People’s expectations of the project results are the primary factor in their level of support for your project and their final judgement as to the level of your success or failure. Stakeholder Management sounds pretty simple. I want their expectations high enough to cause them to cooperate but also to be low enough to be achieveable within the budget and duration. Sounds reasonable.
But when you stand infront of of the client executive or your executive stake holders seeking project plan approval its pretty easy for the audience to hear things your didn’t say so we need to be carful. Like this:
Stakeholder, “I understand about the project reducing the error rate on our employee paychecks. But how about the security on the whole payroll system and protection against hackers”
Bad PM answer, “We are going to ratchet up security at every level in the system including the people who take employee phone calls.
Better PM answer, “You are correct our focus is reducing errors to less than 1%. We are going to adhere to all of the security standards the company has set and include every control process presently in place.
Why is the first one bad? It creates expectations you are not going to meet. That stakeholder will be wondering about and asking about all the new payroll security you promised and be disappointed when there is none.
The second answer is much better. You start of by complementing the stakeholder on knowing the scope, which reemphasizes it. Then you say no new security by telling the person that the new process will have all the controls the current one does. The answer may not thrill the stakeholder but you have restricted the expectations.
Steps in Stakeholder Management
This kind of careful speech is something you will use continuously with your stakeholders. But there is a lot more to stakeholder management. Here are the steps:
Identify your stakeholders, anyone who will be affected by your project. You are interested in all of them, but focus on stakeholders in management.
Unearth their expectations for the project and correct those expectations immediately if they are different than your project scope. Letting an incorrect expectation just hang in the air always come back to haunt you.
Regularly monitor the management stakeholders feeling them out for issues they have with the project and any changes in expectations.
Follow those steps and keep good notes of each Stakeholder’s expectations so you can spot changes.
A highly motivated, problem-solving team is a key reason for every project success. These teams are committed to completing their assignments on time and within budget so the project goal is met. The proven techniques for leading teams to success include:
selecting the right team members
crafting the right-size assignment for each person
accurately estimating hours of work and duration
gaining team member commitment
receiving status reports
giving constructive feedback.
Leading Teams: Techniques for Three Sizes of Projects
The techniques are different for each project, depending on the size and scope. Here are the project size definitions:
Tier 1: Small – they’re done within one department Tier 2: Cross-functional – they affect multiple departments and cross organizational boundaries Tier 3: Strategic – they’re organization-wide programs or projects for clients with strategic impact.
Leading Teams Technique #1: Selecting Team Members
In the selection process, you’re trying to get the best people for your project team. But you’re also gathering information about their work habits and personality so you can craft the right assignment for them. Tier 1: Small projects: You are usually familiar with the potential team members’ work performance and quality standards when you all work in the same department. During the project planning phase, you need to ask the boss for the people you want on your team. That’s when the boss is focused on the project and can give you hints about the correct assignment for each person. Tier 2: Cross-functional projects: When you have to borrow your team members from other departments or organizations, it is more difficult to make sure you get productive team members. If possible, you should interview potential team members to assess their work ethic, problem solving ability and quality standards. Tier 3: Strategic projects: On large projects for your organization or your clients, you may not be able to select the team members. If personal interviews are possible, you can gather information about potential team members’ experience and work standards. You will use that information to design the right assignments for each person. If interviews aren’t possible, you will have to make an on-the-spot judgement about the right assignment for each team member. Leading Remote Project Teams
Leading Teams Technique #2: Designing Appropriate Assignments
You must design the assignments so they fit the capabilities and personality type of each team member. You want to give larger/longer assignments to people who have solid technical experience and are skilled problem solvers. They will appreciate the assignment’s challenge. You should give shorter assignments to people who are inexperienced and/or less capable. This will let you easily track their progress and help them when it’s necessary. Tier 1: Small projects: You usually have flexibility about the duration of assignments. For trainee-level team members or less capable people, you want assignments that are 1 to 3 days long. For the average team member, 5-day assignments are usually the right size. For experienced professionals, you should design assignments that are 2 weeks or longer to give them a challenge and independence. Tier 2: Cross-functional projects: With people borrowed from other departments, it is often acceptable to talk with their boss about the right-size assignment and the level of challenge you should give them. If that’s not possible, then you will adjust the complexity and length of the assignment as they work on the task and you learn their capabilities. Tier 3: Strategic projects: On larger projects with people who are accountable for major deliverables, you need to engage them in the design of their assignments. You must avoid micromanagement of these experienced people who are very capable. On the other hand, you should give “rookies” assignments that are within their capabilities in terms of time and complexity. Team Micromanagement
