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Trust and Fear in IT Project Teams

by JayMa In reply to No so Random Ramblings on ...

<p class="MsoNormal"><b>We live a paradox</b> in
which we spend more than half of our waking hours in work related activities
and what we think of as ?Life? happens outside of work. From this point of
view, work-time becomes ?dead time?, and Life becomes what is leftover. </p>


<p class="MsoNormal">The direct consequence of this very commonly held attitude
is that people do not bring the whole of whom they are to work. They/I leave
part of their/my self at home. Who is to say that what is being left at home is
not important and of value to the work place? For workgroup productivity to
improve in business, it is essential to move beyond this paradox.</p>


<p class="MsoNormal">The biggest obstacle to employees bringing more of who they
are into their work is the FEAR running rampant in organizations of every size
and culture. </p>


<p class="MsoNormal">Fear based management uses coercion and manipulation to
obtain desired outcomes. Part of the issue is that often the executive
management of an organization is not even aware of the impact of its own
managerial style. <br />
Research and observation suggest that people will do anything in situations
where fear reigns, including agreeing to unrealistic performance goals. What is
worse, employees and people who feel constrained, obliged or forced to perform
to expectations they did not set for themselves typically experience much
higher level of stress and can feel victimized, become resistant, take on
negative attitudes and develop passive aggressive behaviors toward the
organization and/or their leadership. 
The result is lower productivity, lower levels of efficiency and higher
medical insurance costs.</p>


<p class="MsoNormal">We will examine first why a Fear Free work environment
matters to the overall organization and to the IT industry in particular. We
will look at the impact of fear on software developers. We will see how Truth
Seeking and Truth Telling are essential to software development and consider a
number of suggestions on how a Project Manager can create a Fear Free project
team. We will consider the reach of mindfulness practice in organizations today
and close by looking at how combination of spiritual and business practices is
the key to Fear Free project teams.</p>


<h3>A Fear Free work environment matters to the overall organization</h3>


<p class="MsoNormal">A Fear Free work environment matters for the efficient
functioning of the overall organization and it is critically important for
CIOs, and Project Managers working with software developers in IT Consulting,
Software Development firms and Information Technology departments.</p>


<p class="MsoNormal"><!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> <!--[endif]--></p>


<p class="MsoNormal">Building a Fear Free work environment matters to the
organization. Because of increased competition, the faster pace of
technological innovation, the relentless drive to lower cost and continuously
improve process, the conduct of today?s organizations requires building on all
of what employees can contribute to the organization. <br />
We know that humans have capabilities, skills, creativity and intuition far
beyond the narrow confines of a job description. For people to bring more of
themselves into their workplace requires developing emotionally safe workplaces.
The safer individuals feel in a group, the more likely they are to contribute
to the group.  Some readers might fear
this approach to be yet another advocate for ?touchy, feely? stuff? or
something similarly dangerous!
  <br />
In fact, after years of focusing on the facts and only the facts, I became an
advocate of a balanced approach to Project Management that combines careful
adherence to software development methodology and change management, fact based
progress measurement/monitoring and fear free project teams.</p>
<p class="MsoNormal">In fact, I believe that creating a Fear Free atmosphere
where employees are passionate about contributing is critical to anyone in a
leadership position working with software developers in the IT Industry.</p>


<h3>A Fear Free work environment is critical to the IT Industry</h3>


<p class="MsoNormal">There
are two reasons why a Fear Free work atmosphere is critical to the IT industry:
</p>


<h4><!--[if !supportLists]-->1.     
<!--[endif]-->Fear is the main obstacle to truth telling</h4>


<p class="MsoBodyTextIndent">The only people who really know what is going on in
an IT project are the software developers directly working on the project. It
follows that if I truly want to ensure that everyone on my project team
contributes their candid opinions, maximum energy and creativity, I need to
ensure that the people in IT leadership position make the meetings they facilitate
safe for the software developers who participate. Safe, i.e.: free of anger
projections, blame and finger pointing.</p>


