My cyber colleague Kiron Bondale posted his original article on his blog, Easy in Theory, Difficult in Practice. I encourage you to read it as it’s good advice on its own. With his permission, I’ve created a fusion of his thoughts and my own (a non-Vulcan mind meld, if you will) to challenge the way we think about viewing our project teams for the best chance at success. I wrote something similar on this site a while back. You may want to refer to that as well.
Kiron: When Gene Roddenberry staffed the U.S.S. Enterprise with a highly diverse set of races, species & genders, he used Star Trek as his soapbox to challenge pervasive social injustices of the late Sixties. However, by doing so, he also provided another benefit of diversity: improved risk management.
When you consider the Enterprise’s original mission, it meets many of the criteria for a large, highly complex project:
- Scope – to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations.
- Schedule – five years.
- A unique endeavor – its original mission statement “to boldly go where no one has gone before” reinforces how unique the mission was.
In multiple episodes from the original series, and later through some of the movies, we saw instances of where diversity was a key contributor in helping the crew overcome dire situations. One such example comes from Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan. Of the entire crew, Spock was the only person strong enough to withstand the radiation within the matter/antimatter chamber to jumpstart the Enterprise’s engines. Anyone other than a Vulcan would likely have been overwhelmed before the process could have been completed.
Mark: Such a simple, yet highly relevant analogy. Maybe our projects won’t be quite this grand in scale – in fact, I doubt any of us will be exploring “strange new worlds” even if scope creep extends our timeline to 5+ years. Still, why don’t we consider diversity as not only a good thing, but a critical requirement when we engage our project teams? Why do we accept that people on our teams do what they’ve always done just because they’ve always done it? It’s been said over and over that “If we don’t grow our people, they’ll go somewhere that does” and yet stagnation and a homogeneity of perspective persist.
Kiron: So how does diversity facilitate more effective risk management?
When identifying risks, use of checklists and historical data can help unearth uncertainties which would otherwise have been missed, but they are no substitute for a diverse range of expertise. If team members and stakeholders have similar educational and experiential backgrounds, there is a greater possibility of key risks remaining unidentified.
When analyzing risks or when monitoring early warning signs of risk realization, diversity is a good way to overcome risk biases and groupthink.
Finally the quality of risk responses is constrained by the creativity and imagination of the team. It is well known that properly harnessed diversity promotes greater creativity.
So the next time you have the opportunity to tackle a challenging project, resist the temptation to staff the project with team members who are just like you by making diversity one of the key criteria for resource selection.
Mark: So to prepare for the future, we must learn from the lessons of the past … and we must TRANSCEND those lessons so we can move to something truly great and innovative. We have to shake ourselves out of the dull, sleepless dream of the same old thing and embrace real change. In doing so, we can run our projects better and that includes our approach to risk. Our new battle cry won’t be “divide and conquer” but rather “diversify and transcend!”
Kiron Bondale has managed multiple mid-to-large-sized technology and change management projects, and has worked in both internal and professional services project management capacities. He has setup and managed Project Management Offices (PMO) and has provided project portfolio management and project management consulting services to over a hundred clients across multiple industries. Kiron is an active member of the Project Management Institute (PMI) and served as a volunteer director on the Board of the PMI Lakeshore Chapter for six years. You can reach Kiron at email@example.com
Mark Moore has held multiple professional positions in IT and business for nearly three decades serving organizations both small and large, public and private. With over half that time as a project manager, he has successfully managed major initiatives
spanning multiple years with a cost of over $3 Million and teams of over 250 people. He has been a Project Management Professional since 2002, served as President of the PMI Western Michigan Chapter, and presented at multiple NCPMI Annual Events. Mark holds a Masters of Education degree from Colorado State University with a concentration in Adult Education and Training. He is an experienced writer, speaker and presenter on project management and team building topics. Mark is the Principal Consultant for Broken Arrow Associates, LTD. He and his family live in a rural area outside of Raleigh, North Carolina.
To contact Mark for opportunities or questions, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.