Archive for January, 2014

Breaking Teams

January 31, 2014  |  No Comments

Sun TzuTeams, like an army in the wars, are crucial for the project’s success. In fact teams are the back bone of today’s organizations. Sun Tzu has emphasized on keeping the moral of the army  higher to ensure victory in a war. Same is needed in the organizations to achieve incredible results in projects and strategic initiatives.

About the teams, in The Art of War, Sun Tzu says:
There are three ways in which a ruler can bring misfortune upon his army:

  • By commanding the army to advance or to retreat, being ignorant of the fact that it cannot obey. This is called hobbling the army.
  • By attempting to govern an army in the same way as he administers a kingdom, being ignorant of the conditions which obtain in an army. This causes restlessness in the soldiers’ minds.
  • By employing the officers of his army without discrimination, through ignorance of the military principle of adaptation to circumstances. This shakes the confidence of the soldiers.

In the project management world it is a recipe to break the team and invite project failure directly. A project manager hears,

  • Do not assign tasks that can not be completed by the project team. This will cause them to disobey you and eventually, when the tasks are assigned irresponsibly, disobeying the project manager becomes a habit, consequently leads to project being off track.
  • Do not try to manage the team without empathetic attitude. An effort to manage people with ignorance about their work conditions, situations and dependencies, leads to a feeling of resentment.
  • Do not assign tasks based on personal choices. The tasks must be assigned based on the available skills and the problem at hand. The team’s confidence in the leadership of the project and the organization weakens to a great degree when such decisions are taken without any sense of right or wrong.

Delegation in projects

January 23, 2014  |  2 Comments


Delegation is an essential part of a manager’s job simply because the manager cannot do all the work by himself. In fact, delegation is an important skill which requires the manager to identify which tasks can be delegated to others in the team. In addition, the manager should also select individuals from the team who possess the right level of knowledge, skills and attitude to perform a delegated task well.

Delegating is a balancing act. While it is important to delegate tasks to subordinates which they can perform well, managers should be aware that eventually they will be held responsible for the performance of their subordinates. Some managers become mistakenly obsessed with micromanaging their team members and spelling out each and every detail for their subordinates. This defeats the purpose of delegating because the manager is still not using his time productively. The manager should therefore issue clear instructions and performance standards for the delegated task to the employees and then give them enough freedom and independence to make decisions on their own. In this way, delegating can become a sound exercise in staff development.

You should often assess if you are delegating enough, identify the stumbling blocks, what to delegate, whom to delegate, planning and controlling the delegated tasks. Subscribe to Minimal PM for tips on how to delegate.

Subordinates are likely to appreciate the added responsibility and find their jobs to be more enriching and rewarding.  When done well, delegating can help the manager to improve the productivity and efficiency of the team. Team members are also likely to feel more empowered and experience greater self-confidence. The manager can spend more time on strategic tasks. The following tips can help managers delegate more effectively.

Loyal Team

January 20, 2014  |  4 Comments

Sometimes we may face a situation, where we may have to deal with issues around loyalty. It is a known fact that the organizations struggle to achieve loyalty from the workers, for a loyal employee is less demanding, able to deliver more within the constraints and often stay around even in the harder times. There are a few fascinating thoughts about decreasing employee loyalty and how it has become a victim of the modern workplace realities.

For instance – here is one from Wharton - Declining Employee Loyalty: A Casualty of the New Workplace

Sun Tzu, in The Art of War, offers an intriguing insight -

If soldiers are punished before they have grown attached to you, they will not prove submissive; and, unless submissive, they will be practically useless. If, when the soldiers have become attached to you, punishments are not enforced, they will still be useless.

Though the unquestionable loyalty of the soldiers is a must have feature in an army, it is equally important to bring loyal employees on board in the organizations. The project managers can work with executive, and senior management, to improve employee loyalty at the workplace. The greatest measure one can take is to adopt  policies that show care & sensitivity and promote reasonably fair working conditions.

I can even go to the extent that it must be a KPI for senior and executive management, which the project manager must help to achieve.

The wisdom from the past is eternal, one needs to be open to learn from it.


January 8, 2014  |  No Comments

I have read the Indian epic, ‘Mahabharat’ a couple of times. The stories and the narratives in this ancient book,  leave one to ponder, even in today’s era.

For example, there is a  statement about leadership that an insignificant person makes to the other. He says,

The citizens of a country, whose king is weak, should not marry and beget children. A worthy family life, with culture and domestic happiness, is possible only under the rule of a good and strong king. Wife, wealth and other things are not safe if there be no proper king ruling over us.

In spite of the period when it was written, and the culture it represents, the society it describes and the story it tells, this statement has a lot of importance to all walks of life.

Only if the leadership is clear and strong, a project are aligned with organizational objectives, an organization and its employees can prosper, the cities can see improvements, the societies can advance, the governments can govern & not ‘misgovern’ and the world can become a better place to live.