“Fish discover water last…In a similar way, we… discover trust last.”
Steven Covey, the Speed of Trust
My church is starting an effort to improve the way we use technology to communicate our story. I volunteered as the PM for the effort and we had our first meeting last week. Now, typically in a project visioning session, the idea is to gather as much information as you can from the project sponsor, and then plan out how to analyze the current state, molding the future work towards the sponsors vision. So that was my expectation going into the meeting.
I started it off by asking the Pastor to give his vision, and then, as I am used to, we started working through ideas to bring that vision to reality. One team member suggested a brainstorming session to gather more data about what church go-ers wanted, which I thought was the right and proper next step.
“Great idea!” I said. “I wonder what we should do to make that…”
“Well,” my Pastor interrupted. “An effort like that may be a bit of a ways off, you may want to hold on for a few months to allow the team to gel before you take on such an endeavor.”
My head cocked to one side, like Data from Next Generation, pondering new information that I hadn’t considered before.
Interesting, I thought to myself. Usually, and you the PM reader will appreciate this, we want to show progress on a project pretty much as soon as possible. So here was a project sponsor elevating a previously unstated goal – good team dynamics – higher than progress on project deliverables.
Then I realized that for him, and for churches in general, fostering connection is the goal. Creating connection that lasts so people feel part of a healthy, enjoyable group is primary, the problem to which we apply that connected team focus, is secondary.
This is a major mind shift for me.
In the business world, the project goal is always primary, and good team dynamics are a method, a means to an end, not a goal. Now here was a suggestion to flip that; the project goal is good team dynamics, and the problem to be solved is the method.
But now that I think about it, the only thing that really lasts from job to job, are the residual good feelings and warm connection to people with whom I’ve had great team dynamics, where I’ve fostered connections that I value, and that make me feel less alone in the world.
These are the people with whom if we teamed together again, I’m absolutely sure that anything we work on would be successful.
Conversely, with those people who I haven’t been able to foster a good connection, I can tell you that if we had to work on a team again, whatever we had to build would come out slower, and probably not be as fruitful.
So what if we made foster connection the primary goal of any project we work on?
In a project charter we would go from this kind of success statement…
This project will be a success if web visitors immediately understand the purpose and mission of the church
to this kind of statement…
This project will be a success if team members develop a great working relationship and collaboratively build a site where web visitors immediately understand the purpose and mission of the church
How would we act differently? What would we do at the beginning of projects that we wouldn’t normally do if building great working relationships was a stated goal?
And most importantly what impact would this have on our success?
So interestingly enough, the church team walked away with a group decision to analyze what currently exists, which is what I would have suggested and pushed for from the beginning of the meeting.
But because my Pastor got me thinking early in the meeting about team, I pulled back on my directiveness, and relaxed any expectation for actually walking out of the meeting with any ‘real’ work done.
The ‘real’ work, I figured, was to allow team members to build relationships through dialogue and sharing of ideas. So my facilitation focused on that.
And paradoxically enough, we wound up with the same end result that I would’ve pushed for, without it being just my idea, without me telling people what to do and with a sense that this was our decision, which has quickly moved us forward towards feeling like a cohesive unit.
For me, a PM used to pushing forward with plans, it seemed almost too easy. And as people walked away buoyed by the interactions, expressing “good meeting” to each other, I almost felt like I had done nothing but fostered connection.
And yet, everything else is getting done.