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Key Approaches to Incentivizing Project Teams Effectively

Putting Things into Perspective

Great goals need great teams to be achieved. You can’t go it alone when it comes to attaining sustainable and far-reaching change. Now, that does not take anything away from strong leaders and leadership. But strong leadership is always rooted in concerted efforts owned and shaped by project teams. Organizations need to create a work environment in which people have incentives to succeed, one that puts faith in their professionalism and builds a sense of camaraderie that is a must for achieving ultimate success.

In this article, I am sharing my take on some of the best practices in creating incentives for project teams in public agencies. These incentives put teams in a great position to be effective. I have consciously avoided concentrating on the material or financial incentives, which are fairly straightforward to adopt (as long as they are managed in an equitable and transparent manner). Instead, my focus is on the intangible benefits team members can derive from a set of purposeful actions supported and driven by their organizations.

  • Create A Level Playing Field

This is a foundational step. None of the other measures make much sense if the project team members feel they are treated equally or, at worst, face workplace discrimination. People don’t like to work in an organization where, as it were, some are more equal than others.

Equal opportunities, rules and procedures applying to all, healthy competition, and prevention of favoritism are all important aspects of creating a fair and just work environment. They help establish conditions for the project teams to be genuinely encouraged to thrive and succeed.

  • Delegate

Managers often underestimate the importance of delegation. The days of micromanagement and perfectionism have long given way to teamwork and iterative learning. Prudent and effective managers are extremely good at delegating tasks to different team members.

Delegation thus becomes both an efficient use of resources and a judicious staff development strategy. It creates ample space for team members to test themselves, seek on-the-job and mentoring opportunities, and proactively engage with colleagues and other stakeholders.

  • Allow Space for Innovation

Organizations that create space for and encourage innovation are usually ahead of the curve. Innovation might be fraught with risks. Risk-averse organizations try to stick to well-tested routines. But they often forget about a bigger risk–the risk of becoming irrelevant or obsolete in today’s fast-changing and technology-driven environment.

Innovation also needs support genuinely. Employees who feel they are fully engaged in their work are more innovative, research suggests. Thus, the leadership of an organization must be ready for failure, and it should institute mechanisms for learning from those failures. All the good things come to those who try!

 

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  • Be Transparent and Accountable

Transparency and accountability have become commonplace buzzwords in the public sector. Don’t turn them into overused cliches. Lead by example to initiate and uphold high moral and ethical standards. Walk the walk, as they say. This will be a great incentive for all other team members to emulate your actions. Make things transparent and accountable.

This is not to say all decisions need to be based on absolute consensus. At times, managers have to make executive decisions in the interests of time and efficiency. But they can’t make them on the sly. If you want your team members to put stock in your words, consult people, keep them informed, and explain the rationale for your decisions.

  • Be Who You Are

No matter how senior your position is within your organization, don’t forget that you are just as human as anyone else. Your team members are no more prone to err as you are. So, err on the side of caution and be forthcoming about your setbacks or mistakes. Don’t be afraid to admit when you’re wrong.

This will be a great incentive for your team members to be candid and forthright on their part. You can thus establish the kind of rapport with your team that fosters ingenuity and an inspiring organizational culture. Socialize with your team members and help them out when you can. Remember that straight shooters always make a great team.

  • Support Personal and Professional Development

For many people, current jobs are as important as opportunities for professional development. Organizations should not treat professional development plans as just pro forma HR actions. Those who are seriously interested in building long-term careers seek training and development opportunities on a regular basis.

Successful and effective organizations normally have generous and well-structured staff development plans. They also have dedicated funds to support the educational and career goals of their teams. Some go even further and support post-graduate or graduate programs of their staff. Of course, these measures vary from agency to agency. The takeaway is that organizations need to do it in a structured and systematic manner.

 

  • Ask For Feedback On Own Performance

Asking for and providing is a major feature of a learning organization. People in such organizations feel empowered and incentivized to benefit from organizational feedback loops in a constructive fashion.

