Hello my friend,
Let’s answer the one simple question «what is the most important part of the project management?» The question seems to be not so easy, doesn’t it? Well, let’s paraphrase it in the following way: «Who makes the project?» In this case the answers is pretty simple, because people accomplish tasks to make the project. That’s why my topic for today is the team management across the project.
I’m going to review small to mid size projects in company with classical functional hierarchy.
The first problem
My experience in different companies in different roles (project manager or project team member) shows that the very first problem that project management meets is the problem of authority.
In the perfect world the team members, who has been assigned to the project, will be doing the workload fully and in time. In reality I have never seen that the people were fully assigned to the project. It means that usually employees are assigned to the project on the part-time basis, whereas they have to perform their normal «line» or «operational» tasks in parallel. Often it leads to the problem, where they have to do in the same accountable period (week, for instance) more work that they can. On the one hand it can show that project manager plans schedule badly. On the other hand it can show that the employee can’t focus on the project commitments or another task has higher priority. Such situation is quite common, if project manager and functional manager (head of the employee’s department, for example) are two different persons and/or they don’t have direct hierarchy.
If project manager has the same functional manager as team member, then it’s usually OK. But if the work in different departments, here the problems arise.
Such situation arises due to the fact that employee has to hesitate between two points of authority and usually functional manager wins. The stakeholder management is the topic for separate post. So what can do the project manager (and what I do myself) is to persuade the employee to be more engaged in the project. All we are people, so all we do have our own desires, expectations and whishes. Usually these desires are professional (horizontal) or career (vertical) growth, recognition or money. The project manager must find, what is the most influencing factor for the employee, and show this employee that project really brings him such benefits. Let’s consider these main variants:
- If the employee wishes the professional growth, the project manager must show that the project allows the employee to learn new technologies or to use his knowledge in the new environment. The project spirit itself assumes that something new is developed, that’s why it’s usually easy to “sell” the ability to learn something new for the employee.
- If the employee expects the career growth, then the project manager has to act trickier. If the project manager isn’t functional manager, he has little direct influence on the employee’s career path. Nevertheless he can promote the team members to their management in case of satisfactory work at the project. In the very bad case it’s possible to persuade the employee that the successfully done project is a significant achievement in his/her career and it will be in any case considered further.
- If employee desires recognition, then the project manager is happy, because it’s the easiest way how to stimulate the employee. Such stuff as corporate letters, website, “the worker of the month” and so on are widely used for decades and often work well.
- If the employee wants money, usually it’s the most difficult case for the project manager. There is often situation, that there is no budget reservation for the money gifts or “bonuses”. The project management isn’t able to directly influence the project sponsor to allocate some money to reward the people for the outstanding results. It’s usually a good will of the top management, but it’s often unclear till the end of the project.
Besides these 4 cases, which from my prospective are the most common, there are also some additional. The most interesting and important type is called missionary. Such type of employees trusts in the company, where they work, and in the work, which they do. Usually they require strict understanding of the project’s goals, and then they will work very well. It’s the best type of the employee and you should develop such vision in yourself and in your team.
The most important part for the project management is the ability to keep the promise. It relates to everything, like providing the committed results in time. And it relates to the promises to the team as well. If you aren’t able that you can provide promotion to the employee, don’t promise it. If you aren’t sure that the employee will be rewarded with money adjustment, don’t promise it. If you being the project manager break the word that you have given to employee, it will be very difficult to work with him/she further. The only possibility to make him/she to do anything further will be the management push. Though it works in the short-term perspective, I advise to avoid it, because in the long-term perspective it will decrease the overall performance of the team, as everyone will attitude to you with mistrust. The trust is the glue that spans the team together, and don’t forget the project manager is the part of the team
The team management is one of the most important parts of the project, as even the best-planned project won’t be done without people. I fully share the following idea of the sir Richard Branson:
“Put your staff first, customers second, and shareholders third”, Richard Branson
Take care of the team, inspire and develop it, and then you will achieve outstanding project results together with them and thanks to them.