Author Archives: Kiron Bondale

About Kiron Bondale

Measurable business value can be realized through the successful initiation, prioritization, planning & execution of strategic projects. Striking a pragmatic, value-based balance between people, process & technology is a key to achieving success with Project Portfolio Management initiatives. Effective change management is crucial when trying to improve PPM or PM capabilities. Having been involved with multiple capability improvement initiatives, what I've learned is that "it's easy in theory, difficult in practice"! Continuous improvement of hard & soft skills gained by assisting organizations in the achievement of their business goals through the execution of the right projects in the right way is my ongoing mission.

Could psychological safety increase organizational risk?

In a presentation I gave to the members of a PMI Chapter on the topic of psychological safety, one of the attendees asked a great question. If a team possesses a high level of psychological safety, does this increase the likelihood that one of its members might feel safe taking a risk which goes beyond the risk tolerance of the team, the line of business or the organization as a whole?

Given the broader awareness of the importance of psychological safety over the past decade, it is understandable that there are going to be some misconceptions about it such as:

  • It is about prioritizing niceness above all else
  • It might encourage low performance
  • It could result in a free for all atmosphere where team members can say whatever they want, regardless of the impacts on others

Safety can’t increase by itself. A broader view needs to be taken to understand what other changes are needed to fully benefit from it.

We can draw a parallel to giving someone greater control over the work they do. Autonomy has many benefits, but unfettered autonomy might result in someone violating organizational policies, regulations or engaging in activities which improve their work but end up hurting other teams. Self-management only succeeds when there are guardrails in place to protect the individual and the system they work in.

Similarly, encouraging radical candor and empathy-based social pressure can establish similar guardrails which could reduce the likelihood of realizing the misconceptions I listed above.

And when it comes to taking risks, provide the team with a clear understanding of their organization’s risk appetite and help them to define the limits for different types of risks. Provide examples of what is and isn’t safe to do. Encourage team members to feel comfortable about challenging each other if they feel a proposed risk is too great. This guidance could then become part of the team’s working agreements.

“There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch”

(If you liked this article, why not read my book Easy in Theory, Difficult in Practice which contains 100 other lessons on project leadership? It’s available on Amazon.com and on Amazon.ca as well as a number of other online book stores)

Categories: Facilitating Organization Change, Governance, Project Management, Psychological Safety | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

A first step to unleashing your team’s “human magic”

In a recent HBR article on what enables companies to thrive, the author identified a number of well known factors including:

  • Aligning individuals’ personal goals with the meaning and purpose of the work they do
  • Creating an environment for meaningful, authentic human connection
  • Actively nurturing and protecting a culture of psychological safety
  • Empowering staff by encouraging responsible autonomy
  • Supporting lifelong learning
  • Growing the company itself in terms of the markets it targets, the products or services offered, and the customer problems it focuses on solving

But moving from the macro to the micro scale, could we apply this at a team level with our individual team members?

One way is to start by asking questions which will help us understand where we currently are. Here are six examples to help you get started in your next one-on-one session.

  1. How well does the work you are doing align or connect with your own goals as well as those of our company?
  2. How connected do you feel to the rest of our team and what ideas do you have on improving the overall sense of connection within our team?
  3. What more could I do to support you to make you feel comfortable about trying something new, speaking up when you see something isn’t right?
  4. How much control do you feel you have over how you do your daily work and what activities or decisions are there over which you’d like more authority?
  5. What new knowledge or skills have you gained recently, how are you continuing to learn, and what could I do to make your learning more effective?
  6. What are the growth areas for our company which we are currently pursuing and what other opportunities do you feel are worth pursuing?

As these are open-ended questions you will want to follow up after each is answered with other open ended questions (e.g. What else comes to mind?) if your team member provides a brief or closed response.

The insights you’ll gain through these conversations will help you to create a backlog of improvement experiments to help individuals within the team or the team as a whole. And by asking these or similar questions on a periodic basis, you’ll be able to see whether the changes you introduce are having a positive effect.

The HBR article’s author felt that when environments exhibited the six listed factors it would help to unleash “human magic”. But there’s nothing magical about how to achieve this. Sustained effort and a commitment to continuous improvement on the part of all leaders are two of the necessary ingredients.

(If you liked this article, why not read my book Easy in Theory, Difficult in Practice which contains 100 other lessons on project leadership? It’s available on Amazon.com and on Amazon.ca as well as a number of other online book stores)

Categories: Facilitating Organization Change, Project Management, Psychological Safety | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

“Long-term consistency beats short-term intensity”

Bruce Lee might have been referring to improvement in one’s mastery of the martial arts when he uttered the title of this week’s article, but when Daniel Pink referenced it in his latest Pinkcast, it reminded me of how apropos it is to many things.

With gyms closed in Ontario due to the soaring cases of the COVID-19 Omicron variant, I haven’t been witness to the usual annual phenomenon of fitness newcomers doing excessive work outs for the first couple of weeks of January only to stop by the end of the month once other higher priority activities surface.

Personal development is another example. While one could sit down and blitz through a pile of books in one month, if no reading is done the rest of the year, it is not likely to be as effective as reading throughout the year.

I love desserts but am also mindful of the health issues of excessive indulgence. I could quit all sweet foods for a week, but to make a meaningful improvement to my health, I’d be better served by reducing rather than fully eliminating by daily intake of such items on an ongoing basis.

Which brings us to project delivery.

Conducting an intensive risk identification, analysis and response implementation workshop early in the life of a project might seem helpful but if risks are not considered over the remaining life of the project, it is of no value. Instead, spending a modest amount of time regularly managing risks based on the context of the project would be much more effective.

Spending a day brainstorming, scrubbing and documenting lessons (to be) learned at the end of a project or major phase sounds like an efficient use of stakeholders’ time, but you’ll miss out on many experiments which could have resulted in incremental improvements over the project’s duration.

Waiting till year end to do a formal performance review with a team member might align well with compensation policies but they would benefit more from informal ongoing coaching throughout the year.

Consistency creates results!

(If you liked this article, why not read my book Easy in Theory, Difficult in Practice which contains 100 other lessons on project leadership? It’s available on Amazon.com and on Amazon.ca as well as a number of other online book stores)

Categories: Facilitating Organization Change, Project Management | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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