Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The other "P" in PM

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood, a beautiful day for a neighbor... won't you be mine?

In project management land, a PM is Mr. Rodgers. You are the mayor of your project "town". You are it's ambassador, it's ombudsperson, it's chamber of commerce, and it's pep squad. You are the person who makes the town feel like things are hunky-dory, or headed to hell.

It may seem like the types of roles described above might not be project personas, but your ability to channel those personas (and others) will make or break your project. That may be a tall order to fill, but it is all worthwhile when it comes to the emotional health of your project.

These days, I have observed that some PMs are seemingly unconcerned about whether their teams are happy. Some folks in advertising say that it doesn't *matter* if teams are happy. I seriously disagree on this point.

Since this isn't the Jetsons, or AI, or Minority Report, or any other crazy example of a "future" where robots do everything, we work with human beings. Human beings are also called people. People have feelings and emotions. Hence, the other "P" in PM is "People" management.

That "human" factor is SO important that PMI determined it should require its own competency, and the skills, tools, techniques and processes around it comprise the Human Resource Management knowledge area.

Here's about the time in the program girls and boys where we talk about feelings.

The PMBOK says that effective project management requires that the project manager possess characteristics of knowledge, learning and personal.

Yeah, yeah, that isn't grammatically correct, but go with me on this for a moment.

Knowledge - Makes sense. A PM should "know" something about project management (we hope).

Performance - Of course you would expect that a PM should be capable of "doing" something with that knowledge. (again, we hope).

Personal - This is the interesting one. This is the assumption that the PM know how to behave while doing the first two. It's her or his attitude, core personality traits, leadership capabilities, and really anything that would add to her/his ability to guide the project team while doing the more tactical and administrative functions of the role. In other words, a juggler with a good sense of humor and a "follow-me" type of presence.

Many people don't know that PMI has an opinion on the kind of *person* a PM should be. If more people knew about their position, there might be some folks who wouldn't have become PMs. But when you think it through, why shouldn't there be an opinion on it? The PMBOK outlines just about everything else, so why not try and guide the evolution of people management?

Arguably the most important part of a PM's ability to succeed comes from their skill in all three core characteristics. The Personal aspect literally separates one PM from another. Her or his ability to negotiate, facilitate, motivate, mentor and develop the team to achieve something great is so key, that in many cases, teams will prefer a "nice" PM who isn't capable to a "capable" PM who isn't nice.

And if you were wondering what makes project management difficult, it is this: the soft skills.

The PMBOK knowledge area of Human Resource management has its own nuances and processes associated with it. Formally, it is intended to give structure to the organization, management and leadership of teams. There are four processes associated with this KA:

Develop Human Resource Plan
Acquire Project Team
Develop Project Team
Manage Project Team

Develop HR Plan is more commonly referred to as "identifying a team". In practice, we have had some experience with trying to request a project team that we would *want* to lead. Sometimes that is working with people you have a rapport with, that you trust, or trust you. Overall, we are looking for people with the right skill set that will make the job easier, not harder. Whatever type of team you want to have, you have to be able to articulate what the needs are, and you are usually working with subject matter experts (SMEs) or resource managers to make sure you are getting the right skills and the right levels for the right roles on your work.

Acquire Project Team is when you actually find out who makes up your pool of resources for your project. You confirm the availability of folks and you actually obtain your team. There is a lot of negotiation in this phase because you are often bartering for a resource's time, or the role you want them to play with their functional manager (if there is one) or the resource manager. In some cases you might even be bartering with other PMs. This is also the process of figuring out the right makeup of an on-site, off-site, or blended team.

The last two processes are where the meat is. Developing and Managing Project Team.

