Skip to main content

Lessons from Harvard 4: How Adaptive Project Teams can work with Command & Control

This is the final of four posts based on my experience at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Executive Education for Sustainability Leadership program that I took in November 2017, led by Dr. Leith Sharp, integrated with some of our GPM Global content where appropriate. The intent of these posts is to show some interesting research and recommendations by Harvard around sustainability that can be applied to project management. The intent of the program is to educate leaders to “learn powerful new strategies for enacting high-impact sustainability leadership that positions sustainability as a driver of organizational engagement, authenticity, agility, innovation, and change-capability.” I recommend others to consider this excellent program. This is a complementary offering to GPM’s sustainable project management training and practices.

Exhibit 1: The Harvard Executive Education for Sustainability Leadership Program

The first post dealt with understanding the organizational ecosystems and the impacts of change on people and cultures. The second post provided background on how to identify two organizational “operating systems” that do not traditionally work well together. The third and previous post provides background on the strategy and research on new idea life cycles and the resulting model to analyze these project initiatives. This final post will deal with the strategy, tools and techniques, or method, of how to empower the two “operating systems” identified in the second post to successfully implement important organizational change and deliver the expected project outcomes and benefits.

The program provided valuable lessons, tools and techniques including an exceptional model for dealing with the different political landscapes and “operating systems” within organizations and providing strategies for how to use this insight to better implement change. Particularly multi-stakeholder and transformational change.

 

Recognition

This post’s graphics and content were adapted from the Harvard University Executive Education for Sustainability Leadership November 2017 program presentations by Dr. Leith Sharp.

 

Context

We have discussed that there are significant challenges for new ideas and new changes within organizational cultures and social structures. We have identified some key groups to work with, and we have developed some models to analyze new idea life cycles to come up with approaches to improve change initiatives. The key is to provide recommendations in a way that makes sense for stakeholders. The question we left the last post of with was, how do we present a strategy or model to help the two operating systems work together that has been demonstrated by research to facilitate success of new ideas?

Exhibit 2: Cognitive Bandwidth (Dr. Leith Sharp, 2017-1, licensed for open sharing and adapting under Creative Commons CC BY-AS 4.0)

 

The last post highlighted a Forward Idea Flow Mapping Template to record and analyze new idea life cycles.

Exhibit 3 Healthy Idea Flow needs adequate iteration between operating systems (Modified Slightly from Dr. Leith Sharp, 2017-2, licensed for open sharing and adapting under Creative Commons CC BY-SA 4.0)

 

Out of the research by Dr. Sharp’s team, one of the recommendations is the following method for approaching organizational change. This model encourages focusing on a timely Iteration between the two operating systems (arrhythmic).

Exhibit 4: Idea Flow mapping reveals recurring themes of what each operating system is best at (Modified slightly from Dr. Sharp, 2017-1, licensed for open sharing and adapting under Creative Commons CC BY-AS 4.0)

 

So… lets start at the beginning. We will go through each milestone now in detail. For each organization, the Command and Control Operating System (CCOS) will already have a strategy and usually each initiative is strategically aligned. The Adaptive Operating System (AOS) is adaptive in its purpose and focus to get the job done.

Exhibit 5: Idea Flow mapping reveals recurring themes of what each operating system is best at (Modified slightly from Dr. Sharp, 2017-3, licensed for open sharing and adapting under Creative Commons CC BY-AS 4.0)

 

So, when a NEW IDEA surfaces, each will engage based on its values and strengths as outlined in the second of these four posts.

Exhibit 6: Leading the AOS & CCOS (Sharp, 2017-1, licensed for sharing and adapting under Creative Commons CC BY-SA 4.0)

 

Each of the identified milestones has a pivot point… they can go on or fail there.

 

The Strategy

An unfortunate approach in many projects at the initial stages is to use the project mandate as a “bat” to force engagement and participation. However, the mandate is a finite type of capital. It also has the annoying characteristic of causing more social friction and disengagement within the organization(s) when forced, so forcing the mandate actually causes more harm than good.

Exhibit 7: More Mandate = More Social Friction/Disengagement in Organizations (Sharp, 2017-1, is licensed for open sharing and adapting under Creative Commons CC BY-AS 4.0)

 

This use of mandate first as a driver almost always leads to the following sequence:

Exhibit 8: Airport Case Story (Modified from Dr. Leith Sharp, 2017-1, licensed for open sharing and adapting under Creative Commons CC BY-AS 4.0)

 

The Mandate & Fix It demand leads to the We Will Fix It, which then leads to the How do you Want Us to Fix It which then once again leads to the Mandate & Fix It demand which starts the cycle all over again.

The lessons learned from Harvard recommend relying less on the miss-perceived value of the finite mandate capital to force change. Rather, it has proven that it is better for the project teams to engage differently with the Adaptive Operative System (AOS) and Command Control Operating System (CCOS) to empower synergy.

