Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Sharing Accountability With Your Team

So - your team has been working on an intense project for your most important client. Launch is scheduled to coincide with an extensive national marketing campaign. All eyes are on this project, which represents a huge investment to the client. Every detail was planned out and documented and production has been flawless. The launch date approaches and suddenly the team flags an issue that can't be resolved in time for launch. There were plenty of opportunities for the issue to have been raised and resolved throughout the life cycle of the project, yet the team neglected to mention anything. Through all the review periods and checkpoints and documentation, this important detail was overlooked. Your team turns to you and says 'Just tell the client it will be late'. Your stomach drops and your mind races to come up with a solution, and in that moment, you feel completely alone, despite working with a large team. All accountability lies with you and the pressure is unbearable. This is a nightmare scenario for a Project Manager, and it points to a bigger issue - lack of accountability among the team! When the team feels disconnected from the end client, delays, issues and errors seem acceptable, and the Project Manager begins to feel sole responsibility for the entire deliverable. The million dollar question is, how do you turn this around? I've got some suggestions that could improve matters - give them a chance and you will see results.

Engage your team in 'thinking' as well as 'doing': No one needs a Project Manager who simply barks orders. A Project Manager needs to lead the team in terms of when things need to be accomplished, but not always how - leave the 'how' for your team to determine. Allowing your team to think through solutions will spark a sense of accountability and pride if they succeed. This will do wonders in giving your team a feeling of responsibility towards the deliverable. By engaging the team during the initial planning phases, they will feel more connected to the process and the outcome. Suddenly, when a challenge arises, the team will feel compelled to offer a solution, since they will feel a greater sense of ownership towards the work product.

Put a face to the client's name: Many times, a development team will never even meet the client. This creates too much of a disconnect because the client will never seem real to them. Put a face to the client name by involving your team in client meetings. Although you should always remain the point of contact, allowing your team to develop their own relationship with the client will push them to feel a greater sense of responsibility towards the individual who has contracted the work.

Educate your team: It is sometimes difficult for a production team to understand why a client needs things done a certain way. By educating your team regarding the client's overall marketing objectives, target audience, media activity, financial commitment and history, the team will begin to better understand the bigger picture, and how their work product contributes to it. As they learn more about the client's business, they will also be in a better position to offer additional solutions that could prove valuable.

The message here is that while a Project Manager leads a team, accountability for the project should be shared among each individual. Unless the team feels a sense of ownership and contribution, they will continue to work in a bubble that disconnects them from the project objectives and the client.

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