. 

The only way to have divergence is to change the initial set of assumptions and the derived theory will then be different. A limpid example of two mathematical theories both valid, but with results and applicability much different, are the Euclidean and Non-Euclidean geometries. 

We can deduce that two people can have different opinions because their starting points are not exactly the same. On the other hand, when people define common starting points, the deductions, obtained by using logic, must converge toward the same results.

Dealing with Divergence

A possible strategy to resolving divergences can be based on the following sequential steps:

  • Understand by a backwards process why the deductions diverge
  • Identify common and different starting points
  • Perform a deep analysis aimed at defining a good set of common points
  • Convince the involved parties to sacrifice some starting points or “source” of disagreement

The following diagram exemplifies a Divergent-Convergent Paths Process that represents a way to obtain convergence by starting with divergent opinions. 

Diagram 1: Divergent-Convergent Paths Process

We need to consider that the leader has not only the task to analyze the facts and passively identify a way to reach compromise as described and shown above. Today, those who lead need to have a vision for a team or for a company. Therefore, it is possible that the agreement reached represents only an intermediate step to go in a different direction. 

We can also say that the compromise is, in most cases, only a short-term decision that has the benefit of mitigating the contrast and quieting the nerves. The compromise is not likely the best solution from a strategic long-term perspective. 

In other words, as soon as a conflict emerges, a compromise based on the analysis described above is applied (temporary solution); while at a later time, the ultimate and most visionary solution is cleverly reached and applied. The following picture gives an idea of the whole process.

Diagram 2: Divergent-Convergent Compromise Paths Process with Project Manager´s Visionary Solution 

The power of the hybrid approach relies on two main facts:

✓ Thanks to analysis and synthesis ways of thinking, the project manager is likely to understand better the varied working styles, personalities, and the ways the concerned parties think.

✓ By applying a temporary solution (compromise) as an intermediate step, it is more probable that the long term and visionary solution identified by the Project Manager will be better embraced or accepted by the team, instead of imposing this last one since the beginning.

Conclusion

Managing conflict and dealing with divergent viewpoints are unavoidable aspects of projects. Successfully navigating convergent and divergent viewpoints require strong communications skills, sound judgment, and an ability to compromise. The process described above together with continuous practice can help project managers mitigate, manage and resolve conflict.


[1] An axiom, postulate or assumption is a statement that is taken to be true, to serve as a premise or starting point for further reasoning and arguments.


About the Author

Luigi Morsa (Ph.D.) is an Aerospace Engineer and Project Manager working in Germany at the consultant company SII engineering & IT. Luigi’s passion for project management has led him to contribute to two books by Dr. Harold Kerzner, the pioneer and globally recognized expert in project management. Luigi wrote two case studies for Project Management Case Studies, Fifth and Sixth Editions (Wiley, 2017, 2022) and the chapter on “Innovation Management Software” for Innovation Project Management (Wiley, 2019).

In 2018, Luigi was a speaker at the Project Management Institute (PMI®) EMEA Congress to discuss the complexity of the aircraft industry market, with particular emphasis on the relationship between product and customer needs. He is the author of two other blogs—“People Innovation: A New Vision to Innovate” (2019) and “Chess and Business Strategy” (2020).

 


Adaptability and Resilience

Cultivating Adaptability and Resilience

By Cyndi Synder Dionisio, Lead for the PMBOK ® Guide & President | Cynergy2

There is a principle in the PMBOK® Guide – Seventh Edition about adaptability and resilience, and if there is anything the past 2 years has taught us, it is the need for adaptability and resilience. The principle states: 

“Build adaptability and resiliency into the organization’s and project team’s approaches to help the project accommodate change, recover from setbacks, and advance the work of the project.” 

With the rapid pace and relentless need for transformation we are all facing change fatigue - so how can we continue to not just adapt but thrive in this environment? In this article I’ll talk about personal adaptability and resilience and provide you with some ways you can cultivate these two important qualities. 

Cultivating Adaptability 

Adaptability isn’t just about being able to adjust to new or changing conditions, environments, trends and other circumstances; it is about being able to adjust quickly, calmly and effectively. Change is often accompanied by stress, uncertainty, anxiety, self-doubt, and other limiting feelings. To move past these feelings and cultivate adaptability, we can take steps to prepare for a changing environment. When I say prepare, I’m not talking about preparing for a specific change, I am talking about updating your mindset and the way you think about change. There are three ways you can prepare yourself to function effectively in a rapidly changing environment. 

  1. Be observant. Rather than waiting for the next shift in your job, the competition, the market, etc., spend time observing what is happening. Look for trends and indicators of what is likely to happen. This behavior can put you in front of the change rather than being taken by surprise. Being ahead of the change allows you to maintain a sense of calm and prepare for what is coming.  
  1. Develop a growth mindset. Rather than seeing change as something that is bad, frightening or irritating, focus on what you can learn. What new skills can you develop? How will the new situation help you? Find ways you can turn it to your advantage. This mindset will help you maintain a positive attitude and shift your thinking from victim to victor.  
  1. Learn to accept change. Things are going to change whether we want them to or not and whether we are ready for them to or not. As the quote from Star Trek says, ‘resistance is futile’. Therefore, the faster you can accept it, plan for it, and even leverage and grow from it, the happier you will be. 

With change and transformation, preparation is only half the game. The other half is how you respond. There are several ways you can foster adaptability in the face of disruption. To start with, be curious and openminded. Ask questions and listen with an open mind. Try and understand what led to the current situation, what it means for you and your organization, and how to support the change.  

Next, think about the situation from multiple perspectives. Talk with your team members and colleagues. Get their take on the situation. Apply that curiosity we talked about above. When you can see a situation from multiple perspectives, you are more effective in dealing with the challenges it can bring.  

Which brings us to the next aspect of cultivating adaptability – approach the situation as a problem-solving opportunity. There are plenty of problem-solving frameworks you can apply to provide some structure to the process. Most of them have these common elements: 

Define the problem → identify the solution criteria →  generate options →  consider risks associated with the options  →  evaluate the options using the criteria  →  choose the best option.  

