A great emphasis is often placed on the selection of a project manager. Much has been written about the need for training, credentials, experience and ability to engage with stakeholders as the keys to a successful project.
But, I have not seen a similar level of attention paid to the selection of project team members. In fact, I believe many project stakeholders think there are only two roles on a project: project manager and everyone else. It’s often thought that project managers can surmount every difficulty a project may encounter—and that other team members are less of a consideration.
In reality, the selection of team members is as important as the selection of a project manager.
Here are some techniques I use to make good choices as I put together a project team:
Every project has a dynamic driven by the urgency of completion. This dynamic varies by the rigidity of the finish date, required project duration and the number of outside dependencies. Examples of projects with high levels of urgency include regulatory compliance, merger and acquisition and internal corporate mandate projects. Projects with lower completion urgency tend to be longer in duration, but also often are quite complex in nature—think transformations, large system integrations, etc.
The dynamics around urgency of completion help shape the selection criteria for project team members. For higher urgency completion projects, I tend to go with people who exhibit high creativity and the ability to deal with high uncertainty. For lower urgency completion projects, I typically select people who are more measured in their actions and show consistent execution over long periods of time.
I also try to select one person for the team who has the opposite social style as others to serve as a counterpoint, which can be very healthy for a project. This ensures that a balanced perspective is being employed by the project team to resolve issues.
2. Look for Learning Experiences
When selecting team members, I ask them to share the greatest learning experiences they’ve had on past projects. These learning experiences can take the form of working on troubled projects, handling issues with project team members or managing adversity in their personal lives.
These learning experiences build confidence and character that is desired not only for the person being selected for the project, but also for mutual growth with other people on the project. Effective project resources tend to exhibit strong performance in the face of adversity. Project team members with these skills are essential to building a strong, synergistic project team.
A lack of learning experiences tends to indicate a more narrow range of capabilities, which would not contribute to building a strong project team.
Project managers are often pulled in many different directions, which can slow a project’s progress.
To remedy this situation, make one of your team members your second-in-command on the project. They can backfill in times of high engagement to help resolve issues and keep the project team going.
The other benefit to having a second-in-command is the valuable development opportunities the role provides. He or she gets to experience active project management while having the safety of the project manager for guidance. I have found over the years that people who perform well in second-in-command roles perform extremely well when they become full-fledged project managers.
I once had a senior project manager tell me, “Your team is only as strong as your weakest link.” Picking the right team is as important as selecting the project to manage. A rush to staff team members quite often leads to a re-staffing exercise that consumes precious time and energy, not to mention being disruptive to the team. Considerable care and patience are required to build an effective project team.
What good and bad choices have you made when selecting team members for a project? I’d like to hear about them.
By Dave Wakeman
As we head into the fourth quarter, our minds are likely focusing on finishing the year strong, hitting our goals and, maybe, thinking about what 2019 will bring.
For many, that line of thinking includes how we can better develop ourselves, make ourselves more valuable to our organization and make sure that we are always on the cutting edge with our skills.
Based on the business and project management landscape, I think the skills project managers will need are going to be different and faster changing than ever before. To me, these are the three key skills we all need to make sure we maintain our future relevance.
1. Strategy: More project managers are being asked to help set the strategic direction for their organization. This means they have to have an understanding of the organization’s big-picture goals and how the projects they are leading fit into those goals.
Project managers must be willing to make the tough decisions to halt projects or advocate for projects that will move the organization toward their goals.
You can develop a better strategic mindset by making certain you understand your organization’s core goals and asking yourself how the projects you are working on fit into those goals. And, when they don’t fit, you can train yourself to evaluate the action needed to rectify that.
2. Communications: I’ve spent a lot of time writing about the need to do a better job communicating with your team. And that need is only increasing.
You need to constantly work on improving your communications skills to keep up with the continuing demand of an always-on world.
This means you will need to understand how to communicate in-person and online, up and down the organizational chart, and inside and outside of your organization. The best communicators are always listening and processing information. The goal is that they are able to understand, translate and share that information with all their key stakeholders in a way that has the maximum impact.
3. Sales skills: In the future, selling is going to be a key part of the project manager’s toolkit.
Because we are going to have to get better at advocating for the resources we need, the tools we have access to and getting our ideas acted on. And that’s sales.
Getting project managers signed up for cold calling might seem like a stretch. But when you think about selling as the art of persuasion, it’s a much easier idea to get behind.
The days of command-and-control are over, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It just means that we have to change.
What do you think project managers are going to need to know in the future?
by Cyndee Miller
“We are all inherently creative,” proclaimed Google’s Abigail Posner at PMI Global Conference.
And yes, that includes project and program managers.
Every year, Fast Company—that arbiter of all things cool and cutting edge— releases its 50 most creative people in business. It’s (justifiably) filled with big names like cosmetics guru Pat McGrath and Netflix VP of innovation Chris Jaffe. And while there aren’t a whole lot of project and program managers who make the cut—there is a whole lot of talk about how all those brilliant ideas got executed.
It’s a different kind of creativity, which doesn’t often get the spotlight. But Ms. Posner knows the score. “Some of my favorite partners are project managers.”
As head of strategic planning for Google, she’s constantly on the hunt for that next big idea. For her, it starts with one fundamental question: why? “[By] understanding what makes [people] tick, you’ll develop a foundation for so many ideas,” she said.
From there, look for the links. Creativity is making connections that others haven’t, Ms. Posner said. “Ideas don’t come out of nowhere. They don’t fall from the sky. There is no eureka moment.”
