Project Management: Now that You Got ‘em, Get ‘em to Talk to Each Other
By using the Ideal Project Team Member Profile, I knew I had the right people in the room when I convened my first and only 30-person, enterprise-wide project meeting.
I’m not fond of meetings.
Some of the feuds, though, did not lend themselves to voluntary talk outside of meetings.
So I created a spreadsheet with the names of the 30 people on the team, their department, and their role in the project as far as I understood it from research and interviews.
Speaking privately and individually with each member of the team, I asked one question. “What, from your point of view, needs to happen next?”
No one held back. They were excited about having come this far but also wary. They’d advanced before on this enterprise-wide initiative only to falter: “I can’t do XYZ until they do ABC.”
This led nicely into my next question. “Who are they and what must they do for you to take the next step in moving this project toward completion by Nov. 10?” I routinely spoke the “go-live” date aloud to create and maintain a productive sense of urgency among the team.
I took copious notes. Names, departments, phone numbers and task descriptions all went into my spreadsheet. Two days before the meeting, I emailed the project engine-building spreadsheet. It documented more than 300 tasks to make this project a reality. (Long enough for team members to absorb the information; not too long to ruminate and rebel.)
Lots of burble, murmur, grunts and harrumphs at meeting start. And “Where,” grudge holders demanded, “did you get all of this information?” As if I made it up.
I spoke quietly. “From all of you.”
Around the table I went. “Hank, I understood from our meeting last week that XYZ had to happen in order for you to perform ABC.” Pen in hand, poised over the spreadsheet that lay before everyone else, I was ready to make changes. “Do I have that wrong?”
“No, um, it’s just that –”
Then, persons from the department Hank said needed to do XYZ cut in with their view of required liaisons with Hank’s area. Next thing I knew, two feuding departments had started to (gasp!) talk with one another and productively grapple with the project’s realities.
As the who-needs-to-do-whats flew around the table, the only time I piped in was with, “When will that happen?” On the spreadsheet it went.
They always told me “when.” I never told them. The only date I ever uttered was the “go-live” date. The 30 people around that table had the skills, self-motivation and common sense to create their own processes and deadlines leading to “go-live.” That’ why they were in the room.
Their job was to lay track. Mine was to ensure it went in the right direction, at a speed leading to timely completion.
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For People with Common Sense
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