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Venturesome Behaviour …venture capital for today’s projects

COMMENTARY

By Martin Price

UK
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I recall a recent project meeting where the participants reached a point when they were unable to prevent opposing views and interests, bringing the negotiations to a halt. There was frustration and resentment in abundance. Fortunately, someone was able to introduce a new way of understanding our predicament. He helped to save face all-round and the contribution was crucial to the survival and eventually to the success of an important meeting.  His astute questioning did the trick; bringing very welcome humour and candour to the proceedings.

Almost single-handedly, he heralded a positive mood.  As I heard him, I sensed his courageous intent, a clear insight into the dynamics in the group, well developed social skills and a respect for the group’s members. In my experience, this kind of brave and insightful contribution, where someone poses the key questions, expresses appreciation, shares different ways of thinking and is prepared to risk a rebuff, is frequently a crucial factor for a group tackling issues open to contention. The behaviour of project players, their engagement in groups and their collaboration between groups, lie at the heart of their conduct in managing projects. Project management can be defined simply but it is never easy to accomplish. There can be no greater goal for a project organisation than for its leaders to encourage the venturesome behaviour of its players and to fashion the conditions needed for this most precious asset to seize the agenda. That way, success can get to be more reliable and a whole lot easier.

An absence of Venturesome Behaviour

Of course the opposite of these behaviours will bring difficulty, delay or both.  The unwillingness to listen, the absence of personal recognition, the casual over-sight, the naivety towards political forces at work, the perils of pride, the obfuscation, the lack of grace and the side-lining of people showing reluctance to ‘know their place’, are behaviours that are too common. On 28th January 1986 Challenger exploded shortly after lift-off.  Remember the ‘O’ rings?  The official enquiry did not cite a technical flaw as the cause of the disaster but instead attributed it to the ‘normalised deviance’ of the players, amounting to a failure of their organisation. It reported the root cause to be the engineering group’s feelings of invulnerability, the pressure from Congress and the ‘group think’ pattern of social conformity by which they failed to properly examine and act upon the risks attached to their decisions.

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About the Author

Martin Price

CEO, EngagementWorks

Martin Price is the founder and CEO of EngagementWorks, a consultancy assisting project organisations to collaborate, adapt, become more reliable and accelerate their rate of progress. He was until 2010, Director of Professional Development for the UK Chapter of the Project Management Institute (PMI®) and acted as ‘finder’ and Speaker Host for the monthly meetings of the UK Chapter in London over six years. He is a regular speaker, conference convener and writer on the subject of project management.  Martin has been a contributor to the preparation of professional standards for both APM and PMI.

Following a career in engineering, industrial relations and personnel management, Martin spent 10 years with PA Consulting Group leading projects to help businesses and project organisations to adapt and improve their skills, structures and capabilities.  Martin has worked internationally and has experience as a trainer and consultant in the US, Sweden, Central Africa, The Middle East and India, as well as Britain.  His book ‘Projects, gathering pace’   is to be published shortly.  Based in Northampton, UK, Martin can be contacted at [email protected].  For more information, visit www.engagementworks.com.