When your team rejects project management
Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Have you ever heard from a team member that project management is just a lot of paperwork? Or maybe they commented that you as the project manager don't do any actual work?
I hope that hasn't been your experience, but I've heard those comments and more.
Structured project management was relatively new to our part of the organization, so a bit of resistance to change was expected. However, it was also challenging to handle. Thankfully, the less enthusiastic team members came around eventually, and some even became significant advocates of project management.
How did we make that change? Here are a few tips:
It's difficult to hear that someone thinks your role is irrelevant. However, if you'll take the time to listen to the objections, you'll gain valuable information.
You'll learn what they dislike about project management (including any preconceived notions of what a project manager does). You can then use that information to tailor your approach to that team member.
Do they think all you do is gather status updates and pester them about deadlines? Make sure you're also an advocate for them when a task takes longer than planned or an issue comes up.
2. Ask for input
Don't create the project plan in a vacuum.
Ask each team member what tasks he/she needs to complete, how much time each task will take and what interdependencies may exist between tasks. Review their section of the project plan with each team member individually before you ever put the full plan in front of a larger group.
Once you develop the entire plan, create a high-level version of it and review that with the full team. Get their buy-in on the plan before you commit to a timeline with the sponsor or other levels of management.
3. Make them look good
This doesn't mean misrepresenting information or status. This means helping team members stay on task, meet deadlines and proactively manage risks. It also includes advocating for them when they need more time or budget to finish the project.
On one project, we had several issues come up that were outside of the team's control. I gathered the facts from the team, determined what we would need in terms of budget and time to finish the project, and presented my findings to management. The team appreciated me supporting them in this capacity and management valued the analysis.
4. Stay out of the way
You'll need to be in various meetings, gather status updates and help resolve issues. However, as much as possible, stay out of the way of those performing the tasks on the plan. They need time to complete their work and will appreciate you keeping a low profile.
Leading a team that's skeptical (or downright hostile) to project management isn't easy. However, it is possible to win them over by respecting their expertise and supporting them along the way.
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