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Are You OK Being A Project Manager?

In my previous article, Affecting Business Cases I mentioned “I’m Ok. – You’re OK”1 by Thomas A. Harris. This classic text on Transactional Analysis was written in the 1960s and is one of two books that fundamentally changed how I view life, family, and relationships.
Transactional analysis is a way to understand the mind and why it does what it does. It also teaches us how to stop doing what we don’t want. Eric Berne is the one who developed Transactional Analysis. His classic book “Games People Play The Psychology of Human Relationships2” (though it is not easy to read) is also a classic.
Eric Berne, a Transactional Analyst, developed the famous Parent, Adult, Child’ theory. This theory states that every person is composed of these three states and that communication or interaction with others is done from one of them. Individuals can shift with varying degrees to one state.
Thomas A. Harris said, “These states of being aren’t roles, but psychological realities.”
Parent means “that you are in the exact same state of mind that one of your parents (or a substitute parent) used to be and that you respond as they would with the same postures, gestures, vocabulary, emotions, etc.”
Adult refers to ‘you have just made an independent objective appraisal of the situation. Child refers to ‘your reaction is the same as when you were a little boy or girl’.
Harris1 claims that Transactional Analysis constructs four ‘life positions’ with respect to oneself.
I’m not OK – You are OK
I’m not OK – You are Not OK
I’m OK, You’re Not OK
I’m OK – You are OK
The book’s main purpose is to help people understand how their life position influences their communication (transactions) when they interact through one of their Parent, Adult or Child ego states.
Children will see adults as strong, big, and competent, but they will see themselves small, weak, and making mistakes. So, I’m Not OK – You’re OK.
Use of words like’stupid’ and ‘naughty are typical Parent characteristics. If an adult interacts with an infant using these Parental words’, the child’s life position could change from I’m OK – Your’re OK to II’m OK – You Are Not OK (well that’s how I understand it all). What life position do you currently find yourself in after reading this far?
It’s all fascinating (to me anyway) and it makes me think about how we interact with stakeholders on projects. We know that stakeholders can be any person who has, or perceives they have, an influence on a project.
We also know that people will have different opinions about the project and the changes it brings. Some stakeholders will be supportive of the project while others will be more skeptical.
Can understanding Transactional Analysis (the Parent, Adult, and Child ego states, and the four life positions, help us create a more cooperative, cooperative, and harmonious environment for a project? It can, I believe.
Let’s look at a few scenarios to help you understand.
Scenario 1
You are the Project Manager for a project in phase/gate review. Your Project Board/Sponsoring Group will approve the continuation of the project into the next phase by reviewing the updated Business Case.
While you have a good relationship to the members of Project Board/Sponsoring Group, you also know that your personal information will be scrutinized. You are confident that you can answer any questions that may come your way. Do you sound familiar?
Which of the following ‘life positions’ would your answer be? Let’s assume you are in I’m Ok – You’re OK as long as you feel prepared and some of Project Boar’s decision makers.