It was simple. I first talked to everyone to see if they seemed to understand the methodology. I could tell when they actually understood what they were suppose to accomplish in each step or if they were just faking it.
Then I worked with them and observed what they actually did. All too often the folks who understood the methodology would then go and do the tasks using their old approach. They sounded good and convincing when they spoke but were still doing things the way they had always been doing it.
For example, I needed to quickly come up to speed on a new project. From my office I initially called each person for a quick introduction and discussion. What they didn’t see was that when I asked each of them their role, I was recording everything on a large whiteboard that took up one whole wall of my office. Once they told me what they did I then asked them what each of the other team members did. I did this with everyone. So not only did I get what the individual said they did, I got what the other team members said they did. Yes, they were often dramatically different.
The trick for me was to listen to what people said and then observe what they did. It was an obvious thing to do but a lot of people digging into why things didn’t work did only one or the other. I could quickly find the disconnects, the subterfuges, by this simple approach.
Often this misinformation is not something people consciously do. They are absolutely sincere when they describe their activities. Peter Drucker told the story that he would start out by interviewing CEOs about how they spent their day. He would then follow them around and record how they actually spent it. It was often completely different, and just as often, the CEO did not realize how different it was.
Add this phenomena to the other simple observation which is few folks really know what all it takes to do a project, then we see a lot of the source of why things go wrong. We repeat the problems of the past, not only because we don’t remember them, but also because we don’t realize what it is that we really do.
See also How To Avoid Second Order Ignorance.
Once we get a handle on this phenomena, which usually means finding real data that characterizes the project, then we ultimately find profound insight into how an organization really works. Sometimes, the reaction is “yeah, that’s obvious” but all too often I’ve seen both denial “no way!” and indifference “sure, but what does that matter now?”
For more on finding other blind spots see Past Performance Does Not Guarantee Future Results Except In Project Management
Sorting out this confusion, finding ways to elevate profound knowledge (e.g., how our organization really performs) is often the core activity needed to see the root cause of our problems. Making a change for the better is an even harder step, but at least we now know the root cause and we know were working towards a solution that will make a difference.
What blind spots do you suspect you have in your management of your project team?