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This assignment is a reflective journal since the beginning of this module - Project and Organisational Dynamics. I will reflect on the topics discussed in class, things I have learned from the lectures and how the lectures have impacted my beliefs and understanding. It will combine the first reflective journal and the second. The objective of the journal is to focus, review and see how each topic applies to my personal experiences and maybe align them to my work environments. The reflective journal will help in my participation, development and also enable to discover strategies and methods that will work well for me. Writing the journal will also afford me the opportunity to examine the things I know and how those things relate to my personal experience. It will also reflect on my learning process and bring about links between ideas and experiences.
When we started this module, the first topic we discussed was Organisation Structures and Strategy and Governance. Organisation Structures looked at essential leadership skills that will enable individuals to effectively participate and manage project teams and the importance of organisation structure in project management. The lecture changed my view and understanding about what happens in an organisation or what structures are in place. In any organisation there must be a structure and the type of structure depends on the organisation as it is used in finding the most effective way to delegate duties, share powers and responsibilities. It also helps an organisation to better implement operating systems which will place it in a better position when appointing people to help in implementations. What I gathered is that there are different kinds of organisation structure that I never knew before like functional, product and matrix. In all the organisations I have worked, what mattered to me were my direct bosses and my wages, never wondered what structure in place. The topic created awareness and prompted me to as questions at work. I reflected on my own organisation structure. My boss indicated that we operate functional structure and showed the author the company's organisational chart broken down in a hierarchy system where the MD has the final say in all matters in our facility and then reports to the CEO who has an office somewhere else. The reflection enabled me to ask questions and seek answers. In future, if I work in a different organisation as I hope after this programme, I will like to know the organisation structure in place in the company.
Another topic discussed was Strategy and Governance, the aim of this topic was to discuss the relationship between strategy and project management and identify typical strategic management process and the reasons organisations fail in their efforts to implement strategies successfully. The slide covered projects and strategy, corporate governance which concerns accountability, responsibility and direction and control. Strategic governance is about focusing and refocusing of five lenses of internal and external environment shown below.
Decision making under uncertainty
Strategic clarity vs. freedom of choice
Strategic alignment of the project portfolio
A performance ethic (Faughey, 2012).
Looking at the five lenses described in the lecture slide, I identified a familiar one used in my company. I work in a telecommunication company that often engage in projects such as product projects, services projects, IT projects, customer value projects etc. To ensure these projects succeed, our company normally use Strategic alignment of the project portfolio which enables it to ensure that the four domains illustrated below supports each other before carrying out a project.
From the lecture, I was able to see the difference between strategy and project and how compatible both are in their applications. The lecture slide cited Scott (1997) that defined strategic planning as a set of decision rules which guide a company's resource allocation process, taking into account both the short and long term. Larson and Gray (2011) argued that project is a temporary endeavour undertaken to create a product, services or results that satisfies a customers needs. A project can only succeed through effective project management which is an ideal tool for strategic planning and strategic implementation (Robert and Gardiner, 1998, cited Faughey, 2012). Reflecting on these two topics, I gathered that the success of any project begins with its strategy, and the success of any project strategy begins with its organisation structures. So, as organisations expands, innovates and invest in new products and services, it embarks on new projects to achieve its goals. For a project to succeed, it is important that an organisation establish an internal structure consisting of people, groups, teams that will be directly involved in the project.
With an effective organisational structure, people and groups work effectively together and develop hard work ethics and attitudes (Small Business). Organisation structure provides not only guidance to everyone involved in a project but also lays out official reporting relationships that govern the workflow (Small Business). Without it, employees will lack operational efficiency and clarity, making it difficult or impossible for them to know who is in charge, and who to report to whenever situations arise. Again, what I understand is that projects needs strategies to succeed and lack of project strategy may render a project less beneficial. Obviously, bad strategy implementation can cause a project to fail so it is essential to understand the goal of the project, what the organisation is trying to achieve and that will make the difference. Some/all of these reasons can cause projects to fail. Professor Anita McGahan in an article on MDC Journal (2010) stated "You can't make intelligent investments within your organization unless you understand how your whole industry is changing." On this basis, I conclude, an organisation undertaking a project must clearly understand why the project is necessary, target, establish an effective project structure and map out a strategy for implementation.
