Category Archives: Project

Project Success Is All About The People

In reviewing project successes and failures, it turns out that project success has little to do with the technical aspect of projects. Instead, it is all about the people.

Within the last year, we’ve been called by clients struggling with issues ranging from poor delivery performance to sagging margins, while other clients want to ensure they are prepared for strong revenue growth. Every one of these clients required some sort of project to deliver the intended results – growth, profits, margins, cash flow, and efficiencies. Company sizes ranged from $7 million to $50 million to $250 million dollar facilities of multi-billion dollar companies. Industries ranged from building products to aerospace to food. Project scopes ranged from SIOP (sales, inventory, and operations planning) to a dramatic improvement in customer service levels to ERP selection to support the company strategy. Yet despite these differences, every project boiled down to people.

It is commonplace to think that project success has everything to do with whether the technical elements “add up” or whether best practice processes are utilized. Although these can be important, they are not the key driver to project success. Instead, it boils down to people.

Recently, we went into a new client to evaluate a group that was perceived to be struggling so that we could straighten out the challenges. Although there is always something to improve, this group alone was not the root cause of the challenges. There definitely were some technical challenges to resolve; however, the 80/20 related to connections and perceptions – in essence, the people element.

In another client, we have been working on an ERP project with multiple parties. It certainly hit some bumps in the road along the way. Some are typical bottlenecks with these sorts of projects, and some were atypical. What is sure is that 100% of the challenges resulted from the people equation, even though it was a technical project. Miscommunication and the lack of communication abound. Thus, our role became one of connector among several diverse roles and people. Again, the people aspect drove the “80/20” of success.

So, what are a few strategies to keep your project in the “green” when it comes to people?

  • Project leader: Since success begins and ends with leadership, start here. Project leadership is always harder than is originally thought and can be a thankless job. Be upfront and stay in front of this danger!
  • Don’t bother creating a team: Radical but true. A true team will sink or swim together. Unless you can affect each individual’s salary, bonus and workload (which is an extreme request in 99.9% of projects as they are cross-functional in nature), don’t expect your group to work as a team with the expectation that everyone has the same goal from their day-to-day manager. Instead, find a way to use these diverse backgrounds to your advantage. Bring the group together on specific tasks, engage individuals in a way that works for their particular situation and day-to-day manager.
  • Communicate the why: No matter what else happens, the number one priority should be to communicate the why behind the project. One way to bring this group of individuals together for a common purpose is to make sure the purpose is crystal clear – and the why behind the project is understood and energizing.
  • Follow up selectively: Since we know that cross-functional project teams run into many conflicting objectives and challenges, it is important not to waste precious energy on non-essential tasks. Focus selectively on what will move the project forward and ensure success – in essence, ignore everything but the critical path.
  • Celebrate successes: Don’t wait for the project to be completed successfully. Instead, look for wins along the way. If success or failure boils down to people, it is wise to think about what will keep people motivated. Ignoring them while they overcome daily obstacles might be commonplace but it won’t equate to success. Catch people doing right.
  • Get rid of poor performers: One of the most important things a leader can do is to address poor performers. It gives your top performers hope that you understand what’s required for success and that you appreciate top talent.

Without people, there are no projects. Since projects can drive substantial results, it is worth figuring out how to stack the odds in your favor. And, the great news is that there is no deep, technical understanding required to lead a project effectively. Instead, your ability to ask good questions and lead people are the keys to success as a project leader.

Give us the best leaders with mediocre technical skills any day vs. mediocre leaders with excellent technical skills. Undoubtedly, the project will deliver dramatic improvements to your business instead of continually struggling.

Managing People & Expectations

When you are managing a certain project, managing people involved with the project is perhaps the most difficult thing.

How can you better manage people in your project, and how can you handle the expectations of both the clients and your employer?

We will be using the concepts of analytical objectivity to better understand human expectations, and how to best manage people. Understanding people and their nature is very important when you are a project manager. So, read on.

Managing People

What exactly do we mean by the term managing? According to some of the top dictionaries, the word managing means:

• To dominate, control, handle, be in charge, govern
• To succeed in handling and every challenge
• To take charge of and care and make decisions for
• To direct a profession or career in the right direction

Almost everyone is in the habit of managing something. Generally, people try to manage themselves, but project managers are responsible for managing all aspects of a project. In the same way, CEOs have the responsibility of managing the entire company.

Management seems to be an easy job from the outside – it seems like it is all about taking charge and getting things done the proper way. But there are actually several problems and issues associated with proper and effective management.

These problems are associated with the necessary levels of domination, control, decision-making and caretaking. Management always involves the egos of people working in managerial capacities. This makes the situation quite complex for even the best project manager.

Managing People In An Effective Manner

When you manage with effectiveness, you add value to the project. But you need to remember that it is not a direct performance of any sort. You get useful outcomes with direct performances.

When you manage in an effective manner, you bring about improvements in direct performances. This, in the end, results in much better success levels. Let us look at an example.

A manager is responsible for creating a work environment, which acts as a life support system for performers to give their best possible work performance. The environment will also not be weighted down by management and administrative duties.

An effective manager will always try to stay out of the entire job process by setting up a management system that helps an organization or a project team to handle the entire project on their own. This is, in simpler terms, a way to express rational and clear expectations.

Expectations may include performance and product objectives, along with clear responsibilities and roles of each and every member of the project management team.

An important part of this entire process is status reporting, which needs to be accurate and regular. The report must showcase each and every aspect of the project at their current states. It should also contain information about various risks and issues and their respective solutions, all associated with the project itself.

Criticism And Accountability

Accountability plays an important role in the entire project management process. A proper management process ensures that each and every member of the management team is accountable for the work given to them. A positive working environment with positive performance is what makes a project successful and fruitful.

But criticism is something that cannot be understood by anyone who does not have a proper understanding of their responsibility, nor do they understand how criticism can help them improve in their job functions. Many people are defensive when it comes to facing criticism, as they are afraid they will be embarrassed. But in all actuality, a good critique can turn the tide of a project management team’s performance level.

An effective and proficient project manager ensures that all the team members working under him are proficient enough. These team members need to be performing all duties assigned to them. They are responsible for passing on criticism to all the team members. This will either show them where they might be going wrong or may be to assist them in becoming even better.

Managing Expectations

When you, the project manager, are accountable for the performance of your entire team, you should also be ready to handle expectations – expectations of the clients, expectations of the CEO, expectations of the team members in terms of remuneration, etc. You even need to manage your own expectations of your team members. There are a few questions, the answers to which you must know if you wish to manage other people’s expectations:

• What are the expectations based on?
• Is it professional standard, perfectionism or wishful thinking?
• Does your team have any clue about what you expect of them?
• Are the expectations reasonable or foolhardy?
• Do you have any contingency plan if any contingency is not met?

If you know the accurate answers to these questions, then managing all expectations becomes a whole lot easier.

Coming up soon Project Success is All About the People    

Stay tuned!