5 Reasons Why Project Teams Are Unable To Get Things Done
“Individual commitment to a group effort–that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.“ –Vince Lombardi
Quite well said. Any collective activity whether it is function at home, event in a city, projects undertaken by a business; it is dependent on collective effort  by multiple people. It is the individual’s understanding & actions of what s/he should to do, in order to contribute to group, is what decides the success of that activity. There are certain but typical issues which individuals in a project teams have to deal with. If these issues are not identified or addressed, the project team can’t get things done. Let’s look at what are those issues or reasons : project team is not able to deliver.
Mismatch in Skillset Required for a Job Profile
Symptoms: “I can’t do this, I have never do it before” or worse “I am not paid to do this”
Mismatching skill set of project team members can be a major reason that can lead to project failure. If there is a drastic mismatch between the kind of resources, a given project requires and what skills/experience a given resource brings to a team. Such mismatch can go wrong in two ways. One, team member may find the job too complex, demanding than he is capable of, or second, he may find the job too trivial or routine or not-of-his type to continue the work. In either case, the result will not be encouraging for the him/her or for the project outcome.
What Should You Do?: First and foremost, acknowledge that there is skill set mismatch, if any. If you don’t acknowledge it, you will not only compromise the success of project but also the career prospect of team members and greater good of the organisation. Organisations, project managers are aware of such instances, unfortunately they just want to (or have to) make things work, within a given situation. The corrective actions (hiring, reallocation) can certainly help for success of current/subsequent projects as well as team members will be confident of doing their jobs. One can also think of improving their capabilities, skills with training, workshops.
Inability To Prioritise Project Activities
Symptoms: “What, was that a priority? I did not know it. How would I know it?“
Project teams often get confused with the priorities of project activities. This is particularly true when team has to work on simultaneous activities. Though there can be reasonable assumptions of doing project work, but making priorities explicit and clear always help. You can avoid miscommunication, misunderstanding and in turn the blame-game. Hence merely communicating project tasks verbally or via email or through spreadsheet or sending MS Project files will lead to such problem; and team members will likely end up working on non-priority activities.
What Should You Do? Project activities can’t be communicated verbally, neither emails are only way to communicate task assignment. If your projects have changing timeline, changing priorities, you should use project management software platforms like ZilicusPM. Project management system enables you to set timeline, assign & change task priority. Team members are automatically informed of task assignment, due date; they are reminded if task is not done by the due date, etc. If project activities are dependent on each other, project tools offer task dependency features; and changing schedule for dependent task will also change schedule for dependent task and task assignee will know about change in the schedule.
Lack of Clarity In terms of Team Roles (RACI)
Symptoms: “I did not know that it should have been approved by John“ or “I am not sure, to whom should I escalate this?”
Project teams need to clearly understand the roles within a project team. For example, in the situation, wherein team member needs to increase cost provisioning for procurement of an item; he should know, whom he need to approach, in case that financial provisioning is to be made, would there be any sort of concurrence required, etc. In short, it is really critical for success of a project and team’s understanding to have clearly defined roles and it should be communicated to team members, clients, sponsors, etc. This will make sure that the approvals would be routed to designated person, queries will not be ignored or overlooked or redirect to inappropriate person thereby avoiding the situation of receiving inappropriate/incorrect response. Any lack of clarity in terms of team roles means, team members working on ad hoc basis in different profiles which may not necessarily fit their skills or experience level.
What Should You Do? First and foremost decide and declare who is project team leader or project manager. You should also draw a RACI matrix (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed) as shown below so that everyone will have clear idea about job roles and responsibilities. And stakeholders will also know whom to approach with questions, queries, issues, escalations, updates, etc. Well articulated team roles gives the definite direction for the flow of information and decisions.
Image Source: LearningLensInc
Absence of Mechanism to Enforce Ownership and Accountability Issues
Symptoms: “What? How can I be responsible for this? I was never made clearly aware of this one”
If you are using a conventional approach of assigning activities (tasks, issues, risks, changes, etc) via email or verbally during a meeting or a call; you will definitely have the difficulty tracking the status of these tasks. This situation arises because of the not-so-clear communication and not making it clear who is responsible for the task. Then you will see typical excuses like “I was not present int the meeting, I overheard it… wasn’t sure about it, overlooked the email, forgot, etc.”
In the absence of a right project tracking tool, project manager as well as project team members will have the difficulty in knowing who is responsible for a given activity, when it should be done, etc.
Image Source: TheMercers
The responsibility and accountability issue originate from the lack of transparency. If project managers are not going to share the project objectives, goals and overall plan with project team, stakeholders, all of them will have difficulty in identifying & understanding collective responsibility as well as individual responsibility. Transparency makes it easier to hold people responsible and accountable.
What Should You Do? As mentioned above, project management software can automate project communication, it will transparently hold people responsible and accountable. When a task is assigned to an team members, they will know who is the owner and responsible to complete a given task. There will be no confusion in terms what should be done, who should do it, when it should be done.
Inability to Resolve Conflict
Symptoms: “I don’t think that I will be able to work with Rita“
Team members are people and it is a human nature that brings in the elements of different working style, nature, culture, etc. Team members are not expected to be all goody-goody but more often than not, people have some of other issues with the their colleagues, team members. In the idea situation, everyone understands that the organisation goals, project goals are above individual’s ego. Unfortunately, it does not happen that way. And to worsen the situation, team members do not speak their mind and hold-on to their thoughts/opinions.
Project manager are not robot, they do sense people issues, egos and conflicts. The problem of conflicts lies, not in the conflict resolution but when conflicts are ignored till it reaches to exploding limits. It goes without saying that people conflicts have negative effect on project work, people/workforce. The goal should be to imbibe in everybody’s mind that team performance is above all.
What Should You Do?
“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.” –Michael Jordan
So there is plenty of research about conflict resolution but it is a problem that needs to be handled pragmatically. It is like “Stitch in time saves nine”, so better to eat that frog before it gets too late. While project manager needs to speak with team members about the conflict, he will have to make clear that blame game will not help, we need to make things work and it is in best interest of everyone in getting the project delivered.
The bottomline is, IF
Team members are not INFORMED
Team members are not ENABLED
Team members are not EMPOWERED/ TRAINED
Team members are not held ACCOUNTABLE, they will not be able to get things done
Let me know if you have any other views/comments to this post.
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Additional readings about project management, leadership
- Case Study: What Happens When Project Team Has Dual Reporting
- Avoid These 10 Most Common Mistakes That Leads to Project Failure
- Back2Basics: Ultimate Project Management Guide: Project Planning
- 8 Reasons to Decide Whether Your Organization Needs Project Management Office
- Compare the best project management software
- All in one project management software
- Guide to selecting best project management software
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