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CIO upfront: Mindfulness as the key to project performance?

CIO upfront: Mindfulness as the key to project performance?

A stressed, busy environment is not conducive to effective decision making, writes Mark Jamieson.

If an organisation is experiencing problems with its project performance, it’s probably indicative of its approach as a whole.

Mark Jamieson

If an organisation is experiencing problems with its project performance, it’s probably indicative of its approach as a whole.

It will be no surprise to any CIO that project performance in any organisation leaves a lot to be desired.

To a great extent a CIO’s performance is judged on the performance of the projects under their control, or their ability to manage the impact of their seemingly inevitable failure.

A tough job, because project success rates have remained stubbornly low in recent years. The Standish Group has been conducting what many consider is the leading analysis of project performance for many years, and their analysis has project success rates around the 29 per cent mark.


Source:  https://www.infoq.com/articles/standish-chaos-2015

Standish has gone to great lengths to understand what the key factors of success are for projects, interrogating their database, getting answers from leading organisations and lagging organisations, consulting experts. Their conclusions are fascinating, because the top four factors have a lot less to do with traditional project management disciplines and technology skills, and a lot more to do with how the organisation as a whole operates. 

 

The top four factors have very little. Let’s look at them one by one:

Executive Support: when an executive or group of executives agrees to provide both financial and emotional backing. The executive or executives will encourage and assist in the successful completion of the project (from the Standish Report 2015).”  

When you look at this, what is effectively being described is the basic ability of the organisation to allocate financial resources effectively, which, when you think about it, IS the key thing that an organisation does.

Then we add in the "emotional backing" provided, or in other words, a supportive work environment. Wrap this up with effective executive oversight and you have the basics of an effective organisation. No project organisation or process can substitute for this.

Emotional Maturity is the collection of basic behaviours of how people work together. In any group, organization, or company it is both the sum of their skills and the weakest link that determine the level of emotional maturity.”

Once again, it Is the basic environment of the organisation that is in play here: How well everyone works together. This includes creating an environment of honesty and trust, being able to call out issues early and make changes without recrimination. It also means being open to new ideas and approaches to doing things, perhaps the opposite to rigid project controls.

The state of mind of the senior management team is what creates a healthy, high-performance workplace. Their mood is contagious throughout the organisation.

Mark Jamieson

“User Involvement: takes place when users are involved in the project decision-making and information-gathering process. This also includes user feedback, requirements review, basic research, prototyping, and other consensus-building tools.”

To put this another way, it’s the ability of the organisation to use all of the knowledge, skills and resources available to it effectively to achieve the end result, and not just rely on a team of project experts, or even worse, delegate it all to a project manager.

Optimization is a structured means of improving business effectiveness and optimizing a collection of many small projects or major requirements. Optimization starts with managing scope based on relative business value.”

Lets call this “doing the right thing” as opposed to “doing things right”, which is a fundamental leadership capability.

Here's the big issue: A project operates within the context of the organisation as a whole, as does the IT department. It cannot be expected to effectively address on its own issues that are more to do with the overall performance of the organisation. Expecting project management disciplines and technology alone to fix these is just not going to happen. If an organisation is experiencing problems with its project performance, it’s probably indicative of its approach as a whole.

So what to do? These top four factors are directly related to the overall leadership of the organisation and the working environment they set.

They fall straight in the lap of the CIO and the senior management team. In fact, the way an organisation goes about things is a direct reflection of the behaviours of the senior management team.

These behaviours are driven in turn by the mindset of the leadership team. Yes, we are talking mindfulness here, and presence, and personal connection, and clarity. A stressed, busy environment is not conducive to effective decision making.

If we can access a calm, insightful state of mind, things are both easier and more effective.

This is what we look at in the CALM approach, an approach to mindfulness that is appropriate to the business environment.

In the CALM approach we look at the underlying thinking which is the true CAUSE of our business issues, we become AWARE of how we create our experience by the thoughts we take seriously, we LET GO of those thoughts that don’t serve us, and we pay attention to our MOOD, or state of mind as our primary way of staying in that calm, insightful place.

In particular, the state of mind of the senior management team is what creates a healthy, high-performance workplace. Their mood is contagious throughout the organisation.

As Ho Kwon Ping, Chairman of Banyan Tree Holdings, and Governor of London Business School, said in the introduction to my book, CALM:

“We need new paradigms of leadership and management, whose basis is rooted in mindfulness."

Mark Jamieson (mark@thecalmrevolution.com) is the author of Calm: the key to clarity, connectedness and presence at work. He has held management roles in several high profile organisations, including IBM, Ernst & Young, IBM, Oracle and EDS (now part of HP. He has a degree in psychology from the University of Otago, and an MBA from City University, London Business School, (Cass Business School).

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