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Practice Areas: Communications Management, Leadership, Virtual Teams
How do you handle difficult team members?
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I'm doing a little research before my product launches, and I'm hoping the PMI community can help me out. I have two questions:

1. How do you handle people who repeatedly fail to accurately report their status on projects and tasks?

2. How much time do you spend each week determining the status of all of your projects and tasks?

Thanks for your help - I really appreciate it!
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Do you have a PMO? Are you a program/portfolio manager? Are you a functional manager in a weak matrix organization?

I'd consider having the people who report inaccuracies sign off on their. If there are discrepancies that you find, have 1 on 1 meetings and try to determine why there are discrepancies. Document anytime you find discrepancies. Usually your projects have a sponsor. Make sure you have a good communication channel with them, and if the inaccuracies continue, report issues with status reports to the sponsor.
Also, does your company have any policies built around this? In many cases these types of scenarios have happened before and should be in your lessons learned documentation.

2. For my current projects, I have some amazing team members. They don't report inaccuracies so my review time is greatly limited. In many case I think the people are high quality, but even if they were low quality, I believe staying on top of them and addressing discrepancies, and having them sign off on their reports, and documenting discrepancies would keep them in check for the most part.

Hope that helps and best of luck!
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1 reply by Pamela Nelligan
Jul 16, 2017 10:06 PM
Pamela Nelligan
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Thank you, Michael! Those are some excellent recommendations.
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It may seem basic but a re-evaluation of the communication platform needs to happen. How are task completion dates communicated? Team meeting, emails, or face to face? People respond and interact differently with how things are communicated. I'd also create a RACI chart, or, if already in use, reexamine it to make sure everyone understands what they are responsible and to be held accountable for.
When those are completed, the determining the status of projects and tasks should become more of a team effort, rather than relying on just one person being responsible.
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1. How do you handle people who repeatedly fail to accurately report their status on projects and tasks?
- What could be the cause for this? Does the progress measurement system, credit rules are defined properly? what systems in place for reporting progress? i assume no intentional mis-representation of facts in this case.

2. How much time do you spend each week determining the status of all of your projects and tasks?
- i spend couple of weeks for setting up system and training package owners, but may be 4-8 hours to compile my reports on weekly basis (for a major construction project)
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Hi Pamela, do you have a solid communication plan in place? If team members are confused about when and how to update tasks or share any problems, they may unintentionally misreport items.

Of course, sometimes there are bigger issues at play so you may need to have a direct conversation with the individual.

You may find these articles helpful:
How to Create a Project Communication Plan, http://bit.ly/2rVngVa
How to Manage Difficult Conversations with Team Members, http://bit.ly/2q0Wdr6
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Hi Pamela,

Here're my answer to your questions

You can use online task/project management software to track the task, project status, etc. Project management software allow you to keep check the time spent on tasks.

Here's how it help you:

Feature like Boards and workflows lets you divide the project tasks into stages and assign a Basic or Kanban workflow to your team member. This gives the teams a clear path of how the tasks need to progress, notifies people when tasks reach their stage and they move it to the next stage once their part is done. As a manager, you get to keep an eye on the overall progress, identify bottlenecks and better manage the flow.

Gantt charts lets you create effective project roadmaps to plan the tasks and resources, and keep them on track. Create tasks, assign them to teams, set dependencies and ProofHub will take care of everything else. As a task gets delayed or is moved ahead, the dependent tasks move and adjust accordingly, automatically. It also gives you a clear idea of how the work is distributed, when it is expected to be completed so that you can iterate plans to keep the project agile.

Discussion topics eliminates those confusing email threads to relate information, search important stuff and stay on the topic. It gets your team, clients and stakeholders to collaborate on common topics effortlessly in one centralized place. And you can easily loop someone in the conversation whenever needed.

Group chat gives everyone the power to save time that is usually wasted in getting quick answers, feedback or even a quick “Go”. Start one-to-one or group chat, add teams and clients, and begin the conversation, be it casual or work related. Communicating in real-time and with the ones working with you on your projects ensures that they continue progressing smoothly.