The next lecture topic was about - Developing Self Awareness. As manager or project manager, certain qualities are very important, ability to manage differences and distinctions in people of different backgrounds and cultures is essential. Goleman (1995) described self awareness as first component of Emotional Intelligence, which means knowing one's emotions, strengths, weaknesses, needs, and drives. He pointed out that people with strong self-awareness are neither overly critical nor unrealistically hopeful. They are simply honest with themselves and others, as a result recognises how their feelings affects them, others and job their performance. The topic taught me an important lesson that a person who is self-aware will know where he/she is headed and why, has self confidence, knows his/her capabilities and is unlikely to fail. Whetten and Cameron (2011) noted, it lies at the heart of the ability to master oneself, though, it is not enough on its own. In order to be self aware, they quoted Messinger, 'he that wants to govern others must first master himself.' As a result of this lecture, I evaluated myself to check my personal self awareness using the text exercise. The assessment indicated that I am in the second quartile of self awareness and very low on emotional intelligence. This means that I have to work hard to improve my emotional intelligence.
We looked at enigma of self awareness and the lecturer explained that it is the knowledge that we possess about ourselves that is key to our personal growth but most times individuals will prefer to deny or avoid them for fear what they may uncover about them. By denying them, we cannot improve ourselves or develop new capabilities (Whetten and Cameron, 2011:80). Uncovering information about oneself can have effect on sensitive lines. Sensitive line is when an individual becomes defensive or protective about unavoidable information that can be verified, predicted or controlled which leads to threat rigidity response (shocked or startled) or self-disclosure (open-mindedness). This is very common with me, I hate negative feedbacks and tries to shy away from information that will reveal hidden weaknesses or capabilities. Again, if or when those hidden information about me emerges, I tend to be shocked and defensive. I have never seen that as a problem until now because I hate to be judge or perceived in a different light apart from the one I prefer.
Other aspects of self awareness discussed were Tolerance of Ambiguity, Locus of Control, Inter-personal Needs
Tolerance of Ambiguity - This deals with individual ability in dealing with ambiguity
Locus of Control - The attitude people develop when they are in control of their destiny
Inter-personal Needs - The relationship with other people
Having done the exercise, it was clear that self awareness is about having a clear understanding of one's personality, strengths, weaknesses, emotions etc. Though, I did not do very well in my assessment, by being self aware of my strength and weaknesses, I have been able to slightly understand some of my colleagues, what makes them tick, and also understand how they perceive me from my actions and interactions with them. Until the lecture, I have never taken the time to evaluate myself. Lately, dealing with difficult colleagues at work is much more pleasant now and a new amicable relationship has also been established. Through the lecture, I learned my strengths and weaknesses, and how to put them into good use and improve on my weaknesses. So far, this bearing fruits in the workplace.
(Source: Whetten and Cameron, 2012:85).
Stress management is another aspect of self awareness even though its importance in project management has been downplayed. As project teams continue to face tougher challenges operating in a business environment that is influenced by rapid change and increasing time pressures, stress management becomes an important unavoidable topic (Larson and Gray, 2011). Lewin (1951) described stress as a force field, all individuals and organisations exist in an environment filled with reinforcing or opposing forces that can stimulate or inhibit desired performance (Whetton and Cameron, 2011). Stress is induced by our senses' inability to function effectively in unfamiliar territories. It is also the result of our reaction to outside events, not necessarily the events themselves (Oxford Brookes). The topic was about how to manage personal stress in our everyday lives including work. The learning objective was to understand our personal stressor, how it can stop us being effective, how to eliminate or reduce it, how to increase our level of resistance etc. I enjoyed the lecture because of the everyday stress associated with my work so the topic was very important. Managing stress and time is crucial management skills a manager must possess (Whetten and Cameron, 2010:134). Stress can have destructive effect on individuals/others if not properly managed. I have heard stories in the news about post-traumatic stress among soldiers, post natal stress among new moms/moms, stress among airline pilots etc, all these are different types of stress.
Elements of Stress
According to David Ingram (2011), negative stress can lead to a variety of problems, which in turn can bring about a range of negative consequences for both employees and their employers. In describing the 'force field theory, Lewin (1951) using the illustration below suggested that certain forces drive or motivate changes in behaviours while other forces restrain or block them.
