Posted on

Team Culture Components

Dick Billows, PMP
Dick Billows, PMP
Dick’s Books on Amazon

When a project manager takes over a team from another leader, he or she must first learn the team’s culture.  That’s as important as discovering the project’s progress toward reaching their assigned goal.  You must examine the team culture and determine if it is contributing to the team’s success or failure. If the team is successful, it’s very likely the culture is the right one for the targets they’re trying to reach. It would be a big mistake to try and change the team culture to something you, the leader, are more comfortable with. You should leave well enough alone. A good leader adapts their leadership style to support an existing team culture that is working.  Leading Teams Main Page

Team Culture Foundation

The team culture results from a combination of several things:

  • the project manager’s leadership style and techniques
  • each team member’s personal experiences
  • the “baggage” each team member brings with them
  • each team member’s personality, standards and goals.

The team members’ experience on prior teams creates expectations for the current team culture. Those expectations cover everything from negatives like the need to avoid blame, to positives like the rewards they receive for delivering good results. If the existing team culture isn’t working well, you need to know the type of team culture you’ve inherited. That tells you what kind of problems you’ll have to solve. You need to understand the team members’ experiences and expectations to be able to build a successful team culture.    Team Building

Team Culture Components

Team culture is composed of four components. The proportions of each component determine the unique culture of each team.

  • Affiliation – this team culture component measures the amount of trust, feeling of partnership, and synergy between the members.  Some teams exist solely for the purpose of this togetherness.  Examples of teams with high scores on affiliation between the members might include social clubs, support groups and religious congregations.
  • Task control –  this component is an orientation toward predictability, stability and order. The team leader controls what’s happening to ensure the team follows the correct methods and procedures. They must follow all the rules to get the job done. Hierarchy, stability and proven methodologies are very important in these team cultures.  Examples of teams with high scores on task control orientation would be a group of workers on an assembly line working along side robots or a prison road gang cleaning trash from the side of a highway. (Do they still have those?)
  • Personal development – this component deals with the orientation toward the development and personal growth of the team members.  Creativity, dedication and commitment to the purpose of the team are very important. Examples of teams with high scores on personal development might be computer skill clubs or leadership clubs.
  • Professional competence – this component of the team culture deals with the orientation toward achieving excellence in their work and profession. Here there is pressure on team members to be “the best.” That means they are creative professionals who know their business and use the best practices when they do their work.  This ingredient is very strong in management consulting teams and winning sports franchises. These team cultures put peer pressure on all the members to be the best at what they do. Team Motivationteam culture

Team Culture Rules and Behavior

No team has only one of the four components. Every team culture has all four components in various strengths.  Teams blend these four components into a culture that defines the rules people must follow to be a member of the team.  The team members, not just the leader, enforce the team culture. A new team member joining an established team will make mistakes. There is a learning process to understand what rules and behavior are important in that team culture and which are not. A new team member finds this out by trial and error and by watching other team members as well as the team leader. They learn how to behave and how to talk to other team members in a way that fits this team’s culture. For example, a team member coming from a team with a strong affiliation component will have a steep learning curve when joining a team where professional competence is the strongest component.  They will behave in a way that is very nurturing and supportive of other team members. The existing team members will view this behavior as inappropriate. Their culture uses peer pressure to emphasize performance excellence and being “the best” in the profession.  Leadership & Team Performance 

You can learn how to build a successful team culture in our online project management courses.

Get free articles and videos like this every week

Posted on

Team Building Techniques

Dick Billows, PMP
Dick Billows, PMP
Dick’s Books on Amazon

Leaders use team building techniques to increase the team members’ motivation, work attitudes and performance.  These techniques are used for three Moments of Truth (MOT). If team leaders handle them properly, these Moments of Truth (MOT) produce team members who actually try to do the following:

  • finish assignments early
  • take responsibility for solving problems
  • try to find better, faster ways of producing their deliverables.

When these MOTs are handled badly, they produce a team that does the following:

  • let the work fill the available time
  • wait for someone else to solve their problems
  • focus their attention on avoiding blame for failure.  Leading Teams Main Page

Team Building Techniques: Moment of Truth #1 – Team Commitment to Their Assignments

The first Team Building Technique Moment of Truth comes early, during the project planning phase when you’re building the plan and schedule. You’ll work with your team to define their assignments. You are clear about the deliverable they will produce and how you will measure if it is acceptable. You will document all that in a one-page work package so there is no confusion or misunderstanding. Finally, you’ll speak to their boss and pin down the team member’s availability for the assignment.

Working with the team member, you’ll estimate the amount of workteam building techniques the deliverable will take.  The two of you will calculate the task’s duration (how long it will take) from that data. It is important that the team member is clear on the assignment and has input into the estimate. You create a work package that is like a contract. That’s because changes to the assignment also require changes to the estimate. That’s the best way to do an estimate because it helps build the team member’s commitment to their assignment.    Leadership and Team Assignments

Team Building Techniques: What Gets in the Way?

Lots of things can destroy the success of this team building technique. Trust between you and the team member is a key component.  Sponsors and lazy project managers who won’t do their work are one cause of problems.  These people need to take the risk of being wrong rather than hedge their bets with vague expectations.  Here’s an example. Let’s say that during your project initiation meeting with the sponsor, he was quite clear about the required completion date and repeated it often.  Successful project managers always respond with, “I understand when you want the project done.  But I won’t know if that date is possible until I understand exactly what you want. Then I must determine how much work that will take and how many people I will have to do it.” The sponsor won’t like that answer, but it is the truth.  A foolish project manager commits to the due date without having all of the necessary  information. Effective Feedback

As you get deeper into planning this example project, it becomes obvious that finishing all the tasks by the sponsor’s due date is impossible. It’s not just tough. Even with lots of overtime, it’s mathematically impossible. So you are waiting for exactly the right moment to tell the sponsor that their date is impossible. You are also hoping for a miracle breakthrough that will make the date feasible. You’re working with the team members on estimating their tasks and starting to squeeze them on their estimates.  Eventually you abandon their participation and just make the task durations hit the sponsor’s completion date. Team Types

Bad Team Building Techniques: Due Date Determines the Schedule

This is the dilemma of the first Team Building Technique Moment of Truth. You can confront the sponsor with the truth about the date and take the heat. Or you can yield to the temptation to continue postponing the confrontation. In the latter situation, you show the sponsor acceptable dates by backing into the schedule from his completion date. You do this silly process by starting from the sponsor’s desired completion date and working backward. You pluck task completion dates from the sky like this, “Jack has to be finished by June 23 so Mary has to be finished by June 5th and Pat has to be finished by May 19, etc.”

