Learning to Build a Better Team


team building with adhesive notes

What do you get when you gather 150 digital project managers together for two days? A well-organized conference that runs on time.

I spent two days in Philadelphia at the inaugural Digital PM Conference produced by the Bureau of Digital Affairs in association with Happy Cog™. This event is being touted as the first of its kind. There are plenty of conferences that include topics relevant to project managers as a side discussion. But to have a conference dedicated to the trials and tribulations of the digital project manager was definitely unique.

The topics covered how to manage projects from a variety of perspectives. The sessions shared ways to keep projects moving, clients happy and teams engaged. I have to say I picked up some really great tips and met a lot of “my people.”

Rachel Gertz presented “Clients Matter; So Put Your Team First.” This topic fits well into the agile culture we work in daily at Geonetric. Clients continue to make requests and our primary goal as project managers is to keep them happy, but sometimes we do this at our internal team’s expense. We are so buried in the weeds that we forget the needs of our team. If we lose our team’s confidences, we’re sunk.

When we put our team first, our clients can let go and trust the process. This is an important step in a successful project. So, how do we get there? Remember a few simple tips:

  • Get Team Feedback: Get the team involved early in the process, maybe as early as the sales process. When a client makes a request, let the team help critique it. When the team is involved, they get to decide together if this request is the right option for the project. When the team gets to have input on the direction, they are more vested in the outcome. Who knows, you might even find a better way to get to the end result.
  • Let Teams Scope: You have to have a valid scope. Let experience be the driver here. Look at past projects – what worked, what didn’t? Where do we need to make adjustments? This is a hard process because no two projects are exactly the same. One of the biggest flaws in scoping the project is getting an estimate from someone other than who will be doing the work. The estimator needs to be the producer, if not, you could start the project in jeopardy.
  • Set Expectations: Let’s face it, nobody takes a class on how to be a client. Until you sit on the other side of that table, you probably have no idea what it’s like. You have to define, from the beginning, the roles and expectations for your team and for the client. We have worked our process hundreds of times and we are refining it every day. Client’s don’t know our process, let’s be honest, they might not even know the questions they need to ask. Set those expectations early, live by them and clients will begin to trust you and the process.
  • Do Retrospectives: This is an important part of our agile process. Talk about the successes and failures. It is okay to make a mistake, but you need to learn from those mistakes for future projects. If the process is flawed, why not change it, fine-tune it, and if needed, re-scope the project for the future? Retrospectives do not have to be just an internal process. Try getting the client involved. Learn how the process worked from their perspective. You can learn a lot from the client’s input. This is your opportunity to be candid with the team.

So when the next opportunity comes knocking on your door, try implementing these steps to build a better team.

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This entry was posted in Agile, Leadership, Marketing, Tradeshow/Conference, Transparency, Value by Penny Coppess. Bookmark the permalink.
Penny Coppess

About Penny Coppess

Creative. Resourceful. Collaborative. Yep, Penny has mastered the traits of an experienced project manager. With a strong background in customer service, marketing and software consulting, she’s a go-to person with the skills needed to help her clients succeed. She received a bachelor of business administration with an emphasis in marketing from the University of Iowa. But just to keep us guessing, Penny is a die-hard fan of the cross-state rival Iowa State Cyclones. She is also addicted to fitness training and is currently becoming an instructor at a local body shaping club.

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