Tag Archive: project results

Best Practices in Project Teamwork

December 19th, 2016
project teamwork

Since projects lift bottom-line business results, companies depend on these initiatives for growth and profits. Cultivating a strong project team and handing them a clear goal are keys to success.

In working with clients ranging from small businesses to large, complex, global organizations across multiple industries, I’ve yet to run across a client that doesn’t rely heavily on project results to support customers, grow the business and increase profitability. What else could be more important to business success?

Since projects cannot succeed with a sole participant, project teams are essential to success. Therefore, discovering the best ways for project teams to work together will lead to results. After leading and participating in hundreds of major projects and many smaller projects over the last 25 years, I’ve compiled a short list of best practices for project teamwork.

1. Clarity of Goals

As with almost every team, the team will be far more successful if the individual teammates understand the goals. Start with the goal of the project. Why are we doing this? What does it accomplish? What are the expected results of the project? Answering these questions will provide clarity of the overarching goals.

Next, go over the critical path milestone. What is the goal of each milestone? Who needs to do what to make them happen? Following this exercise provides clarity of the project plan and project objectives. All team members are on the same page up front.

2. Resolve Goal Conflicts

Of course, gaining clarity on the goals and critical path alone won’t foster teamwork. The next step is to resolve goal conflicts. I’ve found that as teams go through this process, 80% of the time, some sort of conflict will arise. The main conflicts fall into two categories – resource availability and department conflicts.

In today’s Amazon-impacted world, speed is of the essence. Equally troubling, since the recession, organizations are running lean and so time is limited. Thus, conflicts related to resources are commonplace. For example, let’s assume there are 16 hours remaining this week, and one team member has to complete a project task on the critical path that would require 8 hours of time by the end of the week in order to keep the project on-track. Alone, this is not a problem. However, his/her line manager also has a priority task that requires 16 hours of time that must be complete by the end of the week. An inherent conflict exists. The sooner this problem is uncovered, the sooner it can be resolved.

Equally commonplace are inherent conflicts between departments. For example, if a project task requires Purchasing to get volume discounts while a different task requires Planning to reduce inventory which would require more frequent deliveries, even though both team members are available to complete their tasks, there is a conflict between the two. Again, the sooner this is uncovered, the sooner it can be resolved.

3. Reward Project Goals; Not Individual Goals

One of the most common issues that arise is when the individual is rewarded for doing what benefits them instead of the project team. Similar to aligning goals, rewards and recognition need to follow the team. If each person does their part to contribute to getting a milestone accomplished, the entire team should celebrate success. If one person can be rewarded for achieving an individual goal while the team doesn’t meet its goal, a miss-match will occur.

4. Metrics

I’ve found that one of the most important ways to align teams is to have a common set of metrics. What is measured will be achieved. Thus, if the team has a clear set of metrics, everyone will be tracking the same items. Thus, as conflicts arise, the metrics will provide initial direction. Also, the metrics focus teams on what is most important. In my experience, the simple act of selecting and tracking a few metrics can create significant teamwork. The team unites behind improving the metrics.

5. Celebrate Successes

Lastly, celebrating success is an important way to tie it all together. Teams unite when the individuals get to know one another. Celebrating success allows the team to connect in a different way and it creates momentum. Thus, celebrating small wins along the way (such as the achievement of critical path milestones) can go a long way to enhancing teamwork.

Teams with stronger levels of teamwork surpass the results of those with high individual contributors that do not work as effectively together. In my experience, even if the high individual contributors are the best of the best as compared to medium contributors that work well as a team, the team of medium contributors will win that race. Appreciate the value of teams and consider implementing a few of these strategies to accelerate success. Bottom line results will follow.


Did you like this article? Continue reading on how to be the Strongest Link in your organization:

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Deliver Project Results by Engaging Employees

May 20th, 2014
project success, project management

Achieve project success by engaging employees through a clear vision, attainable goals and positive feedback.

In today’s new normal business and manufacturing environment, sales are lackluster, cash is tight and material prices are squeezing margins. Thus, those projects which will increase sales, reduce costs and/or improve customer service levels/ loyalty are quickly becoming #1 priority within the organization.  The companies who can deliver project results consistently will succeed.  And those who can accelerate the results while maintaining the quality of results will have the opportunity to leave the competition in the dust.

What is the secret to success?  Engaged employees!  Have you noticed that those organizations with engaged employees not only perform better than the competition but attract top talent?  What could be more important in the new normal but to have engaged employees leading your projects – and to have access to top talent during the timeframe when long-standing talent is leaving the workforce as the baby boom generation begins to retire?

So, what are a few strategies to effectively engage employees?  The top three include:  1) A compelling vision.  2) Translate the vision into individual goals.  3) Become a feedback fanatic.

