Getting the Better of a Negative Culture

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-PM-
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Hi All

I have a problem that has been ongoing for a while now and as the subject of this post states it is concerning what I would regard as the culture of my organisation.

The main issue is that things aren't getting done, and when work is done it is often of a poor standard. People refuse to communicate to each other and even decide to tell untruths in attempts to pass over the blame to someone else.

We have some very simple business procedures in place that, if followed, would support the projects immensely but people refuse to follow them. Technical issues are not reported or are covered up which ends up causing bigger, expensive problems further into the project, and although these issues are addressed during project review meetings the senior manager for these team members sits in silence and won't face up to his reports even after the meeting.

Senior management are currently angry about project lateness but they are unwilling to get involved with the projects. They are aware that many individuals (that report to them) are not doing what is expected and what was agreed at the start of the project / work package.

Moral is definitely low and people know that they can do what they want, when they want without being questioned by their managers. They don't report to me so I cannot discipline them, all I can do is hope to influence them (i guess?) in the way they perform which is easier with some individuals than others.

Has anybody experienced similar issues to this?

I am willing to accept that I need to adapt my approach to suit the people I am working with, and I feel I have done this without becoming a push-over where I just accept that people haven't completed the work on time or to an acceptable standard.

I have kept a log of all instances of late / poor quality work which is reported back to management if it is likely to have an adverse affect on the project (in a factual manner, trying my best not to come across as telling tales). I started doing this as I felt I had an obligation to communicate significant issues to senior management and I have to provide reasons for project issues.

I am running out of ideas.

I can work with supportive team members in the absence of a supportive senior management team. Not ideal, but I could get by.

I can also see improvements happening if senior management were more supportive and became actively involved with their reports.

What I am struggling with is lack of support from both sides.

I would love to discuss this if anyone can contribute.

Many Thanks!

PM
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kwalford
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This is what caught my eye as a big problem:

Senior management are currently angry about project lateness, but they are unwilling to get involved with the projects.

I am sure you already have, but it needs to be driven home that senior management involvment will aide projects to complete to their objectives (time, cost etc). How can they complain about a project which they are unwilling to take interest with? Having stakeholder involvement / interest is key. How can you get their interest? It sounds like you need a senior management that you can report issues to and will take responsibility. Make it clear you have no line manager that you can escalate project issues to, it is hindering your work and ultimately affecting projects.

I also think you logging all problems is a good idea. It is far more powerful to report exactly what has gone wrong than just 'point the finger'.

It sounds like you have your work cut out for you, good luck.
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dhaughey
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This sounds like a job for Scrum, although introducing it in the orgnisation may not be easy. The reason I mention Scrum is two fold. First you say work isn't getting done and second you are unhappy with the quality.

Scrum is an Agile product development method that organises work into short cycles. If you use a two week cycle, then it's very obvious if people aren't getting the work done. Not only that, but developers know they will be standing up in front of the team to show what they have done before the next two week cycle starts. It may help that people get to focus on small packages of work and get them done.

Second you aren't happy with the quality of work. Again two week cycles gives you the opportunity to review work-in-progress and take corrective action if necessary. Better than waiting until the end of a project to find product quality is poor when it's too late to do anything about it.

The other technique you may like to consider is daily stand ups with the project teams. Use the simple format of round the team, 'what I did yesterday; what I'm going to do today and any blockers stopping me from moving forward'. Make sure you remove any blockers. Daily stand ups make it difficult for people to cover up issues.

Whether you call it Scrum, or just break work into short development cycles with two weekly reviews and daily stand ups is your choice.

There's a good Scrum introduction video here: http://bit.ly/w1lWBJ

Some food for thought hopefully.

Duncan
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Hi PM,

After reading your post I can understand your concern and anxiety relating to this issue. I think it needs immediate attention and would agree i3666 that it is a big problem. As you and i3666 stated I would be most concerned with "Senior management are currently angry about project lateness, but they are unwilling to get involved with the projects. " I think that is the first issue to be addressed. Senior managements role is to manage the staff and ensure projects are completed on time, correctly and within the budget. If your senior managers are not fulfilling their roles then why should the rest of your employees?

I actually had the same problem a few years back in previous employment and it made for a very uncomfortable work environment. I was willing to work hard at my job and be trustful and forthcoming with the information requested, but as other colleagues were not and were allowed to carry on in that manner, I found myself bending the rules a little in order to get things done as that became the norm within the organisation. That is what you do not want, so again I stress action must be taken before this behaviour does become the norm.

Firstly, I think you need to deal with your senior and project managers. Once thay understand what is expected of them and roles defined that can sufficently manage the remaining employees and this will eradicate the problem as quick as possible. I would strongly suggest training your managers, this can be done on-site or send them on courses. This depends on how large your company is, I found this crowd to be great http://www.professionaldevelopment.ie/p ... nt-courses well worth the investment as the problem can not continue for the sake of the company.

Best of luck, hope I helped.
Mohamed.Benmerikhi
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Hi there,

First of all I very much sympathise with your position. It is indeed a difficult situation to handle. I have experienced a somewhat similar situation.
Senior management is not always interested to know, they might turn around and say, well you're the project manager, you should have the ability and skills to handle your team(s). It is true that it is easier said than done. However, monitoring progress on shorter time bases allows you to track issues before they get transferred to other project components and then it becomes difficult to go back as this can result in a waste of time and resources.

My other suggestion is that since members of your team are delivering poor quality work, you may consider discussing the matter with human resources and find out what can be done if people do not work to the expected standards. I am sure that human resources can give a very good advice from which you can identify the right course of action.

Best of luck
Mohamed Benmerikhi
Mohamed.Benmerikhi
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In addition to my previous intervention, see if you can find out if your team members have had any kind of appraisal. It might provide you with more information as to how to tackle the issue with respect to performance of individuals within your project team.

Mohamed Benmerikhi
-PM-
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Thanks to every one for their feedback and advice.

It's been a very 'challenging' couple of weeks that's for sure and I can honestly say my brain is fried which is making it even harder to find a solution!

There is a perception currently that the project manager is accountable for everything even down at task level.

If someone hasn't followed procedure, it's the project managers fault (an impossible task to keep on top of).

If somebody hasn't reported an issue, it's the project managers fault that he doesn't know about it.

What are your thoughts about this? Do you guys keep logs of all actions or do you expect your teams to keep their own actions and be self managed in order to meet work package milestones?

I have explained that micro-managing people will not improve the ownership of work across teams. I feel that this will lead to people only doing what the project manager tells them and they will hide behind this and not apply their own initiative.

People are commenting that a blame culture is building and this is making them more withdrawn, so If they step up and say 'I will own this' they know that if anything is less than perfect then they will get blamed for doing a bad job, so why bother?

I am venting frustration now, apologies. But it does help to write these things down to gain clarity.

I feel like I have a mountain to climb and my skin is growing thicker by the day so I'll take that as a positive, and persevere until I find an approach that works.

If people can offer some feedback on how they issue work and the level at which they manage, and expect team managers to manage tasks I would be grateful.

Many Thanks

PM
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