Right from the start, a project manager’s goal should be creating and maintaining a cohesive, engaged team. As noted in an April PM Network® article, this can be challenging—even more so if the team hasn’t worked together before and the deadlines are tight.
What project managers are working against is a greater lack of engagement. A Gallup survey indicated less than one-fifth of employees globally are engaged in their work.
It is possible to seed team members’ engagement right from the start of a project’s kickoff meeting. The trick is to create an engagement strategy that is tailored to the situation. One way to capture interest is through friendly competition that can be generated by use of a project storyboard to track the team’s major milestones.
Experts say there are other techniques to gaining engagement through the kickoff meeting. They recommend a large invitation list for the meeting as a way to unify the larger team around the project’s goal—as well as making sure that everyone knows their roles and responsibilities.
The kickoff meeting should be sharp and to the point, with the spotlight shone on key messages and headlines, not minutiae.
Team cohesion, of course, is a key element of engagement. It’s worth taking the time to get team members acquainted with each other and finding the common threads that can create cohesion. Fancy ice-breakers are not necessary; something as basic as a team lunch can do the job. And site visits to remote team members are useful for this purpose. This cohesion—especially that between the project manager and the team—may come in handy when conflicts arise regarding shared resources.
If the project timeline is going to be long, maintaining engagement is key. One expert advises scheduling frequent, short meetings to gauge both engagement and progress.
And, of course, very important to the project is the engagement of the project’s sponsor. Make sure you understand their views on the project landscape. Don’t be shy about communicating, and make sure messages come over in the way the sponsors prefer them. And let sponsors know that while they will be kept in the loop, there may be a time or two that critical needs will require their attention and action.
How do you gain and maintain engagement on your projects? Please share your techniques.