  1. A compelling vision – Engaging employees must begin with a compelling vision.  Although a paycheck is required, it is by no means a motivator.  So, what motivates employees to engage beyond the minimum requirements of their job or latest project?  It begins with the vision.For example, does the company help improve the human condition in some respect?  If you work for an adult diaper manufacturer, could the diaper you produce or ship more efficiently be delivered to your grandmother? Or, if you work in aerospace, does your project somehow contribute to the successful flight of an F-17?  However, even if the vision is compelling, it is useless if not communicated effectively.Of course, there will be industries that seem less obvious in terms of benefits yet there is always a reason for being in business – find out and make sure to communicate it.  Your employees want to be involved with a company and a project team that is going somewhere and provides value.  Begin with a clear and well-articulated vision.
  2. Translate the vision into individual goals – Once the vision is in place and communicated, employees will feel better about where they work but will not be engaged.  The next critical strategy is to translate the vision into individual goals.  This is much easier said than done – leadership is vital to success.It is not always obvious how each person on the project team can contribute to the vision yet this is where the “rubber meets the road”.  Begin at the high level as it’s always easier to tie the vision to high level objectives.  Expand from there.  Dig into how each person’s core responsibilities can affect the next level objectives.  There has to be a purpose for your project; otherwise, you should stop doing it.  Then, similar to the vision, it is useless if not communicated.  Make sure each person understands how he adds value and contributes to the vision.
  3. Become a feedback fanatic – As simple as this sounds, providing feedback rarely occurs. The best practice for providing feedback is to give consistent and immediate feedback – both positive and constructive.  Do not wait for the end of the project or the annual performance review!  Who remembers so far into the future?  No one.Be visible and proactive.  Look for opportunities to provide positive feedback.  Amazingly, I’ve yet to find an example where well-thought out and specific positive feedback doesn’t motivate employees more than a raise or bonus.  Don’t forget to say thank you!  Simple yet often missed.  And, do not put off constructive feedback.  Be respectful and collaborate with the employee on how to improve.  Sometimes constructive feedback can motivate more than positive feedback as the employee understands you are invested in his success


Engaged employees will deliver dramatic project results.  Have you ever seen unhappy employees deliver exceptional customer service?  It requires zero capital investment yet can have a profound impact.  Give the top three strategies a try, and watch your employees become engaged.

Did you like this article?  Continue reading on this topic:

The Bottom Line to Project Management…

Project Failure: How to Avoid the Top Causes


Start planning now to achieve year-end results with critical projects

August 29th, 2013
Priorities, a must in business

Nothing is more critical to your results than good planning, prioritizing, and follow-up.

While looking toward the end of Q3 and the start of planning for 2014, wouldn’t it be nice to achieve year-end results with critical projects?  As many companies and leaders get lost in the holidays, it is an opportunity for those who stay focused on the key priorities. By no means should you forget the holidays and thanking your people for a good year; however, if you channel your efforts on the critical few, you could not only end the year on a positive note but also accelerate project results in time for year-end.

There are several keys to success in delivering project results; however, one simple yet secret weapon is follow-up.  The best plans are useless without follow through and follow-up. I’ve found it quite amazing the number of highly paid, intelligent leaders that do not value or do not make the time to follow-up. Why spend millions of dollars developing plans if you don’t plan to put in the work to make sure they occur?  So what are a few tips to ensure results occur?  1) Plan.  2) Prioritize.  3) Follow-up.

1.     Plan:  First, develop a simple plan.  What needs to be done?  By who?  When?  What support is required?  It doesn’t have to be fancy or use the latest technology (a scrap piece of paper with action items will likely suffice). This will provide the structure for your follow-up.  In my experience across hundreds of projects in multiple industries and geographies, working a simple list is the 80/20 of success.

2.     Prioritize:  Prioritize your follow-up. It isn’t necessary to follow-up on everything. If there is one common mistake in today’s new normal business environment, it is getting caught in an endless sea of tasks in a survival mode.  Instead of going down that rabbit hole, think about what’s most important.  What can have the largest impact on your project between now and the end of the year? Next, follow up on only those priority tasks; for example, the critical path or the A priorities.  If you follow up on only the tasks that are key, the people related to those tasks will intuitively realize the implied importance and prioritize accordingly.

Additionally, the more you are able to explain why the specific tasks are important, the more the people responsible for the tasks will understand and value them themselves. On the other hand, if you followed up on every task, it would just become a nuisance, and you’d likely be ignored.

3.     Follow-up:  Think function & not form. It doesn’t matter whether you follow-up via email, phone, a fancy software or whatever. What matters is that you follow-up. You will achieve the best results if you change your follow-up style to the person you are following up with.

For example, if you are following up with someone who reads email voraciously but doesn’t typically talk on the phone, send an urgent email. On the other hand, if you are following up with someone who enjoys talking with people (regardless of whether he/she has email), pick up the phone.

When you follow up, make sure to follow up in advance of the due date on critical tasks and critical path items. This gives the person an opportunity to remember and plan for the task. I’ve found that 99% of the people will complete the task with this type of follow-up, whereas, without the follow-up, I might receive a 50% completion ratio, mainly due to conflicting priorities and busy schedules.

It isn’t complex, expensive or requires capital investment to follow-up, it just requires a bit of energy, yet, it yields significant results. Why not close out the year with your project team celebrating a significant “win”?

Additional Reading:

Project Failure: How to  Avoid Top Causes

Best Laid Plans: Turning Strategy Into Action Throughout Your Organization