Vice President Education–being a Servant-Leader


1.  Introduction

An area governor once wore a shirt that read “Servant Leader” when he came to visit our Toastmasters Club.   I asked him about it, and I asked, “okay, I’m confused–which role are you advocating for, that of being a servant or being a leader?”    He said “both” in an enthusiastic voice.    During the meeting, I was thinking about what he said, and I had a chance to discuss it with him afterwards.    “To lead is to influence others”, he said, “and one of the best ways to influence others is to show them that you are there to help them achieve their goals.”   I think I understand, “and so in serving them in their goals, you make it easier to lead them to YOUR goal, right?”    He smiled and said, “that’s it!”

All the 7 club officer posts in Toastmasters (Sergeant at Arms, Secretary, Treasurer, Vice President Public Relations,  Vice President Membership, Vice President Education, President) have an opportunity to serve others in the club, but this opportunity is especially prominent in the role of Vice President Education.   I am soon to take over this role in my new Toastmasters Club, and so I have been reflecting on my previous experience, and the concept of a Servant-Leader has therefore been very much on my mind.    This post is to describe this idea a little bit more in terms of the Vice President Education role.

2.  Goals of the Members–Educational

The Vice President Education helps create the environment in general and the programs in particular which allow club members to fulfill their educational goals within Toastmasters.    The educational goals of club members usually are, at first, to complete their Competent Communicator awards by doing the 10 speech projects from the Competent Communicator manual.    But the unsung virtue of Toastmasters is the leadership program, where a person can obtain the Competent Leader award by doing 10 leadership projects from the Competent Leader manual.

3.  Goals of the Members–Leadership

Many people in joining Toastmasters don’t see the virtue of that program, so it is up to the Vice President Education to tell them about its benefits.    Then, if the members choose not to pursue it, well, that’s okay.   Don’t be afraid to tout the benefits of the program–you’d be surprised how many members find out about it only months after joining Toastmasters, and wish they had started pursuing the leadership program from the day of their very first meeting.    This is why orienting the members within 2 weeks of their receiving their Competent Communicator and Competent Leadership manuals is important.   You show them all the possibilities that exist for their development, but you also keep them from being overwhelmed by the magnitude of the task before them by showing that they should just take it one speech or one supporting role at the meeting at a time.

4.  Goals of the Members–Mentoring

Many people are caught up in the initial excitement of being a Toastmasters member, but then they go to write their first speech, and it may be the first speech they have ever written in their life.   What do they do NOW?    To help with the process of writing and practicing one’s speech for performance at a meeting, it is extremely important for new members to have a mentor, at least for the first three speeches out of the 10 in the Competent Communicator Manual.   The importance of this cannot be overstated:   in my previous club, we had someone who had narrowed her choice of clubs down to two, including ours, but picked ours in the final analysis because we had a mentor program and the other club didn’t.   She felt she would be better guided through the process if she had someone “on tap” for advice whenever she needed it in order to complete the first speeches of her manual.

4.  Goals of the Members–Awards and Recognition

Let’s say the members keep plugging away at their speech projects or leadership projects, and they get to the point where they complete the Competent Communicator or Competent Leader Manuals.   Make sure to have the entire club celebrate the event.   It will motivate the person receiving the award, of course, but it also motivates the other members who see by witnessing this kind of event that the club values their efforts.

5.  Goals of the Members–Beyond the Comfort Zone

If you see a person that is blossoming at the club level and proceeding past their 6th speech in the Competent Communicator manual, you should introduce them to the world beyond  the club in the form of Speech Contests.   This really helps hone their speech-writing and speech performing skills by having them compete at successively higher levels of the Area, Division, and District (and beyond that, for the International Speech Contest held each spring).   My favorite description of the speech contest came from Lance Miller, a past World Champion of Public Speaking, who was the keynote speaker at the 2013 Leadership Conference for District 30 (Chicagoland area) a few weeks ago.

He said the purpose should not be to “win the contest”, i.e., to be better than the other speakers, but to better than you were in the past, by uncovering and filling in weaknesses in your speechcraft.   You should explain it that way to those in the club whom you would like to see try to enter the speech contest.    When I entered the contest for the first time, I won at the club, and then at the area level, but didn’t win at the division level.   I was disappointed, but somehow I figured out instinctively what Lance Miller explained explicitly at that conference:    that I was nonetheless satisfied that I had tried to enter the contest, because I was a better speaker for having done it.

