Less rules, more collective results and personal responsibility

September 21, 2008 — 7 Comments

To keep or to lose control?

At the beginning of this year I told my team in the Netherlands that we would invest to create a stronger foundations with more processes, procedures, reports etc. In doing so we created PIM (Portletsuite Implementation method), a mix of RUP and Prince 2, and PDP’s (Personal Development Plans).  Now, 9 months later I start to see clear signs that those new rules, methods, processes have degraded the collective awareness among my people, a value I want to be strong amongst Componence team members.

Better accountability and reports, slower and less results
In the past 9 months the amount of procedures, roles, reports, templates have grown substantially. Clients are shown the documentation that they easily recognize from their Prince 2 training. One of our enterprise clients recently told our account manager that he hadn’t seen Prince-2 being used so consistently for a long time as our project managers are using it now for their project. During the project I had personally seen how our project managers were outperforming other project managers of other suppliers. The project is going well, from a management point of view, but a potential catastrophe from a result point of view.

The current project approach is manageable by budget and time, but slowly it becomes too obvious that the scope that will be delivered will not satisfy the client on executive level. In the meanwhile the client on operational travel is satisfied with our involvement, our reports, our procedures etc. So from a result point of view I can only say I’m proud that my team members have mastered the skills of Prince 2 and know how to keep the client satisfied while only 50% of the requested scope will be delivered.

So while my people are growing as project managers, it’s just too bad that this project is a clear cut copy of the AXA project I lead 7,5 years ago. A project where PinkRoccade was able to keep the customer satisfied with 50% of the concept that my team and I had designed. A type of project of which I thought my client should deserve better.

It seems to be what the society wants nowadays
After the Enron and other major enterprise frauds, companies more and more want to see accountability. Managing something properly seems to have become more important than the results or rather the lack of results that are possible from it. I guess it is logic to want more control when hundreds of millions are spent on projects. But is it logic to spend more on management, reports, documentation than on the real actions to get real results?

And how are all these stricter rules and regulations working out? It’s sure that they’re giving accountants, auditors, lawyers and other controlling people more work and more money. But what about all the people that are really trying to work normally to get real results? It’s quite obvious that entrepreneurs and managers are feeling annoyed and tired from the continuous demand for compliancy to rules and regulations. And it seems that we even need more of it, just look at the current credit and financial crisis, where the whole world has witnessed trillions (x. dollars being vaporized.

So all this is because the banking world lacks rules? I don’t think so, I think the business bankers were too much caring for their outrageous Christmas bonusses. And it’s not because they don’t earn enough, as the best paying hedgefund manager earned > in a year. How can a normal human being think about collective causes and risks, if such numbers can become direct personal gains?

People should get more personal responsibility for the collective cause
It is what the world wants? Should more rules be created? Should the (western) world continue to create the necessity to create more managers? And even with more rules, isn’t it impossible to predict all catastrophes to come? Of course not …

No it’s time to make individuals more aware again of their personal responsibility for the collective cause. It’s time to make people stop saying “that’s not my problem“. Collective causes need to be translated to more sensible and human reasons rather than just growth and profit numbers. Money is commodity, the fact that we can ‘easily’ lose trillions proofs so. It’s time to make people more responsible for collective causes again and to point them to their part of responsibility in it.

At Componence my running mate Gerrit-Willem will try to make our people care for the collective cause again. And the collective cause will not be just the well-being of Componence, but also the well-being of our clients. It’s time to say no to clients who willingly force us to deliver them less results for more control!


7 responses to Less rules, more collective results and personal responsibility

    Alexander Arendar September 23, 2008 at 8:47 pm

    Hey hey 🙂
    That is strong statement about degradation of collective awareness among your people… But you see this if you writes this.
    Your post made me think about my daily work.
    To be able to fins the proper solutions to the problems you are touching in this post one needs to understand clear what is the main characteristic of ANY manager, an invariant that is not dependent on the type and size of company this manager is working for. Such a characteristic is that a manager is always a medium between 2 sides: customer who consumes the work and team who produces that work. So any manager is always in between. That is why you’ll never be able to “say no to clients who willingly force us to deliver them less results for more control!” 🙂

    When you pay cash in a food store you count the change, right? And you also looks at your basket if they put exactly what you want to buy. The same goes for a good customer: they will control both basket and checks, scope and accounting.

    Unlike those people on the edges (customer and a team) managers are not able to speak in absolutes. A customer can afford to loose the control of scope, a team can choose to reject your attempts of good accounting, but a good manager will double work and provide all goods for those edges: excellent accounting for the customer and feeling of “less bureaucracy” for his team.
    Sometimes it seems unjust for me that 80% of regular team-folks goes home at 19:00 and I still need to work until 22:00 to find out the bugs (bad work) they developed last day and to provide reports to my managers or customers. But thinking one step further I understand that in such way I learn and improve myself what allows me to outperform those 80%. At least this is a kind of personal little “proud” which everyone of us needs to feel.
    The miracle is that there is no “quick” way to transform the mindset of those 80% or to transform the way of thinking of those customers who admire nice reports more then good product. The only way is to outperform, become able to show that you yourself can do both: good delivery and nice reporting, and then some people will start sit with you longer in the office and “collective awareness” may start emerging.


    Nice points Sacha, but I guess I do think that my managers should be amongst the 10-20%. But in their strive to learn how to be better project managers, the collective urgencies can easily get a lower priority.

    And in my opinion indeed there is a 10% that know that they are better than the rest, because they are prepared to sacrifice more time to take on more things at the same time and to get more done within the same time frame. And with my managers I hope to see more of them reaching this 10%, as eventually some of them will want to occupy an executive level position in their future carreers.

    But maybe it’s a part of the learning curve, I’ll just have to change my management style to get my people more on the collective track again 😉


    And today I did it, I escalated something to the higher level of a project / program. Telling my client not to implement something that will cost more money while no more results / turnover can be gained.

    I’m wondering what the higher management will answer me. Will they support their internal client and ask Componence to implement a portlet that will have to work with a webservice that immitates a webserver? And at the same time, we have implemented cool HTTP proxy / HTML scraper portlet for them …


    That’s a nice resource related to the topic:
    http://www.agilemanifesto.org/ (including the http://www.agilemanifesto.org/principles.html)


    Please update this post with continuation of the story when it comes 🙂 Interesting.

    And the diagram… of the Prince2 process… emm…. it seems to be more complex then schema of the dual core Intel CPU )))


    So eventually the client did not accept our warnings and just folded under the pressure of their end client. On the other side we still have not implemented it.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. Team responsibilities towards clients « Toms blog - October 3, 2008

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