You’re A Project Manager Not A Robot

In past blogs, I have written about a Project Management Framework, importance of strong requirements, and provided links to some great sites.  If you follow any of the blogs, visit PM sites, or follow PMs on twitter (follow me here) then you have seen countless mentions of project templates, discussions on Agile vs. the rest of the world and so on.  While there are some phenomenal resources out there and all that is tremendously important, you can not lose sight of your greatest asset…people.

It is the very importance of people within our project teams that Kelly’s Contemplation discusses both project management and leadership topics.  Some will say that leadership falls within project management and I would agree, but in my humble opinion it is a topic deserving of its own focus and a characteristic to be studied by PMs and not a project management technique/tool.  This is one of the reasons I invited Mark Walsh to provide a guest blog last week on Motivation For Lazy People.  He is not  PM, but his expertise in people is of great value to PMs and success of their initiatives.

I have posted in the past that although we may have completed the project templates and tasks, we may not have actually had a successful project.  If at the end of your project you do not have anyone asking “Hey Mr/Mrs. PM, what are you working on next?  If you need a representative from IT, let me know and I will work with my manager to get assigned.” then it may not have been as successful as thought.  I read a tremendous blog post from Bas De Baar, in which he said the mere fact of constantly asking your team members for status alters the way they work and could lead to delays.  This was such a great statement and one I have never really thought about.  Am I altering the natural work habits of someone on my team…the very habits they have grown through their career and have made them a success to date?  Many project managers are more concerned with their project schedule, completing a template, weekly agendas and meeting minutes, etc that they never truly learn their team members.

I think we all know about various team building & motivation techniques (recognition, incentives, off-site activities, etc) but are we really taking the steps at the team member level to understand which technique fits the team members? As the PM, do you know their interests?  Pushes and pulls?  What motivates them?  Your idea of an off-site lunch may actually be a stress factor for your legal & compliance rep that has stacks of contracts to review.  In reality, he/she would have been more excited had you sent him/her a link to their alma mater’s latest win and showed some interest in what actually matters to them.  As the PM, you need to build time into your project schedule for team member connections.  Don’t go publishing this on your MS Project Plan, but put it in your calendar/diary to buy a cup of coffee for team member A on Monday and a 5-10 minute Skype with your resource over seas on Tuesday.  There are countless studies on the effects of employee engagement and if you want to be on the positive side of those effects, make sure you reach the heart of your team members.  If you do, I am confident that the templates and feedback will get done.

For your video of the week…don’t create this atmosphere.  While it works for developing U.S. Marines for war, it is not how you want your team perceiving you.


A blog post by Bret Simmons “Employee Engagement and Performance: Finally Some Credible Evidence”

A Short Employee Engagement Video (yes, there is an ad at the end but this is not an endorsement)

Project Smart’s Post on Discovering Future Performers

Paper from Corporate Leadership Council on Employee Engagement (somewhat dated 2003, but human nature doesn’t change as fast as tech)

Managing Oneself by Peter Drucker is a great read to help yourself and how you view members of your team.

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5 thoughts on “You’re A Project Manager Not A Robot

  1. Paul:

    I couldn’t agree more. I am a big fan of a project FRAMEWORK… a skeletal structure of best practices to GUIDE project managers through initiatives. A good PM needs to know how to listen to the project (the people, the progress, the ‘noise’, etc) and know how much process and templates is too much.

    Thank you so much Paul for taking the time to read and post a comment. I really appreciate it!


  2. I think we all learn in the end that people are the key to successful projects. the PM processes should be there to help us develop a better understanding in the team of where they fit in the process. To often the process becomes king and the people are forgotten.

  3. David:

    Thanks for the comment. I am amazed at how much info comes across my desk with a few widgets…I have found out quarterly earnings on my company before it was announced by my supervisor.

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