‘Chemistry’ related constraints and issues are one of the most common themes encountered during Pelicam Project Assurance engagements. This article explores how the root causes of these issues can be identified and suggests some tools and techniques that can be deployed to resolve such constraints and optimise delivery and outcomes.
Let’s start however, by understanding the ‘chemistry’ to which this article relates. The chemistry under discussion here is the dynamics of a unique blend or mix of stakeholders (individuals, organisations/functions, suppliers) associated with a particular project or programme delivery environment and how this blend can have a profound impact on the ultimate success or failure of a piece of work.
Chemistry related issues can manifest in many guises – I am sure we can all recall working on engagements where getting things done was more difficult than necessary - typical examples would be tensions with suppliers, office ‘politics’, culture clashes, inconsistent objectives/priorities between organisational functions or stakeholders…… Equally I would hope that we can all recall those projects which were a delight to work on and where the desired outcomes were fully satisfied – understanding why a particular environment was so successful is one of the key techniques that can be deployed to help optimise delivery and/or understand the root causes to a specific issue in our current environment.
A very obvious component associated with optimising the delivery dynamics of an environment are the behaviours within the extended teams delivering the work. A fundamental dependency towards achieving the right behaviours is that we continually examine and measure ourselves to ensure we are demonstrating the behaviours we seek from others. It is also important to understand that negative behaviours are often a symptom rather than the root cause (although at times it is simply necessary to remove a ‘bad egg’ from a team). A very common root cause to negative behaviour is an individual not feeling truly engaged or appreciated – proactively winning over the hearts and minds and developing strong interpersonal relationships across our extended teams must always be a priority for all of us.
Identifying potential chemistry shortfalls requires one to take an objective, undistorted, honest look around the work place (the signs are also pretty much identical to those we would associate with issues in our personal relationships): are people speaking to one another? Do our teams look happy (can you hear occasional laughter!)? Is there a ‘buzz’ around the workplace? Do people regularly proffer suggestions on how to do things differently? Would I enjoy socialising with my suppliers?.....if the answer to any of these questions is ‘no’ or ‘not really’ then you almost certainly have an opportunity to improve things.
Solving chemistry related issues is not always easy but the rewards associated with doing so can be enormous. We need to be incisive and bold to identify and confront issues and work with our peers to resolve them and optimise both the working experience for all and secure the desired outcomes from a piece of work.