An element of the Governance Perpetual Calendar
Meeting rooms are often at a premium. Therefore Steering Committee meetings are held wherever the project manager can find a room. Also, when the project manager meets with the Sponsor, it is often in the Sponsor’s office. This can isolate the Sponsor and Steering Committee from the project team and its environment.
Many Sponsors and Steering Committee members have never visited their project teams. They have never walked around the room and chatted to the team members. This is not only a mistake but also a risk.
Many years ago we visited a large project team on their floor. (The Sponsor admitted he had never visited the floor as he worked in another building.) Within 30 seconds of being on this floor we could tell the project was in trouble. There was no energy, no discussions going on, no diagrams or posters on the walls or work areas. It was like being in a morgue. The Sponsor was blissfully unaware of this back in head office.
More recently we were working alongside a large project team and again, three months out from their first major implementation, there was no energy, little discussion and while there were charts and diagrams around, no one seemed to be working together. They were either well ahead of schedule and, therefore, relaxed or heading for a disaster.
Tom Peters promoted “Managing by walking around” back in the 1980s. His message seems to have been lost over the years. With increasing communication technologies – phones, emails, video conferencing, etc. – the perceived need to travel has diminished. Too much is done by remote control.
Some firms doing health checks do them by remote documentation review. This is useless.
When you visit a project team you can sense the vibe, the energy or lack of it. Projects that lack energy are in trouble. You can see if people are communicating – even if they are only communicating about the football, that’s fine in that it indicates a team rather than a set of individuals.
Also when you visit the project team you can ask front-line staff questions. “What is worrying you about this project?” or “What, in your opinion, is the greatest impediment to our success?” It is amazing how such questions tease out concerns that have not been voiced before or have even been hidden from the project manager. One response on a project was, “Unless we can get the XXX working we don’t have a chance.” Problems with the XXX were not on any reporting, risk analysis or issues log – the team members with the problem were trying to solve it themselves oblivious of the problem's visibility to the rest of the team and its impact on the end result. With the problem now known the necessary resources could be (and were) applied to fix it fast.
Therefore, Sponsors and Steering Committee members should ensure that at least once a quarter they visit the project team, sense the vibe, talk to the team about their concerns, and show their support and commitment. And the same advice goes for visiting the business areas impacted – what are they expecting and when? What are their concerns? Do they see this project as an improvement or an impediment to their work? It is amazing what you can learn.
Visiting ‘their place’ is essential to ensuring the success of a project investment.
For further information and follow the Project Governance links.