Parenting Skills Take on Project Management: Page 2

Are you thinking what the heck does child discipline have to do with project management? Well, stay with us. Our Datamation columnist looks at setting limits and expectations, and how to enforce it all.
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Setting Expectations

Let's use a very basic example where your team members must provide a weekly status and you in turn must provide one to the customer.

You set the expectation of Friday status reports that must include critical issues. First, the status reports come in sporadically. You ask the team to be more prompt. Then more late reports -- some of them are even phoned in -- with an abundance of excuses. Your customer status reports are now turned in late. You scramble to gather status information every Friday and find less time to thoroughly read the reports.

The ship is sinking and the captain is still trying to steer.

As a result, an irate email arrives from the customer about a missing component. You ask the team member responsible, and she defensively states that it was listed in the critical issues ''just like you asked''!

The problem is it was buried in with all the other bullet points and it slipped under your radar.

By properly setting expectations and consistently following through, this downward spiral could have been avoided.

First off, provide a required status template that highlights critical issues to avoid them being buried in the details. Secondly, make sure everyone knows the consequences of not turning in a status using that same template every Friday.

Finally, use the 1-2-3 method for consistent reinforcement.

The first late status results in a reminder. The second results in a meeting where you reinforce the importance of sticking with the process and the consequences if they don't. Being late a third time results in the predetermined consequences, such as removal from the team or ineligibility for an incentive bonus.

The key is that there are no surprises.

Spina has found that emphasizing and accepting expectations at the start of a project leads to everyone starting and finishing on the same page.

''At a project kickoff meeting, I like to review the implementation methodology, scope of customizations, change management, project plan and schedule,'' he says. ''I let them know right up front that this is what I'm looking for you to do, how to communicate and how you are expected to execute.''

Spina goes on to say that setting communication methods is crucial for his team and the customer. ''You have to have a means to adjust expectations as the project unfolds, he adds.

In other words, you have to set an expectation on how to change expectations. By following specific rules, you truly reduce the risk of failure, Spina points out.

Of course, I realize there are differences between teaching toddlers and managing a project team. You can actually negotiate expectations with your team and gain a respectful working relationship by treating everyone fairly. You can lead by example by following the expectations set with your team, the customer and your own manager.

Most importantly, you can't fire your toddler. At least that's what my wife keeps trying to tell me.

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