Originally published as a blog on LinkedIn February 2014 under the banner The Project Manager Network - #1 Group for Project Managers. Copyright to the contributing authors.
Content extracted and published here June 2014.

Introduction | Max Wideman Interjected
Jim Brosseau Entered the Conversation | Max Wideman Takes Issue
A Formal Study with Interesting But Contrary Views | Bottom Line

Max Wideman Takes Issue

Jim I absolutely agree that it is essential "to motivate the [your] project team" but not to the extent suggested by Luis. It should be possible to motivate the team by extolling the virtues of the proposed project and the benefits that it will bring. If that doesn't do it, you either have the wrong team, or the project is not worth doing in the first place. Check with your sponsor! Make work never thrilled anyone.

Jim Brosseau responds

Max — there are two different philosophies of PM at work here; I doubt either of us will be swayed from what we hold to be true. I agree the team needs to understand the virtues and benefits of the project, but these are merely extrinsic values. I'm at the point in my career where if I can't find intrinsic value in participating in the project (and money is not nearly the biggest driver), I'll step aside and let others do the job, as that's all it will be.

Getting back to the original thread, I believe every participant needs to have some intrinsic motivation in order to be able to contribute 100% to the project. This includes being valued not only for the skills they bring to bear on the project, but also for everything else that they are. I find that the prominent doctrines of PM today tend to significantly downplay the human element involved in projects. That is why projects get done (too few of them), but not nearly as efficiently, effectively, or pleasantly as they can be.

As PM, I am not the boss, and hierarchy needs to be removed from the project. I bring an appreciation for the value of motivating the team as fully as Luis describes. I drive conversations so the team agrees on the virtues and goals of the project, not me telling them. I drive conversations so everyone's strengths are up on the table (beyond their vocational strengths), and everyone expresses what they personally want out of the project. I ensure that any diversity: gender, cultural, religious, motivational values, and so on, are understood and appreciated as strengths so the team has a wider range of perspectives to draw on to solve challenges.

We talk about how to relate to one another to build and maintain trust — not to merely build a team agreement document that gets cast aside, but to nip potential conflicts in the bud. All these conversations take time, but are definitely not make-work. They build a team that I can trust to do what is needed, and support one another through the challenges they will face. Over time they build trust, respect, and appreciation for one another, an environment where fun can emerge.

This way, the project becomes more than merely a job; rather, people have an intrinsic investment. As a consequence, there are fewer turnovers. All the "hard skills" espoused by the reigning PM doctrines are still important, but I see their value in a different way. Without an appreciation of a motivated, high performing team, a schedule can be built and EVM can be used and risks can be analyzed and the project will be done at some point. But often done later or more expensively or with poorer quality or with high turnover or all of the above.

The perception will be that this PM stuff is hard, and often the PM is the hero that dragged it all through the mud to completion. There is adrenaline on these projects, but not the thrill I seek. With a high performing team, these tools guide conversations in the right direction, the team collaboratively agrees on how they will complete the project, understands what might get in the way, and knows where they are compared against their intent.

This way, the PM doesn't need to know all the answers. The team has more heads to bear on the problem, a deeper sense of ownership with the participation, an appreciation for the complexity of the other parts of the project so silos disappear. Documents are the outcome of collaborative conversations, rather than unread, filled-in templates. I have not seen any downsides to this approach to motivating a team, and I have been on projects driven by both of these philosophies.

Too often we doubt the team, think it is the wrong team, when we haven't taken the steps to help them become the team we all desire. This is a conscious, deliberate process that few apply and is probably the most important PM contribution to the team. This approach isn't "at odds" with dominant PM thinking, but "supplemental to". It is the lubrication that makes the project run smoothly.

I needed none of this to get my PMP designation.

Jim Brosseau entered the conversation  Jim Brosseau Entered the Conversation

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