What is Cognitive Readiness and why is it important? Is it a new buzz phrase or something more substantial? Does it really have the power to change project success rates?
These were some my questions when I was asked to review the book Cognitive Readiness in Project Teams.
What is Cognitive Readiness?
The notion of Cognitive Readiness comes from the United States Department of Defence who asked the question how do we ensure our people are able to take the best possible decisions on the battlefield where they are dealing with rapidly changing environments and inherently risky and emotionally charged situations?
The answer – individuals and teams have to be ‘cognitively ready’ – they need the skills and know-how to process vast amounts of information ranging from the technical to the emotional and social in real-time, and they need the focus, judgement and trust to act on what they find.
Why is Cognitive Readiness Important for Projects?
The premise of the book is clear, complex projects are all about coping with frequent unexpected events and successful project managers need to be able to integrate traditional approaches with nimbler methodologies. This is not about choosing agile over waterfall methods or vice versa. It’s about
- seeing project managers as far more than technical experts with people and leadership skills.
- updating our view of what it takes to create and sustain high performance throughout the project lifecycle.
- enabling project managers to confidently navigate the complex projects of the 21st Century by incorporating the latest brain-based research.
This book recognises the many parallels between the battlefield and complex projects: ambitious objectives, high stakes, the need to cope with frequent unexpected events and multiple unpredictable players to name a few.
What’s in the Book?
The book features chapters written by well- known authors from the fields of project management, neuroscience, mindfulness and emotional/social intelligence*. Together they draw on neuroscience research and an understanding of how the human brain works to explore what it takes to be ‘cognitively ready’ and introduce the Cognitive Readiness Framework.
The authors use numerous studies in many disciplines and demonstrate how the Cognitive Readiness framework provides a model for enhanced human interaction, teamwork and decision-making.
Should you read it?
The notion of Cognitive Readiness puts a new spin what is meant by leadership and people skills. The authors make a compelling and scientifically evidenced case for realigning the training of project managers.
They argue if we want to meet the full challenge of delivery, we must change how we train project professionals. This means setting new priorities and developing their
- understanding of how the human brain works
- ability to work with the four pillars of Cognitive Readiness
- Cognitive Intelligence
- Emotional Intelligence
- Social Intelligence
This book is the perfect companion to Project Delivery Uncertainty and Neuroscience – a Leader’s Guide to Walking in Fog.
Ambitious in its reach. Challenging and inspiring in equal measure. Its strength is academic rigor, some may find it too rigorous. My advice is don’t let that put you off. If you want to know more about this whole arena, stay with it. Make time to read and digest it. Discuss it with colleagues. It will not disappoint.
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*including Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, George Pitagorksy, Carl Belack and Ivano Di Filippo.