6.   Goals of the Members = Goals of the Club

If you engage your members from the start by going through an initiation process (explaining how the program works), continuing their education through the mentor program, and celebrating their successes along the way, you will serve your members by helping them reach their goals.   What’s in it for the club?   There is the Distinguished Club Plan, a plan which calls for your club to achieve the following goals:

  1. Two CC awards
  2. Two more CC awards
  3. One ACB, ACS, or ACG award
  4. One more ACB, ACS, or ACG award
  5. One CL, ALB, ALS, or DTM award
  6. One more CL, ALB, ALS, or DTM award
  7. Four new members
  8. Four more new members
  9. A minimum of four club officers trained during each of the two training periods
  10. On time payment of membership-renewal dues accompanied by the names of renewing members for one period and on-time submission of one club officer list

If your club gets 5 out of the 10 goals, your club becomes a Distinguished Club; 7 out of 10 goals achieved and your club becomes a Select Distinguished Club; 9 out of 10 goals achieved and your club becomes a President’s Distinguished Club.  Notice that 6 out of the 10 goals relate to the Vice President Education’s role.   If your members can achieve their education and leadership goals, then and ONLY then will your club be able to reach its goals of becoming a Distinguished Club.

7.  Conclusion

The Distinguished Club program at Toastmasters is the program through which you can translate your ability to serve the members in their own individual goals to becoming a leader of your club towards success.

 

 

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5th Edition PMBOK Guide–Chapter 9:Theories of Motivation


With regards to the material in Chapter 9 on Human Resources Management, PMI likes to pose questions on its tests for the PMP or CAPM certification test on theories of motivation of one’s project team members.    The purpose of this post is to review these theories, and give some practical advice for the project manager who would like to use them to motivate his or her project team  members.    This post is adapted from a talk I gave for Toastmasters at the OC Project Masters Club in the Leadership Excellence Series in order to earn my Advanced Leader Bronze award.


1.   Introduction

Theories of motivation are part of the Human Resource knowledge area those that are covered as part of the Project Management Body of Knowledge or PMBOK. Just a word of caution: these are not listed in the PMBOK Guide, but if you study for the PMP exam, you must study these theories of motivation as part of the Human Resources Management knowledge area. That is why they are included in any of the well-known PMP exam prep textbooks, like Andy Crowe’s or Rita Mulcahy’s.

Being a good project manager is motivating your team. Our sixth President of the United States, John Quincy Adams, once said “If your actions inspire others to dream more, to learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” How do you get people to dream more and learn more so that they will do more and make your project successful?

To discuss this, I will first present theories of what is it that truly motivates people, and then discuss how as a leader you can provide this motivation.

2.   Theories of Motivation

There are several theories of motivation mentioned in the PMBOK, but I think they can all related to the most elaborate theory, that of Abraham Maslow.

His hierarchy of needs expresses that people have a certain priority of needs or motivations. The needs of one level need to be fulfilled before the person is motivated to attend to the higher level of needs. The bottom level is physiological needs. If a person’s basic physical survival is assured by getting food, water, oxygen, sleep, etc., then the person seeks the needs of the next level, that of safety or security.

Examples here include employment, healthy, family, and property. If those are fulfilled, the social needs are at the next level, and these include the need for friendship, colleagues, and sexual and emotional relationships.

If these needs are fulfilled and you are a member of a society or group, then you need self-esteem, or the respect of others. You can have a relationship with others without being respected by them. This respect can come from achievements that are recognized by the group.

And finally, if you do have confidence or self-esteem, you are free to grow and develop, or what is called self-actualization. You want to learn new things and solve problems; you are free to express yourself.

When we get a raise, we are being motivated at the level of physical needs. When we get a promotion, we are motivated by the level of self-esteem or earned respect. But the highest form of motivation is when we are not motivated by others, but by our own desire to grow and develop our skills. In reality, you cannot fulfill people’s needs at this level, you can only fulfill them up to here. From here on, people have to motivate themselves, but you can at least but them in a good position to be able to do so.