To strengthen your adaptability mindset when you are generating options, look for innovative solutions, foster creative thinking, and stretch your imagination. Don’t settle for the easiest or even the safest response. Think bigger, thing differently. You may end up with the easiest or safest response, but don’t lose the opportunity for innovation. 

Given that a change in the environment or conditions is often accompanied by a change in job roles and responsibilities – develop your skill set. This may mean developing new technical skills, or it may mean acquiring or brushing up on leadership and interpersonal skills. Afterall, it has been said that it isn’t the strongest or most intelligent that survive, but the most adaptable.  

Cultivating Resilience 

Another key quality we can all benefit from is resilience. Resilience is the ability to adjust to or recover readily from adversity, crisis, setbacks, change, and other significant sources of stress. We don’t have the luxury of evolutionary change. We must adapt quickly and recover quickly.  

Here are four ways you can cultivate resilience in your work and personal life. 

  1. Keep things in perspective. While a disruption or change may seem like a major concern, if you can step back and look at it from a wider lens, you will often find it is not as monumental as you first thought. Keeping things in perspective can include asking yourself, in the overall scheme of things, is this going to be a big deal in my life? Or does it just seem that way now? 
  1. Maintain a positive outlook. Thinking of all the things that could go wrong, or how awful the situation is, is counterproductive. No matter what the situation, endeavor to find a way to maintain a positive attitude. Your ability to recover from adversity is directly influenced by your attitude. Pay attention to both your internal words and your external words. The things you tell yourself are just as important as what you say out loud. Keep both conversations positive. 
  1. Accept change. Accepting change is a part of building resilience as well as adaptability. We can’t recover and move on if we are still holding onto the past or wishing things were different. People who are resilient acknowledge what is and keep moving forward.  
  1. Learn. The most resilient people are always learning. You can learn from positive as well as negative outcomes. You can learn from peers, mentors, and friends. Spend time reflecting to see what behaviors or actions you can carry forward, and which you should adjust in the future.  

The only thing certain these days is change! Thus, one of the best things you can do for yourself, both personally and professionally, is develop your ability to be flexible and adapt, and to recover quickly and learn from your experience.  

To learn more about the principles of the PMBOK® Guide, watch my IPM Day Presentation, "Putting the PMBOK® Guide – Seventh Edition to Work", on November 4. You can learn more about the presentation and register here using the code DIONISO for $10 OFF.

Cyndi Adaptability and ResilienceAbout the Author

Cynthia (Cyndi) Snyder Dionisio is a professional project management author, consultant, and instructor. Ms. Dionisio provides consulting and training services for LinkedIn Learning, academia, government and private industry. An accomplished author and facilitator, she has written a dozen books on project management and trained thousands of project managers. Cyndi has been the Chair for three editions of the PMBOK® Guide. In 2009 she was awarded PMI’s Distinguished Contribution Award and in 2018 she was presented with the PMI Fellow Award.


Teams Beyond the Comfort Zone

By Felix Ludosan - Senior Program Manager | BASF 

As project professionals, we’re used to thinking about the plans, deadlines, deliverables.

We lead or be a team player as the situation requires. We experience and manage projects in the context of both our professional and personal lives.

But what happens when project thinking seeps into unfamiliar territory, to situations that extend beyond our normal comfort zone?

Beyond comfort means learning new skills and adapting quickly

As a former professional basketball player, I enjoy physical sports and a challenge every now and then. Sailing, a sport I have always wanted to try, was not exactly in my comfort zone.

When I was offered the chance to join a team sailing experience along the scenic Croatian coast, I jumped into the challenge. The prospect of learning new skills, and most of all, joining an exciting team, made me say yes. I’m about to set sail to Croatia’s largest marina in Sukošan, which some call a paradise for boaters!

Project professionals know this situation well: you get two or more opportunities to join new projects and something inside you says, “Stay in the comfort zone”. Other voices warn you to stay away of troubled waters, with a high probability to fail. But if you always listen to these voices, you will certainly miss important experiences in your life.

We flew to Zadar in Croatia and joined the sailing team in the country’s largest marina in Sukošan. The plan was to enter the sea the next morning, which meant there wasn’t really much time for team building.

We first went for dinner at the marina restaurant, surpassing Tuckman’s Five Stages of Group Development very quickly towards the Performing stage. Then we went back to the boat and clarified the roles and responsibilities for the next seven days.

Everyone was aware of the individual sailing skills of the others, making it easier to assign duties among the team members. Awareness about individual capabilities and the recognition that everyone can contribute in some way to the team’s goals are both key for team success.

My job was to help pull the sheets and lines at sea and to pick up the mooring line when docking in the marina, because that was the best I could do on the ship. To be successful in a project, it is important that specific tasks are carried out by the most skilled person, wherever possible. This is crucial, when sailing.

After being clear about our roles, we planned together the next sailing day, just as you would do in a projects, particulary some hybrid projects. On one hand, the final goal was clear—bring back the boat to Sukošan after one week; on the other hand, we kept the daily itinerary flexible, based on latest weather forecasts, personal mood, and physical condition of the team members.

Being a self-organizing team on a sailing trip, leadership is an important factor to success. Like in every relationship, consensus about decisions is not a given, but in crucial situations like on day four of our trip, there were no doubts. The dangerous Bora winds falling from the Dinaric Alps suddenly hit our ship as we were passing a strait between two islands. Our team member Mark immediately took the lead, and everyone followed his instructions without any discussion or blaming.

That reminded me of project situations—when quick decisions and actions are required, a strict hierarchy is very useful. After a two-hour-struggle with the sails and the waves, we managed to reach a calm bay. Afterwards, we tried to fix the damage to the ship. We cooked and ate together, while reviewing the situation and optimizing our approach for the future. We also exchanged our personal feelings and moods after this dramatic emergency. It reminded me again how beneficial it is for projects to have a team collocated to enhance information coordination and maximize resources.

The last days on the ship were smooth and, as we were handing over the boat to the charterer, we realized how fast a team can grow in just seven days, and how much we can accomplish together.

Because … we were on the same boat.

If you want to know what I learned about the power of teams during my basketball career, join my presentation at IIL’s International Project Management Day, which opens on November 4, 2021, and is available On-Demand until February 6, 2022.