Leading Teams Technique #3: Work Packages
You must clearly describe, in measurable terms, the deliverable(s) the team member should produce. And you must document their availability, as approved by their boss. Tier 1: Small projects: This level of documentation is often skipped on small projects with three or four team members working on a project within a department. On the other hand, giving a simple work pack to each team member avoids confusion about your expectations for their deliverable. Tier 2: Cross-functional projects & Tier 3: Strategic projects: For larger projects, you should document a work package for each assignment. It will make the assignment clear and document the deliverable you expect the borrowed person to produce. The work package also provides a standard information base for estimating the tasks’ hours of work and identifying their risks. It is best to document the work estimate and give a copy to the borrowed team member’s superior. Team Building Techniques
Leading Teams Technique #4: Estimating Task Work and Duration
A project management best practice is to estimate the required hours of work so you can measure progress during the assignment. All projects: Regardless of the size of the project, you should engage the team members in the process of estimating the amount of work their assignment will take. The work package is the basis for the estimating effort. You should always estimate the amount of work (50 hours, for example). You should never estimate just the duration (Oct. 21 through Nov. 7, for example). Estimating the amount of work required for the task provides you with the ability to more accurately track progress and spot problems. Their team member’s availability to do the work (halftime or 2 days a week, for example) is also documented. Team Building
You should also discuss the assignment’s potential risks with the team member and what can be done about them. This helps you avoid, eliminate or mitigate those risks. Finally, the work package should list the task’s required deliverable, the approach to take on the task and the inputs the team member requires to finish their task. Team Building video
Leading Teams Technique #5: Status Reporting
Team members should report status on their tasks every week. This allows you to find problems early so you and the team have an opportunity to fix them before the task or project is late or over budget.
All Projects: Data can come to you by phone, e-mails, a form, template or on “sticky notes.” The important thing is that each week you get the hours of work competed, as of that date, and the estimated hours required to complete the task. No narrative is necessary. You should make status reporting easy so people will do it. It is a best practice to give all team members updated status data on the entire project.
Leading Teams Technique #6: Giving Feedback
All projects: You must give feedback to team members on a timely basis. People want to be praised for a job well done. Remember that public praise is the most effective. People also need to be told when their performance does not meet your expectations. This should be done in private and include what they can do to improve. You must deliver feedback in a way that encourages people to tell you about problems early, when you and the team can define a solution or a “work around.” Constructive Feedback
It is extremely ineffective for you to get angry with team members who report bad news. This action (or reaction) causes team members to hide problems. Then you are doomed to find out about problems when it’s too late to fix them. Dysfunctional Project Team video
Leading Teams Summary
Use these proven techniques to successfully lead project teams:
select the right team member for each task
assign the right size task for their capabilities
create a work package to define their deliverable
involve the team member in estimating the amount of work required and the duration of their task
receive weekly status reports from the team members
give team members constructive feedback and praise
You can learn these techniques and enhance your skills for leading teams in our online project management courses and certifications. You begin whenever you wish and control the schedule and pace. You work privately with an expert project manager and have as many phone calls and live video conferences as you wish. Take a look at the courses in your specialty.
What is project leadership? It consists of proven techniques that project managers use to:
set standards of behavior and performance
motivate the team members to high performance and
rally the team members when the project has problems to overcome.
The number one challenge to project leadership is the fact that the project manager has no formal organizational authority over the project team. Another factor that makes project leadership difficult is that project managers are usually technically-oriented people with little experience or skill in motivating others.
Project managers must tailor the interpersonal techniques they use to fit the personality of each team member and stakeholder with whom they work. That’s the only way project managers can make up for their lack of formal authority. Once they have “typed” the person’s personality and selected the right techniques for dealing with them, they have won half the battle. Here is a video on Team Member Personality Types
Another technique of effective leadership is to apply the best practices in terms of how the project manager trains and treats their project team members. Watch this video of a PM dealing with a situation where a team member has been pulled off the project and assigned elsewhere. In the first video, you see the PM use a technique that does not fit the personality of the team member. The result is complete failure. Then watch an analysis and see the PM do it the right way, using the right technique for the team member. Leading Teams
Communicating with the team member who has a problem
You can learn all of these skills in our online project management basics course. We individually tailor this course for business, IT, construction, healthcare and consulting specialties.
