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Team player… or not?

TeamWhile you work with different teams during your career, you will notice some people are more concentrated on their own outcome rather than the team’s. It may not be apparent at first, or it might be completely obvious, but here are some ways to spot someone who isn’t much of a team player:

 

1. Finger pointing

This one is easy to notice; a team player will say “we made a mistake”, “we should have done this differently” but someone who looks out for themselves will not want to be part of whatever seems negative and will rather point fingers or look for someone to blame: “he made a mistake”, “I don’t know why we did it that way, I was just following what he told me”, etc.

2. Weird/unclear communication

A team player will always keep in mind his team when communicating, meaning he was asses how he should communicate which type of information, and will carefully select each word to avoid interpretation. In other words, a team player will put himself in the other’s position.

Now, someone focused on themselves will not be able to put themselves in the other’s position, this means they will communicated in any way they feel appropriate for them:

  • Using the wrong tool for the specific type of information (chat, email, PM tool, etc);
  • Communicate out of context: They can’t necessary understand the fact that you are not in their mind, and cannot put themselves in your place, so they will send you half the information, thinking that you will understand because they do;
  • Will throw all information so they can say “I told you….”: Whether it’s while talking, chat, email, you will get splattered with information, and if you miss anything, you are sure to hear to infamous “I told you that….”;
  • Simply not informing the team: If they have the information, then it’s good for them, so you may have to grab the information yourself.

3. “It’s not my job”

Role clarity is very important, and focused on their own roles will of course give a greater outcome to the project. However, it may happen that sometimes people have to go beyond their role for the good of the team. A team player will jump in anytime, he will even offer to do a task that’s not his to do.

Here, it’s relatively easy to spot a non team player, since you will probably hear something like:

  • It’s not my job;
  • I could do it but it shouldn’t be me;
  • I have the information but I shouldn’t be the one communicating this;
  • etc.

4. Can’t admit errors

Teammates will often apologize for mistakes, or at the very least admit they were wrong; but someone looking out for themselves will simply not unfortunately.

Luckily, it doesn’t mean they don’ know they made a mistake, which means they might still learn from it, and avoid repeating it next time. To help out, without being guilty of item #1 above, you can suggest how the team can learn for next time by saying “we” instead of “you/he”.

In conclusion

People who are not team players are concentrated on themselves, therefore it can be tricky to work with them when their role is needed inside the project. It can impact the project in a negative way, but, if the outcome of the project affects how they will look in font of others, it may also have a positive impact on the project since they will make sure to look good.

If you think you are a team player and you are guilty of what’s above, you may want to start being careful, it can drastically change how your team looks at you.

Are you working with people who aren’t team players? Share your stories.


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Project management trend: Collaboration

Trends-2014

Source: Efi

There are several trends in project management that will only get stronger in 2014 (resource management, distributed teams, cloud, agile, etc.), but one that I particularly thrive to bring forward is ‘collaboration‘.

All trends are important, but this one is my personal top priority, as it affects the whole team’s synergy, and a project manager doesn’t get anything done without its team.

More and more tools are available to help teams collaborate by making project information available to everyone, and adding options that simplify communication. For me, this is more than just about the tools, it’s about the team itself and how they work.

Working together rather than in silos

Typically, everyone works in their corners, and when their part is done, they would give it to the next one who would then do their part, and so on. Collaboration is about everyone being “together in this”, and working together while one part is being done. This means that the team is updated with the status as it goes, and are able to participate in each step to share their opinions pro-actively rather than at the last-minute when they receive the done work.

A typical example, is when design is approved, and only than can the tech team flag that half of it cannot be done but by now, it’s too late! Collaboration means involving the others while design is being done so this does not occur. Collaboration tools ease this by helping everyone to communicate and keep track of comments, discussions, and decisions.

This brings teamwork to a whole new level, which is important for the sanity of any project. But all this extra communication needs to be managed by the project manager, who can only go so far with mails, and Word documents scattered on the agency’s network; these tools help the project manager do this, and lets the team communicate amongst themselves rather than putting everything on the PM’s shoulders.

