I have been working on project teams in various types of organizations for as long as I can remember. Some of those teams have done really well. Other teams, not so much. The defining factor, more often than not, was the support from the top. Inevitably the teams who felt that they had been forgotten about or which didn’t have financial resources or scope clarity failed. The projects sometimes succeeded on the surface, often because of stellar people on the team, but there was just something that was unsuccessful about the experience. Any company with substantial resources can put those resources to work in their project teams, but for those companies without deep pockets, here are some ways to empower project teams.
Understand the people on your teams.
One way of empowering teams is to really understand the people on your teams, and why they are doing the work for you. Is it because they are looking for tough and challenging work or do they simply need the income and prefer more understandable assignments?
Take that understanding to the next level and then help them understand your clients and their needs.
Stakeholder is an over-used, corporate-speak word that few people really understand. I hate the word, but I haven’t found a better one to describe all of the people in your life and in the work you do.
In the project management world, a stakeholder is anyone who can influence the success (positively or negatively) of your project. That includes our spouses and children, the other people on our team, people in your client’s firm, and their customers and constituencies. It can be a large and overwhelming group.
When your teams understand the many and varied stakeholders on their projects, it will help them:
- Prioritize work;
- Know when to ask for help, acquire new resources, or say no;
- Recognize potentially better approaches;
- Detect training or communication needs; and
- Identify project deliverables that are at greater risk.
Focus on documentation.
In a fast paced world where the focus is on finishing activities, the biggest gift you may give your customer, your project teams, and your company is to slow down and focus on documentation. When clients insist on a scope of work document, we don’t skip it, but we can be so tempted to skip internal documentation.
Whether we’re talking about product requirements, process or procedure documentation, meeting minutes, or just email communications, being thorough and clear in all documentation can save time and money in the long-term.
This includes making notes for yourself when you have to stop what you are doing. You’ll be amazed at how helpful this is when you return to the task. And, in the event that you encounter a crisis, and someone else has to take over the work, these notes can make all the difference.
Allocate time for training and development.
When you look around and find that some people are incredibly busy, and others are not, ask yourself if training and development would help.
When clients are having the same problems with your software, do you need a blog on your site that explains something? OR, do you need to change the user interface?
We are living at a time when younger people are often hungry for growth and development, but are we making it harder for them by not offering the training that they need?
While we are talking about training, make sure you train the people who will actually do the work. I’ve seen companies invest in new software and when the vendor comes to do the training, somehow, someone “forgets” to send the ones who will actually be doing the work.
Whether it is knowing the one thing we need to do today to feel great, or the one thing we need to do this month, or this year, knowing what success looks like is key. If you don’t tell your project teams what success looks like, don’t be surprised when they don’t find it. If you do work for clients, know what success looks like for them, and their customers.
Your plans for next year can change dramatically when you really begin to focus on what’s important, and how to get there. That project plan may need to be tossed in the trash when you realize that the planned outcome that seemed to have so much business value last year now seems obsolete.
When you start your day by thinking about what success looks like for that day, it can change your life.
Ask yourself why your team needs to do everything on your list. You may realize that it doesn’t need to do everything – that about 20% of the items on that list will provide the most results.
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