3.  Douglas McGregor—Theory X and Theory Y

Let’s go through some of the other theories of motivation. Douglas McGregor at the MIT Sloan School of Management said that there are two kinds of ways of dealing with team members.

You can use management Theory X, which assumes that people need supervision and need to be pushed into doing something. Theory Y on the other hand is where you assume employees are self-motivated and you just need to motivate them so that they pull themselves towards the goal.

If you’ll notice, Theory Y acknowledges this top layer of self-actualization needs, where Theory X assumes that people are just interested in satisfying their more immediate needs, either physical or social.

4.  Herzberg—Dual Factors (external/internal)

The psychologist Frederick Herzberg postulated that people were motivated negatively by external factors such as the work environment. If you have a negative work environment, it will affect your performance. Therefore it is necessary to have a good external work environment in order to perform well. But it is not sufficient for good performance. That is, if the environment is poor, people will perform poorly. But if the environment is a healthy one, they may or not perform well. What guarantees good performance in a worker is not an external factor, but an internal one.

Again, you can relate this to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs because the external factors are the ones lower down in priority. Once these are fulfilled, people need something else, an internal motivation, in order to thrive in the workplace.

5.   McClelland—Acquired Needs

Finally, another psychologist named David McClelland developed his own theory of needs, Acquired Needs which said that people are motivated by different things, namely achievement, affiliation, or power. Achievement-oriented people work best when they have challenging goals. Affiliation-oriented people work best when they work together with others in a team. Power-oriented people work best when they are organizing and influencing others.

But if you look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, you can see how this maps really well onto the top 3 categories. Those who have social needs will be more affiliation-oriented. Those who have needs for respect by others may be power-oriented because they want to influence others. However, self-actualizing people will be achievement-oriented, because the ones that are in competition with are not others, but themselves.

6.  Review of Maslow model

The one superior feature I see in the Maslow model is that, in reality, it subsumes the categories that the others have developed. But also, it is fluid and dynamic, meaning that a person can, depending on their external and internal circumstances, change their needs and therefore their basis for motivation. The other theories I mentioned tend to put people into categories that are perceived to be static, and people are in reality not static at all.

So all the theories agree on this point, which is that internal motivational factors are superior to external ones. But since people are different, and have different needs and motivations, how do you know what will work for each person?

Matching team members skills and personality types to the job

That’s where your powers of observation come into play. Let me bring a system of recognizing different personality types to your attention, called Myers-Briggs.

It was developed by Katherine Briggs and her daughter Isabel Myers in 1942, and was used in World War II to test women who were working for the first time in munitions factories and other jobs outside the home to know what type of work they would be most suited for.

7.   Myers-Briggs: Extrovert vs. Introvert

There are four dimensions in the Myers-Briggs assessment, but I will relate just one which should be familiar to everybody: Extroverted vs. Introverted. This basically determines how you focus your attention and gather your energy.

On one episode of Star Trek, for example, Captain Kirk thinks he is going to punish Scotty by telling him he can’t go on short leave. Scotty is delighted because he is says that will give him some time to catch up on his reading of technical journals. It was not perceived by him as a punishment, but as a reward, because Kirk and Scotty have opposite personality types.

So find out what your team members skills are but also what their personality type is, so that you can match your motivation to his or hers.

8.  Reward properly

As a leader, you must reward people in such a way to motivate them to exhibit positive behavior and stop negative or undesirable behavior. Now what this behavior is depends on the context, but does it help further the project towards completion or not?

  1. Recognize them immediately or as soon as possible after the achievement, to encourage repetition of the behavior.
  2. Reward behavior that you want that is better than the standard. You can recognize or acknowledge behavior that meets the standard, but a reward should be something extra given for extra effort.
  3. Address undesirable behavior. This is crucial and controversial, because if you do not address that behavior, others on the team that do perform well will become discouraged. However, criticizing someone’s behavior in front of others may decrease their motivation, so I find it best to talk to that person individually so that issues of esteem with regard to the group do not show up. One way to address people’s concerns about others on a team is to have an issue log. This lets the person know that their concern is being addressed.
  4. Eliminate obstacles. If there is something in the environment, and not let’s say another person, who is causing a problem for a team, do what you can to eliminate that impediment.

