AOM 2011 – WEST MEETS EAST – DAY TWO
Sorry about the interruption to sending my updates – a middle ear infection got between me and most everything I wanted to do. I got to the sessions though, and my thoughts follow.
Well Day Two proved to be interesting and not about projects at all – unless of course we’re talking about the people side of projects (actually, that really is what projects are all about….)… but I digress.
Session 1 opened with a quote from John Adams – “No man who has ever held the office of President of these United States of America (DD comment – why do the Americans never shorten reference to their country to the US, they always say it in full?) would congratulate a friend on obtaining it”.
It was followed by a lengthy description of the curse of power and some research that powerful people are less happy than everyone else. There was no assessment of which comes first – the desire for power in sad people or power making people sad….and in any case the argument doesn’t elicit much sympathy from me. But it does raise a curious ill feeling when I think that maybe only sad people come to power? No, I simply can’t buy that. It’s too depressing.
There was also commentary on whether the role determines behaviour. (Did the Wall Street behaviour happen because of the positions in which people found themselves or did the people who would behave that way seek the positions in which they could behave that way?) My head is spinning and I’m not sure I’m following the logic…. at this point I realise my head is literally spinning and it turns out to be the onset of the damned ear infection.
Ok, I’m back. The rest of the sessions also reflected on power with observations such as: “power allows for influence by control” whereas competence “allows power because other people follow the person’s abilities and capabilities”. And, “the further up the ladder a person is, the less likely they are to retain power longer term because elevated roles allow little time for thought and reflection”.
Also seems that the more power you have, the less likely you are to get honest feedback, and group discussion and brainstorming sessions are constrained when one person is perceived to have significantly more power than anyone else.
There were lots of case studies and examples drawn from news stories but pretty much I concluded that if you’ve managed to survive in the work world for even a few years you know this implicitly, if not explicitly.
The only thing I found useful and it was described through the backward focus of Wall Street etc, is that there are two perspectives from which people take, own, and use power.
- The first is socialised power, where the people are concerned with the success of those around them and are seen as successful and powerful for the benefits they bring to others (regardless of whether they have power associated with any position;
- The second is personalised power, where people are concerned with the status and prestige associated with occupying powerful positions, and are seen as powerful because of how they use the power – usually through a desire to win out over others and by coercion, restriction of freedom and fear.
There were case studies and assessments of people perceived to have both styles of power and how well they have done (short and long term) – I’ll leave it to you to think about who you know and how they operate.
BUT, and yes I’m bring it back to project management, more and more PM’s are required to use socialised power, as PM positions aren’t seen as powerful in their own right. It’s becoming less and less effective to use personalised power, as few people are allocated totally to one project. We have to develop socialised power in order to work in and across organisations effectively. (I reckon it’s the hardest and sets the best apart from the rest).
Something to think about.
Anyway, I’ll be back with an update on Day 3 that is hopefully more fun to read and more informative. I’m still looking for another case study to equal the Rocky Flats or South West Airlines accounts of past years – studies that are worth getting excited about and compelling enough to share.
Keep smiling, DianePortfolios Programs Projects – simply making them happen