Each project manager has to deal with the three constraints of time, cost, and quality every day. How well we manage projects within these constraints is often a measure of our success. You are probably familiar with the process of planning, measuring and responding to events that can impact your ability to deliver your project on time.
You are familiar with project management tools as well as a process or method to assist you in the process. You are aware of the expectations. You are aware of the budget. You should have the support of your manager and client to complete the task. Ask yourself these questions: What about the project team? Are they really a team? Are they aware of our goals? Are you able to count on their support? Are they able to understand the process? Are they clear about the expectations?
You are not responsible for the work of a project manager. Your role as a manager, facilitator, negotiator and mentor is key. Your team is your most valuable resource. This paper will show you how to build a team as a manager and leader.
We will be looking at how to make a group of people into a team. A team is a group that works together towards a common set of goals and objectives. Although it sounds simple, it’s not. It takes more than just getting people together to create a team. Everybody, but especially the Project Manager, plays an important role in forming this group of people into a highly focused, coordinated and high-performing team.
We’ll discuss what it takes for success. We will discuss the pitfalls and problems you may encounter.
To deliver your project, you will need a team. This is your responsibility. Depending on the outcome of your project, you will be the one to take the blame or get the praise. Your chances of success are increased by having a strong team.
My own experience
Let me first give you some context to help put these ideas in perspective. Four years ago, Digital Equipment Corporation (now Compaq Corporation) hired me to manage the Year 2000 Program. The program was still in its early stages and we were responsible for the assessment, remediation and redeployment all North American applications.
Compaq established a Massachusetts Y2K Center with about 75 technical staff members. This center was located in close proximity to the Program Management Office. We also had about 100 software professionals in India and project managers overseas. This team had to be able to deliver approximately 700 applications. They also needed to collaborate as one group. The applications included all technologies, from assembly language to COBOL and web-based tools. Many of these applications were older COBOL systems.
Each application was assigned a user, or owner, known by Shepherd. There may also be a support person for production Information Management (IM). We created a virtual team for each of the applications because it was impossible for Y2K’s core team to have all the details. This team consisted of the Y2K core staff, the application user(s), and the IM support person(s). Sometimes, the user team was bigger than the core team.
There were approximately 15 Project Managers (PM) within the onshore Y2K core group. The PMs were all highly experienced with a broad range of technical and language backgrounds. Other onshore technical resources were available to serve in various technical roles, including:
* Quality Assurance
A PM may manage several smaller projects simultaneously, or one large project. Technical resources would see the same distribution of work across multiple projects and in different roles.
The applications were done onshore. However, the PMs also had responsibility for coordination of applications made in India. Our program saw real benefits from the Indian offshore team. We had an average 16 hour work day, thanks to the availability of skilled resources that were not available locally. We will talk about how we took advantage of this fact and what team building activities were required.
Let me conclude by mentioning team structure. The resources that made up the onshore team came from many sources.
* Compaq employees–the smallest number
* Contractors with a variety partners
* India resources would be available to join us in Massachusetts for 3 to 6 months, then return to India.
What are the challenges?
These are obvious but let’s make them clear:
* Large, geographically distributed project team consisting of approximately 175 people from two countries. They are separated by 10 time zones and some language barriers.
* This is a very challenging project schedule with nearly 700 schedules. It has a deadline that cannot be missed and high expectations around quarterly milestones.
* High expectations regarding quality. This was a must-have!
* Users and customers who didn’t always feel the urgency we felt.
* A strong job market made it difficult to retain employees.
* Some of the work wasn’t cutting-edge. Take the above comment and multiply it.
* A corporate merger took place during the project. This created more uncertainty than usual and added confusion to the project.
You might find challenges I haven’t listed as you go through the list. Many of you are likely to have “been there before.” I’d like to share my war stories and this project with you.
What can your team do to help?
As Project Managers, there are a few things that we must remember. We can lose sight of important facts when we get caught up in the numbers and schedule and worry about the dollars.
