A Psychology Framework That Will Help You Implement CM Practices

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In her Personality Matters series, Leslie Sachs examines the personalities and people issues that are found in technology groups from cross-functional, high-performance teams to dysfunctional matrix organizations.

Summary:
How does personality impact the implementation of industry Standards and Frameworks? It would seem that following the guidance in the IEEE 828 CM Planning standard is simply a matter of writing CM Plans and documenting your existing CM practices. The fact is that some people implement Standards and Frameworks successfully and others fail miserably. This article presents a popular and highly regarded psychology framework that will help you better understand how to implement Configuration Management.

Where Does Personality Fit In?
In the book  Configuration Management Best Practices: Practical Methods that Work in the Real World (Addison-Wesley, August 2010) that I coauthored with Bob Aiello, I focused on the key concepts which CM Experts need to consider when implementing CM Best Practices. In that book, we discussed communication styles, how men and women interpret language differently, effective consultation, verifying the message and information processing styles that limit (or enhance) your prospects for success. In this article, we will examine a popular framework for understanding personality. This material will help you be better positioned to successfully implement standards and frameworks and CM Best Practice too.

Navigating the OCEAN
John M. Digman was among those to propose a Five-Factor Model of personality. His work was complemented by many other psychologists including well known Paul T. Costa, Jr. and Robert R. McCrae. The five factors include:

  1. Openness to Experience (regarded by many as “Culture”)
  2. Conscientiousness
  3. Extraversion
  4. Agreeableness
  5. Neuroticism (sometimes called “emotional stability)

Understanding these five factors turns out to be essential in predicting successful performance in tasks and occupations. Let’s take a look at the five factors in the context of what it takes to successfully implement industry standards and frameworks.

Key Traits
Much of the research on personality shows that Conscientiousness is the most reliable predictor of success for many occupations. This means that you need to look for Change Agents who show an attention to detail and strongly value doing things correctly. Agreeableness and Openness to Experiences (Culture) may predict which people are more willing to consider doing things better. You also may get your relationship builders from Agreeableness (common trait for sales people). Extraversion is the trait you look for in your evangelists, those enthusiasts who will help their colleagues overcome resistance to change.  This is just an overview but can help you begin to think about which people in your organization are most likely to adapt and those with the personality to encourage others to rethink how the current process model can be tweaked to increase efficiency and productivity.

When Things Go Bad
Trying to implement standards and frameworks may put you up against people who like to focus on their creative side without the binds of having to follow rules and structure. Working under conditions of extreme pressure to get things done fast usually leads to an atmosphere of tension which can greatly disturb some individuals. Generally speaking, more emotionally stable people are less upset by mild anxiety than are people who score high on neuroticism. When particularly stressed, some technology professionals just don’t want to be “limited” by rules and regulations as they struggle to complete a given project. High levels of anxiety will cause them to just  look for the “easy” way out and undermine their cooperation toward using standards and frameworks. Other stakeholders  may exhibit a tendency for Obsessive-Compulsive behavior that must be managed carefully.

OCD meets Standards & Frameworks
Many people are familiar with the expression “he can’t see the forest for the trees”. This cliché aptly describes the dilemma of a person living with obsessive-compulsive tendencies. The more severe cases involve the urge to do odd rituals and repetitive behaviors and may require intensive therapy to allow sufferers to function adequately even part of the time. However, many individuals struggling with mild forms are found in every business setting. In fact, the overattention to every detail which is one of the classic

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