When you are done with this exercise, you will have met the sponsor’s required date. Then you tell each team member when their assignment has to be finished. If anyone protests, you blame the sponsor directly or shrug and point up to the executive floor. This lets the project finish precisely on the sponsor’s due date, at least on paper. That makes the sponsor happy, at least for awhile.  You may be thinking, “We’re smart and hard working; maybe we CAN finish by then.” Team Building

This technique is widely used. In fact in some organizations, plucking dates backward from a due date is their project management best practice. Of course these organizations have 70% project failure rates. More to the point, the imaginary finish dates that you plucked from the sky cause you to fail at Project Team Building Moment of Truth #1. The project team feels they have been plucked themselves. The younger and more innocent members of the team are discouraged, knowing that they will fail to finish on time. The more experienced team members also know they’ll finish late. But their experience tells them they will get to spend months after the project’s “finish” date cleaning up the mess that was frantically slapped together to finish “on-time.”

Worst of all, what kind of commitment do you get from your team with this kind of process? People who know they have no chance of hitting their “committed” dates have little dedication or enthusiasm for their tasks. Even if you and the team use every ounce of creativity, you must squeeze the plan and develop shortcuts to slash the duration. 99.9% of the time these efforts will still fall short of the sponsor’s completion date expectation.

Team Building Techniques: Moment of Truth #2 – Handling Bad News

Whatever happens during planing, every project next faces the second Team Building Technique Moment of Truth. It starts at an early project team meeting and continues until the project is complete. Here’s how it goes. One of the members says to you, “I’m gonna finish a week, maybe two, later than planned.” Visions of the whole project collapsing flash through your mind. But you have choices on how you handle the situation.

This bad news may tie your stomach in knots because the slipping task is on the critical pathThat means it will delay the entire project completion date. It’s very easy to react emotionally. You might even treat this bad news as a personal betrayal by the project team member.  So you you get angry and act as if it’s something for which you can punish them. That action stops the team members from telling you about problems.  The team member who spoke up will not tell you next time and the rest of the team won’t either. Even if your anger is delivered to the team member in private, the rest of the team will hear about the incident within hours.

Some project managers (and executives) think refusing to listen to bad news is a sign they are dynamic and aggressive leaders. The truth is just the opposite; they are stupid. When project managers teach people not to give them bad news, they deny themselves the opportunity to solve slipping tasks when they are small problems. From then on, team members will wish and hope they can finish on time rather than tell the PM about the problem. They won’t lie. They’ll just use a bit of optimism when reporting the status of their assignments. The PM who doesn’t view bad news as an opportunity to fix a problem dooms himself to learning about big problems when it’s too late to fix them.

You need to learn to handle bad news positively and show appreciation for the opportunity to solve the problem. Keep in mind that the team member with a late task often is not to blame. Even if they are the culprit, it shouldn’t be obvious that you’ve reached that conclusion. You should handle the variance as a problem you and the team member have to jointly solve. You want your team members to continue to trust you. When they do, you get the valuable opportunity to solve problems early, when they’re small. If you discourage your team members from giving you bad news, you doom yourself to discovering problems when it’s too late to recover.  Leadership & Team Performance

Bad Team Building Techniques: Moment of Truth #3 – Micromanagement

Even if you are able to plan correctly and handle the bad news properly, you will still face Team Building Technique Moment of Truth #3. The temptation for many technically savvy PMs is to react to every problem by diving right in and making all the decisions. For many project managers, this is a very comfortable position. It’s much easier than trusting the team members and giving them room to make mistakes and own their results. These PMs even relish the sight of a line of team members outside their cubicle waiting for decisions. You know the micromanagement disease is raging when these PMs start complaining about how their team members, “lack initiative and the ability to work independently.” Of course, none of the team members feel ownership of any result or have a sense of achievement because the PM is making all the decisions.

Micromanagers want to “make things happen, now!” so they stick their fingers into everyone’s assignments. They may have built a commitment foundation where the team feels accountable for their achievements. But as soon as they make the decisions and treat the team members as drones, they’ve reverted to micromanaging. It’s difficult to keep your hands off people’s assignments when the sponsor is putting pressure on you about missed deadlines and budget overruns. But that is exactly the moment when you need the benefit of a project team that feels accountable for their achievements. Then they have some incentive to meet and, hopefully, exceed their assignments.

Team Building Techniques: Summary

When you succeed in each of these three Team Building Techniques Moments of Truth, you substantially increase the likelihood of project success. Each of the Team Building Techniques Moments of Truth involves both personal leadership techniques and sound project management processes.

You can learn these processes and our proven project management methodology in our online courses with individual coaching and mentoring. You will practice every tool and technique you are learning in assignments and role-playing exercises with your instructor. Whenever you have a question or want to discuss a technique, you can telephone or e-mail your instructor and always get a response within 24 hours. You have as many live online meetings with your instructor as you need.

Get free articles and videos like this every week

Posted on

3 Point Estimating – PERT

Dick Billows, PMP
Dick Billows, PMP
Dick’s Books on Amazon

Estimating is tricky for project managers because the customer wants the project to be done quickly and cheaply. You want your team to be committed to the numbers because they are realistic and fair. On top of that, everyone is concerned with the risk that exists on any project. So the best estimating technique should give you accurate numbers and some assessment of the risk in the tasks and the project as a whole. The best approach is to quantify the estimate and the risk of not hitting it. We use the 3 point estimating technique, or PERT which comes from the NASA space program, to do this.

This process lets you estimate work and duration with the team members and hear about the risks they see on their assignments. It also lets you give project sponsors the opportunity to decide what level of risk they want to accept on the project. Then you can quantify the additional costs that would be incurred to reduce the risks to a lower level.

The 3 point estimating process or PERT, which stands for Project Evaluation and Review Technique, is a three-step process where you discuss the team member’s task and risks. This includes the good risks that could cause this task to take less work and the bad risks that could cause it to take more work. Second, you note these risks in a work package and discuss the approach to the task with the team member. Third, the team member makes three estimates: an optimistic estimate, a pessimistic estimate and a best guess estimate. You apply the formulas* (at the end of this article) to those three estimates to come up with the actual data that you will use in the project schedule.

Common Estimating & Risk Issues

There are two mindsets that often cause trouble in the estimating process:

  • Executives believe that projects have no risk
  • Team members think that padding their estimates will protect them from blame.

Both of these mindsets are false and they  get in the way of accurate estimatingThe 3 point estimating technique or PERT deals with both these mindsets. Three point estimating is a straightforward process for developing estimates using a little bit of statistics.  It gives you a tool to quantitatively communicate about the risk of a task’s estimate.  It lets you stop pretending that task #135 is going to finish in precisely 15 days or that the project will absolutely finish by August 30. It also lets you address the issue that most projects are launched with less than a 35% chance of finishing by their promised due date. Because no one talks about that issue, executives think the completion date is 100% guaranteed. They believe the completion date is only missed when someone goofs off.