Tool offers timesheet feature which ensures that you get the by-minute details of the time spent on tasks and projects, making it easy to bill your clients and getting paid on time. Create timesheets, set time estimates, track time spent on tasks and get reports by person and dates. Record time manually or use the timer for accurate time tracking to save the time spent on maintaining the records and to avoid human errors.

Reports give you a clear insight of how the projects are progressing. As a Manager, you can view project progress, track missing deadlines, overdue tasks and milestones to keep a bird’s eye view on the projects. Reports also show you how the resources are being utilized, and how much workload each team member has so that you can manage them more efficiently.

You can try ProofHub - project management tool to manage your team and projects.

Hope this help!
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As a contract IT PM, working in matrix organizations where it's a never-ending permanent employee vs contract staff drama. I have experienced what Pamela is talking about with difficult employees and the games they play.

I have had people intentionally provide me with incomplete and wrong data just to try and embarass me with senior management. Or when one of the architects assigned to work on my assigned projects said i was a stenographer and there to take notes. Dealing with difficult team members while it's something all PMs are kind of required to do, i continuously ask myself if it is worth it. In my humble opinion, it is not worth it.

If people are unprofessional and your management isn't doing anything about it, please move on. Senior management has the reins on how they want their organizations to fare, as contract staff, i remind everyone that i am temporarily augmenting their workforce. Do your work and let me do mine, and i find fool-proof ways for everyone to report their daily or weekly stats. I have gotten pushbacks from management to not require those information and they continuously press me for these numbers.

To make everyone accountable in a way that you don't end up being the fall guy, we have used dedicated online tools, similar to what http://www.projectpanorama.com/ or www.smartsheet.com to track projets in the past, and when you have people who are slacking, it shows up.

I hope things work better, but your executive team needs to be on your side to get the difficult team members in line.
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4 replies by Adrian Carlogea, Edward Daniels, and Pamela Nelligan
Jul 16, 2017 10:14 PM
Pamela Nelligan
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Edward, I have been in this situation before as well and it is very frustrating. I looked at projectpanorama, but that is a WordPress plugin. Have you checked out https://www.statdash.com ? It is a great tool for reporting statuses and it does keep a log of every time a status is requested and every time it changes (along with any comments entered). So it can be a great tool to sit down and show someone why you are concerned about their progress and are questioning their integrity. Unfortunately, if someone is intent on doing you wrong, you are left with few options. Thanks for the feedback!
Jul 17, 2017 4:20 AM
Adrian Carlogea
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Hi Edward,

I am sorry for you situation it is really bad when someone lies in order to embarrass you. The fact that you are a contractor can really have an impact on this situation.

However when a group of people are deeply involved in a project but are having issues with completing the work it can become annoying when someone that does not perform the actual work on the project ends up asking questions such as: is it done yet? why haven't you finished? when are you going to finish?

Project team members may end up saying: it is easy for you to ask for status report when you are not here with us doing the work.

This is a delicate situation and the PMs skills must come to play. You have to be able to get the information you need without irritating the team members. The best way to do this is to establish very good (friendly) relationships with them.
Jul 17, 2017 7:58 AM
Edward Daniels
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Jul 17, 2017 8:23 AM
Edward Daniels
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In my experience, one of the biggest reasons people inaccurately report their status is because they think they need to tell me what I want to hear and that they can't just be honest and say they're behind.

There are two ways to address is. One is that I work to create an honest and transparent environment, that gives my team members the comfort level to tell me, "No, I can't make that deadline."

The other is that I don't rely on that team member's word for it. For example, if I need to evaluate how a developer is doing in getting his defects completed, I don't just ask him how it's going. I look at how many defects are open, their size, and the amount of time we have left. Then I can talk to him and say, "It looks like we're behind schedule. Is that right, and how can I help you get back on track?"
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5 replies by Adrian Carlogea, Drake Settsu, Pamela Nelligan, and Prashant Sonwane
Jul 16, 2017 7:12 PM
Adrian Carlogea
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Hi Betsy,

How can you define the size of a defect? I have never heard about this concept before.