Project team members need to be proactive about soliciting feedback. If asked for one, take time to provide an honest and fact-based assessment that will help your colleague achieve more. Research shows that unbiased feedback helps organizations both improve and transform.

Summary

For organizations seeking excellence, employing people with the right motivation matters. What happens in the workplace often shape the right motivations. The agencies that take it seriously are intentional about developing, introducing, and institutionalizing a number of incentives that make their project teams more effective.

I have reviewed some of the key approaches to incentivizing project teams effectively. Research has found that incentives can play a crucial role in advancing organizational goals and objectives. Conversely, demotivated staff are more likely to become cynical than go beyond what’s business as usual. Organizational success takes more than just retaining people in their comfort zones. Smart incentives help both entities and individuals push the envelope and make the most of their untapped potential.

Healthy Teams Achieve More

The carpet in an office building’s main floor elevator lobby read, T-Together E-Everyone A-Achieves M-More.

 

Having worked on many healthy teams I can attest to the power of teamwork. But then I thought, “do the teams in this organization live the slogan? Do they understand why dysfunctional teams achieve L less? Do they understand what dysfunctional teams and healthy teams are? ”

When you replace the M with an L you turn your team into a TEAL – a small freshwater duck. But joking aside, not every team does more.

Healthy teams do achieve more. Dysfunctional teams result in demoralized team members and inadequate results. So, if you want to make sure teams are healthy, that they achieve their goals, avoid unnecessary conflict, manage the necessary disagreements well, and learn from their experience, then look to the process.

 

Everyone Together

When it comes to teams, the key words are T-together and E-everyone. If the team members are together a team can achieve more than the sum of what the individual members can achieve on their own.

But what does together really mean? Team members may be together at the same time physically co-located or virtual. They may be together because someone assigned them to the team, or they joined on their own. But the most meaningful way they can be together is to mutually understand the goal, the work to be done to achieve it, and the way they will do it. Do team members have common purpose. Do they have their act together, are they sufficiently skilled and organized to achieve their goals?

And what if not E-everyone is together? If anyone on the team is not aligned with the goal, process, and values, there is an unstable foundation for team performance. The goal of storming and norming in team development is to achieve unanimity through dialogue, analysis, and negotiation.

Whether physically co-located, dispersed, or virtual, if everyone is T-Together regarding process and goal the team will be healthy.

 

Process Awareness.

The key to effective performance is to make sure team members are aware of process, both their personal process and the team’s process. Process awareness means understanding that since everything is the result of a process – a set of actions and relationships that lead to an outcome – changing the process will change the outcome.

Personal process is one’s “innerworkings.” This is the realm of mindfulness, self-awareness, psychology, emotional and social intelligence. The outcomes of the inner process are speech and behavior expressed in relationships and performance.

The team’s process includes the way the members communicate, solve problems, manage projects and products, manage relationships, conflict, and expectations, and how they critically assess performance. Values, culture, roles, responsibilities, authority, and the tools and methods to be used to achieve the goal are all part of the process.

With process awareness as a base the team can agree upon values and goals, and the tools, techniques, and procedures they will use. If they take the time and effort to assess, adapt, fine tune, and improve the process.

 

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Resistance to Process Awareness

It is difficult to argue rationally against process awareness. And yet, we find many teams that never address the way they work together.  Here is an example:

There is a small team in which one member refused to follow procedures  causing her teammates extra work and stress and resulting in delays for clients. That team had procedures but the members were not together even though they shared physical space. The team lacked effective communication, common values, and clarity about roles, responsibility, and authority. There was no meaningful performance assessment. The most important missing ingredients in this situation were communications and leadership.

 

Going Beyond the Obstacles

By confronting them, a team can go beyond these obstacles. In the end it may be necessary to change the process or to expel a team member who refuses to or is unable to come T-Together and be part of E-Everyone.

