Chapter 12: Respond


While appearing obvious, a major characteristic of a project is that change occurs in many ways, internally and externally to it. In fact, a project is really a manifestation of change. The very reason for a project is to implement change; otherwise , a project is nothing more than an ongoing service.

Common Perspectives

Because a project is a change, project managers must understand change and exhibit the appropriate leadership behaviors, just as all leaders must do and, like all leaders , they must share perspectives on change when leading.

Transformative Rather than Transactional

Much has been already been written in this book about the differences between transformative and transactional actions of leaders. Nothing manifests the differences between the two actions more than how project managers perceive and deal with change.

Managers strive to protect the status quo; leaders do the opposite , seeking changes that improve efficiency and, perhaps more importantly, effectiveness. As Warren Bennis says in On Becoming a Leader , the distinguishing characteristic between a manager and a leader is whether he or she accepts or challenges the status quo. [1]

Leaders take the initiative when dealing with change. They do not wait for something to happen to them; rather, they make change happen. They identify ways to change the status quo in a radical , revolutionary way, as Kouzes and Posner observe in The Leadership Challenge . [2]

If change comes to them, they do not shrink from it. Instead, they respond rather than react to it. They view leadership as being dynamic, not dependent on someone or something else to dictate an agenda. Leadership, not surprisingly, is active and not passive. [3]

Of course, leaders who adopt a transformative approach can experience some high drama, a distinguishing difference between transformative and transactional leadership. Consequently, the most memorable leaders are those who helped lead us through very difficult times, whereas managers are remembered during stable periods. [4]

John Kotter agrees. He makes a distinction between leadership and management as they relate to change. Management ” more specifically , transactional management ” strives for predictability and order almost to the point of wanting to create an architectonic framework for an organization. These actions focus on short-term results and are incremental. Leadership seeks more dramatic results, creating long- term , lasting changes. Kotter also notes, however, that leadership still requires management, as it is not mutually exclusive. [5]

Project managers, as leaders, therefore, must act like change agents . They cannot remain passive and wait for events to happen. They must take the initiative to create change and, if change happens, respond to it.

The role of a change agent is not limited inside the confines of a project. Instead, project managers must see their projects in the context of an overall environment in which their projects reside. Their role as a change agent, therefore, goes into the organization at large once their projects are executed.

Have an Important Set of Roles and Responsibilities for Dealing with the Turbulence of Change

Due to their position within the chain of command in a project, project managers play a large role and exercise responsibilities for managing change. While most stakeholders often have a narrow focus or have other responsibilities unrelated to a project, project managers are often the ones filling a position that can deal with something as ubiquitous as change on a large, integrated scale.

One of those roles and responsibilities is to cope with change. Coping is not just for themselves but for other stakeholders, too. Two parts exist to these roles and responsibilities.

The first part is to instill the confidence in people that change can be harnessed in a way that does not result in defeatism, while at the same time acknowledging the risks. Leadership, then, is about how certain individuals direct us through the unknown. [6]

Leaders do that by setting the example. They exhibit courage to advance into the fog of change. Kouzes and Posner liken leaders to pioneers who guide people through the unfamiliar. [7]

Of course, risk taking is not everyone's cup of tea. However, true leaders must take the necessary risks or little progress will occur. William Cohen says that taking risks is similar to a turtle popping its head out to move forward. A leader does the same and that translates into success. [8]

It is incumbent on the leader to face risks even in the midst of displeasure by other stakeholders. There is a good reason. Many people avoid risk; leaders, by the nature of their position alone, must take them on to succeed. [9]

The other part is that leaders must maintain a "stiff upper lip" when facing change and adopt innovative ways to respond. Often, change cannot be managed simply by following routine practices; by their very nature, such practices involve something unanticipated and different, which incurs a high level of risk. Risk and innovation go together and put not just the innovator at risk, but others too. [10] Consequently, the application of innovative responses to change creates considerable uncertainty. That very uncertainty, however, helps to distinguish the differences between leaders and managers. Furthermore, leaders must master both change and the uncertainty that accompanies it. [11]

This uncertainty can result in great angst and sometimes even failure, either individually or as a group , providing a defining moment. Warren Bennis and Robert Thomas refer to such circumstances as the crucibles of leadership. How leaders and others respond to such circumstances demonstrates the quality of leadership. A set of skills exists for doing so that distinguishes between mediocre and above-the-norm leadership. According to Bennis and Thomas, hardiness and contextual understanding enable people to survive difficult periods but, perhaps more importantly, it is the ability to learn from the experience that enables a person to gain in strength and commitment. [12]

Use Persuasion Rather than Coercion to Manage Change

Quite clearly, leaders not only manage change but they also make it happen.

However, leaders do not command change to occur because, quite frankly, those who must implement it will not find it acceptable. And even if a decree to change receives compliance, adherence will likely be short lived once the project manager departs and the opportunity arises to revert to the "old" way of doing business.

Leaders, therefore, must apply persuasion to gain acceptance of the need to change as well as have it implemented. The elements of this persuasion include: applying interpersonal skills at their disposal, e.g., communicating and listening; being open and equitable in all relationships; developing a learning culture; and encouraging a belief in the future. [13]

Recognize the Importance of Developing Creative Strategies

Leaders, being transformative by nature, must seek innovative solutions when the need arises. Kouzes and Posner observe that leadership is deeply intertwined with the implementation of new ideas and techniques. [14] The more challenging a change, the greater the need for innovative solutions. Otherwise, leaders can find themselves trapped, applying anachronistic solutions to contemporary problems, only to aggravate circumstances. Leaders, therefore, must avoid limiting their options to develop creative solutions to problems or issues. They must think before they act by developing a new but effective approach.

