Category Archives: Leadership

Dealing With Team Dysfunction

If it weren’t for all the people involved, doing business, leading projects, etc. would be easy ūüôā

Because working effectively with people (and teams) is so crucial, we must deal with team dysfunction.

In response to an earlier post (Competent Collaboration – Part 1) a long-time friend and business associate asked if I had read (or listened to) the book:

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He mentioned that he has referenced it numerous times in his efforts to successfully address team dysfunction in the various organizations he’s been involved.

Since I had not read this book, and because I respect this person’s opinion, I immediately went to¬†to acquire my own audio edition. Then, I jumped on my bike and began listening.

What is really nice about this book is that the principles are shared in the form of¬†a business fable. And, if you are like me (and my experience in Corporate America) you will be able to clearly visualize the reality of the situation, as we’ve all been there.

That is, in the “all too typical” corporate environment individual leaders are striving to meet or exceed their own / individual / functional-area goals. In many cases these individual goals do not necessarily support or line-up with the efforts and goals of their peers, which would serve to support the major objectives¬†of the organization.

The above, and other factors covered in the book, lead to significant team dysfunction.

Not only does the book resonate with typical corporate reality, it clearly lays out a path to reduce / eliminate dysfunction.

By acknowledging and dealing with team dysfunction everyone begins rowing in the same direction, dramatically improving company (vs. individual) results.

If you must work with and/or lead teams of people, this book is a must-read / listen to.


The Powerhouse PM – Knows When to Send Up a Flare!

The Project Manager’s (PMs) job is to ensure the project team works in harmony and stays on track with the overall plan.

That said, there are situations that WILL arise which cause deviation from the plan. Often these deviations can be absorbed resulting in no impact to the project outcome (i.e., cost, timeframe or quality). However, this must be closely monitored so that if/when slippages occur that do pose risk to the project outcome prompt and effective communications take place.

The Powerhouse PM does not manage to “hopeful” outcomes. S/he manages to concrete dates and deliverables. As such, when those outcomes are in jeopardy a flare must go up to ensure¬†the project stakeholders are aware. This, instead of waiting until the next scheduled project review meeting.

A great quote:

Unlike cheese and wine, bad news does NOT get better with age!

While the resulting conversations may not be pleasant (potentially, even painful) they MUST be had in a timely manner to avoid (or at least minimize) impact to the business. From there we can strategize with the team on the course of action and realign everyone to the revised plan.

It is so easy for a project to “quietly” get significantly off plan to the point where multiple days or weeks go by without the project stakeholders acknowledging the reality of the situation. A task slips here, another there. On an individual basis these slippages¬†may seem¬†harmless. However, they have a compounding effect. And, there will be a reckoning…

The Powerhouse PM continuously “connects the dots” in terms of how all the moving parts are inter-related and impact the project’s critical path. And, when there is significant risk of deviation from plan (or deviation has occurred) — They call it like it is!

That said, the Powerhouse PM must maintain a careful balance so as not to declare “the sky is falling” when we simply have a mere bump in the road.

Another one of those dichotomies that a Powerhouse PM manages to.

The Powerhouse PM – Keeps the train rolling!

To ensure project success, in a timely and cost effective manner, the project manager (PM) must maintain momentum in each and every situation (meetings, conference calls, etc.). This is SO MUCH MORE than ensuring things are scheduled and discussions take place. The Powerhouse PM considers what the desired outcome is in each situation and then manages / drives the conversation accordingly, leaving nothing to chance.

As an example: Instead of arriving at¬†a meeting and asking the team “How would you like to address X?” the Powerhouse PM will (at a minimum) frame-up options and considerations, with a¬†recommendation based on what they’ve seen work (and not work) in other / similar situations.

And, being quite “directive and prescriptive” they don’t ask permission to proceed in the recommended¬†way. Instead, they ask the team if the considerations, options and recommendations make sense and/or if are there any questions, concerns or ideas to consider. That is, they take more of an approach of putting up (at least) a skeleton model (with some meat on the bones) and working with the team to refine and complete the model. They do NOT¬†put a team in the position of starting with a blank whiteboard, at ground zero.

While there are times when the blank whiteboard approach is appropriate, MOST project-related discussions can begin¬†with a predefined framework to create and/or keep project momentum. Realize (as covered in a prior post) your team members are participating on your project as an “extra curricular activity” that is above and beyond their day job.¬†When the Powerhouse PM¬†pulls the team together they ENSURE¬†FORWARD MOMENTUM OCCURS DURING EVERY MINUTE OF EVERY¬†MEETING!

Click here to view the next article in the series.