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Tag: Change Management

Practical Perfectionism and Continuous Improvement

“One of the basic rules of the universe is that nothing is perfect. Perfection simply doesn’t exist…..Without imperfection, neither you nor I would exist” ― Stephen Hawking


“Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection.” Mark Twain


Practical perfectionists use the urge for perfection as fuel for achieving it, accepting that while things could be better, they may never be perfect.

Practical perfectionism is at the root of quality improvement. We set standards and try to meet them with the goal of optimal performance – performing as best we can. We recognize that optimal performance is perfection even though there may be flaws, errors, and omissions.



Sometimes things are perfect as they are:

  • People are happy, effective, accepting, flexible and resilient
  • Change and problems are well managed
  • Communication and relationships are healthy
  • Performance quality is high, and
  • There is a continuous improvement process that asks “How can we do better?”

In that ideal scenario the stakeholders are aware that everything is in motion, continuously changing. They know that expecting to sustain a static perfect state is a pipe dream – an unattainable hope. They know that perfection is in the process and not the outcome.  They strive for the perfect outcome even though they know it may not be attainable.


The word perfect is an adjective and verb. We perfect our process to make it perfect. According to Merriam-Webster the meaning of perfect is:

“Being entirely without fault or defect flawless. a perfect diamond. : satisfying all requirements : accurate. : corresponding to an ideal standard or abstract concept. a perfect gentleman.”



Perfectionism is a character trait that can be healthy, positive, and functional or unhealthy negative, and dysfunctional. It is a need to have oneself, others, or things in general to be perfect. There is an uncomfortable felt sense, a pressure from within, when things are not perfect. There is a belief that perfection is possible and necessary.

Perfectionists set standards that they use to judge their own behavior, and the behavior of others. They assume that others expect them to meet those self-set standards.

When perfectionism operates unconsciously it gets in the way of optimal performance. For example, it can manifest as procrastination because things are not perfectly ready. “I can’t get started until I am absolutely sure that I won’t be interrupted.” Some perfectionists procrastinate or avoid acting because they fear that their work will not be perfect.


Perfectionism may emerge as a negative self-image or image of others because they are not perfect.

For example, a project sponsor keeps putting off the funding of a project because the design team cannot find the perfect solution or the selection of a key product or system is held up because there are  no perfect options.

The expectation that a team’s or individual’s performance be perfect can motivate high performance or, if the expectations are impossible to meet, over-stress and demotivate.


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Striving and Concerns

Perfectionists strive to achieve personal standards that they set themselves and are concerned that they won’t measure up. The striving may be focused on both themselves and others.

They worry and fear that they will be punished or rejected if they fail to be perfect in the eyes of others – their boss, client, peers, etc. They tend to promote the impression of their own perfection and work to prevent others having a negative impression.

The striving and concerns, when they are unconsciously driven, waste energy and create stress, the enemies of optimal performance.



Non-perfectionists tend not to have pre-stated standards or expectations about themselves or others. Non-perfectionists are OK with whatever happens. While this leaves them with less stress and may even be a sign of enlightenment, it does not promote continuous performance improvement.

Acceptance is a positive trait, but it can also lead to stagnation and the degradation of performance. Healthy acceptance accepts things are as they are in the moment, that they will change, and that with effort they can be made better into the future.


Practical Perfectionists

Practical perfectionism involves setting rational performance standards and expectations and generating the motivation to achieve them. It is an example of how we can use a character trait to its best advantage.

It begins with the acknowledgement that perfectionism is at work. This is an aspect of self-awareness, the sense of what is happening internally and how it is influencing behavior.

With that awareness, perfectionism can be used as a powerful force in optimizing performance and promoting personal growth, emotional intelligence, and wellness. Perfectionism is accepted and managed.


Practical perfectionists have ambitious standards and bring rational thinking to bear. They assess why they think their standards and expectations are realistic. They look at the costs and benefits of improvement and decide whether to improve radically or incrementally, or to leave well enough alone, making the best of the situation.

Perfectionism is a positive trait if it is moderated by acceptance of things as they are, self-awareness, rational thinking, and realistic understanding of

  • what ‘perfect’ means,
  • whether and how it can be achieved,
  • how much it costs,
  • how long it takes to achieve it, and
  • whether achieving it is worth the time and effort.

