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Lifecycle   »   Forum   »   Psychological group dynamic

Let us explain. Imagine you are a team member on the project. Let us say you are invited to be a business analyst. You have worked on many projects before and You have seen it all. Here comes another project. This time though, they are using something new you heard about called the Toolkit. Your disinterest at this point has not yet turned into antipathy. You decide to give these people the benefit of the doubt and attend something they call the Daily Forum.

The first thing you notice about the Daily Forum is that everybody is sat down.

The meeting starts. Someone introduces themselves as the project manager. They say they will go around the room asking each person 3 questions. You hope you have some answers because you have not achieved anything on the project yet. You can see and hear from other attendees that the questions are quite straightforward and it comes to your turn.

What did you do yesterday? Well, you did not do anything yesterday. That was the day you started on the project. Someone showed you to your desk, gave you two folders of paper to read and you had a nice lunch. You cannot remember much after that.

The next question is what about your work today? Well, all that happened is, someone came to your desk and asked you: have you finished reading the folders. You had not realised you only had a day to read all that information and what was the information for anyway.

Now, you are asked, what are your concerns or risks? Well yes, I might come to get really bored on this project until someone gives me something concrete to deliver, some priorities and some timescales to work within!

This new business analyst probably feels they have not contributed much to the meeting. In fact they may feel a little embarrassed at the lack of additional information they could provide. In reality, they have provided some very valuable input to the meeting, indeed.

Maybe you have seen this type of unsuccessful new starter induction or on-boarding process before. Maybe your organisation is more efficient at this and you have not. It is often the case though, that the induction of new starters onto a project does not always go to plan. But, now this is the interesting part from our point of view. What has happened here is that the full team has seen and heard the details of a project failure. They have seen the project fail to induct a new team member, successfully. They have seen that an important team member has been hired, brought to the project but on the first day, and possibly second day, the new team member is immediately and disappointingly unproductive.

In this instance, there needs to be a new risk added and a risk owner assigned. This will be the resource owner of the new starter. This might be the project manager or business team leader. Whoever it is needs to identify the work, priorities and timescales that the new starter requires.

Using the Daily Forum there are no doubts, suspicions, Chinese whispers, mixed messages or scrambled communications. All of the project team members have seen the evidence for themselves. They will likely be a little surprised at the lack of forward planning and resource management that this failure demonstrates. They will, more than likely, be interested to see what this new project starter says at the Daily Forum, tomorrow.

Importantly, they will be interested to see that the business analyst is motivated and has suddenly become an important working part of the team. If this is successfully achieved, then the risk owner can remove or downgrade the risk.

So, you will see the psychological group dynamic works in your favour. Other team members know that they have to attend the Daily Forum. They know that they will be asked the three important questions. They know they need answers to the questions. If they have to answer: other people will answer. They know they cannot lie, exaggerate or hide any work that they do. There will be other people attending the Daily Forum who know what they did yesterday and were expecting certain answers. Even if a project manager knows that a certain parcel of work should only take one at two days, a team member may feel they can stretch the work into 3 or 4 days work, half of which is idle time. They know that with the psychological group dynamic, they cannot string out work endlessly. Everybody else will see and notice this. The psychological group dynamic works in your favour.

What we find is that other team members will interrupt and comment on the length of time it is taking for the work to complete. This interruption is a challenge, an important challenge. It is important because it is a challenge from one of their peers. This is not a challenge from a project manager who may be too busy to look into or disconnected from day-to-day detail. This is a challenge from someone who works alongside you, maybe directly with you.

There is a certain group project responsibility being displayed here. Daily Forum attendees feel they have a general and individual responsibility to the project. Importantly, they feel the others have responsibilities also. If they need to demonstrate that they are an active member of the project; other people need to demonstrate that they are also active members of the project. Again, what we are demonstrating here is this project does not carry passengers and all project members keep it moving, pushing the project onwards.

For this reason, we do not really recommend observers at your Daily Forum. They are often injudiciously called chickens (although some agile methodologies call the users chickens also). They observe at the periphery pecking around without adding useful positive contribution. Your Daily Forum is for contributors and needs to focus on this for the vast majority of the time. However, there are instances when you will involve others who do not necessarily contribute. Such instances include invites to members of teams that face to or interface with your project, methods personnel investigating the use of this Toolkit and personnel involved in knowledge transfer activity.

The normal scenario is that attendees will contribute and it is best to keep that standard. If you need to include an occasional observer in the session, it is unlikely to let loose a tirade of requests for attendees to change into observers. However, we have experienced some outcomes with observers that were not positive and feel that it is possibly safer to keep a participation character to the session. In our experience the occasional observer can stop being a witness and change into a clandestine subversive, which is not what you want. Is it? When a team demands to witness the event, offer them a video of one of your sessions.

This session has a very specific purpose: to elicit and share project risks and the status of work. It is there also to bond the team into a working collaborative whole. You will not always get universal agreement though and you or your coach will need to resolve conflict.

We debate useful techniques on this topic in the Coaching section of the Toolkit. However, this is a good time to resolve another project myth that surrounds agile: Unsolvable conflict.


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Psychological group dynamic


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