The confrontation may be initiated within the team, by client complaints, or by external management. It is motivated by the desire to improve performance and quality of life. Without confronting the issues that get in the way of optimal performance, improvement is unlikely.

 

Critical Factors

Confronting the problem involves five critical factors for improving team health: problem definition, cause analysis, performance assessment, on a foundation of candid communication and a shared value of continuous improvement.

 

Define the Problem

In our example, the problem’s symptoms are long waits by clients and frustrated team members. Frustration leads to unnecessary conflict and to a sense that management doesn’t care. More universally, the problem is team performance that can be improved.

Problem definition relies on the open communication of the symptoms. Communication is enabled by having regular performance assessments. Without that, identifying the problem requires the courage of individual team members to “blow the whistle” on issues, and risks that clients will be the “whistle blowers.”

 

Identify the Causes

There are many causes of poor team performance. For example, individuals who do not care about achieving the team’s goals, self-centeredness, not understanding roles and responsibilities, ignorance of the procedures, ineffective procedures, lack of skill, etc.

Everyone knows cause analysis is an essential part of improving performance. Yet resistance to candid cause analysis is still a great barrier to effective teamwork. This barrier is caused by sensitivities regarding personal process, blame, fear, perfectionism, and not accepting that errors are part of the process.

The sensitivities reinforce the attitude that “we don’t have time for looking at how we work, we can barely get all of our work done as it is.” This attitude is further reinforced by leadership that does not value process management and is unwilling to address interpersonal factors..

 

Apply Process Management

If you want healthy teams, look to the process. To change outcomes, change the process.

In our case example, the process was broken. Leadership failed to identify, assess, and address the problem, they had no process management process. The team members, in the absence of effective leadership, did not take initiative to raise the issue or resolve it themselves. Process awareness was missing. No-one was managing the process.

Are your teams achieving M-More? Is process awareness part of your culture? Do you take the time and effort to make sure E-Everyone is T-Together.

 

See the following articles for more on performance management:

Do I Hear an Amen?

Subconscious biases and habits of mind dominate or influence 85% to 95% of our emotions, judgments, reactions, decisions, behaviors, actions, and results.

What’s your reaction to what you just read?

When I heard that during WBECS’s coaching education platform led by Peter Demarest, a thought leader in the integration of axiology and neuroscience, I was surprised. I knew that the subconscious had a lot of influence on us. I was not ready to hear that our sub-conscience has this much influence!

Knowing this now, I was challenged with the following: how can I use my mind to keep my head from undermining the wisdom of my heart so that I can be my best self and live my best life and help others do the same?

In other words, how can we change, expand, and influence our thinking so we play in the A Game of our abilities?

The answer is unequivocally this: by tuning into our hearts, which encompasses all the values that we deem important.

Our values are the driving factors of our success.

We all have values we believe in. Yet how often do we not live up to the values that we hold in high esteem? How often do we react based on our perceptions, beliefs, and judgments and our values fly out the door?

 

One client recently shared with me that courage and bravery were one of her top values. Yet, she was paralyzed in making decisions and moving forward. Another client shared that their relationship with family was top value, yet they were describing a 16-hour professional workday and the need to cancel a family vacation. And it is not only these two clients. We all at times “trip over our own values.”

Perhaps an important question is how we access more of our brain capacity and awareness of self. In Demarest’s book, The Central Question of Life, Love and Leadership, he focuses on the one question that I often use in my own life, especially when working with individuals and teams:

 

What choice can I make and what action can I take at this moment to create the greatest net value?

 

We all make daily choices. How do we know, however, that the choice we make today will lead us to our desired outcome?

In my practice, I have coined the acronym AMEN to CORE, a 4-step principle that when practiced consistently over time creates a value base success for individuals and organizations.

 

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A stand for Awareness of life and awareness of your purpose, whether individual or organizational. What are you here to achieve? What is the reason that leads you to think that? What are you becoming aware of if you allow this quiet contemplation to brew in your mind? What do you hear as the whispering of your soul?