As an example, the best project managers tell sponsors that a project has a 65% chance of finishing by Analogous EstimatingAugust 30. These PMs also explain what they can do to improve those odds to 75% or 90% and what it will cost. Those PMs manage the assignments of their project team members with an understanding that there is risk on each assignment. They use 3 point estimating, PERT, techniques to get accurate numbers and reflect the risk.

3 Point Estimating or PERT Process

The 3 point estimating process starts with a discussion with the team member about the risks in their task assignment. You discuss the bad risks that will make their task take more work and more time. You also discuss the good risks that will cause it to take less work and time. Why should you do this step? Because you need an estimating process that addresses the team member’s legitimate concern that bad things will happen on their assignment and they’ll be blamed for not meeting the completion date.

Let’s talk a little bit about risk. When you ask me how long it will take to read this newsletter, I might estimate five minutes. Am I guaranteeing you that no matter what happens you’ll be able to read the whole thing in five minutes? No. What I mean is that 5 minutes is my best guess. That means there is a 50% chance it will take you less than five minutes and a 50% chance it will take you more than five minutes.

But if you are my project manager and you ask me for a task estimate, I would be a little hesitant to give you an estimate with a 50% chance of an overrun. What I would rather give you is an estimate where I’m 90% confident that I can finish in that much time or less. As the project manager, you would probably regard that estimate as padded. As the team member, I feel more comfortable with a 90% estimate. Unfortunately, there is no consistency in the amount of padding your team members do.

You want your team members to leave the estimating process knowing that you considered the fact that things can go wrong on a task assignment. Using the three estimates enables you to do that. It’s better than
having a team member give you a single estimate and play the padding game about how certain that estimate is. The three estimates tell you the variability in the task.

3 Point Estimating: Best Guess, Optimistic and Pessimistic Estimates

With agreement on the risks in the task assignment, you go on to ask for the team member’s estimates of work and duration (time). As the name implies, 3 point estimating requires three estimates for each task. That sounds like it will take a lot of work but it takes a matter of minutes.  You and the team member develop an optimistic estimate, a pessimistic estimate and a best guess estimate for each task. In developing those three estimates, we get more accurate estimates from team members and assess the task’s degree of risk and the range of durations.

If your team member estimates that a task has a best guess estimate of 80 hours of work, that means that 50% of the time it will take more work and 50% of the time it will take less work.

Next, the optimistic work estimate is that it will take less work than the best guess.  It is not a perfect world estimate but you want an estimate that’s based on the good risks you identified coming to pass.  The optimistic estimate is low enough that the team member thinks they can get the task done for less than the optimistic estimate 20% of the time.  The task will require more work than the optimistic estimate 80% of the time.

The pessimistic estimate is that it will take more work than the best guess. It is not a “disaster” estimate but you want an estimate that’s based on the bad risks they identified coming to pass.  The pessimistic estimate is high enough that the team member thinks they can get the task done for less than the pessimistic estimate 80% of the time.  The task will require more work than the pessimistic estimate 20% of the time.

Now let’s dip our toe into the statistics and look at two tasks, Alpha and Beta, and the calculated work estimates you would use at three different levels of confidence.

You take the three estimates and use the following simple formulas to calculate the task’s work estimate for a certain level of confidence of finishing within the estimate.

Mean=(4*BG)+OE+PE/6.  The mean is 4 times the best guess + the optimistic guess + the pessimistic guess divided by 6.

SD=(PE-OE)/6.  The standard deviation is the pessimistic guess minus the optimistic guess divided by 6.

Probability level = work= Mean +(z-score for probability)*SD

For task Alpha you can be 80% confident with an 82.2 hour estimate. But task Beta, with optimistic and pessimistic estimates that are further from the best guess than Alpha, will require an 88.7 hour estimate to reach the 80% confidence level.

Using 3 Point Estimating or PERT 

All of the better project management software packages, such as Microsoft Project®, enable you to use 3 point , PERT, estimates and create a variety of reports that communicate the project’s risks. You can take estimates like those above and calculate the odds of finishing the entire project within various durations.  That information is a solid basis for a discussion with the sponsor about the tradeoffs between cost, scope, duration, risk and resources.

To learn these 3 point estimating or PERT techniques and the entire estimating process, consider our private, online courses where you work individually with your instructor. They are available by phone, video conference or e-mail whenever you have a question or need help on an assignment. We can also deliver a customized training program at your site for up to 25 people. Call us at 303-596-0000.


Posted on

High Touch Leadership

High performance teams are increasingly rare. Too often people don’t have much to do with their team members and they aren’t committed to the project’s goal. No one cares much if the project will be late and the only thing people are concerned with is avoiding blame. Here’s how to change that with your team.

Dick Billows, PMP
Dick Billows, PMP
Dick’s Books on Amazon

In High Tech High Touch (1999), John Naisbitt et al, forecast that high technology makes team building and team member motivation more difficult; not easier. Many of the transactions between team members now happen via email, cell phone, blog and chat rooms rather than face-to-face: High Touch Leadership. This adds a strong impersonal element. Virtual meetings as a partial or total solution to team communication increases the distance between team members and their leader. It stimulates mechanistic, task-oriented management. There is little focus on leadership or identifying and meeting the needs of the individuals. Consequently, there is very little trust between members and leaders in the high tech team. And that lack of trust is devastating to the morale and culture of the team.

High Tech High Touch Leadership: Personal Interaction

So how can we fix this? How do project managers develop high performance teams with high levels of commitment and a strong bond uniting them in achieving the project’s goal? John Naisbitt et al believe the answer to overcoming the problems of high technology is High Touch Leadership. It requires a significant time investment and requires the leader to give up some of his/her decision-making authority to the team. This doesn’t mean that the team can merely participate in the decisions, it means that the team can actually make them.

The mechanistic project manager uses efficient but impersonal, one-size-fits-all ways of interacting with the team members. The High Touch leader spends a great deal of time personally interacting with each individual. How the leader deals with and communicates with each individual depends on their personality type and their needs. The interaction is customized for each team member. This is a very inefficient way to manage people and it certainly limits the size of the team. But that customization, along with empathetic interaction with each team member, can dramatically increase trust. This requires the leader to understand the personality type and needs of each team member. Building empathetic relationships between the leader and team members is the first step in High Touch Leadership.

