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How Losing Control helps make a Project more Successful

Updated: Mar 4, 2021

Project people often tell me that a major time drain is the dysfunctional proportion of time spent reporting what is going on against the time actually getting the work done. In other words, there is too much control, limited freedom and an unhealthy emphasis on micro-managing.

Many feel this is a perpetual problem that needs disrupting.

Maybe we can learn from Netflix on this. Rather than a focus on control, they rely on context. From their Culture Deck (originally published in 2009): ‘The best managers figure out how to get great outcomes by setting the appropriate context, rather than by trying to control their people’.

Context, not Control

Is this valid? We believe so. Leadership should be about context, not control. Giving team members more context is the same as increasing your trust in them. People thrive on being trusted, on freedom, and on being able to make a difference.

Most project teams have subject matter and technical experts in them. Without the full picture, it is a real challenge for them to make good decisions and provide relevant opinion. Understanding the context leads to higher performance and people will do better work – feeling more empowered. It generates an increased sense of responsibility.

Losing control by adding the context does help your project delivery.

To quote Netflix again: ‘The team of your dreams is one in which all of your colleagues are extraordinary at what they do and are highly effective collaborators’.

Find out how Projects that Deliver are working to achieve this for their clients here:


If you have time, take a look at these:

Netflix: Culture Deck (2009)

Netflix: Culture Deck - update (2017)

Tom McCallum: A Trust Story – Netflix

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