Tag: team members

Tips For Generating Ideas With Your Project Management Team

There are three periods during a project when you need to be able to rely on your team for great ideas: the beginning, the middle, and the end. When you toss ideas around during the planning phase, it’s a great time for innovation. When you brainstorm in the middle of a project, those discussions are generally focused on problem solving. As you’re winding things down, it’s all about exploring what worked vs. what didn’t and thinking up ways to use lessons learned to avoid pitfalls and promote success for upcoming projects. This process just doesn’t work if you try to go it alone. Project management requires creative input from your team.

The problem is that a lot of people aren’t that good at coming up with ideas on the spur of the moment. Let’s say you put a team member on the spot with a question like “You’ve been awfully quiet, Dave, do you have a suggestion you’d like to share?” Chances are good that Dave either wasn’t paying attention at all or simply wasn’t talking because he didn’t have anything relevant to add. How can you unleash the imaginative resources of your team and encourage them to share their ideas?

Seed the Discussion

Before you have a project management meeting to brainstorm, let everyone know several days in advance (if possible) what the topics will be. This could be a particular goal along with realistic parameters such as cost or schedule that will be used to determine which concepts are workable. Consider including a couple of your own ideas in this message as a starting place. It may spark inspiration in one of your team members.

When you provide this kind of advance notice of a brainstorming session, make it clear that team members will be expected to bring at least one proposal of their own to the meeting. If you have team members who tend to be shy, pair people up in a buddy system to generate an idea as partners. The more ideas you start the meeting with, the better. They don’t have to be brilliant or completely fleshed out. The important thing is to get the ball rolling so people will feel comfortable participating.

Create a Focused Environment

No one is at their creative best when they have a pile of work on their desk to worry about. If there’s no “slow day” during the typical workweek at your office, you may have the best results by scheduling a meeting to generate ideas before or after work – or on a weekend. Only use this tactic rarely and make sure to treat everyone to a good meal to keep their blood sugar stable and their mood lifted. Consider getting everyone out of the office and holding an informal meeting at a different location. A reserved dining room in a restaurant might work (some people tend to loosen up a little after a glass of wine).

Don’t Make Decisions Right Away

This may seem counterintuitive from a project management standpoint, but the purpose of a brainstorming session is not to come to a decision. The point is to come up with lots of possibilities. The decision can be made after you’ve had a chance to more fully investigate the pros and cons of a particular plan. Communicate from the outset that there’s not going to be a big “showdown” with one person’s proposal winning and everyone else losing during the meeting. That can help project management team members be more open with their ideas and less defensive if someone points out a fatal flaw in their suggested course of action.

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Human Resource Logistics Tips

Working with a multi-site team can make project management difficult at times. When people who have never met are expected to collaborate, there’s always the potential for a feeling of disconnection between team members. It is the project manager’s job to ensure that logistical issues don’t impede the achievement of project objectives.

The Personal Touch

If team members at a satellite location are within reasonable traveling distance, it might make sense for you to make the trip out to chair an occasional meeting at that location. This gives the remote members a sense that they:

  1. Need your leadership
  2. Deserve your attention

This helps reduce the feeling of being “orphaned” for members who are not located at corporate headquarters or another main hub of activity. It also gives you an opportunity to meet with your “second in command” at that location to solidify this critical relationship. An in-person assessment of the project management processes actually being used on the ground at remote sites helps you make sure that all locations are on the same page.

Virtual Conferencing

Email and phone conferencing are still excellent communication methods for virtual teams that are spread over multiple locations. However, there is something to be said for video conferencing. Body language accounts for a huge percentage of the informational content people communicate to one another. It is much easier to avoid misunderstandings and hurt feelings when team members can see and hear each other. That’s especially important in meetings that are convened to discuss things that have gone wrong in a project. It’s also beneficial to have access to visual cues when not all team members speak English fluently.

On the down side, having video equipment that doesn’t operate properly is worse than not having video capability at all. Starting every meeting with a 20 minute wait while IT figures out glitches is a very bad idea.