Exhibit 9: Relationship between social friction and mandate (Dr. Leith Sharp, 2017-1, is licensed for open sharing and adapting under Creative Commons CC BY-AS 4.0)

 

Each Operating System is engaged to do what it does best, at the right time in the idea life cycle. Here we see the CCOS identifying that the NEW IDEA aligns with the strategy and is the right. It authorizes the Mandate, and gives permission to move forward. The AOS champions use the permission to engage with the organization to start to move forward asking questions such as what do you think and what, if any, are your concerns.

Exhibit 10: Idea Flow mapping reveals recurring themes of what each operating system is best at (Modified slightly from Dr. Leith Sharp, 2017-1, licensed for open sharing and adapting under Creative Commons CC BY-AS 4.0)

 

The AOS team starts to come up with possible ideas and requirements and options, for the NEW IDEA. These will have to be introduced to the CCOS Sponsors for consideration, advice and validation.

Exhibit 11: Idea Flow mapping reveals recurring themes of what each operating system is best at (Modified slightly from Dr. Leith Sharp, 2017-1, licensed for open sharing and adapting under Creative Commons CC BY-AS 4.0)

 

From the ideas some early adopters will come forward with some designs. These designs will need to be discussed and validated with the CCOS Sponsors to confirm that the organization is moving forward in the right way based on organizational priorities and resource, time, cost and risk constraints. CCOS will be working on it’s sensing, or engaging the stakeholder ecosystem enough during the next milestones.

Exhibit 10: Sensing Blocked in CCOS (Dr. Leith Sharp, 2017-2, licensed for open sharing and adapting under Creative Commons CC BY-SA 4.0)

 

Exhibit 12: Sensing Blocked in CCOS (Dr. Leith Sharp, 2017-2, licensed for open sharing and adapting under Creative Commons CC BY-SA 4.0)

All of this leads to the next milestones:

Exhibit 13: Idea Flow mapping reveals recurring themes of what each operating system is best at (Modified slightly from Dr. Leith Sharp, 2017-1, licensed for open sharing and adapting under Creative Commons CC BY-AS 4.0)

 

Based on the early designs and the feedback from CCOS, the AOS will start piloting some of the designs.

Exhibit 14: Pilots Must Solve for Two Things (Dr. Leith Sharp, 2017-2, licensed for open sharing and adapting under Creative Commons CC BY-SA 4.0)

 

This provides a critical de-risking service for the organization. The key question for AOS to ask the CCOS is what risks to you see… what are the threats so that they can be mitigated and accepted by the CCOS? The CCOS needs this iteration to de-risk the design to become a viable solution. The de-risking process has to prove the idea itself is viable and prove that the CCOS can integrate the new idea into business as usual or the current ecosystem. Iterating between the CCOS and AOS surfaces all CCOS risks and generates the right evidence in the right format for the CCOS decision-makers.

Exhibit 15: Idea Flow mapping reveals recurring themes of what each operating system is best at (Modified slightly from Dr. Leith Sharp, 2017-1, licensed for open sharing and adapting under Creative Commons CC BY-AS 4.0)

 

At this point with the pilots and de-risking exercise to mitigate the threats and create more successful solutions, the AOS continues to engage in its peer to peer network to identify any more risks and engage people about the problem, opportunity and possible solution to get their feedback and involvement to make it more sustainable and scalable. If you consider the Prosci ADKAR model, this would be the ADK steps of the people and organization readiness for change. Awareness of the need for change, Desire to support the change, and starting to develop the Knowledge of how to change.

At the same time, as the solution becomes more acceptable to the CCOS, they begin to activate the decision making process so they know what is required from a governance perspective to obtain approval to move forward. Constantly iterate in and out of the Chain of Command Operating System to surface all risks, and identify and get all decision-makers on board by addressing all of their needs, and identifying the decision making process.

Exhibit 16: Idea Flow mapping reveals recurring themes of what each operating system is best at (Modified slightly from Dr. Leith Sharp, 2017-1, licensed for open sharing and adapting under Creative Commons CC BY-AS 4.0)

 

Once there is a solution that satisfies the organizational needs, is cost-effective, sustainable, scalable and risk acceptable it is ready for formal approval, scaling and rolling out. The AOS with their shared ownership will help with the acceptance, adoption and integration of the solution into the organization.

Exhibit 17: Idea Flow mapping reveals recurring themes of what each operating system is best at (Modified slightly from Dr. Leith Sharp, 2017-1, licensed for open sharing and adapting under Creative Commons CC BY-AS 4.0)

Using these techniques, the focus should be to reduce risk and build capital across the organizational ecosystem (and sometimes beyond) by iterating between the AOS & CCOS.