 

Men stand for Mental Fitness. The idea of being mentally trained follows not only being aware of what sabotages you but the ways you can lean into your sage perspective, which advocates that every outcome can be turned into a gift and opportunity if we let it! The choices that we make have an immeasurable impact on our future. Mental Fitness provides us with a quicker recovery from the choices that led us to an undesirable path and opens our minds with curiosity to discover other available choices.

 

CO stands for Communication. Measure how you speak and how you listen. How coherent are you in your approach? How do you communicate your contribution to maximize your impact?

 

RE stands for Resilience. How committed are you to the path that you create or agree to pursue? What are the ways you are not only accountable but also responsible for achieving your goals and purpose? How consistent and persistent are you?

 

Let’s go back and ask Peter’s central question. What choice can I make and what action can I take at this moment to create the greatest net value? The stronger your mental muscle the more effective your results will be.

 

And here is the big one-million-dollar question- how do you get there?

 

When working on your awareness, consider the following:

  • What do I believe in? What are the values I regard as my north star? (I suggest taking a value-based assessment).
  • What attributes do I need to develop so that I can live my values proudly?
  • What tendencies do I have that may undermine my effectiveness? What triggers them?
  • Knowing that you are triggered by _____. What can you do to bring a more value-based perspective to ______? What would stop you?
  • What value are you committing to living out today?

 

When conversing with others, use the following three short techniques to begin a conversation without judgment:

  • Turn “should” to “could.” How would you feel if someone told you “John, you should do ______ and you should do ______?” Replacing “should” with “could” has the potential to minimize the judgmental tone of your request.

 

  • Replace “why” with “what.” “Why did you do that?” “Why are you___?” may make others feel defensive. Instead, consider asking “what about this situation made you feel ____? What were you hoping to achieve when you did ____?

 

When we change and broaden our thinking, our perspectives, beliefs, and habits change. When we make choices based on our values, we end up living our purpose. When we consider what happened and ask ourselves, “What now?” we bring our A Game wherever we go!

Software Tools or not Software Tools? That is the question. The way to achieve Enterprise Agility

The way to achieve Enterprise Agility

How many times we have heard about agile, Jira, Kanban, etc., and everything related to agile philosophy? Today we can find a lot of software tools to manage projects or processes using agile methods. However, can enterprises implement agile through implementing a software tool?

What is Agile?

Agile is a philosophy, a way to act, to collaborate in an organization to achieve a goal, to complete activities and tasks, in a process to ensure and encourage participation, leadership, and collaboration among every team.

Enterprise Agile Transformation

Business Agility is an ability for enterprises to react to changes using an evolved system in the way they work. From this system, we can extract its essence and adapt it to any professional field.

The Process

Figure 1. Enterprise Agile Transformation Framework

Before implementing software to manage agile projects or processes, we need to make a change in our processes, our organizational and leadership and people mindset, and our belief, to create an agile environment in processes and people. We must begin to change our minds and our organization. This is the way to implement agile in any organization. How?

  1. Change the mindset. Today, project team members, and employees, are one of the main parts of the business. Without them, an enterprise can’t work and achieve strategic goals. As leaders, we should recognize their value and encourage their collaboration and participation in every process. In this context, leaders, from executives to supervision levels, should impulse a leadership model based on:
    1. Motivation
    2. Empowerment
    3. Share responsibilities with the team

 

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Focus attention on the main wealth generators of your organization.  It is important to transform their mindset and their way of facing changes with agility. If moving the boat (an entire company) is complex, then in parallel a BOAT is built that moves faster.  A flexible and small structure. A self-sufficient team, empowered and specialized in facing market changes.