A Project management career offers you a fast growing profession, world-wide demand and high incomes. A Project Management career gives you mobility between employers because your skills are applicable in any company.
Project Managers who have the ability to deliver business results on time and within budget are needed in every organization. Project managers are in demand in both public and private sectors. Salaries are high with the average income of a certified project manager (PMP®) averaging $114,000 US. In this article will summarize the steps in a project management career: from first getting into the profession, to learning the basics, to your first certification and then up the ladder to multi-project and portfolio management. First let’s do a quick overview and then we’ll get into the details.
Project Management Career Progression
More than half of the project managers in the profession were pushed into it. Executives noticed they were good performers so when a hot project came up, the executives dumped it in their laps. Learning on the job and on-the-fly, these people got through that first project and then decided they liked the work. They learned the “right way” to manage a project later on.
Other people consciously decided to enter the project management profession. They prepared themselves for their first job as a project manager by learning the basics of project management. Then they got an entry-level project manager certification for credibility. These steps helped them get their first chance to manage a small project. How To Get into Project Management
No matter what route people take to start their project management career, they need to have training that teaches them the fundamentals of planning, scheduling, executing and tracking projects. Many people also get their first certification at this point because it helps in job hunting. That first certification is often the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM®) from the Project Management Institute (PMI®). That certification requires no project management work experience. But it does require learning the processes, definitions and terms of the profession and passing a 3-hour exam. Pass the CAPM Exam
Project Management Professional (PMP)® Certification and Beyond
After you have several years of experience managing projects, you will be qualified to earn the Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification from the Project Management Institute (PMI®). This is an internationally recognized credential for experienced project managers and is highly regarded in all industries. You must apply and get PMI’s approval to take the PMP exam. PMI requires you to document 4,500 hours of project management work experience if you have a university degree or 7,500 hours of project management work experience if you don’t have a university degree. They also require 35 hours of project management education. You need an exam preparation course to teach you PMI’s best practices in project management. Then you must pass the very difficult 4-hour PMP exam. About 50% of the people who take the exam world-wide fail.
The next step in a project management career is to earn a Program Manager Certification which prepares you up for positions managing multiple projects and larger, strategic programs. Program Management
Following that, your next move will be into senior management in a position like Chief Project Officer, CPO.
In many organizations, managers (and especially senior managers) view project planning as a waste of time. To them, the project plan is needless. They want to “start work immediately without wasting time in useless planning meetings and creating mounds of paperwork.”
Project Planning: A Waste of Time?
Why do many managers and executives have the attitude that project planning is a waste of time? Why are they unwilling to invest their time in project planning? Here are a few of the reasons:
They have never seen a project properly planned so they have no understanding of how smoothly things can run.
Project planning requires that the sponsor and stakeholders know what business result they want the project to produce. Often executives start projects to fix a problem they have just heard about. They have no idea how to solve it or define what they consider to be a fix.
The sponsor and stakeholders are unwilling to make commitments about the acceptance criteria for the project’s deliverables. They are unwilling to take the risk of specifying precisely what they want. Project Plan Template Main Page
Project Planning: A Waste of Time Reason #1
The most common reason why they have never seen a project properly planned is that the organization doesn’t exercise control or require justification for starting a new project. There is no reason to plan if people can start a project any time they want. The organization also doesn’t require a return on investment (payback) from a project.
On the other hand, executives must plan their projects if the organization requires the following:
a cost-benefit analysis for new projects
a clear specification for the business results the project will produce
its cost and duration.
Project Planning: A Waste of Time Reason #2
A second and very common reason for these “waste of time” attitudes is that many executives have never sponsored, run or even worked on a properly planned project. As a result, they don’t know the benefits a properly planned project can deliver. Their projects usually miss their planned completion dates and budgets. They rarely deliver the project scope or any business value. Project teams don’t know what they are accountable for delivering, what performance level the project manager expects or how the project manager will evaluate their work. As a result, the project manager must tell the team members what to do each week.