Practical perfectionism drives continuous improvement and optimal performance.


Overcoming Obstacles to Perfect Performance

It is hard to imagine why anyone would not embrace a practical perfectionist mindset. But the reality is that there is resistance to self-awareness and rational thinking.

Overcoming obstacles to applying practical perfectionism to continuous improvement begins with self-awareness and understanding among team members and leadership at all levels..

When individuals realize that they are being overly stressed by their own perfectionism or are overly stressing others by expecting the impossible, they can act to change.


In projects the change comes about when perfectionist managers or clients realize that their expectations are irrational and counterproductive. Then the process of defining goals, acceptance standards, value, costs, risks, and benefits will lead to expectations that can be met.

Practical perfectionism combines emotional intelligence and analytical process thinking to promote a perfect process.

Practical PM for Everyone

Project management is a process that, when done well, enables optimal performance. Why wouldn’t everyone want to know how to manage projects?


Everyone Has Projects

A project is an effort to create a result in a finite time. According to PMI, “a project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service or result. A project is temporary in that it has a defined beginning and end in time, and therefore defined scope and resources.”

Everyone is part of projects. Some projects are long, large, and complex, like a lunar expedition or the implementation of a new system in an organization. Others are moderate and more personal – planning a party, buying a car, moving, painting your house. Others are quite simple, for example getting up and out of the house, packing for a vacation, grocery shopping, doing the dishes, cooking a meal. Even the individual activities of regular operations like answering emails or working to close a sale fit the definition of projects. we can consider them as mini-projects.


Therefore, everyone would do well to know the basic principles of project management and adapt them to the size and complexity of the projects at hand.

Professional PMs would add value by promoting wide-spread appreciation and knowledge of project management for all.


Agile Adaptability

Applying a complex project management process with forms, protocols, and reports to manage your at home cooking dinner project or a small project that is repeated many times is not skillful.

You might like to be formal and explicit because it makes you feel good but if there are others involved you might drive them crazy and waste lots of time and effort.


At the same time, doing any project without a plan, without writing things down (for example a shopping list), with ambiguous or inadequate communication, and without looking back to learn from the experience is equally unskillful. It is likely to lead to extra trips to the store to get missing ingredients, too much or too little food, misunderstandings of who will do what, and when.

Planning, performing, monitoring, controlling, and closing happen in every project, the way we do them varies widely depending on the situation. It was the intention of the earlier founders of the agile approach to point this out and promote the idea that the project team does best to adapt practices to the needs of their project, stakeholders, and setting, while being aware of the need for a degree of structure and discipline.


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The Agile Manifesto:

“We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it.

Through this work we have come to value:

Individuals and interactions     over     processes and tools

Working software                     over     comprehensive documentation

Customer collaboration            over     contract negotiation

Responding to change              over     following a plan.

That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.”


Communication and Collaboration

To enable an adaptive and agile approach make sure that all stakeholders have a sense of  the basic principles of project management.

The basics are what everyone should know about managing a project, even if they are not managing one. Knowing the process and principles stakeholders can assess how well the project is being managed. They will be able to connect a sense of the project’s health  accomplishment and progress.


The basics are:

  1. Plan, to create a clear sense of what is to be accomplished, how, where, by when, by whom, and for how much it will cost. Remember that plans are always subject to change. Planning is not over until the project is over.
  2. Let go into execution, the performance. It’s like dance or a play. You learn the steps and your role and surrender into performing them.
  3. Mindfully monitor and control to assess progress against the plan and to adjust. Make it part of the performance so it doesn’t get in the way.
  4. Close. Take a step back to assess performance. Tie up loose ends. Learn from the experience. Turn over the results.

So simple, if there is understanding, adaptability, effective communication and collaboration.

Without these the project management process becomes a burden. With them the probability of project success goes way up.


What gets in the Way?

You’d think that everyone would be eager to apply the basics and to understand, adapt, communicate, and collaborate. But it is not the case.  The principle things that get in the way are:

  • Lack of process thinking – Thinking all that is needed is to put heads down and do the work instead of recognizing that objectives are met by skillfully applying effort to perform a set of definable steps or tasks.
  • Too much process thinking – over formalizing project management, creating unnecessary bureaucracy and overhead.
  • Not recognizing the value – thinking that the effort to manage the project is not worthwhile.
  • Thinking that it is too hard to engage others in the work required – believing that changing stakeholder mindsets about project management is impossible.
  • Personality traits – for example, closed-mindedness, impatience, fear of being criticized and controlled, and over confidence block attempts to implement some degree of planning and control.


