Is your project team made up of puppets or pioneers?

Must read

IT Project Teams are STILL driving competitive advantage

IT Projects are perfectly placed to shape the future of business as we emerge from this pandemic Businesses need to be leaner and more innovative. It’s time for IT Project teams to say, “Hold our coffee, watch us do our thing” – this is our moment.

Embrace the change: Getting to grips with new IT systems

New IT systems for a growing business can be an exciting prospect and deliver many benefits, but how do you convince employees to embrace...

5 Skills Needed To Drive Future Projects

Why do projects fail? It's a question that invites a lot of interest and significant statistics. And there are no wrong answers here. Skills shortages...

Does a Project Manager Need PM Qualifications?

What makes a successful project manager is a combination of their academic abilities, experience and skills, both "soft" and "hard" skills i.e. communication skills...
David Cotgreave
If you like David's blogs - he is now a published author - Straight Talk on Project Management (VOLUME III)- Free eBook. Why not download your copy today. David Cotgreave MBA, BSc (hons), PRINCE II, is Professional Services Director at Stoneseed, with over 20 years’ experience in IT Consulting. David has worked with organisations such as BT Engage IT and KPMG, before founding Stoneseed in 2009 and has gained considerable business experience whilst working with a wide range of organisations across the UK and Europe carrying out a range of strategy, review and implementation projects. David is currently responsible for leading the Programme and Project Management services offered by Stoneseed. Project Management as a Service (PMaaS) from Stoneseed offers clients access to Project Management staff, resources and tools at a flexible and predictable cost via a fully Structured Managed Service.

Man looking at landscapeI recently had the pleasure of working with two IT Project Teams who are paradoxically both very similar and very different.

The first, I’ll call them ‘Team X’ was struggling to deliver projects within agreed parameters and the second, ‘Team Y’ was hitting targets but was asking ‘what else can we do to add extra business value’.

Both ‘Team X’ and ‘Team Y’ are made up of perfectly capable Project Managers with a proven track record of success, between them they have roughly similar on-the-job experience and qualifications. On paper, they should be getting the same results.

HOWEVER, ‘Team X’ is failing and ‘Team Y’ is scoring wins but is hungry to be even better and the key distinction between the two is how project tasks are delegated and how they are led.

Team X are Puppets.

Team Y are Pioneers.

I’m not being disrespectful to Team X. We have had a laugh about this, but a culture has developed within the organisation where the leaders of projects have become puppet masters. When they delegate they do so very specifically – actually defining how tasks should be performed – you can almost see the strings that are working team members! Now, it’s important that project teams can draw upon Project Managers’ often superior experience, it’s good to know where the pitfalls are but it has created a rather stilted environment that does not inspire creativity.

In ‘Team Y’ delegation is focussed on results, not methods. In Team Y you get to choose your method but you are given the responsibility of delivering agreed results. This means that you get the glory of a win but the buck stops with you when things go wrong.

When you meet Team Y, you’re struck by a spirit of potency and potential, gumption and get-up-and-go are in abundance, there is an actual tangible energy about them and everything that they do. There is a dynamic about Team Y that is infectious – a belief that anything is possible and that ‘we’ can always do better. A sign on the wall sums up their spirit – it says “Stand In Your Own Two Shoes”.

Encouraging members of your Project Management team to stand in their ‘own two shoes’ may be one of the most effective things that you ever do. Tasks in ‘Team X’ are so specifically delegated and supervision is so intense that you wonder why the Project leads don’t just do the jobs themselves.

When you pass the choice of ‘how to get there’ over to the person actually at the wheel, I believe, you increase your potential exponentially. Trust is a very powerful motivator – it encourages everyone involved to bring their ‘A game’.

‘Team X’ are going to give it a try. It’s a real step out of their comfort zone – both for the managers who relaxing their grip on day to day task management and for the team members who are used to the security of their strings.

Working with ‘Team Y’ and other go-getting project crews over the years, I have identified these five rules that may help you and ‘Team X’ become effective Project Pioneers!

1 – Agree Results.

The outcome has to be crystal clear in everyone’s mind! Ask your team to reframe it in their own words and sell it back to you. Have them visualise it, describe it, how it will feel, what will be better and how things will be different post project and when you all have it firmly agreed – stake out some parameters.

2 – Boundaries.

Without getting caught up in puppet master management set some boundaries. As few as possible but it is important, for example, that your team works within the spirit of the culture of your business. Also, if you’ve been here before, you can let your team know where the alligator pits and shark infested waters are without stifling their creativity and thirst for exploration.

3 – Outline Available Resources.

‘Team Y’ benefits from the growing market for Project Management services but giving your team unlimited access to on-demand resources may not be something that you are comfortable with at first. You must agree what resources can be called upon – financial, technical, in-house, external. Again, ‘Team Y’ is very good at picking the minds of end users and stakeholders from across the organisation but not all companies are as open to such collaboration. You have to make sure that your team’s eagerness to please won’t tread on anyone’s toes.

4 – Accountability.

Agree how individuals will be held accountable. ‘Team Y’ even delegates design of accountability mechanisms to individual team members – they actually decide how often they and the project leader should touch base for a status update. Such trust breeds a lighter touch approach that encourages creativity.

5 – Consequences.

With responsibility comes consequence. Both good and bad! If you get this right you’ll find mostly good consequences are come the way of your team – financial bonuses, better Project assignments, more influence within the wider organisation. Naturally, though, bad consequences have to be spelt out in advance – they act as a deterrent for cavalier risk taking and encourage proper thought processes to be applied at all times.

These ‘rules’ are like burners on a gas oven. With some individuals you may need to dial up the boundaries rule, meanwhile, with others, where trust is high you can set fewer boundaries and just focus on the results.

You should find, when you apply these five basic rules, that your people effectively become their own boss. Over time, their confidence and your trust grow and you should find that your touch can become even lighter – they are effectively governed by their own desire to succeed and ultimately their own conscience – allowing you to focus more on leadership and less on management.

This has been the case with ‘Team Y’. ‘Team X’ is on this journey and will start to enjoy the rewards.

Working with pioneers is more fun, you may find that you learn as much from your team as they do from you and what’s more you will enjoy considerably better outcomes and results – no strings attached.

- Advertisement -

More articles


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

- Advertisement -

Latest article

Training project teams on global projects

An exciting new project has started involving teams from right across the globe – both within the organisation and from external suppliers....

Project Management Lessons learnt from Covid Holiday Disruption

The very definition of Holiday (Noun - an extended period of leisure and recreation, especially one spent away from home or in travelling), is an entirely flexible parameter to work within, so how do we adapt? And what Project Management lessons are to be learnt from this summer?

Project management for the ‘new normal’

We live in strange times. Who would have thought last year that 2020 would be the year of Covid-19, the year of...

Long-Term Strategies To Help Manage Your Team Remotely

The world has changed profoundly since COVID-19. No one saw a global pandemic coming but now isn’t the time to panic. Instead,...

10 Steps for Planning and Implementing a Successful Branding Project

Your brand is perhaps your most valuable asset. It defines your organisation’s reputation and visibility in the market. The strength of your...