Reflections on Project Management II: Know your Team

In my last post, I talked through some of my experiences with the organizational aspects of project management. Here, I want to talk about one of the aspects of project management which can be more difficult to articulate and to learn. While each project needs a timeline, deadlines, and clear goals, a project manager does more than keep track of the organizational aspects of the project. The way I see it now, a successful project manager is able to facilitate the coordination of her team in a way that maximizes the team’s potential.

This involves both the ability to be a liaison between various aspects of the project and team members and the ability to learn how each team member works and which kind of guidance (or opinion) is either useful or disruptive. For example, I found that some Praxisers preferred very specific guidance on tasks, while others preferred just general instruction and to be left (more or less) to their own devices. In this way, knowing your team members and how they work is an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to identifying milestones and tasks to track.

I have to say that I only figured out this aspect of project management through trial and error. Most weeks I would send out an email that recapped our Monday meetings and outlined goals for the week. Sometimes those emails worked to facilitate the work plan for the week, and sometimes they did not. It was only over time that I began to realize that some of my teammates were not getting the kind of guidance that they expected from a PM and that I was able to start adapting my strategy for thinking about tasks and goals.

Having said that, I am looking forward to an opportunity to work on multiple projects with the same team. It is only through time spent together and learning experiences brought on by both failures and successes that you can really get to know your team members. While it may be true that anyone with decent organizational skills can set up a calendar and track tasks, I think the best project managers know and understand how a team works and can use that knowledge to shape their own approach to leadership.

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