<h4><!--[if !supportLists]-->2.     
<!--[endif]-->Fear is the main obstacle to Programmers? creativity. </h4>


<p class="MsoNormal">Why is there a need for creativity
in programming?</p>


<p class="MsoBodyTextIndent">Programming isn't science, and it isn't engineering,
although programmers routinely use tools from Science (Mathematics and Logic in
particular) and Engineering (design before build), to structure their work. </p>


<p class="MsoBodyTextIndent">Programming is magical: something is created out of
nothing. Programming is an art form that is similar in many ways to creative
writing or music composition. Programming simultaneously requires a strong
analytical mind, a high level of attention to details, and creativity.</p>


<p class="MsoBodyTextIndent">As there are multiple ways to open a bottle, a
software system can be designed and coded in multiple ways. It is up to the
software developer to design solutions and build code that is elegant,
practical and efficient, and their creative powers are needed to address all
three qualities effectively.</p>


<p class="MsoBodyTextIndent">In a Fear filled environment, a software developer?s
creativity is compromised and the quality of the end product suffers.</p>


<p class="MsoNormal">Fear is prevalent in organizations of every size and culture
because the human dimension is left out of decision-making processes based on
economic, technical and personal interest considerations. This means that in
the language and in the mind of decision makers, humans often are thought as
replaceable commodities.</p>


<p class="MsoNormal"><!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> <!--[endif]--></p>


<h3>Understanding the impact of Fear</h3>


<p class="MsoNormal">We have grown unaware of the
incredible amount of fear that permeates life in our culture. We have grown to
ignore the tension created by working side by side with colleagues/co-workers
under appearance of togetherness and the reality of personal isolation. As a
consequence, the contradiction between work and private life supposes that our
private life is something that we are supposed to keep hidden and to which our
colleagues/co-workers do not participate in.</p>


<p class="MsoNormal">Understanding the role that fear
plays in the workplace is critical because: </p>


<p class="MsoNormal"><!--[if !supportLists]-->-        
<!--[endif]-->Fear weights heavily on individual psychological processes, </p>


<p class="MsoNormal"><!--[if !supportLists]-->-        
<!--[endif]-->Fear prohibits honest and efficient communication at the group
or community level,</p>


<p class="MsoNormal"><!--[if !supportLists]-->-        
<!--[endif]-->Fear negatively affects team members? behavior,</p>


<p class="MsoNormal"><!--[if !supportLists]-->-        
<!--[endif]-->Fear negatively impacts developers? creativity and
productivity.</p>


<p class="MsoNormal">I started this article by stating that fear is the main
obstacle to Truth telling.</p>


<p class="MsoNormal"><!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> <!--[endif]--></p>


<p class="MsoNormal"><b>Truth
seeking and Truth telling are essential to whole process of software
development</b>.</p>


<p class="MsoNormal">Requirement Gathering, Business Analysis, Specification
Development, Coding and Testing are steps in a process of distilling human
language into small nuggets of truth. So much so that the point of traceability
software tools and of Formal Development Methods is to validate that every
work-product created during the software development process from UML design to
code specifications actually meet each requirement they attempt to satisfy.</p>


<p class="MsoNormal">In that respect, truth seeking is as close to a spiritual
practice as it is to a business process. </p>


<p class="MsoNormal">In order to increase safety, eliminate the separation
between ?life? and ?work?, decrease/eliminate fear at work, make truth seeking
and telling possible, I suggest that to make your project team meetings a blend
of ritual/spiritual practice and business process.</p>


<pre>The Sanskrit word ?Sadhana? comes to mind. ?Sadhana? means: </pre>
<pre><!--[if !supportLists]-->-    <!--[endif]--><i>"Disciplined practice towards a goal?,</i> </pre>
<pre><!--[if !supportLists]-->-    <!--[endif]--><i>?Seeking truth?,</i></pre>
<pre><!--[if !supportLists]-->-    <!--[endif]--><i>The establishment of a truth?</i></pre>
<pre><!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> <!--[endif]--></pre>