What to Do About It

Removing the obstacles to implementing the right kind of project management (PM) requires a learning process in which PM champions convince stakeholders that PM is a practical process that adds value by upgrading performance and promoting project success.

Breaking through resistance to PM requires mindset change and changing people’s minds is no easy task.


It is not just about getting people to take a PM course, though an appropriate one, with a skilled facilitator, is a good place to start. It is committing to a dialog that addresses resistance to applying PM principles coupled with a commitment to the agility to adapt the principles to fit the projects being performed and the people who manage and perform them.

It takes time and patience with an understanding that much of the resistance is reasonable given experience with dysfunctional PM and rigid project management professionals who don’t adapt the process to the situation at hand.

Best of PMTimes: Closing a Project: What, When and How

Projects, by nature, are to be closed. I am sure you know this. The two authorities made this obvious in their definitions of what project is.


Take a moment to review the definitions from PMI and AXELOS.

A project is a TEMPORARY endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service or result. (PMBoK Guide 6th Edition)

The above is the definition of a project by PMI (Project Management Institute), an organization founded in 1969, with headquarters in the USA and who has been providing guides, standards, and certifications, amongst other things, on project management since its inception. The key word is that definition is TEMPORARY, which literally means must have a start and end time.

Let’s move over a minute and take a look at the definition of a project from another body.

A project is a temporary organization that is created for the purpose of delivering one or more business products according to an agreed business case (Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2, AXELOS)

One thing is common to the two definitions. Did you see it? Yes. It’s the word TEMPORARY. A project is temporary and must be closed. Don’t confuse the term TEMPORARY with SHORT. I have got few of this concern from some of the students I train. A project can be for between 1 month and 36 months. It just means it must start and end at a particular date

Now, let me take you through the WHAT, WHEN AND HOW of closing a Project.

Note: I will not discuss whether the project is successful or failed.


WHAT is Closing A Project?

It’s has been established that every project has a start date and an end date. So, the process of completing the work on the project to an end is exactly what closing a project is. Nothing more, nothing less. If you are not closing an exercise or ending an exercise, then you need to know that the exercise isn’t a project.

It could be an operation. One of the differences between a project and an operation is that while projects are temporary, operations are ongoing and continuous. No matter how long the duration of a project is, it must end.


WHEN do you CLOSE a Project

Well, there are three circumstances under which a project can be closed. Yeah, THREE! One out of every ten readers of this article will find this surprising. Just give me a second and I will explain the three times.


1. When the project has delivered all the objectives and/or RESULT.

This is probably the most popular and most desirous time when a project should be closed. At the beginning of the project, a set of objectives, deliverables, and results were set. The PM and the whole organization rolled up their sleeves and started working towards building and delivering the objectives and deliverables for the project. Once the objective is met and the deliverables completed and accepted by the Project Sponsor/owner, it is time to close the project. Reason? The PM and the team have completed all they committed to, and there isn’t anything left to do on the project. What if there is a modification or an addition to the deliverables of the project. Well, that’s called scope creep, if there is no adjustment to other components that may be affected, and once the addition didn’t go through change control for approval, and no re-baseline, then it has to be initiated as a new project, after closing the current project.

For PRINCE2, Once the project has delivered what was specified in the business case of the project mandate, while for PMI, once it has developed the content of the approved scope.


2. When the objectives of the project can’t be met again

This is often called TERMINATION. Hopefully, it can be done early.

This is usually not a very pleasant one, but it’s usually a reality. It could be as a result of the complexity of the project or a combination of many other things. I recall working on a project with some client in the financial services industry a few years back. The business case and feasibility were highly optimistic and the organization decided to invest in the project hoping for the objective to be realized. However, after series of attempts, efforts, and re-baselining by the project team and the stakeholder, it became clear to even the blind stranger that the approach and the technology chosen for the project couldn’t meet the objective, the organization had to terminate the project for that same reason.

