PPM 301 - Project Management
Section 8. The Project Culture
This lesson focuses on project teams. Objectives important to this
- Team culture
- Positives and negatives about teams
This chapter returns to concepts about project teams. It seems to be
taking us in a direction that says our organization will be better if
we run everything as a project and we construct teams as needed to carry
out those projects. There is some confusion on the first page about whether
we are discussing a team culture or a project culture, but the text seems
to be saying they are the same.
The "strong working culture" described on page 352 supposes
several things about the organization that has it:
- employees' opinions are valued and they are treated as thinking adults
- employees on teams appreciate the fact that teams are dependent on
- employees are encouraged to offer their ideas for improvement
- the organization has learned to let go of what has been, in order
to gain improvement
We are given several pages of what an organization looks like before
and after adopting the project team concept. It is quite overwhelming
and requires that we accept a great deal on faith. I have a problem with
that presently. There comes a time when you wonder how much you can accept
on faith. You wonder if having faith in something is just being hopeful,
just following someone's lead, or maybe just being foolish for being fooled
again. I suppose it all depends on what you are placing your faith in.
Faith in the right thing is not foolish or misplaced. Faith in
the wrong thing is probably wrong, too.
The text takes an odd approach to presenting positive and negative aspects
to project teams. We are only given a bullet list of positives, a set
of statements that are not explained. These are some of them:
- productivity increases
- quality improvements
- cost reductions
- enhanced customer satisfaction
- employee satisfaction
- greater creativity and innovation
- development of leadership/management potential
Again, this looks too much like someone has been drinking nothing but
the company kool-aid. If some of the real improvements have been made,
then people will be happier with the results, but that does not make it
certain that the project teams were the cause.
The section about negative aspects of project teams is more wordy, but
that seems to be an effort to make the authors' point of view clear, that
the negatives are not the fault of the team implementations.
- Inadequate delegation of authority - It is not clear what the authors
- Acceptance of the team concept, followed by disenchantment when implemented
- It is not clear what the cause is, or what to do about it.
- Teams are often perceived negatively in union shops.
- Teams can be perceived as undercutting management's role. That would
seem to apply to self managed teams.
This chapter shows no signs of becoming more useful or rational. We will
take this opportunity to stop, catch our breath, and move forward to Section
Section 9. Project Communications
This lesson focuses on communications, with a brief introductory interlude.
Objectives important to this lesson:
- The PMIS
- Communications in meetings
This chapter says it is about communications, but it begins with a few
pages about project management information systems (PMISs).
As you may know, a PMIS is used to plan and document a project by first
gathering all the information that will be used in the PMS to actually
create schedules and resource management objects. The remarks in these
pages only set the stage for communications during the project.
The text struggles to define communications on page 387. This page is
very formal and general. It offers some suggestions for good communications:
- be specific
- understand what the sender and the receiver expect in the communication
- take the perceptions of the sender and receiver into account
- consider the timing of a communication, so it has the desired or best
- watch for possible misunderstandings, while preparing and after sending
- listen/read actively to understand the message
- consider the best medium for the communication
- provide timely feedback
- ask for clarification when needed
Throughout this discussion, be aware that when the authors discuss listening
to a message, they also mean reading one, viewing a video,
and whatever other mode of communication that might take place.
They are discussing the aural mode, but they mean all modes.
On page 389, there is a list of points that have to do with listening
for the hidden messages in a communication. One of the running
themes is that people tend to hide bad news when it is being passed up
the chain of command. In order to learn about problems, managers need
to remove the fear that most employees have of passing on bad news. This
echoes one of Deming's fourteen points: drive
out fear, so that everyone may work effectively for the company. If
you can't or have not yet removed this fear from your work area, you will
need to listen for signs that there is trouble no one is reporting.
On page 390, we see a list of effects that emotions can produce in listeners.
- The listener may hear only what they want to hear.
- The message may cause an emotional reaction in the listener.
- If the message is contrary to the listeners beliefs, the message may
- The fifth item is unclear. I think the author means that different
cultures will have different meanings for symbols, which can warp the
intended meaning of a message.
- Preconceptions about the source or recipient of the message can affect
the interpretation of the message.
- The ego of the sender or receiver can prevent a meaningful message
from being sent or from being received.
The text gives us a short list of project communication problems:
- People may not mention a problem that they hope will go away.
- Team members may not share information that they think is critical
to the project's success. The motivation for this is not stated. We
can assume that several motivations are possible.
- If a project manager does not listen for feedback, the only chance
for success would be if everything goes according to plan.
- Project review meetings should also have two-way communication. If
they do not, only one part of the story is being told.
The text warns us to pay attention to nonverbal communication, which
means any communication that does not use words.
- facial expressions
- nodding or shaking of the head
- eye movement
- tone of voice
- position of arms or legs
The items above are all part of the physical category of nonverbal
communication. The text mention three other categories:
- aesthetic - music, dance, and other expressionistic arts
- signs - actual signs, signal flags, bells, and sirens
- symbolic - religious symbols, political icons, status symbols
On page 391, the text offers some general advice about written communications:
- Use reference material that makes your communications better,
such as The
Elements of Style
- For every communication, ask yourself if your message is clear.
- Make your communications easy to understand.
- Decide what your message is before you start writing.
- Use graphs and illustrations that make the message clearer.
- Ask yourself and your proofreaders whether your message is logical,
objective, and true.
The text turns to communication that takes place in meetings on
page 392. It begins with the age old advice for a speech or a formal paper:
tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, and
tell them what you told them. This can be interpreted to mean that
you should introduce your topic, speak on it, then summarize
Some advice about holding meetings appears on page 393. We are cautioned
that some meetings are not productive, and probably should not be held.
Consider that, and the points below, when you schedule a meeting.
- Is the meeting necessary?
- What is the purpose of the meeting?
- Is there an issue that we are meeting about?
- What facts are needed for the meeting, and do we have them?
- What are the solutions that are possible for the issue?
- What might come out of the meeting?
- What would happen if we did not hold the meeting?
On page 394, there are two sets of points from Douglas McGregor about
meetings that are effective and ineffective. They should
be considered as counterpoints of each other.
|an informal, comfortable atmosphere
||an indifferent or bored atmosphere
||a few people dominate
|the objective is understood
||the objective is not understood
|people listen to each other
||people are not listening to each other
|disagreements are comfortable
||disagreements are not handled effectively
|decisions are by consensus
||decisions and actions are premature
|criticism is frank and comfortable
||criticism produces tension or embarrassment
|feelings can be freely expressed
||feeling remain hidden
|clear assignments are given for action
||assignments are unclear
|the chairperson does not dominate the meeting
||the chairperson dominates the meeting
|the group functions well together
||the group does not act as a group
Some other suggestions are made, such as encouraging disagreement and
lively discussions. This advice should be taken with caution. Unless you
are skilled at handling people who are having a disagreement, you should
enlist the aid of someone who has that skill before you begin a meeting
that may become a disruption to your purpose.
The last four pages in the chapter are about negotiations, this
time about negotiations with stakeholders about the project, the contract,
and the resources for conducting the project. This seems a lot like what
we have covered before. In fact, some of it references earlier material
in the text.