Talent Management at Project Team Level

Talent ManagementAny organization thrives or fails because of its people. It is no wonder that so many highly successful organizations, like Samsung, Intel, IKEA, Procter and Gamble, just to name a few, invest in talent management. Talent management refers to “a set of integrated organizational HR processes designed to attract, develop, motivate, and retain productive, engaged employees” according to the staff at Johns Hopkins University. For organizations that carry out projects, talent management also means equipping team members with the right mix of technical, project management, and leadership skills, according to the authors of PMI’s Pulse of the Profession “In-Depth Report: Talent Management.” Here are four reasons why any organization that does projects should invest in talent management:

1. Talent management improves projects’ performance.

According to the authors of PMI’s “Talent Management” white paper, organizations that invest in talent management are more likely to succeed in projects than organizations where talent management is poorly aligned with organizational strategy.

2. Talent management means having the right people for the right project roles at the right time.

Effective talent management ensures the organization has qualified team members and project managers ready for any new project when the need arises. As such organizations will not have to wait to recruit new talent, and delay a project’s start, having the right staff available can turn into a competitive advantage.

3. Talent management leads to motivated, and thus productive, team members.

Giving team members the opportunity to grow professionally and personally by developing their technical skills, project management skills, and soft skills, and providing them with mentoring and coaching sessions can motivate employees. Of course, not all employees will take advantage of those opportunities, but those who do will become even more valuable for the project and the organization. (more…)

Why Project Team Composition Changes Affect Performance

By | June 10th, 2014|Resource Management, Team Management|Comments Off on Why Project Team Composition Changes Affect Performance

Team PerformanceWhen a member leaves the project or is added mid-project to the team, that team’s composition changes. Consequently, the team performance increases or decreases. If the team performs worse after the change, the project manager must find a solution. The first step is understanding why changing team composition affects performance.

Sometimes, the team performs worse because the new team members are not skilled or experienced enough. But when they are, the team should perform better; however, that does not always happen. Even adding experienced and skilled members can decrease team performance, at least initially.

Team Development Stages

Team underperformance is likely to be caused by a mix of factors, unique to each team. One of the main causes is the alteration of group dynamics after a member enters or leaves the team. A modified team acts as a newly formed team. To understand group dynamics, Bruce Tuckman (1965) proposed four stages of team development: forming, storming, norming, and performing.

  • Forming – Individuals start to form the group; individuals avoid conflicts because they want to gain group acceptance.
  • Storming – Individuals start competing, and conflicts arise because individuals define their roles and establish the group’s hierarchy.
  • Norming – The group is focused on problem solving and respecting procedures; individuals trust each other.
  • Performing – The group performs well as a team. (Not all teams reach this stage.)

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Recognizing and Avoiding Project Team Burnout

“Death march projects are the norm, not the exception,” says Edward Yourdon, the author of the Death March, a book about surviving highly stressful, irrational projects in the software industry. Many organizations promote “death march” projects – those with unrealistic goals and schedules – to keep up with the competition in their respective industries. As a result, project teams work overtime to meet unrealistic goals and schedules, sometimes with insufficient resources, only to reach the burnout phase. The productivity declines, the absenteeism rate increases, and the team is unable to meet requirements. A burnout team means that the employees’ job satisfaction diminishes and that they cannot perform their tasks and meet deadlines. The consequence is a failed current project and a high probability of failure of the next project.

Recognizing team burnout and taking steps toward avoiding it are essential for avoiding cost repercussions for the organization.

“Burnout can be defined as feelings of exhaustion, a cynical attitude toward the job and people involved in the job and through a reduced personal accomplishment or work efficiency,” according to a dieBerater report.

Many things can trigger team burnout besides death march projects. These include poor project planning (cost, time, and resources), customer changes, micromanagement, high workload, time pressures, insufficient project manager support, as well as insufficient training and decision-making opportunities.