Bigger sense of involvement

As team members are more and more collaborating through every step of a project, it gives everyone a bigger sense of involvement and commitment. This adds motivation to get the work done, and done properly. It also helps everyone feel part of the team, which improves teamwork and moral.

All this reflects positively on the projects.

Live updates

All that communication can add delays to your project, but not anymore; everyone can be updated live on every step. Whether it’s an updated schedule, or a new decision taken concerning the design, no one has to find out ‘by chance’ that they’ll need to deliver something next Monday.

All those updates can also be communicated and tracked easily without having 150 more mails in the inbox.

Sharing of files

Simple yet useful, files are being shared all the time, especially if you want the others to have a look at the work being done. Sometimes, it can hard to find the right files at the right moment, and it gets worst as the project progresses because more files will be available, and more version of each files.

This creates confusion and frustration in a team. Great online collaboration tools will make sure files are categorized, versioned, tagged, and in the end, easy to find. Sharing files and receiving feedback can become easy, and help out the team all the way to the end.

Everyone can pitch in

As everyone is involved more and more, the whole team can pitch in improving how it works. This is where it can get very interesting; everyone can improve their communication, their work, their habits simply by discussing and gathering feedback.

Continuous improvement is always important, and a must in a competitive environment where everything becomes bigger except budgets & schedules.

In conclusion

Collaboration is very important and tools are making it easier and easier. Teams must embrace this and work tighter together more than ever, there is no more excuses!

What is your favorite trend coming up in the future? Share!


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5 tips to handoff your project to someone else

Leaving on vacation and need someone to take care of your project? Want to make sure you come back and it’s not wrecked?

It all begins with how you handoff your project; the more you guide your colleague properly, the higher the chance he has of properly maintaining that project.

1. Quality over quantity

If you swarm your colleague with 50 pages of document about EVERYTHING, chances are he will be lost more than useful, or he will take control of your project very slowly, which will affect your project. Don’t forget, he as to pickup an ongoing project in one day, something which you may have gradually learned/planned in 1-2 months.

Guide your colleague with easy “next-step” lists. If documents must be read, guide him towards specific parts of documents, or even better, create a cheat sheet of those documents. For example: “read page 2 and 6 of document X right away”.

In this context, by quality, I also mean accuracy. Guiding your colleague towards a document that’s not updated will result in your colleague not trusting (so not reading) available documents. Or worst, he will read them, and manage your project with outdated information, which could damage your project. So make sure you update documents, or tell your colleague not to read them, and give him the needed information instead.

Result:

  • Your colleague picks up your project faster;
  • Less “training” time occurs on your project’s budget;
  • Fewer errors;
  • Sentiment of trust/control from your colleague;
  • Overall team stress/moral will be in a better place.

2. Transfer your ‘radar’

In this context, by ‘radar’, I mean, what you know to pay attention to. They may be details, but details that will make a difference in the outcome of your project. For example, it could be a colleague in the team that is always late. It could be a deliverable that has a very important element to verify before sending to client because it was requested as something very important. It could be anything, but it’s probably not written anywhere, or if so, it’s information hard to find.

Even if the information is found or transferred, if it’s not made clear that it must be in your colleague’s radar, then he might not think that it’s as important as it really is.

For example: “Before sending document Y, make sure to verify Jim’s text, he always makes horrible typos and the client hates that regardless of the quality of the document’s content.”.

Result:

  • Everything you thought was important will be checked just as if you were there;
  • Reduces chances of errors.

3. Clarify expectations

During transitions, there is nothing worst then unclear expectations which results in one person thinking the other will do it while the other thinks the same thing. The result is that no work gets done.

During the transition, chances are the team will communicate to both to make sure the message gets across, by mail for example. For each of those messages, it’s important that you tell your colleague if you’re taking care of it or if you’re trusting your colleague to do it. That way, expectations are clear, and if your colleague doesn’t feel comfortable to take care of the request, he can communicate so, and you can help him in doing so.

Expectations towards the team is important too, as I mentioned, they will probably communicate to both, or even only to you, so it’s important that the team knows they need to communicate to your colleague directly.

