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Igniting human potential

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How to effectively manage project teams and enable them to success?

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New Vistas in Project Management – Igniting Human Potential

Ravi Kanniganti

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Human Potential in Organizations

Through my projects in space, defense and nuclear sectors, I know that our people have the ability to achieve the best in the world. They have a fantastic mix of belief and knowledge that sets them apart from any other nation on earth. I also know that their potential is untapped because we have become used to subjugated and docile.. That as a nation we were failing to utilize our tremendous energies..”

-- Dr. APJ Abul Kalam in Ignited Minds

Same can be said about employees in our organizations to certain extent.


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Large Teams Vs Small Teams

“ The control of a large force is the same principle as the control of a few men: it is merely a question of dividing up their numbers. Fighting with a large army under your command is nowise different from fighting with a small one: it is merely a question of instituting signs and signals.”

-- Sun Tzu Art of War


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Problem Statement• Project Managers are becoming task masters losing touch with people.

• High stress levels among Project managers and team members

• Distrust, lack of loyalty and attrition problems


Project ManagersOf

Real World

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Problem Statement• Project Managers are carrying too much load on them because they don’t know either how to delegate or motivate team members to share their load.


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Problem Statement

•Project Managers are more focused on completing the current project than building an organization that can complete challenging projects consistently.

•Project managers treating humans beings as machines, subjecting them to metrics, statistics and forgetting the basic thing that drives humans to excel.


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Problem Statement• Meanwhile team members are confused with conflicting messages from Project managers.

• Team members are angry due to lack of clarity in the roles and responsibilities.


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How can we fix the problem?

Project Managers should do a balancing act of managing project tasks on one hand and keep the team motivated and engaged on the other hand.

• Let us look at some tips on how to do this balancing act..– Know how to obtain buy-in and overcome

resistance.– How to set goals and manage projects

“ruthlessly,” while balancing that with human implications.

– Understand how to enable a team for success by unlocking the potential of its individual members in a way that supports your organization’s/project needs.


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What Radio Station do you tune to?


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What’s In It For Me

“Your listeners won’t care what you sayuntil they know that you care.”


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“If someone asks me about my personal achievements in Indian rocketery, I would pin it down to having created an environment for teams of young people to put their heart and soul into their missions.”

-- Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam


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Practical tips on how to solve these problems…

•Involve the team in your Game plan and show them the Big picture

•Focus on reporting structures, career paths and responsibilities

•Effective delegation

•Active Listening, relationship building and decision-making

•Motivating and handle mistakes gracefully• Celebrate Victory with extended teams.


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Involve the team in your Game Plan and show them the Big picture

•It’s giving people the reason for doing the job, the purpose of working.

•Management is all about instilling that desire to excel at work. It’s about instilling ownership and the sense of pride at having accomplishing something worthwhile

•Instilling this sense of belongingness and attachment towards the project into the employees is the job of project managers.

•Let them be owners of their domain 12

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• “If you hire people just because they can do a job, they will work for money. But if you hire people who believe what you believe, they will work for you with blood, sweat and tears.”

-- Simon


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Breakthrough projects require a higher level of commitment. People don’t treat project as work but as a duty to the Nation or Organization.

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Focus on reporting structures, career paths and responsibilities

• As a designer of a wheel knows how to place the spokes and space them apart for smooth ride, we as project managers should know how to place our people on the project for a smooth ride.

• Reporting structures should not be based solely on corporate titles and job functions, but should be based on project needs.

• Project roles should be allocated such that individual’s strengths are utilized and weaknesses are offset.

• Situational Leadership and Tough Empathy are required. Tough empathy means giving people what they need not what they want.


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“When the general is weak and without authority, when his orders are not clear and distinct; when there are no fixed duties assigned to officers and men, and the ranks are formed in a slovenly haphazard manner, the result is utter disorganization.

Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into deepest valleys; look upon them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death. If however, you are indulgent, but unable to make your authority felt; kind hearted, but unable to enforce your commands; and incapable, moreover, of quelling disorder: then your soldiers must be likened to spoilt children; they are useless for any practical purposes.”

-- Sun Tzu Art of War


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Effective Delegation and Control• Get rid of the monkeys from your back by effective delegation. This boosts team morale.

• You are delegating responsibility but not your accountability.

•Avoid losing sight of bigger picture. Don’t be busy solving technical problems or doing your team member’s job and lose sight of your role. At the same time, don’t be too hand’s off either. •Monitoring & Control: Like a hawk, monitor the projects and kill non-value adding projects. This will do lot of good to the organizations. -- Drives performance oriented culture and releases resources to the pool.


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Move from zone of fear and distrust to area of trust and openness. Delegation cannot happen if there is no trust.

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Active Listening, Relationship building and Timely Decision Making

• Active Listening

• Relationship building. Think account management at bank. Can you withdraw without depositing anything. How long can overdraft work?

• Project teams get frustrated and de-motivated when they see no action taken on the issues that are brought to the notice of the delivery manager.