Force Field Analysis
Restraining forces (against change)
Driving forces (for change)
Should the stressors continue in a workplace, an employee is at significant risk of developing physiological and psychological disorders that can lead to increased absenteeism, organisational dysfunction or decreased work productivity.
Whetten and Cameron (2011) stated that not only does stress negatively impact employees, they also impede effective management behaviours. Discussing the issue about stress was very scary for me so I researched online and found the destructive impact of stress. One scary aspect to know is that a stressful person is like a walking time bomb waiting to go off.
How does one cope with stress?
Stress cannot not be avoided, so the question I asked, 'how does one cope with it? Whetten and Cameron (2011) highlighted three strategies for coping with stress as
Enactive Strategies - Permanent effect
Proactive Strategies - Long term effect
Reactive Strategies - Short term effect
Reasons for Stress
Reflecting on this topic, I gathered that stress is like an illness and the only way to cure an illness is by first identify the root cause of the illness. It will be hard to manage stress without identifying the stressor. The management of stress identified several stressors including but not limited to
Time Management Stressors - Work overload, Lack of control
Encounter Stressors - Role conflicts, Issue conflicts, Action conflicts
Situational Stressors - Unfavourable working conditions, Rapid change
Anticipatory Stressors - Unpleasant expectations, Fear (Whetten and Cameron, (2012)
The lecture was so uplifting, addressed hidden issues that I suffer from at work, and how to either eliminates or reduce them. Using the exercise on the textbook, it helped me in looking at how stress affects me, though my score was low but can be improved. As result a of the stress management topic, our team decided to use stress in our group scoping assignment. We discovered that stress is virtually unavoidable, we experienced it on different levels of the assignment. There was one stressor among us, 'the doing well stressor.' Doing well in the assignment was important to us and the thought of the opposite was a stressor. So to do well, we met after a long stressful day at work to work on the assignment but things never went as planned due to conflicts and disagreements on the format or shape of the projects. Though, we relied on each other for support but disagreed on a certain format before finally agreeing. The impact as stated by Whetton and Cameron (2011) was a change in performance due to imbalanced forces.
Consequences of Stress
Stress has many consequences, as a team we experienced a few of them during the assignment such as
Our inability to carry out our tasks due to stress was unbearable and impacted negatively on the level output required which caused anger, helplessness and demotivation.
Under-performance was one major consequences of stress that affected our group. While the group is not affected by self-orientated individuals, it suffered from under performance due to members prioritising certain tasks creating mood swings. Communication issue was root cause of the problem too as members were not communicating enough about their difficulties until the last day that we were suppose to comply our individual tasks.
Poor Decision Making
Making decisions under normal circumstances is tough however making decisions when stressed is even harder. Thompson (2010) states that by being aware of the consequences of poor decision-making individuals can avoid stress, turning it into an ally. The stress that the group experienced led to poor decisions making. Lack of thought resulted in the subject area being too narrow resulting in rushed decision making and the group having to re-think the project scope, costing the group valuable time.
Stress Management Assessment among team members
The team decided to use the individual stress management assessment result in the textbook to determine our stressors. Collectively, we are quite effective at using strategies to reduce stress however it became clear that one member needs to continue to learn how to cope with stress which can be achieved through more efficient time management, improved emotional intelligence and using small wins or goal setting.
Developing resiliency is the ability to handle long lasting stress while withstanding the negative effect it causes. Through our assessments, we learned that we have high level of resiliency and by improving, we can increase our ability to better handle stress in the long-run. Understanding stress, the way to manage and control it, I was able to apply that it to my everyday life. Time management has always been my biggest stressor. But in this programme, it is essential to be able to manage my time effectively but it is hard with so many things to do and so little time. The topic has helped me to some extent in time management but still has a long way to go.
The objective of this topic was to teach students how to build supportive relationship, avoid defensiveness and disconfirmation in interpersonal communication, improve relationships etc. One of the most important qualities of an effective project manager is interpersonal skills. Honey (1988) suggested that interpersonal skills are face to face personality that one requires to achieve something useful with the help or through others. Positive relationship is key to creating positive energy, it brings out the best in employees to perform and to concentrate better on the job. Without positive relationship, employees' will experience low morale, emotionally exhausted which can lead to tension or animosity on the job. Whetten and Cameron (2011) noted that when people experience positive relationships they feel elevated, revitalised and enlivened. Personally, this is very common with me, I have not only the people that motivate and encourage me to go the extra mile both at work and in personal relationships but also those to avoid that de-energises and have no positivity to share.
