What do I know? What don’t I know? And can I lead the others on my team to build a solution to a problem knowing all the while my own strengths and weaknesses?
These thoughts race through the minds of new project managers once they are appointed to the position and they persist until the person builds their confidence to do the job. Notice that we have not stated that the small voice in their head speaks up while waiting for the time where we understand everything or persists until we have the best team assembled. The voice of indecision sprouts from our inability to follow a process to solve problems. So, maybe our mentors need to challenge new candidates who are considering a role in project management to learn the ways to get things done and to build a successful system.
Steps to Problem Solving
The first stride in facing challenges is to gather a diverse team, since most problems are multi faceted. So who can be on the squad? Anyone who is motivated to learn and any person who does better every day can join. A team member can be directly or indirectly attached. A direct team associate is a person who is working primarily for the project manager such as an engineer, architect, software programmer, technician or administrative assistant. These players can be physically in our presence up to eight hours a day but they also have the ability to mentally place the pieces to the puzzle together in a 24 – 7 timeframe. So we choose individuals who have their hearts and souls in supporting the group. An indirect affiliate is the delivery person carrying critical documents to the customer, a support technician that optimizes the client computers and servers or a maintenance worker who keeps the HVAC system running. These people do not work for the project manager fulltime, but our relationship with them can create a positive environment for the entire troupe.
Even a small organization can build a human network that can rival the employees of the largest business. When the project manager does not have a person on the payroll, they can partner with vendors and others to create mutually supportive and innovative processes that can efficiently do a task. When another set of professionals sees that they can benefit from the relationship, they will connect to our team. Many times we have seen new software applications developed or a trendy circuit board created with zero investment capital from the outside when two innovative groups work together to complete an assignment and both of them have obtain rights to the finished product. Therefore, we get the job done with partners.
Training and Evaluation
The project supervisor’s direct and indirect personnel are only as good as their training, so their preparation should be realistic. Years ago, we could see a military unit do well on a physical training exercise, but how would they do when they are tired. So, we changed our evaluation technique and we would train all day and night and then test the unit’s capability. Of course, we had a totally different and more realistic answer. Therefore, we changed our instruction model and started to train and challenge the group to accomplish anything placed in front of them even when they were not fresh. This is a more truthful representation to plan against, since people (like units) are always at some level of stress.
At work and in school, we will want to make both training and the evaluation of team members to mimic the actual scenario so we can observe and comment on whether our crew has the “right stuff”. If they do, we should recognize their achievement and reward them with certificates, gift cards or a raise. If they do not, use the buddy system to cross level the knowledge of a peer to strengthen the person’s shortcomings. Use every educational technique that we can get such as hands on, visual, audio and written documents to get the knowledge to the members.
Follow the Procedure
Now that we are working as project managers, we need to follow all the industry published procedures to maximize our efficiency. When we have to write our own process, we should follow the Polya model:
1. Understand the problem
2. Make a plan
3. Execute the plan
This is the simplest of all mock ups where we examine the problem which includes environmental conditions and every circumstance affecting the situation. We write the best procedure we can that will incorporate the ideas from our partners and team. We then just accomplish the assignment to the best of our ability and without procrastination. At the end of the cycle, we should record what had happened observing what went right and wrong. We now have the opportunity to revise our procedure so that the next time this condition arises; we can perform the task with more confidence and present ourselves as a growing project manager.