Register here and get a $10 discount by using the code LUDOSAN.

IPM Day Speaker Felix Ludosan - Out of His Comfort ZoneAbout The Author

Felix Ludosan played basketball on a professional level before he joined IBM Germany as a Computer Science graduate in 1995. When ‘Big Blue’ established their Project Management Center of Excellence in 1997, Felix decided to pursue a project management career. He discovered early that his sports experience was extremely beneficial for the project management profession, which became his passion for life. Felix has worked in numerous industries including Automotive, Financial Services, Insurance, Government, and Manufacturing. The 6.5 ft. PMP® certified project manager is currently one of the Project Management thought leaders at BASF in Germany, a leading multinational chemical company. As a certified Sports Mental Coach and Athlete Manager, Felix also coaches young athletes, including his son, an international soccer goalkeeper playing in the U.S., and his daughter who plays basketball in Germany.


The Effective and Innovative Virtual Team Leader

By Frank P. Saladis, PMP, LIMC MCCP, PMI Fellow

Virtual teams have been a part of the business, public, and not for profit environments for many years. In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s the internet began to significantly influence how information and meetings were managed. The economic situation in 1986 also had a major impact on business travel and companies sought new ways to conduct meetings more economically and to minimize travel. Back in that time period, technology was available but expensive and was used primarily by large corporations that could afford to construct what was basically a television production studio. 

Today there are multiple platforms to choose from and they are generally very economical. The features and functions associated with the platforms provide the team leader or meeting facilitator with a variety of tools that can engage the attendees and produce the desired meeting outcomes. 

In today’s new business environmentremotely distributed and virtual teams, although not entirely a new concept, have become a much more integral part of daily business. The leaders of these virtual teams must adapt to a very demanding and nearly constant state of “virtuality.”

Here are a few suggestions that may assist in creating a virtual team community that is well connected, engaged, and productive: 

  1. Prepare an agenda for your meetings to send out to attendees, regardless of planned duration. Team members want to know the topics in advance. This helps them to prepare and participate more productively. 
  1. If possible, schedule “recurring meetings” and “status updates” for a specific day and time each week/month. This allows everyone to plan their schedules and avoid commitment conflicts. 
  1. Everyone’s time is important, so keep meetings as brief as possible and, as the leader, always be on line before everyone else. This also allows for some “social chat” and warm up before you begin. 
  1. Some meetings require attendance by very specific individuals. Invite only those people who are truly needed for each meeting. 
  1. Use “visual anchors” to maintain engagement – pictures, charts, images, diagrams. Use color to enhance the visual effect. 
  1. Use “verbal anchors” to ensure clarity and understanding – comparisons, analyses, processes and steps, examples, repeating information for emphasis. 
  1. Use “connection anchors” to maintain attention and participation – Ask team members specific questions, shift responsibility for facilitation., 
  1. Share work assignments equally. In many cases, leaders subconsciously assign particular work to team members based on the leader’s perception of an individual’s work performance. The leader is a coach and a mentor, and trust is a key factor in creating high performance teams. Show your entire team that you trust them. 
  1. Connect with each team member individually and establish a rapport. This is necessary to ensure that performance related discussions are productive, comfortable, and meaningful. 
  1. Establish ways for the team to get to know each other. There are lots of creative techniques to establish a very supportive virtual team environment: Share baby pictures and ask people to match each picture with the team members, have occasional round-table discussions, pair people to work together, be an idea champion and encourage everyone to come up with suggestions for increasing engagement and meeting enjoyment. 

This new virtual business environment we are experiencing will probably continue as the business world moves forward. Technology will evolve to meet the needs and the team leader must adapt to the many new norms that are just over the virtual horizon. 

One more tip I have for you is implement “enjoyment time” for each meeting, demonstrate your trust in your team, and exercise some creativity in your meeting management. Give everyone an opportunity to excel and contribute and keep communication flowing to ensure a strong team connection. 


About the Author

Frank Saladis is an internationally renowned speaker, consultant and instructor in the project management profession with over 35 years of experience in the telecommunications and project management training environment. Frank is a past president of the PMI Assembly of Chapter Presidents and is the originator of International Project Management Day. In 2006 he received the prestigious Person of the Year Award from PMI for his contributions to the practice of project management.


The Grateful Agile Leader

By Susan Parente, PMP, PMI-ACP, CSM, CSPO, PSM I, CISSP, CRISC, PMI-RMP, RESILIA, ITIL, GL®CP, MS Eng. Mgmt. | Risk Management Guru – Agile Specialist – IIL Senior Instructor

We know that servant leadership is an excellent match for Agile methods. For example, in Scrum, the Scrum Master is a servant leader of the Scrum Team. What other leadership styles have a home in the Agile approach? Grateful Leadership is a style of leadership that is somewhat newer than other styles of leadership. It speaks to the fundamentals of providing acknowledgment for people on your team, what they do, and how they contribute. This article makes a connection between this style of leadership and Agile project management.

“Like Judith W. Umlas (the founder of Grateful Leadership), Robert Greenleaf (the founder of Servant Leadership) knew that you cannot build community, much less earn trust, without acknowledging colleagues, expressing gratitude and offering recognition. If Greenleaf was alive today, I believe he would say that you cannot be a servant leader without being a grateful leader.”  (Don M. Frick, Ph.D., Author of the authorized biography Robert K. Greenleaf: A Life of Servant Leadership)

There is a well-supported place for Grateful Leadership in Agile project management. For example, in the team retrospectives, where the project team members are trying to understand what they did well and what could be improved. How can you use Grateful Leadership for both of these topics, so the team can know how they improved, and how can they learn and move forward? Grateful Leadership is clearly a great match for team members to use in the retrospective, to acknowledge team members and their contributions.

