4 hacks to help project managers with their teams

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By guest blogger Brad Egeland.

Personnel issues have to be the least favorite part of any manager’s job. I know they are of mine. I’ve enjoyed being a project manager with no real direct reports… working instead with “borrowed” project-by-project assigned resources for many years. But even that situation is not without issues, concerns and conflicts. PM’s still end up being resource managers, in a sense, but for short bursts and the teams are always changing. Easier? Twenty years in and I’m still not sure.

For help though, I offer these four tips of mine for making things easier on the team resource management portion of project management. Please read and feel free to share your thoughts and additional suggestions.

project-challengeTeam building sessions. I’m not much on team excursions, handing out rewards like movie tickets, etc. and some of those corporate sponsored events like team decathlons or whatever they are… those sporting event things – even though I love sports and outdoor activities. I always have, but I still have to because I have 6 kids aged 8 and under and a big yard with lots of playground equipment and grass. But I can see the positives in those types of team activities and I have done those on occasion and they do help build team camaraderie. So, if your team seems to be needing a boost, go out for dinner, go out for pizza, go somewhere for a weekend getaway with as much of the team as you can gather together.  And, if there doesn’t seem to be a need for a boost… well, then it’s your call. But on a very long project, scheduling some time – possibly after a big deliverable is successfully delivered – seems like it could help the team over the long haul of the project. It may payoff later in the engagement when extreme cooperation is needed to get through some serious project issues. I know when I managing a project with a nice tight-knit team it was extremely helpful when we then had to go to Phoenix and be onsite for two weeks getting our customer’s project through some very tough issues… and this was right around Christmas time.

project-dashboards-status-updateAnalyze the processes as a team. Want to build team cohesiveness? Nothing builds it better than to take time away from the project to discuss ways projects could be handled better – overall – across all projects. We’re not talking about project management leadership… although that may be included in the discussion. What I mean here is policies, procedures, the way teams are assigned to projects, the way project status reporting is handled, etc. This list could go on and on. Focus on things that will make managing and working on and delivering projects easier or more successful and more repeatable over many projects. Think big picture. And then present those ideas to management…as a team. It is interesting, fun, builds full team ownership… and if management buys your ideas it is rewarding.


COLLABORATING-projectTeam member one on ones.
It’s hard to find time on each project for individual one on ones with your team members. I get that… you probably have multiple projects, they probably have multiple projects and there are always meetings to attend.  So time is at a premium.  But finding time to meet with each team member one on one – preferably very early in the project – can help ensure a project engagement full of task focus, cohesiveness and accountability. Plus, it gives you insight into their interests and future goals – because a good project manager is always trying to help his team members grow.

Weekly roundtable discussions. When I came to Las Vegas it was to take over for my first ever stint as an outright Corporate Application Development Manager at one of the largest casino and gaming companies in the world.  New technology, new city, lots of bad vibes in the organization… I had no idea what I was getting into.  Not really a PM situation, but still a team… of 18 + me. But what I found to be the most helpful to draw us all together and help ease the unsettling situation they had all been in during the oppressive regime in charge before me was to do a weekly roundtable discussion. Seems archaic, but it worked. We put it out there what we were working on, what concerns we had, what help we needed, etc. It was great… and eased their tension and helped ease me into the unfamiliar role I had moved across the country for.

Summary / call for input

Managing teams can be great and it can also be the worst part of being a project manager. Often it depends on how the team gels as a team. But, if it’s not working, it will always fall to the project manager to fix somehow. And the most time-consuming and costly route is almost always going to be replacing resources on the team. So avoid that whenever possible. And hopefully you can avoid that using some or all of these four tips.

What can you share as your own insight into helping project managers with their project teams?  What tips can you share that you have seen bring teams closer together?

brad-egelandBrad Egeland is a consultant and author with over 25 years of software development, management, and project management experience leading initiatives in Manufacturing, Government Contracting, Creative Design, Gaming and Hospitality, Retail Operations, Aviation and Airline, Pharmaceutical, Start-ups, Healthcare, Higher Education, Non-profit, High-Tech, Engineering and general IT. He is married, a father of 11, and living in sunny Las Vegas, NV. Visit Brad’s project management blog.

 

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