Controlling the Culture in Your Project Office

Culture is an important aspect of any Project Team. The culture needs to be in sync with the overall values of the organization but in addition it must be a reflection of—as well as a driving force behind—the individuals working within the team. The PMP®s in the project office will naturally infuse some of their own personality traits and professional expertise into the culture of the team, and the organization’s executive group will also influence the Project Team’s working style and principles.

Savvy project offices pay close attention to culture. PMP®s should always be on the lookout for how the team’s activities and interactions are carried out, encouraging behaviors that fit the culture they want and carefully redirecting efforts that don’t. As your Project Team recruits new members and supports the development of the existing workforce, it’s important to consider how each individual contributes to and is impacted by the culture of the team.

Creativity. It may be brainstorming new solutions to old problems, or perhaps it’s devising workable strategies to deal with quarrelsome stakeholders. No matter the type of challenge, a culture of creativity is a must in the project office. Seek out new team members who bring strong creative streaks with them. Look, too, for regular opportunities to further develop the team’s creativity as a whole. Inspire a culture that embraces innovative approaches to different situations and that allows team members to search for solutions in unconventional ways.

Collaboration. The ability to partner with a wide variety of personality types is crucial for achieving good project results, and successful Project Teams embrace a culture that emphasizes stronger partnerships with stakeholders at all levels. Every team member must be able to break down silos and other barriers as they gather information, share progress updates, schedule activities, and troubleshoot any issues that arise. Emphasize robust communication skills and encourage a culture where cross-functional sub-groups can work together to develop goals and solve problems.

Leadership. Even those team members who aren’t in leadership positions should be spurred on by the Project Team’s culture to exhibit leadership qualities as they help stakeholders and sponsors navigate the steps involved in planning and executing a project. They may need to field questions outside their expertise or help junior-level teammates tackle difficult issues, and the culture within the project office should support these behaviors, regardless of title.

There are also some aspects of the Project Team’s culture that often need to be deliberately cultivated by the organization. As your team evolves, be sure these traits are encouraged and reinforced regularly.

Accountability. Working with a project methodology that promotes accountability is the first step in ensuring that team members, both internal to the project office and across its various stakeholder groups, are accountable for completing their activities as planned. Because accountability can be a difficult attribute to develop, regular reinforcement of the need for everyone to be accountable for their actions should be a core part of the Project Team’s culture.

Confidentiality. With concerns about information security growing every day, everyone in the project office needs to recognize the part they play in maintaining confidentiality around sensitive data. Security practices should be taught to Project Team members so they have the knowledge necessary to gather, share, and store information safely. Providing PMP®s with these skills will help the organization protect its data and reinforce a culture of confidentiality.

Transparency. A culture that emphasizes transparency—in spending, in communications, during the planning phase, and throughout the execution of every project—is crucial. When the Project Team’s leaders act as mentors and demonstrate transparency in every project activity, team members will do their part, too.

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