The executives also have no practical experience with change control. They don’t realize that a well-conceived project plan gives them and the project manager tools to manage changes to the scope, budget, quality and resources.
Project Planning: What Is Top-Down Planning?
Despite the reasons why the executives have the attitude that project planning is a waste of time and resources, you (as the project manager) must persuade them of the benefits of planning a project from the top down. When executives want to start a project, you must describe the right steps and explain how that process benefits the organization. Finally, you must discuss the top-down project planning techniques, documents and meetings. Executives also need to understand that you cannot use the same project planning techniques for every project. You should not bury a small project in needless paperwork. But a large strategic project will suffer if there isn’t sufficient planning, control and risk management.
A well-planned project uses the top-down project planning technique. Top-down project planning starts with a project scope that is defined in measurable terms. That means the sponsor identifies the overall scope of the project and the deliverable(s) the project has to produce. Then you and the sponsor identify the acceptance criteria that the executives will use to approve those deliverables. Next you break the criteria down into deliverables for each assignment. This lets you and every project team member know exactly what the executives want in a deliverable before you start work. On a well-run project, you and the team members don’t have to stop work to figure out what to do next. Each team member’s assignment or task is specifically defined so they know what they must deliver before they begin work.
Project teams that must stop and figure out what to do next are working on a project with a “To Do” list plan. In this situation, the project manager planned the first thing they’re going to do, then the second and then the third. Things get a little vague after that so the team members must stop work and ask the PM what to do next. That process continues until the planned completion date is looming on the horizon. At that point, the PM and team members must stop work and plan what they can quickly finish before the completion date. This is a disaster for the project and the PM’s career.
Project Planning: Top-Down Benefits
When you use top-down project planning, you make as many of the decisions as possible during the planning process which is before you ever start work. When the team does start work, they focus on executing the plan, not re-planning the project. You save several hours of meetings, talks and arguments for every hour you spend planning before the work actually begins.
Top-down project planning also saves you from doing the wrong things on the project. That’s because you have done all the thinking on the deliverables before you start work. And that means you don’t incur the costs of having to produce “missing” deliverables at the last moment. In top-down project planning you start with a clear definition of the project’s scope. Then you can break it down into high-level deliverables. You continue to break these down into sub-deliverables until you get to the level of tasks you assign to the team members.
Project Planning Summary
You are certain to have a failed project if you fall into the trap of starting work immediately without using the top-down project planning technique. The executives who forced you to start work quickly will be exceedingly dissatisfied with the results as well as the money and the time spent to produce them. The only way out of this situation is to explain to the project executives that success is a direct result of a solid planning effort. Working from the top down, you and the sponsor must define the scope of the work and the acceptance criteria that the project stakeholders will use to judge its success. The key to top-down project planning is having a clear scope definition that you can break down into high-level deliverables and sub-deliverables. Then you have the basis for a work breakdown structure (WBS) that minimizes the amount of work required to successfully deliver the project’s scope.
Consider our online project management courses to learn how to use all the tools and techniques for top-down project management planning. You’ll work privately with Dick Billows, PMP, as your instructor and coach. You begin when you wish and control the pace and schedule. You can have as many phone calls and live video conferences with Dick as you wish. Take a look at the courses in your specialty.
Project team building is a critical success factor. As a project manager, you want a project team of highly motivated, aggressive problem solvers. You want team members who are totally committed to their deliverables, budget and due dates. And you want them to support you and other team members. Do teams like this actually exist? Yes, but they are very rare. Here’s how to build yours.
Many team members have suffered from the poor performance of other leaders and now you, the new project manager, have to fix it. If you don’t, bad team performance could kill your project (and your career). Leading Teams Main Page
It’s easy to say you want a motivated and committed team on the new “critically important” project you’re going to manage. But how do you build one? What team-building strategy should you follow? There are certainly team building classes you can attend. Another option is using a facilitator to help create a more effective culture. But it’s easy, and common, for those behavioral changes to vanish as soon as the training session is over or the facilitator leaves. Leadership and Team Assignments
Team Building: Moments of Truth
So it’s pretty much up to you to build a motivated and committed project team. You can’t just talk about how everybody’s going to be highly motivated and aggressive problem-solvers, etc. Instead, you do it in three critical instances of your interaction with the project team. This is the heart of team-building. These instances are moments of truth that do the following:
establish the culture of the team
communicate your expectations
teach the project team how you will work together.
