Project Management Means People Management

When you are managing a project, your responsibility is not to find a solution and meet all the goals of the project.  Surprising, right?

Your problem is making sure that the project team meets all the goals and finds solutions.

Yes, you have to put together schedules and keep documentation and do the myriad of tasks that a project manager is responsible for.  But your huge, secret, overarching task is to make sure your project team is exactly that, a team.  And that means always paying attention to team a group dynamics.

For instance, in a meeting you are going to have a different types of people with different ideas about how to do things.  That can lead to friction.  And that is OK.  In fact, that is great.  You need to keep those ideas flowing and make sure people are discussing things openly and honestly.  But this can be trickier than it seems.  You have to watch for several things that can either derail your project or limit the effectiveness of your team.

  • Lack of open and honest communication – This can stem from many issues and is probably the root of all of the issues you might have.  You may have a loud group, or you may have a quiet group, but you need to make sure that everyone is participating, contributing, and respecting each other.  I am not going to go into all the potential causes is in this post,  but there has to be an air of respect and openness in your team.
  • Group think – It seems like it would be good enough for everyone agreed on everything.  Because then you can make great progress getting things done.  If you find your team is being too agreeable, that is a big warning sign.  There should be a lot of discussion of alternatives and potential issues.  You may have to push people by asking probing questions.
  • Endless discussion/ Inaction – You want open and honest discussion but you don’t want it to go on forever.  At some point you need to tell people to end the talk and make decisions.  Ideally, at the beginning of a project you will have set up ground rules around how you will make decisions, break ties, will determine when it is time to move on to a new topic or a new task.  If you set those expectations at the beginning of the project, this becomes much easier to avoid.
  • Bad team members – Let’s be honest, sometimes you have someone on your team who does not work well with others, even if they are good people.  Maybe they don’t share or they don’t do anything.  I believe that efforts should be made to work with this person, talking to them about what you need and expect from them, but don’t be afraid to talk with your project sponsor about replacing them, if it comes to that.

In comprehensive data analysis at Google, among other places, it has been demonstrated that the biggest key to a successful project is not who is on your team but how that team works together.

So, think of teams like the A-Team.  They might bicker occasionally, but they make their plan and (with a lot of help from special effects) work together to get things done.

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