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How to reinforce performance expectations with your team?


Performance ExpectationAfter a recent company reorganization, which resulted in the team losing a few veteran employees and acquiring few new employees, the team started missing important deadlines, and morale had declined. Seeing that situation, the manager of that team (one of my good friend, let’s call him Bob) came to me for some advice. On asking specifics about the situation, Bob told me that his veteran team members have complained to him about the new team members slacking in their work. There could have been various reasons for this situation such as….lack of training, lack of established goals, strained team dynamics, etc. After doing further research, I figured out that the problem was in the fundamentals of how that team was operating. The team had very precise performance standards, but they were poorly reinforced after the reorganization of the company. Thus, in this blog I would like to share my experience on how I fixed that issue, and hence, giving you some insights on how you can reinforce your performance expectations with your team.

Go back to basics: In my example above, Bob had all the information that he needed, but he never gave attention to those. I can understand that. Sometimes, we are so much occupied in the details of the task at hand that we lose the big picture. Thus, I would recommend you to revisit your team’s mission before you take any action. Review any reliable documentation that you have which can confirm the team’s directives. If that document is not clearly stated, then please update that document to make sure that you are clear about what your team must accomplish before you meet with them in-person. It wouldn’t hurt to consult with your manager regarding these priorities, so that you have another person in authority who can confirm your redefined mission, and make sure that you are headed in the right direction. 

Meet with your team: Once you have ironed out your team’s mission, goals and specific objectives, now it’s the time to meet with your team. But yeah! DON’T conduct a one-way meeting with your PowerPoint slides. Consider asking the team to give you their ideas about the team’s goals, as it stands right now. In this way, you will be able to understand their point of view, and maybe, find out the reason for team’s deteriorating performance. After the team has shared their understanding of your team’s mission and goals, present them with your version of the goals in a document that everyone can view simultaneously, such as a slide presentation or a paper handout. Compare the team’s version of the goals with your version, and point out any gaps between the two versions. If the team’s version of these goals is reasonably close to your version, consider complimenting them. If they have added a goal or task that you think should be included, but was missing from your version, praise them. While closing, make sure that you reiterate individual team member’s roles and responsibilities, and get their agreement. 

Re-establish your goals: Just to make sure that everyone has the same understanding of all the goals and objectives of the team, you need to send a follow-up e-mail after the meeting. Make sure to summarize your meeting with the mission, goals, accomplishments, and responsibilities that the team is expected to deliver. If possible, deliver your message, or messages, in multiple formats, so that everyone receives the content, even if multiple message modes cause some redundancy. Use whatever mode of communication you know will be received by individual team members. Meet with them in person, send them email messages, or place paper documents in their mail boxes. Don’t forget to obtain feedback from individual team members, so that you can verify that everyone on your team has received your message and understands the team’s mission.

Follow-up with everyone: Even after re-establishing your goals, you can’t be sure that all of your team members will be committed to helping the team meet goals and produce the required results. Thus, I would recommend you to meet with team members one-on-one and identify whether they are committed to helping the team meet its goals. During the meeting, you should ask for direct feedback about each team member’s level of commitment. I know, it would sound silly, but I would recommend you to observe the body language and emotional tone of each team members. Try to find out, if he/she seem sincere and enthusiastic about the prospect of helping the team move forward. Ask each team member about their role in helping the team meet its goals, and ask them how they see themselves as adequately filling that role. Consider keeping notes about your findings. If you are uncomfortable taking notes during the one-on-one meetings, then jot down a few notes after each meeting, so that you are clear about where each team member stands, and then, you can take any corrective actions, if necessary.

Have you ever been in a situation like Bob? If so, what have you done to resolve it?

Thanks – Bhavin Gandhi

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How to reexamine your project estimates without any major changes to the project?


ProofReadHave you ever been in a situation, where you had to revisit your estimations and adjust them accordingly? I have. Few months ago, I have created a roadmap for some of my projects. However, I didn’t have the time to perform a detailed effort/cost analysis for those projects.  Thus, I estimated those projects at very high level, and thought of validating those estimates once the actual project starts. Yesterday, I ended up creating a WBS (work break down structure) for one of the projects, and I found that it might go 60% over our allocated budget. That type of increase will either not be funded at all, or the additional funding will probably require another approved project to be cancelled. Thus, I reassessed my estimations. With this blog, I would like to share my experience through which you can reassess your estimations.

Verify your estimates: Before digging up deep and cutting unnecessary costs, you should verify your estimates. I mostly use Microsoft Project or Microsoft Excel for estimating my projects. If you are using these tools, then I would recommend you to recheck all of your formulae. You should also keep an eye on your resource rates and non-labor costs. Make sure, they are reasonably accurate. If you are convinced that your math is accurate, then you might want to apply another estimating technique to see if you can get down the project cost without making any major changes to the project.

Find other alternatives: Once you are done verifying your estimates, you should then find other less expensive alternatives for all of your resources. For example: if you are counting on contract labor resources, you should see whether they could be replaced with company’s employees. Or if you are proposing new software/hardware as a part of your project, you should see whether your company already has something that will work for you. Or find out opportunities of automation, so that you can reduce the overall cost of the project without compromising on functionalities. And yeah! Make sure to take help from other experienced people in the company. Sometimes, they might come up with the solutions that you might not have thought about.

Negotiate scope of the project: Let’s say, you have tried your best to eliminate any unnecessary costs, but your project is still going over budget. What would you do then? Don’t panic. You can negotiate the scope of your project with your stakeholders. You can talk with your stakeholders, and find out activities/tasks that you can eliminate without majorly affecting project’s deliverables. I would recommend you to start this process by looking at the priority list first. If you recommend to eliminate lower priority items from the project, then your stakeholders are more likely to be in favor of your decision. You might want to defer some low priority tasks/activities, before you can get more funding. This will ensure that you can deliver similar level of functionality without compromising on quality.

I hope these tips will help you to adjust your project estimates properly. Let me know, if you have any other ideas through which you can better adjust your estimates in the project. Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2012 in 21st Century, Leadership, Management

 

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