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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Project Team Dysfunction

Project teams are dynamic, and interpersonal relationships amongst team members are always in a state of flux. Some teams are high performing and function at a high level over a long period of time. Other teams can't seem to come together and function at all.

An effective, experienced project team leader is an important part of any successful team, however, all team members must be personally accountable for their actions and be supportive of other team members if the team and project are to be successful.

Individual team member behaviors can contribute to team success in many ways. Emotional maturity and willingness to compromise are two important team member traits that help make a good team dynamic and lead to a successful project outcome.

Here are some negative team member behaviors I have personally observed. These behaviors detract from team synergy and place an unfair burden on other team members.

Projects fail or take longer than they should when team members:

Leave problems for others to solve rather than solving the problems themselves

Routinely blame others (stakeholders and/or other team members) or circumstances for not getting their tasks complete on time

Aren't personally accountable for their project task outcomes and timelines

Are unwilling to hold stakeholders accountable for their responsibilities

Aren't properly documenting their findings and defining a scope of work or adhering to an agreed-upon project scope

Aren't documenting Scope Change Requests

Aren't bringing issues and concerns to the team for discussion

Are constantly complaining, whining, and finger-pointing

Are unwilling to reach consensus with their team members

Are unwilling to let go of past negative circumstances and relationships

Are unwilling to admit past and current mistakes and learn from them

Play the victim and exhibit passive-aggressive behavior

Have a recurring theme in their dealings with others that everybody else is wrong and they are right

Continually demanding that things be done their way when it is contrary to the stated direction of the team

Team members who exhibit some or all of the above behaviors above should be placed on a performance improvement plan as their behavior is disruptive to the team and the project.

Project teams can't afford to have team members that aren't willing to compromise, are emotionally immature, and are a constant distraction to the team. In addition to being placed on a performance improvement plan, these team members should be released from the team as soon as possible as they are detriment to team cohesiveness and productivity.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Project Management Habits

(Exerpts from Habit 1: Be Proactive, in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen R. Covey)

Dr. Stephen Covey's book, the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is a must read for anyone seeking to be highly effective. One of the concepts Dr. Covey talks about in his books is the "Circle of Concern" and the "Circle of Influence". The basic concept is that we need to focus our time and energy on the important things that we can control. Inside the Circle of Concern there is a smaller circle in the middle called the Circle of Influence. We should spend most of our time and efforts focused on the things in this Circle of Influence.

As Dr. Covey states "proactive people focus their efforts in the Circle of Influence". "They work on the things they can do something about. The nature of their energy is positive, enlarging and magnifying, causing their Circle of Influence to increase." "Reactive people on the other hand, focus their efforts in the "Circle of Concern. They focus on the weakness of other people, the problems in the environment, and circumstances over which they have no control. Their focus results in blaming and accusing attitudes, reactive language, and increased feelings of victimization. The negative energy generated by that focus, combined with neglect in areas they could do something about, causes their Circle of Influence to shrink."

Key point – Focus on important things that you can control. Work to enlarge your Circle of Influence and you will automatically reduce the Circle of Concerns area.

Dr. Covey goes on to say:

One way to notice where our energy and focus is located is to distinguish between the have's and the be's.

The Circle of Concern is filled with the have's:

• 'I'll be happy when I have my house paid off.'

• 'If only I had a more patient spouse...'

• 'If only I had better employees/co-workers...'

• 'If only I had a boss who wasn't so demanding...'

The Circle of Influence is filled with the be's:

• 'I can be more patient...'

• 'I can be a better employee...'

• 'I can be more wise...'

It's a character focus. Any time we think the problem is 'out there,' that thought is the problem. We empower what's out there to control us. The change paradigm is 'outside-in'--what's out there has to change before we can change.

The proactive approach is to change from the inside-out; to be different, and by being different to effect positive change in what's out there--I can be more resourceful, I can be more diligent, I can be a better listener, I can be a better leader.

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Monday, May 14, 2012

Project Knowledge Capture

Knowledge Capture can be painful!

Organizations have a lot of knowledge. This knowledge is critical to the organization’s success and is housed in many places. Knowledge transfer among employees is always a challenge, and most organizations do not have processes in place to ensure that timely knowledge transfer takes place.

An organization’s culture can inhibit effective knowledge transfer. Ineffective knowledge transfer can cause knowledge to be lost or be unclear when and if it is transferred.

Some ways to overcome ineffective knowledge transfer are:
  • Ensure meeting minutes are captured for important project meetings
  • Create an environment that is conducive to collaboration
  • Set performance objectives around formal and informal knowledge transfer mechanisms
  • Establish regular knowledge transfer procedure reviews (meetings, documents, reports, etc)
  • Hire people that are flexible and open to good knowledge transfer practices
  • Conduct brainstorming sessions around effective knowledge capture and retention methods
  • Reward collaborative efforts
  • Use failures as a way to create new knowledge

A common language is important for effective knowledge transfer to take place. Glossaries, scope statements, project objectives and project assumptions will help you to begin the process of knowledge transfer in the early stages of your project.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Project Critics are Everywhere

Tom Peters a highly regarded speaker and writer said it best in his book The Project 50, “as project managers we should not try to convert our project enemies by overcoming their objections” and I would add through appeasement. Tom states “we should set out to surround and marginalize them; additionally, the most effective change agents ignore the barbs and darts, their time is spent on allies and likely allies”.

It seems to be in our nature to take on those that oppose us, particularly if they have been attacking us behind our backs. This taking on of the opposition is a waste of valuable project time and detracts the project manager from the task at hand. All projects will have detractors, whiners, and complainers. Don’t waste your time trying to convince them of the error of their ways. Let your project’s results answer your critics!

As project managers we need to spend our time working with our advocates and supporters, not answering our critics. If you say you don’t have critics on your project than I say you probably aren’t a very good project manager. The project manager that has friends everywhere on his projects is usually trying to satisfy everyone, and many times at the end of their project – if it ever ends – there will be low overall satisfaction due to all of the tradeoffs that were made between all of the competing interests.

When you push people, strive for excellence, set deadlines, push for quality, hold individuals accountable, and are firm on agreed upon commitments you are going to ruffle some feathers. Get over it, and realize no matter what you do on your project there will always be detractors.  Don’t let the detractors sway you from implementing your project on time, on budget, and within requirements.