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project management insight

Managing a project is not designing a rocket launch it is like driving a car. You need to be able to steer as you go knowing where you are going. A rocket launch you need to program the whole sequence of events and any deviation is a catastrophe.

  1. Have mutual trust,
  2. Have mutual respect,
  3. Take the ego out and
  4. Have open and honest communication.

I am a great admirer of the Toyota Company. Nick Shepherd my patrol captain at Umina Beach Surf Lifesaving Club, worked for Toyota for 25 years, I was very excited to meet him on my first ever patrol the other day and this was his very succinct and practical advice. I think it applies in any situation involving more than one person, don’t you?

Well, not so new, about ten years old now, wondering though why it hasn’t caught on. I read an article in Talent Management Magazine while researching an assignment for Strategic HR for my MBA studies. In summary, the following statements are false about teamwork:

  1. In terms of staffing workgroups, the most important attribute each member brings to the team is his or her unique technical skills and abilities.
    • As I have always thought it is more important to be able to work in and with a team not necessarily the skills and abilities; System’s Theory corroborates good teamwork is critical to organisations success. Specifically team spirit, morale, cooperation, communication, providing and accepting feedback.
  2. The measure of a team’s characteristics is the average across the team,
    • Depends on the situation, sometimes a team can only go as fast as the weakest link but a strong leader or individual can drag the team along. We used to do this in adventure racing, for example; we would tie with a bungee cord the weakest person to the strongest person. You could do this some of the time in some of the disciplines.
  3. Demographic diversity is essential,
    • Scientific research indicates that demographic diversity does not always improve performance, it might even make it more difficult to work together. It is more important to have a phsycologically diverse team in particular over time.
  4. Each member must have their unique ideas; idea diversity is best for teams,
    • The research points towards it actually being more difficlut for teams to operate effectively when mental models are too diverse. I can think of several teams I have witnessed teams where the ideas are so different there is more arguing than collaborating.
  5. Member’s must be masters of their jobs,
    • Training within a team environment is much more effective. I am sure you will have learnt most of your skills and most valuable lessons within a team environment, I certainly have. Applying what I learn straight away also works best.
  6. Team are more effective when each is a specialist at their specific task within the team. In other words redundancy should be minimised.
    • Depending on the task at hand, the research shows that cross training team members on functions actually imporves the teams overall effectiveness as each person understands each others role better.
  7. The best team structrures have high levels of task interdependence.
    • Partly true for teams that do the same things day in and day out example in manufacturing.
    • For teams found on projects task interdependence is less of a factor in highly effective teams.
  8. Teams make better decisions when the leader weighs each team member’s input equally.
    • Consensus should weigh up the relative value of each members input.
    • Here feedback is a very important mechanism for building trust in the decision making abilities of members. Leaders who have good mechanisms in place to get feedback and measure past performance is crucial to a team’s decision making.
  9. Rewarding on an individual basis in teams creates competitiveness and is bad.
    • I think sports teams are a good example of this. In the National Rugby League some players are paid more than others and based on some very different criteria. Some players are simply not as good as others and those players feel it is worth to just play with the better and more gifted ones.
    • I like working with smart and enthusiastic people who I can learn from and achieve great things together.

Teamwork, in my opinion, is a critical organisational capability, it doesn’t seem to be taught or valued in the main stream. There is limited research on the subject, the researchers in their paper are even critical of their own textbooks, with only eight pages out of 750 odd mentioning teamwork. I would also add there is no mention of several important theories, Frederick Herzberg’s Hygiene Theory and System’s Theory.

Why isn’t this research making it into mainstream practice?



Hollenbeck, John R., D. Scott DeRue, and Rick Guzzo. 2004. “BRIDGING THE GAP BETWEEN I/O RESEARCH AND HR PRACTICE: IMPROVING TEAM COMPOSITION, TEAM TRAINING, AND TEAM TASK DESIGN.” Human Resource Management 43, no. 4: 353-366. Link

The thin edge of the wedge

The thin edge of the wedge has been used for years to help people understand the value of will power to reach their goals. The story goes, don’t let the thin edge of the wedge (The bad habit) get back in at all or it will literally drive a wedge into your new behavior. For me this has always proven to be the kicker, that thin edge always works it’s way back in there.

Wedge 1

The secret is to turn it around the other way and use the thin edge of your wedge to crack your bad habits, be it procrastination, fear of failure, limiting beliefs, smoking, watching too much TV, over eating etc. Each time you do the new behavior imagine the thin edge of the wedge driving into the old way of doing things. Let’s have a look at how we can make it work for you.

Wedge 2

Both good and bad, use the thin edge of the wedge to both achieve your goals and also ensure you stay on track. Most of us at one time or another (In my case all my life) have been on a diet or tried to give up a particular bad habit or vice and somehow slowly but surely the thin edge of the wedge has made it’s way in and sabotaged our efforts. Here is the scenario; you have been doing really well and sticking to your diet or on track to beat than bad habit and the situation arises where you are faced with a decision, Do I accept that ice cream, cigarette or invitation to go out on the town? You know you have been good and so justify to yourself that just one won’t hurt me and I will make up for it next week. So you do it and then next minute you know you are justifying another one saying you may as well enjoy it while you can. Sound familiar? Absolutely. This is a scene you can use to your advantage to reach you goals.

The new thin edge helps you to project a new identity from within which is a very powerful concept which I will cover in more depth in another post, essentially you have to make that new behavior part of your identity. For example if you are changing your eating habits you have to have an identity of someone who is thin. I used this concept  to finally nail the fitness and fat up and down at 43 years of age. I took on the identity of a fitness fanatic who was into Paleo lifestyle and then told everyone I could about what I was doing and why.

Wedge 4

Top tips:

  • Tell everyone you have a bad habit and you are going to change it, by when and most importantly START WITH WHY.
  • Publish it on Facebook etc with before and after pictures, make a Youtube video etc Positive Peer Group pressure is very powerful
  • Imagine this as the thin edge of the wedge driving the good habit into the bad habit for the first 21 days, then defend that new habit from the thin edge of the wedge getting back in.
  • Invest time and energy into your new lifestyle.

Use it in all aspects of your life – family, business and social – eventually it will be a big fat wedge of success.

Getting the job

“The job goes to the person who can get it done without passing the buck or coming back with excuses.” 

Napoleon Hill


Just finished reading Dan Pink’s new book To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others loved it.

Here is an infographic on his 6 pitches.

Dan Pink's 6 pitches

Dan Pink’s 6 pitches

Agile v Waterfall

Waterfall V Agile

Agile v Waterfall: Which Project Management Style Is Right for You? – An infographic by the team at LiquidPlanner

The Jedi Trainer

by Column Five Media.
Explore more infographics like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.