Project Management

What you don't like about someone is what you like about them.

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Tips for managing a cross-functional team

This sounds very self-conflicted.  But it’s not.  I’ve found that with a project team of highly skilled people, there’s at least a few people that will *really* bug you.  They’ll get under your skin and annoy you in team meetings.   The project manager’s first instinct is to “deal around” them.  In other words, don’t get them involved important aspects of the project.  Leave them out, don’t ask them questions, don’t get their opinions.  You’re hoping that maybe they’ll get the message and leave the rest of you alone.

This is absolutely the wrong thing to do You need the pests, you want the pests, the pests are your BEST friends!  LOVE THE PESTS!  Don’t get annoyed, simply smile and say “thank you!)  When these people annoy you and the project team, they’re showing a unique quality that will, most likely, be very useful to everyone.

The best way I can think to explain what I mean is by picking a few personalities that stick in my mind.  These are my recollections of real people, and there’s a chance they’ll recognize my description of them.  That’s OK.  They know we’re all friends that worked long and hard together.

Here are some of the best and most frustrating team mates I’ve ever worked with


Always Wanting More Detail

I must say this is typically considered an engineering oddity.  I have it myself.  Some of the best engineers are NEVER EVER satisfied with the information they have.  This behavior isn’t just restricted to engineers though.  But, when I’m typing this, I’m thinking of our reliability / maintainability person.  He never had enough detail to calculate reliability numbers or to insure we met our maintainability goals.

  1. They are really annoying when the goal is foggy (you don’t like them)
  2. Great when the goal is identified (you like them!)
  3. Helps drag all the dreamers back to reality (you like them a great deal)
  4. Can’t get them onto the next task (you really don’t like them)

Whiner / Complainer

These folks will complain about every step in the project, every deviation, every change, everything that’s not what they think it should be.   These folks are the first choice to work-around, do without or leave out of any project decision.  That would be a big mistake.  Here’s a few test cases:

  1. Awful to work with in a high-pressure environment (you don’t like them)
  2. Great for helping identify risks! (you like them wonderfully!)
  3. Helps avoid “group think” problems (you not only like them – they may save the entire project.)
  4. Not good with the customer (you really, really don’t like them)


These folks want to negotiate every detail in the project.  “Can’t we do it differently – everyone does it this way?”  “Let’s get the two teams together and work out a solution.” This is *after* it’s all be decided. 

  • Irritating during a team decision making session (you don’t like them)
  • Wonderful when dealing with suppliers (you like them!)
  • Great when the project gets in trouble (you like them!)
  • Not fun when you can’t get something to work as it should (you REALLY don’t like them)


We all have a list like this of different personality types we’ve worked with on teams.  The key is when the annoy you and everyone on the team -- remember this when you DON’T like them.  But sooner or later, this person will help the project a great deal. 

Embrace the jerks on your projects – they may be your best friends!

Please comment with a list of your favorite project jerks! And remember that's what you like them for.  



Posted by David Maynard on: September 18, 2016 07:14 PM | Permalink

Comments (1)

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I love this perspective and how you flip it from the norm. Great stuff!

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One man can be a crucial ingredient on a team, but one man cannot make a team.

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