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This interview with Jesse Fewell was recorded at the 2015 PMI Global Congress in Orlando, Florida. We discuss his paper and presentation "Can You Hear Me Now? Working with Global, Distributed, Virtual Teams". Here is the paper's abstract:
Today's work world has changed radically. Whether video chatting with China or taking a call at from home, more and more professional work is no longer in person. It can be frustrating, but a deeper look reveals some surprises: Everyone is doing it, and not just for costs; many organizations are thriving with it. Most pain points have simple work-arounds. This paper will walk you through tips and benefits for working with people outside your office.
With the rise of the Internet, emerging economies, and the trend of working from home, today’s professionals are dealing with a workplace that is very different from anything the world has ever seen. Never before in the history of mankind have we been able to conduct so much work, so quickly, with so many people outside our own location.
Of course, it’s not all rainbows and unicorns. We struggle with time zone issues, language barriers, limited visibility, poor infrastructure, and so on and so on. Sometimes we choose remote teams intentionally for their benefits. But often, this kind of organizational structure is handed to managers and team members without choice.
This paper is about how to deal with all those issues and strengthen your teams.
Use Traceability to Ensure All Requirements are Met
Traceability refers to the ability to trace, or track, requirements throughout the lifecycle and into the final solution. Tracking requirements through the project ensures that all requirements are built into the design, all requirements are built into the solution, all requirements are tested and all requirements are implemented in the final solution. This is part of a structured lifecycle process.
Use a Traceability Matrix
The easiest way to create a link between your requirements and other development elements is by developing a Traceability Matrix. You could number the requirements as "1", "2", "3", etc. However, you might want to build more sophistication into the numbering scheme such as "TAB-001", "TAB-002", "DIS-001", "DIS-002", etc.
The Simple Approach
Tracking requirements can be done in a couple simple ways. One way, probably the simplest, is to just validate that each requirement is accounted for in each project phase. For instance, something like the following table might do.
A Little More Sophisticated
A more sophisticated example is shown below. In this case, the requirements are tracked through each project phase and the individual components are also identified.
The key thing to remember about traceability is that it must be enforced throughout the lifecycle or else it does not work. If the team assigns tracking numbers to the requirements, but the requirements are not tracked in subsequent phases, the whole tracking scheme will break down.
Four Steps to Get Better from Poor Performers
Many organizations have a difficult time dealing with poor performers. This could be for a variety of reasons. The management staff may not like the conflict. The poor performers might also be well liked by the staff. In many cases the managers might prefer to try to work with a poor performer that deal with the disruption of turnover.
In organizations where poor performers are allowed to remain, the level of productivity suffers and morale can take a hit. When organizations impose no checks on performance, top performers sometimes leave because they do not see their contribution rewarded any more than poor performers. With only mediocre employees staying on, the work culture evolves to accommodate mediocrity. This has a damaging, long-term effect on productivity and the entire organization.
There are a number of things that can be done.
1. Recognize the culprits
The only good thing about poor performers is that they are usually easily identifiable. They arrive late, leave early, miss deadlines and find excuses for their inconsistencies. Their colleagues are left to make up for their performance. It you are honest in your evaluation of staff members, the poor performers are not hard to spot.
2. Be prepared for the worst
Many organizations end up firing poor performers. In many cases it is deserved and necessary. Considering the costs of selection, recruiting, and training, this can be a costly way out. However, you need to be prepared for this step or the truly poor performers will remain despite your best efforts.
3. Put a solution in place
Before a person is fired, it is usually worth while to see if they can be turned around. This might include an additional investment of time and money. This starts with a recognition of the outward signs of poor performance, an analysis of the causes of the poor performance and a plan to try to resolve the problems. Sometimes this includes training. Sometimes it could be mentoring. In some cases, just making people aware of the perception can be enough to change behavior.
4. Be sure your managers can manage poor performers
Some managers are not able to manage poor performers. As mentioned earlier, some managers do not like to deal with conflict. Some managers go overboard in confronting employees - threatening poor performing employees in ways that can be disastrous for the entire team. Some managers make the mistake of reprimanding the entire team instead of just the employee. Some managers get used to poor performance and don't recognize it any more.
Training managers to deal with poor performers will add the much-needed skill to their existing managerial toolkit. This allows managers to deal with performance problems in their staff in a positive, constructive way - while being sure that the poor performance is addressed to the benefit of the company.
Use These Six Sections for a Staffing Management Plan
The Staffing Management Plan describes your overall approach for acquiring and managing human resources on your project. The types of information to include in this plan include:
· Overall staffing approach. Describe the overall approach you will take for staffing the project, including your use of employees, contractors and outsourcing firms. For instance, if some of the work is outsourced, state that here. Describe the rational for using contract labor versus employee labor. If the timing of bringing in resources is critical, you can discuss that as well.
· Location. Describe where the team is located. For example, the team members may be co-locating for the length of this project. Some team members may be working from home. You may also have virtual team members that reside in other cites or other countries.
· Staff acquisition. This is probably a table that describes what types of resources are needed, when they are needed and where they are coming from. If you are projecting to use contract resources or new employees you may need to describe when you will start to recruit for the positions.
· Training. In many cases, you may have the correct number of team members to support your project. However, they may not have the right skills. If you know of specific people who will need training, state so in this section. This section does not include general skills to increase competencies. Only include the training that is specifically required for your team to be successful on this project.
· Reassignment. All projects come to an end. Describe the plan for reassigning the project team once their role on the project is completed.
· Project rewards and consequences. Describe if there will be specific incentives for the staff on your project. This could be simply non-monetary rewards such as formal “Thanks” awards at weekly status meetings. There could also be monetary bonuses based on the successful completion of the project. By default, negative behavior is not rewarded with these incentives.
Most projects do not need a Staffing Management Plan. However, if your project uses a lot of human resources, this Plan may be helpful for you to think about how you will acquire, develop and motivate the staff on your project. If it is helpful to you, create one.
This interview with Ron Black (www.linkedin.com/in/ronblack) is based on chapters two and three of his new book Leadership - The Everyday Superhero's Action Guide to Plan and Deliver High-Stakes Projects. Here is how Ron introduces the need for a project plan:
You're going to need a plan. No matter how urgent the moment may appear—stopping killer comet collisions, derailing evil tyrants from world domination, or dashing through security, grabbing a latte, and boarding your 5:31 AM flight in time to stow your roll-aboard in the last available space—you'll be more successful, more of the time, if you have a plan.
Leadership by Ron Black
In our discussion, Ron and I will focus on introducing you to his "Super Power Points". These are poignant one-liners (i.e. "To finish faster, start a little slower") that he offers at the end of each chapter to summarize the message.
We review each of the 15 points from the opening chapters and Ron gives us his insights and recommendations that show why even the best project leader needs a plan.