Ditch Inefficient Customs, Keep The Positive Culture

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Deep-seated inefficiencies that stifle project efforts are often blamed on an organization’s culture. It’s a convenient explanation but one that doesn’t offer much help to the project teams trying to pursue progress. Changing (or even questioning) a company’s culture is sometimes seen as taboo. Other organizations have different cultures for different groups, leading to a disjointed team of stakeholders who will each bring their own approach—and baggage—to the project.

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If your project office keeps bumping up against obstacles that are blamed on culture, take a step back and see where inefficient customs can be improved while leaving the overarching ideologies intact.

Better communication, less isolationism

Few companies admit their culture hampers communication, but outdated practices and inefficient habits still abound. In some cases, stakeholders don’t share important data because they aren’t familiar with other groups and the kind of information they might find useful. Others withhold key facts because they aren’t sure if they’re allowed to distribute data outside their department.

Many of the struggles related to communication are rooted in a lack of knowledge. Without a good understanding of how other departments function and which roles each group plays in a project, it’s almost impossible for stakeholders to guess what may or may not be helpful when it comes to sharing information.

Try this: For immediate help, consider working with an experienced facilitator. These professionals have the skills to dig into the heart of complex project issues and pull out the key pieces of information that are necessary for success. Used more broadly, a similar strategy will help reset expectations for future projects. Rather than adhering to an inefficient top-down structure for the dissemination of important data—an approach that could lead to entire reporting hierarchies being overlooked—place an emphasis on sharing information at the peer level. This frees stakeholders from feeling they need to “protect” their group’s data and gives them perspective on how everyone benefits from better communication.

More cooperation, fewer internal boundary lines

Departments routinely trumpet their commitment to cooperation. As projects move from planning to execution, however, you may discover cooperation is being hampered by internal practices that are anything but efficient. Some companies don’t have a mechanism for sharing budgets across organizational lines. Others frown on involving multiple groups in strategic discussions without first getting the blessing from their respective executives. Each of these hurdles adds time and saps energy, ultimately detracting from a true sense of cooperation.

Try this: With influences including politics and fears of being usurped by another group sometimes playing a role in a department’s apparent lack of interest in cooperating, the use of an outside project consultant may be a good solution. They can approach cooperation across the project team from a neutral perspective, and by eliminating underlying agendas and political pressures, they’re able to bring stakeholders together to work toward a common goal.

Creativity beats procedure

Many people—and the organizations they work for—resist change. Part human nature and part bureaucracy, it’s something project professionals must acknowledge in order to help stakeholders achieve success. Stepping outside the established practices to address issues or deal with emergencies will be difficult if the team isn’t flexible enough to quickly change directions and be willing to try something new.

Try this: Brainstorming is something PMP®s do regularly but stakeholders may not be as proficient. To help instill a more creative mindset capable of finding innovative solutions to old problems, build in frequent brainstorming sessions. Include representatives from each stakeholder group and encourage them to share ideas even if they haven’t been proven or seem out of reach.