Dr. Jimmie Flores

Month: October 2013

3 Strategies to Motivating Project Team Members

At the beginning of the project, project team members are usually excited about the work. The team is getting to know each other, and they are becoming more comfortable with their respective roles. For the most part, the project is being defined, which means that the hardcore work has yet to begin.

motivate member

However, after the planning phase, the work is assigned and due dates are established. In other words, the pressure is now on. Team members now have a clear idea regarding the complexity of the work, and the time it will take to get it done.

The project manager must ensure the team members stay motivated. The team members might need funding, removal of obstacles, or just a pat on the back. By being engaged, the project manager is more likely to step in and help the team stay on track.

Here are three strategies to keeping the team energized:

#1: Make sure the goals are clearly defined.
When setting project goals, the SMART approach is recommended. That is, goals must be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Without goals, we can expect the team to lack motivation. We can establish goals for an individual and for the entire team. The team members should be a part of the SMART goal setting process. Their input will lead to buy-in.

#2: Reinforce the reason for the project.
I’ve been a part of projects that succeeded and some that failed. While projects fail for many reasons, one major cause is lack of vision. The project manager must serve the role of a leader, which means that the vision is communicated to the team members.

How do we share the vision? We need to focus on the end result. In other words, it’s our job as project managers to paint the picture. If our project consists of building a new fuel-efficient car, we make sure to have a picture of the shiny environmentally safe car on the wall. A big picture and on several walls! Knowing what the final product looks like keeps the team focused on getting the work done.

#3: Show that care.
As silly as it sounds, we need to act like we care about the people and the project. A project is unique, which means that we are often creating something that did not exist before. The work we’re doing is different from day-to-day operational work. Thus, we’re constantly facing and overcoming challenges. We need to recognize the commitment made by the team members.
Motivation is fragile. It’s true that some people will stay focused on the project work without requiring motivation; however, this is the exception and not the norm. I find that my projects do much better when I’m involved with the day-to-day activities. The presence of the project manager makes a notable difference.

By having a plan, we can identify the milestones. In other words, we confirm that we’re heading in the right direction, and we know when it’s right to celebrate. If a roadblock presents itself, the project manager works to remove it. Finally, and perhaps most important, the team is more likely to believe in the project if the project leadership team is visible.

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3 Strategies to Working with a Difficult Customer

difficult customer

The customer is always, right? If you ask Herb Kelleher, ex-CEO of Southwest Airlines, he will vehemently disagree with you. Kelleher was criticized in the 1980s when he put his employees first. In an interview, he described a situation where a customer slapped an agent who was working a flight. He said [paraphrasing], “I’m sure we can’t be happy with the customer, and thank him for beating up our agent.

Learning how to work with customers takes many years of experience. About 90% of the customers cause no problems. However, 10% are the toughies. These are the ones that are never happy, regardless of how well you do your work. They’re looking to find fault whenever possible.

#1: Make sure to stay calm.

Back in 2005, I was working with an executive-type customer. He was upset because the project work was behind schedule a couple days, even though we informed him in advance that we lacked the information needed to meet the deadline.

ROY:I don’t give a damn why it’s late. The fact is that it’s late, and I will not tolerate it!


ME:I understand, Roy. I will work with the IT team to make sure the work gets done by COB today.

ROY:I really hope so! I’m not happy with the level of service.
ME:I understand what you’re saying. Let me get this work done for now, and we can review the situation in a day or two.

ROY:Ok. Make sure I have an update by today.

ME:Sure, Roy.

#2: Avoid Trying to Prove Yourself Right

I noticed that Roy was upset, so I took the path of least resistance. I was aware that the problem rested with both of us, but this is not the time to find fault. As a project manager, my job was to solve the problem, and not to escalate the issue.

As we agreed, Roy and I talked a couple days after the issue was resolved, and he apologized for his unprofessional approach. He mentioned that the CEO was concerned about the missed deadline, and he was under tremendous pressure to get the work done. He admitted that failure to provide the content to us was the reason we were late.

#3: Don’t be Afraid to Fire Unruly Customers

While building customer accounts is important to any business, we must be prepared to fire those individuals (or companies) that are unbearable. Once we deliver the product or service we promised, we can politely let them know that our plate is full.

I’ve learned that customers who haggle too much about price during the proposal discussion will be difficult to manage. Therefore, I terminate the discussion in a professional way, and our company is better off because of it.

A business friend told me that he identified the 20% of clients that generated 80% of his annual profit. By doing so, he recommended the other 80% of his clients to companies who could service them better. He now has fewer problem clients, and has the time to provide a higher level of service to the 20% who are happy about the services he provides.

Proven Tips to Avoid Scope Creep

One key reason for project failure is scope creep. Therefore, we must do whatever possible to avoid it. Let’s first gain a better understanding of scope: the work to be done on the project. Now, let define scope creep: any work beyond what was promised to the customer during the development of the project charter.

Customers want the latest and greatest product or service, and they are going to ask for add-ons whenever possible. For example, customers might request a video component even though only audio was included in the contract. They will first ask nicely, but they will insist later. In many cases, the customer wants the additional work (scope) without extending the schedule and adding costs. In other words, they want you to deliver a more robust product without taking any ownership.

#1: Communicate with the customer.

Successful project managers make sure to communicate with the customer as much as possible. We want to keep the customer informed regarding cost, schedule, and scope. In essence, we are sharing the Earned Value Management (EVM) results. By having this visibility with the customer, we make sure we have a clear understanding of how they feel the project is coming along. In addition, we can keep them posted on the project progression.

When project managers aremissing in action, the customer will wonder regarding the project details. In essence, they look for opportunities to add more features and functionality to the project. If the project manager is absent, the customer will contact a team member and ask for the enhancement. An inexperienced team member might be looking to impress the client, and integrate the update without running it through the Change Control Board (CCB).

#2: Focus on the project objectives.

The project manager signed the project charter, which included the objectives. The project charter authorized the project manager to secure resources (people, equipment, and capital) for the work effort. Once the project management plan was created, the project manager has clear requirements, and it’s imperative that the plan is followed.

When a customer demands more scope, the project manager must stress the importance of following the plan. Here’s a potential response: Mike, I understand you want to add a mobile app to the current project, but please note that we need to make sure the application we’re working on is delivered on time, within budget, and to your satisfaction. Once we’re done, we can tackle the mobile app, and I’m sure it will be to your liking. In other words, we must stick with the original plan.

We can expect customers to change the rules of the game midstream. It goes with the territory. However, the project manager must reinforce the importance of meeting the current objectives. By adding more scope, we compromise the success of the project. We must remind the customer that focusing on current requirements is imperative.

As noted above, communication is the key. An engaged project manager will ensure the customer is in the loop. Thus, the project manager takes a proactive approach, which lessens the chances for surprises that can derail the project.

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