High Tech High Touch Leadership: Trusting Relationships

The second stage builds on that trust between the leader and the team members. The leader must also work to develop the same trusting relationships between members of the team that he/she has with each of them individually. This second step is an even bigger challenge than the first because with just 5 people involved there are 25 relationships to foster.  That’s too much to handle if you have a three-month project and then each person goes their own way. But building that second level of High Touch leadership is very appropriate for small department or a small organization where the people work together on several projects. When the team has permanence that survives individual projects, the investment fostering those empathetic relationships is much more reasonable.  Let’s move on to the goal of that second stage.
High Tech High Touch Leadership

The high quality of the leader’s relationships with each of the team members allows the leader to accurately anticipate how each team member will react to an event. Also, each team member is able to accurately anticipate how the leader will react to an event. Next, the leader must work to increase the trust between the team members. This second step is more inefficient than the first. From a mechanistic task point of view, the team members are losing productive time when getting to know and understand each other better. This effort doesn’t get the project work done but it helps the team members work together in a much better way.

High Tech High Touch Leadership: Better Business Results

All this effort is very time-consuming and results in the loss of productive hours. So why would an organization make this kind of investment? They certainly wouldn’t do it on every project. But projects with a strategic rather than a tactical objective are different.  Outstanding team performance resulting from High Touch Leadership may yield significantly better business results than the product of an unmotivated, disconnected group of individuals. When the stakes are high and the skills on the team are only available remotely, the investment in High Touch Leadership pays off. It will also pay big dividends in small departments or firms.

You can learn these team leadership skills and become a successful project manager in our online project management basics courses. You work privately with a expert project manager. You control the schedule and pace and have as many phone calls and live video conferences with your instructor as you wish.  Take a look at the courses in your specialty.

At the beginning, when you and Dick talk to design your program and what you want to learn, you will select case studies that fit the kind of projects you want to manage. Chose you course and then select the which specialty case study from business, or marketing,  or construction, or healthcare, or consulting.  That way your case studies and project plans, schedules and presentations will fit your desired specialty.

  1. 101 Project Management Basics
  2. 103 Advanced Project Management Tools
  3. 201 Managing Programs, Portfolios & Multiple Projects
  4. 203 Presentation and Negotiation Skills
  5. 304 Strategy & Tactics in Project management
Posted on

Bottom-up Estimating – Video

Dick Billows, PMP
Dick Billows, PMP
Dick’s Books on Amazon

Bottom-up estimating is a project management technique in which the people who are going to do the work take part in the estimating process. Typically those people are the project team members. They work with you, the project manager, to develop estimates at the task level in the work breakdown structure (WBS). When you set the estimates of the amount of work, duration and cost at the task level, you can add them up into estimates of higher-level deliverables and the project as a whole.

Bottom-up estimating is the most accurate approach to estimating cost and duration. It also requires the most time. This kind of estimating involves the entire project team and gives them the opportunity to take part in developing the estimates used to measure their work. As a result, bottom up estimating tends to develop a higher level of project team commitment than parametric estimating. In parametric estimating where the numbers come from an outside source, like published rates, the team members may feel you have imposed the estimates on them. The drawback of the bottom-up approach, however, is that it takes more time than other estimating techniques.

In this video, Dick Billows, PMP, discusses how to make accurate estimates for small to medium projects.

Making Accurate Estimates of Time and Cost

Bottom-up Estimating: Working Your Way Up

In bottom-up estimating, you follow a three-step process, working from the lowest level of detail in the work breakdown structure (WBS). You begin bottom-up estimating by developing a detailed work package to go with the WBS. In the work package, you detail the scope and major deliverable that each team member will produce.  You describe the risks that affect the task and its cost and duration.

This work package is like a contract between you and the team member for their task. You need this contract to make the bottom-up estimating process work effectively with as little padding of the estimates as possible. Team members pad their estimates because they’re concerned about the scope of their work expanding after they have started, without any adjustment to the estimates. They foresee finishing late on the expanded scope and being blamed for missing their commitment. A similar result can happen when external events affect their ability to get the task done within the estimated timeframe. Because of these factors, work packages are an effective tool for clearly explaining to the team member that any changes to the work package are going to reopen the estimating process. In that sense, it gives them protection from scope changes on their task. That is why the work package documents the deliverables, the risks and the approach to the task. You record the team member’s estimates and you both sign the document.  This removes a lot of the anxiety from many team members who have previously been burned by the estimating process.

Bottom-up Estimating From the Work Package

Once the work package is complete and the team member is comfortable with it, you can go on to develop the actual cost and duration estimate. In bottom-up estimating, you must be careful not to force an estimate on the project team members. If you force the estimate on the team member, you cannot expect to earn much commitment from them. That commitment is dependent on a free and open negotiation where the team member feels the estimate is fair and reasonable. You may use the team member’s pessimistic, optimistic and best guess estimates developed in the 3-point estimating process. That technique allows the estimates to show the task’s uncertainty.

Alternatively, you can use an analogous estimating technique with the team member. You will look at the actual amount of work that similar tasks required on completed projects. If you have several projects and tasks to draw information from, you can quickly reach a consensus on how the current task compares to the other tasks. Then you can adjust the estimated work number to show that difference. The team member needs to actively participate in this discussion and in determining the work number that you will use.

Last, you aggregate the estimates for each activity in the lowest level of the WBS and roll the numbers up to develop estimates for the major deliverables and the project as a whole.

You can use a number of mathematical techniques with bottom-up estimating. The most popular and most accurate is  3-point estimating where each team member provides their pessimistic, optimistic and best guess estimates for the calculations.

To learn more about how to do bottom-up estimating, consider our online project management courses. You work privately with an expert project manager. You control the schedule and pace and have as many phone calls and live video conferences as you wish.  Take a look at the courses in your specialty.