  1. Change your processes. It is important to review your processes to create lean ones that include support to manage changes. Reduce bureaucracy through employee empowerment, giving them enough authority to make decisions and eliminating unnecessary steps.
  2. Change your organization. We must break with the idea of working by departments – by silos. Unite the diversity of professionals in an area, a flatter structure, or a HUB. Common mental, digital, and physical spaces favor agility.
  3. Customer Centric and focused on clients’ needs. Nowadays, clients change their needs and preferences. It is imperative to know their expectations, and how you can address those to manage their preferences and make changes. Listen to customer needs. Orient the attention of your entire crew towards a customer-centric objective. The goal of agile teams is to meet customer demands. And to hear it, it is important to focus attention on a 360º view: sales data, navigation data, and direct customer data.
  4. Frameworks. To face changing environments, it is important to organize teams with new ways of working. For this, Agile business methodologies such as Scrum, Kanban, Lean, Design Thinking, OKRs, and Management 3.0 can be implemented. For example, you can work with SCRUM frameworks used within teams that handle high-uncertainty and complex projects. This will allow you to set new work rules, such as working in short periods called sprints, carrying out daily follow-up or daily meetings, working with the initial features that offer value to customers and the organization such as MPVs; and organizing teams in another way:  product owner, scrum master and development teams.
  5. MVP Culture. The minimum viable product must be above complete products. An MVP culture should be established to deliver constant value to the customer. Instead of developing an entire product for years and waiting until it is complete, the MVP allows us to launch the minimum value of this product to the market, check how it is received by the customer, and continue to evolve with new developments in the right direction.

Software tools

After you have begun changes in your mindset leadership and employees, your organization, and your processes, you can implement software tools that can help you to measure and improve your processes, fix issues, and achieve Enterprise Agility. By means of software tools, your enterprise can start a transformational agile way, face changes, adapt processes through automation, and respond fast and efficiently to customer changes by analyzing their behavior.

Enterprise Agile Transformation Benefits

  1. Focus on people. Collaborative and multidisciplinary work makes talent prevail over processes and organizational charts.
  2. Empowerment and motivation. Collaborative work, fluid communication, and the equal participation of all team members generate autonomy, transparency, and accountability in all its members, which empowers and motivates employees
  3. Risk Minimization. The continuous review model allows adaptation to change in a faster and more efficient way, finding solutions during the process that minimize the risks of failure
  4. Response Speed. Agile transformation provides a flexible structure that allows the delivery of projects/services versions within short deadlines.
  5. Improved results. The closeness with the client allows having a more excellent knowledge of it providing a differential added value and generating savings in costs.

Achieving Quality Performance and Results

Projects are performed to deliver quality products/services and satisfy budget, and schedule expectations.  This article focuses in on quality deliverables, their relationship to quality performance, and the quality management process that seeks to ensure that quality criteria are met.

The quality of performance (the work required to deliver results) and the quality of the outcome (a service or product) are intimately related. Every outcome is the result of performance, a process. High quality performance delivers high quality outcomes. The process is the key. If it is a good one, it makes sure that quality is defined and mutually understood by stakeholders and that “critical assessment” is done with positive attitudes.

 

Quality Management

If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you’re doing.
W. Edwards Deming

Quality management (QM) is a process. It is well described in PM standards, yet poorly defined quality criteria and personal reactions to critical assessment, if it is done at all, get in the way of applying quality management principles.

The goal of quality management is to improve the probability of achieving quality outcomes. It makes sure results are being developed in a way that leads to success and whether success has been achieved.

Effective quality management relies on a simple model:

  • Set quality criteria
  • Define the process for controlling quality, including roles and responsibilities
  • Assess performance against the criteria
  • Learn
  • Adjust
  • Continue.

It is a variation on the classic Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA) model. So simple and rational. Yet, there is still need to raise quality consciousness and overcome the obstacles to a practical effective quality management process.

 

What Gets in the Way?

There are three primary obstacles to achieving quality outcomes: lack of clear definition of quality attributes (specifications), poor collaboration, and resistance to critical assessment. These are strongly influenced by people’s attitudes (mindset) and their setting – organizational values, processes, and relationships.

