Execution relies on individual and team effort. How to you get individuals to show up every day and perform their best consistently over time? In a perfect world, everyone on the project team is self-motivated and exudes initiative. The reality is most companies struggle with team participation and accept this state as normal. I challenge all project managers to move beyond mediocrity since it’s our responsibility to elevate teams to world class status.
The first step on the road to world class status is to assess your company’s current state. Many companies do not have a PMO or even dedicated project managers to lead projects. Even companies with a formal PMO struggle to have dedicated resources assigned to projects. Most employees have multiple responsibilities and support multiple departments. In previous engineering roles, I was responsible for new product development (design, testing, manufacturing readiness), sustaining engineering (root cause analysis and problem resolution) and project management. My project teammates were in the same boat and wore many hats too. Sometimes this is necessary due to limited resources but there needs to be a balance of priorities. Talk your team about their responsibilities and bandwidth before starting a new project. This gives you an opportunity to highlight and escalate resource issues early.
I’m sure most people agree it is not easy scheduling meetings nowadays due to multiple conflicts, time zones, vacation schedules, etc. After meetings are scheduled, you might be lucky if you get more than 80% attendance regularly. One solution is to schedule recurring meetings so that everyone gets used to a cadence. Another idea is to schedule meetings as needed with only key members so you don’t tie up an entire project team. People appreciate it when you don’t waste their time. You can update the balance of the team when you publish meeting minutes and action items so everyone is up to date concurrently. Another recommendation is to provide an agenda with expectations ahead of time. People don’t like being blindsided during a meeting so give them an opportunity to prepare. Be warned some people think they are special and will not respond to meeting invites or will not attend meetings. Address this immediately especially if you need the aloof member’s input, skills or department’s resources.
The RACI chart is a great tool to document who is responsible and accountable for what. Creating and publishing the RACI chart will help hold people accountable. The RACI chart is flexible so you can create a very detailed one based on individual project tasks or create a higher level one based on core responsibilities such as product design.
So what do you do if team participation is low due to other competing projects? I recommend you factor in the team’s pace into your schedule. For example, if the actual task effort is four hours, you may want to use a task duration of one week based on resource availability.
If your company uses OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) or something similar, it’s a project manager’s responsibility to continuously remind team members and executives that time should be focused on OKRs. You may not get the support you need immediately but keeping OKRs front and center is the right thing to do to move the needle in the right direction. I’ve found that key projects eventually get the attention and resources needed when revenue targets start to fall short or schedules start to fall behind.
Team participation and resource management are challenging but can be exciting since you are constantly solving problems. I was working on a project that had some of the Manufacturing tasks moving along well. The momentum slowed to a halt within a few weeks since a team member left the company and another person went on maternity leave. Working through issues like these will improve your skills and build your team’s resilience. Stay focused on your project’s goals and company’s OKRs while remaining flexible with your team. Step in where needed to fill any gaps and encourage your team to step up. Team participation is critical to maintain your team’s velocity so hold yourself and your team accountable.