Subscribe to Our Weekly Project Videos and Technique Articles

By submitting this form, you are granting:, 3547 South Ivanhoe Street, Denver, CO, 80237, permission to email you. You may unsubscribe via the link found at the bottom of every email. (See our Email Privacy Policy ( for details.) Emails are serviced by Constant Contact.
Posted on

Team Building

Dick Billows, PMP
Dick Billows, PMP
Dick’s Books on Amazon

When many project managers, team leaders and team members see the term “team building,” they immediately think of a facilitator or consultant coming to work with their group. These facilitators run games and exercises as a way of improving team member performance. That kind of team building has its place and can be effective.  However, team building is also a part of every project manager’s work day because you should never stop developing your team. Team building starts when project team members are selected and continues through the planning and implementation phases. It ends when the team is disbanded after the close-out phase. Leading Teams Main Page

 Team Building – Creating A High-performance Team

So what should you as a project manager do to build a high-performance team? The first question to ask is what is a high-performance team? You will get many answers but here are some universally accepted characteristics of high-performance teams:

1. Team members are committed to the same goal

2. Team members know and fulfill their roles on the team

3. Team members are cooperative and supportive

4. Team members share information honestly and openly

5. Disagreement and conflict among team members is considered productive, not destructive.

Team building produces high performance teams that respect each other, support, cooperate and trust each other. The team members use effective problem solving techniques. They have norms of behavior that reflect the positive relationships and the group enforces those norms. The norms include a high level of productivTeam Buildingity and the ability to make conflict productive. Leadership & Team Performance

Every project manager wants a high-performance team that is composed of supportive, highly motivated, aggressive problem solvers who are committed to their deliverables, budgets and due dates. Are there teams like this? Yes, but they are rare. That’s because too many factors interfere.  First, team members bring “baggage” with them from previous projects, their real jobs and the relationships they already have (good or bad) with other team members.  Their attitude toward your project may be affected by bad experiences on previous projects. Perhaps they were unfairly blamed for overruns or project failures.  If a team member’s home department or organization has conflicts with another team member’s department or organization, you will probably have to deal with conflict between those team members. Leadership and Team Assignments

It’s usually easy to identify what you want from your team. But deciding what team building tools and techniques to use is not as easy. There are certainly team-building classes and facilitators who can help you create a more effective culture. But it’s very easy for those behavioral changes to vanish as soon as the training session is over. Effective Feedback

 Team Building – Leadership Moments of Truth 

It’s really up to the project manager to build a high-performance team. It’s not done by talking about how everyone’s going to be highly motivated, aggressive problem-solvers, etc. No, it’s done in three critical instances of a project manager’s interaction with the project team. These instances are moments of truth that establish the culture of the team, communicate the project manager’s expectations  and teach the team members how to work with each other and the project manager. Team Motivation

These moments of truth occur at particularly important times in the relationship between each team member and the project manager. The first occurs when the project manager assigns a task to a team member. Bad techniques in this assignment process can undermine trust between the team member and the project manager.  They also alert the team member to start protecting themselves from being blamed for project failures. We’ll discuss the right techniques to use in a bit. Team Types

The second moment of truth occurs when the work estimate and duration of the task(s) are established. If the project manager handles this poorly, the team member’s alarms go off about being set up for failure.

Finally, how the project manager handles bad news about an assignment is critically important to maintaining the team member’s productive attitude when they encounter the inevitable problems.

Team Building – Stages of Team Development

A researcher named Bruce Tuckman developed a model of how teams evolve from the time they initially come together. Each of these stages (forming, storming, norming & performing) has particular characteristics and they offer the team leader  different opportunities for effective team building.  The first stage of team development, the forming stage, occurs when a team is first brought together. Typically each individual’s behavior at this stage aims at being accepted by the rest of the group. So they “play nice” with the others. As a result, there is very little conflict or disagreement. Everyone is gathering information about the other team members and how to get along with them.  Everyone is sensitive to what others think of them so that is when the project manager can have the most direct influence on the culture of the team and the norms that develop.

During the second stage, called storming, disputes and disagreements arise. The project manager must stop unproductive or destructors behavior from affecting the group’s culture and performance. As an example, a team member from the operations department might make critical remarks about the sales department in front of that department’s team member.  The project manager doesn’t want conflict between different functional departments and the storming phase is the time to stop it. The project manager’s subtle frown the first time one of these remarks is made is usually enough. If interdepartmental bickering flares up again, the project manager may stop the conversation and talk about how critical remarks between departments are unproductive. This direct but polite remark should be enough stop that behavior because everyone is sensitive to that sort of criticism during the storming phase. If the project manager sits back and doesn’t actively participate with the team during this phase, the conflicts between departments may become a routine part of the team’s culture and their norms. Stopping it then is exceedingly difficult and some teams never get past the storming stage.

If the team progresses to the next stage, called norming, the team’s culture is established and team members cooperate with each other and establish good working relationships.

The final stage is called performing. As it implies, the team members make decisions and solve problems as they work toward a successful project outcome.

Team Building – Team Member Behavior 

With all these ideas in mind, the first decision a project manager needs to make is selecting the team culture and the kinds of behavior they want the team members to exhibit.

The culture is built from the personality types of the team members.  Being able to observe your team members and talk with them provides you with the information to determine each person’s personality type.  Everyone is either an extrovert or an introvert.  They also have a temperament which determines their communications preferences and the focus of their lives.  Gaining an understanding of each team member’s personality type and temperament lets you use that information to assess people and decide which techniques you will use to deal with them. This is a key to effective leadership and creating a high performance team. This is not a set of techniques that you can master the first time you try them. Practice will improve your skills at “reading” the people on your project team and effectively influencing their behavior.

A key principle is that you change behavior with praise and rewards, not with punishment. Getting angry and emotional at a team member who misses a goal or encounters difficulty on an assignment is not going to change their behavior. It also won’t reduce the likelihood of it happening again. A project manager who gets angry only encourages team members to cover up problems until they are too big to solve and the team members can no longer hide them.

So you should steer the team members behavior with praise, rewards and positive feedback rather than anger and punishment.

Team Building – Team Culture

There are many unique types of project team cultures. In the beginning, it’s useful to think about these project team cultures as resulting from the balance between a focus on the members’ interpersonal relationships and a focus on achieving the planned results. It’s not possible to perfectly control the culture of a team but there are things that the leader can do to steer behavior and the culture in productive directions. Let’s talk about some extreme situations.

A team with a strong focus only on achieving results does not have team members who are supportive and cooperative with each other. These team members tend to be more competitive. There’s also a focus on avoiding blame if the desired results are not achieved.  This is not to say that the team shouldn’t focus on achieving the desired results. But when that is all the manager and team members are concerned about, they rarely have a high performance team.

At the other extreme is a team where relationships between team members are the primary focus.  These are teams where there is a lot of support between members as well as nurturing and helping team members overcome problems. But there is so much focus on the relationships and making sure everybody “likes everybody” that these teams do not perform at a high level and achieve their goal.

Team Building – Foundation for Action

We have discussed a number of techniques for team building.  A project manager who can build a high performance team must use a wide set of skills and techniques. They must be able to:

    • Identify their team members’ personality types from observation of their behavior and conversations
    • Determine the type of project team culture that would be most effective, given the team members’ personality types and the purpose/mission of the team
    • Understand the stages of team development and be able to play an appropriate leadership role as they guide the team through these stages
    • Master the techniques for giving effective feedback/criticism and for rewarding  team member performance
    • Use leadership techniques that positively affect the team members’ behavior and the team culture.

You can learn effective team building tools and techniques in our project management basics courses. Take a look at the basics course in your industry specialty.

