Project Management

Are you giving your team members "breakfast"?

From the Easy in theory, difficult in practice Blog
My musings on project management, project portfolio management and change management. I'm a firm believer that a pragmatic approach to organizational change that addresses process & technology, but primarily, people will maximize chances for success. This blog contains articles which I've previously written and published as well as new content.

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What, how, who or where - how do you divide work between multiple teams?

How do you breakdown your work?

Are you giving your team members "breakfast"?

HOW is as important as WHAT when requesting work progress updates

Does your work board "fit"?

In a project-oriented structure where the project manager has people management responsibilities for their team members, it is expected that an individual's performance on project work is the primary basis for their formal (HR) evaluation. But in a matrix structure, formal evaluations get carried out by the functional managers to whom the team members report to.

This can generate a number of risks, especially when the team members are spending the majority of their time doing project work including:

  • Team members perceiving that their evaluations are based on a fraction of their actual work
  • Team members prioritizing their functional work higher than their project work
  • Functional managers "flying blind" when completing the team members' formal evaluations

When HR policies require functional managers to seek input from the project managers whom their team members worked with, and project managers are required to provide objective feedback into the formal evaluation process, it mostly eliminates these risks.

But this is not something I've run across frequently.

Alternately, it is possible to address the risks by having proactive functional and project managers who will respectively request and provide feedback without being mandated to do so.

And even if the functional managers are disinterested in hearing what the project managers have to say about their team members, some project managers will provide the feedback unsolicited to the functional managers, or at worst, only to the team members, leaving it to the team members to bring that feedback to the table during formal evaluations.

The common thread across these choices is the demonstration of a proactive leadership stance by the project managers. However, if a project manager isn't interested or they've had their wrist slapped for doing so in the past, team members receive no feedback which increases the likelihood and impact of the risks being realized.

While I've witnessed project and functional managers engaging in all of these approaches, I wanted to bring this to a broader audience and did so by conducting a poll within PMI's LinkedIn Project, Program and Portfolio Management discussion group as well as the community. The poll question was simple: "Do you provide feedback to managers about their team members' performance as an input into formal evaluations?"

The poll received 95 responses, with the following breakdown of responses:

  1. Yes, and it is requested by the functional manager: 38%
  2. Yes, but it was not requested by the functional manager: 29%
  3. No, I provide it to neither the team member nor their functional manager: 19%
  4. No, I just provide it to the team member: 14%

While I do find it encouraging that the vast majority of project managers see the value of providing formal feedback on their team member's performance, it is unfortunate that almost one out of five project managers doesn't.

While this is bad for the team members, it can also hurt the project managers, especially if other project managers working with the same team members do provide such feedback. In such cases, when a team member has to juggle multiple, competing projects, which project manager is likely to be given a higher priority?

Ken Blanchard said "Feedback is the breakfast of champions" so do you want to deprive your team members of the most important meal of the day?

Posted on: May 08, 2022 07:00 AM | Permalink

Comments (8)

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Dear Kiron
The topic is very interesting and brings to our reflection and debate.

Thank you for sharing, for your opinions and for the data you shared with us following the questionnaire you carried out.

Feedback is very important.
Just as important is how we provide feedback.

Thanks Luis - very true! Feedback is a "two way street"!

Unfortunately, providing feedback is not as easy as it sounds. Doing it well can be the difference between a team member excited to grow or a dispirited contributor. My golden rule is to focus less on the weaknesses and more on the potential. Guess what? The two often overlap.

Great advice, Stephane! While feedback is important, if we do it the wrong way (regardless of our intentions) it will backfire.

Very important for the possibility of the Team members be reassigned on new projects, if they see that their evaluation is hurt by the project they did, then next time recruitment will be a nightmare, even for others they will perceive it as not worth the work. On the other hand if evaluated highly for their efforts; there will be a fight for spots in the team. Meaningful feedback is KING.

Organizational culture plays a large part in how and when feedback is provided to both the team and especially the functional managers. In organizations with dysfunctional cultures, a cross word about another managers team can hurt your chances for resources on future projects.

Definitely Michael - that's part of the judgment that comes with being a good PM!


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"Whenever you find that you are on the side of the majority, it is time to reform."

- Mark Twain



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