Connecting the Dots – Creating a Cohesive Team

Author: Will Lukang, PMP, MBA, MASCL

The project manager’s role is to orchestrate.   The key is managing the triple constraints: time, resources/money and scope.   The desired end state is to deliver the project on time, on budget and meeting the requirements stated in the business requirement document.  In essence, the goal is to put a smile on our customer’s face.

The project manager’s success is closely correlated to his/her ability to manage all aspect of the project.   While the project is in progress, proper progress reporting must be made.  The key is managing upward, downward and across.  While managing and monitoring the project, the project manager is faced with the challenge of motivating the people working on the project.   What, aside from compensation, can a project manager do to motivate people to go the extra mile, to sustain their performance over a period of time?   It is imperative for the project manager to encourage and motivate the people to achieve the common goal.   One way of doing this is to create a cohesive team.   

In my experience, the role of a project manager goes beyond the focus on delivering the project.  We need to deal with the human side of project management.  By this I mean we need to encourage and connect with people and understand what drives them to come to work and their goals and aspiration.   In the process of understanding the human side of project management coupled with the knowledge I gained from the leadership program at Seton Hall University,  I came up with the concept of dots that we can connect to achieve our goal.   So, the question is how do we develop a cohesive team?   Here are my seven dots to creating a cohesive team:

 

First Dot – Envisioning the Future State

In this step, the project manager needs to visualize what a successful outcome looks like.  What does it feel like?  We need to be able to paint the picture and tell a story.  It is also essential to quantify and qualify the goals and objectives.   We need to come up with inspiring story and connect our purpose to the overall goals of the business. 

 

Second Dot – Defining key success criteria

In this step, the proper identification and definition of key success criteria from the stakeholders and customers are important.  As project participants, our success criteria might be different than that of the stakeholders and business users.  Therefore, it is important to get an accurate definition of those criteria.   Once the success criteria are defined, we need to identify an effective means of capturing and measuring the information to keep track of our progress.   The focus is getting all parties on the same page.

 

Third Dot – Develop a Sense of Urgency

In this step, we need to identify the purpose of the project.  How does our work help the business? What are the benefits? What is the opportunity cost?  What is the consequence of not doing anything?  The purpose is to establish connection between what we are doing and our users.   What is the benefit of delivering the project?  How does it affect the company’s bottom line?   What intrinsic benefit can we identify?   By establishing a connection between our work and our users’ experience, we will have a better understanding of our work and our business.    That will also enable us to develop solutions that can truly help and benefit our clients.

Fourth Dot – Inspire Others

In this step, we need to motivate others to strive to accomplish what has never been done before by the team members.   It starts by identifying or stating what is in it for them.   As project managers, we are leaders of the team.  As leaders, we should aim to serve rather than being served.   By involving our team members in the decision-making process in all aspect of the project, we create buy-in and help create an atmosphere that encourages collaboration and knowledge sharing. 

It is equally important for project managers to lead by example and do what we say we will do.  Our words and actions need to be consistent and we must follow through on our promises. Furthermore, we must practice what we preach (Kouzes & Posner, 2002, p. 37).   Our job is to watch out for the interests of our team members.  When something coming goes wrong the buck stops with the project manager.  We must take full responsibility for the team’s action.

Fifth Dot – Guide

In this step, the project manager needs to keep the team focus on meeting its objective.   Accurate status reporting is a critical factor in this step and the project manager must report status on a timely manner.   Also, feedback must be provided to enable the team members to know where they stand and how they are doing.    The project manager must energize and guide the team to sustain a performance level required to achieving its goal.   The project manager must use a dashboard to report the current state.

It is important to keep an eye on risks that have been initially identified and conduct a period review that the risk did not materialized.  We need to watch out for patterns or trends that can impact our ability to meet our target.   Timely reporting and escalation is essential during this step.   The communication plan is crucial to making sure all the communication needs of the respective parties are taken care of.

Sixth Dot – Transparency

Transparency is essential.  The project manager must be open and honest in communicating to everyone.   When there is a cause for concern, the project manager must face the brutal fact of reality and collaborate to address the issue.  Timely dissemination of information is critical to the success of the team.

The project manager must encourage free exchange of information and allow members to raise red flags as they see fit.    The project manager must instill trust and confidence to everyone on the team.   Members must feel they can ask questions without worrying about other people thinking their questions are stupid.   It is also important that members feel that their opinions are valued and their grievances are being addressed.

Seventh Dot – Measure

According to George Odiorne (Johnson & Smith, 2006, p. 103), you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.  Vital signs are essential in determining our progress.   Proper identification and determination of the key performance indicators are essential to ensuring the project achieves its goal.

In this step, the project managers need to monitor vital signs and progress.  More importantly, we need to report the results and celebrate quick wins along the way.    By recognizing team member contributions and rewarding proactive participation, we can make people feel that we value their contributions.

The accurate assessment of the status and its key dependencies is crucial to the success of the project.  The project manager is judge by its ability to handle situation outside the norm.   The accurate reporting and dissemination of information is imperative to keeping everyone on the same page.

 

Conclusion

One thing that is constant is change.  It is safe to assume that change will occur; therefore we need to plan for it.  Project Managers’ roles are becoming more complex because we have to deal with the human aspect of project management.   Therefore, those project managers who can develop a better understanding of the human factor of project management are the ones who will succeed.

In closing, we are judged by our ability to meet our goals regardless of what arises during the course of the project.  The project manager must be ready to adapt to the ever-changing needs.   Our successes are closely correlated to our ability to adapt to change.   In addition, it is important to develop a good working relationship with your team members, because the cohesiveness of the team will be the deciding factor if the team will succeed in the face of the challenge.

References

Kouzes, J. M. and Posner, B. Z. (2002). The leadership challenge. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Johnson, J.E. and Smith, A. M. (2006), 60 minutes strategic plan, California, CA: 60 Minute Strategic Plan, Inc.

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