Servant Leadership is also very important in Agile. The Scrum Master should be a servant leader and a grateful leader, not a delegative leader or a directive leader. When I first learned about Grateful Leadership, I immediately thought of how well it blends with Servant Leadership and serving the team. This is so fundamental to Agile and, even in traditional project management, Servant Leadership is one of my preferred ways of leading people. One of the reasons for this is that I am sometimes leading somebody who makes more money than I do, or someone who knows more than I do about the work they are doing. How could I possibly lead a subject matter expert in any sort of directive way? For example, saying, “I’m in charge and this is what you’ve got to do.” If you know somebody makes more money than you and they know more than you about the work they are doing, then Servant Leadership makes more sense.

What servant leadership looks like is, “I can’t do what you do and we need your support and efforts, so how can I help you be successful, so that you can be successful?” Unfortunately, this is lacking in many environments, but it’s very supportive in Agile, and I think bringing Grateful Leadership to the project team is also important. Anywhere one is doing stakeholder management, is an appropriate place for gratitude and acknowledgment. For example, saying “Thank You” to the product owner for being there to ask questions, being involved, being engaged, and for wanting to know how things are going with the project. There is so much to be grateful for when working on a project!

Through personal growth and development via leadership training, I realized that when acknowledgment is missing, there is something major lacking for me. If I don’t feel acknowledged, or if I don’t acknowledge others, when acknowledgment is missing, I am not motivated. I am one of those people who will stay up to 2 a.m. to complete a task or a deliverable, if needed by my client; however if I don’t feel appreciated or acknowledged for the work I do, I don’t have the drive to work extra time or even on my own time. I can work my way through something, if I feel I am appreciated. I am clear about how important acknowledgment is for me, so I recognize that it is likely important for others.

In summary, it’s difficult to do work when you don’t feel appreciated. Have you ever felt that way? Both Servant Leadership, as well as Grateful Leadership allow one to influence without authority. These leadership styles are critical for Agile projects where you may be a team member, Product Owner, or even a project manager.

To learn more about Grateful Leadership, see the Center for Grateful Leadership site, where you may obtain much more information. Membership is free, and it is priceless!

If you are interested in learning more about leadership and how it relates to Agile and the PMI-ACP certification, please email me at parente@s3-tec.com or susan.parente@iil.com, or connect with me on LinkedIn.

About the Author
Susan Parente (PMP, PMI-ACP, CSM, CSPO, PSM I, CISSP, CRISC, PMI-RMP, RESILIA, ITIL, GL®CP, MS Eng. Mgmt.) is a senior instructor at IIL, an Associate Professor at Post University, Adjunct Professor at Montclair State University, and a Lecturer at the University of Virginia. She is an author, mentor and teacher focused on risk management, along with traditional and Agile project management. Her experience is augmented by her Masters in Engineering Management with a focus in Marketing of Technology from George Washington University, DC, along with a number of professional certifications. Mrs. Parente has 25+ years’ experience leading software and business development projects in the private and public sectors, including a decade of experience implementing IT projects for the DoD.


People Innovation: A New Vision to Innovate

By Luigi Morsa, Ph.D. 

Nowadays, companies are very conscious that if they want to be competitive, they have to innovate. The conquered market shares can rapidly disappear or drastically be reduced. The only way is to keep pace, to be reactive and introduce new solutions, ideally before their competitors. It is worth quoting a sentence of the father of the Open Innovation concept, Henry Chesbrough: “Most innovation fails. And companies that don’t innovate die” [1].

In the complex companies’ world, as is well-known to the experts (contrary to what is broadly thought), innovation is not only linked to a new product; the innovation can be also relative to a new process, a new company asset, a new procedure, or a new business model. In a nutshell, we can agree that innovation is all about bringing improvement and efficiency; and affecting the development of a company in a positive manner.

It is also true that there are innovations with different importance, namely there exist innovations with different impacts on a company and on a market; for instance, the strongest innovations are the ones able to replace an existing market or create a new one. This leads to the fascinating economic concepts of “Creative Destruction Innovation” by Joseph Schumpeter in 1942 [2] and “Disruptive Technologies” by Joseph Bower and Clayton Christensen in 1995 [3].

On the other hand, a less important innovation does not really affect the old scenario but brings some benefit to the company. It is clear that a company has to focus on innovations at each level. In order to efficiently pursue this task, companies have adopted several tools, procedures and strategies that help the birth of new ideas – in addition to adopting the classical Research and Development department (especially if we are speaking about product innovation).

The ideas are clearly generated by people and therefore the companies realized that a secret to obtain as many new ideas as possible is to create the “ideal condition” to allow people to bring their contribution. One interesting way to accomplish the task is represented by the so-called “Innovation Management Software (IMS)”. This has been developing during the last two decades and it can be seen as the last evolution of the “suggestion box”, introduced more than 100 years ago and still present in some offices.

The Innovation software programs are usually conceived in a way that there is a common platform where all the users (basically employees of the company) have access and can freely leave their proposals or opinions about a possible new idea. Then, each new proposal generates an online debate or discussion with the effect to improve it. Once a certain number of ideas is reached, the selection phase starts. This is conducted by innovation project managers with the support of sector experts and business unit people. Their intent is to evaluate the feasibility from a technical and business point of view, respectively. Finally, this committee selects the ideas which are worthy of an investment [4].

In most cases, even though the IMS is very fascinating, a good percentage of employees are reluctant to contribute their ideas to the company. Possible reasons may be because they have not developed a sense of belonging, they simply do not believe in the company, or they think that an idea given to the company is a kind of gift without a sure repayment. In order to avoid such inefficiencies, the latest tools like IMS should be supported by an additional software that we could baptize “People Innovation (PI)”. The purpose of this article is not to give a detailed description about the software concept, but to discuss the main guidelines and benefits.

The starting point is the slight change in the philosophical approach between the IMS and People Innovation (PI). We can say that the innovation management software is based on the assumption that the main heritage of a company that wants to innovate lies on the ideas of the people of the company; therefore, the software “simply” helps the development of ideas. In the case of PI, the basis goes beyond: the main heritage of a company to innovate lies on the people of the company; therefore, the software helps people to innovate themselves and, consequently, also the company.

If the company believes in the employees, the employees feel more motivated to give their contribution to the company and, finally, to innovate.

