What’s New This Week
This month we’re looking at the topic of failure and recovery. Projects, as with so much of our institutional and organizational life, are predicated on our ability to mitigate or avoid catastrophic failure. We use careful planning and then diligent risk and stakeholder management to navigate the unexpected. Unfortunately, things do go wrong and projects and unidentified failure can derail even the best of us.
Navigate the Success and Failure section of GpmFirst for ideas of what to do when disaster strikes.
Author of the Month
This month our featured author is Dr. Nita Martin, founder and managing director of Pure Indigo management consultancy, www.pureindigo.co.uk and author of Project Politics. The industries that Pure Indigo consults for include those that are often working at the extremes, of science or of environments; industries such as energy, exploration and natural resources, chemicals and pharma, where unchecked failure has the potential to become catastrophe.
Take a moment to browse Nita’s book, visit her profile and read her articles or explore her work at Pure Indigo.
Tiger Teams and Projects
Project teams can become introspective and siloed; focusing on the logic and the processes of the project that they have so carefully crafted to such an extent that they lack the ability to step back, to reconcile conflicting views or introduce radical solutions if disaster strikes.
Elmar Kutsch, Mark Hall and Neil Turner, advocate the use of Tiger Teams in cases where a project has been irredeemably derailed.
“A Tiger Team does not necessarily replace the project manager but focusses on the following:
- listening and asking questions from multiple perspectives about what is happening and yet not rushing to conclusions despite the pressure to act quickly.
- imagining worst-case implications together with the details of complex, potentially dynamically-changing, tasks.
- suppressing members’ own egos in terms of ‘knowing the answer’ yet remaining inquisitive in creating options.
- willingness to break existing rules and processes, with the ability to think outside of the usual methods of operation.
- skills to create solutions that work at the technical, process and human levels.
- ability to maintain a continuously-high level of focus and intensity of action.
- maintaining all this to achieve rapid project recovery while operating within challenging timeframes under the ‘spotlight’ of senior management.”
These kinds of ‘project special forces’ are not entirely without precedent. The F35 Fighter Project turned to Tiger Teams to tackle the fundamental software problems that threatened to destroy this iconic, next generation, weapons system.
But they are not easy to set up. It can be difficult to draw together the requisite expert individuals, sometimes from across several organizations at a time when trust and confidence are very low. They are resource intensive as you cannot expect Tiger Team members realistically to parachute in whilst retaining their business-as-usual roles and workloads.
They need a very clear brief; unequivocal and visible top management support; clear responsibility and authority. You also need to think about the motivation and reward structure structure for your team; few of your most capable managers will necessarily relish the opportunity of wrestling with inter-organizational politics in a situation, clearly not of their own making and only a hair’s breadth from meltdown (with the potentially career blackening consequences that would bring).
Do you have experience of working with Tiger Teams? What advice would you offer to anyone looking to adopt this novel approach? Do you have other, equally radical, interventions or solutions that you have adopted in the face of project disaster? Talk to our editorial team Content@gpmfirst.com about your experience and about submitting an article to the site.