At the beginning, when you and Dick talk to design your program and what you want to learn, you will select case studies that fit the kind of projects you want to manage. Chose you course and then select the which specialty case study from business, or marketing,  or construction, or healthcare, or consulting.  That way your case studies and project plans, schedules and presentations will fit your desired specialty.

  1. 101 Project Management Basics
  2. 103 Advanced Project Management Tools
  3. 201 Managing Programs, Portfolios & Multiple Projects
  4. 203 Presentation and Negotiation Skills
  5. 304 Strategy & Tactics in Project management

Posted on

Virtual Teams – Video

Virtual Teams Need High Tech, High Process and High Touch Leaders

Dick Billows, PMP
Dick Billows, PMP
Dick’s Books on Amazon

The traditional way of managing teams doesn’t work with virtual teams. Virtual teams despite (or because of) all the technology are regularly crippled by:

  • conflict between team members
  • poor communications
  • ineffective collaboration
  • little cohesion
  • inefficient processes
  • declining interest and commitment.

In summary, they are poorly managed.

Virtual Teams: Leaders Build a Foundation

Why are virtual teams poorly managed? Because the leaders of virtual teams ignore the unique leadership demands of virtual teams. Or they assume the technology will take care of the leadership demands.  So they start work without building the special foundation that virtual teams require. That foundation has three components:

  • High Tech Leadership that can select the correct technologies for each team & project
  • High Process Leadership that can design and enforce the right processes for decision-making
  • High Touch Leadership that builds trust and understanding among team members.

Those components are nice for any team but they are essential for a virtual team. The leader of a virtual team must be both a high tech leader and a high touch leader to succeed. (John Naisbett, “High Tech High Touch”). They must be actively involved with the communications technology the team uses. The leader must install, monitor and enforce communication processes. The entire team should participate in setting these rules. The leader of a virtual team also has to be a high touch manager. They need to focus on the relationships they have with the team members and the relationships the team members have with each other. Fostering strong social connections between the team members is the basis for trust and effective collaboration.


Virtual Teams: Leader Implementation

These ideas make the case for a different kind of team leadership and management. Multi-tasking is certainly one of the requirements for success. Let’s consider the steps a virtual team leader must take.

The leader begins by selecting the technology platform for the virtual team. Data from the Economist states that videoconferencing is a standard tool among the more successful virtual teams. There is a lot of videoconferencing software available. The leader has to choose between the offerings of WebEx, Microsoft Skype, GoToMeeting, and many others. The technological choices don’t stop there. The leader has to select the kind of email, chat, blog or Twitter/Facebook page is best suited to the team. Each of the alternatives has advantages and disadvantages. So the selection of the technology platform is of major importance. It’s the vehicle on which the team will collaborate (more on that later).

Another initial step is the design of the processes the virtual team will use. It’s not like a co-located team that meets in the third floor conference room. There the leader can assume that the processes for information exchange, collaboration and decision-making will automatically happen. With a virtual team, they won’t happen automatically  or effectively. The leader has to lay down some rules. These  are simple, common sense ideas that have to be enforced. The leader might choose a completed staff work concept. That means no items are discussed in a virtual meeting that have not been put on the agenda. And team members must have received supporting documentation for the items.  The leader has to enforce that rule, “If it’s not on the agenda we don’t talk about it.”

The leader also might have a rule about responding to people’s phone calls or emails within six business hours. Because the virtual team is not located together, members of the team don’t know if a fellow team member is out of the office. A virtual team member must follow the process rules for responding to phone messages or emails. The team leader also enforces that process. These rules and others like them must be developed with the team members’ participation. Compliance won’t happen without it. The team must agree that they need these rules to make the virtual team function properly.

Finally and most importantly, the team leader has to build the foundation in which people can collaborate efficiently. That requires that they have empathy (the ability to share someone else’s feelings) for the other team members. They must be able to understand “where the other team members are coming from.” That requires a fairly high level of familiarity with the team members as people. It’s certainly a lot easier to develop that kind of familiarity and get to know the other team members if they all work in the same office. But they don’t and they won’t have effective collaboration if the team members don’t trust one another. That trust must be built on knowing the other people on a personal level, as people. This is the most difficult role for the virtual team leader. He or she must have a relationship with each of the team members. They must also be able to lead the team through interpersonal processes so the team members develop empathy for each other. From empathy they can build trust. And with trust the team members can collaborate effectively. This is the key to excellent team performance and the role of the virtual team leader.

Learn more about how to effectively lead teams in our online project management courses. You’ll work privately with an expert project manager who is your coach and instructor. You may have as many phone calls and live video conferences as you wish. You begin when you wish and work on the course at your pace and as your schedule allows. Take a look at the courses in your specialty.

At the beginning, when you and Dick talk to design your program and what you want to learn, you will select case studies that fit the kind of projects you want to manage. Chose you course and then select the which specialty case study from business, or marketing,  or construction, or healthcare, or consulting.  That way your case studies and project plans, schedules and presentations will fit your desired specialty.

  1. 101 Project Management Basics
  2. 103 Advanced Project Management Tools
  3. 201 Managing Programs, Portfolios & Multiple Projects
  4. 203 Presentation and Negotiation Skills
  5. 304 Strategy & Tactics in Project management


Posted on

Micromanage? Not Me!

Dick Billows, PMP
Dick Billows, PMP
Dick’s Books on Amazon

Do You Micromanage Your Team?

None of us like to think we micromanage. But it’s often a challenge not to micromanage your project team. Here are some common assumptions of PM’s who micromanage:

  1. You’re the project manager and that means you’re the expert on everything about the project…so you need to make all the decisions
  2. Your project team members want to goof off and do the least work required…so you frequently check that they are working
  3. You are the only one who cares about quality…so you thoroughly check their deliverables.

Are these assumptions correct? No, they’re dead wrong. Believing those assumptions will lead you to micromanage your team.  It’s easy to fall into that trap.  You’re the guru and can quickly solve all the problems for the team. Why take the risk of trusting the team members to make good decisions?  You can make better ones very easily. But think about the consequences. The micromanagement style hurts morale and it causes your team members to take no responsibility for anything. That will haunt you when you move up to larger projects. So it’s critical that you never micromanage your team.  Project Manager Skills Main Page

Don’t Micromanage: Lead

The better approach is being a project leader. This is very difficult for people who believe any of the assumptions listed above. Here’s how a leader differs from a micromanager. The leader holds their team members accountable for producing end results; the project deliverables. The leader clearly defines the deliverable by setting acceptance criteria.  For an experienced performer, the leader allows that team member to figure out how to produce the deliverable and helps only when needed. The leader gives this team member a lot of freedom and decision-making authority. For an inexperienced team member, the leader will sit down with them and work out the details of how to produce the deliverable. The leader will check the work more often until the team member demonstrates an understanding of their task. Then the leader gives the new team member a bit more freedom. The leader will also allow team members to take part in setting of the time and duration estimates. That encourages commitment to “hitting the numbers.”

