Many things influence project management today. When we look at projects today compared to fifteen or twenty years ago, we notice a big change. In the old traditional setting, the boss might not even ask for any input, but today team involvement is critical. In a team setting, people are encouraged to give ideas and make decisions. This change governs how projects today are run. Gone is the traditional way of running projects where the boss made the decisions, figured the timeframes, and set all objectives. Today, we need more and more team members who will take the necessary leadership and move the project forward. This becomes a struggle with expectations and culture. This becomes even more difficult with organizations that have strong governmental, military, or influential bureaucratic drivers which can complicate the projects. It is a fact project management is here to stay. This means more decision making power must move down to the front line level. When this is carried over to the project team, this means you must create decision makers, not order takers. Employees must be taught to make decisions. The need for these skills will not change in the future. The expectations today are that employees can and will make these important decisions. Yes, some traditional supervisors will struggle giving away their power. They mistakenly think they have lost control and are giving their jobs to another. However, in today’s organizational culture, this way of thinking is being replaced by a progressive, proactive project management style – Project Power.
“Everything rises and falls on leadership.” This quote is especially true in running successful projects. You must have strong leadership, or things fall through the crack. Every individual must be committed to do what they say they will do. There are six ways to give proper leadership as you are setting up a project team.
Create an atmosphere of trust. Successful project teams feel trust and support throughout the project. Trust cannot be demanded as some mistakenly think. Trust is earned. You must earn trust, and walk the talk consistently. Treat people in a respectful manner. People who are treated badly will unlikely be supportive and cooperative. Avoid and discourage lies and backbiting. These kill trust and cause people to reject leadership. People can handle mistakes or even failure, but they cannot handle lies and disrespect.
Build the right team. Some project teams experience turf battles. Individuals argue and are uncooperative; they simply do not like each other. Communication and common courtesy can break down causing the project to suffer. Most people are able to overcome their personal dislikes and still work together. However, the team leader is responsible for addressing any unsolved problems that jeopardize the success of the project. By carefully selecting the team members in the beginning, some of these problems can be avoided.
Spell everything out for your team upfront. Leaders sometimes try to do the soft sell for their teams. They approach the team with the attitude that the project will not take long and will not need hard work. After the team is committed to the project, the bomb is dropped as to exactly what it will require from them. The leader’s credibility is destroyed, and in the future, red flags will go up when another project is proposed. It always works better to tell people the truth. By explaining the depth of the project and how much time you anticipate it will take for completion will build your credibility. Create the right foundation by explaining the process for handling problems, change orders, and assignments. By giving the team the information up front, you set a tone of respect and courtesy.
Monitor and give feedback. Giving proper feedback on the positives and negatives of a project is very important. Leaders sometimes erroneously think that if they are not able to give their team rewards, they cannot do anything. Never underestimate the value of a pat on the back with a “good job” accompaniment. If you think people are doing a great job, tell them. In some cases, leaders praise people at the onset of the project but forget to include feedback over the extended time of the project. Remember, praise costs nothing. Point out positive actions with comments. This positive reinforcement helps keep people focused on the right track. On the other hand, you need to be willing to discuss where team members are lagging behind on the project. There must be a willingness to talk about whatever is needed to drive the project.
Keep communication open. Keep communication flowing; it helps the productivity and efficiency of the project. Avoid one way communication which is only from top management downward. Communication is needed which crosses department lines and keeps everyone informed and on board. The creation of communication plans, as discussed earlier, can assist in this area.
Keep the end goal clearly in mind. Leaders can become sidetracked and forget the need for monitoring the project dates. People may lose focus during a project and allow deadlines to drift. If the missed deadline is early on in the project, it can have a major ripple effect. Once a project starts running late, one missed deadline may lead to other missed dates. If not corrected, this ripple may continue until the end of the project. This creates much pressure for those working on the project down the road because they will inherit the project already behind schedule.
Dr. Keith Mathis, founder and CEO of The Mathis Group, specializes in Project Management, Management Leadership, and Marketing training for private businesses and government agencies of all kinds. He offers 33 Project Management courses, is a Project Management Professional, is certified by the Project Management Institute and will customize every training session to your individual company’s needs. The Mathis Group also sponsors www.pmexpertlive.com, which is a powerful project management resource with free reports, podcasts, videos, and a monthly newsletter. He also offers customized management training and coaching on any subject with prolific communication and professionalism.