The weak side of the IMS is, on one hand, it favors peoples’ connections and discussions to help generate ideas. On the other hand, it does not care about how an employee can develop himself or herself during this time. How can a sense of belonging or the desire to participate in the innovation process of a company be generated in employees? The answer is the following: through the idea that a company wants to take care of its employees, wants to bet on them, wants to donate a future vision and want to define professional development for them.

We can imagine that the PI software could have a special section where all the employees’ profiles are stored and for each of them, the possible career paths are shown, the courses needed to achieve some results are advised, as well as how their innovative ideas can be supported or promoted. 

The other important aspect is, who are the players that ensure PI works properly? In this regard, we are talking about people in Human Resources, the project innovation managers and the line managers. All these players have to have access to the PI shell, and they have to help employees in their development in the company. In general, HR could monitor if an employee is satisfied and understand all of his/her needs, the line manager could define what can be done for their professional development and the project innovation manager could stay alert in case of new potential ideas.

The software could definitely be a powerful tool to motivate employees. One of the biggest challenges in organizational management is how to provide recognition (and possibly rewards) to workers that make a significant contribution to the business. There are two critical issues with recognition systems.

  • First, not all employees are in a position where their performance can be directly related to business success. This can alienate workers who believe they are missing out on these opportunities because of their current work assignment or position.
  • Second, the company must decide if the recognition will be done monetarily or non-monetarily. Believe it or not, having a diagram with the visible professional development, with the past achievements and above all with the future targets for an employee is priceless. People could believe that regular meetings with HR and managers of various kinds are enough, but they are not. Software is needed since it is important to have a visible, professional situation and clear prospects.

In conclusion, we observe that PI’s purpose is not to replace traditional innovation software management. On the contrary, PI actually completes the IMS by enlarging potential. The IMS encourages cooperation for the development of an idea, creates the useful connections and improves the concepts promoting discussions. PI accompanies and drives the employees during their stay in the company in order to find out the best way to be motivated and to better express themselves, and it creates more suitable conditions to generate ideas. It is something that a company (devout to innovation) should have and develop according to its needs.

About the Author
Luigi Morsa (Ph.D.) is an Aerospace Engineer and Project Manager working in Germany at the consultant company SII engineering & IT. Luigi’s passion for project management has led him to contribute to two books by Dr. Harold Kerzner, the pioneer and globally recognized expert in project management. More in detail, Luigi wrote the case study “The Airbus A380” and the chapter on “Innovation Management Software” for the books Project Management Case Studies, Fifth Edition (Wiley, 2017) and Innovation Project Management (Wiley, 2019), respectively. In 2018, he was a speaker at the Project Management Institute (PMI)® EMEA Congress to discuss the complexity of the aircraft-industry market, with particular emphasis on the relationship between the product and customer needs.


References: 

[1]. Henry W. Chesbrough, “Open Innovation: The New Imperative for Creating and Profiting from Technology”, Harvard Business School Press, 2003.

[2]. Joseph A. Schumpeter, “Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy”, Harper & Brothers, 1942.

[3]. Joseph L. Bower and Clayton M. Christensen, “Disruptive technologies: catching the wave”, Harvard Business Review, 1995.

[4]. Harold Kerzner, “Innovation Project Management”, John Wiley & Sons, 2019.


Key Themes at IPM Day 2019

By J. LeRoy Ward, IIL Executive VP of Enterprise Solutions and Sander Boeije, Program Manager – IIL Online Conferences 

On November 7, 2019, IIL will celebrate the 16th anniversary of International Project Management Day, also known as IPM Day. Initially conceived by Frank P. Saladis, and made possible by IIL, this important day recognizes the incredible and valuable work that project managers do every day. IIL’s IPM Day event is one of the project management industry’s largest and most popular online conferences. It brings together the best minds in the business to speak on today’s most relevant and pressing topics. This year is no different.

In this article, we outline the key themes that emerge at IIL’s IPM Day 2019. So, let’s dive right in.

Benefits and Value

As project managers, we need to “Focus on What Matters.” There is a reason that this statement is the theme of IPM Day 2019. Today, projects take up an incredibly important role within a business and, as discussed by Sunil Prashara, President and CEO of Project Management Institute (PMI), this will only increase as we further evolve into the Project Economy. Therefore, project managers not only need to deliver the project, but they also need to ensure that the project achieves its intended business benefits. The need for project managers to focus on Benefits and Value is an overriding theme at IPM Day 2019.

This will be discussed in the keynote sessions by Dr. Harold Kerzner, Kasia Grzybowska and J. LeRoy Ward. It is also a recurring topic in many other presentations as well.

Agile Project Management

In the past decade, Agile has finally established is rightful place in Project Management. One example of this is PMI’s acquisition of Disciplined Agile and FLEX. Yet, there are still many questions to be answered regarding its application on various projects. For example, how do you manage risk on an agile project? How could an Agile PMO function and does that even make sense in the first place? And what about leadership in an agile organization, how does that work exactly?

Experts including Roy Schilling, Rubin Jen, and Mayo Clinic’s Wale Elegbede, as well as our other speakers, provide you with the answers to these questions and more.

Digitalization

As Industry 4.0 continues to take shape and impact many organizations, we see an exponential increase in complexity, data, digital solutions, and more. How can we make sense of all the information and technology that is available to us, make the right decisions, and successfully manage our projects?

Thought leaders such as Microsoft’s Melissa Bader, Laila Faridoon, Leon Herszon, Carla Fair-Wright, and many others will help you navigate the digital world.

Change Leadership

Today’s business landscape changes fast. At the same time that companies are going through a number of major transformations (think Agile and Digitalization), mergers and acquisitions, and other game-changing scenarios, it seems the world uncovers one disruptive innovation after another. Businesses need strong leadership to stay relevant and prosperous moving into the future. This requires companies to be adaptive and always in a position to redefine their course.

Watch the sessions by Ben Chodor, Heidi Helfand, Jennifer Hurst, and Jimmy Godard to learn about how you can prepare yourself, your team, and your organization for unavoidable and constant disruptive change.

Soft Skills become Power Skills

Soft skills, as important as they are, will become even more so. In fact, some experts have redefined the concept of soft skills, preferring to label them “Power Skills.” Although we’re not sure who deserves the credit for coining this term, it is becoming more and more obvious that it is soft skills that make project managers successful. Accordingly, organizations need to focus on developing competencies in such areas as empathy, influencing others and grit.