 

Requirements

 

Starter Kit

Exhibit 18: Shared Visual Lexicon to Enable Design Thinking for Idea Flow (Dr. Leith Sharp, 2017-3, licensed for open sharing and adapting under Creative Commons CC BY-SA 4.0)

 

Organizational Design Principles for Idea Flow

  1. Design for enough sensing – engaging the stakeholder ecosystem enough
  2. Emphasize psychological safety and practices that enhance group intelligence
  3. Find your AOS champions & your CCOS sponsors as soon as you can
  4. Get the CCOS to signal permission/invitation for involvement in the idea life cycle
  5. Design for enough iterating between CCOS and AOS
  6. Iterate (where possible pilot) to resolve risks & generate evidence for the CCOS
  7. Create peer to peer influence to increase engagement through the AOS
  8. Match the moves to the operating system that is best suited
  9. Design ways for the AOS to reduce expenditure of mandate capital

(Dr. Leith Sharp, 2017-3)

 

Communication and Understanding Between the Operating Systems

Throughout the process there will be a requirement for an ongoing and adequate translation between the two operation systems:

Exhibit 19: Adequate Translation Between (Dr. Leith Sharp, 2017-2)

 

A New AOS Mindset: Iterating to De-Risk

Exhibit 20: A New AOS Mindset: Iterating to De-Risk (Dr. Leith Sharp, 2017-3)

 

A New CCOS Mindset: Iterating to De-Risk

Exhibit 21: A New CCOS Mindset: Iterating to De-Risk (Dr. Leith Sharp, 2017-3)

 

 

Benefits

The AOS de-risks new ideas to digestible levels for the CCOS to scale/structure:

Exhibit 22: Predictions Life-cycle (Dr. Leith Sharp, 2017-2)

 

The healthy idea flow addresses the two different domains or operating systems synergistically. It is part of the process of retraining the CCOS to iterate with the AOS towards thresholds.

Exhibit 23: Idea Flow Requires Two Process to Work Synergistically (Modified from Dr. Leith Sharp, 2017-2, licensed for open sharing and adapting under Creative Commons CC BY-SA 4.0)

 

Healthy idea life cycles reduce uncertainty, reduce risk & ensure stability

Exhibit 24: Healthy idea life cycles de-risk and create stability (Dr. Leith Sharp, 2017-5, licensed for open sharing and adapting under Creative Commons CC BY-SA 4.0)

 

Aligning the Method with the Sustainable Project Management Standard

GPM Global is the world leader in sustainable projects. GPM designed the first sustainable project management method PRojects Integrating Sustainable Methods (PRiSM). The PRiSM Project Life-Cycle and Phases are integrated into the New Idea Sustainable Project Life-Cycle Method.

Exhibit 25: Idea Flow Strategy Integrated with Sustainable Project Management Best Practices (Modified from Dr. Leith Sharp, 2017-2 & GPM)

It is also recommended to use GPM’s P5 risk mitigation tool to assess the sustainable threats and opportunities that may occur in the people, planet and prosperity sustainability domains while managing the projects processes and delivering the project’s products.

Conclusion

This four-part blog post series has dealt with:

  1. Organizational Dynamics Set the Stage for Change
  2. Understanding Organizational “Operating Systems”
  3. Discovering the Squiggle on Projects
  4. A New Idea Sustainable Project Life-Cycle Method

There was a lot of content and ideas, with background references provided. A characteristic of all projects is that they are all different. This means that the way they are dealt with and managed requires the approach to be tailored to the industry, culture, ecosystems, priorities, constraints, stakeholder needs and other factors. This means each project will be managed differently. These four blog posts have provided a lot of tools, techniques and a method that can be part of your tool-kit that can be customized to your situation, experience and capabilities.

 

References

 

Anderson, Marc. (2009). The role of group personality composition in the emergence of task and relationship conflict within groups. Journal of Management & Organization. 15. 82-96. 10.5172/jmo.837.15.1.82. Retrieved on September 1, 2017 at https://www.researchgate.net/publication/269638378_The_role_of_group_personality_composition_in_the_emergence_of_task_and_relationship_conflict_within_groups

Buchanan, D., & Badham, R. (1999). Politics and Organizational Change: The Lived Experience. Human Relations, 52(5), 609–629. http://doi.org/10.1023/A:1016930112943. Retrieved on September 1, 2017 at http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/001872679905200503

Dizikes, Peter. “Putting Heads Together – New Study: Groups Demonstrate Distinctive ‘Collective Intelligence’ When Facing Difficult Tasks.” MIT News, 1 Oct. 2010, news.mit.edu/2010/collective-intel-1001.

Eisenhardt, K. M., Kahwajy, J. L., & Bourgeois, L. J. (1997). How Management Teams Can Have a Good Fight How Management Teams Can Have a Good Fight. Harvard Business Review, 75, 77–86. Retrieved on September 1, 2017 at https://hbr.org/1997/07/how-management-teams-can-have-a-good-fight

Feldman, David Henry. Beyond Universals in Cognitive Development. Ablex, 1994.

