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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).

  1. Organizing a Team Project
  2. Learning Is Hard Work
  3. Where Do You Live?
  4. How to Interview
  5. Phases of Team Development
  6. Use Experience
  7. Interviewing the Vendor
  8. After Hiring the Consultant
  11. Quiz Answers
By: McGraw-Hill/Osborne
Rating: starstarstarstarstar / 19
May 26, 2005

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The final method for resolving disputes among team members may be the most effective: experience. When team members approach you with a problem that they just can’t seem to work out between themselves, you have to listen to both sides of the situation.

If you have experience with the problem, then you can make a quick and accurate decision for the team members. But what if you don’t have experience with the technology, and your team members have limited exposure to this portion of the work? How can you make a wise decision based on the information in front of you? You can’t!

You will need to invent some experience. As with any project, you should have a testing lab to test and retest your design and implementation. Encourage your team members to use the testing lab to try both sides of the equation to see which solution will be the best.

If a testing lab is not available, or the problem won’t fit into the scope of the testing lab, rely on someone else’s experience. Assign the team members the duty of researching the problem and preparing a solution. They can use books, the Internet, or other professionals who may have encountered a similar problem. Experience is the best teacher, as Figure 6-7 demonstrates.

A method for resolving issues by testing should be implemented.

Figure 6-7.  A method for resolving issues by testing should be implemented. 

Disciplining Team Members

No project manager likes the process of disciplining a team member—at least they shouldn’t. Unfortunately, despite your attempts at befriending, explaining the importance of the project, or keeping team members on track, some people just don’t, or won’t, care. In these instances, you’ll have little choice other than to resort to a method of discipline.

Within your organization, you should already have a process for recording and dealing with disciplinary matters. The organizational procedures set by human resources or management should be followed before interjecting your own project team discipline approach. If there is no clear policy on team discipline, you need to discuss the matter with your project sponsor before the project begins. In the matter of disciplinary actions, take great caution—you are dealing with someone’s career. At the same time, discipline is required or your own career may be in jeopardy.

As you begin to nudge team members onto the project track, document it. Keep records of instances where they have fallen off schedule, failed to complete tasks, or have done tasks halfheartedly. This document of activity should have dates and details on each of the incidents, and it doesn’t have to be known to anyone but you. Hopefully, your problematic team members will turn from their wicked ways and take your motivation to do their jobs properly. If not, when a threshold is finally crossed, then you must take action.

Following an Internal Process

Within your organization there should be a set process for how an unruly employee is dealt with. For some organizations, there’s an evolution of a write-up, a second write-up, a suspension of work, then ultimately a firing. In other organizations, the disciplinary process is less formal. Whatever the method, you should talk with your project sponsor about the process and involve her in any disciplinary action.

In all instances of disciplinary action, it would be best for you and the employee to have the project sponsor or the employee’s immediate manager in the meeting to verify what has occurred. This not only protects you from any accusations from the disgruntled team member, but it also protects the team member from your disappointment by having a member of management present.

Removal from a Project

Depending on each situation, you may discover that the team member cannot complete the tasks required of him on the project, and removal from the project may be the best solution. In other instances it could be that the team member refuses to complete the work assigned to him for his own reasons and is a detriment to the success of the project. Again, removal from the team may be the most appropriate action.

Removing someone from the project requires tact, care, and planning. A decision should be made between you and the project sponsor. If you feel strongly that this person is not able to complete the tasks assigned to him, rely on your documentation as your guide. Removal of a team member from a project may be harsh, but it’s often required if the project is to succeed.

Of course, when you remove someone from the project, you need to address the matter with the team. Again, use tact. A disruption in the team can cause internal rumblings that you may never hear about—especially if the project team member that was removed was everyone’s best friend. You will have created an instant us-against-them mentality. In other instances, the removal of a troublemaker may bring cheers and applause. Whatever the reaction, use tact and explain your reasons without embarrassing or slandering the team member who was removed.

Using External Resources

There comes a time in every organization when a project is presented that is so huge, so complex, or so undesirable to complete that it makes perfect sense to outsource the project to someone else. In these instances, no matter the reason why the project is being outsourced, it is of utmost importance to find the right team to do the job correctly.

Outsourcing has been the buzz of all industries over the last few years—and certainly IT has been a prevalent reason for companies to “get someone else to do it.” There are plenty of qualified companies in the marketplace that have completed major transitions and implementations of technology—but there are also many incompetents that profess to know what they’re doing only to botch an implementation. Don’t let that happen to you.

Finding an Excellent IT Vendor

Finding a good IT vendor isn’t a problem. Finding an excellent IT vendor is the problem. The tricky thing about finally finding excellent vendors is that they keep so busy (because of their talented crew), they are difficult to schedule time with. So what makes an excellent vendor? Here are some attributes:

  • Ability to complete the project scope on schedule

  • Vast experience with the technology to be implemented

  • References that demonstrate customer care and satisfaction

  • Proof of knowledge on the project team (experience and certifications)

  • Adequate time to focus on your project

  • A genuine interest in the success of your organization

  • A genuine interest in the success of your project

  • A fair price for completing the work

Finding an excellent vendor to serve as your project team, or to be integrated into your project team, is no easy task. Remember, the success of a project is only as good as the people on the project team. It’s not just the name of the integrator, but the quality of the individuals on the integrator’s implementation team that make the integrator great (or not so great). Never forget that fact. Figure 6-8 demonstrates how a vendor can be integrated into your project team. The success of the project is dependent on the payment of the vendor. The project manager should oversee the process.

Figure 6-8.  A vendor must have vision and dedication to the success of the project

Size doesn’t always matter. Those monstrous integrators and technical firms that have popped up in every city over the past few years don’t always have the best people. Some of the best integrators you can find anyway are small, independent firms that have a tightly knit group of technical wizards. Do some research and consider these smaller, above-average tech shops. You may find a diamond in the rough.

To begin finding your integrator, you can use several different methods:

  • References Word of mouth from other project teams within your organization, contacts within your industry, or even family and friends are often the best way to find a superb integrator. A reference does something most brochures and sales letters cannot: it comes from a personal contact and lends credibility.

  • Internet If you know the technology you are to be implementing, hop on the Internet and see whom the manufacturer of the technology recommends. Once you’ve found integrators within your community, peruse their web site. Use advanced searches to look for revealing information about them on other web sites, in newsgroups, or in newspapers, or magazines. Know whom you are considering working with before they know you.

  • Yellow pages When all else fails, open the phone book and call and interview the prospective team over the phone. Prepare a list of specific questions that you’ll need answered. Pay attention to how the phone is answered, what noise is in the background, and how professional and organized the individual on the phone is. Is he rude? Is he happy to help? Take notes and let the other person do much of the talking.

  • Trade shows If you know your project is going to take place in a few months, attend some trade shows and get acquainted with some potential vendors. Watch how their salespeople act. Ask them brief questions on what their team has been doing. Collect their materials and file them away for future review.

  • Previous experience Never ignore a proven track record with a vendor. Past performance is always a sure sign of how the vendor will act with your project.

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