Don’t miss the sessions with PMI’s Sunil Prashara, Diane Hamilton, Sean Hearne, and Ulli Munroe who all discuss key Power Skills for the Project Manager.

Still need to register for IPM Day? Sign up here.


J. LeRoy Ward (PMP, PgMP, PfMP, CSM, CSPO) is IIL’s Executive Vice President of Enterprise Solutions and a recognized thought leader, consultant and adviser in project, program and portfolio management. With more than 39 years of experience in the field, his insights, perspectives and advice have been sought by hundreds of companies and government agencies around the world.


Rich Sheridan on Leading with Joy

Rich Sheridan is the CEO of Menlo Innovations and the author of Joy, Inc. and Chief Joy Officer. As opening keynote speaker at IIL’s Leadership & Innovation 2019 Online Conference, he inspired us all with his uncommon approach to leadership and productivity in the modern workplace.

We received so many great questions during the 15-minute Q&A that we didn’t have time to get to them all. Thank you to Rich for taking the time to answer each and every question. This blog post is a compilation of some of our favorites.

The recording of Rich’s keynote, and all other speaker presentations, are available to watch on demand through June 9. Log in or register here.

How do you tie joy to values and guiding principles?

First we define joy … quite clearly. We ask, then answer two simple questions: Who do you serve? What would delight look like for them?

Thus we align our joy with deeply satisfying those we serve. In other words, we don’t make it about us.

We declared we want to “end human suffering in the world as it relates to technology.” Our primary focus are the end users of the software we are designing and building. We don’t believe we can do this with a team that doesn’t care of itself and each other. Thus, we speak in our guiding principles about how we wish to “Create meaningful, positive human impact. Always demonstrate integrity and authenticity. And act in a way that expresses care, hope, love and joy.”

What’s the best way to convince my boss to try experiments on projects?

My suggestion is to first try to see the world through your boss’s eyes. What are the likely challenges that he or she faces? How are the experiments you are running or suggesting going to help your boss with his/her goals? If you happen to have copies of either of my books available, refer to the index and read all the pages where I talk about Bob Nero, who was my CEO at Interface Systems, Inc. When I better learned to see the world through his eyes, he became VERY supportive of all the experiments I was running.

Does leadership require passion in what they do to be successful?

I believe there are many different ways to lead. We don’t all need to be energized cheerleaders. I feel what is more important is to be your authentic self and truly, passionately BELIEVE in the systems and practices you are creating. Your team will have a finely tuned sense of smell for this authenticity and belief. If they sense it, most will follow, especially if there is trust.

What role does mindset play in a team environment? 

Mindset, in general, is always going to be important. I love Carol Dweck’s work (described in her book Mindset).

Ultimately, we typically don’t make change if we don’t believe change is possible. However, behind just the mindset for change, we need to be open to actually trying things. As leaders, we also need to accept that when we do try things, we need to give some space that things will at first be cumbersome and slow. This is really hard once we are very good at something. It is hard to get back into learning mode. It can actually hurt our brains as our brains start to rewire themselves. A great book on practicing new techniques is Mike Rother’s Toyota Kata.

Besides the nature of the project, and the technical skills, what are other criteria that you use to pair up team members? And as I am sure it happened before, how do you overcome personality challenges? 

We overcome the personality challenges by practicing (constantly) how to work with other people. It helps so much that we pair every minute of every day and we switch the pairs frequently. (I don’t think you need to be as diligent about pairing as we are!). However, the essential ingredient is to practice working with various different kinds of people.

The next step is to practice how to give effective feedback to someone. This is why Crucial Conversations (the book byVitalSmarts) and Leadership and Self-Deception (by Arbinger) are so important to us.

Do you discuss this office environment in your onboarding or interview process for new employees? 

Not so much discuss, as immerse them in it. We offer public tours once a month and many of those interested in interviewing here will come to a public tour before they even declare they are interested. So they can see the office set up outside of an interview event. Our interview process itself is not an interview, but a group audition that simulates the work environment. We recently had 28 candidates come in for two hours. They’d paired with other candidates three times, working together on a shared exercise. Menlonians observed their work together and noted evidence (or lack thereof) of good kindergarten skills: do they play well with others, do they support the person sitting next to them, do they share?

This interview setup isn’t a surprise. We send them a detailed writeup of what to expect. When we introduce ourselves to the group, we tell  them we want them to succeed so we describe the things to avoid.

Does your organization have remote staff, and how do you incorporate them into this process? 

We have been running more and more experiments with remote staff (and remote clients whose team members often pair in with us). We don’t prefer remote work, but we are making it work. We use screen sharing, video and audio technology. It’s working OK. I think there are still improvements to be made. We’ve been running these experiments for about 4 years.

Recommendations on how to do reviews without setting team member against team member? 

My suggestion is to change the compensation process first to not feel like a zero sum game. Second make all review discussions about collaboration and teamwork rather than individual contributions. Did they help others around them succeed?

Understanding you can influence your own team and company. Have you had any conflicts when dealing with customers that are “old school” and very formal? How do you influence your customers?

ALL THE TIME!! Thanks for asking. We spend a lot of time up front (as much as they need) teaching not only how our system works, but WHY we do things the way we do them. We make deep use of storytelling to illuminate the problems we are trying to solve with the approaches we take. It doesn’t work every time, but it’s so much fun when the light goes on for our clients. 🙂 Once it goes on, it never goes off again!

Do you find your structure beneficial for remote workers? 

We skew towards an in-person culture and steer away from remote work. We do have some remote work (either temporarily due to some life events, or permanently due to a life change … one of our great team members married a girl from Moscow and moved there!).

We make it work. It’s just not ideal for the way we have chosen to work.

Can you talk a little about when you get furious, get curious?

This phrase reminds me of the part of Crucial Conversations (by VitalSmarts) called Master You Stories. I think we often get furious because something ends up going differently than we expected. If we assume good intent on the part of the person we are upset with then we can ask:  why would my valued colleague act this way? If we start asking questions like: Are you OK? Is there anything I did to upset you? Am I seeing the full picture? We can diffuse a whole bunch of “furious” feelings once we see the bigger picture.

