(Editor's note: this post originally appeared on the blog in the CU Project Management networking group. This group is open to credit union staff in the Carolinas who have a registered web site address. Please click here to view and join the group.)
Written by: Sandon Nachmann, Coastal CU.
There’s lots to learn about project management. Holding effective meetings helps…, but that’s just one small piece of it. Over time you’ll gain experience. You’ll learn how to hold effective meetings, create project plans, use fancy software. And eventually you’ll reach the point where project management is project management, and a project is a project is a project…
Before coming to Coastal I had about 14 years of CU experience, 12 of which were involved in managing projects in some form. The hardest part about coming to Coastal wasn’t project management itself, but not knowing any of the people.
Broken down into the simplest terms effectively managing projects comes down to managing the people and the tasks that they’re responsible for. So how do you effectively manage the PEOPLE on projects? The answer is knowing THE people. Really knowing the people sets you up for success. Knowing people lets you determine who you can count on and who needs extra attention. It helps to know who you can go to or lean on for extra help, or who has experience doing similar projects. Understanding personalities also helps with individual communication and motivation.
With that here are four rules to help you get to know the people:
1. Pay attention
2. Build & maintain relationships
3. Ask people who know
4. Assume the best and the worst
1. Pay attention - "There's an old saying in Tennessee. I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee that says, 'Fool me once, shame on ... shame on you. Fool me... You can't get fooled again!'" - George W Bush
Nothing is worse than repeating the same mistake twice! Good or bad you need to pay attention to the work habits of those around you. You need to be able to adjust mid project as well as be ready for the next time you work together on a future one.
2. Build & Maintain Relationships – I put ‘build’ and ‘maintain’ together because the same steps used to build relationships are also the keys to maintaining them.
- Do lunch – Lunch is an easy way to get to know people and build relationships. Business usually comes up at some point over lunch. But even if you're just getting together to eat and talk about the weekend that’s great.
- Drop in – Face to face is always best. If location permits, nothing beats dropping in to say hi.
- Send an email – Due to location dropping in isn’t always the easiest so sending an email to keep things going is a good solution.
- Schedule time – Like it or not there’s always an A team in any company. Once you figure out who those people are and build a relationship with them, it’s vital you maintain it. One easy way to do that is by scheduling time on your calendar. Add a reoccurring event on your calendar to check in with ‘Mary’ every 6 months by doing lunch, dropping in, or sending an email.
3. Ask people who know – As the new person in a company the best way to get information about other employees is to ask those who know. We’re not talking about water cooler dirt here, but work specific information that will help you on a project.
Assume you’ve been assigned a project with two resources you’ve never worked with before. One of them being a developer from the IT department. Start by asking someone with more experience (like your boss) if there’s anything specific you should know about them. You might learn that the IT developer needs very detailed instructions and specific requirements before he will even entertain the coding process. His strict attention to detail is perceived by some as resistance or lack of engagement. However, once he gets what he needs he’s like a rock star and will deliver a bug free working solution every time! That’s great information to know.
4. Assume the Best and the Worst – This one isn’t so much about getting to know the people, it’s about what to do before you do. I recently went to lunch with one of my colleagues and he told me that he prepares for unknown possibly difficult situations by assuming the best and worst case scenarios.
If you're going to present on a topic what’s the worst and best questions that might get asked of you? If you prepare using this technique every time, you should be better equipped to deal with difficult situations. Coincidentally I liked this technique and added it to my learning journal.
This same technique can be applied to people you don’t know on projects. If you’ve never worked with Johnny Root before then you don’t know what to expect out of him. He might be a super star that needs little attention, or he might be someone who needs to be closely monitored throughout the project. Until you’ve had the opportunity to get to know him its best to assumed both the worst and best case scenarios so you don’t get caught off guard.