4 Key Takeways on Culture and Values: The Secret Sauce you Need in your Projects

By Mariel Shaw, Associate Project Manager, Red Door Interactive
As a project manager, I’m constantly on the lookout for new ways to make project teams faster and more efficient. But somewhere in the maze of burndown charts and daily scrums, it can be easy to forget that one of the best ways to improve project deliverables is to focus on the people doing the work. Specifically, a happy and engaged employee is an effective team member. So how can I keep my teams highly motivated?

The answer was the subject of the Project Management Institute: San Diego’s event on “Values & Culture - The Secret Sauce in your Projects,” held on Wednesday, January 22nd on USD’s campus. Led by Red Door’s very own Reid Carr, Kate de Jong and Lindsay Estrada, the talk’s goal was to help attendees identify their company's core values and culture and look for ways to incorporate positive behaviors that align with these values on an everyday basis. By promoting aspirational values, employee fulfillment is more likely to thrive, that drives mission assurance and customer satisfaction.

Some of the main takeaways:
- When companies clearly define and foster core values, employees don’t have to wonder how they should behave in order to be successful. It’s baked into the company’s fabric – guiding employees, providing them clarity, and ultimately freeing up project managers from needing to micromanage. An engaged employee who is fully involved in, and enthusiastic about, their work, will naturally act in a way that furthers their organization's interests.

Incorporate core values into recognition tools, so employees understand how their work is contributing to the bigger picture. For example, instead of telling an employee a simple “great job!”, get specific about how what they did embodied the core values. e.g. “When you took the time to write a rundown of what you learned at that conference, it really demonstrated our core value of ‘SHARE’ to our team and gave us some great ideas for how to improve our delivery times.”

Core values can make difficult conversations more productive. No one likes to give negative feedback to fellow employees, but it’s a useful and necessary part of helping team members understand how their actions make an impact. When giving feedback, tie undesired behavior to core value misalignment to keep it from feeling like a personal attack. It’s not about you and me; it’s about all of us working together toward a greater goal.

Being true to your company’s core values is an ongoing process – it’s ok to make corrections along the way.  At Red Door, our core value of “SHARE” had manifested itself in transparent and extremely detailed project financials reporting within the company. The project management group’s original intention was to help everyone understand how their work on a specific project directly contributed to our company’s bottom line. We thought this would be empowering: “Look at the impact you’re having!” However, we got feedback from employees that our reports were overwhelming and, frankly, not very “INSPIRING” (one of our other core values).  Taking that feedback, we simplified the project reports we email to the teams, keeping the tone positive. Although employees are still free to dive into the financials more deeply on their own, we are hearing that our friendlier, more approachable reporting format is balancing our two core values better.

What do you love about your company's culture? What keeps it strong? We'd love to hear!

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