Regarding the pairing concept: your presentation sparked an idea for me to run the experiment of pairing different roles together–people who are stakeholders in each other’s deliverables. Have you paired different roles together? If so, how’d it go? If not, why not? 

We often pair different roles together. It works just as well as pairing within the role. We even often pair our client team members (say a project sponsor with the Menlo project manager). It’s so much more effective than trading lengthy and misunderstood emails!

How do you go about changing an organization whose culture is ingrained with a sense of entitlement and “this is how we’ve always done it”? 

As Deming once said so delightfully … Change is not required. Survival is not mandatory. 🙂

I’d say, start small, stay hyper local. Change you first … makes changes in your immediately team, group or department. Read the stories of MassMutual, GE and the DTW McDonald’s for examples!

How do you create positive stability among teams with different ways and processes? 

Use simple, repeatable, measurable, visible systems to manage work. For us, we use 8.5” x 5.5” handwritten index cards to describe work. We then estimate the amount of time we need for each index card, then prioritize them to 40 hours of work per week/per person so that we are never overloading our team. We never let work “sneak in the back door”. It all must be handled this way. By keeping our system under control (with very simple tools) we can keep our work from getting out-of-control.

We then work hard to keep fear at bay. If someone shares bad news our pre-programmed reply is to say “thank you” with a smile! As we say, “fear doesn’t make bad news go away, it makes it go into hiding” and then we can’t manage it!

Which book is a good intro book of the ones you listed?

This might seem self-serving, but I’d suggest Joy. Inc. as an introduction as it ties all the pieces together. From there my suggestions will be about where you’d like to start!

For building better relationships, I’d start with Leadership and Self-Deception or Crucial Conversations.

For building better teams: Patrick Lencioni’s Five Dysfunctions of a Team.

For better team players: Lencioni’s The Ideal Team Player.

For better design: Don Norman’s The Design of Everyday Things, and Alan Cooper’s The Inmates are Running The Asylum and the Nightline Youtube videos (Parts 1,2,3) of The Deep Dive about IDEO.

For system’s thinking: Peter Senge’s The Fifth Discipline – The Art of Practice of the Learning Organization. And John Gall’s The Systems Bible (or Systemantics).

Then I’d study Deming, Drucker, Schein, and Tom Peters.

I’ve now given you a lifetime of reading assignments!  🙂


Joanna Durand on Why Passionate Leadership Matters

Joanna Durand is Global Head of the Enterprise Project Delivery Excellence Office at TD Bank. As a keynote speaker at IIL’s Leadership & Innovation 2019 Online Conference, she gave us an understanding of what passionate leadership looks like in practice and shared indispensable tips on how we can become passionate leaders ourselves.

We received so many great questions during the 15-minute Q&A that we didn’t have time to get to them all. Thank you to Joanna for taking the time to answer each and every question. This blog post is a compilation of some of our favorites.

The recording of Joanna’s keynote, and all other speaker presentations, are available to watch on demand through June 9. Log in or register here.

Can you deploy your solution to poor leadership?
How can a leader learn to not instill fear into employees? 
How can one of my leaders earn back the trust they have lost to their employees?

We detect a theme in these questions so will answer all of them together.

The person in question has to be receptive to feedback and coaching in order for any change to be successful and lasting. There is an opportunity to give constructive feedback if a feedback loop exists. The leader needs to be able establish and work through a trusted feedback loop to receive candid feedback, or leverage company structures like HR coaching or formal 360-degree feedback mechanisms. If this does not work and the organizational culture is not aligned to the leader’s behaviour, you are likely look at an exit scenario. Otherwise, as outlined in the keynote, you will risk the loss of the team members who work under that leader.

What would be some actions you identified successful to change the organizational culture to reflect and foster passionate leadership? 

The organization itself has to have a view that the people side of the equation is valuable to its success. If that is true, passionate leadership will flourish. If people are seen as interchangeable or disposable, then only a microculture could exist around a specific passionate leader or team.

How can a leader make sure their passion is reflected to others?

By being authentic, listening openly and reflecting back. Use a feedback loop to understand how you are being received by others.

In many organizations the team members report to a functional manager, so this can diminish the authority of the PM. Do you think passionate leadership of a PM can help?

Absolutely! The project manager owns the virtual team – the tension is the value and commitment to the project versus to the functional manager and resource pool. The Project Manager can change the full dynamic – for better or for worse.

How do you come across as authentic and positive without being fake?

Always BE authentic. Understand how you are perceived by others by asking and listening to feedback.

Does mindfulness meditation have a role in passionate leadership?

I think that depends on the individual and how they derive their energy.

What if the employee is not passionate about their job and not looking for ways to improve themselves? 

A direct career discussion is timely in this situation; indicate clearly how the employee is being perceived by yourself and others and try to understand that person’s desires and motivators, or potential causes of an interim abnormal behaviour.

How do you encourage team members who do not feel the passion? 

You need to have individual conversations with those team members to determine what motivates them, understand where they want to go and discuss what it takes to get there. However, you should also consider that some people just want a job…is this a really a problem for that person, role, or organization?

Can a person choose to portray “passion” and continue to grow a successful team, in a competitive environment? Without being a victim of company culture and the need to have a more tough approach?

Absolutely. Within a competitive and political culture, the passionate leader needs to set a vision based on fact and understand how they leverage their passion to achieve the organization’s goals. As the leader, you get to choose the how, not the what.

How do you steer your team to buy into this notion of keeping leadership accountable, especially to remain “passionate” consistently? 

You need to be authentic – then the passion follows. Everyone has ebbs and flows, so people may manifest varying levels of passion in different ways day to day.

Do you have any suggestions on how to work with a leader who may be passionate but mainly passionate about their personal success? Sometimes we don’t want to leave the job/position because of the leader and need suggestions on how to best work with them and maybe help them. 

It is important to recognize that the demeanor of your leader is important, and you may need to spend energy helping to make that leader successful. In turn, it is important to let the leader know what you need yourself, and if that is not forthcoming, you may need to leave and find the kind of leader you need for your own development and satisfaction.