Result:

  • No request will be left unattended;
  • Information will be sent to your colleague and not to you only;

4. Follow-up

Project management can be hard as it is, and no matter what we think, it’s harder when it’s a project handed off to us rather than one we are in control since the beginning. Therefore, it’s important to do a couple of follow-ups if you know a milestone is coming or something specific must be done.

For example: “We’re suppose to be sending document Z tomorrow, was it verified today? Let me know if you need help”.

Result:

  • That follow-up may grab something that was going to be forgotten;
  • Your colleague will appreciate the backup;
  • This can prevent the feeling of projects being “thrown” to your colleague’s face rather than handed off.

5. Be available

Questions will come, and it’s good that you stay available to answer those questions or even help your colleague in the transition. Depending of circumstances or project, it may be good to be available for 1-2 weeks.

In conclusion

Handing off projects to other project managers is not easy, and our initial reaction is to “get rid of it”. Put yourself in your colleague’s shoes, and do it the way you would want it done to you. Your colleague will appreciate it, and the project will not suffer during the transition.

Let me know if you have more tips in the matter! Or you may want to share stories of how you were handed a project.

Teamwork


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Is collaboration important for PM tools of today?

I am certain that each domain of work have their different say on this, which I’m still curious to find out about from others, but this article is going to be from an IT point of view.

So is collaboration important for tools of today? YES!

First, let’s make sure everyone is one the same page: by ‘collaboration’, I’m not talking about having a chat available so we can ‘talk’, I’m talking about everyday tools like what is used for managing projects. Collaboration is not only to share messages, but sharing everything about the project (information, dates, etc.), and being able to all work with the same elements.

So now, why is it important?

Saves time

If everyone is using the same tool together, than nobody creates their own individual version, which duplicates information, adds to confusion, and wastes time.

When the information is updated, appropriate people are notified and everyone can quickly see what was updated, rather than having to email or go talk to everyone each time something comes up.

Improves teamwork

When working in teams, collaboration is important, otherwise there is no “team”. The more collaboration possible, to closer & efficient the team will be. Imagine if everyone is aware of project updates and can easily refer back to anything, and can contribute on top of it.

This becomes even more essential when the team is bigger, as more people can contribute.

Everyone can contribute to improve

If everyone collaborates using the same tools, than everyone will have their own opinion. This means that valuable feedback can be gathered in order to improve the tools, or how they are used.

This can greatly optimize/fine tune how the team works together.

One (or few) places where information is stored

If people use the same tools, that means that the information will be less scattered. The result is that there is less confusion, less time wasted looking for information, and less information lost. Furthermore, if there are team members that are switched, previous information is not lost, and new team members can refer back to the team’s tools to catch on.

In conclusion

Collaboration in tools is highly underestimated. Sending a massive amount of mails or spending days in meetings does not compare to having efficient & collaborative tools that the whole team uses and trusts.

What do you think about collaboration with tools used today?

Mouth


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4 tips on how to make the project manager shut up

Mouth

Source: chilombiano

This article is intended to be usable by project managers so that they can send it to their team members, in hopes that it will help communication! Also, bear with me when I write about shutting up PMs, I’m a PM myself 😉

Project managers are perceived differently depending of where you work, what’s the work environment, and also what’s the project management maturity of the company. How the project manager or the team members act on a daily basis also has a great influence. But it’s not unlikely that they are seen as these little irritating creatures that sneak up on you, and are always asking questions or telling others what to do.

Well guess what? It’s their job, can you blame them? Now, how do we get them to shut up knowing all too well that they are trying to get things accomplished, and they can’t just ‘stop’? Here are some quick tips:

1. Have your work done

One thing that ‘forces’ PM to poke around with follow-ups is the fact that they want to make sure the work gets done. So, if they know the work will get done, they will simply wait to receive it.

So it’s simple, gain PM trust by making sure your work always gets done. If you are in a situation where it is impossible for you to finish what is asked of you, flag them as soon as possible (not at the last-minute!). Once that trust is gained, they will know there is no point in doing a follow-up since you will communicate with them when the time is right.

