Development Cooperation Handbook/The video resources linked to this handbook/The Documentary Story/The round table in Tuscany
The round table in Tuscany
Digital cooperation tools for cooperative work at a distance is good because it allows to form a transnational team and avoid office time. But finally they cannot substitute face to face personal meeting (for the good and the bad of direct personal interaction). We had scheduled a all partners meeting to be held in Rome. But finally I decided to have it in a countryside farm-hotel in Tuscany, near Grosseto (the municipality of Grosseto was also a project partner). Better food there, better environment, cheaper stay, closer interactions and less distractions. I love rural Tuscany. But I am not so sure that all team members were happy of this choice of retreating in the country side Tuscany and I may have upset expectations of a Roman "holiday".
Hosting a team is not so easy (people expectations are so different and so vague!) and managing a meeting of partners is all the more difficult. As a project leader you expect the team to be your support in identifying and tackling project issues. But many team members expect you, the project leader, to give solutions for the problems they say they find in completing their tasks. So finally, as leader, what you end up doing is to inscribe all team members in one of the two categories of “problem solvers” and “problem makers”. Problem solvers are your fundamental asset. Problem makers are your liabilities. You cannot teach to problem makers how to be a problem solver; at least not during the project implementation, because that would require time and in implementation you are always late with your deadlines. You can support the problem solvers in overcoming the difficulties they are facing. But to be a solver is an attitude of the spirit not a technical competence. A change of spirit requires a guru not a manager. Perhaps you could be both. But to be a guru requires that the disciple chooses you as a guru (and that you accept her/him as a disciple): that is not a part of the contract between the manager and the managed human resources of an organization or a partnership amongst organizations.
So what you do as manager is to cast aside your liabilities (the problem makers) and then decide who are those that need to be pulled along; and who are those that you are better without. You then try to give minimum tasks to those whom you have to be carry along (which generally means either you try not to do those tasks anymore (if you can) or take them directly on you (added work but anyhow better then bearing the results of a task done by a problem maker); then you try to get rid of those you not need to take along.
The round table of Grosseto was the turning point to really understand the approaches of the different persons in the team. There were pleasant surprises. Like Anna, Mirela, Liviana, Wilma: all so committed. There were unpleasant discoveries of people wanting their salaries ensured even when their tasks are unfulfilled.
As a project manager you have often to make a choice: either you renounce to certain people or you renounce to certain objectives; because you discover that the persons are in the team are not capable, or not willing, to perform their task with the required sincerity and commitment. You are the project manager and your choices will impact upon the beneficiaries of the project: it is your responsibility is to make the choice in their best interest. Especially in development cooperation project, where the final beneficiaries are, or at least should be, the people who have been suffering injustice, deprivation and violence.
At the end of the Grosseto round table we had three partners (and six team members) less on board. But the remaining four organizations (and 10 team members) were more cohesive and had a higher sense of solidarity. Now they had also a higher budget for each one of them. Lighter the team, the further we could now move.