Politics, narrow parochialism, and conflicts of interest lie at the root of many failures. These failures arise when stakeholders jockey for position and advantage, rather than focus on the shared task of making their project successful.
Searching for antidotes to this caustic, yet all too common, scenario, I turned to a short book, titled Lead Well and Prosper, by Nick McCormick. The book describes healthy management strategies and techniques for fighting dysfunctional management behavior in the corporate environment.
Here are seven of the strategies Nick presents in his book:
1. Adopt a serving attitude. Many managers have difficulty grasping this simple concept. What do your team members need? Get your butt out of your office and find out! Ask them during one-on-one meetings. Draw it out of them. Once you find out what is needed, do something.
2. Teach. Part of a manager's job is to teach. If you don't spend any time teaching and developing your team members, you're not a good manager. Watch out for "bald tires." Just because someone has experience doesn't mean he or she is good. When you don't teach, you hurt your team members, the would-be team members, and the organization.
3. Share information. Employees deserve some private time with their managers. A regularly scheduled one-on-one meeting takes care of that. You'll be amazed at the positive effects this will have. Teach them. Listen to them. Ask how you can help them.
4. Listen. You are not nearly as important as you think you are -- so don't act that way. In American culture, we tend to equate leadership with yapping. There is no correlation.
5. Treat people like human beings. Dealing with people is not easy. I'm not saying you have to love all people, but you do need to be able to empathize with them and treat them well.
6. Do the right thing. Words like "collaboration" and "teamwork" get thrown around, but there is precious little of either actually occurring in companies. If you are going to be a good manager, you need to do the right thing -- even if it doesn't put an extra jingle in your pocket. Although [honesty is] fairly self-explanatory, [it] is usually overlooked.
7. Persist. Have patience. Take your good ideas -- and those of your team -- forward. Anticipate objections and overcome them. If your ideas get shot down, don't give up. Find a way to make them work.
I asked Nick for his thoughts on improving IT projects. Here's what he said:
So often our actions are governed by short-term, self-serving gratification. In IT, as in life, doing the right thing may not always benefit in the short term, but it's the only path to prolonged success. It's the consistent execution of sound, fundamental principles that builds first class people and organizations.
The irony: those who need these lessons most will be least receptive to hearing them. On the bright side, there are many project stakeholders who put aside self-interest and strive to do the right thing. To those worthy folks, I tip my hat.