As the project manager on a long-term project, I usually have no trouble maintaining focus. I realize that the project is mine to succeed or fail with – hopefully succeed – and I usually have several projects running at once. Focusing on the tasks at hand usually doesn’t seem to be an issue for me. Now for my team…depending on what’s going on with the project and what other projects my team members may be working on…that focus issue can sometimes be a problem.
As a result, I’ve had to ‘experiment’ with different strategies to help keep my team members focused and engaged on the project. Through logical thinking and some trial and error, I’ve come up with these five strategies for keeping my team members fully focused on some of my longer-term projects.
Engage them in all planning activity
Project team members who are heavily involved in the upfront planning activities on a project feel a greater sense of ownership for the project. Being part of that conception phase of the project leads to a greater understanding of everything involved with the project and greater ownership of the goals, mission, and tasks associated with the engagement as a whole.
Have team members peer review all deliverables
Another way to increase ownership and focus is to have all of your team members perform peer reviews on every deliverable that goes to the customer. This serves another valuable purpose as well – it keeps more eyes on each deliverable and can significantly decrease your chances of delivering an error-filled document or product that only serves to damage customer confidence and satisfaction. Trust me, I know. I trusted a business analyst when he said a functional design document was ready to go to the customer…not once but twice! Since then I have my team peer review everything. It took far too long to make that customer feel comfortable with me and my team again.
Keep task assignment steady throughout
When possible, spread your assignments for your project resources out over the life of the project. Too much downtime for a project resource can cause them to lose focus or worse…can lead to them being completely lost to another project. By keeping them responsible for tasks and engaged throughout with steady work will keep them feeling like they are constantly contributing and will help keep them continually focused.
Look to team members to interface with the client regularly
Putting your project team members in significant roles in the project – especially putting them in roles where they must regularly interface with the customer – can have very positive affects on their ability to stay focused. Knowing their role is key to customer satisfaction and interaction will keep them on their toes and increase their overall participation level on the project.
Have team members periodically lead key meetings
Taking the previous item a step further – have members of your project team periodically lead customer meetings or weekly status calls if you’re comfortable with it. Make an excuse periodically to not be available and assign leadership to someone on the team – rotating the leadership responsibility, of course. Being in a temporary PM leadership role in front of the customer or on the other end of the phone will further induce the focus aspect you desire throughout the engagement from your team members.
Project team members will lose focus periodically throughout an engagement. It’s your job as the project manager to do everything you can to minimize those instances through continuous interaction, engagement, and assignments. Utilizing team collaboration helps promote ownership that also helps to keep those team members focused and engaged throughout a long project. Your project team members are likely as busy as you are and working multiple projects so being aware of that and utilizing them where they provide the most strategic advantage helps you, helps them, and helps the project.