What Project Role Do You Play?

What Project Role Do You Play?

Photo by Bain News Service, Available at Library of Congress

What are you good at? What are your strengths? What do you like to do? What is your personality type? What is your learning style? What are you preferred communication strategies? What is important to you? What is your mission? What are your passions? What gets you excited?

These are some of the questions being asked by employees, employers, HR professionals, and coaches to help find the best fit between a person and their work. We should be asking these questions! There is another question, though, that I rarely hear people talking about in organizations. I will discuss this question below, but all of these questions point to the issue of personal and professional “fit.” Having the right fit, “fittedness,” is critical to achieve individual effectiveness and individual effectiveness drives organizational effectiveness. Leaders should be encouraging personnel in all areas and at all levels of the organization to consider these questions — and not just think about them, work on them! (It would be great to see fittedness integrated into all HR development programs and evaluation systems.)

As I suggested, there is a question about fittedness that I rarely hear. In fact, for all of the many organizations I have worked with, only once has this concept been addressed directly. Yet, when I raise this question, and explain the paradigm, people universally respond with, “Why haven’t we been asking that question?” The question is:

“In what role will I be most motivated while working on this project?”

Before I share the paradigm behind this question, credit for this concept goes to the Center for Church Effectiveness. Bob Gilliam founded CCE, a church consulting group. This concept that he labels the “Motivated Role,” is just one of several tools CCE uses to help churches and ministry professionals understand themselves better and to find good fit between pastors and churches. My church has used their tools and I believe we benefitted greatly!

Most of you are not pastors, though! So why read on? Read on because the motivated role concept itself is not about churches, or pastors, or faith — it is a model to help explain how people are wired and how they think, which applies very broadly across disciplines and contexts. You can apply the motivated role in any other organization and even at home. Let’s dig into the idea, and as you read this, think about a project you have or are working on.

To start, keep in mind that any given project has multiple phases. In the motivated role model, there are five phases. For complex projects, the sub-projects will also have the following phases.

Conceptualizing – This is where ideas are born. Theory, concept, and principles are the focus of discussion. Details, though, are lacking.

Prototyping – This is the bridge between ideas and practical action. This is the time when good concepts are initially brought into reality with a working model. Some initial problems are resolved, but long-term practical usefulness of these efforts is not always great.

Implementing – Actual programs are put to practical use. Resources are coordinated, people are informed and trained. Many details, both anticipated and unanticipated, are yet to be worked out.

Refining – A working solution is adjusted and tweaked to make it more efficient and effective. This phase is about improvement.

Managing – What works well is maintained and serviced to remain efficient and effective.

At some point, as you read one of those descriptions, you probably had a thought of recognition: “That’s what I like to do!” You recognized a high degree of comfort with one or two of these phases, knowing that when working on a given project, this is what you enjoy the most and what you are most effective doing. The phase you identified is the answer to the question above: This is the role in which you will be most motivated on a project. The role in which you are most motivated is the role in which you are most effective! Ideally, this is where you should invest most of your energy on any given project.

My most natural fit is the refining role. Point me to a program or process that is in place, let me study it, get to know the people involved, interview stakeholders, and so on. I will quickly see issues and, with the help of stakeholders, shortly identify means to improve it.

I also gravitate a bit toward conceptualizing. However, I have a word of caution related to this. Notice that conceptualizing is two project phases removed from my primary motivated role, refining. This is an indicator that conceptualizing is not really my best fit, rather it is something I have learned how to do through experience and training. I thoroughly enjoy tossing ideas around with colleagues and friends, but I always have a nagging question in the back of my mind, “These are great ideas, but what are we going to do with them?” My mind, my natural wiring, is pushing the thought process closer to my natural motivated role. So, whatever role seems most natural to you, if you have a secondary in mind, be careful that it is an immediate neighbor, not a jump away.

What are the practical applications of the motivated role model? The applications are limitless. For starters, think about your own work. Are you very frustrated with a project right now? Determine what role you are playing and ask if you are in the right role. Are you having fun with the project? What insights does that give you about your best role? For those of you who lead project teams, have them read this article and devote a portion of your next meeting to discussing motivated roles. Consider how you can leverage motivated roles to increase individual and overall group effectiveness.

Please post a comment to share your own experiences and reactions.

Dr. Scott Yorkovich is a leadership coach and consultant. He works with individuals, small and medium organizations, and ministries. Contact him at ScottYorkovich[at]LeadStrategic.com with your questions.

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