That means project and program managers must be open to lots of stimuli from a range of collaborators.
“The more you can ideate with people—especially people who think differently than you—the more creative you will be,” she said. “Do not try to be creative on your own.”
And although teams must resist the temptation to overanalyze, don’t throw too wide of a net. Even creativity can benefit from some constraints—something project leaders are probably very familiar with.
A quick survey of attendees revealed not all project managers consider themselves to be creative, but Ms. Posner sees it as part of everyone’s DNA.
“Being creative is what defines us as human beings,” she said. “We just don’t realize we have the tools inside of us or how to harness them.”
That’s it from this year’s conference, but I’ll have plenty more to report on from this year’s PMO Symposium on 11-14 November. And mark your calendars for the 2019 Global Conference on 5-7 October in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.
In the meantime, what’s your creative strategy? How do you and your team get past any innovation slumps?
Kids These Days
PMI Global Conference 2018
Categories: PMI Global Conference 2018
by Cyndee Miller
Every generation is doomed to a stereotype.
Millennials will not survive without a non-stop stream of validation. They’re special—why can’t you see that?
Generation Xers are loners who would rather take a sick day than participate in some team-building exercise.
Baby boomers can’t text so they insist on scheduling epic face-to-face meetings.
Author Cam Marston offered a different take. Stop thinking of them as stereotypes. They’re preferences. And in a workforce that spans five generations, project and program managers better get a handle on the roots and repercussions of those preferences, said Mr. Marston in his Day 2 keynote at conference. It’s the only way they’re going to make the most of their teams.
“You will become infinitely more powerful if you can understand your preferences and set them aside and let your colleagues’ preferences shine through,” he said.
As pretty much anyone who has a job will tell you, that’s not quite the reality. Gen Xers and baby boomers expect millennials to come into the workplace and behave just like them. But it turns out younger project team members have their own ideas, Mr. Marston said.
Project leaders could stand to be a little more self-aware. Be conscious of what they ask people to do and how they ask them to do it, he said.
As if all that wasn’t complicated enough, I hit another session on the multigenerational workplace from Sarah Leslie, PMP. A senior project manager at Teague, she’s also a self-proclaimed Xennial. Yup, it’s a thing: Born between 1977 and 1983, they have the cynicism of a Gen Xer and the optimism and drive of #millennials. Think Beyoncé. Since few of us have had the pleasure of working with Queen Bey, you may want to simply seek out one of these creatures on your team.
Like Mr. Marston, Ms. Leslie advocated for project managers learning to make the most of the each group’s strengths. Baby boomers, for example, are a generation of storytellers, making them a natural for project retrospectives.
Now, as an Xer, I’m tempted to tell you to figure it out yourself. But in the spirit of embracing preferences, I’ll pose the big question: How are you faring in the new multigenerational workplace? Any tips you want to share? And does anyone else think these complement sandwiches are ridiculous?
by Cyndee Miller
After Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, many—including me—wondered if the storied city would ever be the same. Slowly but surely, citizens, companies and non-profits began to rebuild.
One of the most ambitious efforts was Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System’s Project Legacy. The decade-long, US$1 billion project resulted in a state-of-the-art healthcare center serving some 40,000 veterans.
That fighting spirit was honored last night when it was named Project of the Year.
“New Orleans is a beautiful city full of culture and this hurricane devastated it. But it did not destroy its soul,” said Fernando Rivera as he accepted the award at the PMI 2018 Professional Awards Gala.
Yet passion alone didn’t get this project across the finish line. “We couldn’t have done it without the principles and skills of project management,” he said.
Mr. Rivera didn’t leave the stage without acknowledging the outstanding work of the other two finalists:
Poor roads, impassable bridges, a site located 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) from the nearest port and the worst economic recession in Brazil’s history. Let’s just says Fibria faced its fair share of hurdles as it expanded its hardwood pulp production facility in Três Lagoas, Brazil.
The project to deliver the industry’s first forest-to-port pulp operation wrapped two months early, nearly US$500 million under budget and with no serious accidents among workers. It also provided a huge economic boost to the community, creating more than 40,000 temporary gigs and 3,000 long-term jobs. And by incorporating big data, machine learning and automation, the project gives Fibria an edge on the innovation front, too.
The other finalist was McDonald’s Digital Acceleration project, an aggressive tech play—especially for such an established player—that put customers in charge of how they wanted to order and pay. It all started in March 2017, when the fast food behemoth’s president and CEO vowed to company shareholders that the chain would deploy mobile order and pay in 20,000 restaurants by the end of the year.
The team not only beat the deadline by a month, but it delivered the project nearly US$10 million under budget. And the response was massive. Within months of the project’s launch, the app had racked up 30 million downloads and 110 million redeemed offers in the U.S. alone.
It wasn’t just the big-budget projects racking up kudos. Attendees also got a look at this year’s PMI Award for Project Excellence winners (which all had budgets less than US$100 million):
University Health Network created standardized, timely and meaningful electronic discharge summaries for its 35,000 annual patients across a Canadian healthcare system.
Savannah River Nuclear Solutions excavated, consolidated and covered massive amounts of ash and contaminated soil alongside a closed coal-fired power plant in the U.S.
The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland rolled out a new online platform to replace its paper-based system used to track physicians’ progress across 36 medical competencies.
Want more? PM Network will take a deeper dive into all the project action over the next few months. Plus, you can check out video case studies on PMI’s YouTube channel.