What do you when you realize your immediate senior management (director) is not necessarily a “passionate leader”? How do you navigate through that? 

See the answer to the question asked above.

Do you have a business idol/mentor? What makes them so special and unique? 

I have had many mentors. A superior ability to engage is something I admire; observing people who are intensely committed is inspirational to me.


Rich Sheridan: Change Begins With You

Originally published at Thetrugroup.com

Rich Sheridan: Change Begins With You | Part 4: Culture Guest Blog Series

[Intro by trugroup.com admin Scott]


“In this interview, Rich Sheridan — founder of Menlo Innovations and author of the new book Chief Joy Officer — shares the trials and tribulations in cultivating and leading a positive work culture in an ever-changing business world.


I first met Rich Sheridan when we toured Menlo Innovations as part of a career transformation program I was leading in 2010, called “Shifting Gears.” I was taken with Rich’s passion for his team and their culture at Menlo as well as his authenticity, evident as he talked about their mistakes and the way they approached change by performing experiments with daily team-generated ideas


A culture conversation would not be complete without including Rich, and I’m excited to share some of his thoughts with you.”

Q: Tell us a little about the beginning. When did you start your business? Why did you decide to start it? What vision or goals did you have for your business in the beginning?

Menlo Innovations was launched on June 12, 2001, at the depth of the dot-com bubble burst. The decision to found an IT-services firm during the darkest day was born out of two basic ideas:

  • We had recently experienced a dramatically positive transformation of a public company, Interface Systems, where I was VP of R&D, and where co-founder James Goebel had worked shoulder-to-shoulder with me on creating that transformation. While the economic tragedy of the internet-bubble burst had caused us all to lose our jobs, this dramatic downturn couldn’t take away what we had learned in that transformation. We knew we could do it again. As I like to say, when the Titanic sank, it took a perfectly good engine room with it, and it wasn’t the engine room’s fault.
  • A downturn is actually an excellent time to start a business because everything — real estate, equipment, office furniture, you name it — is less expensive! There is also an abundance of available talent seeking work.

We wanted to bring to Menlo Innovations what we had experienced at Interface Systems: teamwork, energy, results and positive culture.

Q:  When did the culture of your business become a focus for you? What were some of the first things you remember doing to start focusing on culture?

Culture was a focus right from the start. We were all in the later stages of our careers and wanted to do something meaningful and compelling. We were past the life stage of simply needing a job. We knew we could all find a job. We wanted something we could build that would last and would have impact. Our belief is that an intentionally positive culture was the only way to do that, and intentionally positive cultures were rare. We wanted rare because it energized us and we knew it would energize our team and those whom we serve.

We started this focus by teaching our culture to others. We began offering all-day classes. It was one of our first offerings to teach our “Why” (namely, to end human suffering in the world as it relates to technology and return joy to software) and our “How” (i.e., the processes and practices of the Menlo Software Factory).

Q: What are three successes and one failure in your journey of establishing a great culture in your business?

Successes:

  • We instituted a brand-new way of hiring that we dubbed “Extreme Interviewing” which energized a very tired process in most organizations. We interview without reviewing resumes and without asking questions. Rather, we conduct an unusual audition.
  • We focused on the physical space of Menlo, and we got lucky and found a compelling wide-open space in which to build our team and practice that was consistent with the values we espoused of openness, transparency, teamwork and collaboration.
  • We opened our doors to tours so that people could come and see exactly what it was we’re describing in words. Those tours quickly increased to more than 1,000 visitors per year and now number between 3,000 and 4,000 per year.

What got in the way:

  • Our intention was to build a team that would operate in this compelling space that we had. Our early clients wanted our staff members to work at their locations. We agreed and started putting staff in several locations around Ann Arbor. This thwarted our ability to grow the culture we intended to build, because we just weren’t spending enough time with each other. Whenever a client engagement ended, half of the team that worked there would end up taking another job with another company.

Q: How would I see your culture in action if I walked through Menlo Innovations today?

The good news is that you could join the thousands who come every year from all over the world to see it firsthand. I often get to walk through our front door with visitors, hoping to catch their initial reaction. Typically, the first word out of their mouths is “Wow,” because they can feel the human energy of our team. You walk in and hear the noise of work, see people working shoulder-to-shoulder with each other at a shared computer and keyboard. You hear laughter. You’re likely greeted by a Menlo dog or two. You might hear the sound of a baby brought in by a parent that day. The space is bright, colorful and visual. Our most important artifacts are push-pinned to the wall, and draw the attention of our visitors. These artifacts include handcrafted posters with our most important cultural values, including a great Frank Zappa quote: ‘The computer can’t tell you the emotional story. It can give you the exact mathematical design, but what’s missing is the eyebrows.’ They also see our famous work authorization boards which outline the daily and weekly project work of our team. The projects are described on handwritten index cards and their status is reported with colorful sticky dots, using strings of yarn to mark the current day in each plan so we instantly know whether we are ahead or behind without having to ask.

Q: As a leader of a growing and dynamic business, how do you personally monitor the health of the culture?

I sit out in the room with everyone else. There is no corner office for me. While, as CEO, I will always get a skewed view of the culture, this presence knocks down a lot of the barriers. Many executives will declare that they have an open-door policy. I can’t do that. I don’t have a door.

Q: What final wisdom or advice would you share with a leader that wants to create healthier culture in their own business?

Know that change begins with you. You have to become the example to lead a dramatic change. I was taught to be a different kind of leader early in my career. I had to unlearn some things and re-learn others. Ultimately, I found that if I could learn how to bring my authentic self to work and share my joy in the present and my hope for the future, I could set the stage for a very positive and intentional culture. This kind of leadership requires the ability to envision a bright future and to pay attention to the minute details of running the business today.

My other broad advice is to stay in learner mode, and one of the best ways to do that is to read. Culture is not a program or an initiative that is separate from our daily work. Culture is the way we work.

Hear more from Rich Sheridan at IIL’s first Leadership & Innovation Conference 2019

For more ways to learn about Menlo, or Rich Sheridan, view the original article here.