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How to Run a Successful Project

What makes a project successful? Is it the practices? Is it the policies? Actually, it is the people involved that make a project succeed or fail. Benoit Hardy-Vallee of Gallup Business Journal believes that understanding the mental workings of the people involved in a project is the best way to achieve overall project success. According to Hardy-Vallee, one of the biggest mistakes project managers can make is “putting their practices before their people.” This is not to say that best practices and policies should be avoided, but it is to say that they should not be implemented at the expense of individual team members:   This traditional approach to project management emphasizes developing complex guidelines to manage projects across all phases – from implementing phase reviews, performance metrics, and project steering committees to creating risk management dashboards. When this happens, project managers become little more than bureaucrats who manage paperwork rather than projects, and teams may lose sight of the project’s strategic purpose and objectives. The accumulation of meetings, committees, and forms creates more stress and workload, and it rarely improves outcomes. Hardy-Vallee notes that quite often the issue is that project managers and stakeholders often forget got ask fundamental questions. The questions include making sure team members know what is expected of them, making sure team members are sufficiently motivated, and making sure that individuals feel like their voices are being heard, among other things. Hardy-Vallee recognizes that traditional project management often neglects these questions because they are seen as “soft issues.” However, we must remember that people are the ones who are actually carrying the project through to fruition, so making sure the people involved are mentally where they need to be is not something to be overlooked.   The truth is that emotions really do matter. Hardy-Vallee tells us that, years ago, a Gallup report showed that when the emotional needs of employees are not met, the work suffers while turnover increases. On the other hand, when employees feel that they have been properly engaged, they become more productive and end up increasing overall profit. Engagement does not stop there. The report also shows that employees who feel engaged are more likely to attempt to engage stakeholders, leading to a better all-around relationship.   Granted, sometimes issues such as scope and cost make it difficult to put so much focus on the people working on the project. This fact should be treated as a challenge and not an excuse. Successful project teams will meet this challenge with innovation and will find a way to split time and attention appropriately.   Implementing behavior-based project management is also advised. This means starting at the project management office level and somewhat reworking the system so that best practices and employee emotions can work together, not against each other. Knowing how your employees feel will also be a good indicator of precisely which best practices and procedures should be used. Remember, emotions are not the enemy when it comes to project management. In fact, they may be the key to success.

About Anne Grybowski

Anne is a former staff writer for CAI's Accelerating IT Success, with a degree in Media Studies from Penn State University.

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