Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Indecision Making

We here so much about decision making, it's a bit of a stunner to run across an essay about indecisions and indecision making. In any event, the Sunday Book Review on April 18th had such an essay. Something that caught my eye was this bit of insight: "Just because people happily comply with the choices of an intimate — or, for that matter, an authority they’ve selected themselves — does not mean they want bureaucratic strangers making their decisions."

To be clear, the author, Sheena Iyengar, was describing an experiment with children, but my experience is that adults often as not behave the same way.  What does this mean for projects and project management?

The first thought that comes to mind is think about the organization model for your project: how much power projection is there from 'strangers' to the work package teams?  How much energy goes into this power projection just because of the friction it creates?

Another thought that jumps to mind is the hazard of virtual teams: strangers [read: people who've never met each other] don't trust, and strangers in positions of authority are not only not trusted but are often resisted. 

And what about the autonomy pushed down to project teams  [read: the principle of subsidiarity]: team members are more likely to 'happily comply' with a team leader they know and trust, and even more so if they've had a hand in the process of empowering the leader.

Of course, life is not fair, and the fact is that many times senior leadership is remote and sometimes a stranger, even though they are known and recognizable.  On projects of large scale, not everyone is going to sit at the head table.  This reality simply means that extra effort communicating and removing unnecessary mystic will pay dividends in removing non-value friction.

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