<p class="MsoNormal"><b>The role of the Project Manager</b><b> in this proposed
paradigm is to move the project along by keeping the integrity of the team and
of the project while maintaining an atmosphere free of fear.</b></p>


<p class="MsoNormal">I suggest you see each project team as an opportunity to
practice holding the terms of this apparent contradiction.</p>


<h3>How can you free your teams from Fear ?</h3>


<p class="MsoNormal"><!--[if !supportLists]-->-        
<!--[endif]-->Start your team meetings with a seven minutes meditation. This
is not about praying to any form of deity. I am referring here to silent
meditation. (See list of resources in Reference Note # <b>2</b&gt.<br />
You may wonder why starting with a meditation?</p>


<p class="MsoNormal">The meditation
serves several important functions:</p>


<p class="MsoNormal"><!--[if !supportLists]-->o       <!--[endif]-->The
team leader and all the team members make themselves vulnerable. <br />
There cannot be trust in a team without the team lead and team members showing
their true face safely. In other words, the meditation help establish the
safety of the meeting </p>


<p class="MsoNormal"><!--[if !supportLists]-->o       <!--[endif]-->It
serves as a transition from whatever activity a team member was doing before
the meeting and the meeting itself. In other words, it is a tool to help team
member be present in the moment.</p>


<p class="MsoNormal"><!--[if !supportLists]-->o       <!--[endif]-->It
?tunes? the team together. </p>


<p class="MsoNormal"><!--[if !supportLists]-->-        
<!--[endif]-->Follow the meditation by an individual check-in of each team
member, in which confidentiality of any personal matter is guaranteed and no
judgments or comments on each participant?s check-in are allowed.</p>


<p class="MsoNormal"><!--[if !supportLists]-->-        
<!--[endif]-->The individual check-in is followed by an occasion to look at
any negative emotions existing between any team members that would be in the
way of the team?s progress.</p>


<p class="MsoNormal"><!--[if !supportLists]-->-        
<!--[endif]-->The one speaker at a time rule ensures that each individual is
heard and has a chance to speak his/her truth.</p>


<p class="MsoNormal"><!--[if !supportLists]-->-        
<!--[endif]-->Remind the teams you work with, that trust requires
accountability both ways.</p>


<p class="MsoNormal"><!--[if !supportLists]-->-        
<!--[endif]-->Each team member states in detail what he or she did since the
last team meeting.</p>


<p class="MsoNormal"><!--[if !supportLists]-->-        
<!--[endif]-->Each team member reports on any obstacles encountered.</p>


<p class="MsoNormal"><!--[if !supportLists]-->-        
<!--[endif]-->What task each team member commits to accomplish by the next
team meeting. This constitutes a contract that each developer commits with
him/herself and with the team.</p>


<p class="MsoNormal">Each team member captures his/her
commitment in detail on a whiteboard. </p>


<p class="MsoNormal"><!--[if !supportLists]-->-        
<!--[endif]-->Regularly introduce new team building exercises and games.
Team building exercises are important tools to increase the level of comfort
and familiarity between team members in particular when new members are coming
into the team.</p>


<p class="MsoNormal"><!--[if !supportLists]-->-        
<!--[endif]-->Keep the team meeting on task. I have noticed that software
developers love to dig and dwell into the nitty-gritty of a particularly
complex design issue and totally forget that the objective of the Team
Checkpoint meeting is to discuss PROCESS and not content.</p>


<p class="MsoNormal">None of these suggestions are
expensive or complex to implement.</p>


<h5>Objections</h5>


<p class="MsoNormal">The objection
that I have encountered is: </p>


<p class="MsoNormal">We do not have the time for this
bull%$@%#~~!  We have deadlines to meet.
<br />
The question is: What is the cost of failed projects ? What is the cost of
never deployed applications? What is the cost of stress induced heart illness?</p>