Exhausted teams tend to focus on achieving the results by working harder rather than smarter. The team members fail to use creativity to develop efficient solutions, so they become frustrated, communicate less, and work inefficiently. (more…)

Costly Mistake: Communicating Ineffectively with Project Stakeholders

By | March 24th, 2014|Project Management, Resource Management, Team Management|Comments Off on Costly Mistake: Communicating Ineffectively with Project Stakeholders

More than half of what an organization spends on a project is at risk due to ineffective communication, warn the authors of PMI’s Pulse of the Profession In-Depth Report: The Essential Role of Communications. Over 50% of the project managers surveyed by PMI researchers nominate effective communication as the most important factor that contributes to any project’s success.

Since the project manager is the main person responsible for communication, a project manager that engages in ineffective communications endangers the project. Communicating effectively with all stakeholders starts with understanding what effective communication is and who the project’s stakeholders are.

Defining Effective Communication

“Effective communication takes place only when the listener clearly understands the message that the speaker intended to send.” (University of Pittsburgh)

“Effective communication is about getting your message across.” (Nature)

Effective communication is transmitting a message the receiver clearly understands. Since most messages a project manager transmits are time-sensitive, effective communication in the project management realm also implies timely transmission and reception of the correct message.

Tips for Communicating Effectively with Stakeholders

Identify all stakeholders of your project, starting with the team members, project sponsor, and the customers. Rank their communication needs and define a communication plan. Who and when do you need to update? Whose feedback do you need and how often do you need it? Since stakeholders in each category have different levels of technical expertise, pay attention to the language complexity. For example, you can use technical jargon with your team members, but you might need to convey the same message for the customer in layman’s terms so that you do not bury the message in jargon.

Besides transmitting the right message to the right stakeholder at the right time, effective communication implies effective listening to the stakeholders. Ensure there is no misunderstanding in the messages you get from the stakeholders just like you ensure they understand your messages.

Formal and Informal Communication

A good way to ensure effective communication with your team members is to promote informal communication besides reports, status updates, or planned team meetings that are part of your communication plan. Ensure all your team members can openly express their opinions. Let them know your door is always open for informal discussions about the project. And when they do have questions, give comprehensive answers. (more…)

Building Trust: Why it Matters for the Project Manager

By | December 4th, 2013|Project Management Certification, Resource Management, Team Management|Comments Off on Building Trust: Why it Matters for the Project Manager

People can work together even if they do not trust each other, but only people who trust each other can collaborate efficiently. Project managers who do not trust their teams tend to engage in micromanagement, which translates into ineffective project work. Team members who do not trust each other spend energy on protecting each other’s interests and hiding relevant information, which may lead to the project’s failure. A project manager that lacks his or her team’s trust endangers the project, as team members are likely to feel unmotivated to complete the work and unlikely to communicate their ideas openly. Without trust, no effective collaboration or knowledge sharing is possible.

If you have yet to earn your team’s trust, you are likely struggling to lead your team. They may suspect that every recommendation you make is only in your own interest and not the team’s. You are likely finding that your ideas are difficult to implement, and you spend a lot of energy on trying to convince people that you are right.

How do you earn your project team members’ trust?

Progressively, in time. You do not gain people’s trust as you would gain a prize. You accumulate bits of trust, and you preserve that trust through your actions and words. It may take you a lot of time and effort to build up a decent amount of trust that allows for effective collaboration with your project team. And sometimes it is impossible to gain everyone’s trust.

What is trust?

