I frequently see teams focus from the outset on listing all of the many tasks that a team needs to do. And yes, at some point, we do need clarity on what we are going to do. But do you really know your team? I frequently see teams pay far less attention to getting to know the team than they should. In this blog, I will offer you two examples of project situations where getting to know key people was important. I will also give you some considerations to think about in that process.
Recently, I was reviewing a project where our client had refused to “accept” one of the deliverables. Upon reviewing the facts, it became clear to me that the person who did the work had performed as well as she could, but it just didn’t cut it. There was always some risk around the lack of expertise the client had – which is why they hired us. As the project was winding down, and it was time for the client to implement the plan we developed, it became apparent that they wanted more from us than we could responsibly deliver. Just knowing the task description was not helpful. Knowing how to communicate with the team, however, was essential in working through the conflict.
In this case, and with many change management projects, this presented an extra challenge. The client was in the process of making staff changes that we had recommended in the course of the project. This is not unusual in change projects. So, as new people are added to the client side of the team, teams have to adjust and get to know each other a bit.
In another story, I was working with a non-profit that had done a masterful job of outlining the scope and necessary tasks on a project that was going to impact the neighbors around their office. When large traffic delays, closed roads, and power outages began, the neighbors were outraged that the charity had ignored their needs.
These are just two examples of how failing to understand the people on your project can hurt your efforts. Here are some areas to think about as you get to know your team and the other key people on your project.
Identify ALL stakeholders and stakeholder groups
This can be a daunting task if you do it well. And if you don’t do it well, you may be daunted by communications snafus and resulting dissatisfaction. So pick where you want to spend your time.
When there are large groups of interested stakeholders (which happens frequently on non-profit and government projects), you may have to think about your stakeholders in groups. That’s okay, but be clear that groups can take on a crowd mentality, which can work in your favor, or not. Good communications are essential.
Preferred method of communicating
Face it. We are all different. Some people love email, while other people prefer texts. Some people don’t read and so, you will need to talk through changes. Understanding when to use email, phone, texts, or face time is essential. And when the preferred method of communication isn’t working, ask why. Maybe a computer problem is blocking emails from going through.
When you’re communicating with groups, you’ll likely have to use multiple forms of communications.
Skill levels, objectives and/or expectations of team members
We all sign up for projects for different reasons. Sometimes we don’t sign up at all – we’re drafted. Knowing what your team members want to get out of an assignment will help you better divide up the work so that it gets done effectively.
This is particularly true on non-profit projects with large numbers of volunteers. When someone is volunteering, it is essential that you understand his or her interests and assign responsibilities accordingly.
Even in a simple technology project, you need to understand the skills of everyone on the team, and which team members are comfortable expanding their skills and which ones prefer to stay in their comfort zone.
Roles and responsibilities
Some way, some how, you will likely need a method for remembering who is doing what. This is particularly true in larger projects. A RACI chart, or responsibility matrix, is one solution. I’ve written about this here.
This one may test your mettle as a project manager. Have you identified the hot button issues for key stakeholders and stakeholder groups? Don’t let a four-hour power failure in your neighborhood happen because you were asleep at the switch.
If your technology client simply hates getting software with bugs, you’d better factor testing into your costs. Know what is important to everyone on your project, and that includes your team, colleagues, management, client, and outside stakeholders.
Are you managing the project? It is essential that you know your team. Sometimes, a template can help you track some of these details. If you’d like one, send me an email, tell me what kind of project you are working on and how you are managing it, and I’ll see if I can help. You can reach me here.