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…)

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…)

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…)