Trust is intangible, and it means different things to different people. In general, having your team’s trust means that people believe:

  • What you say is true: Communicate effectively and be transparent with your decisions and the way you lead the project. Demonstrate you have no interests that conflict with those of your team members. They should trust that you are all working together towards the same goals.
  • You do what you say: Keep all of your commitments and build a record of respected promises.
  • You are open with your intentions: Communicate effectively and keep everyone “in the loop.”
  • You are qualified for your job: Demonstrate your project management skills rather than boast that you have the right PM qualifications or experience. Be consistent in your decisions and treat everyone fairly.
  • You trust them: Trust comes both ways. Have confidence in your team members’ skills and their capacity to deliver what they promise. (more…)

Project Team Performance – Beyond Appraising and Reporting

By | August 29th, 2013|Project Management, Resource Management, Team Management|Comments Off on Project Team Performance – Beyond Appraising and Reporting

project team performanceOne of the project manager’s main responsibilities, team performance management is more than evaluating, monitoring, and reporting how the team is doing. It implies planning and creating the right environment for performance, monitoring performance, providing team members with constant feedback on their performance, finding solutions for below-expectations performance, and rewarding good performance.

Is Team Performance Evaluation a Good Thing?

Appraising team’s performance using the appropriate metrics remains an important, though not essential, part of performance management. The objectivity of performance evaluation is a soft spot. Some claim that no evaluation of an individual’s performance, whether done with the right metrics or not, is objective since performance is not a quantitative measure. Others claim that evaluating individual performance instead of team’s performance is detrimental to the team’s morale and productivity, as well as the quality of the project’s deliverables. Comparing one team member to another can destroy team cohesion and trust, but not comparing team members to each other can allow some to take a free ride.

Is it Necessary for a Project Team?

In most cases, team performance evaluation needs to be done, whether it is to satisfy program management, to identify and reward top performers with a pay increase, or to identify and address any deficiencies in the team’s performance, which, if left unattended, may pose risks to the project’s schedule. But evaluating team performance is not only done for the sole purpose of creating a report for the upper management. A good project manager informs (in private) each team member of the outcome of his or her performance appraisal and works with each team member to find ways of improvement. (more…)

Fixing a Project that is Behind Schedule

By | July 31st, 2013|Project Tracking, Resource Management, Risk Management|1 Comment

project behind scheduleA project being delayed may seem a reason to panic but schedule slippage is not as rare as some might expect. Depending on the project, there may be things that can be done to fix a delayed project. In some cases, however, there is no choice other than cancelling the project. Before listing any solutions,  there are things that should not be done, at least for most delayed projects.

Just Work Harder?

A simplistic solution for a delayed project is putting up more effort to catch up with the schedule. Some claim that this is as easy as estimating how behind you are and how faster you need to go to catch up. But doing more in less time is only possible if the team has not operated at their full productivity so far, or has not used the most efficient tools possible, and the project being delayed is only a question of improving efficiency or simply the work climate. Overtime work may be a solution but only for a limited amount of time and in the right environment. It actually creates a negative work climate, which has a detrimental effect on the schedule. So is there a way to fix a delayed project?

The Cause of “Evil”

As with all problems, minimizing or cancelling the symptoms does not eliminate the cause and the problem re-emerges. You need to identify the cause of the discrepancy between schedule and reality. You cannot tell that from analyzing the schedule unless there is a specific task that is causing delays or an artificial task dependency. In the first case, add expert resources to bring back on track the delayed task. In the second case, eliminate the artificial task dependency.

3 Ways to Fix a Delayed Project

If you find out that the project schedule is slipping because you have an unclear scope, or a scope creep, you have a serious problem and the project is likely a death march. However in many cases, the team is very good, all tasks were done efficiently, but the project schedule was very optimistic. If it is so, discuss with the management and project sponsor and look for solutions: (more…)

Project Team Productivity – Problems and Solutions

By | May 23rd, 2013|Resource Management, Risk Management, Team Management, Time Management|Comments Off on Project Team Productivity – Problems and Solutions

Team productivity isTeam Productivity a source of risk in any project. Low team productivity can trigger other issues, including schedule delays, unsatisfactory quality of the deliverables, low team morale, which, in turn, can all lead to the project’s failure. The project management approach, the project manager’s skills, the changes in project scope are some of the risk factors for a team’s productivity. But often the issues and conflicts that arise from the team itself are the causes of low productivity. The productivity can suffer when the teams are distributed rather than collocated, and when there are cultural differences among team members, since both situations can generate conflict and miscommunication.

