Silence is deadly (for projects and teams)

If you’ve been around projects long enough you know the drill… There are real problems being encountered but everyone above you seems to either be unaware or uninterested in grappling with them.

Lipstick on a Pig, How Illusion Leads to Crisis in Real World ProjectsDenial is a powerful defense mechanism but rarely an effective project management strategy.
Eventually there’s a project crisis. Rinse and repeat.

Since we regularly help organizations deal with issues related to these, I was pleased to read some recent results from research performed by VitalSmarts and The Concours Group. They surveyed more than 1,000 executives and project management professionals across 40 companies in a wide variety of industries.

Their Silence Fails study found direct correlations between our willingness and ability to speak up about issues and how successfully we deliver projects. The five most lethal issues that don’t get discussed are:

  • Fact-free planning. Failure is nearly predestined through insufficient acceptance of reality when it comes to timeframes and resources. The problem isn’t that the limitations exist. The problem is people won’t discuss the reality.
  • Absent without leave (AWOL) sponsors. What happens when the sponsor doesn’t lead? Can we talk about that? If not, prepare for failure.
  • Skirting. When people skirt around the predefined process, we’re often left with the resulting scope creep. If we can’t discuss how this impacts projects, we’ll likely soon be discussing why the project failed.
  • Project chicken. We know we’re late but we also know another team is late so we don’t speak up. It’s a deadly game that happens way too often. And the result? It’s not pretty.
  • Team failures. Just because we put people on a team together doesn’t make them a team. Do we perpetuate the dysfunction by pretending everything’s fine or do we intentionally work to improve the team dynamics. The answer can significantly impact a project’s success.

Does your team or organization struggle with these issues? Contact us today about our Lipstick on a Pig: How Illusion Leads to Crisis in Real World Projects keynote. It’s perfect for a company meeting, offsite, or retreat.

We discuss these dynamics in more detail, including practical ideas about how to break out of the rut of failure caused by illusion. Contact us today for more information.

2 thoughts on “Silence is deadly (for projects and teams)

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  1. Leadership is often defined by initiative. You can develop yourself by dealing with issues head-on and also jumpstart or refresh team projects. Offering input can spark peer interest and inspire other group member contributions. If you hesitate to speak up, or fear rejection, it’s useful to ask yourself why. A lack of self-confidence or faith in your abilities merits attention so you can ‘nip it in the bud.’ Consider joining encouraging community groups in your area. Rotary and Toastmaster’s offer ways to help you learn to value time management and to develop impromptu speaking skills. Your own goal-setting and motivation can evolve hand-in hand.

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