One important aspect of building relationship is communication. Communication skill according to Peter and Waterman (1982) is a talent that enables one to communicate his/her point of view so others clearly understand him/her. Whetten and Cameron (2011) noted that it is the most important skill in building and strengthening positive relationship. Communication is not only about talking, it involves listening, body language, facial expressions etc. Even with bad or negative information being communicated, one can be energised and uplifted by the way it is communicated. To better understand communication, the way we communicate with others is the same way others perceive us. Supportive communication enables us to communicate accurately and honestly especially in difficult situations without jeopardising interpersonal relationships (Whetten and Cameron, 2011:264). I have heard people refer to somebody as a nice person without actually knowing the person well. When I ask how they knew, they simply answered the way that person communicates with them. The way we communicate translates who we are, and it is important to improve our communication skills.To better understand good communication, the illustration below explains what constitutes good communication.
Discussing communication in lecture, we gathered that bad communication can be misconstrued and lead to major problems as was evident in an exercise we did in class involving a project manager, Head of Credit Risk, Head of Business Banking Services etc. In the exercise the project manager's project proposal seem to be all about him and the organisation, nothing for the stakeholders (other depts.). The PM felt that the most important person he needed on his side was the Head of Credit Risk and communicated with him but failed to communicate with others. As a result he wasn't getting the support and approval from others for his proposal. What we learnt is that in projects all stakeholders must be communicated and involved for a project to succeed. It means, in projects, no man is an island. With every I know about good communication, I can put up my hand and say I am bad in communication. For one reason, I have a very strong voice that sometimes when I say things at work, it is easy to be mistaken as commanding. Secondly, when I want things done, the way I communicate it may be clear enough to me but I will work away assuming the other person is clear too. Communication skill is a big issue for me that this topic will help me address.
Conflict is defined as an interactive process manifested in incompatibility, disagreement, or difference within or between social entities (Fenn and Gameson, 1992:370). In some cases conflict can be good as it helps individuals look at things from different angles. Without conflict, tension between competing perspectives can foster a climate of complacency (Whetten and Cameron, 2011:398). It is believed that conflict in groups is essential in order to achieve a successful outcome. Ultimately, conflict in teams is about establishing the right balance and managing this effectively (Whetton, 2011). As outlined by Friedman et. al (2000) the level of conflict in teams determines the amount of stress felt by its members. Mild conflict among the group can be unavoidable due to the effect of stress caused by lack of time management and planning and looming deadline.
Conflict Management is a skill that is important in any organisation, in order to manage conflict, one must first understand the source of the conflict. This topic taught me the different types of conflicts and sources of conflicts. In diagnosing conflicts, there is conflict focus which is people focus (in your face) and issue focus (negotiation). The lecturer pointed out that conflict source can be due to personal differences (individual backgrounds or beliefs) or informational deficiencies (factual and clarifying information), role incompatibility (interdependent task responsibilities) and environmentally induced stress (stress of the organizationally environment).
Conflict Management Approach
What I learned is that it does not matter what type of conflict, it is important to be able to manage it effectively. There are five management approaches
Forcing - Assertive, Uncooperative (get you way)
Accommodating - Cooperative, Unassertive (don't upset the other person)
Avoiding - Uncooperative, Unassertive (avoid the conflict)
Compromising - Pertains to Cooperative and Assertive (reach agreement quick)
Collaborating - Cooperative, Assertive (solve the problem together)
(Whetten and Cameron, 2011).
The key learning for me conflict management approaches, even though instinctively we do them everyday, it was good to learn how to apply them and the appropriate time to apply them.
Motivation, Empowering and Delegating
This topic deals with motivation, empowerment and delegation, the objective is to develop and execute plans to empower others and proactively adopt principles of personal empowerment. Looking at motivation, it an individual's desire and energy combined to achieve a common goal, the willingness to perform at work. Diagnosing work performance problems, researchers came up with a formula to determine task performance as
Performance = Ability x Motivation (Effort)
Ability = Aptitude x Training x Resources
Motivation = Desire x Commitment.
