Special Situations

Table of contents:

There are going to be project situations where you won't have a stellar, high-performing team. There may be times where you have just the opposite situation to deal with. In either case, you still need to get the work done. It's in these situations where your goal is to get "better" team performance. While we could spend an entire chapter on all the problem situations you may encounter, I at least want to spend a section looking at some special situations related to project team performance that you are likely to encounter and offer a few helpful recommendations in each case.

  • Poor performers Poor performers generally fall into two categories: unacceptable work results or unacceptable behaviors. In many cases, the poor performance is a result of unclear expectations. If faced with this situation, keep these action items in mind:


    Performance feedback should be timely, discreet, and specific.

    • Verify expectations On first occurrences, don't overreactverify the expectations that they had and take responsibility for any lack of clarity.
    • Provide feedback After you have proper information, provide specific feedback to the team member as soon as possible in a private setting. Focus on the behavior or result, not the person.
    • Enable success Do everything that you can do to enable each team member's success. Provide resources. Knock down obstacles. Provide every opportunity for their performance to improve.
    • Initiate backup plans At the same time, you cannot assume their performance will get better. At the first signs of performance issues, start thinking about what you can do to mitigate the impact to the project, if you do need to replace the team member or if the performance does not improve.

      Keep in mind: The rest of team is watching how you deal with these situations. Your challenge is to strike the balance between handling the person fairly and not letting the poor performance become a drag on the team.

    • Cut your losses Assuming you've done everything we've mentioned so far, there comes a time when you've got to cut your losses. The main reason why a poor performer needs to be removed is the effect it can have on the performance and morale of the rest of the team.
  • High-maintenance staff This group of team members includes those individuals who have a reputation of either being difficult to work with or possessing unusual personalities. In most cases, these are the people you need for your key critical path tasksof course. From experience, here are my two key recommendations for these situations:

    • Check for yourself Don't assume the reputation (the perception) is totally true. Verify for yourself. I have found that in many cases, these individuals are unfairly labeled. These labels often say more about the people who are uncomfortable working with individuals who are different from them than anything else.
    • Treat them the same Use the same approach with them as you would any other team member. Work to understand their motivators, clarify expectations, avoid surprises, and help them to be successful.
  • Schedule developed without team I know we emphasize the importance and the value in developing the detail project plan and schedule with the team. I also realize this does not always occur in the real-world (shocking I know). If you find yourself in a situation where either you or your team is asked to take responsibility for a schedule that they did not help develop, you must take the time to review the schedule. You need to get a buy-in from the team members before continuing. Two important items for consideration here:

    • Understand the schedule assumptions In many of these situations, team members totally dismiss the merits of a schedule because they are not aware of the assumptions that serve as the foundation for the schedule. Key assumptions include those about resource ability and quality level of work product (completion criteria).
    • Identify risks If there are gaps between the schedule assumptions and project reality, or if you cannot get commitment from the team, you have some new project risks if not outright issues. Follow your designated risk and issue management procedures to handle it.

The Absolute Minimum

At this point, you should have a solid understanding of the following:

  • The core set of traits for high-performing teams are clarity, commitment, professionalism, synergy, and trust.
  • In most situations, a participative approach to project management, decision-making, conflict resolution, and brainstorming leads to better project team performance.
  • The key project management skills that are needed to lead better project team performance include leadership, communication, facilitation, interpersonal, and team-building skills.
  • The ten key management principles that lead to better project team performance are

    1. Adapt management style to best meet the needs of the project.
    2. Select your project team yourself whenever possible.
    3. Develop the project plan and schedule with the team.
    4. Keep the team focused on both their immediate tasks and on the project's "big picture."
    5. Set clear expectations.
    6. Enable each team member to be as productive as possible.
    7. Strive to improve the marketability of each person on your team.
    8. Leverage the individual strengths to best accomplish the project goals.
    9. Constantly look to recognize and reward the accomplishments and good work of your team members.
    10. Use team-building methods and procedures to help develop team synergy.

Figure 19.1 summarizes the main points we reviewed in this chapter.

Figure 19.1. Overview of keys to better project team performance.

Part i. Project Management Jumpstart

Project Management Overview

The Project Manager

Essential Elements for any Successful Project

Part ii. Project Planning

Defining a Project

Planning a Project

Developing the Work Breakdown Structure

Estimating the Work

Developing the Project Schedule

Determining the Project Budget

Part iii. Project Control

Controlling a Project

Managing Project Changes

Managing Project Deliverables

Managing Project Issues

Managing Project Risks

Managing Project Quality

Part iv. Project Execution

Leading a Project

Managing Project Communications

Managing Expectations

Keys to Better Project Team Performance

Managing Differences

Managing Vendors

Ending a Project

Absolute Beginner[ap]s Guide to Project Management
Absolute Beginner[ap]s Guide to Project Management
ISBN: 078973821X
Year: 2006
Pages: 169

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