I think the best way to get a feel for this in Toastmasters is to pay attention to how you do your evaluations. There’s a lot that goes into an evaluation that is directly applicable to being skilled at motivating others to improve.  So in retrospect, recognizing that different people have different motivations based on their individual needs and personality types will help you recognize what to use as motivation. You also need to learn when and how to use that motivation to both increase positive behavior and reduce negative behavior of a team member.

So with that, I hope I’ve motivated you all to improve your performance as  leader of your project team.

5th Edition PMBOK® Guide—Chapter 9: Leadership Styles on a Project


5th Edition PMBOK® Guide—Chapter 9:  Leadership Styles on a Project

1.  Introduction

Interpersonal skills are considered to be one of the tools that a project manager uses in the process 9.4 Manage Project Team.    These skills comprise leadership, influencing, and decision-making.

I went into some detail in the last post about influencing and decision-making; this post deals with the various leadership styles.   These styles are not spelled out in the 5th Edition PMBOK® Guide itself.    What I’ve done is taken the styles that are listed somewhat randomly in the 7th edition of Rita Mulcahy’s PMP Exam Prep book, and reorganized the list in terms of three basic categories.

2.  Categories of Leadership Styles

The three categories of leadership styles are

  • Top-down:   where  the leadership consists of taking the manager’s vision and essentially using the team members as the means by which this vision is carried out.   As the name implies, it gives the most autonomy to the leader and is the least empowering from the standpoint of the team members; they are the servants of the project manager.
  • Bottom-up:   where the leadership consists of taking the input from the team members and coordinating or integrating it in some fashion in order to carry out the vision of the project.    It gives the most autonomy to team members and the leader is actually the servant of the group, rather than the other way around.
  • Lateral:   this is where leadership consists of having the entire group, including the project manager, get involved in carrying out the vision of the project.    It gives the most autonomy not to the manager or the group, but to the dynamics of the team itself.    In this style, each person in the group is the servant of the other, and yet also has the opportunity to contribute towards the solution.

3.  Leadership Styles

With these three broad categories in mind, let’s take a look at the list of leadership styles that Rita Mulcahy’s book lists seemingly at random and put them into the categories so you can see the thematic similarities between them.

Category

Style

Explanation

Top-Down Analytical Making the technical decisions for the project which are communicated to the project team.
Autocratic Manager has power to do whatever he or she wants
Bureaucratic Making sure that the project team follows procedures exactly.
Consultative-Autocratic After soliciting input from team members, makes decisions by him- or herself
Directing Telling others what to do.
Driver Constantly giving directions
Bottom-Up Facilitating Coordinating the input of others
Consultative Obtains others’ opinions and acts as the servant for the team
Charismatic Energizing and encouraging team to perform project work.
Laissez-faire Not directly involved in the work of the team, but manages and consults as necessary.
Lateral Coaching Helping others achieve their goals
Consensus Problem solving in a group, and decision-making based on group agreement
Delegating Establishes goals, gives project team sufficient authority to work
Democratic Encourages team participation in the decision-making process.
Influencing Emphasizes teamwork, team building, team decision making.
Supporting Providing assistance along the way

Notice that, although PMI does not officially endorse one style over another, it is probably pretty clear that the top-down, “my way or the highway” type of style is definitely “old school” and a project manager should be trying to develop styles from the other two categories, because the top-down approach requires a certain amount of authority that the project manager may not have access to.

There are certain situations where a top-down approach may make sense.   If the project manager is also a technical expert, more so than any of the team members, then the analytical approach may make sense.   However, this is probably a rare case.    A more common situation in a project where a top-down approach may be required is if an unforeseen risk occurs and rapid action is required:   here the project manager may be forced by virtue of the urgency of the matter to make a decision without going through the more democratic but time-consuming processes of consensus-building.    But this, again, is the exception to the rule, which should be to get members of the project team to be involved in the planning and decision-making process as much as possible so that they buy into the solution, since they were an important part of creating it.

