Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Artful Commitment

People arrive at the ocean of project management from various rivulets of experience. Some have navigated programming or quality assurance while others set out with a business management education. Regardless of how you get there, once you have responsibility for overseeing the movement of creative team processes you find yourself in the delicate position of asking people to do things.

To a certain extent folks enjoy being challenged and pushed. They dislike, however, being stressed and overworked. The trick is to find the sweet spot where you commit them to the fair amount of pressure. At the same time folks have their own personal quirks and either tend to over-commit themselves or alternatively play up the amount of time that they are being productive when they are actually socializing instead.

It’s sort of management science: if you don’t assign the work then who is going to do it? Obviously you want to show some efficiency in completing the workload, but you also want to maintain good morale. This engages several competing foci and proves to be a riveting point in project management.

And I mean riveting in the sense of steel beam construction: the rivets only go through the steel in strategic locations, and for good reason. A rivet in the wrong place — too close to other rivets or adjacent to a concentration of shear — will weaken rather than strengthen a structure.

It’s your job when you are managing a project to rivet the team together to make sure that all of the pieces, players, and components are carrying their load under equal stress.