It doesn’t take a single week in project management until you are introduced to the all-powerful concept of the Project Management Plan. The opposite of a one line vision statement or strategy, your PMP may consist of double digit number of sub-plans, each with multiple pages themselves. Suddenly, this PMP may seem like a mini-thesis outlining how each of the members of your team should conduct themselves. The question in my mind can become, “don’t these folks already know how to deliver a project? Certainly they know better than if you tell them how to do it?”
The fact of the matter is that your team members hopefully do know how to deliver a project better than you do. That is why you chose them for your team, because they are smarter than you. So your role needs to be to solicit and incorporate their input into the PMP. Guiding them within the known constraints of the project and asking probing questions to help define the boundaries, metrics and goals. With your expert team’s full input and buy-off, you are more than half way toward success!
The problem is that this last step can be fairly involved with no rewards in sight. Many a great project has been delivered through on the fly consensus between a strong group of open minded individuals. Why put in so much effort into a PMP when it may not be needed?
This point is hard to appreciate until you see the value of a plan realized through execution. It is only well after the PMP is developed and endorsed by the Team that you often begin to see the tremendous benefits of the thoroughly understood and agreed-upon constraints, metrics and goals. Furthermore, it is easy to lose sight of these agreed-upon elements of the PMP during the interim time. Consistent reference to and emphasis of the PMP milestones will keep your team aligned and ultimately will show all of your team members the Value of a Plan.
I have spoken before about the spotlight that the Project Manager may often find themselves in, for better or worse. How your team members may look to you for direction in even the slightest and most obscure ways. Also, for better or worse, each of you PM’s have a boss as well. What messages are you sending them?
First let’s start with the positive. In project management, we often talk about stakeholders, sponsors, and senior management support. Are you conveying your appreciation for your senior managers’ support for your projects? Without belittling your teams’ or your own contributions to the project’s success, do you realize that all may have been for naught without the strong support of your top management? More importantly, does senior management know that you know this? It is a careful balance between “sucking up” and giving credit and respect where it is due. You will find that balance on an individual level and within your organization. The important point is that it is consistent. Across all of your actions and statements, to your friends and to your enemies, it is important to send a consistent message at all times.
On the flip side, let’s consider the alternative. First, the subtle ways your actions can be misinterpreted. If, for instance some of your words or actions have placed a glimmer of doubt in the minds of your senior management. This glimmer will taint their viewpoint on many of your actual words and actions. Statements you make may be taken with a grain of salt or actions you take may be interpreted in a more negative way than you had intended. Simply because of the frame of mind that you allowed to be introduced. Second, the risk of an inconsistent message. Many of us may say one thing and mean the other, most commonly, we may verbalize the company line publically, but in semi-private conversations and in many of our not so private actions we are telling others that we are not aligned with the company on this topic.
Not only will your team pick up on this in a heartbeat, but so will management. You’re not fooling a soul so you are probably better off to be as transparent as possible.