Posts Tagged With: team building

There can be only one (and it is not YOUR project)!

Managing a high priority project can be a wonderful experience.

You will usually receive ample support from senior leadership in resolving critical issues, getting funding for team celebrations is rarely a challenge, and helping team members and other key stakeholders understand the importance of the project and how its success will benefit them should be simple.

But this is rarely the case. Most of the time, we are working on initiatives which, while important, are not top of mind for your senior executives.

Here are just a few of the challenges with managing such projects:

  • Getting and sustaining senior leadership commitment and support is going to be much more difficult. Even your sponsor might have more important projects to support.
  • Keeping your team focused on delivering the project’s scope, especially if they are also working on higher priority projects is a constant struggle.
  • Ensuring that functional managers remain responsive to changes in staffing needs and providing you with the “right” staff to get the job done won’t be as easy.
  • Securing funding for more than the absolute bare minimum is tricky – especially contingency reserves or budget for team events.

So what can you do to improve your odds of success?

  • Practice effective, full life cycle risk management to reduce the number and impact of unpleasant surprises.
  • Consider using an incremental delivery approach so that your sponsor and other key stakeholders achieve an early and progressive return on their investment.
  • Spend extra effort emphasizing the holy trinity of purpose, autonomy & mastery to inspire your team members to do their best.
  • Double-down on team development through free or low-cost events and simple, but regular recognition of individual and team efforts. Help your team to identify the rituals and working agreements that will define team culture.
  • Have a “Plan B” handy so that if your staffing complement or funding gets slashed the team will still be able to deliver something of value. Wherever possible, structure your scope delivery to deliver higher value work packages early.
  • Take the time early in the life of the project to develop positive working relationships with the functional managers who will provide the staff for your team. Explore opportunities to help them achieve their goals through your project’s success. For example, if they want to raise the competency level of their team members, identify stretch activities or other learning opportunities within the project which might address this. If you can earn some IOU’s early on with these functional managers, those will come in handy down the road when you’ll need their help.

You should never view your challenges as a disadvantage. Instead, it’s important for you to understand that your experience facing and overcoming adversity is actually one of your biggest advantages.” – Michelle Obama





Categories: Project Management | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Scrum values can help your team become psychologically safe

While teaching a class earlier this week, a learner asked how will team members start to feel psychologically safe, especially if they are working in a company whose culture isn’t fully supportive of this critical ingredient to a high performing team.

Updating existing corporate values, and senior and middle management leaders holding themselves and each other accountable to modeling behaviors consistent with these refreshed values helps as does coaching at all levels of the organization. For individual team members, the Scrum values can provide good reminders of our own responsibilities for creating a psychologically safe working environment regardless of which delivery framework or method we are using.

Commitment: While we normally think of this value in terms of committing to achieving team goals, this value can also be considered as a shared commitment to creating a safe environment.

Courage: The Scrum Guide encourages team members to show the courage to do the right thing and work on tough problems. This is equally applicable to interpersonal relations. It takes significant courage to speak up when you witness behavior which is corrosive to psychological safety especially when the person misbehaving is more senior than you are.

Focus: While team members should be focused on completing work, living this value also means that we are focused and actively listening when we are part of a discussion or ceremony. By doing that, we are better able to pick up on the tone and body language of others to understand if they are feeling uncomfortable about what has just been said or look like they want to say something but just need that little bit of encouragement to speak up.

Openness: Just as we expect our teams to be transparent about the blockers they are facing, the same level of openness should be exhibited during retrospectives or other opportunities for inspection and adaptation with regards to how we interacted with one another.

Respect: Demonstrating this value towards our team members means not only treating them with respect but challenging others who would show them disrespect.

Edmund Burke – “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.



Categories: Agile, Facilitating Organization Change, Project Management | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Songs to put you in a project management state of mind

As a teenager who had an eclectic taste in music, one of my hobbies was attempting to create the perfect mix tape to fit the theme of different activities I would do such as studying, working out or just relaxing.

So how about project management? To quote Barney Stinson: “Challenge accepted!”

  1. Can I Play With Madness (Iron Maiden): You know those projects where it seems no one has a clue about what we are trying to achieve? “Can I play with madness? The prophet stared at his crystal ball ; Can I play with madness? There’s no vision there at all
  2. You Can’t Always Get What You Want (Rolling Stones): There is no better song to help set stakeholder expectations about focusing on their needs.
  3. The Gambler (Kenny Rogers): This would make a good level setting tune for a risk response workshop, especially for those who feel the glass is always half full. “You’ve got to know when to hold ’em ; Know when to fold ’em ; Know when to walk away ; And know when to run
  4. That’s Life (Frank Sinatra): After the team has just received some bad news or is recovering after a painful issue, this song helps to put things into perspective. “Each time I find myself flat on my face ; I pick myself up and get back in the race
  5. Nothing Else Matters (Metallica): This is a good song for building self-reliance, self-organization and the willingness to inspect and adapt in teams. “Trust I seek and I find in you, Every day for us something new, Open mind for a different view
  6. In The End (Linkin Park): “Time is a valuable thing ; Watch it fly by as the pendulum swings ; Watch it count down to the end of the day ; The clock ticks life away“. ‘Nuff said!
  7. People Are People (Depeche Mode): When the team is storming and what makes us different is dividing us. “So we’re different colours ; And we’re different creeds ; And different people have different needs
  8. Three Little Birds (Bob Marley): What could be a more cheerful and uplifting song to kick off a daily standup for your team? “Don’t worry about a thing, ’cause every little thing gonna be all right.
  9. Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood (The Animals): Whenever you feel there has been a breakdown in the basic communication model, just sing “I’m just a soul whose intentions are good ; Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood
  10. We Are The Champions (Queen): A gracious project manager will always acknowledge the contribution of the entire team. “I’ve taken my bows ; And my curtain calls ; You brought me fame and fortune and everything that goes with it ; I thank you all

So what would you add for YOUR project management mix tape?


Categories: Project Management | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

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