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Project Manager : Project Manager June July 2012
www.aipm.com.au Project Manager 15 THOUgHT lEADERS • NASA heavyweight Dr Charles Pellerin talks about his 4-D approach to measuring and improving project performance. welcome to the fourth dimension SERVING FOR A DECADE AS DIRECTOR OF Astrophysics, Dr Charles Pellerin’s NASA career spanned nearly 30 years. He oversaw the launch of a number of scientific satellites, including the Hubble Space Telescope. When a flawed mirror on Hubble prevented the telescope from performing, he launched a successful space repair mission for which he was awarded a NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal. Since the time that the Hubble Failure Review Board found failed leadership to be the root cause of the telescope's failure, Dr Pellerin began investigating the effects of social factors on project success. He has developed the 4-D approach to measuring and improving the effectiveness of project leadership, project culture and organisation interfaces. Michael Mills, journalist for Project Manager magazine, speaks to Dr Pellerin about his 4-D approach and its significance in project management. how did you come to develop the 4D system? The 4-D journey began in 1993 at the University of Colorado where I became a professor in the business school, trying to understand what drove performance in project teams and what caused projects to succeed or fail. I experimented with various tools and methods until about 2002, when the work I was doing got NASA’s attention. I’d worked at NASA before, but I’d been away for seven years. They encouraged me to bid for a very large contract to enhance performance in project teams and to prevent risks. The essence of it was to understand that we all have a very unfortunate bias about what performance is because of the way we are educated. What most of us believe is that the whole thing is about individual abilities, but the real cause of team performance is context. It’s the experienced environment. I learnt how to characterise the environments of high-performance teams and low-performance teams, which are the same teams that have low risk and high risk, good sponsor relationships and poor sponsor relationships, and so on. I developed an online tool to measure this context and performance, and then about three years ago made a startling discovery looking at data from 200 teams. I discovered using this little tool, which takes 15 minutes online and an hour or two after, was a powerful stimulant of performance enhancement. Today, we run this process on dashboards. There are around 95 dashboards operating in the world today and people are using them in places as distinct as power plants in Electricite de France, the largest nuclear power utility in the world, and a 200,000-person shoe factory in China. what differentiates the 4-D system from other performance tools? Have you ever thought about the power of context, how it influences behaviour so totally? Most of us haven’t. So let me give you a metaphor. Would you behave differently in each of these four contexts? Making or receiving a marriage proposal, having dinner with your fiance’s family, at your bachelor or bachelorette party or if you were hijacked on your honeymoon. You’d behave differently, wouldn’t you? ( Dr Charles Pellerin led NASA’s astrophysics program worth over $8B for a decade, launching 12 satellites. Post-NASA, Pellerin founded 4-D Systems to help clients build high-performance leaders and teams. NASA engaged 4-D Systems in 2003 to help with team performance and risks. As a result of this work, Pellerin's 4-D coaches won the International Coach Federation’s 2007 Prism Award for 'enhanced excellence and business achievement with documen- ted return on investment'. Pellerin also authored How NASA Builds Teams. DR ChARLEs pELLERIN Technical people maKe whaT seem liKe sensible decisions, buT Their judgemenT can be clouded because of The conTexT
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Project Manager Aug Sept 2012