These team building moments of truth occur at particularly important times in your relationship with each team member.
Moment of Truth #1
The first occurs when you assign a task to a team member. You must assign each team member tasks that are within their skill set. If you don’t, you will set them up for failure and undermine any trust that existed between you and the team members. Your bad assignment techniques alert the team members to start protecting themselves from blame. Team Motivation
Moment of Truth #2
The second moment of truth occurs when you work with each team member to estimate the duration of their task assignments. If you don’t consider the team member’s honest estimate of the work required, they feel they’re being set up for failure. And that causes the team members to pad their estimates.
Moment of Truth #3
Finally, how you handle bad news about an assignment is critically important. You can’t lose your temper or punish the team member if a problem arises or a task completion date slips. Your behavior must encourage team members to tell you about problems as early as possible. That gives you time to work together to fix them. Problems are inevitable. So team members shouldn’t be punished when they make you aware of them. Effective Feedback
You can learn how to build a high-performance team in our online project management courses. You’ll 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.
A great project manager is not created by a project certification that is based on their ability to correctly answer multiple choice questions. The ingredients for the great project managers are a complex mixture of hard and soft skills. And please note that being a technical guru is not on the list of ingredients.
Great Project Manager Ingredients
Here’s what you need to build an impressive track record of project successes that make you a great project manager:
A tool kit of project techniques and the knowledge to select the correct estimating, scheduling, risk management and tracking techniques for each project. One technique does not fit all projects.
Interpersonal skills that let you motivate your team and make them want to work on your projects. Team members value your praise as a reward because it is not empty words. Team Motivation
Communication skills and the ability to read people and select the correct communications style and content let you influence and persuade team members and executives. Communication Techniques
Leadership style that convinces team members you will stand up for them. It gives executives confidence that you will not hide problems or blame others. Leadership Skills
Management style that lets you anticipate problems and apply solutions before the problem grows large. Management Skills
Use of project management technology to give decision-makers choices. You present options and quantified alternatives for solving problems and taking advantage of opportunities. PM Technology
Great project managers are not born; they are made. Project management raining and practice are critical. And you must be able to avoid the technology trap. That’s where project managers think their success comes from making good technical decisions. It is the trap door to micromanaging your team by making all the decisions for them. That takes so much time that you ignore the six characteristics listed above and wind up as a very ordinary project manager.
Feedback is not just sharing your evaluation of a team member’s work. An important part of a leader’s job is setting clear expectations and norms of behavior. These help the team members work together effectively and efficiently. You, as the leader, must set and enforce these expectations and norms of behavior. You reinforce positive behavior and change negative behavior by giving feedback to team members. Leading Teams Main Page
Feedback in the form of constructive criticism is one way to change a team member’s bad behavior. It is best to do this in private but occasionally it can be in public. It has the most impact early in the life of a team. During the “forming” and “norming” phases of team development, team members are most sensitive to your efforts to steer their behavior. A small disappointed frown from you when one team member criticizes another is often sufficient to stop that behavior. Later on, it is harder for you to change or stop undesirable behaviors. That’s because they have become ingrained. It is important to avoid punishing people with your criticism. Punishment doesn’t change how people behave and it can produce negative results.
Let’s look at the right and wrong way to handle several feedback situations.
Feedback Situation #1: Team Member is Late For a Meeting
You had e-mailed the project team the agenda for a 30 minute planning meeting. The group assembled several minutes early, except for one team member. There was informal and light–hearted conversation since most of the team members knew each other. Then you started the meeting at the appointed time. After 15 minutes, the missing team member arrived and made a couple of humorous comments as he took his seat.
There are two parts to getting the change in behavior you want. The most important part is to set the standard for timeliness. It may sound silly that you need to tell professionals to be on time for meetings. However, being late for meetings might be OK on some teams. You must make your expectation and the standard clear because it may differ from the norms they have on other teams. Let’s look at the ineffective and effective ways to handle the first part. Team building
Ineffective Feedback: Setting Standards
“By being late you have wasted all of our time. That is unprofessional and inconsiderate. If you do that again, you and I are going to have trouble.”
You are trying to punish the late arrival and this threat is an overreaction. It only makes you look silly. There is a better way to define what you expect from all the team members.
