Culture & Care

He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how. Friedrich W. Nietzsche (1844 – 1900).

As the economy and employment prospects improve, the competitive advantage of a broader view of employee care is dawning on many organizations. A healthy culture is the foundation that supports an organization to deliver on its strategic objectives by making strategy personal, which also depends on employee’s performance. It is the ‘How’ not the ‘what’. It’s your way of being.

The way information is shared.

The way conflict is handled.

The way decisions are made.

The way problems are solved.

The way bad News is received.

The way behavior is modeled.

The way behavior is rewarded.

How often do we see the other person from their point of view and accept them? This is understanding emphathically. The more fulfilled an employee is, the more they are willing to give, or produce. They have an energy level that allows them to strive to achieve the objectives. This produces satisfied employees who project more positive energy that manifests in to higher levels of care for their organization, which can create increased quality products, processes and services along with potential for increased customer satisfaction. This all contributes revenue which drives value, particularly stakeholder value. While there are contradictions, external and internal forces that can affect the health of culture, this dimension of business, is a system of shared meaning that is compatible with contradiction.

Does your workforce know why they do what they do, as opposed to what they do and does the culture support the ‘why’ in order to help them attain personal value while solving current business challenges?

Any culture is both learned and shared and can be seen as a pervasive way of life in an organization. It is made up of expectations, learned rules, norms and beliefs about the way work should be organized, about what should be done and the way things should be done.

It is established to help people who share that culture to know how to interact between themselves and to solve a given set of problems (Graham, 1989, p. 91)[i]wickervillage_en-ca8704435537_1366x768

A role based bureaucratic culture is good for solving technical problems that do not change much over time. However, when problems change culture must change to enable people solve those new problems. Different cultures exist in different departments so no one culture rules, to the extent that one can expect harmony between people from different sections (Graham, 1989, p. 91)[ii].

The hallmarks of bureaucratic departmental management are, repeatability, where the same or similar processes are used to produce the same or similar products. Products or processes maybe improved but there is little experimentation.

Another hallmark is predictability, where products and the processes used to produce them, is fairly well known in advance and ‘bound’ being the third hallmark, where each department has specific bounds and no department does another departments function such as accounting doing finance and engineering doing testing.

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To support this way of working a culture should also be constructed to support repeat ability, predictability and boundedness and reward its people for conformity and as culture is both learned and shared through ideas, customs and social behaviour, people learn their repeatable tasks and how to behave towards each other (Graham, 1989, p4.)[iii].

However, due to the turbulent nature of the project environment, shown to be volatile and uncertain, it means new or similar products are rapidly emerging.

Change is constant and transition is rapid with “transitions that once took place over three or five years now happen in 12 to 18 months” (Cisco systems, 2014, p. vii)[iv]. Advancement in digital technology and social media means processes of production are also changing.

The most effective response to this change is a move to “adhocracy”[1](Graham, 1989, p. 3)[v] where the hallmarks of management in adhocracy are non repeatability where new products dictate new processes and vice versa. However, there is an air of constant experimentation and learning because of constant change. This effects time estimating and low reliability estimates as the percentage of time expired is not equal to the percentage of activity completed. Little progress toward the final goal is achieved until about 80% of the allotted time has expired (Graham, 1989, p. 29)[vi] requiring experience and judgement on the team.

The second hallmark of adhocracy is non predictability as the result of any experimentation is often not known in advance. Totally different products maybe discovered by accident (Klee, 2008)[vii] [2] in a non bound structure that is loose as people are called upon to perform many different tasks.  To support this adhocracy a culture needs to be constructed that is flexible and task orientated (Graham, 1989, p.5)[viii].

Within this culture people will posses many skills, learn to function in multi disciplined teams not department teams that are temporarily assembled around non repeatable tasks for a specified period of time and then disbanded. The true reward system will be for flexibility and performance. The model should not be drawn from the bureaucratic model as the ad hoc manager needs to be flexible, task and people orientated and not bound by any departmental affiliations. This is uniquely aligned with logotherapys theory of meaning and values where it is stated that “each man is unique and each man’s life is singular; no one is replaceable nor is his life repeatable” (Frankl, 1967, p. 27)[ix] and “this indispensability and irreplaceability depends on who is doing the work and on the manner in which he is doing it. The work in itself does not make the person indispensible and irreplaceable; it only gives him the chance to be so (Frankl, 1969, p. 120/121)[x].