Leading is difficult because you need to keep your hands off the team member while they’re working out their assignment. However, here are the benefits of trusting your team members:

  •  their commitment to the project and
  • their responsibility for producing good work on time.

Micromanage: An Example

Let’s look at how the sponsor spots a micromanager.

“Me, micromanage?” The PM scoffed as the executive looked over the 68-page Gantt chart with 1,279 tasks for a 3-week project.

The executive ran a finger down the column of task durations. “Yes, this is the work of a micromanager. I see a lot of one-hour meetings and three-hour tasks on this schedule. The only thing you missed was scheduling restroom breaks. People don’t like being managed this tightly. Do you estimate the work at that level of detail and then track actuals?”

The PM looked out the window hoping for a tornado or an earthquake. “Well, we are just a little behind in posting the actuals and doing our variance analysis. Some people are a little too busy to report status on 20-25 tasks each week.”

The PM smiled and said, “I guess I’m just a bear for detail. I like to really pin everything down. Anyway, our 5-hour status meetings are good for team-building. And I really know where we stand after those sessions. Best of all, we use the meetings to hone in on what we think we’re trying to achieve. Everyone’s ideas are welcome.”

“Oh really! Flexibility on the project’s objective is just great when you’re spending $2 million of the company’s money,” the executive replied sarcastically.

The PM responded, “Well maybe it’s just me, but I think that ‘delighting the customer’ and ‘providing world class service’ are a bit vague as objectives.”

The executive ignored that snide comment and said, “Exactly how far behind are you in tracking things?”

“Six months, give or take.”

The executive glared at the PM and said, “Do you realize that I spend hours talking to people and reading status reports about new functionalities, endless training courses and wondrous new processes? But I have no inkling of what your project is actually achieving for the business.”Micromanage

“Well we’re trying to detail that with…….”

This is not a pretty story. We often hear about PMs building these monstrous project plans but never using them to actually track and report project performance. Worst of all, the executives who sponsor these projects have no idea what the project will actually achieve for the organization.

Micromanage: A Solution

There is a simple solution to the micromanage problem. You can’t make up for lack of clear and measurable objectives with a long laundry list of activities. You can’t view the project plan as a “To Do” list of all the tasks the team will complete. When you micromanage at this level, it’s impossible to track progress. Instead, you must drive the project toward a business-relevant outcome. Then your project plan and work breakdown structure (WBS) become tools for planning and tracking the project’s measurable achievements. These are at a higher level than micro-tasks in a “To Do” list.

The benefits come not only in clear objectives and scope control, but also in the quality of the assignments you make to the team members. The plan and WBS tell each team member what they must deliver, not the details of how to deliver it. You let them use their knowledge, experience and creativity to decide how they will meet their objectives. You’ll have a more dedicated and committed team when you don’t micromanage them.

Read more about the problems that micromanagement creates.

Our project management courses and certifications for organizations and individuals teach you a step-by-step process that makes you a leader, not a micromanager.

Posted on

Poor Performing Team Member

Sooner or later, every project manager will encounter a Poor Performing Team Member who is just not cutting the mustard. They may be a once good team member whose performance has fallen off or a new employee who is failing to meet expectations. I’ve had to deal with Poor Performing Team Members on several occasions, and although for me the experience was always unpleasant, having the situation resolved was worth the investment. In a couple of cases, employees who were offered multiple opportunities to correct their performance but failed to were let go. And happily, in other cases, employees were able to recognize and improve their performance deficiencies with effective encouragement and coaching. If you manage people, it’s a reality that a Poor Performing Team Member awaits you at some time. Project Manager Skills Main Page

The natural human tendency for problems such as a Poor Performing Team Member is to pretend it doesn’t exist or will get better on its own. But neither response benefits your project and will eventually harm it. As a project manager, one of Poor Performing Team Memberyour responsibilities is to identify when a performance problem exists. This person you once believed in now threatens the health of your project and you must act promptly to limit the damage their poor performance may inflict. When the day comes that you find yourself in this situation, if you follow a deliberate, thoughtful process you may find the actual experience to be much less daunting than you imagined.


Assess the Poor Performing Team Member Situation

First, keep your radar on all the time. You can’t deal with a problem by wishing you didn’t have it. So through your own observation, customer or team feedback, or unsatisfactory deliverables, be open to recognizing and confirming that you do have a Poor Performing Team Member.

Assess the situation as best you can. Are there obvious indicators of the root problem, such as whether it is a motivation vs. an ability issue? Gather clear indicators of the problem, such as failure to meet deadlines or product quality, unexcused absences, inappropriate behavior, etc. You need to have and document concrete examples of failure to meet performance expectations or job requirements.

Confront the situation promptly. Most performance issues don’t resolve on their own but worsen over time. You must meet with the employee without delay (one-on-one, if within organizational guidelines) to discuss your concerns with their performance. There are several fairly critical factors to be considered in this step:

• Be positive. Convey your concern, rather than your displeasure. After all, you both have an issue: the employee’s performance does not support retention, and you have a productivity issue you have to address. Fixing the problem is in both your best interests.

• Go over your evidence. Rather than arguing whether the problem is real or not, the concrete examples of performance shortfalls you gathered let you focus on what to do about it.

• Whose problem is it? You mustn’t assume that the problem is the fault of the employee. Through your dialogue with the employee, you need to find out whether the problem is originating with personal issues (family, health, etc.), work-related issues (job skills, a change in the task, conflicts with coworkers, task management, etc.), or external factors neither of you control (regulatory interference, resource availability, suppliers, employment conditions, etc.). This step is clearly the most important in terms of defining a “get well plan.” In my experience, understanding the root cause of poor performance is a great relief to both parties. That’s because in most cases, a path forward can be quickly determined and a partnership formed to make things right.

Create and Monitor a Performance Improvement Plan

As a project manager, your job is to achieve your project’s objectives. And to do that, each team member must meet theirs. You and the poor performing team member must agree to specific, measurable performance improvements. All the factors that contribute to those goals must be supported, including any for which you may be responsible. These may include necessary training, process improvements, resources, HR assistance, priority-setting, and so on.

Projects almost always operate on a timeline, and so must performance milestones. Be sure that you and the employee both understand what the performance improvement metrics are in both substance and time. Both of you must agree that your expectations are reasonable and fair. Your management “deliverables” that make performance improvements possible must be part of this equation.

