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ASK PM NETWORK
Don’t let technology completely take over. BY BUD BAKER, PhD, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR
QI’ve just changed jobs, moving to a project team that seems a lot more focusedontasksthanitdoesonpeople.
Ouch! Why does it seem so hard for
project teams to strike a balance
between taking care of the work and
taking care of the people?
AManaging projects has always involved the marriage of sophisticated technology and people. From the earliest days of human history, people
have used advanced technology to carry out their projects.
Even now, we don’t always understand exactly how they did
it: Just look at the astonishing astronomical alignments of
Stonehenge, the building techniques of the Anasazi cliff
dwellers in the southwestern United States and the seemingly magical precision of the Nazca lines in Perú.
But as we increasingly rely on technology, we need to
pay correspondingly more attention to the human side of
organizations. In his book Megatrends: Ten New Directions
Transforming Our Lives [Warner Books Inc., 1982], John
Naisbitt called it “high tech/high touch.”
Some recent experiences with a troubled project office,
however, suggest such balancing of people and tasks is a
difficult job indeed.
A Community Lost
Arriving after a series of people-oriented project leaders, the
new project manager quickly set a different tone. He
scorned meetings and so did everything possible to minimize them. “If we’re meeting, we’re not doing,” he said, to
the initial approbation of meeting-haters throughout the
organization. Frequency of meetings dropped from weekly
to monthly, and even those were often canceled.
Soon team member turnover increased, helped along
by the less-than-friendly style of the new boss. These
departures broke some important social bonds, and people
responded by staying in their offices a little more. Another
early casualty was the office coffee pot—messy and
money-losing, it was a popular site for office gossip and
disappeared within a month or two. Even the team’s lan-
guage began to change as the new boss brought with him
the jargon of his previous assignment,
and people followed suit.