During the course of the analysis and preparation for planning, I am constantly observing the environment.
Organizations are cultures, with their own rituals.
Treating them like an anthropologist treats their culture of study always struck me as a good way to go.
As a consultant, I am essentially a Moderate Observer – someone who attempts to balance insider and outsider roles and maintain a level of detachment in an attempt to remain objective.
Once I get into the throes of the Project Manager role in execution, however, I tend to shift into the Active Observer role.
Sometimes, it’s easier to get stuff done when they think you are “one of them”.
I’m still figuring out this balance.
During Observation, I’m essentially looking for the following:
- Ideological Norms – What people say
- Behavioral Norms – What people do
- Level of integrity between what people say and what people do. Where are the gaps?
- Implicit Norms – The “unspoken rules”
- What is accepted?
- What is “taboo”?
- Risk Tolerance – Do people feel safe enough to make a mistake?
- Change Tolerance – Are people open to change?
- Relationship Behaviors
- Between key individuals – Friendly? Guarded? Hostile?
- Between groups – Friendly? Antagonistic?
Again, I keep all of this information to myself unless specifically asked about what I see in the culture.
I’m not looking for fixes. I’m typically not in the position to “fix” the culture anyway. I’m just looking for an accurate assessment of my environment. What I’m working with.
My final step is to take all of the information I’ve collected and begin to use it to develop my project plan, stakeholder management plan, and project management approach. I’ll talk about that in my next post.
Any Wikipedia articles should be used as a starting point, not the end-all, be-all.
Participant Observation: A Guide for Fieldworkers (affiliate link). You may be able to get this at your local university bookstore.
Watching Closely: A Guide to Ethnographic Observation (affiliate link). This book will help you build this skill across contexts.
I Love Documents – Which documents to collect
The Benefits of Historical Methodology – Steps to analyze your documents
Step 1: Document Analysis – Analysis of individual source documents
Step 2: Synthesis or Finding Trends – Analysis across documents
Step 3: Individual Interviews – Talking to people