As the project manager, you will monitor and measure progress against the improvement plan. Acknowledge progress and provide encouragement. As the employee’s performance improves, provide feedback and advice. If the employee believes that you have faith in their recovery, he or she will be much more likely to keep reaching for the next rung.

Evaluate Compliance with Performance Improvement Plan

You must make the final determination. Did your plan succeed or has the team member’s response fallen short? You and your HR department will likely be involved in making this final judgment together and it must be as objective as possible. An employee who, for whatever reason, cannot meet the job requirements must be replaced for the sake of the project. Although it is difficult, if you have been deliberate and objective, you will find arriving at this decision something you can do without self-doubt.

A final message: In one case where I followed this process and still could not rectify the situation, the employee reached me months later to thank me for my sincere but failed attempt to stimulate a satisfactory work ethic in him. Being fired, he said, was the wake-up call he needed to see past the false impression he had that he was indispensable. He now views his new job as a privilege he re-earns every day.

Posted on

Status Meetings: Info-free, Macho or Micro-detail

Your Status Meetings quickly earn a reputation, and it’s usually bad. First we’ll discuss three types of bad status meetings. Then we’ll explore ways to make your status meetings short and effective.

status meetings
Dick Billows, PMP

Status Meeting Types

Some status meetings are info-free, meaning no one knows much about anything. The project manager doesn’t know where the project should be and is blissfully ignorant about any variances between where it should be and where it is. So the project manager provides no information to anybody about this. The team members are left to self-report, sometimes at great length about where their task is and what problems they are encountering.
In other info-free status meetings the project manager utilizes a three color system. Greenlight status is good, yellow light status is a warning and red light status is deeply in trouble. Greenlight is used 99.99% of the time because people know that anything else gets them in trouble. Yellow light is used to signal minor problems like the moon has crashed into the surface of the earth. Red light status is not used until the due date for the task was more than a month ago.
These status meetings waste a lot of time because there is little or no information.  The project would be better off not having any status meetings. Unfortunately, these are predominant types of status meetings.
The macho status meeting doesn’t use any cutesy status reporting tools like the red light/green light system. Instead, the people plan what they are going to do during the next week. Why do they do that in the status meeting? Because it wasn’t done before they started work.  They try to figure out what to do next and when they do, it is accompanied by rock-solid commitments to be finished by next week’s status meeting. No one thinks much beyond that. If one of the team members feels a little uncertain about what their going to deliver by next week’s meeting, they are criticized by everyone for letting the team down. With this macho insistence on committing to due dates that aren’t tied to factual information, the people on these teams work a lot of overtime. And many of those costly hours are wasted.
The third popular type of status meeting focuses on micro-detail of tasks and deliverables. These projects are usually headed up by a project manager who is (or thinks he/she is) a technical guru. This expert is uncomfortable with other people making decisions. They believe everyone should come to the guru to receive direction and assignments from “on high.” Status meetings revolve around the guru’s detailed investigation into exactly what was done and what was created. This grilling is mixed with angry lessons about mistakes that were the result of a team member “going rogue” by making their own decisions. As a result, the team members’ feelings of dependency on the guru grow with each status meeting. Soon the team is afraid to make any of their own decisions or solve any of their problems. They go to the guru instead. Unfortunately this type of project manager is incapable of managing teams larger than two or three people. How to Write a Weekly Status Report

Status Meeting Organization

You can fix the problem with whatever type of status meeting you have by learning how to organize your status meetings. We all have heard these statements: What is the purpose of meeting every week? Don’t we have enough meetings? We project managers have asked ourselves this question: How can we organize a status meeting that gets results and doesn’t bore people to death? Lately I’ve tried something that takes a little more work on my end but boosts the productivity of my status meetings. It also cuts down the time that status meetings take. Let me tell you what worked for me…  How to Write a Weekly Status Report

First, I prepare the agenda for the project status meeting ahead of time. Let me explain. What is the purpose of the status meeting? It is to provide your team with the overall status of the project and to learn the status of their activities. It is also to identify potential problems. The emphasis is on identification, not on solution. So I prepare a standard project status report meeting form. That sounds bureaucratic, but it isn’t. The first section just lists the people who are expected to show up and those who are not. Those who are not expected to show up, will receive the meeting minutes. Next, I add a graph about the project status. For this status I graph the information from my Earned Value Analysis. It shows a comparison between the percentage of work actually completed vs. the percentage of work planned to be completed. Next, I add sections for activities that are overdue, that are due this month, and that are active throughout this month. For each activity, I list only the following information:

  • The owner of the task
  • The original due date
  • The current estimated completion date
  • The current % complete
  • Three lines for status text

Every week, I update the status for each of the tasks according to the status reports I received throughout the week.

Second, I organize the meeting using MS Outlook’s meeting organizer. I know it sounds trivial, but I need to make sure people know there is a recurring status meeting.

The actual meeting follows a simple routine.  We discuss what’s new on the project. Next there is a general status report of the project, followed by a status update of each of the tasks listed. Going through the task list is rather simple. I state the task and ask the task owner where they are on the task. I do not go into details during the status meeting. I don’t want to start lengthy discussions. If I sense a problem, I will schedule a private meeting with the task owner. Going through the task list usually takes no more than 20 minutes. Once this is done, I ask the team if there is anything else we should add to the protocol. Once again, my goal is not to solve all these issues. It is to bring topics to the table and organize additional meetings for the problem solving process.

Lastly, I make sure that the updated meeting protocol is available for everyone to view no later than 48 hrs. after the meeting.

Using this method, the time spent in status meetings went down to about 30 minutes, just enough to keep everyone focused.

If your team has problems with the status meeting, try structuring the meeting in a similar way. By doing so, you provide a protocol and agenda that you can enforce. And you actually boil down the meeting’s purpose to what it is: Getting a status, not solving all problems and issues.

Learn how to lead effective project status meetings in our online project management basics courses. You work privately with a expert project manager and practice running meetings in live online conferences, just the 2 of you. You control the course schedule and pace and have as many phone calls and live video conferences with your instructor as you wish. Take a look at the course in your specialty.

[button link=”” style=”info” color=”red” window=”yes”]IT Projects[/button]

[button link=”” size=”medium” style=”download” color=”#1e14a8″ border=”#940940″ window=“yes”]Business[/button]

[button link=”” style=”info” color=”red” window=”yes” bg_color=“00000000″]Construction[/button]

[button link=”” style=”info” color=”#1e14a8″ window=”yes” bg_color=“00000000″]Healthcare[/button]

[button link=”” style=”info” color=”red” window=”yes” bg_color=”00000000″]Client Projects[/button]