Our Blog

where we write about the things we love

25

Jul

Personalities in a project

In each project you will find people with different personalities who very often play a role within the team which suits them to a tee. Just looking back at my last project I can think of a few and it always amazes me just how much impact and how essential each of these personalities are on the successful outcome of a project.

Different personalities at play in a project

To illustrate that, I made up a completely fictitious but above all ridiculous project. 

Vocal Visionary: “I have a dream”

We are going to run an amazing charity event for Africa and we are aiming to raise $1,000,000. We want a life-sized and very life-like giraffe cake which moves through the venue for that extra wow factor. And there will be a professional photographer, so guests can pay for a picture with the cake and later they get a chance to bid for pieces of the cake. I think we should take into account that the head could be auctioned off for the highest price, compared to parts of the neck or body. Don’t worry about the venue, that has already been taken care of. All we need to provide is the mobile cake and the event is still an entire month away, so that should be plenty of time!

A visionary is a critical part of a project team as they push the rest of the team to do some out of the box thinking, asking for things they have never even thought of. They paint a picture of a vision in their head which quite possibly will only be realised once technology catches up with them. They inspire, they challenge, their ideas are in no way constrained by the boundaries of reality and risks are very far from their mind. They are exciting people and there are simply not enough of them in this world.

Tedious Teenager: “But why?”

Right guys, Vocal Visionary and I have discussed this cake and in summary this is what we need: a cake in the shape of an animal that would commonly be associated with Africa as that ties it to the charity; he mentioned he likes giraffes. It has to be life-sized and realistic for that wow factor. There will be 3,000 guests and half will be expecting to be bidding for the cake, so it needs to be able to be cut up into that many pieces. The head will be a single piece as that is likely to raise the most money. It needs to be mobile, moving around the venue at very slow speed so guests can admire the art work and be inspired to bid. It needs to incorporate the top three most popular flavours, which after some research I believe are chocolate, vanilla and lemon. It will have to look good from all angles as we will be offering the guests an opportunity to have their picture taken with the cake which will be another money raising opportunity. Hmmm, not sure about that Giraffe idea… it would result in pictures of guests with giraffe legs. Anyway, whatever we do we will have to minimise the risk that guests trip and fall into the cake. You still have about 3 ½ weeks left to do all the work, easy!”

The Tedious Teenager mainly asks “Why” to get to the root requirement. The requirement here was not specifically a giraffe cake, rather an animal that fits well with the Africa theme. They are information hungry, always asking for more insight: What about flavours? Anything particular about the way the cake needs to be cut? How many pieces? How much money do you want to raise, so how much money is the cake allowed to cost and so on. Understanding the root requirement that resulted in the Vocal Visionary’s vision, is crucial when the time comes to apply a reality check to it. The Tedious Teenager focusses on the business value and will try to balance business value with cake cost. They will focus on what is in it for the guest and worry about whether they will want to pay for the cake or a picture. Just sharing the vision, but maybe with a little more attention to detail, and any risks to manage and minimise.

Logical Landscaper: “Let me break it down for you”

Well team, based on what Tedious Teenager told us, I decided to have a look at the venue. Since the ceiling is 2 ½ meters high, a life-sized giraffe would never fit. Besides I think that cutting the head and neck for auctioning would be at a very risky height, so health and safety wise, not a wise design. I had another chat to Vocal Visionary and we came up with an alternative: a male and a female lion lying on their sides. Easy and safe to access and cut. To meet the mobility requirement, I suggest to use a rail system with a motorised platform to put the cake on and I have a design which maximises photo opportunities and minimises the risk of guests tripping and falling into it.” So now you have three weeks left to put it all together, let’s get going.

Logical Landscaper is a structural thinker who focuses on the What. They decompose the request into bite sized components to be tackled by the team. They identify the technical or not so technical constraints of each component and try to find solutions, guided by the vision and the root requirements behind it, but also by best practice. BAM! There it is, Reality.  Never losing track of the big picture, they aim for all the pieces of the puzzle to form that life-sized, realistic, mobile, African animal cake that can safely be photographed and auctioned off in attractive and yummy pieces.

