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Tag: Projectmanagement

Running projects

There’s no indicator of how things will go at the start. We may have done this before, or maybe it’s more, or less complicated than the other times. We can start with lots of confidence or start without any. The path to the end will be different each time. Sometimes getting to the start line is enough for success. Other times it’s the easiest part.

We collect our tools, come up with a plan, then start. Maybe we sprint at the beginning, then settle into a rhythm until the end. Or we may start with a good rhythm, then have to vary our effort to maintain momentum. We draw energy from those around us. Or they suck the energy from us. We never know.

This is what I pondered as I ran my second half marathon of the year, and the third one in my life. I felt a little weak at the start and decided to just run without any expectations or goals. There were over 500 runners on the scenic Westport, MA course. I started near the front and settled into a decent pace. At about the 6 mile mark I started to feel confidence that I’d go the distance. I finished 22nd overall, and 4th in my age group. It was a personal record for a half marathon.

Long runs are a lot like projects. There are so many variables, that we can’t easily predict an outcome at the start. All we can do is monitor and adjust our efforts as the variables change.

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Be candid or be gone

Most performance management processes are designed to collect unsubstantiated feedback on team members. I’ve sometimes been befuddled to determine what people are trying to say when they bring up a perceived weak area. They are comfortable in their anonymity when they provide their feedback. Being able to hide behind a keyboard is one of the reasons we shouldn’t discuss politics on Facebook with strangers. It can get a life of its own very quickly.

Several years ago I changed how I provide feedback on team members. I copy them in my response to the request. This places the burden on me to be truthful and consistent in what I write. If I write an area for improvement that I’ve never discussed with the subject of the feedback, then it’s my bad. I’m the one who needs to improve.

Project managers must have well-developed feedback skills. We are unable to lead a project if we’re not comfortable providing our team with on-the-spot relevant feedback on their performance. The first few times we do this it will be uncomfortable. Over time it becomes second nature and our team members will appreciate the opportunity to grow their skills. They will trust us more and the team as a whole will benefit. If you can’t provide performance feedback when an issue occurs, please find a new career field. Your teams deserve better leadership.

 

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Why project management initiatives often fail

Generally the leadership in a company or business unit realizes they have a resourcing and/or execution problem. They know that transitioning to a project organization is the solution. They interview and hire someone who is experienced in building and leading a project team. They assure the person that leadership is committed to the success of project management.

After the new hire arrives and lays out the plan, the internal pushback begins. Everyone is too busy working on all the high priority work to even discuss how to change how they work. They explain to leadership that the new hire “doesn’t understand” how that specific industry/organization/company actually operates. The new hire lacks the connection with the employees to induce them to change and lacks the authority to bring in people with the right skills to implement project management.

The leadership team gets caught between the promises they made the new hire, and the fear that their legacy employees will be upset/hurt/jobless if they proceed forward on the agreed-upon path to success. They waiver in their commitment. They make excuses and compromise their goals.

The new hire becomes disillusioned and their engagement decreases. They start searching for another job. They leave. The company then decides that project management isn’t​ right for their organization. Whenever someone brings up the need for project management, that person will be told that it was tried, and it didn’t work. They should just learn how to function in the current environment.

What can leadership do to make sure that project management initiatives succeed?

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Breaking the rules for the organization’s good

Organizations put controls in place to minimize risks, measure productivity and outcomes, and to make more beautiful reports. These controls are often in direct conflict with individual work habits.

People bypass controls to be more productive because the tools provided by the organization aren’t meeting the person’s needs. Rarely do people bypass controls because they want to do something bad.

Organizations can learn a lot by determining why their employees bypass the controls. If they’re bypassing controls to do a better job, invest the time and money to provide them with a comparable approved tool to meet their needs. This is how an organization improves employee engagement and job satisfaction while driving up effectiveness.

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