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Work with people, not projects

In the end, what you will remember about the projects you managed and the teams you lead are are the people not the products or projects.

My mother once told me that the friends you make in college will be your lifelong friends, not the ones you make in high school. I love my mother God rest her soul, but she didn’t anticipate Facebook and her concept of friends wasn’t necessarily the same as most.

My Facebook thread is full of high school friends, college friends, work friends, marriage friends and believe it or not even most of my ex girl friends – at least 8 or 9 of them, I think. I’m fairly easy going and don’t seem to leave behind a trail of burned bridges and angry acquaintances or disgruntled clients.

So as the title suggest, it’s about the people we work with to make the project happen and turn out successfully, not the processes we try to force the project through. Not every project is the same or created equally and not all project customers want and need the same things. I’m not saying I’m the best project manager on Earth – far from it. But I remember who was on my team for my projects and who my primary customer contacts were. In fact, many of both of those are Facebook friends as well.

So as we try to focus on people rather than projects, there are a few things, concepts and best practices we should keep in mind as we work to deliver successfully with our project time. As I write about these, be thinking of your own projects and acquaintances – both personal and professional – and how you’ve been managing those relationships? Are they successful? Do you have some room for improvement?No matter how successful each relationship has been, we all have some room for improvement I’m sure. Let’s consider…

Communication is always the first priority.

Effective and efficient communication – Speaking, writing, reading and listening… all forms – is Job One for the project manager and remains the number one link between project delivery and project success. It’s really no surprise that communication is the basis for most relationships and it is also logically one of the biggest and most common determiners of project success.

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Treat others as you would want to be treated.

That’s the golden rule, right? You want to always be respected, acknowledged for your successes, get direction when you need it and be treated more as a friend than a resource directed to just get things done. I guarantee that those you are directing and leading on the projects you are managing feel the exact same way. If you are always treating your team and customers this way then congratulations.But if you take a hard look at how you treat people in your personal and professional life there are likely some areas where you are taking others for granted and treating them more as task masters than people. To often we look at what they can be doing for you rather than what do they need and what can you be doing for them to help them accomplish what they need to do and get to where they are going.

Your customers are people, too.

Your customer is your customer – on the other side of the fence. But they are really part of your team, too, and all they want is for you to all succeed together. No matter how demanding they may be, always be looking out for their best interest – kill them with kindness. You might be very surprised what happens with a difficult customer when you work with that mindset. They are people too. They care about their budget and their project, but they know you and your team do also and that you are the experts.Sometimes you do have to remind them of that but that’s life, right? We all get in each other’s way from time to time. You’re no more special than anyone else. That’s probably a phrase we should repeat to ourselves every morning before starting work. We might approach each day and each relationship a bit differently. And don’t forget to treat those at home with the same love and respect. It can be easy to kick the dog when you’ve had a tough day. Don’t kick the dog, he did nothing to you. Your work and your relationships and your actions are your own responsibility. Own that and always remember that.

Summary / call for input

The bottom line is this: if you focus on collaborating well with your team, developing relationships with your team and with the customer and work hard to keep everyone on the same page and working toward the same goals with recognized roles of equal importance and accountability, you and your projects will be more successful by default. By focusing on the people on the project and not so much the processes, those individuals will take more complete ownership of their tasks and be more participant and accountable and you will all achieve a higher level of success. The processes, which are actually fairly logical in nature, will take care of themselves for the most part. Especially if the team and customer are on the same page and working together to the same ends and goals. If you get off track, call a meeting and discuss. Transparency is a great thing and you’ll only gain more respect from the team and the customer by recognizing the need for such a discussion. And what you’ll be left with are strong working partnerships and relationships that will conform project to project and team to team. The best part may be that your project customer will see it and experience it as well.

Readers – what are your thoughts? People vx processes – what do you think is the most important part of managing projects? What works best for you? Please share and discuss.

Brad Egeland

Brad Egeland is a Business Solution Designer and IT/PM consultant and author with over 25 years of software development, management, and project management experience leading initiatives in Manufacturing, Government Contracting, Creative Design, Gaming and Hospitality, Retail Operations, Aviation and Airline, Pharmaceutical, Start-ups, Healthcare, Higher Education, Non-profit, High-Tech, Engineering and general IT. He has been named the “#1 Provider of Project Management Content in the World” with over 7,000 published articles, eBooks, white papers and videos. Brad is married, a father of 11, and living in sunny Las Vegas, NV. Visit Brad's site at

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