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Managing Staff

November 9 2015

Managing Staff

Topic 1. Overcome Team Resistance to Project Management

It’s one thing to build a Project Charter and the schedule. It’s another thing to effectively manage the project. If you could issue the plan and the work assignments and have everyone complete his activities on time, your life would be much easier. However, the process of managing the team and the schedule becomes complicated because of the people element involved. People are unpredictable. To understand how the project is proceeding and to ensure that it stays on track, controls are needed. You may need to go around and ask people how they are doing. You need people to tell you in Status Reports and status meeting how they are doing. You need to keep updated statistics on work completed, in-progress and not started.

Unfortunately, team members do not always respond well to these management and control processes for a number of reasons. 

  • They may think the processes are cumbersome and keep them from completing their deliverables.
  • They may feel they will be punished for bringing bad news or doing things incorrectly.
  • They may not feel the project management processes are effective.
  • They may have a normal human tendency against processes that feel like controls.
  • Team members may have tried to follow the processes, but found they were not complete or they were not supported by other people.
  • They may feel that the project manager is not following the procedures, so why should they.
  • They may see people going around the processes without consequences.

Knowing and recognizing these normal human tendencies will help counter the resistance you may encounter on your project. The project manager needs to communicate the processes effectively, including their overall value to the project. Once discussed with the team, it is important to apply the project management processes consistently so that they can be adopted successfully on the project. 

Topic 2. Address Staff Performance Problems with an Early First Meeting

It can be difficult for a project manager to deal with team members with performance problems. You should first determine whether the behavior is impacting the project in terms of its deliverables or its deadlines. If so, the situation needs to be addressed for sure. The next question is whether the behavior may cause problems in the future.  If so, then you could consider this a project risk. There are a number of potential risks including:

  • A risk that the behavior will, in fact, lead to missed deadline dates in the future.
  • A risk that the behavior will alienate the rest of the team and that overall cohesion and morale will suffer.  This may cause the team’s performance to suffer as a result.

If the manager perceives the employee may become a significant risk, he should address this situation proactively. The place to start with personnel problems is usually to take the most direct route – a face-to-face discussion.  In this discussion, the manager can discuss his perceptions of the employee’s behavior and why it will (or may) cause problems on the project.  The manager understands the risks to the project and should communicate these risks to the employee.

One of the benefits of the first meeting is that the manager can share the concerns, and the employee will have a chance to tell his or her side of the story.  You never know how these first discussions will progress.  Sometimes they are difficult and don’t accomplish what you hope. However, sometimes the person you are talking to will agree with you and tell you the reason for his or her behavior.  As a manager, if you know the causes, you might have some ability to help fix them.

The employee may have a problem in his or her personal life (which may or may not be shared).  There might be personality problems between the employee and other members of the team. If you can get some sense as to the cause of a problem, you have a chance of determining a remedy.

In fact, there may be a number of remedies that the manager and employee can work on together. This includes trying to build up the employee’s communication and people interaction skills, providing continued people-coaching, or changing the employee’s job in a way that will allow him or her to excel.  The exact solution will depend on the give and take that comes out of this meeting.

The meeting should end with some concrete commitments for addressing the problem.  The project manager needs to feel comfortable that the employee will again start to engage constructively with the rest of the team. If they cannot agree on these points, the meeting will not have been totally successful and a further escalation may be necessary. 

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