The book “The Abilene paradox and other meditations on management” by Jerry B. Harvey is not a traditional out-of-the-box management book. This book gives some great stories, meditations, and food for thought about behaviour aspects in an organization and that in a brilliant, sometimes funny way!
I created some slides to highlight most of the chapters. It’s all about transparency (see also my other posts on transparency)!
The Abilene paradox talks about a family (father, mother, daughter and son-in-law). The father suggests going for a dinner in Abilene. A one-hour drive but nobody really wants to go there, but everyone thinks everyone else wants to go there, but is afraid to speak up. For me a fantastic example what it means to be transparent in your organization and really say what you want to say. Think about your own roads to Abilene in your organization.
In the story of the organizations as Phrog (no mistake) farms and also in the next chapter Management and the myth of Abraham we see that within organizations lots of staff just follows the chain of command. Think about project managers who don’t believe in the viability of the project just start, not having the courage to speak up, to refuse the assignment. For me, these are again examples of organizational transparency.
The Asoh story is about a flight that occurred November 22, 1968. “It’s been more than forty years since Captain Kohie Asoh, the Japan Air Lines Pilot, landed his DC-8 jet with 96 passengers and 11 crew members, two and a half miles out in the San Francisco Bay but in nearly exact compass line with the runway.” In this story transparency means: take responsibility for your own actions and as an organization accept that mistakes can happen.
The gunsmoke story is a story where people don’t have the guts to speak up and just follow what the group is doing. Everybody is waiting for the right moment to step out of what is happening. In this case a Marshall who stands for his prisoner and said the first who crosses this line will be shot. How transparent are the individuals in the group?
The last chapter ‘encouraging future managers to cheat’ is about the paradox that at schools and universities we get punished if we cheat (we work together) and in our working life we have to work together. In the story it’s turned around. If you don’t cheat you get punished!
Conclusion. A must read!
Last week I published a post regarding transparency. Today I gave a presentation at Fortes Best Practice seminar at Groot Kievitsdal, Baarn. Fortes managed to have a nice audience of about 150 people.
The title of my presentation: “The PMO as a flywheel for pragmatic programme management”.
In this presentation transparency was among other things one of the topics. When a project or programme manager reports a green status, it must be green. As a metaphor I used a melon. A melon can be green from the outside but red inside. Many project or programme managers make use of this melon indicator and hiding the real status. In one of the next slides a showed a picture of Jack Nicholson eating a melon. He wasn’t really transparent when he played his role of a madman in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. We know the end, when they used electroshocks and he really became a madman. Will this be the next tool for a PMO or portfolio manager to get transparent and correct project or programme status reports?
To download: PMO fly wheel (Fortes pres, 150416) v0.8
Last week I visited the exhibition In search of meaning (Museum De Fundatie, Zwolle, Netherlands). One of the statues was from the British sculptor Antony Gormley. This artist created many statues and the picture shows one of my favorites (was not on the exhibition).
This is what I call transparency. And transparency is something that becomes more and more important in the world of projects. At last I would say.
I see the following reasons for more transparency:
- Senior managers want to have more successful projects and want to know what is really happening;
- External stakeholders like the DNB or AFM want to know the real status of change initiatives;
- Project managers want to inform much earlier how they are progressing. They are not there to please their project executive;
- Project managers want to show, by using the right RAG status that they have their projects under control. To report Amber and explain the options they are investigating to bring the project on track again, shows that they are really in control. This also gives project executives the chance to intervene. Compare this with a situation where a project manager surprises the project executive with a Red status;
- Transparency means: I have nothing to hide;
- Transparency means: my green RAG status is really green and is not a melon;
- Transparency will help other project managers to manage dependences.