The following is adapted from The Irreverent Guide to Project Management.
Over the course of my career, I have had the great fortune to contribute to global transformational efforts within organizations like DirecTV, Trader Joe’s, Sony Pictures, and Mattel. During these transformations, I’ve learned a lot about what kinds of cultures lead a business to success, and which ones don’t pan out over the long run.
Overall, a business’s goal is to continuously deliver value to customers, which is a deceptively simple thing to promise. Even some of the largest companies let that central goal slip from time to time. There are some values, though, that will help keep you and your business on track. Here are five major values that I keep coming back to, time and time again.
1. Build Projects around Motivated Individuals
At my firm, we fundamentally believe that we are leading people, not managing projects. We are building deep relationships, not business. We believe there is a hierarchy of success on a project. If the team is successful, then the project will be successful, and we, as a company, will be successful.
Give tasks to the people who have the expertise to handle them. Give those individuals the environment and support they need and trust them to get the job done. Remember, the leader is not always the decision-maker! Sometimes, the leader’s role is simply to support, gather information, and remove impediments.
2. The Most Efficient and Effective Method of Communication is Face-to-Face Conversation
Studies have shown that only 7 percent of an intended message is conveyed through words, while 38 percent is conveyed through vocal elements like tone and inflection, and 55 percent comes through body language, facial expressions, and gestures. That means that to be the most effective leader possible, and to avoid the potential for misunderstanding, you need to communicate face-to-face! You need your team to see your 55 percent, and you need to see theirs.
3. Continuous Attention to Excellence Saves Time
At the end of the day, crappy work means rework. When a person doesn’t do their job well, this significantly impacts the team’s ability to create value. If you take the time to plan well, assign tasks to the right people, and practice good oversight, it will limit corner-cutting and ensure that the work will meet the client’s expectations. “Not done right” is the same as “not done.”
4. Simplicity—the Art of Maximizing the Amount of Work Not Done—Is Essential
When you consider how much change people can effectively absorb, you must take into account the different steps they have to go through to master new concepts. Before any skill is truly learned, a person must have time for concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualization, and active experimentation. That’s a lot of work, so it doesn’t make sense to expect an entire team to master new skills faster than they are capable and at the same rate of change..
Instead, it’s better to make sure that the necessary business people work with the necessary team members, when necessary—or “just in time”—to move the project forward. If you pair the appropriate people at the appropriate time, you’re going to make the best use of everyone’s time. It sounds simple, and it is, but it’s surprising how many organizations forget that the simplest option—the one that requires the least work—is often the best.
5. Welcome Change When It Arises
No matter how thoroughly you plan a project, you will not have accounted for everything. It just isn’t possible to account for changing demand or economies in a project plan. My firm 120VC welcomes change with a concept called unplanned work. Unplanned work is anything that comes up during a project that isn’t in the work plan but is necessary to achieve project goals and objectives.
If these items don’t impact the project schedule or cost, they are completed at the teams’ discretion, without any change to the process. Changes that are clearly out of scope or impact cost and schedule go through an examination process. The Project Owner evaluates them to determine their business impact and impact on the overall cost and schedule. If they approve the changes, then, and only then, do we incorporate them.
Successful organizations must know how to adapt efficiently. They can’t wildly bend to circumstance or whim, but they also can’t be too rigid. Having a process in place to deal with change before it occurs is the best way to make sure your organization is versatile.
Growth Is Your Friend
When all is said and done, a good business leaves room for growth. Whether that’s allowing your employees to take the lead on the things they do best, letting people take the time they need to produce the best work, or embracing new challenges, if you keep your focus on growth, you will already be ahead of the game.
For more advice on effective business values , you can find The Irreverent Guide to Project Management on Amazon.
From the start of his career spent jumping out of helicopters in the United States Navy, J. Scott has a long history of leadership, servanthood, and bearing witness to the transformative power of getting shit done. Since starting 120VC he's personally overseen the global transformational efforts within organizations such as DirecTV, Trader Joe's, Blizzard Entertainment, Sony Pictures, Mattel, and others. His team's unique, irreverent approach to change has generated breakthrough results and created meaningful jobs. In addition to being a successful entrepreneur, J. Scott is a devoted husband and father and author of "It's Never Just Business: It's About People," and "The Irreverent Guide to Project Management," both available on Amazon.com.