4.  Conclusion

Leadership styles must match the organization, and the personality style of the project manager, not to mention the nature of the project itself.    A more decentralized approach is more difficult than simply barking out orders, but in the long run it will get you more cooperation not just on the current project, but hopefully on future projects that you will given to manage because of the successful outcome of the current one.

5th Edition PMBOK® Guide—Chapter 9: Interpersonal Skills


A project manager is, at first glance, a person who manages projects, but in order to do so, he or she has to manage the people on the project team.    Adding t0 the project management knowledge that the project manager must have, PMI recognizes the necessity for skills in people management.    One of the tools & techniques listed for process 9.4 Manage Project Team is Interpersonal Skills.   The purpose of this post is to list what skills are described in the 5th Edition of the PMBOK® Guide under that heading and to describe these skills.

1.  Leadership

The two main roles of leadership are to communicate the vision of the completed project to the team, and to inspire the project team to achieve high performance in achieving that vision.    Now when it comes to styles of leadership, that is a vast subject in and of itself.    The next post will cover leadership styles in the various categories of top-down, bottom-up, and lateral.

2.  Influencing

PMI recognizes that many organizations are of a matrix type, that is, where the project manager may not have authority outside of the project over the members of the project team.    Replacing authority is the less direct and less coercive form of getting people to do things, and that is influencing them to do so.

There are five skills under the larger category of influencing skills.

  • Persuasion–the ability to clearly articulate points and positions
  • Listening–active and effective listening skills
  • Perspective–awareness of the various perspectives in any situation, and to be able to integrate them
  • Information gathering–gathering information that is relevant and critical to addressing the important issues
  • Trust–maintaining mutual trust in reaching agreements

The PMBOK® Guide itself takes the last two in the list and combines them into one, but I think maintaining mutual trust in reaching agreements is a matter of following through, and not just on being able to gather relevant information.   Gathering relevant information may help you to achieve the trust of the group, but maintaining it comes from having a track record of following through with what you say you will do.   If you don’t follow through, the influence of what you say will be diminished.

The perspective skill is one that is overlooked, but in the IT world for example, software and hardware engineers sometimes find it hard for the other group to take their perspective.   You need to be able to bridge that “perspective gap”.   In fact, the very name of this blog, 4squareviews, comes from the Integral Theory approach of solving problems by seeing it through various perspectives, so this skill is one I am particularly sensitive to.

Information gatheringlistening, and perspective are the input skills of influencing, because they are what you take in when you are getting ready to make a decision or to put forth your viewpoint.    Persuasion and trust are the output skills of influencing, because they are what you must do while you are making a decision or following up afterwards in order to make sure that your viewpoint is heard and agreed to.

3.  Effective decision making

Leadership skills cover communicating a vision and inspiring others.  Influencing skills help persuade others to do the work involved that you set forth with your leadership.    The third set of interpersonal skills, those of effective decision making, are designed to help you negotiate and influence the project team as a whole and the organization of which you are a part.

  • Focus on the goals to be served (derived from your leadership skills)
  • Follow a decision-making process (make your process as objective and transparent as possible)
  • Study the environmental factors (what factors in your organization and in your industry must you take into account in making your decision, this is the political part of being a project manager)
  • Analyze available information (same as under influencing skills when you are trying to influence individuals on your project team)
  • Develop personal qualities of the team members (improve the interpersonal skills of those on your team)
  • Stimulate team creativity (this reliance on the diversity of your team creates decisions that are bought into by the team)
  • Manage risk (reduce those environmental factors which may endanger the project or be prepared to deal with them if you cannot reduce them)

4.  Conclusion

I would say that any manager could benefit from these interpersonal skills, but the project manager needs them perhaps even more so because the authority he or she may have on a project may be limited by the organizational structure, or other factors.    These are sometimes given the description of “soft skills”, but they can translate into hard currency or an increased bottom line for your organization.

 

 

5th Edition PMBOK® Guide—Chapter 9: Conflict Resolution


In human resources management, one of the tools and techniques listed for process 9.4 Manage Project Team is that of Conflict Resolution.  The purpose of this post is to discuss the five categories of conflict resolution, according to the PMBOK® Guide, and discuss what PMI has to say about them.

