‘Psychological safety? What’s that got to do with the success of my projects?’
Updated: Mar 4
Have you, like me, been working on a complex project, finally feel you’ve got it on track & then are ambushed with a big roadblock from a small, but critical piece of information not previously shared? A common scenario for all project managers but one that is best avoided.
A recent conversation shed some light that I could totally relate to.
I was explaining to a colleague how important I feel it is for everyone involved in a project to ask the difficult questions and volunteer awkward input to avoid a derail on progress. I hadn’t realised that this approach, which I naturally adopt, has a name - ‘psychological safety’. I also hadn’t realised that it is this principle that a two-year study by Google concluded differentiated excellent teams from not-so-great teams.
But why is that?
It is because the safer team members feel with one another, the more likely they are to admit mistakes, to partner, and to take on new roles. Nobody wants to feel ignorant, incompetent or negative at work. Psychological safety’s fundamental principle is creating an environment where people can contribute their views honestly and openly without fear. It avoids the unexpected ambush when a piece of information is uncovered very late in a project, simply because someone felt uncomfortable sharing something critical.
In some organisations, as many as half the staff feel uncomfortable about speaking up – that’s a massive amount of knowledge lost. Staff didn’t ask the hard questions, didn’t critique the plan and didn’t offer ideas. When there is no freedom to speak up, mindshare and early awareness of risk is lost. Ultimately this leads for projects getting stuck or failing.
To find out more about how our methodology allows for psychological safety at every stage of our project delivery, click here.
If you have ten minutes to spare, watch this interesting session with Dr. Amy Edmondson here
For more on Google’s study - click here