Courageous Creator: “You ask; we deliver”

I’ll calculate the number of rails, the size of the platform and the kind of motor we need and last but not least all the ingredients for the cake. And I need a picture of lions to use for the cake design. We also need to make sure we have privileges to put the rails in the venue. And can we also have confirmation that cutlery, auctioning mechanisms and payment solutions are out of scope for us? We have selected the best recipes for specified flavours and we don’t foresee any issues baking the lion cakes. We will need a specialist to help decorating to make the lion cakes look as realistic as possible, I think the lion’s mane will be the biggest challenge. Building that platform might take a while, I do think we will need the remaining full three weeks. Shall I start with the chocolate part of the cake now? I have the ingredients ready to go, so... Hey, I could bake some strawberry cub cakes, wouldn’t that be cute?

Where Tedious Teenager worries about the Why, the Courageous Creator simply gets on with it and focusses on the How. They aim to please and deliver exactly what Vocal Visionary asks for, just as long as they find a way to do it. They have a real attention to detail and are acutely aware of what is possible and what is not. They will find ways to lower any risks identified so far and quite possibly find a couple of new ones to worry about, but mainly focus on getting the job done on time.

Noble Navigator: “This way guys”

We need to start ordering the motor for the platform and then start building it. Do we have all the rails we need? Don’t worry about baking the lions yet as they only need to be complete in three weeks. I love the cub cakes idea, but to be honest the lions will feed all the guests easily and the cubs would only cause delay and increase cost and may not be sold. Let’s not get distracted. By the way, did you see that the main road is going to be closed for the next two months? I think we need to make sure we calculate in additional transportation time.

Where would we be without Noble Navigator? We’d end up arriving late or even in the wrong place. They are key in keeping the team heading in the right direction to reach the goal and meet deadlines. They recognise distractions as well as the right reasons for a change in direction. Noble Navigator is the one the rest of the team happily follows as they are the ones who know the fastest way to get to where the team want to be.

The impact of each different personality

A team without Vocal Visionary would have made a couple of chocolate mud cakes and displayed them on a table and they, due to lack of wow factor, would have raised a fraction of $1,000,000.

A team without Tedious Teenager would have baked a giraffe cake as the team would have believed that to be the only option, rather than an example. The giraffe would have probably been scaled down to make it fit the venue. However perfect the scaled down giraffe would have looked, it would have not reached the intended wow factor and a lot of guests would have missed out on bidding for a piece. So again the intended $1,000,000 would remain a dream and the project would be seen as a failure.

A team without Logical Landscaper would most likely end up with a life-sized giraffe, which would have had its neck and head removed to make it fit the venue. Disaster galore and a serious dent in the project teams image.

A team without Courageous Creator… No cake, end of story.

A team without Noble Navigator might have ended up with one stationary chocolate lion and 3 cub cakes… How disappointing. The project team would have under delivered and possibly even late. Not enough to go around and again the target of $1,000,000 is no longer feasible.

Aren’t we lucky that we had all the right people, everybody with their own focus, on the team? Here we are, just prior to the charity event with a life-sized, very realistic, yummy couple of lion cakes which are slowly and safely moving along rails through the venue and everybody is proud of the end result.

Enter Principal Perfectionist.

Wait, there is more? Yes, Principal Perfectionist is also a very important part of the team. Usually they are the tester and sometimes testers are not included in the team when the Why, the What and the How is defined, as in this case. 

Principal Perfectionist: “Did we think about…”

Well that looks just absolutely awesome. Exactly as described… It’s just that... Well… Where is the brake? I mean, wouldn’t it have to stop so the photographer can take pictures with guests? And also to be able to cut it? Oh and did you think about the guests that would need a gluten-free option? You know what, gluten free, dairy free and vegan cub cakes would have been a great addition really…Let me guess, it’s too late now?

Perfectionist is the holy grail of attention to detail. They will find any ambiguity which can lead to misinterpretations. And they will find any gap, anything you have not thought of yet, but would really need to be addressed. They will come up with opportunities that will help surpass the Vocal Visionary’s expectations. Would it not have been ideal to have had those comments at the start of the project rather than at the end?

And that is why I, Tedious Teenager, prefer to have Principal Perfectionist review all root requirements to identify ambiguity and gaps nice and early.

Just sayin’… 

Posted by: Ingrid Nabben, Senior Consultant, Modern Applications | 25 July 2016

Tags: Project Management


Related blog posts


Blog archive

Stay up to date with all insights from the Intergen blog