Doesn’t it feel like sometimes the deck is stacked against you? Project success seems elusive as business
complexity reaches a tipping point. I miss the days when technology innovation was the primary hurdle to
overcome. In today’s environment, project leaders are dealing with complex set of variables that make their
work more unpredictable than ever. Matrix structures, cross-cultural members, distributed locations, short
term mindsets and unrealistic expectations are the norm in many companies. Managing these compounding
factors isn’t as hopeless as it seems, provided you get the team aligned in moving in the right direction.
Neuroscience experts are confirming insights on a set of principles and practices that can help you managing the
one common factor you’re dealing with – humans.
Knowing a few things about team and personality dynamics can be a huge advantage in staying ahead in this
game of project management. Regardless of where they come from, where they have worked or what they
do, people have a few things in common that David Rock highlighted so succinctly in his book Your Mind At
Work. His SCARF model resonates with what I’ve been experiencing in my work with hundreds of teams over
the past 15 years. Launching a cross-functional startup initiative for a large defense contractor in the mid
90’s, I experienced the challenges of managing cross-functional complexity while facilitating over 35 multi-
million dollar program teams. Despite a common corporate culture, the language and mindsets of the various
members made me wonder if some were sent in from another planet to participate. Our success in delivering
predictability led to a multi-company merger exposed me to a new phenomenon; cross-company complexities.
My masters degree in Organizational Development couldn’t adequately prepare me for navigating the political
nuisances that came with each of the unique styles of leadership that were in throw at us. More recently, I’ve
worked with many Japanese companies who are struggling to adapt to a globally distributed reality where “the
Japanese way” just won’t work. In each situation, we were able to overcome the communication chasm that
divided the groups and led to disagreements, mistrust and poor performance.
As it turns out, regardless of what form of cultural diversity you are dealing with (we can add gender or
generational cultures too), it’s possible to bridge the gap that separates teammates and get everyone ‘bought
in’ to a shared project vision and plan. The neuroscience research is backing up the wisdom we gained
through years of experience – addressing the individual needs in concert with the project needs is essential
for overcoming the fear and misunderstandings that face every multi-cultural team. The following set of blogs
and templates will provide a framework that can dramatically change your project team’s results by reducing
conflict, ensuring proper handoffs and aligning goals and roles to ensure milestones are met. Underlying these
project success criteria are a set of human elements like stronger relationships, improved job satisfaction, less
stress and more fun for all members of the team – including YOU.
Incorporating these tools during your next project launch can get you started on the right foot, but they can also
be used individually to address a specific issue that is plaguing a current project team RIGHT NOW. Start small
and build slowly is my suggestion, which is also supported by brain science, as a strategy to change optimism in
your current project situation.