Control. It drives professionals to success or an early grave…depending on the individual and the obsession. But there is no question that some of the most successful project managers thrive on it. Let’s face it – there is a lot to manage on a project – including some big egos – so it’s imperative that a project manager be able to maintain control of the project and those egos if they want (hope?) to realize success.
And what about turning over control? It’s hard for that project manager to turn over some power and decision-making responsibility to the project team that they’ve assembled. However, in order to be effective on the project (and other projects we’re managing at the same time) and in order to use our time efficiently, it’s often absolutely necessary. I’ve had several projects – especially in situations where other projects are in turmoil or at critical stages – turning over some power to my project team members has been the only way for me to keep my head above water.
The effectiveness of empowered teams
Empowered teams are more effective than those with less power, control and influence. An empowered team is one in which decision-making and responsibility have been pushed down as far as possible. An empowered team is comprised of members who take ownership and feel more accountability for the success of the project, the tasks they are involved in and the outcomes they are producing…both good and bad. Empowerment allows the team to share the project management burden usually hoisted solely on the shoulders of the (often overloaded) project manager. It’s a win-win situation.
What do we – as project managers – need to be doing to empower our team and individual team members on the projects we are managing?
- We must clearly define the roles that each person involved with the project will play and hold each person to those roles.
- We should ensure that we have clearly defined what is expected from the team and from each individual on it.
- We need to ensure that we have adequate resources to get the tasks on the project successfully completed. It is the project manager’s job, with the help of the sponsor, to ensure that the team has the resources to complete the project. If, after the team does the planning, there are not sufficient resources to produce the final deliverable, then we must negotiate with the sponsor for more resources or for a change in the scope necessitating project schedule changes to be.
- We need to be making sure that the people on the team have the skills and knowledge to get the job done. Make sure the team has the project and team skills it will need to be successful.
- We must clearly define accountability for results. Empowerment carries with it the burden of accountability.
- We will have to delegate some decision-making. Pushing some of the decision-making down to the lowest level possible gives those team members power and control to make project decisions on their own. You don’t want to micromanage the team or the individuals on the team. The main concern at the team level should be on deliverables and issues that affect multiple people on the team. Too many teams get involved in the smallest details of what each individual is doing. By clearly defining accountability and by making sure that people have the skills or the support they need to get the job done, there is no reason to focus on things that are best left to the individual.
Empower for increased success
Many project managers have been trained to be content driven. They make the decisions. They are go-getters. They thrive on control. They solve the project’s problems. But this focus on content does not always produce great project results. In order to let go of control and empower the team, you’ll need to help the team clearly define what needs to be done, who is accountable, when it needs to be completed, and then make sure people have the resources and skills to get the job done.
To help this process along, we must also require regular reporting from the team on the deliverables or issues assigned – like weekly team meetings and presentation of such materials and status information weekly to the project customer. The empowered team will understand the goals of the project, the tasks they are assigned, and the need to make good sound judgments and decisions for the projects they are responsible for. And in the end, if done properly, by empowering your team you will also realize more success on all of the projects you are leading.