You would like to think that a bunch of talented professionals working on a tech project could set aside egos and work together productively toward the common goal – a successful project solution. Nine times out ten… actually probably more like 99 times out of 100 - they can. But with a bunch of talented egos working on a project it can sometimes spur disagreements on next steps, the solution or who should be doing what and when. It makes the project manager’s job harder, it can cause re-work or extra hours to tasks and can cause customer concerns and the quality of one or more deliverables may suffer.
Let’s consider what I think are 5 key actions toward a successful risk mitigation strategy and a positive move forward following such occurrences.
Aggregate. This is not as easy as it sounds – and is the reason for conflicts and ego clashes on the project team or in any work situation for that matter. You come into any project engagement with sometimes a very broad mix of responsibilities, experience levels, expertise, egos and sometimes even allegiances. The project manager must mold that mix into a like-driven forward moving, same-goal oriented team whose one goal is project success. Sounds easy? No, it’s not. But the experienced project manager can likely handle it by setting boundaries at the beginning of the engagement and everyone else who leads projects may have to “fake it till they make it.” The experience must start somewhere.
Facilitate. When conflict does arise on the project team, it is the responsibility of the project manager to gather the parties at conflict with the PM or in conflict with each other and facilitate a discussion that will lead to a swift resolution. Much time spent on unnecessary conflicts can derail the project or the project budget, can cause issues with project customer confidence and satisfaction if they become aware of the situation and can weaken the entire infrastructure of the project. The end result is a huge threat to project success. Immediate reaction and action by the project manager to facilitate productive forward action is critical.
Collaborate. One of the best ways to ensure team cohesion and prevent unnecessary conflict is through effective, timely, and continuous communication. And the best way to promote that? Through a great collaboration channel. Using a tool that allows you to share information and agile boards with your team colleagues, involve the team in quick project status reports, and control the overall integrity of the project portfolio roadmaps in order to stay on track will help ensure team cohesion and project successes.
Generate. When the team is stuck and not working well together, what can help them get to the point of moving forward, together and on the same track with the same and proper goals in place? Production, in my opinion. Perhaps they have become stagnate due to lack of activity. We all know that there are those dead instances on projects where you can seem stuck and the tech staff may be restless and ready to produce while the administrative side of the project – i.e. the project manager – is holding them back because it’s not the next tasks on the project schedule. So do what you can as the project manager to keep them generating code, deliverables, documents – whatever is needed at the moment.
Instigate. As the project manager, take proactive action to resolve team member differences and to get the project back on track or avoid conflict altogether. What does that look like? Well, “it depends” is probably the best explanation I can offer. The project manager must instigate some action after resolve issues and get the team moving forward – don’t expect this to just happen or resolve itself. It likely won’t.
Conflicts in the project team are difficult to avoid entirely. Still when conflicts occur, it’s often sad. Rogue developers, bad requirements, and a micro-managing or never-present customer can all cause problems that are conflict-like that must be dealt with and resolved quickly before the project slips off schedule and out of scope.
What about our readers? What steps have you taken when you had project team conflicts or things were less thank hunky-dory on the project?