Effective Feedback: Setting Standards
“When people are late for meetings I can respond two ways. I can interrupt the meeting to let them catch up. But this wastes everyone else’s time. Or I can let the late arrival figure things out as we move on. Those are both bad choices. So please, let’s all be on time for meetings.”
The next part of the criticism is changing his behavior, not punishing him. So you should talk to him in private and give effective criticism. Two approaches to that next conversation with the late team member are below.
Ineffective Feedback: Giving Criticism
“I find that people who are late also do sloppy work and are very unprofessional.”
Stating stereotypes of people who are late as being sloppy and unprofessional is insulting. It may actually get in the way of changing the person’s behavior. You need to focus only on the behavior you want, not on personality traits.
Effective Feedback: Giving Criticism
“We are all too busy to have our time wasted by someone who is late. Please help me enforce the standard that everyone arrives on time. Thank you.”
There is no personal criticism in this feedback. There is no implication that the person who arrived late is a bad person. This is a clear comparison of the behavior you want, compared to what you got. The request for their help is a nice touch to make the criticism more effective.
Feedback Situation #2: Functional Turf Wars
As you continued to work with the team, you noticed sharp remarks exchanged between the team members from Marketing and Operations. The barbs seemed to focus on a previous, failed project. Each side was implying that the other was to blame for the project failure. You quickly decide you have to do two things. First, you have to define the norm and the kind of behavior you want from the team. Second, you need to effectively criticize the barbs being made by each side to make clear how their behavior deviates from what you want.
Ineffective Feedback: Defining Norms of Behavior
“I don’t want to hear any more of these inter-departmental turf wars. It’s stupid and completely unprofessional.”
That statement is publicly criticizing certain people on a personal level. It produces resentment, not better behavior.
Effective Feedback: Defining Norms of Behavior
“Let’s focus on the future and the brilliant things we will deliver as a team;not on failed projects from the past.”
Next you need to speak privately to the people involved about how their comments differ from the behavior you want. Let’s look at the effective and ineffective ways to do that.
Ineffective Feedback: Past Grudges
“You can dislike the people from (pick a department name) on your own time. On my project, you have to work with them. So get used to cooperating with each other.”
Effective Feedback: Past Grudges
“Everyone will have a separate, measured accountability on this project. And we will know if someone is not pulling their weight or trying to shift work off to other departments. So let’s not re-fight old wars. Let’s focus on making this project a success.”
Feedback Situation #3: Not Meeting Assignment Requirements
You cannot wait for team members to deliver bad assignments to define your expectations. You must do it upfront during the initial project planning phase. Leadership and Team Assignments
Ineffective Feedback: Meeting Expectations
“Top management is watching this project very closely and they will know very quickly if someone is not doing a good job on their assignments. So don’t let bad work on this project ruin your career.”
This is the perfect way to have people start working on their excuses for avoiding blame. They’ll do this even before they start work on their tasks. There is a better way to define your expectations.
Effective Feedback: Meeting Expectations
“The most important part of my job as project manager is to make sure you understand exactly what is expected of you. That’s why we are developing a work package that defines what each of you must do to succeed. The work package describes the deliverable you are responsible for producing. That deliverable is defined with a metric and the standards you must meet. The work package also lists all the documentation that you must produce. If you produce what’s in the work package, your assignment will be a success. If people in the organization want something that is missing from your work package, that is my fault. It’s not yours.”
As you execute the plan, there may be assignments that fall short of the expectation defined in the work package. Let’s look at the wrong and the right ways to handle that situation.
Ineffective Feedback: Falling Short of Expectations
“You have not given me what I asked for because you didn’t listen. This is all wrong due to your poor work.”
This is too vague and does not tell the team member what they did wrong. It also heaps a lot of personal accusations on them. This will not change their behavior for the better.
Effective Feedback: Falling Short of Expectations
“I guess the work package I wrote was not clear. I would like you to complete the deliverable with this new, better defined work package.”
Taking some of the blame, whether deserved or not, will make the criticism more acceptable to the team member. And, with the focus on the future, it may improve their attention to detail going forward.
Effective Feedback Summary
It’s easy to handle situations that involve good news, like finishing early and under budget. But it’s challenging to manage situations when the project that is late and over budget due to team members’ poor performance. You need to focus on changing their behavior, not punishing them. You do this with effective feedback delivered in private. It’s easy to lose sight of how your own behavior and emotions can get in the way of building a high-performing project team. To master skills for giving effective feedback, you need to practice handling these situations the right way.
