January 12, 2009

Brief tip 1: Don’t forget the people

I promised to deliver the tips in a roughly prioritized order. Thus, I had to start with this one – especially since most of my other tips will be somewhat more focused towards the harder aspects of delivering successful projects. So tip number one is:

Do not forget that it is the people in the project teams that actually deliver successful projects

The softer skills, needed to foster a team environment everyone will enjoy, contribute to project success at least as much as methods, templates and processes do. Motivated and happy team members run in circles around their dissatisfied and demoralized cousins! They take responsibilities and grow in a self-reinforcing virtuous circle. When you have gained trust early on in the project, they start raising issues as early as they even begin to sense them, instead of just before they blow up on you all.

Often the role of the project manager will be more of a facilitator than a more traditional manager. Also, if you operate in an environment and/or framework that command traditional top-down thinking, getting the balance right with bottom-up empowerment is important.

You should not only cultivate your team internally. Remembering to take good care of people and show a behaviour that helps people feel valued are equally important when dealing with people outside the team, for instance the customer if you are a supplier. If you run intro trouble, and almost any project of a significant size will at some point during its lifecycle, it will be so much easier to settle and move on if you already have established a platform of trust and maybe even a type of friendship with the client at this point.

And by the way: Don't try faking it. You will get caught and nothing will destroy carefully earned trust faster. So you have to really love your job and care about your team...

That was my tip #1. I look forward to read any comments, but you will have a hard time arguing that people are not important – even if you can present hard facts or rankings to back them up (this is one of my top five favorite Dilbert strips of all time, taken from “The Dilbert Principle” book by Scott Adams):

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