Despite a manager’s best efforts at project team motivation, things don’t always go as planned. For instance, let’s say you’ve got a well-defined project and the team is on board. You’ve prepared them for success by communicating the plan, discussing the deliverables and reiterating the quality expectations. And you’ve gotten feedback on all that from the team and made adjustments as appropriate to accommodate their reactions. Great job! Time for a beer, right?
Not so fast…
What happens when things get stressful? When the work takes longer than planned? Or when there’s an unexpected hiccup in the implementation plan? We’ve all seen it. Despite the team’s assurances, things always seem to cruise right along…until that big bump.
Fix a bug and it causes two regressions. Work on a capability to support the latest mobile device and it turns out to be much more complex and twisted than it seemed on paper. You can’t just shrug and hope no one notices. You’ve got to work these wrinkles into the original plan and still deliver on time and as close to budget as possible.
So what’s the best way to work through this with your team?
The good news is you already laid the groundwork by doing all the right things when you launched the project. By sharing all those project details with the team, you gave them a solid understanding of what’s expected (by you (per your company’s typical level of delivery), and by the customer). You considered their input as part of that process and worked to adjust the project in response. Now it’s time to leverage that preparation and double down.
The keys to motivating a team under pressure are communication and respect. There’s no way to get a project completed alone or in a vacuum. We need the team to perform individually as well as work together to accomplish the common goals of the project. When the volume gets turned up a bit, leverage and increase the goodness you’ve already built. Communicate more, listen more, respect the team. Here are some tips and practices I’ve used with success:
- Start by explaining the situation: why is the team being asked for more? It’s most likely because the commitment the team understood at the onset is now at risk. There may be a simple explanation for this-or it may be elusive. Either way, a risk has been introduced that was not previously apparent. Remind the team of the early planning and the topics discussed. Remind them of the input they provided and the accommodations that were made.
- Then listen. If there’s an explanation for the new issue that is outside the control of the team, make sure it’s acknowledged and relayed back to the management involved in the project. This may not move the timeline or affect the team’s original commitment, but at least it will be understood by all involved.
- Next, start to communicate more frequently. A great practice has been to extend the typical Agile stand-up model with a slight twist. Hold a less formal-but regular-late day stand-up. The benefit of this additional meeting is it provides another update from the team on these urgent matters. It gives you a chance to reiterate the timeline and goals (targeted to the daily matters) and it gives the team the opportunity to voice their status and concerns as a group. These meetings are also a great way to get the team to pull together and rally. Let them know nobody is in this alone. Give them a chance to renew their commitments to each other as a team, and create a plan to get the work done.
This second team meeting also allows another opportunity for the team to communicate with each other. The short morning stand-up is brief and fairly rigid. Follow-up meetings throughout the day can, and should, happen. But if the team is not co-located, it’s easy to push those off. Further, the additional team meeting forces the topic of talking about issues. It’s also another chance to listen and respect all the voices involved. If someone voices hesitation or concern, dig in and find out why. Don’t let these moments pass without recognizing them and reaching some resolution or plan of action.
We all know the best laid plans can still hit bumps. Keep the lines of communication not just open, but actively flowing. Encourage discussion, listen to the team and respect everyone’s input. A motivated team will perform much better and work much harder to reach the goal of the project than one that is disjointed, confused and frustrated. If you’d like some help determining how to best manage your team to produce a mobile strategy in lockstep with business goals and guaranteed for success, check out our Enterprise Mobile Roadmap kickstart or reach out. We’d love to lend a hand.