I was fortunate enough to work in a very dynamic and exciting environment for over 10 years delivering WFM solutions to various markets and was part of many successful and maybe less successful projects over the years. Some of the key elements I found that are the making of a successful project are not down to what you might think.
Building a team is the most important key factor in successful project delivery. A true team spirit can make people feel they belong to a greater cause and feel responsible to deliver something great. Most projects go through a difficult time when things are not going according to plan, and this is when team spirit is critical. Instead of blaming each other, we take joint responsibility and we work together to fix the problem fast and get the project back onto track. When the project is kicking along, it’s a good time to celebrate the achieved milestones and to cement the team spirit ready to weather the next hurdle together.
So how do you build a great team?
Performance communication. Praise in public, criticize in private. For many this term might seem old and over used but it works like magic. Have you ever been in a situation were you were wrong or made a critical mistake? Everybody may know that it was you, but the last thing you need is to be criticized in front of your colleagues, which can be very demoralizing and humiliating. A great manager, will have a private discussion with you, point out what went wrong, what the action should have been and reintegrate you into the team.
Separation from management noise is crucial for a great team. The team doesn’t need to know what is happening in the stratosphere of management, what they need is clear instructions and directive and very clear milestones. In my experience, the worst projects are ones that management gets involved in, micro managing their chosen managers, changing their mind along the process and alienating a great team. Great project managers will keep the team focused and out of management reach. This in turn provides trust amongst the team members and helps them feel secure to make their own professional decisions and perform the job they have been hired to do.
I touched on this earlier but team building is one of the best ways to foster a collegiate group of professionals. It’s the old trick of going out together after work, getting to know each other on a personal level. It has critical implications on how people work together in the office. When people know each other on a personal level they are willing to stick their neck for one another and go the extra mile for their team members.
Trust and professional courtesy. Trust that if you hired a person to do a specific task that they are the best to evaluate the work load and the realistic timeline for delivery, asking them to do the impossible will not be to your advantage.
Clear, open and honest communications are integral to any project and is often the reason many projects come unstuck. Great teamwork can only happen with great communication. It is essential to communicate openly with your team especially when there are time pressures. Everyone on the team must be informed. If there are problems in one part of the project, it can have a huge impact on other areas and can impact not only on the project but team members workloads, budgets and stress levels! Excellent communication is the only way from preventing problems.
Many projects spend too much time compiling progress reports that takes too much time and add extra work to already time poor team members. As a project manager, your primary concern are the risks to the timeline. You need to be aware of any issues and respond to deliver a clear and defined milestone to your team so everyone is focused. Team members have to feel that reporting any issues or risks is to their benefit and not going to be held against them.
Meetings for meeting sake. Keep meetings to a small group (not extending to all the team members) where they can discuss what is only relevant to them and reach a decision. If there are more than 3-5 people in the meeting then think again.
As a Project Manager, you are ultimately responsible for delivering the project on time and within budget. Your team have their own deliverables and they may not always have the bigger picture in sights. This is where things can get tricky. There is an old adage known as The Parkinson Law that states ”the amount of time which one has to perform a task is the amount of time it will take to complete the task” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parkinson’s_law). A request that cannot be delivered by 1-2 resources will not be delivered by 3 or 5 or 10 resources, it is not a matter of how much resources you allocate to a task but rather how much time you allocate to the task. As managers, we need to be realistic to our team and our stakeholders in communicating what can be achieved and when.