Where imaginative new uses of systems, new products or new ways of using existing products is required, the ad hoc culture seems to embody the set of norms and relationships that are most appropriate for this most effective type of management, project management.

Bureaucratic Role vs. Ad Hoc Task Culture

As a comparison of both cultures shows below, the task culture seems most appropriate for project management, particularly where people matter (Graham, 1989, p.6)[xi].

Category Bureaucratic –  Role Ad hoc – Task
General ethos of management Logic and rationality Get the job done
Work norms Job description important, do job as described by procedures Job stresses individual sensitivity to people and self control over work
Source of power Position power due to job title Expert power due to job knowledge
Pro and con Good for routine bad for innovation Good for innovation bad for routine
Chief problem Change Control

 

If an organization is used to running projects they may be familiar with operating multifunctional teams that would indicate a strong project culture. If they are not used to running projects they may not be used to the standards of interaction required in forming and leading multi functional teams, indicating a weak project culture.

From a project management standpoint the simplest type of project would be one where the product is known and the process is known and the culture is strong. This situation rarely arises and the most difficult project is where the product is unknown, the process is unknown and the culture is weak. This also rarely arises. However, it does imply that depending on the different types of projects being run and degrees of relevant end knowledge, it should determine the amount of emphasis being put on the aspects of planning, control and managing people. “Generally, the less the product is known, the more emphasis needs to be placed on planning: the less the process is known, the more emphasis needs to be placed on control: the weaker the culture the more emphasis needs to be placed on managing people” (Graham, 1989, p.9)[xii].

[1] Donald Schon wrote in Beyond the Stable State (1971) and is cited by Graham in Project Management as if People Mattered, 1989, page 3.

[2] Dr Brian Klee is Senior Medical Director/US Medical Affairs Group Lead, Cardiovascular at Pfizer.

[3] In research to answer the question “what are the dimensions and supportive elements that constitute a valid project management culture framework, as an operational culture in organization, an operational Culture is defined and preferred as “the way we do things around here” Deal and Kennedy 1982 from An Operational ‘Project Management Culture’ Framework (Part 1), SA Journal of Human Resource Management, 2006, 4 (1), 36-43.

[4] An Operational ‘Project Management Culture’ Framework (Part 1), SA Journal of Human Resource Management, 2006, 4 (1), 36-43.

[i] Graham, Robert. Project Management as if People Mattered. USA, Primavera Press, 1989.

[ii] Graham, Robert. Project Management as if People Mattered. USA, Primavera Press, 1989.

[iii] Graham, Robert. Project Management as if People Mattered, USA, Primavera Press, 1989.

[iv] Chambers, John. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Cisco Systems The Global Information Technology Report 2014 | vii.

[v] Graham, Robert. Project Management as if People Mattered. USA, Primavera Press, 1989.

[vi] Graham, Robert. Project Management as if People Mattered. USA, Primavera Press, 1989.

[vii] Dr Brian Klee, http://www.independent.ie/lifestyle/health/viva-viagra-26433545.html

[viii] Graham, Robert. Project Management as if People Mattered. USA, Primavera Press, 1989.

[ix] Frankl, Viktor. Psychotherapy and Existentialism.USA, Penguin Books, 1967.

[x] Frankl, Viktor. The Doctor and the Soul. London, Souvenir Press Ltd, 1969.

[xi] Graham, Robert. Project Management as if People Mattered. USA, Primavera Press, 1989.

[xii] Graham, Robert. Project Management as if People Mattered. USA, Primavera Press, 1989.

[xiii] Graham, Robert. Project Management as if People Mattered. USA, Primavera Press, 1989.

[xiv] Graham, Robert. Project Management as if People Mattered. USA, Primavera Press, 1989.

[xv] Graham, Robert. Project Management as if People Mattered. USA, Primavera Press, 1989.