At times it could be that the organization had spent so much money on the project, yet they haven’t realized any benefit and at every point in time, there was no sign that the project would still deliver the objective.
Please note that in most cases, the project manager and the team are not responsible for this, and often should not be blamed.


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3. When the objective of the project is no longer needed

This is often called early termination.

We live in a dynamic and constantly changing environment, and there are many actors and factors driving the market and corporate space. Most of these factors could be a technological change, a governmental policy, a change in strategy and direction for the organization etc. PRINCE2 advises that at every point on the project, the project organization should continually check for business justification, to ensure the business case is still valid. If at any point the organization realizes that the business case has become invalid, the only thing left is to close the project. A typical example was a project I was working on for a client to penetrate a new market and release a product that would solve a particular challenge. We were about 45% into the project when the government introduced an initiative that would address a similar challenge at no cost. It became obvious that the product would not make many sales, hence the objective and business case became invalid. We had to terminate the project immediately. This is better than going head to complete the project. Organizations don’t just initiate or complete a project for the mere sake of completing a project, the product of the project must be valid all through and the end product must be desired and desirable at all time.

Another example was a consulting project I was working on with a startup to rebrand the company. Midway into the project, there was a merger and acquisition with another company it became instantly known that there was no need to rebrand the company anymore. Again, this could be at no fault of the project team.

In the next section, I would highlight how to close a project, irrespective of when it is closed.


HOW to close a Project

No matter when. You need to close the project. About three years ago, I worked on a research project with about twelve other professionals to review project management processes and health check of organizations within three continents, and we found out that a lot of organizations don’t close projects well, and this is quite worrisome. As they were completing one project, the team was being drafted to other projects or assignment without proper closure process. Hence the reason I decided to write this article.

This process will be broken that into two different sections. The first section will highlight steps to closing a project whose objectives have been met, while the second would highlight the steps to close a project whose objective is either not needed again, or can’t be met.

How to close a project whose objective has been met.

  1. Confirm that all the deliverables have been completed and accepted by the appropriate approving authority. Here you will need to reference your plan, specifically your approved scope and acceptance criteria
  2. Obtain formal acceptance and approval (this could be by way of formal SIGN-OFF or whatever method has been agreed upon).
  3. Close any procurement component of the project.
  4. Gather the team and update lessons learned on the project.
  5. Release all resources and provide feedback as required.
  6. Complete end of project report and archive project information.
  7. Celebrate. And I mean it.


How to close a project whose objective can’t be met or whose objective is not needed again

  1. Validate the reason for the early termination.
  2. Determine all the deliverables that have been created so far, and ensure they are accepted.
  3. Obtain formal closure notification from the Sponsor.
  4. Close any procurement engagement.
  5. Update lessons learned with the team.
  6. Release resources and complete end of project report, capturing the stage the project was at when it was closed, the reason it was closed and the lessons learned and archive project information.
  7. Celebrate (if you have the courage to).

To Drive Project Excellence, Take Charge of Your L&D Efforts

In an ideal world, you should be able to draw a straight line from your organization’s Learning and Development (L&D) initiatives to business success. It follows then that, as increased business success depends on excellence in project delivery, more companies should focus on building project management training into their core L&D programs.


Some already do. Sixty-one percent of respondents to Project Management Institute (PMI)’s 2020 Pulse of the Profession® Report say their organizations provide some level of project management training. And more than two-thirds (69 percent) say their senior leadership values project management.

But the world is becoming even more “projectified.” Seventy-nine percent of executives in an Accenture study say that work in the future will be based more on specific projects than on roles. And for some companies, project management has become so central to how they operate that it is now considered a core competency.


For all these reasons, some companies are developing more holistic approaches to project management training where the employee experience is embedded into the core of the program.

One of the finest examples of this is the L&D program at CGI. Among the world’s largest independent IT and business consulting services firms, CGI began offering formalized project management training and certification in-house to drive business performance and enhance client relationships. It has now expanded its training efforts to all employees – not just people with ‘project’ in their title.


“Project success is paramount to our company,” says Melissa Reeder, Director of Consulting and Project Management Center of Excellence at CGI. “Engagements are integral to service delivery, so we emphasize providing high-quality project management training to our consultants.”