Collocated vs. Distributed Project Teams

Since creating a cohesive team depends on how the team members communicate and bond with each other, there can be significant differences in productivity between collocated and distributed teams. In collocated teams, communication is facilitated because all team members are physically in the same environment. However, with the modern communication technologies, including videoconferencing, e-mail, and VoIP, distributed teams can also communicate effectively. As a technical report from Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, demonstrates, one of the problems in distributed teams is that members do not bond as easily as the members of collocated teams do, so it can be difficult for collaborators to trust each other. As a result, the teams do not work effectively together, which is likely to decrease productivity and even generate conflicts. There is obviously no quick fix for this problem.

Risks to Productivity in Agile Projects

Having a cohesive team that works well together is crucial especially in agile projects, where the teams are self-organizing and even cross-functional at times. On the one hand, having distributed teams is becoming necessary for many organizations in order to keep their costs low, find the best talent, and keep up with the their competitors. On the other hand, having distributed teams in agile projects adds a new layer of complexity to the project, not only because the teams are self-organizing, but also because daily meetings can be difficult with local time differences. The productivity can suffer. The role of the project manager, if any, is crucial. This person needs to be a leader and be able to motivate the team to work effectively, solve issues when they arise, and prevent conflicts. In large agile projects, organizing the distributed team in smaller teams, and having a project manager to facilitate communication between teams can be a partial solution. (more…)

How to Deal with a Lazy Team Member

By | April 9th, 2013|Project Management, Resource Management, Risk Management, Team Management|Comments Off on How to Deal with a Lazy Team Member

lazy team memberWorking with people is almost never a simple matter, but it can become even more complicated when the project manager has to deal with a lazy team member. In many cases, dismissing the person from the team is not a possible or acceptable solution. As the project manager, you have to find other ways to deal with this problem, and quickly.

Who Labeled the Team Member as “Lazy”?

Determine the basis on which the team member was labeled as “lazy”. If he or she was classified as such by the other team members, they might not be objective. This is why it is important to analyze the performance evaluation reports, which should have clear metrics for monitoring all team members’ evolution.

Lazy or Performing at a Different Pace than Others?

Sometimes, a team member is not lazy at all, but only performs slower than others, while still bringing value to your team. In this case, you need to understand why the team member takes longer than others to perform a task. You may be dealing with a perfectionist, or a person who does not like his or her role in the team.

If, based on documentation, you conclude that the team member does not only perform tasks at a slower pace than others, but constantly underperforms, fails to meet deadlines, demonstrates a continuous lack of commitment to work, it means the person is genuinely lazy and a danger to the project. You need to find a solution fast. (more…)

Project Management, Resource Leveling And Pregnancy

By | January 31st, 2013|PM Jokes, Resource Management, Time Management|Comments Off on Project Management, Resource Leveling And Pregnancy

The other days I read a funny project management joke: It takes one woman nine months to have a baby. It cannot be done in one month by nine women.

Managing projects is not an easy job. It takes some experience and knowledge if you want to do it well. There are many things to be taken into consideration during the entire process of managing a project but the important thing is to get the job done well, on time and within budget.

A critical factor is the time constraint. Sometimes you are forced to do a work faster and here enter into the stage the so called resource leveling mechanisms. Anyone understands that more people do a work faster than fewer… The same principle is used to finish a task sooner. Hire more personnel and problem solved!

But wait…what if that task just can not be done faster? Well… you can not build the roof for a house until the walls are not finished. And you can not raise the walls until foundation is not ready. But foundation must dry first to be solid and this can not be done faster no matter how many resources you are planning to use.

What all these mean? Simple: make sure you are doing a good, realistic project plan before signing a contract and starting the work. Some tasks just can not be done faster…