Living in Utah there are lots of opportunities to explore the past. Last weekend I spent some time tooling around southern Utah visiting ghost towns. A couple of years ago I stopped by another obscure corner of southeastern Utah to visit the ruins at Hovenweep—an ancient Pueblo or Anasazi settlement that was settle sometime between 8,000 to 6,000 B.C.E. and was inhabited until sometime in the 1300s.
Looking at what remains from these communities, I can’t help but marvel at the structures that are still standing. Certainly they had primitive materials to work with, but I don’t think you could call the workmanship of these folks primitive. They definitely understood the fundamentals of masonry construction.
I’m convinced that there are some fundamentals that apply to working with people and managing work that tend to result in more successful projects, here’s the first three:
- Make sure everyone understands what they’re doing and why they’re doing it: It might sound like a no-brainer that everyone should know what they’re doing, but it’s not uncommon for a lot of time to be wasted by people trying to figure out what to do next or what work is the priority. What’s more, people tend to perform better when they understand the value of what they’re doing. “Do it because I told you to” is not the best way to motivate people. Most of us want to work toward a goal that is bigger than ourselves. When we enable people with that vision, they are more likely to step up, be creative and perform at a higher level.
- Make sure everyone is committed to see it through to the end: This doesn’t mean a “damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead” attitude is appropriate. There are times when a struggling project should be put out of its misery before it wastes too much valuable time and resources. It’s important that everyone is committed to see things through. If people are quick to give up in “crunch time” very little will ever get done. This often applies to stakeholders and sponsors who sometimes have short attention spans. Everyone involved in the project needs to have a commitment to see things through to the end.
- Don’t be afraid to empower individuals to make decisions for themselves: I don’t think it matters what type of work you do, forcing people to ask, “Mother, may I” on every decision just isn’t a good idea. If you have the right people on your project team, they should be allowed some autonomy to impact what they do and how they do it. If you can’t trust your people to get the job done, maybe it’s time to start looking for other people. The key is to identify a decision-making process—who has authority to make decisions and what type of decisions can they make?
Implementing the fundamentals will help your team contribute to sustainable initiatives that will stand the test of time. 2000 years from now, I doubt my home will still be standing like the dwellings at Hovenweep.
Do you have any fundamental skills you’d like to add to the list?