1.  Five Categories of Conflict Resolution

The following chart shows each method of conflict resolution, and what it means in terms of group dynamics.  Note that these methods have alternate names, which it is necessary to know if you are preparing for the PMP or CAPM exam.

  Method Explanation Group Dynamics
1. Withdraw/

Avoid

Postponing the issue to be better prepared or to be resolved by others Neutral/Neutral
2. Smooth/

Accommodate

Emphasizing areas of agreement; conceding one’s position to the needs of others Lose/Win
3. Compromise/

Reconcile

Searching for solutions that bring partial satisfaction to all parties Lose/Lose
4. Force/

Direct

Pushing one’s viewpoint at the expense of others Win/Lose
5. Collaborate/

Problem Solve

Incorporating multiple viewpoints and insights from different perspectives Win/Win

2.  Discussion of Conflict Resolution methods

Although the PMBOK® Guide says they are not given any particular order, because “each one has its place or use”, I think the last method of collaborating and problem solving is the one that PMI would generally prefer, and the force/direct the one that PMI would generally NOT prefer.  However, you can understand a situation such as an emergency where a manager must make a decision in a hurry and the others must acquiesce to it simply because there is simply no time to discuss the problem at leisure as a group.

Also, withdraw/avoid could be the smartest strategy if a) there is not enough information to resolve the conflict, or b) the group does not have the authority to resolve the conflict.  In those cases, tabling the issue temporarily until such time that additional information can be obtained, or in the latter case, escalating the conflict to a group that does have authority to handle it, might be better than trying to thrash out the solution prematurely.

Compromise sounds nice, but in reality, it means that both sides have to give up something, and it may work in the short term, but generate hostility that may surface later on in the project.  Not as much hostility, of course, as when a manager tells them what to do without their input (force/direct), but nonetheless it is best to frame the debate in terms that are non-zero-sum, that is, where if one party wins, the other party automatically sees itself has having lost.  The win-win scenario is best both in terms of getting to a solution that has buy-in from all sides, but it also generates good will that will last throughout the project.

Smooth/accommodate is when one person voluntarily gives up their position in order that the group arrive at a solution.  The key word is voluntarily, because if they are forced to give up their position, then it really just the old force/direct method in disguise.  Here’s an analogy I use to explain this method.  When I’m driving in traffic, I often see somebody who is playing a zero-sum game, for whom the object is to get ahead of, at all costs, whether you actually have the right-of-way or not.  If I have the right-of-way, and I detect that the person is being an aggressive driver, then I will slow down and let the person take “pole position” because in reality, I am not playing the same game as the other driver.  I am playing the game where the object is not to get ahead of the driver next to me, but to keep the traffic flowing smoothly.  Today this may require me to sacrifice the position that is ”rightfully” mine; the next day however, the driver next to me may wave me ahead in a gesture of courtesy.  It’s all good—because it contributes to the flow of traffic, whereas playing the traffic game like outtakes of the movie Fast and Furious can land one in the hospital—or worse!

NOTE:   Collaborating and problem solving were considered separate methods in the 4th Edition of the PMBOK Guide; the 5th edition has combined them.  Also, the method of problem solving used to have a second name of confronting 
but I think the term was dropped because the idea that you should be confronting the problem and not the other personalities on the team.   So the new edition of the Guide has this framed in terms of collaborating, which makes sense not just from the practical point of view (focusing on the problem), but also on how you get there, by working together with the others on the team.

3.  Conclusion

Knowing the different methods of conflict resolution will help you be a good project manager; knowing the right situation to use these different methods of conflict resolution is the key to becoming a great one.

5th Edition PMBOK® Guide—Chapter 9: Process 9.4 Manage Project Team


1.  Introduction

The fourth out of four human resource-related processes is in the executing process group, and it is used to develop after acquiring and developing the team, to manage the team as it performs the project work throughout the course of the project.

2.  Inputs

The inputs come from the outputs of the first process 9.1 in the form of the Human Resource Management Plan, the second process 9.2 in the form of the Project staff assignments, and the third process 9.3 in the form of Team Performance assignments.  The issue log is a project document which is an important input for recording what issues exist, and for recording any resolutions to those issues, and work performance reports help project managers decide who should get recognition and awards for outstanding work.