This also applies to anything you committed you would do, whether it’s simply answering an email or anything else.

2. Answer

Believe it or not, if they email you or Skype you, and you never (or rarely) answer, they will have to send you even more follow-ups, call you, or go see you in person. So if you don’t answer because you think they are irritating or ‘you don’t have time’, you’ll end up with even more noise!

If answering requires you to check something or do something before, at least give them a heads up of when you’ll get back to them, and they will stop pestering you.

3. Ask questions

Too often, when team members are missing elements, or have questions, they switch to another task (or project), and if they are asked a status of their task, only then will they flag they need something. So what happens in these cases? Well PM will make a mental note to always ask resources if they need anything because they want to avoid people skipping some tasks without flagging.

The tip is simple: if you need anything or have a question, ask! The PM will know that if you are not asking him anything, it means you don’t need anything, and he will stop pestering you.

4. Send needed info

Typical follow-ups or request for information turn around schedule, budget, scope. Meaning PM will ask you if you are on time, how much effort (hours) is still required, and if you have any questions or if anything is missing. So it’s simple, they won’t ask if they already know, so depending of the tools used within the team: update your tasks’ % complete, send them a little “I have everything I need”, communicate proactively and the PM won’t have to ask you anything.

In conclusion

It’s a PM’s job to make sure communication happens, if it doesn’t, they’ll make it happen. So communicate, and they’ll bug you a lot less!

Have any other tips you want to share?


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3 reasons to work as ONE team

Team victory

Source: gracey

All organizations are formed by the combination of many teams of people, grouped by roles, or projects. Each team’s size may vary from very few to a lot. Although these are logical ways to separate people, in can also cause those teams to work in “silos” amongst one another. Here I want to emphasis on that one unique team which is actually everyone put together into one single large team. Think about it, even if 15 teams are separated, they are still all part of the organization, that one big team on top.

For example, in a matrix style organization, where resources from several teams are used to collaborate on a specific project, people working on the same project will collaborate as they are offered the opportunity to do it, resulting in them sharing their knowledge, and growing as a team while working on the project. While that happens, the other colleagues are mostly ignored since teams are each busy with their own work, and nothing is forcing them or giving them an opportunity to collaborate.

Here is why it’s important that the people keep that one big team in mind:

1. Knowledge sharing

Knowledge sharing is valuable for everyone, it gives everyone an opportunity to teach others, but also to evolve with the knowledge that others share with us. A typical scenario, as mentioned above, is that the sharing will be amongst the people working on the same project. When projects are done and new teams are created, then at some point new knowledge will be shared here and there.

However, what about the knowledge that could be shared with the others with who we have no project in common? Here is an example: A small team composed of a designer, a front-end developer, a back-end developer, and a project manager. Each of them will collaborate since they are linked with the project, but what about the sharing between the front-end developer and the other developers? Yes they may (may!) ask for help when they need it or may discuss a subject or two while eating, but no real continuous knowledge sharing will be done, so each developer will not necessary learn from others as much as they could.

It’s important to the most knowledge possible gets transferred on a regular basis, not just partially.

2. Better understanding of the organization

More often than it should, a lot of people are unaware of why certain decisions are made within the organization. That lack of understanding can bring frustration or destroy motivation, resulting in people leaving the organization.

On the other hand, if everyone is considered part of the same team, and this kind of information is shared with everyone, then a better understanding of the organization will be developed, and again, valuable feedback and knowledge can be shared. While the frustration and lack of motivation can be avoided, everyone will feel more part of the organization, resulting in higher moral.

3. Better productivity overall

If you have more knowledge shared, less frustration, more motivation, higher moral, and one big happy family, what happens? Everyone is more productive! This can result in great innovations, higher project success, higher quality in people’s work, etc.

It’s hard to say no to that 🙂

How can that be achieved?