You can learn and practice these skills in our private, online Project Management Basics course. You will work individually with an expert PM on a realistic project case study. You have as many e-mails, phone calls and live video conferences as you need.
Mentoring is the best way to learn project management. That’s where your company or organization lets you work with an experienced project manager on projects for a client or for one of your company managers. That’s how most of us at 4PM learned project management. We studied by working for an expert project manager on his/her projects. Then the mentor let us manage small projects until we knew how to do it right. Unfortunately, the opportunity to learn from a mentor is very rare today. Most people who want to join the project management profession have to attend classes of 25 or more people taught by an academic.
Project Management Mentoring
At 4PM.com, however, we have created an online project management learning process that is based on the classic mentoring process.
Your instructor is an expert project manager with 10+ years of industry experience.
You work one-to-one with your instructor via video conferences
You work on realistic video project case studies
You practice dealing with the executives in live role playing sessions with your instructor
You practice answering executive’s questions in live role-playing sessions with your instructor
If you make a mistake, you try it again
You discuss every assignment with your instructor. You learn how to develop a project plan, create a project schedule using software and give status reports.
Project Management: Step #1
Our project management training prepares you for all of the challenges a project manager faces. They start when the boss calls you into his office and says something like, “We’ve got a big problem with the supply room. Our people are wasting dozens of hours every day because they can’t find the supplies they need to do their jobs. I want you to manage a project to fix the supply room problem.”
That’s when you may do a Google search on “project management “to find out what the heck to do. Well, here’s the answer. The first thing you do is pin the boss down about exactly what he means by “fix the supply room problem.” To do project management the right way, you need to have a definition of the project’s scope, the goal that defines the project’s success. The boss’ statement of “fix the supply room problem” is too vague. It will be a moving target and the goal will change each week. That’s because everybody can interpret it differently. So you must ask the boss questions about how he will measure if the project is a success. When he says something like, “People will be able to find the supplies they need in less than 2 minutes,” you have a clear scope. Project managers know how to ask the right questions to pin down the project scope.
Project Management: Step #2
The second thing you do is subdivide that scope into the major deliverables that will take you from where things are now to the end result the boss wants. You will usually have 4 to 7 major deliverables and each one must be measurable. In our example, a major deliverable could be “fewer than two stock-outs a week in the supply room.” That’s a measurable deliverable. It clearly defines success before you and your team start work.
Project Management: Step #3
Next you write your project charter. That can be a one page document that lists the following:
your understanding of the project’s goal
the resources you need to do the work on the major deliverables
the risks you see in the project.
When the boss signs off on the charter, you can start work creating the project plan.
Project Management: Step #4
Developing your project plan and schedule is the fourth step. To do that, you work with your team members to estimate how much work each of the deliverables and tasks will require. Then you lay out the sequence in which you will do them. Next you create the work breakdown structure (WBS). It is a hierarchy of the deliverables in your project. It’s easiest to use project software to develop your schedule and WBS. One of the best programs is Microsoft Project®, but it’s expensive. There are less expensive options like Gantter. That is a free project management scheduling software that you use with your browser. (I don’t think it’s going to be free forever.)
Project Management: Step #5
Then you get the sponsor to approve the project schedule. Then you and the team can start work on the tasks in your project plan.
Project Management: Step #6
Tracking actual progress on those tasks and comparing them to your approved schedule is the sixth step. You will give the sponsor status reports on how things are going and what problems you’re encountering. The sponsor usuallty tells you how often he/she wants these reports. You should also recommend solutions to the problems. However, your team members should give you weekly reports on the status of their tasks.
Project Management: Step #7
When the project is complete, the seventh step is to archive all the information about the project. That data will make doing the next project a lot easier.
That’s what project management is in a nutshell. You can learn all these skills in our project management basics courses. You practice using them as you work one-to-one with your mentoring instructor.
Watch this video about “how to” and “how not to” make team assignments. We show you what the initial meeting with a team member should deliver. Next we’ll discuss an example of how not to make a team member assignment. Finally, we’ll talk about the right way to make team assignments.