<p class="MsoNormal">In a forty-five minute Team
Checkpoint meeting, the protocol I am suggesting here, typically takes less
than fifteen minutes. If need be, this protocol can be compressed to ten
minutes. My experience is that when the protocol takes longer it is because
there are hot subjects that need to be <b>heard</b> and addressed. And if they
are not addressed, they <b>will</b> negatively affect the quality of the work
and the effectiveness of the team.<br />
<!--[endif]--></p>


<p class="MsoNormal">Dealing with your own fear in
implementing this protocol might turn out to be your main obstacle. That fear
might take the form of the fear that team members would reject the protocol out
right, or the fear to make yourself vulnerable by showing your true face,
etc... Whatever it is, remember that these are stories you are telling yourself
in your head and the only way to find out if it works for you is to try. Over
time, you will notice that, in your absence, the team members take ownership of
the practice. They follow the protocol by themselves because they find it of
value.<br />
</p>


<h3>Reach of meditation practice in organizations today</h3>


<p class="MsoNormal">You may wonder what is the
usefulness and the reach of meditation practice in organizations today ?</p>


<p class="MsoNormal">A growing number of organizations
including Apple Computer, Yahoo!, Google, McKinsey, Deutsche Bank, Nortel
Networks, Hughes Aircraft , etc.. offer meditation classes to their employees<b><sup>3</sup></b>.
</p>


<p class="MsoNormal">Ample scientific evidence attests
of the positive impact of meditation on the human physical and mental health. A
regular meditation practice has shown to reduce stress symptoms, lower
cholesterol levels, improve sleep, improve PMS symptoms, decrease risk of
stroke and heart attack, reduce chronic pain, slow the aging process, improve
immune system functions, reduce the length and duration of epileptic seizures,
etc?</p>


<p class="MsoNormal">Because of reduced stress related
illness companies have successfully decreased their medical insurance premium
with a direct return to their bottom line from the mindfulness classes offered
to their employees.</p>


<p class="MsoNormal">I find particularly intriguing the
results of the research performed by Professor Richard J. Davidson. Dr.
Davidson is Vilas Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of
Wisconsin ? Madison and Director of the Keck Laboratory for Functional Brain
Imaging and Behavior. </p>


<p class="MsoBodyTextIndent">Dr. Davidson has focused his research on the neural
substrates of emotion and emotional disorders. In the course of his research
Dr. Davidson has studied the brain activity of meditating Buddhist monks and of
various populations enrolled in regular mindfulness practice using MRI and PET
scanners. You will find in Reference note #<b>4</b>, a short extract of a talk
given by Dr. Davidson at the First International Positive Psychology Summit
that took place in 2002 in Washington D.C. I recommend you read Dr. Davidson?s
remarks.</p>


<h3>Beyond mindfulness classes, combining spiritual and business practices is
the key to Fear Free project teams.</h3>


<p class="MsoBodyTextIndent">The suggestions I listed above go beyond meditation
classes offered to employees over lunch by forward thinking organizations. I am
proposing the blending of spiritual and business practices inside a solid
protocol as part of the every day work life of an IT project team.</p>


<p class="MsoBodyTextIndent">If your objective is to create and maintain a
climate of trust and establish honest communication in your project teams,
these simple suggestions will get you there. </p>


<p class="MsoBodyTextIndent">You may think this is way out of mainstream project
management practices. Considering the growing number of IT professionals who
have a regular personal mindfulness practice, it is time to enrich project
management practices with 4,000 years old mind discipline techniques.</p>


<p class="MsoBodyTextIndent">What do you think ?</p>


<p class="MsoBodyTextIndent">I?d love to hear your ideas.</p>
<p class="MsoBodyTextIndent">Jacques Sapriel</p>


<p class="MsoNormal"><!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--><br />
<!--[endif]--></p>


<p class="MsoNormal"><b><u>References:</u></b></p>


<ol start="1" type="1">
<li class="MsoNormal">A
few books by Professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi on the creative ?Flow?: </li>
</ol>