 

9.4  MANAGE PROJECT TEAM
INPUTS
1. Human Resource  Management Plan This is an output of the process 9.l Plan Human Resource Management.  In particular, the elements of the plan that are used in this process are:

  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Project organization (who reports to whom, etc.)
  • Staffing management plan (when team members are to work on project)
2. Project staff assignments These are an output of the process 9.2 Acquire Project Team:  they tell who is going to be on the project, and what their roles and responsibilities will be.
3. Team Performance assessments These are an output of the process 9.3 Develop Project Team:  they are the project management team’s assessments of the project team’s performance.
4. Issue log Documents who is responsible for resolving specific issues by a target date.
5. Work performance reports These are an output of the process 4.4 Direct and Manage Project Work.  This information assists in determining recognition and awards for team members, and in planning future human resource needs on the project.
6. Organizational process assets Templates for

  • Certificates of appreciation
  • Newsletters, websites
  • Bonus or other incentives
TOOLS & TECHNIQUES
1. Observation and conversation The project manager needs to monitor not just the work, but the attitudes of project team members as they make progress towards project deliverables.
2. Project performance appraisals Project performance appraisals can be useful towards the following:

  • Clarification of roles and responsibilities
  • Giving constructive feedback to team members
  • Giving recognition for accomplishments by team members
  • Resolving interpersonal issues
3. Conflict management There are five techniques for conflict management:

  • Withdraw/Avoid
  • Smooth/Accommodate
  • Compromise/Reconcile
  • Force/Direct
  • Collaborate/Problem Solve

(NOTE:  will be covered in separate post):

4. Interpersonal skills The following are skills which the project manager can use to analyze situations and skillfully interact with team members:

  • Leadership
  • Influencing
  • Effective decision-making

(NOTE:  will be covered in separate post)

OUTPUTS
1. Change requests Staffing changes may affect the rest of the project management plan, and need to be processed through the Perform Integrated Change Control process.
2. Project management plan updates Roles and responsibilities may be clarified and updated; any staffing changes will result in changes in the Staffing Management Plan.
3. Project documents updates
  • Issue log (if issues are resolved)
  • Roles and responsibilities (RACI chart)
  • Project staff assignments (if there any staffing changes)
4. EEFs
  • Project performance appraisals may be inputs to organizational performance appraisals
  • Personnel skill updates
5. OPAs
  • Lessons learned
  • Templates
  • Organizational standard processes

 

3.  Tools & Techniques

Observation and conversation may seem obvious as tools & techniques for managing a project team, but remember that there are two types of experts on a project:  subject matter experts, whom you consult when making a decision, and work experts, whom you consult when asking how things are going.  What are work experts?  The project team members themselves:  since they are doing the work, that’s whom you need to talk to if you want to know how things are going.  And doing the observing and conversing in an informal setting will get you a lot more honest picture of what’s going on rather than just relying on reports and meetings.   Also, they will give you the best information with regards to how to improve the process, because they are the ones doing it day in and day out.

Project performance appraisals are used for either recognition and rewards, or constructive criticism.  The art of constructive criticism deserves a post on its own, but suffice it to say that it is delivered with relationship to objective criteria, it is specific, it suggests ways to improve, and is delivered in a way to make sure the person knows it is nevertheless your subjective opinion, and not the “law of the land.”

Conflict management and interpersonal skills are SO important for project managers to use in managing one’s team that I will devote the next few posts to these.

4.  Outputs

It could be that conflicts may require, in the extreme, staffing changes, or it could be that changing circumstances on the project may necessitate these as well.  In this case, any potential staffing changes should be treated as change requests, and as such, need to be sent through the Perform Integrated Change Control process, especially since they may necessitate a change in the budget, the schedule, or both.

The project management plan, in particular the human resources management plan, may need to be updated as a result of the activities in this process, as well as some of the project documents relating to human resources management, such as the issue log or the responsibilities matrix (or RACI chart).  Another by-product of dealing with issues is not just resolving them for the project, but making sure that any resolutions are shared with the organization at large in the lessons learned for future projects.

