Systemic Coaching and IT – Part 3: Supporting IT Projects
IT projects are deployed in complex environments. Budgets and time to market are limited. Difficult hardware and software environment, high demands on safety and compliance, variable conditions, many interfaces and countless other factors influence the progress of the project.
All these factors put project managers, consultants, developers and product owners under a lot of pressure. Systemic coaching provides support for the ongoing tasks and helps to identify potential stress factors for the project team. It also helps to pinpoint necessary interventions before anything goes wrong.
Working under Pressure
The project team usually works under extreme pressure. IT companies must implement projects within limited budgets and resources. Customers’ requirements are adjusted regularly and crammed into the tight timelines and narrow budget constraints.
Accompanying Change Processes
Most of these projects are accompanied by considerable change processes involving the customer’s system. The employees are facing amended processes, new teams, changing tasks and unknown management structures. All this causes uncertainty and sometimes even a negative attitude among individuals, teams or departments. It might be difficult to implement IT projects in such a context.
Tense Working Environment
As the project evolves another risk appears. IT consultants are slowly drawn into the customer systems. The consultant inherits the customers’ problems. He becomes immersed in the tensions between the client and the contractor.
Project managers represent the link between the project team and the customer. Responses to changes and new demands are an essential part of their responsibilities. However, this buffer function can easily exceed the tolerable level.
Developers have to reach their targets. Agile methods require high flexibility. Limited resources, unclear demands and technical problems can exceed their capabilities.
The product owners have to reconcile the needs of departments and stakeholders. Sometimes these requirements are pointing in different directions. It’s not always easy to find a proper solution for all, certainly not without any friction.
Systemic Coaching within IT Projects
Systemic coaching provides support for solving problems in a professional environment. Client and coach work together on the issues. The focus is on the development of solution paths. The analysis of the problem should only be an aid on the way to find the result.
The systemic approach of coaching is similar to agile methods in the software development. Both are focusing on small, quick-to-implement improvements that gradually alleviate the problem or resolve it completely.
The methods of systemic coaching offer relief to the project manager, the consultant, the developer, and the product owner. At the coaching session the customer is free to talk about his experiences and to reflect on his moods. Mental pressure can be reduced and new approaches are developed.
The following sections discuss the content and possibilities of systemic coaching. These issues are encountered regularly during the management of IT projects.
Topics Covered by Systemic Coaching
The following list shows some topics covered by systemic coaching:
- Preparing of decisions
- Problems with hierarchies and within teams
- Conflicts between different departments
- Preparing meetings
Now we want to discuss these issues in more detail.
Self-management and Preparing Decisions
Self-management is an important topic. What is already working and therefore should become stronger? How is it possible to overcome unwanted habits and replace them with more favorable actions?
Another topic covers many aspects of preparing decisions. What are the opportunities? Usually there are more options than initially assumed. What might be the effect of some of the changes when implemented? Sometimes it is necessary to reduce many options to one. Sometimes there is a need to expand the possibilities.
Problems with Hierarchy and within Teams
Sometimes hierarchies can hinder the implementation of projects. How do you deal with this problem? Are there any courses of action not yet recognized? How is it possible to overcome the deadlock of the current situation constructively? Who might help and who should be avoided?
Problems within teams and between departments are sometimes really hard to tackle. Stepping back will help to get the larger picture. Looking at something from a distance will show you a hidden solution. Together with the coach this distance is easier to achieve. By special questioning techniques new solutions can be revealed. Suddenly, completely new ways of cooperation appear.
Covering the topics of a meeting is usually not that difficult at all. It is usually easy to determine who should participate in the meeting. The agenda of the meeting is clear. The strategy to be followed in an important meeting, however, is neither immediately clear nor always easy to find. Simulations and preparations by means of coaching can be very helpful.
The Cost of Systemic Coaching
Implementing and running systemic coaching has its price. However, especially in times where IT staff is expensive and difficult to acquire, particular attention should be paid to the well-being of the employee. A lot has been invested in highly qualified specialists in the form of training courses and time. If someone like this leaves the company, the result is a very high effort to find a replacement. It can also jeopardize the successful completion of an IT project.
Preserve the full operational capability of the project team and avoid the dropping out of valuable team members. The cost of some coaching sessions is almost negligible in comparison.
Conclusion: Supporting IT Projects with Systemic Coaching
Many people with different tasks are usually involved in IT-Projects. As with all social systems, IT projects can lead to misunderstandings and tensions between the involved parties. In addition to developing and facilitating solutions systemic coaching can also be used to reduce tensions between the project participants. This supports the project progress and avoids additional costs.
This post is also available in: German