Andy Wilkins and Kate Stuart-Cox write about successful business culture and climate in the book Business Analysis and Leadership.
They talk about 9 dimensions that contribute towards an environment conducive to project management success. Last time I talked about the first 4 of those:
- Creating ideas
- Supporting ideas.
Today I’m going to look at the other 5 dimensions along with some ideas for encouraging these in your business.
1. Trust and openness
Wilkins and Stuart-Cox say that it is important the project team feel comfortable speaking their minds and offering different points of view. If you can build that culture into the project environment then you are likely to get those different points of view presented, which in turn leads to greater levels of creativity and cross-team working. It can also help you identify unspoken assumptions about project tasks that may influence the work that is being undertaken.
While you do have to be careful making jokes at work – not everyone finds the same things funny – a good natured environment is far more fun to work in than one that is stuffy and dull. Is it OK to have fun and make appropriate jokes? Is the working culture relaxed but professional? Wilkins and Stuart-Cox suggest personalising your workplace, encouraging wild ideas and creativity, using cartoons to illustrate business concepts and having fun while facilitating workshops.
3. Managing conflict
Conflict isn’t something you want to encourage generally, so Wilkins and Stuart-Cox have some suggestions for reducing friction in the project team. Using common goals and setting shared expectations for behaviour is a good way to start. They also talk about having clear policies and strategies to deal with issues as they arise. “Being crystal clear about roles” is another tip, so that decisions can be made appropriately with everyone understanding who will make decisions and why.
4. Promoting debate
You want a lively debate on your project team. If you don’t have a team who will interact with each other, you end up with a group of people nodding at your every suggestion and who will not put forward their own ideas. Wilkins and Stuart-Cox talk about finding ways to encourage debate, which are largely around facilitating discussions. They suggest modelling active listening so that the team sees you listening to ideas as they are presented. You should also be actively open to suggestions and different points of view, and encourage the team to put these forward. Cross-functional teams are a good way to promote debate as people will necessarily bring different backgrounds and opinions to the conversation.
5. Promoting risk-taking
It might seem counter-intuitive to want to encourage risk-taking on your project, when your risk management process is specifically designed to mitigate and minimise risk! But this is more about whether you create a project culture where it is OK to fail if you try something new. New ways of working are encouraged and no one seeks to blame when something goes wrong. Instead, you pick yourselves up and try a different route forward. You can build this culture into your project by encouraging learning from mistakes, providing stretch targets and also simulated environments to test out new ideas before they are put into practice.
These 5 points, combined with the 4 elements from my last article, will help you create a business and project environment that in turn supports the chance of being successful. Of course, no amount of facilitated workshops, measured risk-taking, cartoons on the wall or debate will guarantee that your project will be a success. But if you can take a few steps to encourage your team towards creative, collaborative thinking and find a way for them to work together effectively, then you are helping your project team move in the right direction.
In Business Analysis and Leadership Andy Wilkins and Kate Stuart-Cox write about the impact that the culture of a business has on business success. They call this ‘climate’ and define it by saying that climate is:
- Distinct from culture because you can see it more easily
- More changeable than culture
- More scalable than culture and more situational
- Measurable so that you can assess some climates as being better than others – you can’t do this with culture.
Whether you agree with the distinction between culture and climate or not, it is useful to think about the factors that influence the project management environment and make some businesses more successful than others.
Wilkins and Stuart-Cox use something called the Situational Outlook Questionnaire to help businesses think about the aspects of their working environment that affect success. They have split this into 9 dimensions of climate, and while they say the full questionnaire is far more complete, it is definitely useful for project managers and those working on project teams to think about the different dimensions and see how they could influence them to generate an environment more conducive to project success. So, let’s take a look at the dimensions and see how they could have an impact on projects.
In the first part of this short series I looked at planning for your first project management job interview, although a lot of the advice would be suitable for any project management job interview. The second article looked at preparing for the interview day, and that was followed by the actual interview itself and some tips for that meeting. In today’s final instalment in the series I’m going to talk about what happens next.
Congratulations – you’ve made it through the first interview. Now you just have to wait and see what happens as you have done all that you can. There are a number of things that might happen next and you should have been told at your first interview what the process will be from now on.
Second interviews and follow ups
One thing that might happen is that you are invited back for a second interview. This is great news as it means you have made it through the initial screening and on to the shortlist. The second interview is a chance to meet other members of the team, maybe your direct line manager’s boss or other project managers. For you, it’s another opportunity to check that you really do want the job.
The second interview may include further presentations or psychometric tests. You can’t do much preparation for tests of this sort and they aren’t designed to trip you up. Answer the questions honestly and don’t try to assume what they want to hear.
Your first project management job interview is a great career milestone – someone thinks that you have the skills and experience to be a valuable asset to their team. The interview is your chance to prove that you do have these and that you would be a good fit for the team too. And, of course, it is your chance to check out the company and the environment and be happy that, if you were offered the job, it is something you would like to do on a long-term basis.
Remember that your interview starts as soon as you walk through the door to the company. Be polite to the receptionist and security staff as the interviewer may ask for their first impression of you. There might also be other candidates waiting in the reception area along with you, so bear that in mind too.
Meeting the interviewer
Normally you will be asked to wait in reception for the interviewer or a colleague to come and collect you. They will then take you to the interview room. The interviewer may already be in the room or they may join you afterwards. You may be offered a drink, and it’s up to you whether you say yes or not, but it could be easier to stick to water instead of hot drinks.
Shake hands when you meet the interviewer (and if you are worried about this, it is something you can practice in advance!).
Last time I looked at planning for your interview. In this part of this short series, I’m going to look at the interview day itself.
Getting your first project management job is great – project management is a fabulous career choice! But you need to get over that first hurdle and succeed during interview so that you secure a job offer. The interview day is really important as it’s your chance to make a good impression and show off your skills. So let’s think about how to plan in advance for that all-important interview.
Plan your journey in advance. You could even do a trial run, which is useful if you have no idea about where you are going or how long it will take. Do the journey at the time of day when you’ll be having your interview, so if you need to be there first thing, do the journey in the rush hour as it will be a very different experience to doing it at a quieter period of the day. Print out any maps or instructions that you need or programme your sat nav.
Work out how long the journey will take and then add enough contingency time to allow for road works, traffic jams or other unforeseen problems. On the day you want to have confidence that you will be able to get to the interview on time as being late is one stress factor you could do without.
Oh, and if you are travelling by car, make sure you have enough fuel or that you have found a filling station on the route!