| Culture [is] a pattern of basic
assumptions -- invented, discovered, or developed by a given group
as it learns to cope with its problems of external adaptation
and internal integration -- that has worked well enough to be
considered valid and, therefore, to be taught to new members as
the correct way to perceive, think, and feel in relation to those
problems. -- Edgar H. Schein, Organizational
Culture and Leadership
The research is in and
what it tells us, repeatedly, is that good project cultures
lead to high performance and satisfaction, bad ones to failure
The obvious question, then, for every project leader is: What
can you do to establish a culture of high performance and value?
The starting point is to realize that the project leader has
the greatest impact on a project team's culture. Forget about
everything else and every other excuse. Successful project leaders
find ways to design cultures of high performance -- cultures
where quality and innovation exist side by side and where intrinsic
motivation and personal satisfaction go hand-in-hand.
Leadership shapes the communication, behavior, rituals, stories,
values, and day-to-day performance on a project. It's the attitude
of the leader that engenders the support of the team members.
Projects that provide meaningful work, autonomy, and performance
feedback stand out as the optimal cultures.
But what can you do to cultivate a high-performance culture?
It doesn't have to be as glib as, "You either got it, kid, or
In support of NASA project teams, the Academy of Program
and Project Leadership (APPL)
has sponsored research that has generated a simple yet
powerful organizing system for project leadership and
culture. Through Performance
Enhancement services, this system provides project
leaders the competencies to understand, predict, and
shape performance culture by focusing on four dimensions:
Directing/Organizing, Visioning/Inventing, Valuing/Honoring,
Projects are assessed to formulate improvement strategies,
which may include APPL mentoring and coaching services
from some of the best project leaders in the world.
Some project managers choose to have their teams participate
in a three-day workshop designed to help understand
and improve project culture. Assessments are repeated
after about three months, and results thus far reveal
a statistically significant improvement in project culture.
The success of NASA comes down to the successful performance
of our programs and projects. The project world is one
of complexity, uncertainty, and ever-changing variables.
High-performance culture is essential for success --
and you, as the project leader, are the greatest influence
on your team's culture. If you want it, APPL has support
available for you and your project team. Let me know
how I can help.