Your First Meeting with a New Team Member
The goal of this example project is to improve the quality of the applicants that Human Resources refers to line managers for job interviews. The project manager asks one of the team members to stop by his cubicle to discuss the project. He is a bit uncertain about how to start the project. He asks the team member to interview all 65 of the company’s first level supervisors about the quality of the job applicants Human Resources is sending them for job interviews. Leading Teams Main Page
Team Assignment: Round 1
The team member returns to the project manager’s cubicle a week later and says, “I finished the last of the 64 interviews this morning. One of the supervisors is in the hospital so I couldn’t interview her.”
The PM says, “Good work. Tell me about the results of the interviews.”
The team member replies, “The hiring supervisors are very unhappy with the quality of the applicants referred by the Human Resources department. 70% of them rate the applicants as poor or unsatisfactory in terms of meeting the job specifications. Only 10% rate the applicants as excellent. We certainly have a problem to solve here.”
The project manager responds, “That’s not what I wanted. I want to know specifically what is wrong with the applicants the HR department sends them to interview. Please go get me the information I want.”
The team member nods at the project manager, turns and walks out, thinking to himself, “If you wanted data about what was wrong with the applicants, you should’ve told me that.”
Team Assignment: Round 2
With a marked lack of enthusiasm, the team member proceeds to again interview the 65 hiring supervisors (the last one was home from the hospital). The supervisors are unhappy with the team member because they feel they’ve contributed enough time to the project. Several remark to him, “You really should decide what you need before you waste people’s time.” The team member says nothing but nods agreement.
Seven days later the team member returns to the project manager’s cubicle. The project manager sternly asks, “Did you get the assignment right this time?”
The team member drops a 1 inch thick report on the project manager’s desk and says, “You asked me to find out what was wrong with the applicants and I have done that. Here are all the flaws of the 76 applicants that the HR department has sent to hiring supervisors in the past year. There are 1,576 things wrong with those applicants.”
The PM rises to his feet, snapping, “This is useless! We can’t correct all the problems on this enormous list. I need to know the top 10 things that are wrong with the applicants. I can’t believe you didn’t understand that when we last talked. You should be able to figure these things out for yourself. But if you can’t, you are responsible for asking questions until you’re clear about your assignment.”
Team Assignment: Round 3
Without saying a word, the team member walks out and begins another round of interviews with the same supervisors. The team member’s lack of enthusiasm is now even worse than that of the supervisors. Also, the team member’s attention to detail is far below his usual work standard. As a result, the data gathered is incomplete and full of errors.
Team Assignment: Who Is At Fault?
Without question, the project manager did a miserable job defining this team member’s assignment. The team member followed the PM’s instructions correctly. In each of the cycles through this stupidity, the team member did what the project manager told him to do. And that is the heart of the problem. The project manager was telling the team member what to do but he didn’t tell the team member the result he wanted the assignment to deliver. If the PM had said, “Identify 10 categories of flaws with the job applicants that Human Resources sends to our supervisors,” the team member would have understood what the PM wanted him to produce. He would have delivered the desired result the first time. But the project manager did not specify the deliverable he wanted. What he told the team member to do was insufficient.
Too often, project managers don’t think about exactly what they want the product of the team member’s assignment to be. It’s much easier to just give the team member a “To Do” list and hope they get the assignment right. If they don’t, the project manager blames the team member rather than himself. When you, as the project manager don’t give your team members a clear and measurable deliverable for their assignment, you make the team members much less effective than they could be. When people have to guess about what a “good job” is, their work effort will be less focused than it could be. Additionally, if members of your project management team are uncertain about your expectations, they will naturally protect themselves by padding their estimates of the work’s cost and duration. They expect your unclear expectations to change and they want to avoid the blame when things turn out badly.
Team Assignment: The Right Way
Consistently successful project managers always define clear performance expectations for team member assignments for every deliverable. If you want to be successful, you need to set a measurable performance expectation for every assignment you give your team members. As work progresses on the team members’ deliverables, you can compare what is being produced to the original, measurable assignment. This allows you to spot and resolve problems early so your projects finish on time and within budget. And it lets your team members feel proud about doing a good job on their assignments. That builds team morale.
Learn how to make clear team member assignments in our online project management basics courses. You’ll work privately with a expert project manager. You control the schedule and pace and have as many phone calls and live video conferences as you wish.