ORGANIZE THE COMPANY
Organize the Company
ORGANIZE THE COMPANY
A book by Mathias Baitan
Organising the company: towards a pursuit of optimal organisation, is a book written by Mathias Baitan, a professor at the Geneva School of Management. It is a particularly comprehensive piece of literature, containing explanations and tools on dozens of different subjects. Ranging from the explanation and analysis of Computational Thinking to the Ishikawa diagram and the Achievement Theory.
I have decided to focus on the section dedicated to project management. The author presented many well know tools that we regularly use in AvanTeam such as the SMART criteria, the Gantt chart, the PEST/EL analysis.
The book makes an interesting and unusual distinction between mid-to-long project management and day-to-day management.
Mid-to-long term management uses SMART criteria to better direct actions toward objectives. An example for Avanteam’s 12 Hour Innovation could have been: By May 22 2020, the goal is to generate and implement a detailed sales process that would allow the company to sell between two and three 12 Hour Innovation per month, without any additional financial burden. This is because it will allow each of our members to be able to self-finance a new work computer without having to dip into their personal financial reserve.
On the other hand, day-to-day management consists of the definition and enforcement of the day-to-day operations and objectives. For the 12 Hour Innovation this might mean ensuring that a certain number of calls or e-mails are made by the responsible team members as well as making sure that negotiations with customers abide to the agreed-upon principles. The most challenging part of day-to-day management is ensuring a decent level of communication between each of the team members. This is due to the fact that miscommunication is the number one factor of errors once a project as attained as certain level of complexity. (Baitan, 2017)
Compared to day-to-day management, project management operates in a much more uncertain environment. Therefore, even if the problems encountered when structuring a team or when leading it might appear similar, leading a team often requires a much more formal style management to achieve its quotas.
Bellow you will find what is often considered to be some of the main principles of project management:
1) Division of Labour
It is important to have a clear division of labour in a team. That way each member of a project is dedicated to one aspect of the project. Ideally, they should be able to exercise some control over their turf as this tends to increase engagement.
That does not only increases the total productivity of the group (individuals with only one specific task to perform will work faster and longer (Keller & Papasan, 2012)), but it also increases the satisfaction of each member according to the Achievement Theory. By having a clear and specific task dedicated to them an individual can better appreciate the progress of his work and thus his or her usefulness to the project (Baitan, 2017).
At a certain point, in the Wiil project, we had a loss of individual motivation. In order to regain energy, we decided to share the responsibilities. We weren’t only executors, but we were responsible of different work areas. I can promise that the next day, everybody had a new purpose in the project, and the work was much more qualitative. Only by allocating responsibilities!
2) The Command Unit
In the context of a project, only the project leader (or leaders) should have the ability to give or change instructions relating to the completion of the project. This may seem obvious to small structure, but in a large company, members of a project might also have other roles withing other projects with different project managers. It is imperative that the latter do not intervene in your project organisation and disorganise your workforce. To avoid project managers walking on each other’s toes cross disciplinary communication in vital among executives (Baitan, 2017).
There are two forms of authority, the rational one, based on the technical and organisational skills of the leader, his “hard skills”, and the charismatic authority, based on social skills and an extended relational networks, his “soft skills”.
In the context of a project, there will be a tendency to favour “hard skills” over “soft skills” (even if they are important), because it is above all the ability to make things happen that is sought in this context (Although soft skills are most often fundamental in getting a project started).
When projects are time constrained and with specific objectives, a raked hierarchy where each task manager reports directly to the project leader is
And in order to know the strengths and weaknesses of your team, and know perfectly how to use it efficiently, you can use a BelBin test. That’s what we have done with AvanTeam for the “Tiimidiili” challenge. The day before, everybody shared his BelBin results and the group responsible for the organization the “Tiimidiili” day was able to create the best possible work groups.
- The Management Unit / The Principle of Subsidiarity
If the project leader (or consultant) has appointed one of his team members to be responsible for a theme or an area: e.g. legal or customer relations manager, of the project. It must be ensured that he/she lets the designated individual manage their domain and does not interfere with him/her in his/her handling of his/her team unless it is strictly necessary.