Realistic Expectations

When working across time zones, team members need to realize that not everyone will be on the same schedule. In situations where employees are on different sides of the International Date Line, confusion can lead to missed deadlines and conflict. Clarity of communication can keep these situations from arising. This is actually a statement that holds true throughout every area of project management. Team members working in different locations should always state the specific date and time of an anticipated event. For example “Let’s shoot for getting the plan documents completed by 4 PM, EST on Friday the 16th of June”.

Even with these challenges, project managers shouldn’t overlook the benefits of managing a geographically dispersed team. The more far flung employees are, the greater variety of perspectives they will bring to problem solving. This is a resource that PMs should recognize and utilize to enhance both the team’s practical ability to overcome obstacles and to inculcate a sense of team spirit.

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Tips for Managing Your Ever-Changing Project Team

One of the trickiest aspects of project management is that you can’t count on having the same team members every time. Depending on the nature of the project and the rate of turnover at your organization, you may have to integrate new members into your team with some frequency. At the Human Resource Planning stage, you should start strategizing ways to ensure everyone works together smoothly. Then, you will need to monitor and adjust your approach as you get to know your new employees better.

Review Feedback for Compatibility Clues

If your organization uses some form of 360 degree feedback, you have a wealth of information at your fingertips regarding the strengths and weaknesses of each prospective team member. Even if you can’t pick and choose which employees are assigned to your project, at least you can use this historical feedback to help you make decisions about which individuals should work together and what their roles should be.

For example, if you have one employee who is consistently praised for paying attention to detail, that person could be tasked with reporting on work status for his/her group. Another employee who has received multiple warnings for tardiness might not be ready to take on responsibility for meeting a critical deadline without additional supervision.

Make Newcomers Welcome

If only one or two people are being added to your team, they may feel like outsiders. Having well-defined processes in place is a good thing from an efficiency standpoint. However, it can make new employees who are unfamiliar with your methods uncomfortable. They may feel defensive about constructive criticism or unprepared to learn a whole different set of rules. Acknowledge this challenge and address it by:

  • Assigning a peer as a mentor to each new team member to help them with acculturation
  • Providing basic educational materials about how your project management process works
  • Taking time to explain core concepts in meetings instead of assuming everyone is up to speed already
  • Encouraging new members to ask clarifying questions either during or after each meeting if they don’t understand something

Address Conflicts Immediately

If a team member comes to you with a complaint about a coworker, take it seriously. Often, employees will wait until they are really fed up before they go to management to ask for help with resolving a conflict. When their concerns are dismissed instead of being addressed, they will transfer some of their anger and resentment at their coworker onto the manager who ignored their request for help. You don’t want to become the enemy. As a project management specialist, you should already have a decent set of communication skills. Put these to use in resolving conflict before it escalates.

Get to the bottom of what’s really bothering your direct report by using reflective listening and asking questions that focus on solutions. For example: “I hear you saying that you find it disruptive when Henry comes by your desk several times a day to ask you questions about his assignment because he tends to be kind of long winded. Would you like me to instruct him to communicate with you via email if he has a request or question?”

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The Apollo Syndrome and Project Management

As project manager you do your best to put together a team of highly qualified individuals. After all, in project management you want everything to run smoothly and efficiently, right? A discovery by Dr. Meredith Belbin called the Apollo Syndrome however proves that the project manager should think twice before loading a team with highly analytical minds.

In his studies Belbin found that having too many people with a high mental abilities was, in many instances, detrimental to the teamwork process. The people studied spent much of their time trying to persuade the team to adopt their own views as well as figuring out ways to point out weaknesses in the rest of the team’s ideas. They had difficulty reaching consensus in decisions and team members focused on their own work, paying little attention to what their fellow team members were doing. Occasionally the team would pick up on the fact they were having problems, but would then overcompensate to avoid confrontation. This led to even more problems in making sound decisions.

If, during project management, you see the Apollo Syndrome happening it should be addressed immediately. First of all, ask the group what they agree on. You may not get a concrete answer in which case you should be more assertive and get them to focus on areas of agreement. A helpful project management tool is a flip-chart which can be used to record the things everyone can agree upon. This exercise should help the team realize how unimportant their disagreements are and get them working toward common goals.

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