Developing creative responses does not, however, stop with the leader. Leaders must help themselves and the people who support them to overcome mental and other constraints that impact the quality of innovative thinking. Leaders must experiment by combining the old with the new and vice versa, identifying and removing mental constraints. [15]

Give Equal Time to the Head and the Heart

Too often, overemphasis is placed on the left side of the brain (e.g., logic, reasoning) while ignoring the right side (e.g., emotions, feelings, intuition). Too much emphasis is often placed on dealing with change in a logical, calculative manner when many, even most, issues and problems deal with emotions. This lopsided approach results, however, in treating change more like a thing or object than a phenomenon .

Dealing with change, therefore, requires a holistic perspective because right and left brain considerations come into play. Leaders who recognize the importance of logic are required to determine the need for change and a plan to implement it. That approach is incomplete. Emotional involvement is also necessary for ownership, commitment, buy-in, and accountability. John Kotter demonstrates the difference as being the "heart of the matter more" versus the "head of the matter less." The former consists more of drama and feelings; the latter more of analysis and thoughts. [16]

This combination of logic and emotion provides an added benefit from a leadership perspective. It can help shift the view of change as a problem to avoid to more of an opportunity to embrace, reflecting a whole-brain perspective. In other words, a leader can use a combination of facts, data, and logic (which are never completely accurate) and his or her inner voice to determine ultimately how to deal with change. Bennis cites Ralph Waldo Emerson's idea of a "blessed impulse," which is a hunch or gut feeling and, according to Bennis, we must learn to trust such impulses from time to time. [17]

Generate an Environment Conducive for Managing Change

Within the limits of their power, leaders seek to provide an environment that enables them (and others) to manage change. With others, they facilitate by removing the obstacles in the environment that prevent dealing with change efficiently , but, more importantly, effectively. They must engender an environment that fosters risk taking and innovation.

Removing obstacles is very important. However, leaders must institute processes that manage change innovatively. In project management, it appears that the most effective processes are the ones that facilitate innovation and learning. [18]

In addition to providing an environment that allows for the development of innovative solutions, leaders must set the example. Leaders must adapt a transformational style that requires a willingness to take risks. Warren Bennis says that curiosity and daring are perhaps basic elements of leadership and that failure becomes a learning experience over the errors made. [19]

Tolerance for failure and learning from it is not just for leaders, of course, but leaders must set the example because dealing with change can be very challenging, even overwhelming, to people. Yet, the returns of this experience can be great. It is not surprising that failure, change, and risk permeate throughout the list of top reasons for Silicon Valley's "once" secrets of success. [20]

The importance of providing an environment conducive to manage change cannot be overstressed. Leaders must provide an open, collaborative environment that encourages taking chances with change. Often, involvement by stakeholders outside the immediate team is necessary because project managers often lack the power to effectuate environmental changes. The overall organizational environment tends to affect the innovation of project teams by limiting the options for project managers to develop a culture of innovation. [21]

Project managers must be able to deal with change, therefore, if they hope to conclude their projects successfully. If not, their projects will only marginally achieve or fail to achieve any success for many reasons, e.g., the inability to adapt to changing circumstances, the tendency of scope creep to overwhelm people. The bottom line is that it affects performance to cost, schedule, quality, and people, positively or negatively.

The insight here is not that change is bad; quite the contrary. If change was bad, the entire human race would still be living in caves and using horses for transportation. The key is to respond to change in a manner that capitalizes on its benefits and minimizes its losses.

[1] Warren Bennis, On Becoming a Leader , Perseus Books, Reading, MA, 1989, p. 45.

[2] James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner, The Leadership Challenge , Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, 1987, p. 33.

[3] James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner, The Leadership Challenge , Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, 1987, p. 8.

[4] James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner, The Leadership Challenge , Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, 1987, p. 32.

[5] John Kotter, Leading change, 2002 Linkage Excellence in Management (seminar), pp. 8 “9.

[6] James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner, The Leadership Challenge , Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, 1987, p. 33.

[7] James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner, The Leadership Challenge , Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, 1987, p. 32.

[8] William Cohen, The Art of the Leader , Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1990, p. 26.

[9] Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus, Leaders , Perennial Library, New York, 1985, p. 67.

[10] James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner, The Leadership Challenge , Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, 1987, p. 60.

[11] James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner, The Leadership Challenge , Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, 1987, p. 69.

[12] Warren G. Bennis and Robert J. Thomas, Crucibles of leadership, Harvard Business Review , p. 45, September 2002.

[13] Rodney D. Stroope and Frank G. Jenes, In search of the innovative project manager: the human side, in Proceedings of the Project Management Institute Seminar/ Symposium , October 8 “10, 1984, Philadelphia, PA, Project Management Institute, Newtown Square, PA, p. 88.

[14] James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner, The Leadership Challenge , Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, 1987, p. 37.

[15] James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner, The Leadership Challenge , Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, 1987, p. 71.

[16] John Kotter, Leading change, 2002 Linkage Excellence in Management (seminar), pp. 16 “17.

[17] Warren Bennis, On Becoming a Leader , Perseus Books, Reading, MA, 1989, p. 104.

[18] John Kenney, Effective project management for strategic innovation and change in an organizational context, Project Management Journal , p. 46, March 2003.

[19] Warren Bennis, On Becoming a Leader , Perseus Books, Reading, MA, 1989, p. 41.

[20] Tom Peters, The Circle of Innovation , Vintage Books, New York, 1999, p. 85.

[21] John Kenney, Effective project management for strategic innovation and change in an organizational contest, Project Management Journal , p. 45, March 2003.




Leading High Performance Projects
The Photoshop CS2 Speed Clinic: Automating Photoshop to Get Twice the Work Done in Half the Time
ISBN: 193215910X
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2003
Pages: 169

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