Michael Hyatt explains in his book: “Free to focus”, the delegation is a key to success. But you should know that delegate takes time. Don’t think that you can give a task to your employee and simply let him do it. You must according him your time by explaining how to do what you’re asking him. Michael Hyatt define the five levels of delegation:
- You want the person to do exactly what you have asked them to do.
- You want the person to examine or research a topic and report back to you.
- You are giving the person more room to Operates and participates in the problem-solving process, but you are still reserving the final decision to yourself.
- You want the person to evaluate the options, decide on their own, executes the decision, and then give you an update afterwards.
- You are effectively handing the entire project or task over to someone else an exiting the decision altogether (Hyatt, 2019).
Delegate will save you some precious time to let you focus on what really matter for you. Don’t be afraid to delegate but be sure that’s what you delegate has a real purpose for the person who must execute the job.
- Interest Subordination
During the execution of a project, it is important that, to ensure its success, the general interest of the project takes precedence over the individual interests of its members. This makes the selection process even more important as it must make sure that every stakeholder stay true to this principle.
As we have seen during the Mökkipaja, we had to take collective decision to create the vision and mission of AvanTeam. We use a specific tool, so everybody was able to write his idea, and the each member was able to vote on it. When there were conflicts (meaning that people were not agreeing with the proposition), we asked each side to make a counterproposal. So we were able to reach an agreement. At this moment, the mission and vision were team decision and not individual decision.
- Centralization & Material Order
In the context of a project it is also important to avoid any type of silo mentality. Therefore, the centralization of data and information is oftentimes privileged. In concrete terms: coordination sessions shall regularly be organized and include all the domain managers. During these meetings, planning, financial aspects, scheduling, and risk planning are to be discussed. This centralization also contributes to the creation of a common purpose in the team and the consolidation of a group spirit.
Material order mostly consists of having, whenever possible, a space dedicated to project management. The essential elements of a proper conduct of operations could be posted on the walls: an organizational chart, a Gantt chart, the task schedule for the day, and a list of the project’s objectives. In addition to this, it is possible to add symbols that represent the team’s values. This can help increase the team members’ pride and sense of belonging to the project which can in part boost their involvement with it.
As we’ve seen with AvanTeam Started using Teams, a Microsoft software. We used it to share the information of each project, so everybody could have access to these data. Using software like that helps the team being more efficient, organized and independent. Of course, we could have used it in a more efficient way, but in only a few months of practice we did a great job.
The larger the project, the more important the initiative of its project members is in making it successful. It is therefore key to encourage individual initiatives and risk taking as much as possible as well as put as few barriers to it as necessary. It is nevertheless preferable to formalize these initiatives and share them with the project team in order to maintain the unity of the project team and promote the sharing of sound practice.
Staff stability is one of the major challenges of project management. As human resources are often limited, it is important to make the best use of everyone’s. However, this requires a good distribution of tasks, and the creation of a feeling of belonging, which can often take time to set in. It is therefore important to keep the turnover of the project staff as low as possible (Baitan, 2017).
Rounding it up
There is of course a lot more than just the few aforementioned points when it comes to organizing a company or a dedicated project group. We however feel like these are already so solid base points upon which a team can organise itself. When implemented to their fullest they can already produce tremendous results and show great improvement compared to the way most projects are handled. As evoked earlier, some of these recommendations must not be taken as absolute truths. Every team is made from different people and it would thus be foolish to think that one way to do things always work. After all we are all human being so feel free to experiment, talk to you team, test and see! We would also love to hear from you experiences so please keep us informed.
Baitan, M. (2017). Organize the company. Geneva: Presses polytechniques et universitaires romandes (PPUR).
Keller, G. W., & Papasan, J. (2012). The ONE Thing. Austin: Bard Press.
Belbin. (2020, May 11). Belbin Team Roles. Retrieved from belbin: https://www.belbin.com/about/belbin-team-roles/
Hyatt, M. (2019). Free to Focus. Baket Books.
 By using Belbin, individuals have a greater self-understanding of their strengths, which leads to more effective communication between colleagues and managers. Great teams can be put together, existing teams can be understood and improved, and everyone can feel that they are making a difference in the workplace (Belbin, 2020)