* The PM is not responsible for the project. That is done by the team. You can take credit or take blame depending on the results. Credit is always better.
* A team that is strong and effective will produce more than a group with individual contributors working on the same project. It will also be easier to manage.
* Success breeds success. It becomes easier to manage, build, and lead your team. Make it seem easy. Do not let anyone see you sweat.
* A strong team can make its own luck. Small victories are important. Success breeds success.
* It’s more fun to be part of a team. It’s obvious that it is a job. But wouldn’t you rather have fun?
* Consider your future. The best projects will be offered to PMs who manage and lead a team that is successful. They can also recruit and retain the best talent in the future.
This may sound like Project Management 101. However, when you get caught up in the daily stress and pressures of your job, it is easy to forget about the people aspect of things. We need to think about the constraints and realize that they are only resources with limitations. So we must deal with cost, time and quality. But we also need to address the team. These are the people who we bring together, manage, and lead. These are the people that do the work. Your project’s success and failures are what make it a PM.
Let’s take a look at what we did to support and build our Y2K team. This will help us make the project a success. While they may not be applicable to your particular situation, some of these principles will still apply. You can also keep the rest of the information on file for future reference.
How do we build a team?
Your role as the PM is to set the tone and guide your team. You must make it clear from the beginning that this is more than a random group of people. Establish the ground rules and standards early on and keep them up.
We had to deal with some unusual and interesting issues in our situation.
* I had 15 senior, some more experienced, PMs working with me. From the beginning, I made it clear to them that they were completely in control of their projects. To facilitate their process, I was there. To ensure they were not subject to the collocated PMO and make sure they succeed.
* We held weekly, focused status meetings. We had a set agenda and always began and finished on time.
* All PMs were treated equally, regardless of whether they were Compaq employees or local contractors, as well as people from India.
* I demonstrated my trust in my PMs by sharing more information than they needed and encouraging them to do so with their staff.
* Side note: Some of the PMs were originally from India and were less assertive than their American counterparts. I tried to get them to participate in discussions and status meetings, and encouraged them take risks to succeed.
* Our team had approximately 100 members who lived half a globe away in India. They were our resources but they weren’t here. Simple things are helpful:
* Each quarter, we rotated India team members from Massachusetts to help build relationships one-on-one.
* We had several India team members who acted as liaisons with the people back in India.
* Regular communication was a regular occurrence with Indian colleagues. Regular conference calls were a common practice between off-shore and on shore PMs. To build a stronger relationship, the conference calls were often scheduled by the off shore PMs so that they could be available at times that were convenient for the India team. It’s midnight here, 10:00 AM there. It’s just fair!
* Twenty to thirty of the 75 Massachusetts team members were Indian, most likely Hindu. We were also able to have representatives from other ethnicities and see this as an opportunity for us to build a community.
* We became regular celebrants at Dwali and other holidays after being urged by some of our Indian team members.
* There was no American holiday, Christian, Jewish, or Chinese celebration that was out of bounds.
* Are you having trouble understanding American slang terminology? Don’t worry!
* We are as confused by the Registry of Motor Vehicles as you are!
* It sounds cliché, but we all benefitted from the diversity of our team members and enrich our own experience by being open to learning from them. It was good for us and for the project.
* Our project schedule was very strict and quarterly driven. There were over 700 applications.
* I was the overall PM of the project and allowed my PM team to decide their schedules, but within certain constraints. As much control as possible for your team to their work. Allow them to sign the commitments. Then, help them succeed. By working together, a team can achieve the common goal of helping each other reach their individual goals.
* Work together to achieve success. It’s not expensive to eat pizza or spend a day at Topsfield Fair. A great event was the Kosher Cook Out held on the front lawn. Tee shirts that promote the bond between people add value. It was important to remember that many of the team members were vegetarians.
Celebrate both the team’s small and large successes, but remember the people. Recognize the value of your employees and reward them accordingly. Money isn’t always the first thing. A personal note ,… always remember to say “Thank You.”
* What can you do to meet high quality expectations?