 

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Fuzzy Specs – Lack of Objective Criteria

If you and other stakeholders don’t know what quality is how can you achieve it?

Clarity and agreement regarding what you and other stakeholders mean by quality in each case, avoid subjective expectations and the inevitable conflicts that occur between those who deliver and those who receive and/or assess results. One person’s sense of quality is often not the same as another’s, so it is important to get into details about what is expected.

This obstacle seems easy to overcome. All you have to do is specify the product and performance with objective quality criteria.

But anyone with experience knows that it is not so easy. It takes time, skill, effort and most of all collaboration among performers  requirements analysts, quality management staff,  users, and clients.

For example, performance quality can be defined in terms of error or defect rates and productivity. Product quality, in terms of measurable attributes such as resiliency, duration, reliability, and customer satisfaction. Service quality can be specified with parameters for response time, customer satisfaction, etc.

Defining requirements takes time and effort. And it is hard to specify the less quantifiable quality criteria like color and texture, look and feel, refined finishing, absence of subtle flaws.

Clients often say that they’ll know quality when they see it. That tells you that when it comes to specifying quality look and feel requirements, it is best to use examples, CAD renderings, prototypes, and an agile approach.

 

Collaboration

Collaboration is the key to success. A collaborative process helps to get everyone to own the definition and to make sure that what is expected is feasible and fits within time and cost constraints. When quality specifications are set by the client without involvement of the people who must deliver and test, the stage is set for conflict and unnecessary pressure on the delivery team.

In a collaborative process, the delivery team can give feedback about the costs of quality features while clients and others can bring in cost of quality (for example the cost of errors and maintenance) to enable the team to justify costs related to higher quality. The quality control people can set expectations and engineer the best testing approach.

Together, stakeholders, deliverers, clients, quality assurance and control staff, users agree upon a set of criteria that is likely to be met with expected levels of cost, time, and effort and on the process they will use to make sure quality is achieved..

Whether you are taking an agile approach in which the team is working together to evolve the product throughout the project, a hybrid approach, or a more waterfall like approach, the time and effort required for collaborative work more than pays off by minimizing unnecessary conflict and unmet expectations.

 

Resistance to Assessment

Setting criteria is critical. Once set, assessment is a natural, obvious follow up.

How hard could that be? You just measure interim and final outcomes against quality criteria, when there is a diversion, determine cause, decide how to proceed?

However, overcoming resistance to assessment is even more difficult than overcoming the “fuzzy specs” obstacle. Here we are confronted with cultural, procedural, and psychological barriers.

The psychological level is the most important. Many people take criticism of their work as personal assault. There may be cultural issues regarding critical assessment. Some fear being fired. Old personal issues are triggered. Some fear saying something that might upset key performers and co-workers. Sometimes performers get angry at testers and reviewers when they come up with errors or performance issues.

Its complex. The secret ingredient is clear communication regarding what assessment is all about and how to do it in a way that continuously reinforces the sense that criticism is a positive thing that contributes to ever increasing quality. Acknowledge the obstacles.

If below par performance is not confronted it will continue. Individuals will not have the opportunity to learn and improve their performance. If errors and omissions are not discovered during controlled testing, they will be discovered after the product is released for use, at a far higher cost than if detected earlier.

 

Quality Process

Quality process leads to quality outcomes. We are addressing the quality management process. Its success relies on mutual understanding and collaborative effort by stakeholders. Together they address the obstacles of fuzzy specifications, lack of collaboration, and resistance to critical assessment.

Spend the time and effort on continually refining the quality management process to avoid unnecessary conflict, dissatisfaction, and poor-quality outcomes. Start with a review of your current situation – Is there a documented process? Is everyone happy with the way things are being done and the results?

 

See the article The Key to Performance Improvement: Candid Performance Assessment
https://www.projecttimes.com/articles/the-key-to-performance-improvement-candid-perfromance-assessment/