• Teams would love to work for a manager who takes action, albeit the wrong ones than working for a manager who procrastinates.

• “Chaotic action is preferable to orderly inaction” – Karl Weick


A Golden Quote By RATAN TATA- "I Don't Believe In Taking Right Decisions. I Take Decisions & Then Make Them Right"

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Communicate, Communicate, Communicate


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Handling mistakes during project implementation.

•The idea is to be firm, but not abusive and to coach instead of being critical

•The famous US president, Dwight D. Eisenhower, said “You don’t lead by hitting people over the head – that’s assault, not leadership”.

•Managers have a bad habit of focusing on the negative. It is a common observation that managers tend to react quickly to anything that goes wrong and overlook everything that goes right.

•Encourage some informed risk taking otherwise, you might be scuttling innovation.


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Handling Failures – Dr. Kalam’s views


From Key Notes delivered atPM International Conference – Hyderabad -2005

“You cannot expect a person to deliver results if you humiliate him nor you can you expect a person to deliver results if you abuse him or despise him. The line

between firmness and harshness, between strong leadership and bullying, between discipline and vindictiveness is very fine but it has to be drawn”

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Celebrate Small Wins with Extended Teams

• Celebrate small victories and completion of milestones, because these celebrations give an opportunity for you to recognize the work, instill self-esteem and to make the team feel better about what they do.

•Include extended team members who helped in your project including Services, HR, Technical support, Database, Infrastructure folks in your celebrations. Typically we take work from extended teams, but seldom remember them to include them in project completion celebrations.


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Tough questions for middle managers (Adopted from Jack Stack)

1. What are you personally giving to the people you manage?

2. Do you spend as much time thinking about them as you spend thinking about customers, or other departments or people higher up in the organization?

3. Do you share your problems, or do you keep them to yourself? Have you asked your people for help in carrying your load? Do they even know what your load is? Have you told them your critical number?

4. Do you yourself operate with an open book? Do you let your people know everything that you know?

5. Are you getting the benefit of their intelligence, or do you still you are responsible for coming up with the answers on your own?


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Tough questions for middle managers (Adopted from Jack Stack)

6. Do our people know what to do without being told, or do they wait to get a list from you? Is everybody working toward the same goal? Does everybody know what it is? Do you let people figure out the best way to get there?

7. Do you know what gets your people angriest? Have you ever asked them about their frustrations and their fears? What keeps them awake at night?

8. Have you talked to your people about your own fears and frustrations? Can you let down your guard enough to do that? Are you willing to make yourself vulnerable? Do you have enough self-confidence to take the chance that you might get screwed?

Most important, if the answers to such questions are no, do you really want to change?


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You can make a difference


In your area of control and area of influence, provide the umbrella to the team and protect them from harsh sun light and rain, etc (Org Politics, Perception, forces that act against interest of project etc). Don’t wait for corporate direction. You can make a difference to your team starting today.

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Closing Comments• Whatever the project may be, once

you really understand what needs to be done, once you can communicate the same to your team and show them the roadmap, and instill the confidence that you know how to get there, half of your project work is complete.

• After that your project will be executed by your team. They know the big picture, they will be committed and they will be intrinsically motivated.

• As a Project Manager, you can just relax.. You just did your job.


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References[1] Conner, Daryl. Managing The Human Aspects of CRM Projects: Installation Vs Realization. ODR White Paper, 2001.[2] Goffee, Robert; Jones Gareth. Why Should Anyone Be Led by You? Harvard Business Review on What Makes a Leader. Harvard Business School Press, 2001.[3] Hatter, Keith. The secret of motivation. Accountancy Age, Dec 2004.[4] Kapoor, Rahul. Making Mistakes. The Times of India, Education Times. February 28, 2005.[5] Kothari, Pooja. The Ugly Subordinate. The Economic Times, Corporate Dossier. January 14, 2005.[6] Lewis, James P. Project Planning Scheduling & Control. Tata McGraw-Hill Edition, 2001.[7] Oncken, William Jr; Wass, Donald L. Management Time, Who’s Got the Monkey. Harvard Business Review on Becoming a High Performance Manager. Harvard Business School Press, 2002[8] Prayag, Anjali. Up, up and away. Hindu Business Line Canvas. Feb 26, 2005.[9] Project Management Institute. A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide). 2000.Scherr, Allen. Managing for Breakthroughs in Productivity, Human Resources Management, (Fall 1989).[10] Stack, Jack; Burlingham, BO. The Great Game of Business. Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc, 1992[11] Tripathi, Suryakanthi. Attentive Listensing: Healing Helpline. The Times of India, The Speaking Tree. March 2, 2005.[12] Key Notes by Dr.Abdul Kalam, President of India delivered at Hyderabad – 2005[13] Photos from Internet. Non-copyrighted photographs.[14] Wings of Fire by Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam[15] Art of War by Sun Tzu


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Contact Information

Ravi [email protected]