Wednesday, August 20, 2014

“Espirit De Corps” The strategic Driver in Project Management 08-20

“Espirit De Corps” The strategic Driver in Project Management

How the idea evolved into a concept??

I was invited by the Project Management Institute (Pearl City chapter) to be the guest speaker for one of their events on 30 May 2014 held at CMC Hyderabad.

The self-imposed challenge before me was to be innovative and deliver something new to the young project managers and if possible engage them in expanding the idea into workable adjuvant and driver in project management. Changing the bottle or the wine was never an option, besides I thought that the intelligent and creative audience of project managers associated with all the major IT entities like Microsoft, Infosys, TCS, and others needed something more original than that.

I took one week off from my day job to work on this mission of creating and developing on a new concept that would evolve into a strategic driver in Project Management.

Luckily and thankfully on the first day itself the idea of “Espirit De Corps” came to mind and gradually over a period of three days the idea evolved and took shape of concept related to project management. I developed this in to a speech and related power point presentation.

Espirit De Corps…. The concept

It is the process of aligning the personal needs and values of the employees or the team members with the organization culture. The feeling of self actualization should emanate from the work the employees do for the organization.according to Barrett: personal alignment, structural alignment, values alignment and mission alignment are important for an organization. Failure to achieve alignment results in what he calls cultural entropy, This is the essence of Espirit De Corps (EDC) is the facilitation of alignments and the reversal of cultural entropy.

There are great organization in India like the Tata, Godrez, Wipro, and Japnese organizations like Toyota, Mitsui & Co and others that are practicing EDC in letter and spirit.

These are the organizations that have created a flow of alignment process. They have aligned the personal needs and values to the structure of the organization and further aligned these with the mission statement of the organization.

Here we relate the Espirit de corps to the seven stages of development of the organization.

These are also the gradual stages of evolution in human behaviour where it begins with survival and reaches a stage where an individual thinks of service to humanity and the planet. If an organization can synchronize its own evolution to the evolution of its employees through the above stages, EDC can be achieved.

How does EDC apply to the Project Management?

There used to be saying, I used to hear very frequently in my younger days. “God could not be everywhere that is why he created mothers” now extending this ancient wisdom a little further we can say that since Children needed a value added professional presence, he created fathers.

In the professional world, project managers are mothers and the product managers are fathers. While the project managers transform a collection of bits and bytes into live products. It is the product managers who bestow values on the product and makes it acceptable to the people throughout its life cycle.

Together they make a great combination and keep the wheels of the industry moving.

We are of course discussing Project Management and the Project Manager. A Project Manager whether he is aligned to a project or to the PMO.

A PM has to continuously and simultaneously monitor diverse and different processes keeping the systems intact. He has to keep in mind the essential drivers, set his parameters and indicators.

All these he needs to do keeping in mind the three Damocles swords hanging over his head.

They are Performance, Costs and Schedules. One small miss somewhere in any of these areas is enough to take the project to its doom.

For this he needs to depend heavily on various resources and supply chains. Not all of which are in his hands. These are managed by people located at different and distant places.

Indirect Leadership

When you involve people you involve diverse cultures mind sets, & mind tattoos. Sailing smoothly amidst these daily tempests in tea cups is a tough job. Many times the project is divided diversified and is multi locational. This results in some (or even most) of your team members being located at places far away from that of yours. Here is where your qualities of indirect leadership come into effect. You are not present there but you need to make your presence felt in every location and in the hearts and the minds of every team member.

Two types of people

You generally come across two types of people. People who work professionally work mechanically just enough to ensure their survival. But people who are engaged emotionally are the ones who are the go beyond types, these are your crises men “The Man Fridays” .

Crisis and projects are strange bedfellows. There is no symbiosis ever, but never the less they coexist. Overrun though most hated is also the most commonly used word. This is where your man Friday’s come into picture. These people can work hard set an example and also lift the tempo of the team morale and help in minimizing the overruns.

Hence your absolute necessity is the people who can walk the extra mile, and then another mile.

And here is where you need ESPIRIT DE CORPS

EDC is all about creating an emotional bind, a feeling of ownership, a sense of belonging towards the organization, its values, project and the people. It is not just adding extra hands to you, but it is more than that. It is like adding extra fingers to your hands. The emotional transition from being extra hands to extra fingers to your own hands is possible with EDC.

Can the Project Manager induce the spirit of EDC in his team?

May be to a very small extent yes? But bringing total transformation is not possible at the manager level.

Can you train people for this? Absolutely not

A child doesn't need to be trained to love his mother, does he?

It is inborn and comes out at the right moment…

Similarly EDC is there in every individual, it needs to be ignited, and it has to be done at the organization level. The project manager can only translate the existing values in his work schedule so that they transcend down to all levels and get embedded in their work culture.

But even he cannot create values. The values need to be there in the organization. Managers can only take it forward. The intensity of course differs from person to person.

There are certain things the project manager needs to do to help the inculcation of EDC by various processes which include an honest evaluation of the team members in the areas of

Strengths and weaknesses

Affinities & disaffinities

Inhibitions & articulations

The Project Manager can also use the social media to create a close knit private community where the team members unplug themselves share their problems, and find ways within the community to resolve the same. The project manager should also participate in the discussion as a member of the community, not as a team leader. This helps to create oneness and a sense of belonging in the team and makes every member a man Friday or a women Friday. Social media is just one method; there are other equally good methods to transform the team into a cohesive unit. The Project Manager can choose the one that suits the best in terms of applicability in accordance with the geographic and demographic requirements & people culture.

These are certain things the project manager can do to retain the spirit of EDC such as

Identify and reduce organizational barriers to strategic execution

Formulate approaches for improving alignment between the organization and the team's culture, structure, strategy, and metrics. Realigning and redefining of metrics. The project manager needs to keep the goal post moving to facilitate the achievement of objectives by the team members.

Recognize, communicate, and influence project, program, and portfolio decisions and deliverables

Build a stronger project-based organization that consistently delivers high performance.

Improve the ability of members to impact results beyond the project level. Possible only with emotional engagement.


What should the organizations do?

It is important for the organizations to understand that the philosophy is not merely a few guidelines, ideas, rules, or techniques which you can tag on to the end of whatever you do now.

It involves a thorough, radical, rethink – a complete reversal of attitudes towards some strategies, modes of behaviour and beliefs to which you have become accustomed to and conditioned over the years. If you do not accept the fact that we are talking of a deep, fundamental change then it will not happen.

This change cannot happen overnight. But there must be a constant, consistent movement in the right direction: every day there must be a move closer to total involvement in ever improving quality of all systems, processes and activities within the organisation.

Finally I would like to state that, this is not the be all and end all in terms Espirit De Corps. There is lot more to it than what I have written. I request my friends in Project Management to add their views and help to improve this article.

I feel, together we can not only improve the quality of this article, we can also help in the evolution of this article in to a module for PMP certification.This is my ultimate goal.

Best Wishes,


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