07 February 2023 | 2:00
David Jones

The power of organisational intelligence within project teams

Organisational intelligence, or the combined brain power of a team to respond to new information in pursuit of goals, requires effective communication, the right culture, and delegated decision-making.   

For any business crafting a high-performing project team, it’s important to have intellectually intelligent (IQ), emotionally intelligent (EQ), and technically competent project professionals.

That takes care at the people level but what about at the team level? Aside from IQ, EQ, and essential project management skills, project leaders should cultivate organisational intelligence (OQ) within their project teams, to align people and vision to their projects.

Organisational intelligence is the ability of a group of people to harness all its brain power and cumulative knowledge to achieve desired outcomes. It’s the collective intelligence of a group, used to gather information and react upon it in changing and dynamic business environments.

In the case of a project team (project professionals brought together to achieve a common goal), OQ can be used to describe the team’s ability to leverage individual performance and intelligence from each project function, discipline, process, and member, to adapt and thrive.

Organisational intelligence consists of three competencies: communicating well, embracing culture, and delegating decision-making. We’ll explore all three below.

Communicating
A project team that can properly employ communication channels, data collection and interpretation, and then make informed decisions will have the necessary OQ to adapt to turbulence in a project and react appropriately.

The team will also gain the ability to see trends and learn from patterns of success and failure. After every major step in a project’s lifecycle, it’s important to look back and determine whether anything could have been done better to adjust how information was gathered and acted upon. This turns a collection of project professionals, with individual strengths and weaknesses, into a project team that channels everyone’s talents. On an individual level, intelligence is limited by one’s own quirks and weaknesses. At a team level, individuals make up for these weaknesses and collectively become much more effective.

A key to building high OQ lies with using appropriate technology and having correct workplace policies. The capacity for a team to report and act on information internally, communicate and collaborate between functions, and utilise technology to kick start and continue projects across distance, is crucial. And building a project team that works efficiently and communicates effectively on a skeleton crew or having a significant number of the team working remotely, is one such example of how important it is to develop OQ. Remote and hybrid forms of working teach teams to collaborate more effectively and leverage talent from all around the project profession with greater productivity.

Embracing culture
There is another dimension to the larger system that shapes OQ – the culture of a team. Culture is the personality of a team, or “how things are done around here”. Culture includes the attitudes, beliefs, emotions, values, and expectations shared by the members that make up the team. It can be expressed in its communications, hierarchy, organisational structure, spoken and unspoken values, HR policies, and job titles. This is neatly captured within the IPMA’s Individual Competence Baseline® (ICB4) standard for project professionals around people, practice, and perspective.

Team cultures can range from secretive to highly transparent, influencing the collection and sharing of information and knowledge. It is important therefore to encourage transparency to promote knowledge sharing and continuous project management improvement. Often, project teams focus on goals rather than people and, as a detriment, productivity decreases, emotional investment dwindles, and valuable people leave.

It’s also common for teams to measure the wrong indicators when it comes to gauging performance. This may leave leaders with inaccurate data as to why a team may be struggling and, ultimately, mislead any rectification efforts.

In short, project-focused organisations miss out on opportunities to excel their project teams because they’re unable to view their business through the lens of people, culture, and productivity.

Delegating decision-making
Organisational intelligence also shifts away from the idea of the executive arm of an organisation being the sole decision-making body. Instead, implementing OQ allows an organisation to not only consider the capacity for data management and analysis within its corporate layer, but also within each individual part of it. This means for each project team, group, and department individuals are encouraged to collect information and improve their work based on that information.

This encourages them to think ahead, to notice trends, to speak on the future of how a project is managed, and to act independently – to some degree – while the executive arm retains oversight.

By allowing project teams to align themselves in decision-making groups in the best interest of achieving their project goals, this simplifies and clarifies decision rights across an organisation and avoids delays, caused by losing valuable time in running decisions across the usual gamut of an organisation’s corporate framework.

Achieving high OQ within project teams therefore allows leaders to spot gaps in productivity, anticipate issues before they arise, and keep a pulse on their people. Ultimately, it allows for better decision-making and is the cornerstone of running a successful project.

The power of OQ
Organisational intelligence is a measure of how well a project team understands and utilises data, processes, and metrics, allowing leaders to make smarter decisions about current state, future goals, and everything in between.

Harnessing the power of OQ and understanding how effective a project team is will help to overcome challenges before they arise. Project leaders will still have to deal with regular business-as-usual challenges, such as schedule delays or managing change, but it’s important to maintain a pulse check on what is happening within a team to help them adapt in constantly evolving project delivery environments.

In the continuing transition from strictly operational perspectives to those of project delivery and knowledge, few organisations have an established knowledge management strategy. Consequently, most have varying degrees of hidden and unknown information that, if unlocked, would accelerate projects and organisations to even better outcomes.

In today’s hybrid and borderless business world, OQ is becoming just as relevant as emotional or intellectual intelligence when it comes to running a project, and it can be the deciding factor between delivery success and failure.

Written by
David Jones

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