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Monday, December 26, 2011

Move Me if You Can

How do you motivate people? For project managers this is a big deal – getting people to do stuff is among the top challenges.
And then how do you get them to stick with it, over time? Through thick and thin? Take responsibility? Act autonomously, but know the limits?
Much of the typical project management experience is chasing people, hounding them to meet deadlines and quality standards. Or even getting them to show up, sometimes.
How much more quickly projects could be accomplished, at higher quality, with so much less hassle, if only more people would devote themselves to getting the work done. And if they would communicate more effectively and collaborate more enthusiastically.
So, how do you get people to do that? Well, you don’t, actually. Motivation is a do-it-yourself phenomenon. People motivate themselves. If they don’t, it doesn’t happen.

That does NOT mean project managers need be helpless victims in these relationships, although too many act that way.
It DOES mean that the project manager must be assertive in his/her relationships with project team members and other project stakeholders. He/she must address the issue of motivation at the source.
Why do people do what they do? Because they want to. The project manager’s first goal, in terms of chronology, is to ensure that the project has key participants who are convinced that they will derive personal value from contributing to project success.
That includes the project sponsor and the organizational decision-makers who make final decisions and who will control the flow of resources into the project. It extends to the senior project team members who will make up the nucleus of the effort.
Those key participants must really want the project to succeed, must intend that the project will succeed, must be ready to invest whatever it will take to make the project succeed.
Many project managers snort in derision at such an idea. When do you ever get to handpick the people, much less have anything to say about their attitudes?

The answer for the project manager starts with a broadening of the job description – just what the project manager sees as her/his role. There’s a lot more to the project management process than leading the plan process, communicating among the stakeholders, coordinating project activities and correcting variances – not that any of that is inconsequential; not at all.
As a matter of general practice, the snorting project managers simply take what they’re given and trudge off into the project, prepared to fulfill the general expectation. Off on one more grinding effort to produce a not-very-satisfactory outcome.
Well, they have failed to do a very important part of the job. Project managers should take a more assertive grip on personnel, right at the beginning. There are two main ways to do this: You either get people who already are motivated, or you find ways to help them become so.
We ought to talk about that sometime soon. The why and the how.
See Why Should I?