As mentioned, people work in team-silos because they are busy and each focused on tasks at hand. The sharing done is generally limited to the opportunities they have to actually collaborate with others. This means that opportunities have to be created. Here are some examples that can help:

  • Knowledge sharing lunch: Order pizza and have one or more people take about a subject during lunch. It could be one lunch per week where people volunteer to speak, and others attend. This idea is easy to put together, and the trick is to have someone maintain the lunches each week to make sure they don’t stop.
  • Knowledge sharing meetings: Similar to the first idea, this one could be considered more formal. The idea is to have a monthly meeting where subjects are assigned to members, and they have to gather knowledge on that subject so that they can share it in the next monthly meeting. This idea is also great to “force” people to do some research they wouldn’t do on their own. Again, it takes someone to organize and control those meetings, and makes sure everything runs smoothly.
  • PMO: Although this idea can be harder to build if none is existent, it is a great example of a core management place that makes sure that knowledge, standards, and processes are optimized and standardized with everyone. I will not go into details of the advantages of a PMO, but I will at least mention that it gives an opportunity for project managers to receive valuable knowledge from the others with who they will rarely work with unless a project is large enough for 2 or more project managers to work together.
  • Centralized tools: By tools, I mean anything that can be used to execute tasks, whether it’s document templates, lessons learned knowledge, codes, plugins, etc. One way to help people share without necessarily actively talking or collaborating, is making sure everyone has access to a repository of those tools. By using the same tools, and having access to other’s contributions, learning can be done without actually using anyone else’s time. Furthermore, that gives an opportunity for people to give feedback on those tools, or improve them, helping the others who use them.
  • Activities: More used as a team-building technique, this can still be very useful to get people to play/collaborate/talk. Even if it’s outside the workplace, it will simplify all the sharing that can occur after that since people will get to know one another better. This will reduce shyness, and raise collaboration overall.

In conclusion

Working in teams is one thing, but everyone working together in one big team can have tremendous advantages. It may not be easy, and it’s important that key resources regularly manage this since it will not happen by magic, but what it will bring to the whole organization is more than worth it.

Have you ever worked somewhere where people were one big team? Or completely fragmented?


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Why clear roles are important in a team

Clarity prevents so much trouble, and although having clear roles seems obvious, there are many out there who work inside teams where each’s responsibilities could use a little tune up.

Here is how to clarify everything:

1.List responsibilities per role
First thing’s first, if you want to make sense of every responsibility and role, you must start by listing everything your team or company’s needs in terms of responsibilities to be accounted for.

Once you have this, You’ll be able to identify which types of people (roles) that you need.

By doing so, it will force you to think what you expect of each role, and assign every responsibility.

Adding descriptions, and expectations to wrap those responsibilities, and you have clear roles.

2.Make an organizational chart
Now that you know who does what, you can plan the hierarchy of the team. This clarifies relationships across the whole company and amongst each department/team.

3.Never let responsibilities unassigned
As time goes by, some tasks will pop-up that may not have been assigned to a role. It is easy to “throw” it to any free resource on the moment but it will eventually pop-up again, so it’s wiser to assign it to a role as soon as possible.

Here are some advantages of clear roles:

1.Helps focus
If your role is clear, then you know who you are top the team, and you know what to do; no questions asked. When a lot of work must be done in little time, your role will help you focus on certain tasks while others take care of the remaining tasks.

It will prevent confusion, errors, and thus, save time. It’s also a great way to keep everyone motivated.

2.Controls expectations
Expectations can destroy teams, projects, or even the best thing that could happen to you if your expectations are completely different.

Inside a team, there are always expectations amongst colleague. You expect the developer to develop, right? Sometimes responsibilities/roles are black & white (developing/developer), but it’s not always the case.

An example is the responsibility of communicating new costs to the client, assuming no change control board is available, sometimes it’s unclear if the account manager or the project manager is responsible for this.

This can cause conflict between colleagues, because each expects the other to do it. These tasks may even be left undone in the confusion, and that could affect your project.

3.Helps delegation
Now that there is a clear list of responsibilities and an organization chart, managers can easily delegate because they know what their power is, and who there are responsible for.

If they can delegate more easily, they’ll be better managers overall, and they will build trust with their team.

4.Prevents frustration
Overall, people will get frustrated and tired of the confusion or undone tasks. All this will be prevented, the team will be happier, and it can even prevent valuable resources from leaving the company.