<p class="MsoNormal"><!--[if !supportLists]-->-         
<!--[endif]-->"Flow: - The Psychology of Optimal Experience? -
Cambridge University Press 1992, </p>


<p class="MsoNormal"><!--[if !supportLists]-->-         
<!--[endif]-->?Finding Flow? Basic Books; Reprint edition (April 1,
1998), </p>


<p class="MsoNormal"><!--[if !supportLists]-->-        
<!--[endif]-->?Beyond Boredom and Anxiety? Jossey-Bass; 2 edition April
15, 2000.</p>


<ol start="2" type="1">
<li class="MsoNormal">A
few paperback books on Meditation:</li>
</ol>


<p class="MsoNormal"><!--[if !supportLists]-->-        
<!--[endif]-->?Wherever
You Go, There You Are : Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life? -- by Jon
Kabat-Zinn </p>


<p class="MsoNormal"><!--[if !supportLists]-->-        
<!--[endif]-->?Insight Meditation: A Step-By-Step Course on How to
Meditate? <br />
by Sharon Salzberg, Joseph Goldstein</p>


<p class="MsoNormal"><!--[if !supportLists]-->-         
<!--[endif]-->?Going to Pieces without Falling Apart: Lessons from
Meditation and Psychotherapy? ? by Mark Epstein</p>


<ol start="3" type="1">
<li class="MsoNormal">Recent
articles in Business Magazines on the use of Meditation in Corporations:</li>
</ol>


<p class="MsoNormal"><!--[if !supportLists]-->-         
<!--[endif]-->?Zen and the Art of Corporate Productivity? ? BusinessWeek
July 28, 2003. <a href="http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/03_30/b3843076.htm">http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/03_30/b3843076.htm</a></p>


<p class="MsoNormal"><!--[if !supportLists]-->-         
<!--[endif]-->?Perspective: Doing well, by doing nothing? ? Inc.
Magazine July 2004</p>


<p class="MsoNormal"><a href="http://www.inc.com/magazine/20040701/perspective.html">http://www.inc.com/magazine/20040701/perspective.html</a></p>


<p class="MsoNormal"><!--[if !supportLists]-->-         
<!--[endif]-->?Meditation: New research shows that it changes the brain
in ways that alleviate stress? ? BusinessWeek August 30, 2004</p>


<p class="MsoNormal"><a href="http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/04_35/b3897439.htm">http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/04_35/b3897439.htm</a>
</p>


<p class="MsoNormal"><!--[if !supportLists]-->-         
<!--[endif]-->?Who says CEOs can?t find inner peace? ? BusinessWeek
September 1<sup>st</sup>, 2003</p>


<p class="MsoNormal"><a href="http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/03_35/b3847080_mz063.htm">http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/03_35/b3847080_mz063.htm</a>
</p>


<ol start="4" type="1">
<li class="MsoNormal">2002 Positive Psychology Summit. ? Dr. Richard Davidson
University of Wisconsin/Madison. ?Positive Affective Styles: Perspective
From Affective Neuroscience?. Transcript from voice recording.<br />
<a href="http://www.gallup.hu/pps/davidson_long.htm">http://www.gallup.hu/pps/davidson_long.htm</a>
</li>
</ol>


<p>?I want to end with something that we have been, that's sort of been on the
back burner but is pertinent to this group, and that is whether a psychological
procedure like meditation, and I certainly don't mean to suggest that
meditation is in any way special or different from other kids of purely
psychological strategies, but the general issue is whether psychological
strategies can indeed modify the central circuitry of emotion in ways that can
promote more positive affective style. </p>