An important related goal, Melissa says, is to improve its employee career journey and to create a supportive career-building environment. The CGI initiative empowers their employees to take charge of their career development by providing an all-inclusive project management track tailored to each employee’s career stage and project experience.


CGI now views project management/leadership as a core skillset and an essential element in driving improved client delivery success. This skillset, the firm believes, will only grow in importance as work becomes more hybrid.

But there’s another factor behind the CGI training effort. Several of its US-based clients in the government and healthcare sectors require project leaders to be certified in project management – specifically to hold PMI’s Project Management Professional (PMP)®certification.


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As PMI’s Leader for North American Client Engagement, that’s how I became familiar with the CGI program. We began working with the firm to develop its project management training track in 2010.

“PMI best practice guidelines are recognized worldwide, and its certifications align with the many types of services CGI provides our clients,” Melissa says. “CGI’s project delivery frameworks are based on industry best practices, so it makes sense for our people to have the same standards of training and credibility that comes with PMI certification.”

To develop well-rounded project professionals, CGI offers its employees the following:


  • PMI Project Management Professional (PMP)® Certification: Recognized by CGI clients as the project management certification of choice, the PMP certification distinguishes project managers who have proven they have the skills to manage complex projects successfully. The PMP exam covers the latest business trends across three domains – people, process, and business environment – giving certification holders the tools to determine the best way of working and the ability to manage any project using predictive, agile, or hybrid methodologies.
  • PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)® Certification: The PMI-ACP formally recognizes the practitioner’s knowledge of agile principles and skills with agile techniques. The PMI-ACP spans many approaches to agile such as Scrum, Kanban, Lean, extreme programming (XP), and test-driven development (TDD).
  • PMI Membership: Through the PMI partnership, CGI members also have access to discounted PMI membership to help build a professional network. Becoming part of a professional practice community creates informal learning opportunities with peers, a ready-made professional support network, and space to share knowledge and expertise.


Since the start of the program, more than a thousand CGI members have successfully been PMP certified. The firm is now looking to expand its partnership by connecting its people in Australia and Canada with local PMI chapters.

“Membership in a professional organization is another way to enhance the employee experience at CGI,” Melissa says. “There are vast opportunities to connect and learn from each other, plus it’s a great chance for CGI employees to enrich the profession with their frontline experiences and knowledge. I’ve been an active member of my local PMI chapter for a few years. It’s a great way to meet new people who share a common passion and to give back by volunteering.”


CGI’s employee-centered approach to project management training shows that employee experience and client satisfaction go hand-in-hand. When you deliver quality project training across your organization, it will inevitably impact client delivery for the better.

“We are always looking at ways to enhance our project delivery and client relationships,” says Melissa. Leaders strive to exceed client expectations and the firm’s project management L&D training track is now an integral part of its client engagement strategy.


Delivering consistently high service standards leads to delivering strong projects and value for clients. By offering project-oriented training programs within an organization, your teams will be equipped with the tools and know-how to do just that.

Psychology at Work to Improve Performance

Most of what gets in the way of optimal performance is rooted in psychological or emotional issues. That is why the most valued traits for a manager are communication, emotional and social intelligence, empathy, and adaptability.



Psychology is the study of the way the mind functions and influences behavior. Individual psychology influences relationships and relationships are the key to effective performance, wellness, and optimal living. It follows that attention to psychology is a pillar of performance management.

Though, in many organizations, psychology has gotten a bad name.  It falls into the mental health realm. Attention to it is often avoided unless behavior gets so severe that it undeniably gets in the way of living and performing well.


Take for example a steering group of peers charged with making important decisions. One member is designated as chairperson. The chairperson takes the title to heart, does a lot of good work, but attempts to silence anyone who raises issues regarding the team’s process and performance.

One team member confronts the chairperson by raising uncomfortable issues. Over time the relationship between the two deteriorated. The chairperson has left the team member out of important meetings, does not respond to emails and has ignored  a direct outreach by the team member to meet and discuss their relationship in any way the chairperson chooses – one on one, mediated, in person, virtual, etc.

The refusal to engage in a dialog effects the degree to which the group can make effective decisions because it blocks the social interaction that is critical to team performance. The rest of the team “feels” the subtle disturbance. Hearts and minds close down. The free flow of discussion is blocked. Life goes on, but it is not pleasant.