This is very mathematical for me, I really could not understand it at first but reflecting on it and discussing with colleagues, the formula was explanatory enough. What I gathered from the topic is that people are motivated by different factors but where someone is under-performing, the best thing to do is to find out what is causing it, either lack of ability or lack of motivation. There are four important questions that can give clues to the problem
How difficult are the tasks being assigned to the individual?
How capable is the individual?
How hard is the individual trying to succeed at the job?
How much improvement is the individual making?
With these four questions, it may boil down to the individual's inability to perform the task, in that case a manager may apply five tools necessary for improving individual's ability, which is
1. Resupply - Making sure the person have what it takes for the task
2. Retrain - Retrain the person to enhance his/her ability
3. Refit - Refitting the person to his/her tasks
4. Reassign - Reassign the person to lesser role with less responsibilities
5. Release - If all the other four tools fails, it will be wise to release the person from the job.
Sometimes, it may not be individual's inability that is the problem in performing tasks, it could be level of reward to the individual. Key learning about motivation is that motivation is crucial to performance and establishing ways of motivating employees through reward is very important. Motivation through reward is especially important in influencing performance and behaviour at work. The focus is to understand individual motivations and level of pay reward. Employees perform better believing that extra efforts attract extra reward. Robinson (2006) outlined that "motivated employees generate high levels of performance, are enthusiastic and energetic and are more committed and loyal to the organisation." Whetten and Cameron (2011), agreed stating that behaviours that positively affect performance should be contingently reinforced through reward.
Another topic was empowerment and delegation. According to Whetten and Cameron (2011), to empower means to help others develop a sense of self confidence, and overcome feelings of powerlessness or helplessness, energises people, mobilises intrinsic motivation etc. Faughey (2012) in the class slide defined it as providing freedom for people to do what they want to do (pull), rather than getting them to do what you them to do (push). When people are empowered, they are happier, motivated and performs well. There are five dimensions of empowerment
Self-efficacy - Sense of personal competence
Self-determination - Sense of personal choice
Personal consequences - Sense of having impact
Meaningfulness - Sense of value in the activity
Trust - Sense of security
My key learning here is by being empowered, we are motivated to do a good job, trusted that we will do a good job and empowered with a challenge.
Delegation on the other hand means assigning a responsibility or authority to another person to carry out a task that is not primarily their responsibility. Delegation and empowerment are similar but not necessarily the same as pointed by the lecturer. At my job, sometimes when my boss cannot do all the jobs by himself, he delegates some task to me to lead team or project and report back my findings. This empowerment means that at the moment the decision about how we carry on rest on my shoulder and I am responsible for all team members. It can be a one-off task that needs to be done and other time I may be empowered to step in and take charge in the absence of the man in charge. Honestly, I love it, it is very motivational and goes to show how much I am valued and trusted at my work, it helps me grow in the company.
Designing Effective Team
A work team is an interdependent collection of individuals who share responsibility for specific outcomes (Thompson, 2011:4). There are several types of teams
Functional team - A work team composed of a manager and the employees
Problem-solving team - 5 to 12 hourly employees from the same department
Quality circle - 8 to 10 employees and supervisors who share an area of responsibility
Self-managed work team - A formal group of employees that operates without a manager
Cross-functional work team - A team composed of employees from about the same hierarchical level
Virtual team - A team that meets electronically
What I learned about effect team is that they help team members work more efficiently and they have common purpose. It is like football team that plays to win a match, it doesn't matter who scores the winning goal, as long as they win. When they win it is not the goal scorer that won, it all of them. Teams work in unity. There are so many advantages to teams and teams also have certain characteristics as illustrated below.
Source: Faughey (2012), Class slide
Having done these topics and reflected on them, I have acquired a lot knowledge about myself, qualities I never knew I had and some that I have to work on. For instance self awareness As a result of this lecture, I evaluated myself to check my personal self awareness using the text exercise. The assessment indicated that I am in the second quartile of self awareness and very low on emotional intelligence. This means that I have to work hard to improve my emotional intelligence. I also know that I hate negative feedbacks and try to shy away from information that will reveal hidden weaknesses or capabilities. Since the lecture, I have been working very hard to take every feedback on board even if it is negative. In terms of stress, my major stressor is time management and I have been able to cope with it since the lecture by not waiting till the last minutes to do the things I want to do. My communication skills have improved and I have better personal relations with my team members both at work and at school. I have done a lot of things to improve the way I do things which is very good but there is plenty of rooms for improvement.