Applied Positive Psychology in Project Management

“Unless, therefore, an executive looks for strength and works at making strength productive, he will only get the impact of what a man cannot do, of his lacks, his weaknesses, his impediments to performance and effectiveness. To staff from what there is not and to focus on weakness is wasteful - a misuse, if not abuse, of the human resource.” - Peter Drucker, The Effective Executive 

The Challenge
A particular person can be a mediocre performer in some circumstances and a superb performer in others. Some project teams respond to changes in economic conditions with resilience and innovation, while others diminish in productivity and fail.

Much of the difference is directly attributable to management practices. Some project managers seem to know by instinct how to organize groups to make the most effective use of individuals, how to motivate people, and how to deal with the inevitable conflicts successfully.

But how do the rest of us learn how to manage people effectively? How do we know which practices really work and why?

The Response
The mission of the Collaborative for Applied Positive Psychology in Project Management (CAPP-PM) is to teach project managers the people-management skills so that they can deal wisely with their most important resource: people.

CAPP-PM brings together the practical judgment of faculty with years of experience managing people and the empirical research emerging from the fields of Positive Psychology and Positive Organizational Scholarship. These fields study the conditions that make people and organizations strong, resilient, and productive.

CAPP-PM has three areas of concentration: academic courses at all levels, applied research, and professional development courses for people active in the project management field.

CAPP-PM is augmenting its adjunct faculty to offer not only the existing project team management course, but also a new course that explores what constitutes effective leadership on project teams. CAPP-PM faculty are interdisciplinary and include both researchers and practitioners.

CAPP-PM Academic Programs:

CAPP-PM develops and delivers undergraduate and graduate courses within the University of Maryland Project Management Program. These courses are offered as both core required courses and electives. Opportunities for independent study at the graduate level are also offered. Course materials may be licensed by other university-based project management programs seeking to provide similar courses.

The interdisciplinary courses focus on project management practices that lead to flourishing and highly productive workplaces and effective leadership. Course topics include but are not limited to forming high performance project teams, project leadership, effective communication practices, strengths-based management practices, managing conflicts, and leading organizational change. The courses also describe the business case for using practices that lead to flourishing workplaces.

CAPP-PM Research:

CAPP-PM is working to create effective two-directional bridges between academic research and practice. Primary research in the areas of positive psychology and positive organizational scholarship is very relevant to the field of project management, but needs to be adapted to the needs of the field. Experiences in project management practice can also refine the questions and methods in primary research. As a result of these efforts, we expect to

1. facilitate the translation of primary research into practical application
2. provide feedback and case histories from practitioners to broaden the perspectives of primary researchers
3. develop and disseminate the results of both research and practice.

CAPP-PM Professional Development:

CAPP-PM Professional Development will collaborate with the University of Maryland Professional Development Program to provide non-academic certificate programs in project management that explicate the best practices emerging from Positive Psychology and Positive Organizational Scholarship.

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