Much is written and discussed about project management approaches and methodologies. Trending topics on project management include approaches such as Six Sigma, Agile, PRINCE2 and many others. All of these are project management strategies that are designed to create a standardized and more organized approach to ensure project success.
All of them, if applied correctly, can help achieve that goal, but none of them will be successful if they are not complemented with an overriding strategy for organizational behavior.
A project team is more than just a collection of skilled employees. Often, when staffing a project, a project manager seeks people with the technical skills that match the project requirements. Whether it be a software developer, a business analyst or quality assurance specialists, the technical skills are usually the focus.
Little attention is given to the process of creating a strong culture for the project. Yet, as team dynamics naturally develop, the team creates a culture, which can help determine whether the project succeeds or fails.
A project manager should focus on each candidate's individual personality traits when assembling his or her team.
Finders, minders and grinders
In his classic book Managing The Professional Service Firm, David Maister describes the concept of Finders, Minders and Grinders. Although he describes this in the context of people in a professional services firm, it can be applied to any type of environment.
Finders are defined as hunters. In a project environment, Finders seek out more work and take on a leadership role in identifying and dolling out work to the rest of the team. Depending on the size of the project, this may often be limited to the project manager alone.
Minders manage the day-to-day work. They make sure everyone is busy and working on the right things at the right time. A project may have team leads that provide this service.
Grinders are the worker bees on the team. Grinders enjoy the heads-down work that helps to get the project across the finish line.
Every project needs people from each of the three roles. Certainly, more Grinders are needed than Minders, and more Minders are required on a team than Finders. There may also be team members that straddle two roles, depending on which responsibility is required.
A project manager should identify the number of each type of worker needed on the project and staff appropriately to match each role with each individual's personality.
How people learn
When staffing a project, it is important to also understand how people perceive and learn concepts. There are three types of learning modalities: visual, auditory and kinesthetic. Research has shown that people learn using one dominant modality.
Visual people learn and communicate using visual cues. They remember things that have been written down better than any other way. Visual people use terms such as, "Can you see what I'm trying to say?" When communicating with visual people, it is best to draw graphs, charts and other visually oriented tools.
Auditory people learn and communicate best with sound and the spoken word. They prefer to meet face-to-face with people to brainstorm and hold a discussion than use written communication. Auditory people use language like, "How does that sound to you?" It is best to meet in person with auditory people and make sure that most of your communication is done verbally.
Kinesthetic learners work best when they can express their feelings. They may play music to get a better feel for what they are working on. They may have toys on their desk that they can touch and squeeze to enhance their sense of feel. The best way to work with kinesthetic people is to respond to their sense of feel. Allow them to transfer written text to a tablet or keyboard. Use of multiple colors to draw graphs and charts also works well for them.
Most people relate to all three learning types, but almost everyone has one that is dominant. A project manager should learn from cues that the individual communicates which modality is the most dominant for each individual on the team. Once each individual's modalities is understood, the project manager should focus on communicating to each individual using their preferred approach. This will help provide better communication on the team and improve the group dynamics within the team.
When staffing a project team, hard skills are an important aspect. However, identifying the right personality types based on behavior, learning and communication approaches can mean the difference between a marginally successful project and a project that accomplishes amazing things.
Lew Sauder is a PMP certified project manager who has worked most of his career as a consultant with top-tier and boutique consulting firms. He is the author of Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting, Project Management 101: 101 Tips for Success in Project Management and co-author of The Reluctant Mentor. Follow him on Twitter @LewSauder.