Haidt, Jonathan and Iyer, Ravi. (2016). “How to Get Beyond Our Tribal Politics.” The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved on September 1, 2017 at https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-to-get-beyond-our-tribal-politics-1478271810

Haidt, Jonathan. (2013). The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Retrieved on September 1, 2017 at https://www.amazon.com/Righteous-Mind-Divided-Politics-Religion/dp/0307455777

Hibbing, John R.; Smith, Kevin B.; Alford, John R.. (2013). Predisposed: Liberals, Conservatives, and the Biology of Political Differences. Taylor and Francis. Retrieved on September 1, 2017 at https://www.amazon.com/Predisposed-Liberals-Conservatives-Political-Differences/dp/0415535875

Kahneman, Daniel. Thinking, Fast and Slow. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015.

Kim, W. C. and Mauborgne, R. (2003). Fair Process: Managing in the Knowledge Economy. Harvard Business Review, 81(1). Retrieved on September 1, 2017 at https://hbr.org/2003/01/fair-process-managing-in-the-knowledge-economy

Lencioni, Patrick M.. (2006). Silos, Politics and Turf Wars: A Leadership Fable About Destroying the Barriers That Turn Colleagues Into Competitors (J-B Lencioni Series). Wiley. Retrieved on September 1, 2017 at https://www.amazon.com/Silos-Politics-Turf-Wars-Competitors/dp/0787976385

Martin, N. A. (2012). Project Politics: A Systematic Approach to Managing Complex Relationships. Ashgate Publishing Limited. Retrieved on September 1, 2017 at https://www.amazon.ca/Project-Politics-Systematic-Approach-Relationships-ebook/dp/B0091QC2G4

McCalman, J., Paton, R., & Siebert, S. (2016). Organizational Politics and Change. In Change Management: A guide to effective implementation (pp. 256–281). Los Angeles: SAGE. Retrieved on September 1, 2017 at https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/change-management/book241248

Pentland, Alex. Social Physics: How Good Ideas Spread – the Lessons from a New Science. Scribe Publications, 2015.

Pinto, Jeffrey K.. (1996). “Power & Politics in Project Management.” Project Management Institute. ISBN-13: 978-1-880410-43-1. Retrieved on September 1, 2017 at http://my.safaribooksonline.com/1880410435

Rock, David. “Managing with the Brain in Mind.” Strategy Business, 27 Aug. 2009, www.strategy-business.com/article/09306?gko=9efb2.

Sharp, Leith. (N.D.). “Idea Flow Mapping.” Executive Education for Sustainability Leadership, eesl.sph.harvard.edu/idea-flow-mapping.

Sharp, Leith & Hsueh, Joe. (2017-1). “Executive Education for Sustainability Leadership 2017 Program – Module 1: The Secret Life of Ideas.” Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health – Department of Environmental Health

Sharp, Leith. (2017-2). “Executive Education for Sustainability Leadership 2017 Program – Module 2: Idea Flow.” Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health – Department of Environmental Health

Sharp, Leith. (2017-3). “Executive Education for Sustainability Leadership 2017 Program – Module 3: From Friction to Flow.” Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health – Department of Environmental Health

Sharp, Leith. (2017-4). “Executive Education for Sustainability Leadership 2017 Program – Module 4: Ideas and Context.” Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health – Department of Environmental Health

Sharp, Leith. (2017-5). “Executive Education for Sustainability Leadership 2017 Program – Module 5: Working With Our Social Algorithm to Unless Flow.” Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health – Department of Environmental Health

Tjosvold, D. (2008), The conflict-positive organization: it depends upon us. J. Organiz. Behav., 29: 19–28. doi:10.1002/job.473. Retrieved on September 1, 2017 at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/job.473/abstract

 

Peter Milsom

Peter Milsom is an entrepreneurial advocate for sensible, sustainable change delivery practice. Peter has come to realize that sustainability is the perfect catalyst for Project / Programme / Portfolio / Risk / Value / Business Case and Benefits Management improvement. As an entrepreneurial methodologist Peter's unique value proposition is the vast array of tools and techniques that he brings to every engagement using the most cost effective and efficient methods based on the situation and tailored to meet your needs. This is based on his unique combination of experience and extensive training / certifications in change delivery, value / risk / benefits management business case, and business architecture.

One thought to “Lessons from Harvard 4: How Adaptive Project Teams can work with Command & Control”

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Follow

Get the latest posts delivered to your mailbox:

Subscribe to our Blog!

Do you like our blog? Get notified when we publish new content!

It only takes a moment and you will get our blog delivered right to you!  the X and add your email address in the upper right-hand corner.  That is all it takes!




Clef two-factor authentication
%d bloggers like this: