Bob, Uma, and the team gathered in the conference room. Bob invited Gary from the steering team to join them. Bob welcomed the group and introduced the steering team and the core team. Bob and Gary made the same presentation they gave to the executive team highlighting the importance of this project. Gary told them that the first task would be to come up with a couple of potential approaches and a project charter. Uma then addressed the team and said "I welcome you all. I hope that you all understand why you are part of this team. I am looking forward to working with you. Expect to be in meetings for the next couple of days". As soon as she said that, Jeff started thinking that he would rather be out in the field selling and earning commissions instead of being stuck in meetings.
Uma sensed that the group might have questions about her, since not many of them had worked with her before. After the meeting Scott mentioned to Paul that the last time he had a woman project manager she was very emotional and controlling.
Uma decided to have the first meeting in an informal atmosphere at a park nearby where lunch would be served. She hoped that the offsite meeting would help the team get to know each other in an informal setting. When they all gathered at the park Uma welcomed each one of them, mentioning that all of them bring value to the team and that each is very important to the team. Uma asked each team member to introduce themselves and say what they like to do for fun. She also asked them to share their good and bad experiences on their previous projects and ask any questions they had about her.
After everyone introduced themselves, the team started dispersing into small groups. By the end of the day Scott thought that he should not compare Uma with his last woman project manager but should judge her on her own merits. Jeff, who had been very apprehensive, was having fun and enjoying the company of Elizabeth.
The next morning the entire team (including Bob, the sponsor) met in the conference room. The day's agenda was to develop a team mission, identify roles and responsibilities, develop team operating methods, and formalize decision-making procedures. Bob quoted Stephen Covey: "An empowering organizational mission statement focuses on contribution, on worthwhile purposes that create a collective deep burning 'Yes!' … It contains both vision and principle-based values. It addresses the needs of the stakeholder". He also said that the team has to deal with the five basic elements of desired results, guidelines, resources, accountability, and consequences.
Elizabeth stated, "In my last project, for each meeting we would assign a facilitator and a scribe. When the project manager could not attend, we assigned someone else to lead the meetings". The team thought it was a good idea. Bob volunteered to be the facilitator and Elizabeth to serve as the scribe for this meeting.
After the mission was determined, Uma asked the team to discuss team operating methods and decision-making procedures. Paul said he had found team charters useful in the past and suggested they develop their own team charter to supplement the project charter. The team, however, decided to incorporate team methods into the project charter.
By using an inviting approach, it appears that Uma has broken down many prejudices and assumptions and helped each team member get excited about her, the project, and other team members. It is important to establish a climate of openness, trust, and fun. This climate must recognize that individuals have different needs, concerns, and abilities to change. The project leader should honor each individual while establishing workable team operating methods. Appendix C is a project leadership assessment that can be used both now, while project team operating methods are being established, and during the project execution stage, when the project team is accomplishing its work.
The project's parent organization may strongly influence the operating methods. At the more formalized end of the spectrum, some organizations have quite specific operating methods that all project teams are expected to follow. Organizations like these often have reminders mounted in conference rooms, templates in shared network files, trained facilitators to help new teams, and other measures to ensure that all project teams follow the prescribed operating methods. At the less formalized end, some organizations not only have no standards, but also have little patience for project teams that want to take time up front to establish operating methods. Many organizations fall somewhere between the extremes.
The reasons for having project team operating methods is to prevent some problems from occurring in the first place, smooth out difficulties, help the team use their time efficiently, and create an atmosphere for making decisions that minimize inappropriate conflict. Some of the more frequently developed operating methods include decision-making and meeting management.
Several types of decision-making are useful in projects: consensus, leaderimposed, delegated, voting, and scoring models. Each method has its place. A wise leader learns when each is desirable and how to facilitate each decisionmaking method.
True consensus occurs when every person on the project team agrees that the decision makes sense and he or she will enthusiastically support it. Each project team member must be committed to supporting the decision even when it may not be his or her personal favorite. Achieving true consensus takes time, effort, and deep understanding of all the underlying issues (not just the stated positions) in a situation. Consensus should be used primarily when enthusiastic buy-in will be needed to implement a critical project decision.
Some project decisions must conform to organizational desires. When this is the case, leaders—especially the sponsor and the project manager—should make the decision and inform the team. Project leaders can also make many minor decisions.
A wise project leader, however, will delegate many of the minor decisions. This delegation accomplishes several desired outcomes. First, it unburdens the project leader, freeing him or her to spend more time and energy on issues that are important at the leader's level. Second, it can be very empowering to project team members to make more of their own decisions. Third, especially if the decision involves technical details, a team member may be able to make a better decision. Delegating progressively more important decisions is a process in which the team member demonstrates an increasing ability to make sound decisions and the project leader actively mentors the team member. This delegation process is one of the important skills effective project leaders must develop.
Voting can be used in several ways. First, multi-voting can be used by a project team to quickly screen a large list of potential options to a manageable number of options that can be considered in more detail. Informal polling is sometimes useful when testing for consensus. In that sense, it can be part of the consensus development. Voting should rarely be used, however, for making final decisions because losers in the voting will probably not be enthusiastic supporters of the decision.
Scoring models, sometimes called weighted scoring models or prioritization matrixes, are useful when multiple criteria—some of which are more important than others—need to be considered. For example, before buying a car most people will consider several factors, such as cost, gas mileage, and style, and will weigh them differently. The scoring models are a formalized method for teams to make these kinds of decisions. A scoring model example is shown in Table 2-7.
When using a scoring model, the project team should:
Decide what criteria are important in the upcoming decision. In the example shown in Table 2-7, cost, schedule, risk, and buy-in were selected. (Cost and schedule are usually quantitative while buy-in is an example of a subjective criterion for which the group will need to decide on the rating.)
"Weight" the importance of each criterion. This is easily accomplished by deciding which criterion is most important and then determining the comparative importance of each of the other criteria. Sometimes a project sponsor will complete these first two steps to ensure that the decision supports what he or she feels is important. In this example, the criteria importance weights add up to 100 percent. Buy-in was determined to be the most important, followed by risk, cost, and then schedule. There can be a tie in importance—for example, cost and risk could both have been 25 percent.
Generate a list of alternatives. This is best accomplished after the criteria have been established and weighted since there is less temptation to manipulate the process at this point. These are shown as approaches A, B, and C.
Rate each alternative on each criterion. This is most easily accomplished if the team uses a simple scale of 1 to 5 (with 5 being the best). The project team should rate all alternatives on one criterion before moving to the second criterion. In this example, all three approaches should have been rated on cost before any other criterion is considered. Also, in this example note that Alternative C was rated 5, meaning it was the best, B was rated 3, meaning average, and C was rated 1, meaning worst.
Multiply the rating times the weight for each cell (that is, for each alternative on each criterion). For example, the cost cell on alternative B was rated 3 and worth a weighting of .2, for a weighted score of .6.
Add across the rows to get a total score for each alternative. The one with the highest weighted score wins.
The project team will spend a great deal of time in meetings. Therefore, it is sensible to establish a meeting process and to work continuously to improve this process. This includes:
Creating and distributing advance agendas
Delineating roles such as leader, facilitator, and scribe
Recording and sharing useful meeting minutes
Evaluating the meeting process with an eye toward improvement
Completing agreed-upon tasks between meetings.
A project leader who would like to improve the meeting process can use the plan, do, check, act model to illustrate the process, as shown in Figure 2-1.
Figure 2-1: The Meeting Cycle
An agenda should be created and sent to the project team members before each meeting so they can be prepared for the meeting. Agendas are often also posted in shared folders or on intranets or otherwise distributed so other key project stakeholders are aware of what will be discussed at upcoming meetings. Figure 2-2 presents a meeting agenda template.
Figure 2-2: Meeting Agenda
Bob and Uma were appropriate in performing the facilitator and scribe roles at the first core team meeting. As leaders it is wise to role-model behavior before insisting that others perform in the same fashion. To help the core team develop, both as individuals and as a team, Bob and Uma should set the expectation that other team members will serve as facilitator and scribe in future meetings.
Effective project teams also record important information shared, decisions made, upcoming issues identified, action items committed to, and improvements suggested in terse but accurate minutes. Figure 2-3 provides an example of a meeting minutes template.
Figure 2-3: Meeting Minutes
A wise project leader will take a couple of minutes at the end of a project meeting to ask what went well at this meeting that we would like to repeat and what could be improved. A simple technique to capture this information is called "plus delta", with plus representing positive items and delta representing items to be changed. It is important for a leader to respond to every suggestion and to follow up to ensure that helpful suggestions are implemented. The discerning project leader will develop a feel for how to respond to each suggestion. When conducting a plus delta evaluation, the project leader will usually use a flip chart or marker board to have it visible, but then have the scribe copy the results in the project team minutes.
The final part of project meeting management is the work team members do in between meetings. Good project leaders develop a sense for what kind of conversations to have with each team member to ensure that their work is completed correctly and on time, but without overmanaging capable and willing workers.
A Project Leader Needs to:
Accept that individuals have needs that must be honored
Have the courage to develop project team operating methods that must be followed
Exercise the wisdom to know when each is appropriate.
Stephen R. Covey et al., First Things First (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994), p. 222.
Timothy J. Kloppenborg and Joseph A. Petrick, "Meeting Management and Group Character Development", Journal of Managerial Issues 11, no. 2 (1999), 166-179.