Also if you want to help a developer with the defects he is working on there are only two things you can do:
- work on some of the defects yourself
- try to change the deadline

I can't think at anything else. Maybe try to bring more developers on the team, but this is not always a good idea.

Thank you.
Jul 16, 2017 10:09 PM
Pamela Nelligan
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Betsy, I think you have a point there about people not wanting to disappoint you by telling you the real status. That is definitely something that we need to consider. Perhaps as managers we at times are intimidating and no one wants us to know the real status. That has definitely given me something to think about. Thanks for the great feedback!
Jul 17, 2017 3:14 AM
Prashant Sonwane
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Hi,

The following statement looks very sensible and practical to me.

"I look at how many defects are open, their size, and the amount of time we have left. Then I can talk to him and say, "It looks like we're behind schedule. Is that right, and how can I help you get back on track?"
Jul 18, 2017 3:29 PM
Drake Settsu
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You are absolutely correct.
Jul 18, 2017 3:31 PM
Drake Settsu
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You are absolutely correct.
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The first thing you have to do is "to erase" the word "difficult" from your mind. There are not difficult or not difficult people. Reality is a matter or perception. So, it is subjective. That is the key to work with people. When you take into account it take a look to Isaac Newton´s Third Laws of Universal Movement that will give you the answer about people raction due to reality perception.
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Jul 14, 2017 2:46 PM
Replying to Betsy Green
...
In my experience, one of the biggest reasons people inaccurately report their status is because they think they need to tell me what I want to hear and that they can't just be honest and say they're behind.

There are two ways to address is. One is that I work to create an honest and transparent environment, that gives my team members the comfort level to tell me, "No, I can't make that deadline."

The other is that I don't rely on that team member's word for it. For example, if I need to evaluate how a developer is doing in getting his defects completed, I don't just ask him how it's going. I look at how many defects are open, their size, and the amount of time we have left. Then I can talk to him and say, "It looks like we're behind schedule. Is that right, and how can I help you get back on track?"
Hi Betsy,

How can you define the size of a defect? I have never heard about this concept before.

Also if you want to help a developer with the defects he is working on there are only two things you can do:
- work on some of the defects yourself
- try to change the deadline

I can't think at anything else. Maybe try to bring more developers on the team, but this is not always a good idea.

Thank you.
...
1 reply by Betsy Green
Jul 17, 2017 8:47 AM
Betsy Green
...
I determine the size of the defect by working with the developer to get a ballpark idea of how long it will take him to fix it. The answer is always going to be a guess since, in my industry, IT, you never know exactly how long it will take to fix a defect until you're in there.

As for how I can help the developer, sometimes, I do have additional resources added to the project. Maybe there are some smaller, simpler fixes that someone else can work on. We can also work as a team to prioritize the open defects. We can talk to the customers to determine if there are any defects that can be fixed after deployment, for example. And finally, I can find ways to minimize distractions. I can talk to the developer's supervisor and get him excused from non-critical meetings. If he's working on other projects besides mine, perhaps I can de-prioritize those other projects.
Network:88



Jul 13, 2017 4:43 PM
Replying to Michael Shanklin
...
Do you have a PMO? Are you a program/portfolio manager? Are you a functional manager in a weak matrix organization?

I'd consider having the people who report inaccuracies sign off on their. If there are discrepancies that you find, have 1 on 1 meetings and try to determine why there are discrepancies. Document anytime you find discrepancies. Usually your projects have a sponsor. Make sure you have a good communication channel with them, and if the inaccuracies continue, report issues with status reports to the sponsor.
Also, does your company have any policies built around this? In many cases these types of scenarios have happened before and should be in your lessons learned documentation.

2. For my current projects, I have some amazing team members. They don't report inaccuracies so my review time is greatly limited. In many case I think the people are high quality, but even if they were low quality, I believe staying on top of them and addressing discrepancies, and having them sign off on their reports, and documenting discrepancies would keep them in check for the most part.

Hope that helps and best of luck!
Thank you, Michael! Those are some excellent recommendations.
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