Sunday, August 30, 2015

How does a PM get project team members to do the tasks assigned to them?

Or should I have titled this, “GET TO WORK!”  This is an age-old question, isn’t it? And you would think that if the Project Manager (PM) did their job and was very specific as to what is expected from any resource, this would not be an issue. Unfortunately, it is, especially in a Professional Services (PS) organization where resources are stretched very thin. But even in a Project Management Organization (PMO), this is true because the same can be said of resources: they are stretched thin. In this current environment of “doing more with less,” the truth is that organizations are getting less with less.
So how does a PM confront this? Once again, I would like to introduce you to a PM named “Bob” and a situation he confronted. 

Organizing the team

Bob was given a highly visible project that was strategically aligned with his organization. After reviewing the SOW and meeting with the project sponsor and his management team, Bob understood the importance and significance of the project. He went to the resource manager with the abilities needed of his resources and was given a Business Analyst (BA), a Technical Analyst (TA) and even a Subject Matter Expert (SME) who was to provide technical and product guidance to the project team. Bob had several project team meetings, and in these meetings Bob communicated that this project was strategically aligned with the organization and was a key deliverable to the organization.

Troubled Waters

After the initiation and planning phases of the project, Bob and his project team were well into the execution phase of the project. Bob believed, because his resources had told him, that they were proceeding along just fine on their tasks. Bob set meetings with each of the resources individually to review their work and ask if they needed him to help them meet their assigned tasks.  The BA had a deliverable for a Functional Design Document (FSD) where the BA had to consult with the TA and the SME for their input to that document. The BA told Bob that he was placed on a new project with a critical delivery that took him away from Bob’s project. Bob inquired as to why the BA had not told Bob earlier that this may be a risk before it became an issue. The BA told Bob that he believed he could deliver both tasks on time, but was overwhelmed with the work on the other project. Bob did not accept this explanation. The BA assured Bob in very strong terms that he was going to deliver the FSD in three days.

I didn’t lie, I just stretched the truth

So Bob immediately did two things. First he scheduled the meeting with the BA in two days. Then he scheduled a meeting with the client and the project sponsor that day and told them of the late delivery of the FSD. They were not happy, as that made them late on their deliverables to their management. Bob then walked into his manager’s office and closed the door. Bob reported what had happened and told his manager that in two days if there was a further delay.
After two days, the BA told Bob that he was going to be late again in delivering the FSD. Bob told the BA that he was not pleased and stated that he was going to have a meeting with his manager and ask that the BA and his manager attend. At the meeting, Bob asked the BA directly, “Why did you lie about the delivery of the FSD?” The BA was visibly shaken at the question and stated, “I did not lie, I just stretched the truth.” Bob, his manager, and the BA's manager did not accept this answer. The BA was immediately replaced on the project and the BA manager had a new BA assigned that was familiar with the deliverable.
Lesson Learned

Should Bob have known about the BA sooner? Honestly, this has happened to all of us, whether or not we are a PM. The issue is not if Bob should have known sooner; we all should know sooner about a specific project resource. The issue here is Bob's reaction and if it was appropriate. I contend that his actions were good and Bob did exactly what he should have done in this situation. I am sure there are high-level managers who would disagree with me that Bob’s first job was to know sooner. I am not disagreeing with them. I am, however, going to say to them that if you ask for more from less, you sometimes have to expect this situation. In this situation, Bob did what he could and learned, the hard way, not to completely trust this specific BA in future projects. 

I am open to discussion at any time on these blogs or anything else related to project management you would like to explore. If you would like to comment about this blog, please do so by posting on this blog or by responding in an email at Benny A. Recine. You may inspire a blog article. I look forward to your comments.

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