<p>And we happen to be in a position to explore the potential efficacy of
meditation in this domain. And so I don't have time to go through all the
details of this, but we've done one formal study which is now in press showing
that if you take naive people, put them through an eight week program of
meditation, you do see a change in trait anxiety following the eight weeks of
meditation in ways that are not surprising. What we're particularly interested
in is looking at changes in brain function. And we took measures of brain
activity before and after the eight week training as well as six months after
the training ended, and these data just show the change in brain activity.
Again, this is the same metric that I've shown you earlier in all of the other,
many of the other slides, high numbers mean more left-sided activation, and you
can see that the meditation group is showing an increased left-sided response,
the control group is going slightly in the opposite direction. In this study,
we also gave people influenza vaccine and looked at antibody titers, and you
can see that the meditation group is actually showing enhanced antibody titer response
to the influenza vaccine, and the measures of brain function correlate with the
measures of immune function. That is, the individuals who showed the biggest
change in brain activity were the ones who showed the biggest change in immune
function, that's illustrated here.</p>


<p>I'm going to end by just sharing one other piece of data with you. Over the
last decade, I've been honored and blessed with the opportunity to interact on
a number of occasions with the Dahli Lama. He was in my lab last spring, spent
two days there, and it was quite an extraordinary event. And my relationship
with him has been one of the reasons why we have been interested in exploring
these topics, and one of the things that we've done as a consequence of that is
study some Tibetan monks in our laboratory who have spent years cultivating
certain kinds of positive emotional states. And we have a great recruiter to
help us get these highly adept subjects, and that recruiter is the Dahli Lama
himself, and so we've had some really wonderful people in the lab. </p>


<p>And I just want to show you the data from using the exact same metric that
we've used earlier of prefrontal asymmetry taken at baseline, and this is a
histogram of 175 subjects who were tested in our lab on the identical
procedures in the last year or so, and then this is the data point of the one
month that we tested, who, as you can see, is showing the most extreme
left-sided frontal activation.</p>


<p>Let me end by just sharing with you another quote, and this comes from the
Dahli Lama's book, The Art of Happiness, and he said the training of the mind,
the cultivation of happiness, the genuine inner transformation by deliberately
selecting and focusing on positive mental states and challenging negative
mental states is possible because of the very structure and function of the
brain. But the wiring in our brains is not static, not irrevocably fixed. Our
brains are also adaptable. Thank you.</p>


<p>Question and Answer</p>


<p>I was just curious about the meditation. When you had these subjects, did
you give them any specific instructions for meditation, or did you just have
them meditate on whatever they wanted to. And is it just the specific
instructions for kind of focusing on positive, or is it just a kind of state of
mental relaxation that increased this left frontal asymmetry.</p>


That's a very good question. We have studied these
people under a number of different conditions. One is just in their ordinary
mental state, without having them do any specific form of meditation practice.
And one of the things that these people will tell you is that the goal of
meditation is to obliterate the distinction between meditation and every day
life. And so for these people who are very highly trained, presumably they're
walking around with a different kind of baseline state. So some of what we did
is just without any specific instruction, just adopt your ordinary mental state
that you would as you go about your every day life. There are other conditions
where we had the practitioners perform a specific kinds of meditation, and they
are all, the individuals that we've tested are all individuals who have been
trained in the same tradition. And one of the practices that they do, which is
a practice that the Dahli Lama has done since he's been four years of age, and
this is a practice that is done every day, for at least an hour a day, just
think about the impact that any kind?I think of this as skills training, no
different than other kinds of skills?musical training, you know, people in this
culture are obsessed with physical exercise, they go to the gym on a regular
basis?imagine if you trained your mind in this way on a regular basis. And so
the specific practice is a practice that is involved with voluntary cultivation
of compassion. And it is the way I think about it as a western psychologist,
it's kind of a little like systematic desensitization. And what they do is they
actually envision very explicitly, they visualize individuals and situations
with which with whom they have had various kinds of conflict and aversion. They
conjure those people up in their mind or situations up in their mind, and then
they are voluntarily transformed, and they try to exude compassion in response
to the people and situations, which previously were associated with conflict.
And it is a very specific, intentional kind of practice that is done on a very
regular basis. All the members of this tradition who practice do this practice
every day. This is one of the core elements of their, the many different kinds
of practices that they do, but this is one that everyone in that tradition
does.?

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