One doesn’t need a PhD in psychology to know that there is a psychological process at work in this relationship, that effects performance. Causes may be fear of competition, over-aggressive perfectionism, aversion to conflict, or over-controlling. These are all related to the participants’ mindsets.

This is just one example. Performance is effected by issues that stem from anxiety, depression, need for excessive control, excessive competitiveness, obsessive and compulsive urges, and addiction expressed as anger, withdrawal, and the kind of behavior that disturbs relationships – angry outbursts, abuse, withdrawal, unnecessary and poorly managed conflict, discrimination, gossiping, absenteeism, and more.

But there is avoidance. Handling psychological or emotional issues remains difficult. Some people believe that personal psychology is  “too personal” to be addressed in “public”.  They want to separate the personal world from their work world, as if that was possible.


Some are not introspective and don’t acknowledge the internal processes that lead to external behavior or, if they do, they may not think they can influence the process with self-management.

Some just don’t care how their behavior affects others, thinking and saying “This is who I am, live with it.”


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Changing the Narrative

Interest in emotional intelligence with a focus on performance has  changed the narrative  by changing the terminology – people want to be more intelligent, they do not want to be lumped into a mental health category. However, to become more emotionally intelligent one must

  • Acknowledge that behavior results from internal psychological processes, the individual’s mindset, and setting.
  • Recognize the effect on others of their speech, actions, and even their “vibe.”
  • Care.
  • Accept that mindful self-awareness enables self-management.
  • Manage emotions to optimally perform.

It becomes obvious that the person who expresses anger overtly or as passive aggressive behavior impacts the team’s performance. One who views any criticism as an attack gets in the way of performance improvement. One who is afraid of speaking up robs the group of valuable insights and information.


Look to the Process

Promoting process thinking is the key to being able to manage psychological issues. Process thinking recognizes that everything is caused by something – a process.

In general, a group will operate more effectively if the members acknowledge and skillfully address both the visible processes and the processes operating below the line of consciousness, as needed, to optimize performance.


For example, to overcome aversion to criticism, cultivate awareness of both the process improvement process and the presence of internal psychological processes that lead individuals to be overly and unskillfully critical or unable to accept and value criticism.

Participants can work together when they realize that the problem of aversion to criticism gets in the way of effective performance. It involves a conflict between the idea that constructive criticism makes a positive contribution vs. the need to protect oneself or one’s position.


Overcome Resistance

Cognitively knowing that behavior is the result of a process is an important starting point for cultivating the capacity to avoid unskillful behavior. However intellectually knowing that mental habits like aggression or avoidance are not effective does not immediately translate into behavioral change.

Rational thought is lost to the emotions and to unhealthy beliefs and mental habits. Psychological issues are often deep and painful. Habits are hard to change.


So how do we get people who are stuck in neurotic patterns like resistance to criticism, shutting down communication, and yelling, to change their behavior?

There is no simple formula. The complexities include the degree to which organizations can require people to be self-aware and overcome the resistance to psychotherapy.

With the knowledge that organizational performance is the sum of team and individual performance, effectiveness becomes the measure of how well teams functions. Organizations are motivated to create a culture in which addressing emotional and psychological issues is part of performance management.


At the same time the workplace is not the forum for psychotherapy. At work, addressing these issues is about changing behavior. It is up to each individual to assess the causes of the their own disruptive behavior and adapt it to benefit the health of the team.

Stop focusing on labels like depression and anxiety. Instead, focus on the symptoms and their impact on performance, where performance includes the happiness and wellbeing of the people involved.


Going Forward

There is a simple, though not easy, process: raise consciousness, apply it, and adjust so that it there is neither too much nor too little attention to psychology and its effect.

Cultural change is set in motion by training to acknowledge the need for self-management, process-awareness, and self-awareness and how to apply them in teams.

Regularly (not too often) dialogue about the symptoms and impact of psychological issues on performance and what to do about them. When issues arise address them in the context of what the team has learned. Over time, assess your process and adjust.


With the right mindset, behavior that downgrades performance automatically motivates action. That mindset needs the team to be willing and able to cut through the psychological issues that get in the way.

Depending on the culture and individuals involved, readiness for this kind of change can be quick and self-supported, or can take months or even years with expert coaching and consulting.