As mentioned above, the tool of conflict management is considered very important by PMI considering the amount of discussion given in the PMBOK® Guide.  Therefore, I am devoting the next post to this subject to discuss the various techniques of conflict management.

5th Edition PMBOK Guide–Chapter 9: Colocation vs. Virtual Teams


The purpose of this post is to discuss what the latest edition of the PMBOK Guide has to say about colocation vs. virtual teams, given the increasing reliance on the latter for project work.

1.  Colocation

For the process 9.3 Develop Project Team, among the seven tools & techniques listed is #5, Colocation.   Now this would have been the status quo before, where the most active members working on the project team are in the same physical location.    The kickoff meeting at the beginning of the project is not explicitly mentioned, but it is an example of how colocation, even if at strategically important times during the project, can facilitate interaction between team members.

2.  Virtual teams

In contrast, the value of virtual teams is mainly for increased convenience, and reduced costs, but the value of face-to-face communication that comes from colocation is noticeably absent in virtual teams.   And that is one of the inherent problems that the PMBOK Guide unfortunately does NOT address.

3.  Problems with virtual teams

There was a Webinar done by the Economist Educational unit back in October 2012 with David Bolchover, international best-selling management author of such books as Pay Check: Are top earners really worth it? and The 90-Minute Manager: Lessons from the Sharp End of Management .

Here are the problems that David Bolchover explained that can be created by virtual teams, and some of the potential solutions he outlined in his conversation with Paul Lewis. These problems range from the practical ones of time zones (red), organizational behavior (blue), language and cultural differences (green), and psychological (purple).

Problem Explanation Possible solution
1. Time zones Some virtual team meetings are put on by the main branch in normal office hours, whereas the other branches need to participate outside of office hours. Recognition of sacrifices made by those participating outside of office hours, allowing teleconferencing from home for greater convenience.
2. Group think In many cultures, there is a pressure to conform to the group or to the manager’s opinion; differing opinions are not expressed. Have the younger or more junior people speak first or have separate meetings of the junior people who represent their findings to the senior staff.
3. Anarchy The opposite extreme from group think is when any member of a meeting is allowed to go off on a tangent. Have an agenda prepared and a timetable and stick to it; table discussions that are off topic or that go on too long.
4. Language fluency People make assumptions about language fluency, and don’t understand there are different levels of fluency, so they speak at normal speed with no regard to how well their message is heard. Include as much information before the meeting in writing; have those in target language deliberately slow down and use shorter sentences.
5. Humor In the early stages of team formation, humor can backfire if it is not understood or worse, misunderstood. Avoid making jokes and alleviate tension in a way that is less risky, particularly at meetings.
6. Lack of trust Teams meet only at virtual meetings, so trust is slow to develop. Have at least one face-to-face meeting at the beginning of team project; find some way of having team members access biographical information on other members so they are seen as human beings beyond the professional role they play.

4. Importance of communications management plan

All of these potential problems that a virtual team can create have solutions that can be put together in a communication management plan which sets the ground rules for meetings such as:

  • Establish levels of urgency for e-mails and assign max response time for each level
  • Establish who will take meeting minutes, what format they will be in, and who gets distributed a copy for informational purposes above and beyond participants
  • Establish at least ONE face-to-face meeting between members at the outset of project, and as often as time and budget permit it throughout project.
  • In virtual teams, problems tend to fester so conflicts can be more severe when they arise: have strategies on how to confront conflict.

5.  Conclusion

After having participated in many virtual teams, mainly between Japanese and Americans, I can attest to many of the problems that David Holchover discussed in discussion with Paul Davis from the Economist Education unit. But like any aspect of a project, communications can be managed and a good management plan will be structured according to the needs of the company and the particular project involved.

Today’s discussions gives people valuable background into the cultural dimensions of these communication problems, thereby giving them more insight into how to prevent them in such a plan. I thank the Economist Education unit and Paul Davis for putting on such an informative webinar, and of course I thank David Holchover for making such a positive case for a communications management plan to manage virtual international teams.

From the standpoint of PMI, if you are relying on virtual teams, then you probably should consider colocation at strategically important points in the project, particularly at the beginning of the project.    This should decrease the communication risks of virtual teams so that the organization can enjoy the benefits that they provide in today’s increasingly international business world.