Project Success starts with the 3 C’s!
No matter how good a job you do with planning your projects, if you are unable to effectively engage your team in delivering the scope of the project within approved constraints, you will fail.
Depending on the power structure of our organizations, as project managers, we might feel powerless to do more than proactively identify such issues. However, as I hope I conveyed in “Project Managers can Prevent the Three Signs of a Miserable Job”, just because we don’t have formal authority over team members doesn’t mean we can’t take steps to prevent team member disengagement.
I believe that the main barriers to team member progress relates to the following three C’s: Commitment, Capability & Capacity.
The need for commitment goes back to the saying I read on a fortune cookie a few years back: “People don’t lack strength, they lack will”. Commitment most closely relates to Lencioni’s three signs and is the dimension over which project managers should have the greatest influence.
If a project manager is effective at communicating the benefits of their project to the organization and to the personal goals of their team members, can help team members understand how their work efforts directly contribute to the project’s outcomes, and demonstrates a willingness and political savvy to remove hurdles from team members’ paths to getting work done, they will be one step closer in securing commitment.
Project managers should understand that in most cases, team members are looking to satisfy the top three tiers of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs as their physiological and safety needs are already being met. Project managers need to try to develop a healthy team dynamic (Love and belonging), recognize team member achievement frequently, give them the opportunity to demonstrate competency without micro-management (Esteem) and to help team members (wherever possible) achieve their personal goals through their assigned project tasks (Self-actualization).
Such goals will require project managers to not only get to know their team members as individuals, but also to form or maintain positive working relationships with resource managers such that they can fast track their understanding of what makes individual team members “tick”.
Assuming you have a committed team, the next critical success factor is capability as for most modern projects, sheer will alone is not enough to deliver project scope in a quality fashion.
Project managers will argue that their time-constrained projects should neither be primarily used as a training opportunity for junior staff nor as a dumping ground for low performing staff. We’d all like to have a “dream team”, but in very few situations is this likely. This reality should not mean that project managers should totally disengage from team member assignments or evaluations, but it does require that they prioritize the competencies required for their projects to succeed, and do a good job of positioning the critical key activities with resource managers to secure the one or two “stars” that they require.
Once again, this requires the project manager to have developed productive working relationships with functional managers to increase their likelihood of getting good talent, but to support their recruiting efforts, they should also consider actively engaging their project sponsor(s) to lobby on their behalf.
As with most influencing activities, you should effectively portray the impacts to your project timeline or quality constraints if you do not get the desired skills assigned. Having said that, it is important to be aware that there’s a very fine line between trying to optimize your project and being perceived as doing so to the detriment of the organization’s overall project portfolio!
The final dimension is capacity – do your team members have enough time to produce their deliverables in a quality fashion? As I indicated in the article “Rework and reversed decisions are bonus rewards of excessive multitasking”, it doesn’t matter how skilled your team members are, or how committed they are to the project. If they are not provided sufficient focused time to do their work, their output will be late and/or low quality.
Again, this is not an excuse for you to abdicate responsibility for the project’s outcomes – start by planning your project’s timelines with realistic estimates of team member availability and then identify the key decisions or activities which will demand the most dedicated attention. It is unlikely that you will successfully secure 100% dedicated staff for all activities on your project, but it may be more feasible for your sponsor(s) to fund back-filling or other resource augmentation strategies to protect critical path activities and decisions.
Robert Burns wrote “The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men, Gang aft agley” but if you address commitment, capability & capacity, you will have established a solid foundation for your project’s success!
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