When the PMBOK describes "developing" a team, this is what they are thinking:

As a PM, and leader for this project -

- are you increasing cooperation by understanding the sentiments of your team members, anticipating their actions, acknowledging their concerns and following up on their issues?
- are you encouraging and organizing activities designed to enhance the competencies of your project team members?
- are you scheduling team-building activities, where you are offering off-site or on-site opportunities for the team to strenthen relationships and build trust in AND out of the context of project work?
- are you making sure to reward the work and achievements of your team and looking to motivate them through fostering a positive culture of public recognition?

I think you get the idea.

You need to be FUN. You need to be SPONTANEOUS. And most of all, you need to be *calm*.

When they talk about "managing" a team, they mean that you are then constantly taking steps to interact with, and cultivate the individuals on that team in parallel with the development you provide for the team as a whole.

A PM is a litmus test for the emotional strain on a project. If the PM is emotionally out of control, quick to blame, quick to snap, and doesn't appreciate the work being done by the team, it is a short trip to disaster, and you can *see* it in the team. This is why being personable and aware of your team and their feelings is so important.

If a PM is upbeat and sociable, knows how to gauge when to apply pressure to meet a deadline versus giving the team time to recoup and take it easy, and is quick to acknowledge and congratulate the team on a job well done, there are good odds that the project could be successful. Why? Because the team will feel motivated and say: "Hey, if the PM is ok, then chances are, things are ok!"

The PMBOK has a particular philosophy on the way that teams form. Although most teams will follow this path in a linear fashion, when stress and other external factors come into play, anything goes. Knowledge of these stages might help you manage the emotional changes as your teams become a project unit.

The five stages of development are:

Forming > Storming > Norming > Performing > Adjourning

I am sure you can guess what goes on in each stage, but for fun, we'll walk through each of them:

Forming - This is the first 30 minutes of a party. People are arriving, dropping their coats, grabbing a couple of pieces of carrot from the veggie tray and checking out the drink selection. Some people may chat with others,but really, people are hanging with the folks they know, or came with.

Storming - Uh oh. There's "that guy". He was already blasted before he arrived so he's just a ping it up. Not everyone is appreciative, so there's a bit of friction. People are now exclusively paying attention to their friends. Not friendly. People are thinking, "hey, I have nothing in common with some of these folks". Something has got to change otherwise this party is dead.

Norming - The party is now underway. Most of the folks invited are there, and someone started playing some good music. People's personalities seem to be less aggressive and conflicting, and each person is starting to get their groove on. Because everyone seems to like to music being played, there is a group identity growing. As each person observes the others, there is a sense that there may be some commonality after all.

Performing - "That's my JAM". All of a sudden "It Takes Two" comes on the rotation, and EVERYONE is jumping in. Then it's quickly followed up by "Don't Stop Believin'". Every person at the party is either dancing or laughing or drinking or talking, but most importantly, people are MINGLING. Finding out more about the other part goers, and really getting into the swing of things. This is turning out to be an AMAZING shindig. (Yea, I said shindig).

Adjourning - Well, the last song has been played, people are exchanging information. "Hey great party Man!" It's a mini love-fest. People are keeping track of names and people they'd like to party with again, and everyone goes their separate ways, hopefully for the better having come to this party.

That is the type of flow that you want your projects to have. In terms of storyline, it's ok if everyone doesn't get along or appreciate each other's strengths at the beginning. It's only natural. But what you contribute as a PM is a perspective on how all of these strangers have commonality. You are the DJ at the party. You get a chance to play the songs that people want to hear, and through checking in and observing your team and it's individual members, you can create a playlist that not only coalesces the team, but gets the best performance out of them as well. You can help the team evolve and transition through the stages to eventual success.

So before you start your next project, think about the ways that you are going to get your team members to interact with each other. Plan for outings. Plan for fun time. Plan for goof off sessions. MOST importantly, KNOW what kind of performance you want to celebrate, when is the right time to congratulate your team, and just how you are going to reward folks.

If you find out ways to spread the love and appreciation while keeping the project on track and on budget, you will be the PM that everyone will work their best for, and you'll find that you'll have more fun too.

- the practical pmp

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