People Management for PMs

Slalom Consultant Carl Manello

Carl Manello is a Solution Lead for Program & Project Management based in Chicago who enjoys exploring how to tightly couple the art and science of project delivery with business operations.

“Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.”
– General George Patton Jr.

Tony Troup is a delivery focused PM at Slalom.  He is also a Naval Reserve officer. As a Submarine Officer with the rank of Commander and over 22 years in the Navy, he has been part of many commands. Tony states that some commands have been a dream to work with and others have been extraordinarily challenging. Tony and I want to share our joint philosophy on people management as it relates to project management.

Know your people. Both Naval and civilian experiences have made the importance and value of teammates clear. You truly can’t be an “Army of One” and be successful; you need the support and effort of your project team. As the leader (yes, PMs are indeed leaders) you need to know your team: their capabilities, their explicit roles and their availability. This will help you manage the expectations that you and the team will share. Without good understanding and communications, project teams will at a minimum be ineffective and will likely fail.

Slalom Consultant Tony Troup

Tony Troup is a PMP certified Program and Project Management Consultant based in Chicago who is experienced with IT Strategy and Processes, Software Testing, Utilities and Energy, and Insurance, as well as being qualified as a Navy Nuclear Submarine Warfare line officer serving in the Navy Reserve.

Get the right resources. While there is often a concerted effort to schedule resources’ time, additional effort must be placed on appropriate skills sets. I’m sure a fair share of you have worked on a troubled project that had inadequate skills as its root problem.

Projects require different types of resources. Managing the roles and responsibilities and understanding the capabilities of each person is critical for success. Without understanding your resources, their capabilities and their work assigned, tasks may slip through the cracks with an “I thought YOU were going to do that” excuse. Explicit role definition and careful resource skill matching will help in the overall success for your project.

Manage by walking around. “Cube Leadership” is at best ineffective and at worst problematic. Your team will see that you are not engaged and will equate that disengagement with how little you appear to care about the success of the project and the team as a whole. Many project managers believe that they can simply use status emails or Excel spreadsheets to manage projects. These tools alone are not sophisticated enough to handle true project management, even on a small scale. Face-to-face meetings, daily stand-ups and other means for getting the feel of the project can significantly improve your chances for success and minimize miscommunications.

Having a team see you as much as possible is important for team cohesion, especially for teams that are not co-located. If necessary, pick up a phone and call your teams, both individually and as a whole. Ensure they are tracking with the project plan, get a feel for how they are doing personally and get to the bottom of issues with a personal touch.

Working with teams is not as hard as running a nuclear submarine. It boils down to striving towards common goals, effective communication, flexibility and relationship building.  As Tony has told his teams and personnel in the Navy units he has commanded, “We are all here to do one thing well and to be successful. Treat each other with respect, talk to each other and finally, be Semper Gumby! (always flexible).”

Authors: Tony Troup and Carl Manello

Slalom Consulting Chicago Slalom Consulting's Project and Program Management focus
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About Carl M. Manello
I am Slalom Consulting's Practice Lead for Delivery Effectiveness. I work to support organizations' capability and delivery maturity -- not just IT organizations -- so that their initiatives run more predictably, efficiently and provide the best results.

2 Responses to People Management for PMs

  1. Tony & Carl – great post and thanks for the link to my Why Projects Succeed article. I’ve been interested in reading “It’s Your Ship” for quite some time and wondering if Tony would recommend it for civilians as a good people leadership book. Of course, presuming Tony has read it.

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