As a project manager, your job is very similar to the team leader from one of your favorite spy caper movies: putting together a team that has all the skills to get the job done. You will need to deal with many issues that rarely come up in a spy movie, however, such as characters who dodge work and complain about the difficulty of the job. This article will help you deal with some of these problems. It is excerpted from the book IT Project Management: On Track from Start to Finish, Second Edition by Joseph Phillips (McGraw-Hill/Osborne, 2004; ISBN: 0072232021).
Within the IT world, a requirement for certification has become practically mandatory. Certifications such as the PMP, Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer, Oracle DBA, and even industry certifications like CompTIA’s A+ and Network + are proof of knowledge in a particular area of technology.
Individuals can earn these certifications based on training, experience, or a combination of both. Certifications are certainly a way to demonstrate that individuals have worked with the technology, understand the major concepts, and are able to pass the exam. Certifications do not, however, make the individual a master of all technologies. As Figure 6-2 demonstrates, a balance of certification and experience is desirable.
Figure 6-2.A balance of certifications and experience proves expertise.
Within your team, whether there or certifications or not, you’ll need to assess if the members need additional training to complete the project. Training is always seen as one of two things: an expense or an investment. Training is an expense if the experience does not increase the ability of the team to implement tasks. Training is an investment if the experience greatly increases the ability of the team to complete the project.
When searching for a training provider, consider these questions:
What is the experience of the trainer?
Can the trainer customize the class to your project?
Would hiring a mentor be a better solution than classroom training?
What materials are included with the class?
What is the cost of the course?
Is there an in-house training department that can deliver the training, provide assistance in developing the curriculum in-house, or assist in contracting with an outside trainer?
Would it be more cost effective to host the training session in-house?
These questions will help you determine if training is right for your project team. In some instances, standard introductory courses are fine. Typically, the more customized the project, the more customized the class should be as well. Don’t assume that just because a training center is the biggest that it’s also the best. No matter how luxurious a training room, or how delicious the cookies provided, or how slick the brochures are, the success of the class rests on the shoulders of the trainer.
Creating a Team
You can’t approach creating a team the way you would baking a cake or completing a paint-by-the-numbers picture. As you will be dealing with multiple individuals, you’ll discover their personalities, their ambitions, and their motivations. Being a project manager is as much about being a leader as it is managing tasks, deadlines, and resources.
You will, through experience, learn how to recognize the leaders within the team. You’ll have to look for the members who are willing to go the extra mile, who do what it takes to do a job right, and who are willing to help others excel. These attributes signal the type of members you want on your team. The easiest way to create teams with this type of worker? Set the example yourself.
Imagine yourself as a team member on your project. How would you like the project manager to act? Or call upon your own experience: what have previous project managers taught you by their actions? By setting the example of how your team should work, you’re following ageless advice: leading by doing.
Defining Project Manager Power
Project managers have responsibility. And with that responsibility comes power. When it comes to the project team you are seen as someone with some degree of power. Get used to it, but don’t let it go to your head. While the project manager must have a degree of power to get the project work done, the extent of your power is also likely relevant to the organizational structure you’re working in. For example, recall that a functional organization gives the power to the functional manager and the project manager may be known as just a project coordinator.
A project manager does, however, wield a certain amount of power in most organizations. The project team can see this power, correctly or incorrectly, based on their relationship with you. Their perception of your power—and how you use your project management powers—will influence the project team and how they accomplish their project work. The five types of project manager powers are
Expert The project manager’s authority comes from having experience with the technology the project focuses on.
Reward/penalty The project manager has the authority to give something of value to team members, or to withhold something of value.
Formal The project manager has been assigned by senior management and is in charge of the project. This is also known as positional power.
Coercive The project manager has the authority to discipline the project team members. This is also known as penalty power. When the team is afraid of the project manager, it’s coercive.
Referent The project team personally knows the project manager. Referent can also mean the project manager refers to the person who assigned him the position; for example, “The CEO assigned me to this position so we’ll do it this way.” This power can also mean the project team wants to work on the project, or with the project manager, due to the high priority status and impact of the project.
Hello! My Name Is…
If your team works together on a regular basis, then chances are the team has already established camaraderie. The spirit of teamwork is not something that can be born overnight—or even in a matter of days. Camaraderie is created from experiences of the teammates. A successful installation of software, or even a failed one, creates a sense of unity among the team.
It’s mandatory on just about any project that team members work together. Here’s where things get tricky. Among those team members, you’ve got ambition, jealousies, secret agendas, uncertainties, and anxiety pooling in and seeping through the workers of your project. One of your first goals will be to establish some order in the team and change the members’ focus to the end result of the project. Figure 6-3 illustrates the detrimental effect personal ambitions have on the success of a project.
Figure 6-3.Personal ambitions must be put aside for the success of the project.
By motivating your team to focus on the project deliverables, you can, like a magician, misdirect their attention from their own agendas to the project’s success. You can spark the creation of a true team by demonstrating how the members are all in this together. How can you do this? How can you motivate your team and change the focus from self-centric to project-centric? Here are some methods:
Show the team members what’s in it for them. Remember the WIIFM principle— “What’s In It For Me.” Show your team members what they personally have to reap from the project. You may do this by telling them about monetary bonuses they’ll receive. Maybe your team will get extra vacation days or promotions. At the very least, they’ll be rewarded with adding this project to their list of accomplishments. Who knows? You’ll have to find some way for this project to be personal for each team member.
Show the team what this project means to the company. By demonstrating the impact that this implementation has for the entire company, you can position the importance of the success (or failure) of the project squarely on the team’s shoulders. This method gives the team a sense of ownership and a sense of responsibility.
Show the team why this is exciting. IT project managers sometime lose the sense of excitement wrapped up in technology. Show your team why this project is cool, exciting, and fun, and the implementation will hardly be like work. Remember, IT pros typically love technology—so let them have some fun! It is okay to have a good time and enjoy your work.
Show the team members their importance. Teams need to know that their work is valued and appreciated. You can’t fake this stuff. Develop a sense of caring, a sense of pride, and tell your team members when they do a good job. Don’t let them feel like they are as valued as the slave labor used to build the Egyptian pyramids. Let them own the technology, use the technology, and be proud of their work.