* Quality should be the job of everyone. This includes you, the PM. You can make it clear by naming your Quality Manager.
* Make sure everyone in the team knows how important quality is. This shouldn’t be viewed as a conflicting situation.
* A team that takes pride in their work is a good one. Quality is an important part of that pride.
* Your relationship with customers and users and how the PM handles it will set the tone for your team.
* Sometimes, as was the case with the Y2K problem, your customer, or the person you’re trying to help, prefers to be doing something else.
* Support your team. Facilitate the process and make it easier for users.
* Make users feel part of the team. We always invited the application owners to our quarterly celebration. Many did. These application owners were as important in our success as our core group, and deserve recognition. Our collaborative approach to these projects helped us gain support and participation from the user community. They are an integral part of your team.
There will be friction and problems. Sometimes, your team members may make poor decisions or make mistakes in their judgments. Open communication is key. Encourage open discussion and encourage open communications. This is what you are there for.
* Employee turnover is a problem for multiyear projects. The problem is only exacerbated by a strong job market and low-quality technology.
* Most people won’t look for new jobs because they don’t get enough money. Changes in jobs can lead to more money.
People will stay if you have done a great job in team building.
* You like your job?
* Are they paying you enough?
* They know what you are doing is great.
* The team is mutually respectful
* Why would anyone want to leave?
* The legacy technology issue was an issue for us. What would they be able to look forward too after the project was completed? What skills would they need?
* Compaq employees were made and kept accountable for their commitments. Training: Microsoft, Oracle, Novell, CRM, Seibel, PMI certification. We’ll pay the training if you are interested and able to work. This was a powerful tool for retention. We’ll guarantee that you will get a job with the Professional Services Organization after the Y2K project ends if you complete the training. Our turnover rate is very low.
It’s a great deal when you consider the cost of training and the cost of training new members.
* Change is a constant in the dot-com and business worlds. Digital Equipment Corporation and Compaq Corporation merged during our Y2K Project. This resulted not only in an increase in work for our Y2K team but also a lot of uncertainty.
Communication is the best way to manage uncertainty. The Y2K PMO, project team management, and the team, as well as our clients, are all responsible for communicating the changes. Communicate the changes and address any fears or uncertainties. It is better to hear the good news than not to know.
* You’re a member of a team and everyone should know the status. You don’t like surprises as a PM, and neither do your team.
Wrap it up
You must manage the quantitative aspects of your project. However, as a Project Manager you need to also look at your most valuable resource, your people. And how can you make them a cohesive team. These are just a few bullet points that summarize the topics we have discussed.
* It’s not possible to do it all alone. Everyone has a role to contribute to the teamwork. However, the leadership comes from within you.
Respect your colleagues’ knowledge and experience. They are open to new ideas and will be happy to assist you if you allow them. You can always use their help with all other tasks. These people were hired because they seemed good. You can trust them, but you should also trust your own judgement.
Respect and appreciate the differences within your team. This will enrich your life and make you and your team more extraordinary.
* Understand the motivations and personality of each member of your team to better understand them. Everyone is different. They should care about the rewards.
* Keep in mind that users and clients are also team members. While “stakeholders” may be the term that springs to mind, in the context of a team, we mean something quite different. Recognize their contributions to your success together.
* Take pride and joy in what you do. This is what you should do. Quality will follow when you take pride and responsibility for the product. You are the PM. You must show that you care every day and be a positive influence on the team.
* Keep your commitment to the team. Keep your promise to them that they would receive training. You can make a promise but sometimes things happen. Let the people affected know and do what you can to fix it.
Communication, clear, consistent, and honest communication, is the key to solving so many problems that we don’t need to even think about them. You don’t want to be surprised as a PM. Don’t surprise your team.
* Have fun. It’s hard to be happy at work, I get it.
These points are very similar to life. How can you keep a good and healthy relationship with someone else? Communicate, be open, honest and respectful. It works in real life, and it will work with your team. These instincts are part of our nature. Trust your instincts. You are a Project Manager. This is what you do. Enjoy it.